I am not a self proclaimed authority on firearms. I don’t want to open a can of worms here so please remember I am just expressing my opinions based on my observations, training and experience. If you already know it all, you can stop reading now.
The weapon you have is much better than the one you don’t. I am in no way implying anyone should dump what they already have for firearms to go and spend thousands of dollars based on my suggestions. If you think there is room for improvement in your collection or are just getting started, then I hope I can at least provide some food for thought.
Before spending a penny, do your homework, touch, shoot and listen to several different respected opinions. What works for me, may just not feel right to you. If you find something that fits you and is dead on reliable; then go with what works. Be careful of anyone who is selling something, proclaims to be a know everything or is into the latest greatest gadget. Firearms work best when kept simple. When under stress, in full fight mode and your body is suffering from the acute side effects of adrenaline, all those fancy add on’s are just going to get in the way. My general rule of thumb is if you can operate a weapon accessory quickly in a pitch black closet with thick leather gloves on, it may work for you while scared for your life and your heart at 180 BBM.
I would stick to nato or military calibers; 9mm, 556, 308 and 12ga. They are comparably cheap and in a post apocalyptic scenario they are likely to be the most plentiful. One month into a SHTF scenario; try to find yourself a box of 300 Win short mag.
Find the standard for whatever class weapon you are looking for. Then buy the highest quality available. If you are in a ban state, move or do the best you can. If you are part of a “group” it would be nice if everyone agreed on the same weapon types.
Shotguns, I am guessing that the Remington 870 is the most prolific shotgun in the US and there is a reason for that. When properly cared for it will withstand anything you put it through. When selecting the right one, remember that Remington has produced several different levels of quality over the years. You get what you pay for and when it comes to you and you’re loved ones lives, only the best will do. If something does break, the odds are it being the most commonly found shotgun out there drastically improves your chances of finding replacement parts.
As far as carbines go, a Colt AR15 is it. Yes there is a difference. All brands shoot great when they are new, but several thousand rounds later the lower end stuff starts to fail. Again when properly maintained a Colt will last forever.
The AR15 gas piston uppers are neat gadget and keep the inside of the weapon relatively clean for hundreds of rounds. But the piston uppers are replacing a simple gas tube and a gas key. The piston uppers have about a dozen or more small parts that could break at any time without notice. Also there is nothing wrong with a dirty gun; it forces you to clean it more often. When you clean your gun it gives you a great opportunity to inspect your weapon and potentially identify problems before they become a failure.
If you’re going with an optic on your AR15 either spend the money for a non-battery operated Trijicon or learn to shoot with iron sights. I think open sights are best for shorter range stuff, (inside 300 yards) but not everyone has the money or time to learn and maintain the needed level of proficiency with open sights. Heads up or red dot style sights on top of a carbine can make a novice shooter startlingly effective with very little training. If you do elect to use an optic of any type on your carbine spend the additional money for a quick release to be able to get it off the gun in a snap should it malfunction. Have flip up iron sites as a backup. If you do select a battery operated optic, find one with a common battery size like AA or something you can recharge repeatedly.
Also buy an AR15 22 LR conversion kit, they are cheap to acquire and affordable to use with bulk ammo. They have come a long way in the last few years. One of these can really stretch your training budget.
If you live in a ban state then the Mini 14 is as close to a Colt AR15 as you can get. But only use Ruger Magazines. I know they are expensive, but from everything I have ever been told about them the aftermarket magazines are the weak link.
As for rifles, again I think the most common bolt gun in the US is the Remington 700. The same rules apply for quality as with the 870 and be prepared to spend some money on a high quality optic with user adjustable knobs. I am a big fan of Leupold because of the warranty and they are made here in the US. Having said that there are several other very high quality rifle optics on the market. I would recommend a rifle capable of shooting a half inch group at 100 yards. If you have your fundamentals together at 100 yards, that carries over to longer ranges much easily.
Once you understand bullet drop, wind and learn to estimate range 600 and even 1K yards are not that far out of reach. One of our forum members did an excellent write up on zeroing here.
The only hand gun you will ever need is the Glock 17 or 19. Again I would guess the most prolific handgun in the US. Gen 1 thru 3 parts are all interchangeable within their own models. They are cheap and capable of withstanding remarkable abuse. The magazines are plentiful, high capacity and I have rarely seen them fail. Get yourself an Advantage Arms 22LR conversion kit for your Glock. Same theory applies with the AR15 22LR conversion. $20 worth of bulk pack 22LR converts to copious amounts of great training.
I firmly believe the Ruger 10/22 is the best rifle ever built and to have around the homestead. They are cheap, light weight, offer effective accuracy in stock form and will function until the bolt sticks open from carbon build up. While the 22LR is unlikely to offer the immediate terminal results as its larger caliber brothers, it shouldn’t be overlooked, they are excellent for hunting small game. I don’t think the later production rifles have the same quality as the older ones and almost every time I see a 20 plus year old 10/22 in good condition I buy it. I understand that Ruger is now making their own high capacity magazine for them and I hope it is a reliable as the 10/22 itself.
Once you have acquired the weaponry you are satisfied with, go buy a second one or at least a complete parts kit for everything. Buy gunsmithing tools and become well acquainted with your weapons. Find armorers manuals for them or at very least read the owners manual. If you are missing one; you can probably find a copy here.
Maintain them and shoot them. A safe queen that never gets shot will have the most important part fail at the moment of truth, the operator.
Holsters or slings are a must for every weapon. Buy as many magazines for each weapon as you can lay your hands on. I still have flashbacks of paying $85 for a single plastic lipped 25 round 10/22 magazine during the Clinton ban. Traditionally the magazine is the weakest part of a firearm. If you drop one just right and bend a lip or it goes out of spec somehow, mark it NFG and take it out of your circulation. Also every weapon in your arsenal that has iron sites needs to have night sites to be effective in low light conditions.
Take some, all or none of what I have written. What works for me may not work out for you because of a variety of different reasons. I certainly don’t know it all and don’t have it all figured out. I hope you found something helpful in this writing. Be safe!