Guns, Gold and Antibiotics: A Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse


“The future’s uncertain and the end is always near,” goes a line in one of The Doors’ songs. Similarly, while all seems well in the world today, circumstances can easily- and suddenly- change.

Wars, pestilence, civil unrest, economic collapse- these are all the risks that an ordered society faces. However, unlike those individuals who remain unprepared for even the smallest calamity, you can start making small purchases and preparations now that will help you survive many possible end-of-world scenarios.

There are many items that you should consider stockpiling for any sort of economic, social or other apocalypse. For immediate survival, you will obviously need surplus amounts of food and water. For long(er) term survival and barter, canned goods, fuel, tents, power generators and crop seed should also be on your shopping list.

However, if there are just three things that would ultimately help you not only survive but even thrive following a major apocalypse, they would be guns, gold and antibiotics.

Guns would be an almost immediate need for your personal survival by providing a means of self-defense from both human and animal threats. You would also be able to hunt a number of small and large game with an assortment of firearms at your disposal. Although not recommended, you would also be able to trade guns for more immediate survival items such as medicine. Conversely, a firearm at your side would also make a reluctant doctor, nurse or pharmacist “see things your way.”

Gold would be an eventual need if an economic or social collapse led to money being devalued. In such a situation, gold would become the preferred method of making non-barter purchases. Even if your fellow citizens did not wish to trade food, clean water or land for gold, other countries would still value gold for the currency that it has traditionally been (and still is). As your country or society was being rebuilt, it is more than likely that gold would become the de facto currency until paper or other currency was established.

Antibiotics may not at first seem like an absolute necessity in an apocalypse. However, consider that, until sulfonamides and penicillin were provided to troops fighting in World War II, bacterial infection from combat wounds and diseases like cholera and dysentery was a leading cause of death from war. Before general hygiene and disinfection techniques were employed in the 20th century, infection-related deaths outnumbered combat deaths seven to one.

In a post-apocalyptic world, it is doubtful that you’ll always have access to clean water, bandages and alcohol. Your body will get dirty and stay dirty. Thus, having a stash of antibiotics for your inevitable scrapes, broken bones or even gunshot wounds will be essential to your very survival.

How and which guns, gold pieces and antibiotics should you secure now, before a possible apocalypse?

Your essential post-apocalyptic firearms

There are many upon many firearms to choose from, ranging from the imposing AR15 to the classic Cobra Derringer. However, in any kind of apocalypse, it’s doubtful that you’ll have the benefit of a large gun locker to store all kinds of firearms, ammunition and carrying cases.

More than likely, you’ll have a small satchel and your own shoulder for hauling around your precious few firearms. These select firearms will have to do double duty in terms of hunting and self-defense. They will need to be relatively care-free, not prone to jams and/or misfires, and able to work with a wide range of ammunition.

The shotgun

The shotgun is the workhorse of firearms. Because it can be loaded with either shot or slugs, this versatile firearm is able to target and shoot small to large animal prey- as well as human predators, if need be.

There are two basic models of shotguns: pump action and semi-automatic.

The pump action shotgun has the advantage of being more manual and thus less prone to ejection issues and snags. It’s also less prone to issues caused by dirt, rain and climate change. Because it only requires a manual pump to eject a cartridge and chamber a new one, many different types of ammunition can be used with it, including those with smaller (gunpowder) loads. A classic example of a pump-action shotgun is the Remington 870.

The semi-automatic shotgun has the advantage of being faster to cycle because you only need to press the trigger to shoot. However, with increased automation comes the risk of increased mechanical issues. Because the semi-automatic is using the energy of the last round to chamber the next round, ammunition choice is limited to larger load cartridges. The Browning Gold is a great example of a semi-automatic shotgun, which is offered as an impressive 10 gauge.

The rifle

The rifled gun, or rifle, takes its name from the helical cuts or grooves inside of that gun’s barrel; these grooves place a helical spin on the projectile (i.e., bullet) and increase its range (i.e., distance) and accuracy. When combined with a mounted scope, rifles are arguably one of the most accurate firearms in existence.

As a result, rifles are ideal for hunting small game like squirrel, rabbit and chipmunk. The .22 caliber long rifle, or LR, is a very popular firearm that is used for hunting small game. Also, the ammunition that is commonly used with these rifles is fairly cheap, so it won’t cost a fortune even if you stockpile thousands of rounds. Many .22 caliber magazines can be packed with at least 10 rounds, making for fewer magazine changes during a hunting trip.

