If you were going to pick two firearms – 1 small caliber rifle, 1 medium or large caliber rifle, or a shotgun, which firearms would it be? These do not “have” to be considered survival rifles or a survival shotgun, but firearms that you may shoot with all year long. The two firearm combination should be diverse enough to take everything from small game to the largest game in your area. Someone that lives in Alaska and who might run into a grizzly bear will have different rifles needs then someone that lives in Texas or Florida – because there aint no grizzly bears in Texas or Florida.
The purpose of a “survival firearm” is a little different then a Main Battle Rifle (MBR). While an MBR is designed for the military and combat, survivalist need something that is not expensive, very reliable, and effective for harvesting wild game. Which would be the better invest, a single M1a or 3 Marlin 336s in 30-30? Price is a factor here. For certain people money may not be an issue. But for most people, dropping $1,000 into a single rifle is just not feasible.
Marlin model 336 and Marlin model 60:
Marlin model 336 – chambered in 30-30 is more then adequate for just about anything in the southern United States. The recoil of the 30-30 is not excessive, the ammunition is popular so it can be found just about anywhere, the ammunition is not expensive – so its not going to cost a fortune to stockpile 30-30 ammo, the rifle itself is not expensive – so buying more then 1 is not going to break the bank.
Lets just say that I like the Marlin 336 so much, that all three of my sons have 1. In all, my family has at least 4 Marlin 336 rifles.
When a new rifle cartridge is developed is does not take long for the public to form an opinion. From there the cartridge will take off and get popular, or its going to be forgotten about and will fade away to history. The popularity of the 30-30 is a testament to its reliability and stopping power for deer sized game. If the 30-30 was not an effective round, it would not be as popular as it is today.
Marlin model 60 – probably one of the best 22 rifles on the market. The model 60 is a tube fed, semi-auto rifle chambered in 22 long rifle – and its reliable and accurate.
The light weight of the Marlin model 60, combined with the 22 long rifle, makes this a great rifle for hunting squirrels and rabbits. This rifle is capable of taking anything smaller then a coyote, and without destroying a lot of the meat.
Ruger model M77 and Ruger 10/22:
Ruger M77 – is chambered in most of the popular calibers ranging from .204 Ruger – 338 Winchester Magnum. This makes the M77 a good choice for everything from whitetail deer to bear – depending on what you need it for.
A buddy of mine has a Ruger M77 chambered in 300 Winchester magnum. Just “why” he bought a 300 Winchester magnum for whitetail deer, I do not know. Personally, I think the 300 magnum is a little overkill for deer sized game. But who knows, maybe he is getting ready for an invasion of zombie deer.
After shooting my buddies Ruger M77, I was impressed the accuracy and overall reliability of the rifle. My buddy was making 1/2 inch groups at 100 yards with that 300 Winchester Magnum. But the recoil was just a little bit too much for my taste.
Ruger 10/22 – one of my favorite 22 rifles of all time. My first exposure to the Ruger 10/22 was on a 3 day camping trip back around 1985. Three of my buddies and I loaded up in a boat and headed down one of the bayous close to Bridge City, Texas. We ended up on a cut off whats called “spooky bayou” – it crosses under Highway 87 between Bridge City and Orange. The cut dead ended into a lagoon that might have been 40 – 60 feet across. We pulled the boat up on shore, walked into the woods maybe 150 feet and setup camp. That is where we stayed for the next 3 days, and it rained 2 of those 3 days.
After eating dinner, one of the other guys and myself took our plates to the lagoon to wash them. While we were at the waters edge we spotted a nutra rat across the lagoon. My buddy handed me his Ruger 10/22, I shot the nutra rat and killed it. From there we skinned the animal, took it back to camp, roasted it over the open camp fire and had a feast. Even though we had just eaten dinner, all we had eaten was canned chili – so fresh meat was a most welcome.
After shooting a Ruger 10/22 on that camping trip, I had to have one – so I bought myself a Ruger 10/22 for my 18th birthday.
Ruger mini-14 and Ruger mini-30 – Special mention goes to the Ruger mini-14 and mini-30. They are fine rifles, but their limited selection of calibers keeps them from being listed as a primary recommendation. But for the most part, the Ruger mini-30 chambered in 7.62X39 is capable of taking hog and deer sized game. If your looking for a military type weapon as opposed to a bolt action rifle, then the mini-14 and mini-30 might be better then the M77. A lot of it is personal choice, so make the best choice for your needs.
Out of all firearms manufacturers, Remington probably has the widest selection of firearms for the survivalist. Regardless if you need something for small game like rabbits, or large / dangerous game like grizzly bear, Remington has you covered.
Remington model 700 – Used by everyone from military snipers to casual hunters, and its chambered in everything from 17 Remington to 458 Winchester Magnum. So whether your hunting rabbits or elephant, the Remington Model 700 has a caliber that will fit the bill. The Remington Model 700 is also a proven performer in all weather conditions and situations. My own personal deer hunting rifle is a Remington model 700 BDL mountain rifle chambered in 280/7mm express. I received the rifle as a Christmas present from my mom and dad somewhere around 1993 or 1994. In the past 16 or 17 years, my model 700 has taken more deer then I care to count, or can even remember.
