I often read suggestions in survivalist and shooting forums that run something like this: "If you had to choose just one gun to handle all your tasks, then what would it be?" A lively debate then ensues, usually marked by extreme opinions, running the gamut from pipsqueak calibers, to elephant guns. These debates go on, endlessly. The result is a confusing muddle that does little to educate folks that are new to shooting as to what is truly practical. What prompted this post is that recently received a "one gun solution" article entry for SurvivalBlog's writing contest, which I politely declined to post. (That one had recommended buying just a Glock 19 pistol.)
The "one gun" debates are spurious starting points for any logical discourse. Alarmingly, some people take this talk seriously, and in doing so, they usually end up opting for the Lowest Common Denominator. They often end up pushed toward a .22 rimfire rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun (often a single-shot) or a 9mm handgun. The reality is that there is no "one size fits all" solution. Owning just one gun is like owning a tool box containing just one tool for all your household and automotive repair tasks. Which one tool would it be: A hammer? A screwdriver? Pliers? A hacksaw? Remember, you can only choose one tool.
To be realistic, the minimum number of guns needed for a family preparedness firearms battery is four:
An optional fifth gun would be a pump action 12 gauge shotgun with both bird hunting and riotgun barrels. (Such as a Remington Model 870.)
There is simply no way for one gun to handle everything from shooting garden pests to big game, and self defense in both concealed carry and "reach out and touch someone" modes. Yes, there are some versatile guns out there, but they would be compromises. For example, a Kel-Tec SU-16 .223 could be considered an adequate rifle that is marginally concealable. Ditto for the new .308 Kel-Tec RFB bullpup. But in attempting to handle all functions with one gun, it wouldn't perform those functions as well as a purpose-built gun.
Now if I were hypothetically forced to "grab just one gun and run" for some reason, it would probably be something like the RFB. But if budget were the constraint rather than "what you can carry on your back", then I would recommend buying a small battery of guns, as I outlined above. (And, as I noted, there are some very modestly-priced alternatives.)
I'm sure that will folks will chide me, saying that they can get by with just a bolt action rifle. Well perhaps you might. But if I'm ever faced with superior numbers, then I want to have power, accuracy and repetitive fire at my disposal. I also want the flexibility of having concealability for some guns, and some chambered in quiet low power cartridges that are suitable for small game and pest shooting. Again, there is no "one size fits all" solution available in one gun. That is my view, and as they say, "Your mileage may vary." Your budget might also vary, so plan your purchasing wisely. Don't shy away from buying used guns if they are in good condition. Not only are they less expensive, but odds are that you will be buying from private parties, so that adds to your privacy.
A reminder, in closing: Be sure that you also budget for training ammunition and instruction, regardless of your choice in guns. Tools without training are useless.