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Surviving With Just One Gun

Emergency preparation equipment on wooden table, on dark background

Every gun has its place. Whether it’s for home defense, plinking, target shooting, hunting, or survival. But what kind of gun might you be willing to stow with your bug out bag and leave untouched only until a major emergency arises? First, we should take the normal considerations into account. What kind of gun are you most proficient with, and what do you have available to you? If you’re working on a shoestring budget, the best gun is always the gun you have.

When choosing a gun for long-term survival in harsh conditions, chances are you will want to try to strike a balance between defensive stopping power, and food gathering reliability. A larger gun might be best to fend off dangerous animals. However, a large powerful gun might be impractical for killing animals that you will actually eat, it will be heavier, and you’ll have to carry less ammunition.

If your survival challenge is to move on foot from a dangerous place to a place of safety, then carry weight will be of premium value. If you only have to hold out in a single location, a larger gun might be a better idea. Now, when it comes to fending off predators, your best bet might be a loud noise and maybe some bear mace. Even if it would be better to carry a shotgun loaded with slugs and to go for a headshot in a confrontation with a bear- the downsides to that load-out might be too great to meet other requirements of survival.

With these disparate concerns in mind, we’ve chosen three great survival guns that you would do well to consider for your bug out bag. In the scenario, we imagine for this mental exercise, you are limited to just one gun. In such a circumstance it is likely that you will be on the move- traveling on foot to a safe location. We will base our recommendations on that hypothetical situation. Because a survival situation calls for much more than just a gun, the following recommendations are all going to fall beneath the $300 price range.

Model 88 Mossberg

Excellent for home defense, inexpensive and easy to use- the Model 88 Mossberg can shoot a variety of ammunition. Whether you’re shooting for food, or for survival- this gun has you covered. Because of its high tolerances and rugged design, it can take more exposure to the elements than other guns might.

Anyone choosing this gun is advised to collect two or three different ammunition pouches that can be worn for easy access. This will allow you to change from bird-shot to a slug, for example, should the need arise. The great advantage of any shotgun is that the used shells are easy to modify and reload- and that can make a big difference out in the field. It’s hard to go wrong with a Mossberg.

Model 60 Marlin .22

Handsome, light, and easy to use- this reliable rifle has the advantage that you can carry a lot of .22 ammunition. Many people will have handled one of these as a child, which will give the user an advantage in emergency situations. There is a wide range of .22 ammunition that you can choose from.

What’s more, if a person were to learn to be very proficient with this gun and maybe fit it with a scope or sighting laser it can become a formidable fighting weapon. This depends, of course, on your ability to shoot with great accuracy. In any event, a .22 rifle is always great for taking small game- which may be your best source of food in a survival situation.

US Survival Rifle

These were developed for use by pilots as a bailout survival tool. You may have seen one of these in the James Bond movies in the 1960s. They are quite unique in that all of the working components easily disassemble and stow inside the stock of the gun. This makes them light, rugged and easy to carry. They also work as a flotation device assembled or unassembled!

We were reluctant to include a second .22 on our short list, but the compact nature of these guns- and the fact that the newer versions have been improved for greater durability makes the Himmler US Survival Rifle a great choice for long-term survival purposes.

It’s worth noting that .22s are grossly underrated. However, in a survival situation, it is likely that you may want to be able to shoot without being heard. That means a .22 is a great all-around bet for your only survival firearm.

~ American Gun News


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10 Responses

  1. I have had a Henry Survival .22 (and had it’s predacessor, the Armalite AR-22) since 1975, in my go-bag today.

    I would add the following candidates for consideration (all of which I have):

    1. Remington 870 Tact. 12 gauge., w./Surefire light & sling),
    2. Mossberg Scout (Win. .308, aka 7.62 NATO),
    3. Ruger 10/22 Tact. w/sling & Leupold 4X scope, and composite stock.

    1 & 3 I believe at least equal to your choices.
    2 provides more fire power, uses universally available ammunition, and is as portable and rugged.