Remington model 870 – no list of survival firearms would be complete without the Remington model 870. For decades the 870 was the standard that all other shotguns were judged against. In the 1980s I remember 2 types of pump shotguns being around – the popular 870, and the not so popular Mossberg 500. The 870 is used by everyone from military to people that hunt small game. Whether its in the marsh shooting ducks, or in the woods looking for deer, the Remington 870 is at home.
Remington model 552 Speedmaster – its a lot like the Marlon model 60, as its a tube fed, semi-auto, 22 rifle. There is not really that much to say about the model 552 – the first version of the model 553 was released in 1957, with the current version having a BDL designation. The Model 552 Speedmaster can fire .22 Short, .22 Long and .22 long rifle. Unlike other 22 rifles that eject spent casings out of the side of the rifle, the Speedmaster has a deflector shield above the chamber. This seems to help deflect some of the still burning powered that some 22 rifles eject with the casing.
Remington model R-15 and R-25 – this is Remingtons answer to the AR-15 family of rifles. The R-15 is chambered in 223 Remington and 204 Ruger. While the R-25 is chambered in243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington and 308 Winchester. One of the big drawbacks to the Remington R series, is the cost. At this time, the suggested retail price ranges between $1,200 – $1,500, and that is in US dollars. Those prices are out of reach for a lot of middle class, working-for-a-living families. With $1,500 I could pay 3 of my house notes. I just can not justify spending that kind of money on a single rifle, not when there are other bills that my family needs to have paid. One of the goals for a survival firearm is to be cost effective – meaning it does not cost a small fortune. The firearm has to be cost effective and the ammo has to be cost effective. I do not see where the Remington R-15 or R-25 are cost effective.
Mossberg 100ATR, 500,590 and 464:
Following closely behind Remington is the Mossberg family of firearms – which includes everything from bolt action rifles to shotguns.
Mossberg 100ATR – the ATR stands for All Terrain Rifle. Unlike the Ruger M77 and Remington model 700, currently the 100ATR is only available in 4 calibers – 270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 243 Winchester and 308 Winchester. Omitted are the small and large game calibers. Even though the 30-06 can take just about anything in the lower 48 states, it just does not have the knock-down power of something like the 338 Winchester magnum.
For what most people in North America need, the 308, 270 and 30-06 should fit the bill just fine.
Mossberg model 500 pump action shotgun – one of the most popular shotguns on the market, its inexpensive, has tons of accessories and ammo can be found anywhere.
My personal Mossberg model 500 is around 25 years old, and is still going strong. I have taken more rabbits and squirrels with my Model 500 then I can remember or even start to count.
At one time I had 2 model 500s – a full length shotgun for hunting and a 12 gauge shorty that had a 20 inch barrel and a pistol grip. The shorty was my pack gun – it was the one I liked to bring on boating trips to take care of snakes.
One of the things that I like about the Mossberg 500 – its an inexpensive shotgun. In most places, someone can walk into a pawn shop and pick up a model 500 for less then $150. I paid $75 for my shorty 12 gauge.
Whether its knocking fox squirrels out of top of pine trees with #4 shot, or taking down a deer with a slug or buckshot, the Mossberg 500 can take care of it.
Mossberg model 590 – this shotgun deserves a special mention. Its stout, sturdy, and it’s a workhorse of a shotgun. One of the problems with the 590 – it does not have a removable choke. So if you want to replace the choke to get a tighter pattern, your not going to do with with the Mossberg 590.
The Mossberg 590 comes ready for business – it has a heat shield over the barrel and a bayonet lug. The 590 barrels lengths include 18-1/2″ with 5+1 magazine capacity, or 20″ barrel with 8+1 magazine capacity. My personal Mossberg 590 has the 20″ barrel.
Mossberg model 464 – in 2008, just 2 years after Winchester stopped production of the model 94, Mossberg released the model 464 lever action rifle. The 464 features a 20 inch barrel and has a magazine capacity of 6 rounds.
Very much like the Winchester model 94, the Mossberg model 464 features a top ejection port for spent casings. But instead of ejecting the spent brass straight up, their sent to the side – so mounting a scope should not be an issue.
AR-15 – standard military issue and military grade weapon. Its reliable, accurate, ammo is cheap, does not have any recoil, parts are plentiful and cheap. The AR-15 is one of the few weapons where spare parts can be found at any gun show. Magazines are cheap and accessories are plentiful.
If you looking for a purely urban survival rifle, or something to take small game, the AR-15 is going to be difficult to beat.
One of the problems with the AR-15 style rifle – some of the companies that make them, are proud of their product and want an arm and leg. Prices range anywhere from $800 – $1,500. So shop around before you buy.
