You Can Only Keep Four Guns

Howes2by Gary Howes
Guns and Gunsmiths Editor

I recently read a story about a Canadian Air Force pilot who, wanting to simplify his life, lived for a whole year with only 10 items of clothing. At the end of that year he said he really missed having choices and has now splurged to over 30 pieces of apparel.

It sounds like the sort of crazy thing I would do myself–try to simplify my life by getting rid of the excess stuff cluttering my small house. I regularly go through my closet and put everything I haven’t worn in the last 12 months into garbage bags and haul them off to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army drop-off point.

Similarly I take immense pleasure in cleaning out my garage every year and taking a packed trailer-load to the local landfill for either disposal or recycling. I get great satisfaction from discovering just how spacious my garage really is so that I can start collecting more “stuff” to fill it back up again.

I guess I am totally unsentimental when it comes to possessions–either I need them or not. When I moved to the United States from Australia in 1986 I had no qualms about selling off everything I owned and had accumulated, and arrived in San Francisco with one small suitcase and a banjo.

Which got me thinking. Over the last thirty years or more, like many of you, I have accumulated a more than reasonable number of firearms. I bought each of them for a reason that was clear to me at the time, and have never sold any of the guns I bought.

But what if for some reason I was only allowed to have, say, four guns? Which of the many that I own would I keep, and which would I give up? I am not a hunter, so maybe I don’t need that high powered rifle. I am a strong believer in self defense and being prepared, but do I want to keep the concealed carry guns, or the tactical shotgun. (I asked this question here a couple of years ago and the answers were great, but most of you have probably bought more guns since then, so if you commented on this article before, let us know if anything has changed.)

A lot of work building this gun–don’t make me give it away!

What about the two cap and ball blackpowder guns that I built myself? Neither are particularly practical these days, but the hours I spent shaping the stocks, fitting the parts, polishing the brass etc. is worth something, isn’t it?

And then there’s the Benelli Ethos shotgun I bought myself a couple of years for trap shooting. That is too nice a gun to just dispose of without some misgivings.

Tough decisions, and if you were faced with having to make the same choice, what you kept and what you sold off would likely depend on how you use your guns, what sentimental value they might have, how much each individual gun is worth, and so on.

My Benelli Ethos. How could I be so cruel as to sell you?

So, here is what I want you to do–find a quiet place to sit, pour yourself your favorite adult beverage if you like, and consider. If you could only keep four guns, what would they be?

Share your answer with us all in the comments below, and let’s see if we have more common ground with each other than we think. At the very least, you will have a better idea of which guns to grab first if your house ever catches on fire, right?

© 2017 Reproduction of this article by any means without approval is not permitted.

42 Responses to You Can Only Keep Four Guns

  1. Oh the cruel agony! Why Gary why?!?!?! They’re all like children to me how could I orphan any of them! I don’t know if I could only keep four but if push came to shove I could give up four. The four that come to mind are a mosin nagant 91/30 and a mosin M44 carbine. Neither of the two have been fired in 15 years. I have a stevens pump action 22 that is broken I suppose it could go. And I reckon my Ruger blackhawk in 45 colt could go. I bought it for pistol hunting so I could shoot blackhawk 45 colt loads in it. I have rarely hunted the particular area that suits it though.
    Begrudgingly those are my picks. Really makes you think about why you keep what you keep. Is the nightmare over now. I want to stop thinking about this getting rid of guns foolishness. Makes me dizzy.

  2. I could maybe get rid of my Marlin 1895 Guide Gun, a 45-70 I bought for the purpose of hunting Buffalo. Now, I know I didn’t need it as my Ruger 300 WSM would really do the trick. To be honest, I kick myself over and over for trading many firearms in my younger years and wish I had most of them back. So, all I can say is I’m glad I now live in Utah where I will probably never have to make such horrible decisions. I may not shoot most of my guns, but I still have them and fondle them often.

  3. You ask: “If you could only keep four guns, what would they be?”

    My following answers are based after reading the article yesterday then later thinking about this topic with a friend while breaking from bucking felled trees and while having beer (and later a really good fire).

