Many survival blogs and articles delve into tactics and skills required to survive, or even thrive, in unexpected situations. Getting lost while hiking, stranded in the wilderness when your motor vehicle breaks down, or suddenly inundated in a blinding snow storm are all distinct possibilities, especially for the adventurous person. But we’re going to approach surviving from a slightly different angle today … being prepared for a survival situation.
“That’s a rather broad topic,” you may say … and I totally agree. But there is one topic that we should all agree on … weapons. Specifically firearms. Whether you like firearms or not there is an unquestionable need for them to maintain a high priority in your bug out plan. Protection from marauders, people desperate to take your belongings from you because they didn’t plan ahead, is only one issue. Protecting your family from dangerous animals and hunting to provide food in which to survive is the actual necessity.
Okay, guns are in. What type of guns? Rifle, shotgun, pistol, bolt action, semi-automatic, lever action? Whoa … rein that horse in. You’re not a kid in a candy store. The choice of what firearm to purchase requires as much, if not more research, as any other important piece of survival equipment. Let’s begin our in-depth research for the perfect survival firearm.
Ready? There is no such thing as the perfect survival firearm.
Well, that was rather disappointing. Let me explain the logic behind the statement. Each weapon is designed to excel during a specific situation. Sure, they all fire a bullet that can kill or maim, but that’s only the beginning. A shotgun is excellent for close quarter shooting, say 100 yards or less, but worthless for a 300 yard shot. There are simply too many possible, normal and unique, survival scenarios for one particular weapon to fulfill all the needed requirements.
Therefore, let’s break down categories of anticipated scenarios, they’ll be rather broad as you could subset it into a novel and that’s not the intent. We’ll examine situations and look at the best possible weapon to use in that situation. Bear in mind, these suggestions are my opinions, based on research and talking to other survivalist, and does not mean only 1 particular weapon will work. Nor do I intend to endorse any brand of weapon. Names, calibers, etc will be used only for illustration purposes and to offer a visible reference.
Now that all the disclaimers have been stated … let’s look at my choices for best survival weapons for general usage in specific situations.
Self Analyzing – I’m sure there are many times you will read something and think “duh, anyone would know that.” But when a person is thrown into a crisis situation for which they are not trained to handle, the brain doesn’t always function like we may anticipate.
I would venture to say not very many of us are “Big Game Hunters” therefore our skills and expectations may not quite match. The first thing to do, should always be the first thing, is be honest with yourself as far as your capabilities. In other-words, ammo in a SHTF situation will be a scarce commodity. If you feel your chances of hitting a target 350 yards out, is slim to none … don’t shoot. I know you need the meat and your family is counting on you, but … coming home with no meat is one matter, coming home meatless and having wasted every bullet you have capable of bringing down bigger game is actually suicidal.
If you are unfamiliar with the area you’re stranded in you probably won’t be familiar with what possible game may inhabit it. Stop, take a deep breath and think logically. You are in Texas, so polar bears are not an option, but wild boar and deer are. Stuck in Montana, elk, moose, deer are there, but so are bears and wolves. Just use your head and you’ll be fine.
Category One: Hunting Small Game
I suppose the ideal situation would be to kill a 1000 lb elk the first day of hunting, which would feed the family for weeks. It happens. So does winning the lottery, but I haven’t been one of the lucky ones. Number one, even if big game, such as elk were available the chances of killing one are not exactly spectacular. They don’t live to reach their huge size by being stupid and they are in their home environment, you are a stranger in a foreign land.
To increase our odds of successfully getting food, we need to hunt whatever is the most plentiful in the area, and that is always small game. Squirrels, rabbits, coons, possums and other critters not normally on the menu are always present and always in greater numbers than large game. Dropping three or four squirrels or rabbits a day can feed the family nearly indefinitely. You may tire of the same meal, but it beats the alternative of not eating.
So what’s best for killing small game? Let’s look at the caliber of bullets best suited for small game, as one must take into consideration the killing ability of the shell, but you want something left after hitting it. A squirrel killed by a 30-06 shell will leave nothing but a few patches of fur and no edible meat.
A .17 HMR cartridge is a favorite all round critter gun. It’s a flat shooting, high velocity round with exceptional stopping power. However, you are restricted on ammo availability.
