In my world, nuclear war ravaged the world, and nuclear winter scattered the survivors, dropping down the Earth’s population from 8 billion to a few million, at most.

In the region of North America, life has become a hostile struggle for survival. The average person needs a decent weapon to have any significant chance of surviving the Wasteland, so, I had a question: What would be the best weapon for post-apocalyptic wastelanders?

Here are the criteria

  • It must be somewhat common to find in the United States

  • Its ammo also must be common enough that a scavenger can get a good supply of it (Or simple enough to get manufactured)

  • It must be reliable

  • It must be easy to maintain

Pistols, rifles, shotguns and SMGs are the main thing I’m looking for.

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    $\begingroup$ In a post-apocalyptic environment with scarce resources, submachine guns/machine guns make very little sense save for the very wealthiest/best-provisioned settlements. Both due to the costs of ammunition and because they are finicky weapons prone to jamming when compared to the other listed weapon types. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ In terms of availability, the humble .22LR is probably the most common type of ammunition and firearm and probably the most useful for putting food on the table after the apocalypse. I wouldn't leave it out of whatever scenario you're constructing. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 1:58
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    $\begingroup$ Best is a highly subjective quality. Especially when it comes to firearms. There are eternal flame wars over the relative merits of different weapons, even in highly structured, and predictable environments like competitive shooting events. What makes you think that "Best for the apocalypse" will be any less opinion based? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ At a world population of around a few million, people are going to be your best resource. These are getting close to survival numbers and dropping. Hunting will be the biggest use of a gun. Then convincing people to come out of bunkers to join communities. Then establishing light industry. ANYTHING you have will be the first answer, then ANYTHING you can make will be the second. There won't be much choice isn't the matter, and killing people will be undesirable if preventable at all. Salvaged guns, then bows/crossbows. finally black powder. But for hunting, not war. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ If you are able to make black powder, blunderbuss is a good option. It can fire almost anything (small rocks from the side of the road included) with reasonable accuracy (tens of yards). More here: youtube.com/watch?v=KXJEEQNrL-Q (InRangeTV has a series of videos on it) $\endgroup$
    – mishan
    Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 12:39

14 Answers 14


2 contenders

A 9mm submachine gun

An AR-15 or M16

And to a lesser degree a A shotgun

A detailed breakdown won't even be needed.

9mm pistols are super common in the us. So plenty of ammo.

And with regular gun maintenance you can maintain your gun for years.

AR style rifles are also super common and popular in the US with a huge number of owners. People just like them.

So parts and ammo are like everywhere.

Shotguns are also very versatile and can be great hunting weapons as well as a zombie weapon.

Now to more "tactical" points

A 9mm submachine can over great many things.

  • High rate of fire.
  • Common ammo
  • Adequate stopping power
  • Adequate range
  • Compact size for firing in confined places
  • Plenty of stuff off the shelf including silencers.
  • Ability to mount optics or lights
  • Larger magazines.
  • Reduced noise and stopping power when needed, which apparently is a concern for the police but I don't know.
  • Reliable and easy to maintain. Used by many armies and civilians.

They are excellent general purpose anti people/zombie/monsters guns.

The draw backs I honestly think only exist when you field it against regular infantry. You can't expect a DM, designated marksman, to land shots on you from a 800 meters distance.

So. The old rules still apply. Engagements would still be fought in ranges that won't exceed 200 meters and at that range the round and gun are only limited by your own ability to target the enemy.

Famous example: "Heckler & Koch MP5"

For MOAR power you can always up the ante and go for a 9mm carbine.

Basically more power and range.

I think a famous example is the "Sig Sauer 9mm MPX carbine" or whatever the exact name.

AR-15 rifles or M16 rifles

Basically a rifle. The M16 is the military version while the AR-15 is the civilian version. I mean this is to cut it short.

The only difference, that has any meaning to the real world, is that the AR-15 is semi auto while the M16 is fully automatic.

Both should be excellent for a PA setting. I doubt you get a lot of full auto in such a setting because scarcity.