    My answers are: a .22lr rimfire, shotgun, handgun and a .30 caliber rifle capable of distance shooting. These are as such:

    Henry US Survival rifle (AR-7) because it is a light-weight, compact .22lr rifle (I really like the gun);

    Mossberg 500 shotgun because it is my only shotgun that holds more than one cartridge;

    Walther PPQ 9mm semi auto handgun because:
    1) it is the most well made auto handgun I own (I do not own any revolvers),
    2) 9mm ammo is light-weight ammo compared to say .45 ACP
    3) this gun has the most amount of lock-up and the least amount of loose breach compared to my other autos

    Remington 700 chambered in .308 because:
    1) .308 is a common caliber, thus the chance of finding ammo may be better than finding some of the other .30 caliber cartridges
    2) .308 caliber is a good hunting caliber and shoots decent distances (800+ yards)

    As of yesterday thanks to the article, fresh air, exercise and beer break I (and my friend) now know what guns to take if the choices must be kept to four.

    Now, the question remaining is: How much ammo to take for each of the four guns? Could this be next week’s topic for us G&G subscribers?

    Good article, thanks Gary!

    • Extremely well thought out reply Dana. If I had to head for the hills in some sort of post apocalyptic situation my list would be very similar to yours. Except substitute a 1911 for the pistol. And I’d be torn on an M4 or a shotgun. But very well thought out sir.

      • Thanks Dan.

        I tell ya those first few beers of the day are MAGIC for a guy, I guess which is why Gary Howes our intelligent editor recommended for each to sit down with an adult beverage and “consider” the topic at hand. I think I’ll make this method a standard practice for all future major decisions, ha ha.

        Good beer, good friends and good times … nothing like it!
        Always great to hear from you buddy.
        Cheers to ya.

    • Dana, I SOLD My Walther PPQ 9mm in a fit of insanity. It was the BEST plastic gun that I have ever owned. In fact, it was the best 9mm pistol that I have ever owned and it would be on My list for sure……if I wasn’t such a dummy!!!!

      • “Dana, I SOLD My Walther PPQ 9mm in a fit of insanity.”

        …When did they let you out?? Just joking.

        Life goes on buddy, as you well know!

        Yes – it is a great gun and in fact before I even had the slightest idea about guns I just knew I had to have that Walther handgun because they marketed it as “Walther Navy” here in Canada around the time of 2012 and I figured if it is good for the Navy it sure is good enough form me.

        The write up for the gun was impressive saying the striker channel is oversized to allow for firing in water soaked conditions (meaning the striker was able to continue function if the striker channel was full of water).

        Thanks for the comment Jim Peterson,

        • Hi Dana, After My release from the “laughing academy” I picked up a canik tp9sf online for around $380.00 delivered. This gun shoots GREAT. The same super short trigger reset, very smooth trigger pull, just fun to shoot. I took the slide off during My first field strip. To My amazement, the slide and what I could see of the frame, trigger bar, springs, etc. looked JUST LIKE My PPQ. I field stripped the PPQ to make sure that I wasn’t imagining things and I had twins! Then I took the canik completely apart and discovered that with only a few, very minor differences, they are almost exactly the same pistol.I don’t know how the Turk’s got away with it but it’s pretty much a clone. So that makes selling the PPQ more palatable.I still should not have done it but it makes it a bit more bearable. Dana, if You get the chance, check out the TP9sf. No, it’s not a Walther but I think that You will be surprised……

          • Hey buddy Jim,

            Thanks for the all the info about the Canik, just researching now.

            I had no idea about them (other than they are manufactured in Turkey) and of course never knew that they are almost identical clones (internally and such) to the Walther PPQ. I have seen these guns advertised the past several months from a couple suppliers here in Canada that I subscribe to their newsletters and always wondered about these Canik handguns.

            Wolverine Supplies in Manitoba, Canada sells them for $560 CA, which is about $50 US right? ha ha, anyhow here is the link for anyone that is interested in a Canik TP9SF in Canada:

            Another place in Canada in their Canik TP9SF write up says Canik is imported by Century Arms.

            Cabela’s Canada has the Canik TP9S”A” retailing for $560 CA and in their write-up they says “Passed 60,000 round failure free torture test” and out of 16 reviews they all rated the guns with a full five stars out of 5 stars. Here’s their link for anyone interested:

            Thanks for everything Jim, much appreciated Sir!