The .22 caliber magnum bullet exceeds the performance of a .22LR shell, however is much more expensive, making the .22LR the better choice. There are other reasons besides cost. Based on public opinion, the .22LR shell far out sells any other caliber designed for small game, so it must be effective. In fact, if you count on Walmart as your supplier you’ll be disappointed most of the time as they can not maintain a steady supply. Another reason is the weight, or lack of. You can literally carry hundreds of shells with you with no difficulty.
What rifle do I buy? There are many brands and types of .22 rifles available. Naturally they all shoot and are for the most part reliable, even pink single shot rifles designed for small children. However, we’re not shooting for fun here, we are seriously involved in staying alive, so we need a serious weapon.
I suggest using a semi-automatic rifle with a scope. Many hunters will disagree saying a single shot bolt action rifle is more accurate because it doesn’t lose any power by ejecting spent shells, thus using all the power to propel the bullet. I don’t disagree with their logic, but in a survival situation I want a quick response to get another shot off if need be. In other words, if I miss with the first shot, a distinct possibility, I want to immediately get a second shot off.
Category Two: Hunting Large Game
It’s been a couple of weeks since the SHTF and everyone has settled into a somewhat normal routine. Which means the family is beginning to grumble about the steady diet of squirrels and rabbits, how soon we forget what being hungry was like. Plus, although still present, you are forced to travel farther to kill your daily quota because you’ve all but decimated the nearby surrounding area. It’s time to go for bigger game and you know there are deer in the area because of the signs you have seen while hunting small game. What weapon do we need?
Again, the caliber shell is actually more important and it will dictate the weapon we use.
You will require a cartridge that will remain accurate for at least 300 yards. Being a novice hunter calculating the fall of trajectory and wind-age variances will be above our skill level, so we need a bullet which will stay on course with very little variance. Additionally we need a cartridge with explosive stopping power. Deer are amazing animals, I have personally witnessed deer shot through the heart that still ran nearly 50 yards before falling dead. You don’t want to wound one and chance never finding it, you want to immediately drop it.
A scenario of you shooting a deer at 300 yards, it drops then gets back up and runs will most likely end in frustration. Number one, the deer has an automatic 300 yard head start. Deer don’t always bleed a lot when shot so counting on following a blood trail may be wishful thinking. Number two, if the area is bushy or wooded you can walk right by it and not see it.
You’ll want to use a .30 caliber range cartridge, 170-220 grain area that travels at 2700-3000 FPS. (feet per second) .30-06, .308 Winchester or .300 Winchester Mag falls into this category.
Remember there are many good quality rifles available for hunting bigger game. It may sound harsh, but it’s not. You want to kill or totally incapacitate the prey with your shot. You don’t want to lose the meat nor have the animal suffer because you can’t locate it.
Category Three – Perimeter Defense Farther Than 200 Yards
It’s time to face the cold hard facts of reality. You set up a perimeter defense of 200+ yards with the intent of killing the bad guys & girls at the greatest distance from you and your family as possible. That requires the maximum accuracy and lethal action as possible. There’s no other way to say it.
Okay, you have a moral issue with killing another human. Normal response, but one you will get over. However, for argument sake let’s say you want to warn them, scare them off. You will still require the same standards of the cartridge as accuracy will be a must. Putting a bullet in a tree 10 feet from an intruder in order to scare the hell out of them, requires precise accuracy, the lethal aspect normally tags along.
Here’s where you must begin making decisions. A Remington 700 will fulfill every requirement of accuracy and lethal power, at 400+ yards, a long distance shot for sure. However, part of the accuracy is attributed to the 700 being a bolt action weapon. A missed shot at a deer located 400 yards away that kicks up dirt next to it, may not spoof the animal as it may be confused at what just
happened, allowing for another shot. A human being will immediately know what just happened and will avoid another shot.
Therefore, I strongly suggest a semi-automatic weapon as the best choice for lethal defense. It offers greater speed of multiple shots and can be used against multiple targets.
The AR-15 equipped with a scope is the most popular option available today. As it was designed for military use it is obviously deadly. The 5.56 NATO cartridge is accurate and packs a powerful punch with little recoil which helps maintain a steady aim.