    Thanks for your interest in feedback.

    Louis Harelik

  2. My bug out gun is a .38 special revolver I figure with that I can take small game and defend myself if necessary. It takes little space and ammo is plentiful

  3. You overlooked the Ruger American Rimfire Compact .22 Magnum. 36 inches long, weighs 5 pounds and comes with a nine round rotary magazine and adjustable trigger. free floating barrell in synthetic stock. More powerful than the .22 and very accurate. MSRP $359.00 but can be bought sub $300.00.

  4. Please also consider the Ruger 10/22 takedown, albeit it is pushing the $300 limit. with the addition of the Magpul stock for it, the two pieces lock together. The reason why I include this weapon is portability, price, repair parts availability and cheap magazines of various sizes. The US Survival mags are not cheap, hard to find and only come in 7 or 8 round clips.

    Another gun to keep in mind is the single shot shotgun. Theyare extremely cheap to buy and you can buy drop-in sleeves that can change your caliber to other shotgun calibers or even pistol calibers from .45 ACP to .22LR…. I believe you can still get a 6 pack of the various calibers for $100-150.

  5. I totally agree with this pick of weapons for survival, being an old salt (68 yrs old, veteran) A good shotgun which most hunters already have in their arsenal is the most versatile weapon. As the writer pointed out due to different shot sizes one can collect small game up to deer or even bear. The only draw back is the weight of the ammo if trying to travel a great distance with several different loads.

    As for the 22 cal that is a great caliber also, however may I suggest a 22 cal. Mag. Ammo is about the same weight with more punch. In the right hands it can be a deadly weapon for game up to Deer and also quite deadly in fighting for survival in a unfriendly world. A little more sound crack but the extra punch is worth the trade off.
    Happy hunting and Survival at its best.

  6. the ar 7 has a junky trigger and sites….the action is very difficult to accurize and work on…there is utility in its compactness but you can get other guns to take down….the world seems to love the ruger 10/22 but it is expensive and intricate…..all the options u can put on it does not make it any superior to carry….I am in favor of the papoose and the marlin 60….I have been working on the mossberg 722….it is very accurate….with the plastic stock…the stock won’t warp if it gets wet….and the but stock is hollow allowing u to carry a survival kit. I normally carry the gun removed from the stock in a shoulder bag. It only takes a few seconds to put the action in the stock and tighten up the two screws….by relieving the plastic from the barrel channel the guns free floating barrel improves the already good accuracy…there are after market triggers u can buy and drop in to lighten the trigger pull but i find that by drilling the trigger guard and adding a set screw I have an over travel stop….this seems to improve my shooting and costs, well just a screw……..there are you tube videos where the owner smooths the action and bolt but unless u smooth only the areas that contact the receiver u can be in trouble…one video actually removed metal from the chamber so the bolt would not touch….dangerous…look at this black gun for a shtf piece… it is in expensive enough that you can buy several for what you pay for one ruger 10/22….just one mans opinion….i did not touch on a single shot 12 gauge shotgun…with additional cartridge inserts you can carry many calibers for one gun…making it easy to find ammo to shoot after shtf…just another idea….single shots are also cheap and nearly failure free due to simple construction….

  7. Why does everyone forget the most versatile combination that will take larger animals , both 4 and 2 legged and small game. It is the AR15 with a 22 bolt adapter. You have 2 guns in one. you can carry more ammo and more powerful ammo and longer range. You can break them down into a backpack and they are lightweight. If I had to choose one gun for survival, it would be an AR15.

  8. .22 rifle OK, but consider the most popular with a huge availability of replacement parts. The Ruger 10/22 has many millions in circulation so parts should be readily available.
    Same with the shotgun, the Remmington 870 fills the birdshot, buckshot and slug, the most popular shotgun ever sold. Plenty of parts available if the SHTF.
    Skip the unique and unusual. Think long term planning, reliability and maintanance, keeping yourself armed even if life as we know it disintegrates.

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