Here’s the scenario: You’re about to be thrust into a survival situation for an extended period of time. You’ve had to take to the wilderness. Say, a couple of weeks to a couple of months. You can only have two survival firearms; a rifle and a handgun. Which would you choose?
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That would suck!
The above scenario sure would suck a lot, wouldn’t it? Could it happen? Without a doubt, we are living in some pretty bizarre times. Five years ago, if someone had told you about things that have transpired in recent history, you might not have believed what they had to say. I would have had a tough time believing it.
Let’s look at some survival firearms choices that you might go with for this terrible scenario. Understand, this article has limited space, so I can’t list everything under the sun. If your favorite blaster is left off the list, don’t send me any hate mail. I’ll try to hit some of the major categories in a broad sense.
Survival Firearms — Rifles
The tried and true lever gun might be a choice for some. They can be had in a number of calibers. The design is a classic and tends not to raise alarm when people see us carrying it. This type of action is reliable too.
The .30-30 is wildly popular, especially here in PA, especially among “seasoned citizens.” The .35 Remington is also seen in some numbers. Pistol calibers such as the .357/.38 Special are also handy, as are the .44 Magnum/.44 Special examples. I know a few folks who also have them in .22 Long Rifle (LR) too.
Many of these carbines have short barrels when compared to some rifles, making them handy to maneuver through brush and tight quarters.
These days, bolt actions have likely surpassed lever guns in popularity. The two World Wars had a prominent hand in the bolt action’s popularity in America, as soldiers on all sides used them in the wars. When the men came home, many continued liking the bolt action and began using it more and more for hunting.
The choice of manufacturers, calibers, and configurations for “bolt guns” is bewildering. Popular hunting calibers include the .30-06 (made so popular in the wars), .308, .270, .243, .22-250, .223, and….well, there are just way too many to list here! It seems like they come out with a new caliber every single week.
Whether you decide on a model from Remington, Savage, Ruger, or one from several dozen other makers, it’s hard to go wrong with this choice.
Again, we have a plethora to choose from, with the AR-15 being wildly popular currently. The M-14/M-1A also has a following, and we can include Ruger’s Mini-14 in this category. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the AK-47 series here and all of its offshoots. The SKS also has a fan base who enjoy the inexpensive prices of this carbine. Heckler & Koch has an entire family of weapons, all priced at a premium.
These are just a few that we have to choose from, there are tons more out there. Although there is an array of calibers available, they are not as numerous as with bolt actions or lever guns. Mostly, .308/7.62 NATO, .223/5.56 NATO, 7.62x39mm, and a few others. Granted, we can find a number of others, but those are the main players.
Survival Firearms — Shotguns
Many folks love the shotgun for its power. And there’s no doubt that they are effective for small game hunting. The 12 gauge, 20 gauge, 16 gauge, and .410 are the main calibers with shotguns.
Shotguns are never a bad choice, but the ammo for most is large and heavy compared to other ammunition. As with the other weapons platforms mentioned, there are dozens of shotgun manufacturers to choose from.
Survival Firearms — Handguns
Here’s where the caliber selection is incredibly wide. Everything from .22 Long Rifle all the way up through…what’s the latest huge caliber…500 Magnum Death Ray Zombie Killer. And man, we love big calibers, don’t we?
Revolvers don’t have to worry about whether the ammo will cycle the action like their auto pistol brethren. You can shoot downloaded ammo through a revolver and it will just ask for more. Snake loads? No problem! Magnums? Yes, please!
People hunt large and small game with revolvers, and their defensive use has long been established. Yes, the revolver is probably the most versatile handgun choice that people could make.
Just like bolt action rifles, the amount of manufacturers who make auto pistols is staggering. Unlike revolvers, the caliber selection for auto pistols is more limited. We’ve got the usual suspects, the .45 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and a host of others. New calibers are occasionally introduced, but none really seem to gain much traction.
Naturally, the fact that they are magazine-fed and fast to reload is a huge bonus. Unlike revolvers, though, auto pistols can be picky as far as the ammo is concerned. Certain pistols might not like certain rounds.
