The prepper world has an obsession with guns. This is overdone. If you’re a new prepper, please don’t panic or run out and buy 20 guns and 10,000 rounds of ammo right away.
Sometimes when you hear preppers talking about guns, you’ll hear talk of what kind of weapon is useful in close combat, or about how many thousands of rounds of ammo they’ve accumulated.
Think for a minute. The goal is to survive. If your plan involves a lot of close combat, you are not going to live very long. Any combat dramatically reduces your long-term chances of survival. Your plan really should be to avoid combat.
So don’t panic and don’t obsess about guns. Your initial focus should be on food, water, some other basics, and a bug-out plan in case your home becomes unsafe or otherwise uninhabitable.
This does not mean guns have no value. There certainly may be circumstances where you’ll want a gun. If someone breaks into your house, you’re going to want to defend yourself and your home. So what kind of gun, or guns, should you consider?
To oversimplify, there are three major types of guns: handguns, shotguns, and rifles. These have different advantages and disadvantages, relating to topics like size, weight, power, accuracy and range.
Rifles are the most accurate of the three, with useful accuracy to ranges in excess of 100 yards. An expert marksman can shoot targets 1000 yards away with a good rifle.
Pistols are generally the least accurate and least powerful, but they’re small, light, easy to carry and easy to conceal. Pistols generally become ineffective at distances greater than 50 yards.
Shotguns are more accurate than pistols and there’s at least an argument that they’re more accurate than rifles in close range situations. There are two kinds of ammunition, shot (pellets that spread) and slugs (bullets). With shot the effective range is perhaps 40 yards. With slugs a great shooter might be accurate to 100 yards or a little further. Within their effective range, shotguns do the most damage.
Shotguns and rifles are roughly similar in size and weight.
If you want to get into it a little more, here’s one discussion of carbine (rifle) vs. shotgun vs. pistol, and includes a great explanation of the “stopping power” problem with pistols.
In some sense the question comes down to what situations you think you might get into. If the future you anticipate allows you to carry a weapon openly, then a good rifle will do a lot, combining power and range. If you need to keep your weapon hidden, or need to travel light, then you should choose a pistol.
And by the way, we got the picture of the three guns from Sparta Seattle, which also has a good discussion of choosing a firearm.