          • Hello again Jim,

            If you don’t mind me asking I am curious about a few things regarding your Canik TP9SF:

            1. the amount of lock-up it has
            2. the amount loose breach it has
            3. the amount of headspace

            Thank you very much Jim if you chose to answer all this.

      • Jim, I love my Beretta 9 mm PX4 Storm sub-compact. It’s a DA/SA and is a real pleasure to shoot. It is even rated for +P+ rounds.

    • No kidding with the “.22lr something” Mike. I was wondering if I should chose a tube mag .22lr or a mag fed .22lr – they each have their pro’s and cons for how the ammo is fed.

      For example if the tube fed .22lr got a damaged mag tube (dented or whatever) and if you damage or lose magazines for the mag fed .22lr then you’re pretty much stuck to a single shot, unless there’s replacement parts or mag components available and are able to fix them of course, etc.


  4. I would say, a 22 pistol,most likely my Walther P22 because it is light and accurate enough for small game hunting and ammo is easy to find and carry. A 38/357 revolver, probably my Smith and Wesson Model 19 because it is very verastile in taking ammo from very mild 38 loads up to very heavy 357 loads and it is an excellent defense weapon. A 12 guage pump shotgun. Make does not really matter. The major manufacturers all make excellent guns so it is a matter of personal choice. I am split on the fourth. I thought that my Ruger Mini 14 in 300 Blackout might be the choice, but ammo might be a problem. 30/30 or 308 would be a better choice and I would probably choose my Winchester 94. It is light, easy to carry, decently accurate and powerful enough for anything I am going to run into in the Northeast.

    • OK, the question was “what if you could only have four guns?” It should be noted that My list is not for the upcoming zombie apocalypse or any other SHTF situation. Just the four guns that I want to keep in My collection. I got My list. In NO order of importance: Mossberg 500 12Ga… it’s a workhorse and also I don’t own a Remington 870. My 4″Python cause it’s a .357 mag. and it’s so freaking pretty. Marlin model 60 for plinking fun and My colt 1911 in .45acp because EVERYBODY should have a Colt 1911 in .45acp on their list. Now I want to say that I love all the other lists so far and I wish that We could stretch it to five guns so that I could keep at least ONE AR-15…..Jim Reporting from the Warzone that is Chicago…..OUT!

      • Jim, great list, I love your comment about your .357. I also like that even though you prefer your 550, you acknowledge the ubiquitous 870, also a steadfast stalwart. I agree limiting to just four is difficult and I don’t even *have* an AR-15 platform rifle, though I want one. I also don’t have a 1911 platform handgun, though I have recently been reconsidering that decision. I don’t like all the “safeties” on them.

  5. Ruger Redhawk 44 mag, 1894 44 mag., 870 Rem. 12 ga., Marlin 39A 22 lr.

    Minimal ammo variations, lever action, pump, revolver for simplicity and gobbling any ammo, 22 for small game, all others versatile for hunting and protection.

  6. If I had to choose….my 3 .45’s, model 94, M1, Ar10/15, Ruger II, .357, S&W airweight………….OH WAIT, I am just a tad over it would seem!!

  7. “what if you could only have four guns?”
    After mulling this over with the aid of the above mentioned adult beverage, My four keepers would be:
    1.Henry model H001 22lr lever action/it is just too much fun to shoot.
    2.Pre-64 model 70 Winchester .30-06/Great hunting rifle & My Dad gave it to me.
    3.Charter Arms Pitbull in .40S&W/my conceal carry weapon of choice
    4.Mossberg model 500 12 gauge pump shotgun/In my opinion, everybody needs a reliable shotgun:Hunting, home protection & sport shooting, it does it all.
    It really hurt to leave my S&W M&P shield in .40S&W off the list, cause it is a sweet weapon but somethings had to be cut.
    I could live without the others, but life is more fun with them.

    • “1.Henry model H001 22lr lever action/it is just too much fun to shoot.” …

      …very nice gun and a great bargain!

      A friend has one and I got to work on his and an old style Henry H001 called an Erma-Werke (it is the predecessor of the Henry H001 – it is made in West Germany and it is the exact same gun the Henry H001). After they stopped making the Erma’s Henry put it back into product with the Henry name.