Rifles are amazing.

  • Range limited by your ability to aim.
  • Stopping power for days. No body armor can stop it.
  • Plenty of ammo. Even 20 round magazines are enough.
  • Super common ammo.
  • Excellent rate of fire even in semi auto. If you are not careful in getting the most out of your shots you are wasting money.
  • Super common weapon with hundreds of options and parts.
  • While not small it is not huge. Can still be used in confined spaces.
  • Plenty of options when it comes to optics or lights or whatever. Even bayonets.
  • Even grenades launcher mount are available.
  • Probably a common enough platform that your character knows about or ever tried in the past.
  • Reliable and easy to maintain. Used by many armies and civilians.


I'm unfortunately a theoretical gun lover. Where I live I can't license a Swiss army knife. So. I might be wrong.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Are you sure that "high rate of fire" is an advantage if you need to scavenge or trade for each individual round? Even if you have a stockpile, lugging around more than a couple thousand rounds, at most, seems like a logistical nightmare. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ Also, if need be, you can duct tape a compact flashlight to pretty much any gun. No need for rail mounts etc. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @RutherRendommeleigh, I mean the ability to produce a high rate of fire. The actual rate of fire depends on the user of course. You can just control your firing. But maybe in a tough spot when surrounded by a bunch of monsters you need to go full auto, so having that ability is nice. You can duct tap a flashlight. But, afaik, the constant usage of the gun would damage the flashlight as you know energy has to go somewhere and that means into the gun and accessories. That's why using an airsoft gun scope for example on an actual rifle is a bad idea. It will be broken in no time. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ Just a fun fact: The AR15 is the single most common gun in the US. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ As a non-theoretical gun lover, I'll add another two things to your list: AR-15s are (a) one of the only common semi-auto (or, if you're lucky, full auto) rifles in the US, and the recoil is very manageable. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 0:23

I'll start by assuming the your aim is survival - not to finish off World War 3

Learn to use a spear/club/javelin.

First Point - Modern ammunition has a finite supply - it cannot be replaced if the industry that produces it is destroyed.

Your problem will be that in such a world ammunition supplies will be immediately limited to existing stock. And most stocks will be located in major population centers or in the hands of the military.

Rural stocks will be in the hands of locals and will quickly be purchased/looted by those same locals or else cached by the owners in hidden stores.

What isn't destroyed outright will probably be buried under rubble so good luck venturing into the cities to find it.

Meanwhile the militarily will jealously guard its stocks as it tries (at least for a while) to maintain order. And of course if or when command and control breaks down isolated units will not be willing to share. So after say 10 years or so of mayhem whats going to be left?

Your only hope of re-supply will be;

-Trade e.g. "I'll give you X in exchange for those 20 rounds of .223";

-taking rounds off the dead/injured (where you have no control over what you find).

-reloading - which requires stock of bullets powder and primers. All of which face the same problem as the ammunition itself i.e they cant be manufactured any more.

2nd Point - given the above a firearm that can use multiple calibers is desirable

There are several pistols out there that are convertible between calibers i.e. you can switch out the barrel and receivers between several common calibers (.45, .40 .357 Sig and sometimes 9mm). Sig Sauer and Glock come to mind. Most revolvers in .357 will also take .38.

If you have a rifle go with the most common military calibers in the US .308 &.233/5.56. This is what military units should have the largest stock piles of. Plus the American public fixates on assault rifles so they buy the same calibers themselves.

In the end it doesn't really matter what type of rifle. For every 2 rifles you could name out there in gun land there will be 2000 different opinions on why one is better than the other. Some more credible than others.

So in fact a bolt action rifle or similar might be preferable as it imposes discipline on your use of rounds and has less parts that can break.