Rifles are not only intended for hunting small game, however. The AR15, which is based on the M16, is classified as a semi-automatic rifle- and this firearm is by no means a small game rifle. Rifles are also commonly used for hunting medium size game such as deer. In a pinch, a rifle can also be used to defend yourself from humans or even large (and hungry) bears.

The handgun

While shotguns and rifles are superb at shooting targets that are at least 30 feet away in distance, they are quickly rendered useless when the threat is extremely close. To this end, there are handguns (also known as pistols).

There are many types of handguns, with the most popular being revolvers and magazine-fitted pistols (including the well-known 1911 model). A revolver is a more manual style of handgun; the cartridges are chambered into a cast/forged metal cylinder that typically has spaces for five or six rounds. As the revolver is fired, the cylinder rotates, allowing a new round to be exposed to the strike of the hammer. The Ruger Security Six is but one example of a revolver-style pistol.

Revolvers come in either single or double-action mode. A single-action revolver must have its hammer cocked each time before the trigger is pulled, which results in the hammer’s strike and the cartridge being fired. In other words, the pull of the trigger only completes one action, which is the release of the hammer so that it can strike the loaded ammunition.

With a double-action revolver, the pull of the trigger completes both the cocking of the hammer and its release. While it does take more manual effort to shoot a double-action revolver, the fact that only one action is required to fire this handgun is of immense advantage should you become cornered and must act quickly and instinctively.

Aside from revolvers, many pistols use a single short barrel that is fed via cartridge-containing magazines. Many such pistols also include a slide, which helps with the cocking mechanism and results in a lighter trigger pull. The disadvantage with many such pistols is that the slide tends to jam. This can usually be fixed by gripping and racking the slide, which involves moving it back and forth over the length of the barrel.

Of course, the biggest problem with slide jams is that they are very inconvenient when you are being approached by a predator and have failed to completely stop it with your first shot. For this reason alone, in a post-apocalyptic world, I’d recommend building up your finger strength and keeping a double-action revolver as your pistol of choice.

Gold – the preferred currency of the post-apocalyptic world

In the event of an economic collapse or other major world catastrophe, much of society will resort to the barter system as the primary form of trade. However, there will still be a need for a more symbolic and portable medium of exchange in trade and commerce. More than likely, this medium of exchange will be gold and other precious metals like silver and platinum.

Gold has historically been used as currency for millennia. Until 1971, the U.S. dollar was still backed (and stabilized) by gold. There is no reason to think that gold will not be making a comeback, and especially if other currencies disappear.

To this end, you should consider investing some of your cash in gold as a safeguard against the uncertain future. And while there are gold stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) out there, or even gold mine shares, such investments are risky because you do not actually own physical gold with them. If the economy tanks, you are left with worthless pieces of paper or email notifications, not the real deal.

Traditional gold investors purchase gold in either bullion or coin form and store it in either a safe-deposit box in a bank or somewhere on their property. Ideally, the latter choice offers more accessibility, especially if a bank should fail and disappear overnight. However, not everyone has access to property in which gold can be safely hidden and stored.

Bullion gold

Bullion gold is most commonly thought of when new investors consider buying this precious metal. A gold bullion bar typically carries the name of the manufacturer and a guarantee that it is genuine 99.9% gold. A common gold manufacturer is Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux (PAMP), which sells all sizes of gold bullion ranging from one troy ounce bars to kilogram bars to 400 ounce bricks.

While bullion gold is the cheapest form of gold available, it comes with several challenges. To begin with, not everyone is familiar with gold manufacturers and their stamps or certificates of authenticity. Also, a piece of bullion is typically not stamped or marked over every millimeter of the metal, making it easy for unscrupulous sellers to cut or shave off small pieces for themselves. Savvy gold buyers will often suspect that the gold bullion you are offering to them does not weigh “as advertised” and will be hesitant to make a purchase as a result (or without careful re-weighing).

Finally, if the bullion stamps should happen to wear off, it will be difficult to prove that the item is actually gold without conducting physical and/or chemical tests.

Gold coins

Gold coins, on the other hand, come with the advantage of being measured out in very discreet and small denominations. Coins are also minted, or carefully and fully stamped over the entire body of the metal. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, coins are easily recognized by most buyers because they are a form of money. In other words, they are legal tender currency.