      I wrote a technical repair article about the Erma-Werke in GCA’s GunTech magazine in issue #128 (part 1) and part 2 in issue #129.


  8. If I could only have four guns? The choices are simple.

    I would have the Glock 19. They are reliable, ubiquitous, and parts are available.
    Ruger 10/22. Again reliable, ubiquitous, and replaceable mags.
    Ruger Mark IV to share ammo with the 10/22 and to keep skills up.
    KSG for the firepower and the bullpup keeps the weight closer in.
    Glock 26 nice backup and will share magazine with the G19
    Keltec Sub 2000 or similar 9MM carbine that will use Glock magazines for a car gun.
    Reliable 12Ga pump like an 870 or 500.
    .357 wheel gun, probably a Ruger as they are built like a tank.
    .308 with replaceable mags.
    SKS for basic defense around the farm, cheap and available ammo.
    Kahr PM9 or Glock 43 for a little hideaway.
    Model 70 on .270 for general hunting.
    Weatherby Mark IV in 300 Weatherby Mag for when I wanted to reach out a little more.

    That pares it down quite a bit but I could get by with that.

    • Caribou, you must use a different system for counting than the rest of us. 🙂 Even halved, that’s not 4 firearms. I agree, we all may have at least some, a few, or a couple, we would be willing to part with, we all, one, want more, and two, can’t part with most, since we acquired them for a “reason” when we got them.

  9. Nice exercise, gives us all something to think is my list of the four guns that I would keep that I already own. I always think about the “perfect” guns to have for any situation, but this is more challenging because it has to already be in the collection. I didn’t have room for a bolt action rifle 🙁

    Glock 19
    Ruger 10/22
    Winchester 94 30/30
    S&W 67

  10. Easy-peasy Like so many others, I would place utility over sentiment… mostly. The over under is slightly less practical than a Mossy 500.

    The very Last to go: S&W mod 19, .357, because it is the single most versatile weapon I own, and I shoot it well out to 100 yards.

    Sig-arms .20 ga over under, because it is rugged, versatile and I shoot it well with shot or slugs.

    Armalite AR-7, for the obvious reasons

    First to go of the 4: Custom 30-06 on a Husqvarna action for long range work and hunting (if that ever happened)

    but, I would sure miss my XP 100, my 10-22, my 1911, and all those other fun oddities.

  11. I hate these kind of queries. Sounds like we are being prepared for a government firearm quota. Who’s going to tell me I CAN only keep 4 firearms? My answer is, I have more than I need, but not as many as I want. That is the only answer any red blooded America Patriot should ever give.

    • Not at all. My intention was more to get you thinking about what your favorite firearms are and why. Putting a limit of four guns was purely random and designed to really make you think about it. There was never any mention of survival, government intrusion, zombie attacks or anything else in my article–it is completely up to the reader to answer the question asked according to his own interpretation.

  12. Four firearms? I didn’t believe I had that many, but I currently own seven. One is my great-grandfather’s double-barreled muzzle-loading shotgun, inoperable, but I still can’t imagine parting with it. Then I have my CC 9 mm Beretta PX4 Storm sub-compact, a .38 Special given to me by a friend, which was his uncle’s service revolver. I could part, without too much pain, my S&W Sigma 9 mm and my Beretta Neos .22 cal, but I still want to replace it with another .22 cal. Everyone “needs” a shotgun and a carbine and a rifle; so how do I limit myself to only *four*? I could still use a few rifles and handguns in at least a few more calibers.

  13. How about a rifle that uses multiple barrels ? Does it count as one gun ? Thompson Center and you’re covered for any four you have to come up with.

    • Technically it does count as one gun if there is only one serial number. Good question I never thought of. This got me thinking about mini-guns.

  14. Easy, didn’t have to ponder too long.

    1980 Ruger Security Six in .357 mag for PP
    2014 Henry H001T 22lr, good shooter & very accurate with Skinner peep and post
    1979 Mossberg 500 12ga, been my go to above all for quite a few years
    1971 Marlin 1894C in .44 rem mag, again fitted with Skinner. doesn’t reach way out there but great stopping power.

    picked these because of their mechanical simplicity and durability.


