Top 5 survival rifles
One of the most asked questions I see on the forum – “what is the best survival rifle?” A well balanced answer is, there is no perfect rifle. If you live in Alaska, your rifle needs are going to be a lot different then someone that lives in the Southern states. Its doubtful someone living in southern Florida is going to be running in Grizzly bears, like someone in someone in the Northern States might. If you live in Colorado, or Washington state you might be hunting elk or moose, while people in Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi might be hunting whitetail deer or wild hogs.
1) Ruger 10/22 – semi-automatic, magazine fed, 22 caliber rifle. Its not one thing that sets the Ruger 10/22 apart, its the huge list – the reliability, the vast selection of accessories – magazines, scopes, barrels, stocks,,,,,, just all kinds of stuff. My personal Ruger 10/22 was bought in January of 1986, and is still going strong.
My first experience with a Ruger 10/22 was sometime in 1984 or 1985 when 3 of my buddies and I were on a 3 day camping trip. We loaded up an aluminum boat and headed out to one of the bayous close to Bridge City, Texas – this was sometime around 1984 or 1985. After eating lunch, Allen and I took the dishes to the bayou to wash them. While we were washing the dishes, we saw a nutria rat on the other side of the bayou. 1 shot with the Ruger 10/22 took care of the animal. Allen and I got in the aluminum boat we had used to reach the camping spot, and paddled across the bayou to retrieve the animal. We skinned the nutria rat and brought it back to the camping spot where it was roasted over a camp fire and eaten. Even though we had just eaten dinner, it was just canned chili and we were still hungry. The meat from that nutria rat really hit the spot.
After I handled the Ruger 10/22 on that 3 day camping trip, I knew I had to have one. From that day forward, the Ruger 10/22 has been one of my favorite survival rifles.
The 22 long rifle cartridge only compliments the 10/22. The 22 long rifle is cheap, easy to stockpile, does not have a loud report, easy to carry and has plenty of power to take small game – like the nutria rat. With prices ranging from $12 – $20 for a brick of 550 rounds, for people on a budget, the 22 long rifle is going to be a tough round to beat.
2) AK-47 – semi-automatic, magazine fed, 7.62X39 caliber. Its the effective stopping power of the 7.62X39 round (which is just slightly less powerful then the 30-30), the reliability of the AK47 design, and the vast number of modifications that puts this rifle at #2.
From the Speer reloading manual #11:
7.62X39 – 130 grain bullet: 2057 fps – 2232 fps – depending on the load.
30-30 Winchester – 150 grain bullet: 1879 fps – 2304 fps – depending on the load.
As you can see, the 7.62X39 is right there with the 30-30 Winchester. Since the 30-30 has a reputation of being a great deer caliber, then why shouldn’t the 7.72X39 be right there with it? The thing is, not a lot of people use an SKS or AK-47 for hunting deer. The 7.62X39 should be more then adequate for taking deer and hog sized game out to 100 – 150 yards, and taking care of business in an urban survival situation.
There are lot of rifles that shoot the 7.62X39 round, but I deiced against giving them their own spot in the top 5.
One of the problems with the AK47, it uses steel magazines, and steel rust. Unlike aluminum magazines, the steel magazines of the AK47 must be oiled before long term storage.
SKS – has gotten too expensive, and only the SKS-D has a detachable magazine. I remember in the early 1990s being able to buy an SKS and a case of Russian 7.62X39 for less then $200 – $90 for the SKS and $80 for a case of ammo. But these days, and SKS almost cost as much as a Marlin 30-30. If your going to spend $300 on a rifle, would you rather buy American made or Communist made?
Ruger mini-30 – might be a nice rifle, but its just too expensive to justify the cost. I (Kevin) owned a Ruger mini-30, and I could not justify buying 1 Mini-30, when I could have bought 2 Ak-47s for the same price.
3) Marlin 30-30 – lever action, tube fed, 30-30 caliber. Its the reliability of the Marlin 30-30, mixed with the effectiveness of the 30-30 Winchester that puts this rifle at #3.
In just about any state in the lower 48 states, the 30-30 has enough power put meat on the table. This includes everything from deer and hog sized group and down.
Another thing that the Marlin 30-30 brings to the table, it has lower recoil then say the 30-06. This makes the 30-30 a good choice small framed adults, teenagers and small framed women.
Some people might be asking “why is a lever action 30-30 in the list, its slow to load, its slow to reload and its not magazine fed?” The 30-30 is compact, its easy for just about anyone in the family to shoot, its pretty accurate out to 100 – 150 yards and it has plenty of penetration power. One aspect that is often overlooked, the 30-30 shoots a 30 caliber bullet. Its the same bullet that shoots out of a 7.62X39, 308 or 30-06.
4): The number 4 category has to go to a variety of rifles:
Remington Model 750 Woodsmaster -semi-automatic, magazine fed, variety of calibers. Its the wide variety of calibers, detachable magazines and being semi-automatic that put this rifle at #4.
The Remington 750 Woodsmaster is an under appreciated rifle for survival situations. Unlike the AK-47, Marlin 336 or Ruger 10/22, if you need a larger caliber to take care of moose, elk or bear, the Remington Model 750 Woodsmaster can take care of that for you. Need a rifle in 30-06 to take down a moose or elk – no problem.
On the flip side of the coin, if you need a semi-automatic rifle with detachable magazines for an urban survival situation, the Remington 750 can take care of that as well.
FN/FAL – There is a reason why the FN/FAL is used by militaries all over the world, its tough, durable and reliable. DS Arms manufacturers a “made in the USA” SA58 FN/FAL in a wide variety of configurations. One of the issues with the FN/FAL, magazines are in the $15 – $20 price range. If you want to stockpile magazines at your bug out location, it can get a little expensive.