Finally consider a black powder weapon. If you can make even basic powder and have a lead mold at least you have something for hunting. And don't forget the spear.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder how hard it would be to convert a (break action) shotgun to black powder. Could primers be made? Or the hammer converted to a sort of matchlock? Or some sort of electric detonation of black powder? You seem to know more about these things than me, perhaps you might have some insight $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think you have the same basic problem, regardless of whether its a break action shotgun or another type of early firearm. Bolt action, lever action? Basically if its a late 19th or early 20th century weapon you would have to be a master armorer, with access to a well equipped machine shop (and parts) to have any hope of doing a successful conversion. Far better? Having the luck to be a 'collector' & owning the right type of firearm to begin with. Either that or start from the beginning - melt down high quality steel (which is readily available) and reforge it into a matchlock firearm. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 10:42

Now, I'm not super knowledgeable on firearms but here's a partial answer:

Handguns: 9mm is the most common round in the world. This makes it ideal, because you can find it everywhere; police stations, private homes, shooting ranges, etc. In a post-apocalypse scenario, this round will probably be your bread and butter. Yes, it's not super powerful but it is still lethal.

As for a gun to shoot the 9mm with, you'll probably want to go with a Glock. They're ubiquitous, easy to use and maintain, and reliable enough that they're used by militaries and police forces the world over as service weapons.

Shotguns: Shotguns are a great survivalist's weapon. They are simple enough that building one is often a hobbyist gunsmithing project and provide a great deal of power and utility while being easy to use and effective.

First, a shotgun is powerful. Loaded with buckshot, they can blow holes through people at short range and while you can't use one for sniping, it's a myth that shotguns are a close-range only weapon--a practiced shooter can still lethally hit targets over a hundred meters away (rifled slug even out to 200). Additionally, all that power can also be used against things like doors, locks, and other physical obstructions or even armored enemies. Even someone in military plate is gonna have a bad day if they get hit by a slug.

Second, a shotgun is versatile. Birdshot makes it effective against birds (duh) and in general it's a good weapon for hunting with. A shotgun can also fire flares, flechettes, slugs, or basically anything else you can fit in the barrel and it's also rather easy to custom-load shells yourself.

Finally, they're easy to use and easy to find. Shotguns are a very common weapon, and after handguns, they're probably the most common civilian owned weapon (next to hunting rifles). Their ammunition is also very standardized. Most shells are 12 guage so if you find shotgun ammo, it will probably work with your shotgun. The length and shoulder stock also make shotguns very easy to aim compared to a handgun.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for mentioning shotguns, and a competent/realistic description of those $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 14:48


The most simple weapon is the easiest to make and load. A simple sling. The ammunition lies on the floor almost everywhere: Stones. Or you cast 80-gram lead items and you have ammo. With some training, you can hit birds from the sky.


The most simple way to extend the reach of a thrown spear is by using a lever to launch it. An Atlatl is that.. The spears can be made with a machete, the Atlatl from a curved branch. And the use is rather straightforward and simple. Maintaining it is super easy, and the ammo is reusable.

Loot one hardware depot and you find enough almost ready-made spears that only need fletching from a few pieces of plastic to last you two to three lifetimes!

Crossbow & bolts

Crossbows are simple. They can have 800 pounds draw and shoot hard enough to kill animals. In fact, crossbows are very popular hunting weapons. Their biggest upside is, they are simple, easy to maintain, and sturdy, and much easier to use than bows. Their cadence is terrible, but their ammunition is reusable as long as it isn't shot into an oak door - and it could be made from the same supplies you make Atlatl ammo from.


For close range of up to 30 meters or some, you could use Plumbata: weighted darts of about 200-250 grams. They can be made from wood, lead and a bit of rebar using a file and something as fletching - so decently complicated to make. But they can be reused and make a decent weapon, easily puncturing unarmored flesh.

Musket/Blunderbuss and Ball

A musket - either flint or matchlock - does have the most simple firing mechanism you can find: Insert Blackpowder, insert ball with the wrapping, ram down, fill frizzen or pan, fire. The two components - black powder, lead balls, and greased fabric - are easy to make yourself from the material one can come by.