  15. I think most of our choices are truly already made and reflected by ammo stock piles. SHTF mind-games.

    Ithaca Model 37 – old style, slam fire capable, cartridge stops not riveted. Readily serviced. (I’ll keep two barrels for it, deer slug and improved modified)
    AR-15 – CQB set up. Because there will be more ammo lying ariound and parts available
    Dan Wesson 357 2 1/2 in fixed barrel revolver. Concealable. Goes bank. Works with 38 spl and 357 ammo.
    Ruger 10/22 Compact Model – Got to eat. Again ammo and parts availability.

    And then my friends and neighbors can go to my safe and pick their 4…They can have anything but the deer rifles. The thought of 30-06 rifle scope crosshairs on my back are the thing that make me most nauseous when ruminating on the EOTWAWKI scenarios. Horrifying.

  16. If I discount guns that were my Fathers, I can get to 4 guns real easy, reloading my own ammo makes each gun equal to many. My 454 Casull, a Ruger blackhawk 357, colt 45 acp and 94 winchester lever which with a 110 grain bullet will drive tacks at 100 yd and hit 2800 fps this in addition to normal loads for 30-30. If expanded I would keep a 22 and 410 shotgun for rabbits.

    • Hi Monte I’m just curious, what .454 do You have? I own a Taurus Raging Bull. I love the gun but left it off of My list because even with the rubber grips the recoil is tough on these ol’ hands. 5 rounds and then it is less and less fun to shoot. You can stop anything on God’s green Earth that breathes and a V-8 engine to boot with them but that recoil……

  17. Well for a start,,, let me disclose to you that I have a whole lot of guns.
    After not much consideration these are the top four that I somewhat use the most and would prefer to keep.
    My Winchester SX-3 12ga.
    Probably the most versatile of all the scatter guns that I own. Plus,, the folks at several outdoor and shooting magazines have consistently given this gun great ratings and they must be intelligent enough so as to agree with me. From Trap, and 5 Stand to hunting real birds It has never failed me.
    Sig Sauer P-226 40 cal. Stainless Elite.
    I just can’t miss with this pistol. I love it! It’s super accurate, Looks great, and Fits my hand like a glove, But then after all, “It is a Sig Sauer” and I would expect nothing less from them. Long live the 40 cal!
    Ruger 10/22.
    Come on,,, admit it, everybody has to have one of these! Mine is the SS version and it has a Leupold VX-6 3-18 with a varmint reticle mounted on it.
    Yes,,, it’s too much scope, But I like it that way and this is another super accurate, never fail me combination.
    RIGBY 416 Rigby Mag.
    Now I know you are all thinking that “this guy is really in need of some serious mental help.
    First Off ,, and most importantly,, This rifle was an Anniversary Gift from my beloved wife. How many of you have ever receive a gift of this stature from your bride? Bet ya all the tea in China if you had one, yours would be on this list too. Yes it’s very impractical. But there is virtually nothing in this galaxy that I can’t drop with the thing.
    It is my show and tell, in your face, bowl them over gun. They all get especially jealous when I pull it out of the safe and then rub salt into their wounds when I say it was a gift from the most beautiful woman in the world. By the way,,, I usually shoot it open sights, but also have a Leupold VX-6 2-12 set up for it.
    That’s it folks, laugh and ridicule all you want. I don’t care!
    When I’m gone and they have the Viking Funeral for me these four will surely be on the boat.

  18. Ok ok… I’ve mulled this again. It still makes me sick. I don’t drink but I did have a two pints of Gatorade mulling this. My dad used to say every man needs at least 1 pistol, 1 shotgun, and 1 rifle. I agree (at LEAST three that is) so four should be easy huh? Here’s the rub for me I have a list of 4 most practical and 4 most sentimental. I have tried to reconcile my two lists into one but can’t seem to do it so here’s my lists.

    Kimber 8400 308
    Kimber CustomII 1911
    Winchester model 12 16ga

    1. My great grandfather’s model 92 Winchester in 32WCF
    2. Dad’s Ruger MKII I inherited
    3. My Colt 1911 Gold Cup 70 series my uncle shot in competition and gave me
    4. The model 12 again it’s hunted 3 generations and still looks gorgeous.

    See why I was so torn!

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