In a survival situation, what will we mostly be using these firearms for?
I’m not an expert, but my chief concern would be harvesting game. Most likely small game, given its availability. Sure, it sounds good to say we’re going to shoot a caribou, deer, or other larger game. But is it available? And is it practical?
Here in PA, Whitetail Deer are everywhere. I can’t take a drive in the country without seeing at least a half-dozen. I’ve hit far more of them with my car than I’ve ever shot hunting (literally). They’re everywhere—until it’s hunting season. Then you can’t find one to save your life (which, in a survival situation, is no exaggeration).
What’s the best caliber for harvesting small game? In my estimation, the .22LR shines in that capacity.
Sure, the .30-06 and every other hunting caliber is better for taking larger game and even defending ourselves against bears and mountain lions. But imagine shooting a rabbit or squirrel with a .30 caliber round, or even some of the smaller hunting rounds.
Having a brick of .22 LR would certainly last us quite a while.
Weight & Space
Let’s say you’re out in the wilderness. It is a survival situation, remember? You’re carrying your belongings in a backpack. How much room do you have to stuff it full of ammo? Beyond that, how far can you carry the ammo you choose to go with? Compare 500 rounds of .30 caliber rounds as opposed to .22LR. A 500-round brick of .22 weighs a couple of pounds and can easily fit into your pack.
Obviously, the .22LR is going to edge out the other calibers with its number and weight advantages.
Another consideration these days is price. The .22 can be purchased in far larger numbers for less money than anything else that’s out there as far as ammo is concerned.
Scope Or Irons?
Iron sights are more rugged and reliable, with very little that can go wrong with them.
A scope will allow more precision and at longer ranges. However, things can go wrong with scopes, obviously. In a survival situation, that would really be a bummer.
Still, there are scopes on the market these days that are very rugged and durable, so you’d probably be safe going with some sort of quality optic.
Let’s face it, the .22 LR is no powerhouse, and I’ll not try to convince anyone otherwise. With that said, it can take a wide range of game as long as shot placement is precise. And at the closer ranges, it’s possible to gain that precision.
The .22 LR has long been used by poachers to take deer in the dark of night. Head shots are the order of the day when taking deer in this manner. During a survival situation, this might be a very useful thing to know.
Which survival firearms would I choose?
Each reader will have to make his or her choice. Most likely, it will depend on what you have on hand when the situation strikes. We have our “wish list”, and then we have reality. Personally, I can tell you that my wish list is far larger than what my reality list is.
As far as the rifle is concerned, I’d likely go with my Savage MK II FV-SR. It’s compact, rugged, and is .22 LR caliber. I have a 1-8x scope on it. Given my eyesight these days, I need that scope for precision at any appreciable range.
A good case could be made for the Ruger 10/22. A semi-auto .22 carbine could be a real help for survival. I also have a Henry Survival Rifle that wouldn’t be a terrible choice.
Of course, a number of other rifles would also fill the bill. I’m just naming the ones I have access to and that I’d use. I can’t tell you that your choice would be a bad one.
My handgun of choice might well be one that I don’t currently possess: A .357 Magnum revolver. Why? Because it’s powerful and would be useful for protection as well as taking down larger game such as deer.
I know, I said the .22 rifle would take deer. So why the .357? Because even though the bulk of my hunting would be small game, we never know when a larger animal will present itself. And while I don’t live in the bear capital of the state, they’re known to be seen in my neck of the woods every now and then. Having protection against bears and coyotes would be a comfort.
Naturally, I’d only carry a few boxes of ammo if I had a .357 Magnum, as it would be used very sparingly.
On the other hand, a very strong case could be made for carrying a .22 LR handgun. My Ruger MK IV .22/45 would be my choice in that case. It’s light and accurate and would fill the bill very well. On top of that, the ammo would be compatible with my rifle.
Those are my thoughts and likely choices for an extended survival situation. These choices for survival firearms are not very exotic or exciting. However, as far as practicality goes, I think they are fairly sensible.
How about you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of survival weapons, so feel free to let us know what your choices would be! Leave us a comment.