If someone is willing to invest a little money in a 22 long rifle conversion kit, then your going to have a rifle that is more versatile then a stock AR-15. With the conversion kit, you have a rifle that is suitable for small game and fires cheap ammunition. Change out a couple of parts, and your back to shooting 223/5.56mm.
Related forum thread: AR-15 for a Survival Rifle
AK-47 – right arm of the communist world. The AK-47 is cheap, its reliable, does not have a lot of recoil, ammo is plentiful, spare parts are everywhere and its just a good rifle. The AK-47 has served in just about ever major military conflict since the 1950s – that should say something right there.
The 7.62X39 is basically a 30-30 short, it has enough take down power to make it suitable for deer and hog size game.
Beretta 9mm – durable, reliable, ammo is popular and cheap. I remember when my subscription of shooting times arrived saying that “Beretta had won the war.” Meaning that the Beretta 92F had won the competition and won the military contract.
During the late 1980s there was a lot of talk about the military testing, how the pistols were being tested, the requirements for the pistols,,,, and so on. One example is the pistols could not have a magazine safety – so that kicked a bunch out of the competition right there. The reason why I bought my Beretta 92F 9mm is directly due to the military testing.
I dont know how many thousands of rounds have been put through my Beretta 9mm, and the only malfunctions I have is when I’am testing reloads. Sometimes the cartridge does not have enough powder to eject the spent brass – but that is not the pistols fault.
DS Arms SA58 FAL Rifle – The FAL is called “the right arm of the free world.” Its been battle proven time and time again, its reliable, and unlike the AR-15 and AK-47, the FAL fires a full sized rifle round – the 308 Winchester. Whether it’s an urban survival situation, or hunting deer or hogs, the FAL should be right at home.
Awhile back I asked a question on the forum about what was the best 308 rifle for the money. There seemed to be an even division between the Springfield M1a and the DS Arms FAL. Due to the price difference, I decided to go with the SA58 FAL.
Related forum thread: Dumping the AR-15 for an FAL
One of the big hold backs to the DS Arms SA58 FAL is the price. Rarely will these rifles sell for less then $1,000. For a survivalist on a budget, dropping $1,000 on a single rifle is just not worth it.
However, which would you rather have, several 30-30s and SKSs that shoot a small rifle cartridge. Or, would you rather have a single rifle that shoots a full sized rifle cartridge – the 308 Winchester. That is the dilemma that a lot of survivalist run into.
SKS – no survival rifle list would be complete without the SKS. What the Remington 870 does for survival shotguns, the SKS does for survival rifles.
Back in the mid to late 1990s, you could walk into a gun show with $200, and walk out with an SKS and a case of 7.62X39. 10+ years later, I kick myself for not buying 6 or 8 SKS, and several cases of ammo. It seems that SKSs just keep going up in price.
The SKS rifle is heavy and most do not accept a detachable magazine (SKS-D has a detachable magazine). But on the flip side, there are all kinds of accessories, the rifle is reliable, and its easy to train someone to use it. One of the benefits of a fixed magazine, it can not be lost or misplaced. Wherever the rifle goes, the magazine goes with it. That way you dont have to worry about stockpiling magazines at your bug out location.
Winchester 1300 and model 94:
Winchester model 1300 – has a reputation as a serious shotgun. One of the things about the 1300, there are so many options available. If you need a slug gun with sights, there is a model for you. If you need something in stainless steel for being around salt water, there is an option available for you as well.
Several years ago a couple of my buddies and I went on a camping trip along the bayous around Orangefield, Texas. We usually brought shotguns to deal with the water moccasin problem – #4 shot works real well. One guy in our party had a stainless steel Winchester model 1300. That was one fine looking shotgun, and it preformed just as good as it looked.
Winchester model 94 – one of the most famous rifles of all time. Some people even call it the rifle that tamed the west. Designed by John Browning, the Model 94 was in production from 1894 – 2006. In all, over 7.5 million rifles were built.
One of the problems with the model 94, is that the spent cartridges were ejected out of the top of the rifle. This caused problems with people wanting to mount a scope on the rifle.
Unfortunately, production of the model 94 stopped in 2006.
We could go on all day long about rifle and shotgun combinations. But just like in shoes and clothes, there is no “one size fits” solution to picking a survival firearm. Whether its going to be stored at the bug out location, or used as your primary hunting rifle, be sure to pick one that fits your needs.
One of the goals of picking a survival rifle or shotgun, is the ability to arm every family member that can handle a firearm, and not go into debt doing it.
Back in the 1990s, some of my buddies and I talked about stockpiling SKSs and cases of ammo for our friends and family. Just in case S ever HTF, and we had people showing up on our doorstep asking for help, we would be able to hand them a rifle and put them on guard duty. But the decision was made to focus on our immediate family, instead of worrying bout friends that “might” show up.
Some of my personal favorite combinations:
Mossberg 500 12 gauge + Ruger 10/22
Mossberg 590 12 gauge + Marlin 336 30-30
Mossberg 500 12 gauge + Remington model 700 in 280/7mm express
Ruger 10/22 + FAL
Mossberg 590 + AK-47
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