Everyone has their own favorite, best, or go-to rifle. When deciding on a rifle for bugging out, buggin in, defensive, offensive, and just plain’old usefulness you need to consider many factors.
- Ease of use
- Supply of ammunition
- Cost of ammunition
- effectiveness for job intended
That being said, listing the 10 “best survival rifles” requires some compromise and some decisions to prioritize your most important features. There is no single perfect survival rifle. It doesn’t exist because everyone’s concerns are different and there are too many unique survival scenarios to consider.
Also owning ten survival rifles won’t do you much good, unless you have a very large family or a caddy to carry all your guns and ammo, and that stuff isn’t too light, if you haven’t noticed. So I decided to fight conventional wisdom and focus primarily on the top five (or what I consider the best of each survival category) and then give you five runner-ups.
Questions you need to ask yourself. What are the roles we expect out survival rifles to play?
- Hunting Small game
- Hunting Large game
- Perimeter-defense beyond 200 yards
- Self-defense inside 200 yards
- Self-defense in close quarters
So let’s take a look at each task and the best survival rifles to accomplish them.
Hunting Small Game
In an actual survival situation, you may need to live off the land, and that means we can’t overlook small game.
There are a lot more squirrel, rabbit, possum and other varmints around than there are deer. Shooting a buck might feed the family for weeks, but those won’t be as common as smaller, more plentiful game.
Squirrel is easily found, even in urban areas and can be harvesting easily and feed your family.
But in the small game arena, there are many excellent rifles, each firing a variety of respectable calibers.
Great calibers for small game.
.17 HMR cartridge is flat shooting, very high velocity round and realize it’s the be all and end all of the varmint rounds.
.22 Magnum is a powerful small round, higher velocity than .22 LR, fired by great extremely accurate rifles. Enough power to take coyotes and mid sized animals, but more expense than .22 LR.
.22 LR is by far the most popular choice and the most versatile for various reasons. Plentiful and inexpensive, Usually.
Reason 1 – The .22 LR is never in stock at your wally world, because people recognize this cartridge as the most versatile, desirable, and affordable survival round. People hoard them by the thousands when they do become available.
Reason 2 – It’s the only cartridge I know where you can walk around with a thousand rounds in your pocket—or a lifetime supply in your backpack. They don’t weight much.
So it’s a well-established fact that the .22 LR makes the grade for best survival small game caliber. So let’s choose our small game survival rifle to match the best survival ammo. And there’s only one choice:
Ruger 10/22 platform has been around since 1964. Since the 10/22 has been around for so long, it has been one of the most reliable, semi-automatic rifles, and you can easily modify your rifle with many aftermarket products available.
The Ruger and the Remington are competitors in the semi-automatic .22LR regime, however, over the years the public has voted with their pocketbooks and the Ruger comes out on top.
Plus, the newer take-down versions break down into component pieces. So you can easily store it in a backpack to be reassembled later as the situation requires. Perfect for those who’s survival plan includes bugging out.
Hunting Large Game
So your family is sick of squirrel and rabbit stew, and suddenly that ten point buck presents itself at 300 yards. Which rifle do you wish you had in your hands in that situation?
You will need a cartridge that can have power at 300 yards. You also need to kill that deer with one shot. You don’t want to wound him and then lose him.
If you do get off a bad shot but you still hit him, you want something that will slow him down so you can track. So we’re not talking about mid-sized cartridges, like a 125 grain 5.56 or 7.62 x 39mm traveling at 2100-2400 FPS.
You want something in the 170-220 grain region in .30 caliber soft-point or better traveling 2700-3000 FPS. We’re talking .30-06, .308 Winchester or .300 Win Mag.
So what is the best rifle for delivery of this type bullet? Well the US Army and US Marine Corps are pretty good references to begin with.
2. Remington 700
The Remington 700, in one form or another, has been the mainstay of the bolt-action snipers around the world for decades.
The Remington 700 in military trim is still a frontline bolt action sniper rifle. A high-quality scope is a must for this long range survival rifle. So you can’t go cheap on optics if you want something that is going to last.
Keeping the bad guys away from your people by killing them at long range is usually a safer bet than having them at your front door.