A Blunderbuss is even better in this regard, as with some leaves for wadding, one can load pretty much everything as long as one has access to black powder - which is easy to make.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ I foresee a run on Lawn Jarts. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:33

Let me speak as someone who grew up in a rural area where hunting is a way of life, and consequently firearms are common.

The first myth of guns is that they are primarily for shooting bad guys. This is bogus, even in post-apocalyptic worlds. The thing that guns are used for more than anything is hunting, now and always (unless all the animals are dead in your world). And for hunting, pistols and machine guns are garbage. There are basically three types of guns used for hunting, which are rifles, shotguns, and muzzleloaders. The latter is basically a legacy gun, and is strictly inferior to the other two. However, in a post-apocalyptic world, the muzzleloader is probably slightly easier to get ammunition for (it's just a metal ball sitting on some explosive powder). Realistically, I think all of these guns would see continued use in such a world, because (1) there are good do-it-yourself reloading kits for rifles and shotgun shells in widespread use already, and (2) there are gazillions of rounds sitting in farmhouse basements all over the country.

Now as to the shooting bad guys business, it sounds like it's definitely going to happen in your world. But it's not going to be trench warfare, or even guerrilla warfare, so most of the "fancy" weapons that are used by modern militaries won't be very useful. E.g. machine guns are handy if you want to clear a battlefield (I guess), but if you're fighting in rugged country with lots of cover, you're way better off with a standard rifle. This is basically the same reason why bolt-action rifles are the preferred weapon for big game hunting--you benefit nothing from being able to fire rounds quickly, it spooks your prey, and if your prey is hunting you back it also gives away your position. Plus you waste rounds by firing quickly.

Again, I think we can learn about self defense by looking at what hunters use. In bear country, many people will carry a revolver or something "just in case" they need to gun down a bear, but in actuality nobody ever does. The best defense is bear spray (pepper spray). There are several reasons for this, including that we don't usually want to kill bears if we can avoid it, but also bear spray is effective even if you don't aim it perfectly (area effect). On the contrary, if you miss with a revolver, you still have an angry bear coming at you. The same could be said for fighting humans: If you are in a close enough fighting environment that a rifle is ineffective, then you typically will be better off firing pepper spray at your opponent first to incapacitate them (something like a taser could also be effective). After they're down, you could imagine a pistol being useful for "finishing them off" if you like, but there's a good argument that it shouldn't be your primary weapon.

There is one other element that's relevant for self-defense, which is intimidation. Scary looking guns probably make bad guys less likely to mess with you. However, for this purpose, it doesn't even matter if they are loaded. But it could be helpful to have a big gun to brandish when the marauders come by your farmstead, to encourage them to just keep on a-riding.

As a final comment before I conclude, let me point out that a post-apocalyptic world will not be a regression to the Wild West days, because modern knowledge will not be lost. People will still know the chemistry to make stuff like bear spray, explosives, and poisons, and some of it will be possible to make with only primitive ingredients. Similarly, the tools for e.g. reloading rifle shells will continue to exist and function essentially forever, and it's not difficult to fashion a new one if needed either.

So, in conclusion, what I argue would be the best armory for a post-apocalyptic world would be:

  • Rifles, shotguns, and/or muzzleloaders. Exactly which you would choose depends on details of your situation. E.g. if you're a nomad living out of a backpack, then you'd probably want a muzzleloader, because it's relatively easy to get ammunition. If you were based in a farmhouse where you can set up a reloading station, rifles and shotguns are better. It probably doesn't matter which specific make of gun you go with, but if I had to choose I'd personally go with a 12 gauge shotgun, on account of being pretty universal and versatile, and something like a .30-06 or .308 rifle for precision shooting. All of these meet the criteria posed in the OP for being common, reliable, and easy to maintain.
  • Some chemical self defense weapon like bear spray, or a taser (assuming you can charge it). A pistol would also be helpful, but it's for a more specialized purpose, and you wouldn't need to use it often.

Also, you asked specifically for guns, but modern crossbows are every bit as lethal, and you can reuse the bolts. So I would definitely have a crossbow in my armory, and that would probably be my go-to weapon for big game hunting if bullets were in short supply.