The problem with gold coins is that they are often priced far beyond their intrinsic value of gold content. The “price over spot,” or the sales commission over the basic price of the actual gold, can sometimes be 20% or more. Understandably, many gold coins have historic or collector value. However, if you’re just looking to purchase gold coins to use as a future currency, this is a huge disadvantage.

The best compromise in this situation is to invest in neither gold bullion nor gold coins, but rather in bullion-grade coins.

Bullion-grade coins

Bullion-grade coins are legal tender and they are almost pure gold. In fact, legally speaking, bullion-grade gold coins must be at least 99.9% gold. Most importantly for the investor, bullion coins have a very low spot over price, meaning that you are paying mostly for the gold itself. Many countries, including the USA, offer bullion coins; some examples include the American Buffalo, the Canadian Maple Leaf, and the Chinese Panda.

Incidentally, there are bullion-grade coins in other metals besides gold. For example, there is a lot of bullion-grade coin available in silver. This is useful if you are looking to accumulate “pocket change” currency that can be used for smaller shopping trips.

Antibiotics – your best defense against sickness and death

It cannot be overemphasized how the advent of antibiotics changed human survival rates from a number of “common” diseases like scarlet fever, measles, typhoid, typhus, influenza, whooping cough, and tuberculosis. In some countries, children weren’t even named until they had survived a bout of smallpox.

The introduction of “sulfa” drugs, followed by penicillin, decreased infant mortality and enabled stable human population growth. In fact, one of the biggest contributors to the human population explosion today is antibiotics.

All this medical progress could easily disappear if a societal collapse resulted in pharmaceutical companies no longer being able to produce medicines including antibiotics. In such a scenario, your best option would be to generate the antibiotics yourself.

Homemade antibiotics are a challenge to make well, but not impossible. Barring you having an allergy to penicillin, your best bet is to generate penicillin from scratch simply because this fungus is probably already present in your kitchen. The Penicillium fungus seems to favor bread as a growing medium; however, in my geographic area at least, I often find the blue fungus growing on my oranges and other citrus. Apparently, the fungus does quite well on cantaloupe too- in fact, the majority of the penicillin produced today is derived from a strain of Penicillium chrysogenum (notatum) that was found on a cantaloupe in Peoria, Illinois.

I should add that cheeses like Brie, Camembert, Stilton and Roquefort are ripened with Penicillium.

The specifics of culturing and extracting penicillin crystals from your rotten food are best elaborated on in chemical journals and survivalist handbooks dedicated to the topic. Needless to say, the process does require some knowledge of chemistry, as well as basic chemistry items like flasks and solutions like hydrochloric acid. Having a small microscope on hand will save you weeks of effort from possibly growing the wrong genus of fungus, such as the ubiquitous Aspergillus. I should also warn would-be home chemists that not all Penicillium species are edible, and many species produce mycotoxins that harm humans.

However, if you don’t mind setting up a small laboratory in your home and investing in a PCR machine (to genotype your particular Penicillium species), you will be well prepared should every pharmacy in your geographic area close down or get looted.

If you don’t wish to build a home laboratory, you can also stockpile penicillin by purchasing fish-grade penicillin from your local pet store. You can purchase fish penicillin rather cheaply and without the need for a prescription. Look for names like Fish-Pen when shopping.

Your antibiotic stockpile will be invaluable to you and your loved ones in case of a societal collapse or other catastrophe.

You should also consider stockpiling fish-grade Keflex (Cephalexin) if you or those you know are allergic to penicillin. In about 10% of cases, individuals who have a penicillin allergy will also exhibit hypersensitivity to Keflex. Obviously, you would not be treating yourself or others with fish antibiotics in a normal situation; however, in the absence of a doctor or pharmacist, and with serious bacterial sepsis or fever going on, you’re better off risking an allergic reaction than certain death.


An end-of-world scenario is going to create all kinds of crises and product shortages. It will also bring out the worst – and best – in human nature. Your best bet to surviving and even thriving in such a scenario is to be armed with a small arsenal of firearms, to have a durable medium of currency, and to maintain stockpiles of select antibiotics.


About Author

Halina Zakowicz is a full-time freelance writer, investor and aspiring sci-fi novelist. In her spare time, she appreciates the finer points of zymology by brewing various hops-infused concoctions.

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