Best 30 Caliber SHTF Survival Rifle

If you were going to pick a .30 caliber rifle for a SHTF survival rifle, which one would it be?  The contestants are:  7.62×39, 30-30, 308 and the 30-06.  Lets take a look at each of those calibers, and what rifles their currently available in.

For the sake of discussion, the 30-06 is the largest caliber that will listed in this article.

.30 caliber survival rifle

7.62X39 For SHTF

The 7.62×39 was made famous by the AK-47 and SKS, developed in 1943, has seen service in major conflicts all over the world, available in civilian rifles such as the Ruger Mini-30 and various bolt action rifles.

  • Bullet weight:  110 – 155 grain
  • Muzzle velocity: 1,900 – 2,100 fps, depending on load
  • Effective range: around 350 meters
  • Availability: Plenty

There are at least 3 things that makes the 7.62X39 a good choice as a survival rifle – 1.  Availability of ammunition, 2.  Availability of rifles, 3.  Low recoil.

With post-soviet block countries strapped for cash, many of them have decided to sell off their surplus semi-automatic rifles, and surplus ammunition.  In the 1990s, $200 would get you an SKS and a case of 7.62X39 hollow point ammo.  Over time the price of AK-47s, SKSs, and 7.62X39 ammunition has crept up, but its still reasonably priced.

Firing a 123 grain full metal jacket or soft point, the 7.62X39 is well rounded for deer and wild hog sized game.
Since most of the rifles that fire the 7.62X39 are semi-automatic, this makes it a good choice for recoil sensitive people, or people who do not like the full sized rifle cartridges.

30-30 Winchester

The 30-30 Winchester was made famous by the lever action Winchester model 94, has probably killed more north American whitetail deer then any other round, light recoil, chambered in a variety of rifles, ammunition and rifles are easy to find.

Whitetail deer taken with Marlin 336 30-30
Whitetail deer taken with Marlin 336 30-30
  • Bullet Weight: 150 – 170 grains
  • Muzzle velocity: 1,600 – 2,600 fps, depending on load
  • Effective range: 200 yards
  • Availability: Plenty, found in just about any store that sells ammunition

If there is one thing that makes the 30-30 a good choice for a survival rifle, its 100+ years of killing deer sized game. If the lever action rifle and 30-30 were not effective, it would have faded into history a long time ago. The fact that the 30-30 has not been replaced by more modern cartridges in the past 100+ years speaks for itself.

The 30-30 is considered by some people as an “entry level deer rifle” – due to its light recoil, and limited effectiveness range.  While some calibers like the 308 and 30-06 are effective out to the 800 meter range, the 30-30 is limited to 200 yards or less.

Related ArticleTop 5 Survival Rifles

308 Winchester

The 308 Winchester was  introduced in 1952, and was made famous by a combination of rifles – FN/FAL, various bolt action rifles, and the M1A and M14

The 308 Winchester has moderate recoil, as been used in various military conflicts since the 1950s.

  • Bullet weight:  150 – 180 grains
  • Muzzle velocity: 2,600 – 2,800 fps
  • Effective range: 800 meters

There are several factors that makes the 308 Winchester a good choice for a survival rifle – its accurate, available in a wide range of rifles, ammo is easy to find, rifles are available in semi-auto, single shot and bolt action, recoil is not punishing.

If there is one thing to keep in mind about the 308 Winchester, its the top choice of police and military snipers.  If its good enough for a military sniper, it should be good enough for a survivalist to take a hog or deer with.

30-06 Springfield

Introduced in 1906, ammunition is popular and easy to find, rifles are available in everything from single shot to semi-automatic, recoil is on the heavy side, effective on just about all non-dangerous north American game, has seen military service for the better part of the 20th century.

  • Bullet weight: 150 – 220 grains
  • Muzzle velocity: 2,500 – 2,900 fps
  • Effective range: 800 meters

If there is one thing to keep in mind with the 30-06, it helped win 2 world wars, and has probably killed more men then any other modern cartridge.

One of the drawbacks to the 30-06, a lot of people find the recoil on the heavy side, even in semi-automatic rifles.  With the added recoil also comes trigger flinch, and reduced accuracy.  While some people can shoot the ’06 well, its not for everyone.

Calibers Not Listed

There are a lot of calibers that were left out, not that they are good calibers, or a poor choice as a survival rifle – their either difficult to find, or have a lot of recoil.  Take the 300 Winchester magnum for example – the 300 WinMag packs a lot of recoil and is overkill for deer sized game.  On top of that, the ammunition can get expensive, and not all major retail outlets carry the 300 Winchester Magnum.  If your in moose, elk or bear territory, then the 300 magnum might be right up your alley.

Picking the Best Caliber

Is going to be left up to the shooter.  What purpose will the rifle serve, what size game will be hunted, will the rifle be used for urban survival, or in a rural or remote area?

People with limited funds may go the SKS, AK-47 in 7.62X39 or a 30-30 lever action route.  All of which are current;ly available in the $400 price range or less.

A little more money to spend, then maybe a 308 or 30-06 in a Remington model 700, 750, Ruger M77, or a Savage rifle.

A little more money may get an M1A, FN/FAL or PTR-91.

What is the Best 30 Caliber SHTF Survival Rifle?

6 months ago I would have said either the 7.62X39 in the SKS / AK-47 or a lever action rifle in 30-30.  Both rounds have low recoil, so just about everyone in the family should be able to shoot them fairly well.

DS Arms SA58 FN-FAL, surefire G2X Pro and Maxpedition Noatak

Now that I had the chance to hold and shoot an FN/FAL, there is no real comparison, the FAL with the larger 308 Winchester wins.

But the FN/FAL is just my personal preference – the PRT-91 and the Springfield M1A are both excellent military grade weapons, that should give years of service and should be just as reliable as the FN/FAL.

The 2 things the SKS and AK47 have going for them – weight and cost of ammo.  Compared to the FN/FAL, the AK47 is super lightweight, with the SKS being a little more heavy then the AK-47.

Sometimes you can still find 7.62X39 for $4 – $5 a box of 20. That is a lot cheaper then 308 ammo. I’am buying 308 Remington Core-Lokt at $16 – $18 a box.  $5 a box, or $18 a box,,,,, big price difference there.

But,,,, with the 308 Winchester you get more bang for the buck. With a 308, you should be able to take just about an non-dangerous game animal in North America, you can not say the same thing about the 7.62X39.