Edit: I see several other answers advocating primitive weapons. This is farcical. Humans haven't used spears or slings seriously in thousands of years. A modern compound bow will last a lifetime and be orders of magnitude more effective at both hunting and self defense than primitive weapons. Even if you had to fashion a bow yourself, using modern designs you'd be way ahead of spears and slings. See also my crossbow comment above.

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    $\begingroup$ I also wonder how often guns would really be used against other humans. When meeting another scavenger, it might be that exchange of information and cooperation would be more valuable than robbing them for whatever they are carrying. Most people aren't killers. In a country full of guns, it might be necessary to be armed in defence, to deal with the occasional troublemaker. But in a country without guns, problematic people could be dealt with simply by refusing to cooperate with them. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ Bows last a lifetime? Yes. So do modern firearms. You still have the same problem you have with ammunition though i.e arrows break or get lost. If you are skilled at making replacements no problem. Most people won't be. So what do you do when you run out? A spear or atl atl is, at its worst a sharpened stick (fire hardened, with a stone or steel etc point added on. Most people could fudge something of that sought together if they had to with a little practice. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ This. Sort of. Are people the worry? Find a rifle that uses the .45 center-fire, and you can you can find a pistol that uses the same ammo. Is hunting food the worry? Do the same thing only in 22 caliber. Then you're only carrying and looking for one type of ammunition. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ Wish I could upvote this more than once. Would only stress that there are lots of successful bowhunters out there, and that if your concern is food rather than trophies (and you don't have to worry about game wardens &c), then trapping will probably have better return on effort. As for pistols against charging bears, bear is a pretty small target, head on. Skull (which you'd likely have to penetrate for a kill) is strong and sloped. And you're probably a bit nervous, which isn't good for accuracy :-) (And yes, I have experienced a charging bear :-)) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 16:53

If you went from 8 billion to 8 million overnight, that would mean only 1 in 1000 people are still alive. Sounds like you mean more like 4 million anyway, or 1 in 2000. Do you really think you're going to have a problem with ammunition, at least in America? All of those supplies would still be around if humanity was wiped out quickly. You might say they're in irradiated areas, but large cities have lower rates of gun ownership anyway, and the people who live in the best locations to avoid fallout are the same sort of people who stockpile these things.

I think the ammunition would last long enough that whatever organization takes over a certain region will be able to make more before the ammo runs out. Water, food, medicine, and fuel would be way more important, due to being damaged by fire and radiation, and all of them being susceptible to expiration.

Within the first few years after the fires go out, the fauna should start to thrive, expecially with the lack of humans. Look at Chernobyl, for example. When that happens, rather than go out and try to hunt them with guns, just set traps. If you're trying to rebuild after an apocalypse, you're going to need the most bang for your buck, and a reusable trap that doesn't require you to actively hunt down a single animal at a time is gonna be the way to go.

In short, 8.1 billion rounds of ammo were manufactured in the US in 2018. Only 1 in 2000 people would still be around according to your numbers, leaving a US population of ~164,000. There should be enough in private and government stockpiles to last through a couple wars if that's the scale we're talking about.

  • Not quite a gun, but how about a steel crossbow?
  • Failing that, a replica flintlock rifle. Somewhat finicky, but there is at least the chance to manufacture the ammo if you salvage the right books to go with it.
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't a flintlock rifle a little unreliable? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ @RutherRendommeleigh, it is more likely to fire than a semiautomatic without ammo ... $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ Worth pointing out here, a big benefit of a crossbow is being able to reuse ammo if you are lucky $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesFaix, and to make your own more easily. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 5:13

Pump action 12ga shotgun.

enter image description here

First as others have mentioned you should only be using a gun in a emergency, for hunting you should be using something reusable like a crossbow, but if you have to shotguns are good for hunting game of any size, just use different shot and you can hunt small game and large game with equal ease.