You probably won’t be able to choose your terrain, at least not totally. If you’re stranded in the deep woods or swamp lands of Mississippi and not the open range of Oklahoma, you may not have a clear shot at the enemy outside of 200 yards. The 400 yard weapon you used will still kill at 200 yards, but it is not specifically designed for that purpose.
You are now faced with an enemy, who knows where you are, probably within 100 yards and intent on killing you. I consider this Close Quarters combat where you will require a weapon that is accurate, reliable and carries a lethal punch. It must not malfunction, because a single jam that takes only a few seconds to clear was no problem when the target was hundreds of yards away, is now critical at 50 or less yards away.
Although it may leave a bad taste in your mouth because of the despots that use this weapon, they use it for a reason… the AK-47 is the best choice for this type of combat. I’m not talking the fully automatic communist style AK, but the Americanized AK-47 that is semi-automatic.
The AK design is tough and designed to be fully automatic, which is brutal on any full auto mechanism, yet has an exceptional record of reliability. This semi-automatic version is simple mechanically and over-engineered for toughness and dependability.
The 7.62×39 mm bullet is lethal and is cheaper than the 5.56 mm round. Inside the 200 yard perimeter the AK accuracy is adequate and becomes better the closer in the target moves in. Open sights are adequate but the addition of a cheap 9 power scope will greatly enhance the shooting experience.
It comes with a 30 round magazine, a few of them fully loaded offers rapid and consistent fire power. A 75 round drum is also available, but I discourage using it because of the excessive weight.
Let me throw one other option at you. A full automatic .22 LR sub-machine gun, with a 275 round drum magazine. There are of course disadvantages to a .22, such as difficulty penetrating thick clothing and won’t pierce body armor, but a .22 cartridge will kill or maim a person if it strikes a vulnerable spot. With the ability to shoot 275 rounds within a minute, with no recoil problem, the possibilities are unique. Additionally you can use the same ammo as you use for your small game rifle. Just food for thought.
Category Five – Self-Defense in Very Close Quarters
It doesn’t matter if your line of sight was restricted allowing the enemy to enter your “last resort” perimeter, fell asleep at your post or just flatly got outmaneuvered, fact is you and your family are in dire danger. However … this is not the time to grab the AK47 or the AR15. Why? Because if you are startled and begin spraying lead around the place, riddling the walls with holes, chances are you’ll kill family members as well as the enemy. No, this is Shotgun time… but not just any shotgun.
A regular shotgun used for hunting are great motivators, but because of their long barrel, can become unyielding in tighter quarters. Try swinging a regular shotgun around in the hallway or stairway. For real in close combat the Mossberg 500, a tactical 12 gauge is the king of the hill.
Mossberg Assault Shotgun
What shell do you use – slug or shot? As with nearly everything else in life, this is a choice the user must make.
Double aught buckshot’s primary advantage is the wide spray which insures hitting the target if pointed in the right direction. In a life & death situation an untrained person would be hard pressed to calmly aim at their target, which may be charging or shooting at them. Confidence of being able to hit the target is a huge benefit.
However, the buckshot has limitations. Any obstacle between the shooter and the target will absorb any shot which strikes it thus lessening the odds of a kill shot. Thick clothes will stop a lot of the pellets and although hit, the damage may not be severe enough to kill or maim. But …. a close in shot of double aught will totally eliminate the danger.
There is no argument a blast of 12 gauge double aught will kill and/or incapacitate a person, but there is the distinct possibility the perpetrator will only be wounded and therefore still a threat. If hit with a 12 gauge slug … he ceases to be a threat.
A slug carries a tremendous amount of punch, literally like being hit by a truck. Any head or torso hit is an immediate death sentence. An arm hit will likely amputate the limb, an a leg strike could also result in loss of limb, but a loss of blood would quickly end in death. Even if the enemy wore body armor which may stop the slug, the devastating impact of the slug would stun the perpetrator allowing you to follow up with the attack.
So there you go. Buckshot with a 99% chance of hitting, but maybe not killing the enemy, or a slug which literally guarantees a kill, if you don’t miss. There are options available that offer buckshot and slug capacity in the same shell.
Notice I did suggest a specific brand and model of shotgun. Why? Because the US Army agrees with me and issues this weapon to its soldiers. Pretty high recommendation.