Video about the DS Arms SA58 FN/FAL
PTR-91 - Built on an H&K 91 design, the PTR-91 probably has the lowest cost of owernship of any other rifle. With magazines in the $1 – $5 price range, its easy to stockpile plenty of PTR-91 magazines.
M1A – This rifle should not need an introduction. Its military grade and battle proven the world over.
Related forum thread – what is the best 308 survival rifle for the money
In the family of semi-automatic 308 rifles, I think it boils down to if you want a military looking rifle, or a civilian looking rifle. If you want a civilian looking rifle, go with something like the Remington woodsmaster. If you want a military grade 308 survival rifle, go with either the FN/FAL, PTR-91 or the M1A.
5) Remington Model 700 – bolt action, magazine fed, variety of calibers. Its the wide range of calibers, simplicity of design, and accuracy that puts this rifle at #5.
Whether you need a rifle to take grizzly bear, or small game, the Remington model 700 is designed to take care of business.
What was left off the list: There are a lot of rifles left off the list. Its not that they are a bad choice, or a poor design and its nothing personal against the rifles that were not listed. The above list tried to address the rifles that might fill a wide range of needs in a survival situation.
AR-15 – semi-automatic, magazine fed, couple of calibers. There are a lot of people that would have put the AR15 at the top of the list. But the fact is, the 223 Remington / 5.56mm NATO is a small round that lacks the penetration power of the larger rounds.
The argument for the 223/5.56 is that the bullet tumbles after it hits flesh. There are various test with ballistic gelatin showing the 223/5.56mm tumbling after it hits the gelatin block. The problem is, how do we know the bullet is going to tumble “every time?” How does the 223/5.56mm bullet know the difference between a wall – and it should not tumble, or a body and it should tumble?
Also, some states do not allow people to hunt deer sized game with anything smaller then a 243 (check your local regulations). There is a reason “why” some states do not want people hunting deer with a 222 or 223/5.56mm.
Then there is the price of the AR15, which can range anywhere from $800 – $1,500. Most of the time you can buy 2 Ak47s or 3 SKSs for the price of 1 AR15.
Ruger mini-14 and mini-30 – are fine rifles and I have owned one of each. The problems with the mini 14 and mini-30 family – they are expensive, and the magazines can be expensive. For the price of 1 mini-14 or mini-30, you could buy 2 AK47s or 2 SKS, or maybe even 2 Marlin 30-30s.
The other day I was in a gun store and saw a used Mossberg model 500 for $175. I could buy 4 used Mossberg model 500s for $700, or 1 mini-14 or 1 mini-30 for $700 – $800.
From a survivalist point of view, the mini-14 and mini-30 rifles are just not worth the cost.
Weatherby Vanguard – this is the economy line of the Weatherby rifle line. The Vanguard is supposed to be developed by Howa, and is an under valued rifle in the survivalist lineup. Costing less then the Remington Model 700, the Weatherby Vanguard is attractive to a lot of shooters that are on a budget.
Some of the nice things about the Weatherby Vanguard, it comes in a variety of calibers, it has a synthetic stock, and a heavier barrel then some of the other rifles on the market. The Vanguard is available in 270 and 30-06, which makes it a good choice for “most” wild game outside of Africa. If your hunting bear, you might want something larger then a 30-06.
Marlin Model 60 – an outstanding 22 rifle, but being tube fed makes it slow on the reloading. There are people out there that like tube fed rifles over magazine rifles – which is fine and I can respect that. With a tube fed rifle, there are no magazines to lose.
If I could not pick the Ruger 10/22, or the 10/22 had never been developed, the marlin model 60 would be my nest choice in a 22 rifle.
22 Magnum – What can the 22 magnum do that the 22 long rifle can not? And the 22 magnum is not as popular as the 22 long rifle. While the 22 magnum does have a advantage over the 22 long rifle, its not like comparing the 243 and 30-06.
Pistol calibers in a rifle – a lot of survivalist consider a pistol and rifle that can use the same ammo the ultimate setup. Examples of this would include the Marlin camp 9 and camp 45, the Beretta Px4 Storm, the Marlin Model 1894C in 357 magnum / 38 special and the action Arms Timberwolf .357 Magnum.
While pistol rounds might be fine and dandy for up close and personal work, they lack the energy for long distance shots – say anything over 75 yards. Then there is the argument whether a 9mm or 40 S&W is safe to use on deer sized game. While the 357 magnum has plenty of energy to take deer sized game at close ranges, most people stockpiling ammo for some kind of SHTF situation usually stock 9mm, 45acp or 40S&W.
A good survivalist weapon should serve a dual purpose role. Whether your in an urban survival situation or hunting some of the local wild game, try to pick a rifle that can serve both roles. That way you just have to stockpile 1 type of ammo for 1 rifle. One of the big mistakes that people make is spreading their resources too thin. They might buy a 30-06 for the adult male, a couple of SKSs or AK47s, a 22 long rifle, and a couple of shotguns,,,,. Then they have to stockpile several different types of ammo. Limiting your weapon and ammo selection to just a couple of firearms frees up resources for other projects. Instead of having to test fire 3 or 4 rifles, with several different types of ammo,,,, just test 1 or 2 rifles with a couple of different loads.
Post your comments in this forum thread about my top 5 survival rifle choices.
- Stockpiling ammo for SHTF
- Ammo at the Bug Out Location
- Too many types of ammunition
- Ammunition for a long term survival situation
- Well rounded ammunition stockpile