Shotguns are the most forgiving for handmade ammunition. A smoothbore gun does not need fitted/cast ammunition. You can literally load it with bits of scrap. The shell for a shotgun shell can be reused, if it is the right kind it can be reused hundreds of times. Your biggest limits will be primers as they cannot be reused. although primers can be hand made (but its not easy). Upside reloading is so common you can find 1000 count boxes of primers, also because reloading is so common reloading equipment will be easy to come by.

Shotguns also give you a variety of ammunition to choose from, birdshot, buckshot, slug, safety line, and a whole plethora of more specialized gimmicks. (don't try rock salt, few things destroy a gun faster than exposing it to salt) 12 gauge (12ga) is the most common shotgun ammunition in the US and indeed the world, even in countries/states with strong gun laws shotgun ammunition is still plentiful because its primary use is hunting. I would be more surprised to find a farm that did not have a shotgun somewhere on the property.

pump actions are the most forgiving and reliable shotgun that can be quickly reloaded, (technically a breechloader is the most forgiving but you only get one or two shots but they would work well as a second choice). The human is supplying the force to cycle the ammunition, because of this even if the load is weak or the shell subpar you can still cycle it and get a new shell in the chamber. It is very difficult to get a pump action to the point it will not cycle, if you clean it occasionally its virtually impossible. This is the reason military shotgun are often pump action, no matter what the load they will still cycle.

There is one more small but useful bonus to a pump action, you don't have to fire it to make an audible threat with it. Its a small thing but a phycological effect is still useful.

Breech loading shotgun

As I mentioned a good second choice would be a breechloading shotgun, they are even more forgiving with ammunition, but you only get one or two shots depending on the number of barrels. On the other hand it will fire anything, there are inserts to allow them to shoot ammunition from different firearms, including rifle and pistol ammunition. So if you want to be able to fire whatever ammunition you find this is the way to go.

![enter image description here

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Seems like a double-barrel would be even harder to break.... $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell Which I do mention, although the downside is you only get two shots, and they are fairly heavy due to the double barrel. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 18:12

The problem is the supply of ammonition, and the maintenance of a high tech artefact in a low tech environment.

So you need a gun, that makes you independent from ammunition and is easy to maintain.

You should choose something wich is explosive and can be manufactured in situ. For example a gun that is able to fire with stored hydrogen, gathered with a solar cell and then stored as methanol or something. Just add water.

Now for the projectiles, i would recommend something, non metallic, manufacture-able with primitive technology. Iron slugs or ceramic, your gun should have a drill, to drill raw projectile down to size.

Ignition is electric. Cleaning is - well cleaning. New barell is difficult, but they made gun barells in medieval times - so you will make do.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, they can make black powder using pee and charcoal. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ @aliential if you are a chemist. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 20:23

A revolver in .357 Magnum. These revolvers are common and can fire both the .357 Magnum cartridge, and the less powerful .38 Special. Ammunition in these calibres is fairly common in the US. Being revolvers it is easy to keep your fired cases. Self loading weapons may eject spent brass quite forcefully making recovery difficult. You want to keep your brass so that you can reload it.

In a pinch a .357 can fire 9mm caliber bullets (0.355 of an inch). They are a bit small so you wouldn't use them in normal circumstances, but hey! Its the end of civilisation and they will work if they have to. This means you can disassemble 9mm ammo and use it to build .357/.38 ammo. (Again, the burn rate of 9mm powders will probably be wrong for the .357/.38, so you would never do this in real life, but if that is the only supply of powder you have...) Keep the 9mm brass as trade goods - there will be other survivors with 9mm weapons.

The same is true of other 0.355/0.357 family pistol ammo too. This bullet diameter is probably the most common for centre fire pistols.

Other pistol cartridges can be disassembled for powder, and if you had bullet moulds you may even be able to melt down the bullets and recast them.

The rifle equivalent of .357 is 30 calibre (0.308 of an inch, 7.62mm). The most common calibres in the US are probably the .308 Winchester, the .300 Winchester Magnum and the .30-06. A bolt action rifle in any of these calibres will have similar advantages to the .357 revolver already discussed (except none of these cartridges are interchangeable like the .357 and .38).

If you are looking for a single calibre for rifle and pistol prior to WWIII then the .460 S&W Magnum is a good choice. In the pistol it can fire .460, .44 magnum and .44 Special. These are less common but still fairly widely available in the US. A lever action rifle in .444 Marlin can be modified relatively easily to .460 by a competent gun smith (I know of this having been done). The rifle could also fire .44 Magnum and .44 Special in single shot.

And don't overlook the humble .22lr. This is probably the most common calibre on the planet. I suspect most US shooters probably have .22 in their gun safe.

A further advantage of manual weapons is that they can use black powder propellants that would foul self loading weapons and cause them to malfunction after very few rounds.

On the subject of black powder, brass cases don't last forever, even if reloaded at low power (which will make your powder supplies last longer too). So if the means to manufacture ammunition is gone for good (or at least for many decades) then ultimately muzzle loaders with external ignition (flint locks, percussion locks, and maybe electric/piezo?) will become common once again. These weapons can be manufactured with medieval technology so should be within reach of inventive survivors.

Finally, humans have made bows for 70,000 years. If any weapon technology survives the end of civilisation, I suspect that it will be the bow.

Edit: Again if preparing in advance for the end of the world - I just remembered that adaptors are available that fit into the chamber of a 12 gauge shotgun that will take a wide range of rifle and pistol calibres. The gun is effectively single shot (ammunition will not feed in a pump or self loader) but you could acquire several adaptors in different calibres and also have a shot gun.

  • $\begingroup$ Revolvers are pretty reliable if I remember correctly $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ I deliberately avoided the automatic vs revolver reliability controversy! (Except when using black powder). Both work well IF properly maintained. Both fail if they are not. $\endgroup$
    – ShellGhost
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 13:14

Your best weapon is common sense. Since there are virtually no people around in North America -- it will be ground zero for more nukes than anywhere else, your chance of meeting anyone will be very low. Your chance of meeting anyone dangerous will be even lower.

Obviously a lot depends on how effective the government is, but since they military and government heads are probably the only survivors, things are likely to be fairly well under control.

Depending on the damage, there will be few or no large predators left. There may be some feral dogs, but you probably won't need a weapon to deal with them.

There will be lots of hazards to face, but probably nothing that violence will help with. Co-operation may be the key to survival.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You mean people don't automatically resort to murdering each other? [citation needed] $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ No. My world has to have action. $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 23:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DTCooper Food for thought: You don't need guns or a culture of violence for your story to have action. In many ways staying away from the warzone wasteland trope makes your action more meaningful. Imagine two neighbors on the brink of starvation. For the months they have have been trading resources to stay alive, when one day the main character comes out to check his traps only to find his neighbor stealing from them. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 16:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Neither person went out that day expecting a fight, but now you have two people armed with whatever tools they just so happened to have on their person's beating and stabbing each other to death. Not only do you have action, but you create a much more emotional reaction in your audience when the conflict is between established characters vs faceless dreggs. Starting off with cooperation gives your audience more opportunity to get to known the "enemy". $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @DTCooper There was plenty of action in The Martian, it did not need people shooting each other $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 20:04

May I suggest the one thing that has been proven to work in an environment where high-tech resupply was logistically impossible: the humble air rifle.

As used by the Lewis and Clark expedition. There is no propellant to worry about, and the ammunition is re-usable and can be re-cast if required.

It lacks the machismo of the AR-15, but that's not what you want in a survival situation anyway.


Most information is from some website and a user from quora: I’ll link the address for both websites at the end.

The Glock 19 enter image description here

This Gun is a simple to use gun

  • To clean
  • Take apart
  • And it is easy to find replacment Parts
  • It has a trigger safety feature to avoid accidental discharge
  • It takes 9mm bullets with a total capicity of 16 rounds

Currently our Military and Law Enforcement are using this Gun So this could (our should be) the default Gun in your setting becuse after the Bombs drop everyone can just steal this Gun in your Local Police Station)

The problem is the shorter sight radius than the rifles has, which makes them harder to aim, and recoil from more powerful rounds can be an issue for some shooters.

Next is your Shotgun

The Pros are

  • You hit someone and they’re dead.
  • It was cheap before the Boms dropped.
  • You can use a huge variety of different ammunition types in a shotgun. It’s the most versatile weapon. You can hunt, shoot clays, and protect yourself with the same gun.
  • The shotgun is quick to dispatch multiple moving targets at close range.

The Cons

  • It has Recoil, a lot of Recoil
  • It can only take a few rounds (1-4)
  • If you need to reload, pump guns are quite slow. Because it doesn't have like the Handgun a Magazine.
  • It is harder to use the Shotgun with one Hand (recoil)
  • It is Longer and therefore it is harder to use a Shotgun for clearing a corner becuse everyone can see the Shotgun
  • This can be a Con our a Pro a Shotgun can shoot troughe a Walls
  • Just rack the shotgun will not scare pepole away


  • They shoot accurately to greater distances than handguns (due to a longer sight radius) or shotguns (due to better ballstics coefficients)

  • They are more powerful than handguns

  • Typically, they are lighter than shotguns, as is their ammunition Recoil can be more manageable than that of handguns or shotguns

And now some Generial Facts about the USA and Guns

  • Some estimates put the number of firearms in the US at between 412 million and 660 million. That is a lot of guns!

  • There seems to be a commensurately large amount of ammunition

  • If you choose your gun(s) carefully, there is a wide selection of readily available spare parts, replacements and mission/shooter specific accessories In other words, if you run out of these, it is your fault!

But not only Guns are a great choice becuse when the ammunition is gone than you are in big danger

Mabey a Bow could be a alternative

I knowe what you thing ,,But i have a Nuclier Winter all the Plants will die"

Sure but you can make the story so that you MC despriedly needs a Weapon so he builds a Bow who always breaks before it is ready to shoot our after he shoots. This could showcase how futile the situation our world is

But in the End you should Probely just stick whit an Axe a knife our Spear

Becuse in the End the Real world isent a movie so the Mc cant just jump into action and shoot everyone down, becuse who knows how many pepole are insid a building our how many way out are in a situation(Always have the MC consider a escape route at the Beginning of the Fight our if it his quarters he already should knowe the escape route)

You should read the Story ,,The Road" and play our whatch ,,Fallout Dust" to see theefects of Nucliere Winter and how pepole are acting in thouse times

Webside i used https://www.quora.com/What-weapons-would-be-most-effective-in-a-zombie-apocalypse https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-shotguns-for-home-defense https://myapocalypsesurvival.com/best-weapons/

Sorry if there are some spelling errors but i didnt have a auto control and im German


My vote for close quarters defense would be the Colt M1911 or M1911A1.45ACP or the look-alike of your choice - anything from the original Browning designed Colt Government to the Spanish Star or Llama versions, Norwegian Kongsberg, Chinese Norilco or whatever. So many military and law enforcement groups worldwide used it for so long and so many gun enthusiasts still use them that ammo should not be a problem and they are really easy to strip and care for. A lot of enthusiasts also reload used cartridges, so propellant, primers, casings etc. are probably stockpiled all over the place.

For hunting it would probably depend on whether your settlement has one or more decent gunsmiths and enough chemical and mechanical know-how and resources to make primers and propellant that can be used in "modern" weapons. If so, any decent shotgun and hunting rifle works fine. Generally, early 20th century or late 19th century designs would be easier to manufacture/copy. The further you go past WWI the more you start having to depend on machinery that may not be available for long.

If you don't have the know-how or resources, getting your hands on some good crossbows and hunting or even competition compound bows is a better bet. Bolts, quarrels and arrows are easier to learn to make than primers and messing it up is unlikely to destroy your weapon and/or blow your hand off.


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