Your personal morality may have to come into question on how you potentially handle a SHTF situation and protecting your family. However, you decide to send a message to others to stay away, you will want precision and make an impactful statement.
That means you need accuracy and lethality.
So why not pick the Remington 700? Surely, if your survival rifle can take down a deer at 400 yards, it can take down a man at 400 yards. No doubt. However, the benefit of the bolt action on accuracy is also a liability when it comes to quick follow up shots or multiple moving targets.
The deer might stand there wondering what the kicked up dirt next to it means and wait there for a second follow up shot, but humans will realize immediately what’s happening.
So a semi-automatic option is your best choice when hunting the “most dangerous game”; Man.
When we’re talking semi-auto, lethal and accurate at these ranges, we’re talking a scoped AR-15 in 5.56 NATO—or maybe a scoped AR-10 in .308 NATO. The AR-10 has the better knockdown power, however, the recoil of the 5.56 mm round fired from an AR-15 with a quality buffer is negligible, so your aim is less affected.
Your shots should come fast, with easy acquisition of your second, third and fourth targets. Quality AR-15s are cheaper than the AR-10 and so is the 5.56 mm round.
You can carry quite a few rounds on your person as opposed to the .308, .30-06 or the like, and they are readily available and affordable—at least before the excrement hits the fan. So stock up.
Self-defense Inside 200 Yards
In close quarters, you need a weapon that is both accurate and reliable.
There’s a reason weapons developed for military use, are perfect for 200 yards or less. They were designed for that exact purpose. We’re talking guaranteed lethal hits on man-sized targets at less than 100 yards. There is one other significant problem at this distance—you can expect the bad guys to shoot back.
In close quarters, every round you fire must count, and the weapon cannot malfunction. A rifle malfunction at 400 yards takes just a moment to clear—a moment you might not have at 50 yards. So what would I recommend?
There is only one logical choice—the favorite weapon of every bad guy, dictator, and communist in the world—the AK-47.
I’m not talking about a real full-auto AK-47. You can’t just pick up a full auto AK-47 on Gunbroker. I’m talking about semi-automatic AK-47 variants and there are many versions and brands, but the beautiful thing about them, is they all work the same.
A full auto is relatively useless, unless you are fighting in a small room or spraying and praying to provide covering fire for someone else. Accuracy goes out the window in full auto and you waste a valuable resource, bullets.
The AK design is tough and designed for the mechanical torture of full auto operation. In semi-auto operation, everything is simple, over-engineered and reliable.
I’ve owned a couple cheap AK variants over the years and have fired thousands of rounds through them. I don’t even clean it very often and I have never experienced a jam.
The 7.62×39 mm round is lethal and even cheaper than the 5.56 mm. Inside 200 yards the AK has decent accuracy. However, the one concession I would make is to add a red-dot sight to enhances the shooting experience and buy many magazines. With the 30 round magazine as standard and keep them loaded and ready in your gun safe.
Self-Defense In Close Quarters
In an urban area, you can’t keep people from getting close to home.
At this point in a perfect world, you could choose to engage the bad guy with a handgun—but the word handgun does not appear in the title of this article. So let’s assume you are grabbing for something larger. So what would you prefer?
When you are in close quarters combat, you naturally begin to spray and pray. If you have the AR-15 or AK-47 variant, you can make a lot of noise and poke a lot of holes in your walls, possibly killing your family members in the next room, however, if you want to remove doubt at close quarters—use a shotgun.
5. Mossberg 500
A tactical, pump 12 gauge, such as the Mossberg 500, can take spraying and praying to a whole new level. You fire a couple shells down your hallway, you are going to hit your target and probably more than once
Regular, long hunting shotguns are at a disadvantage in these conditions but if you have one, you would use it. I would prefer to have a shorter, tactical version or even one with a pistol grip. Kel-Tec also makes a bull pub shot gun that would be a perfect choice, especially since it can hold up to 15 rounds. There is a reason why mossberg calls one of their shotguns “The Chainsaw”. It will cut down just about anything in its way.
Buckshot increases your likelihood of a hit, but a slug delivers an exceptionally deadly blow at close quarters. Here are the two big differences.
A shot pattern does not guarantee incapacitation. Now if the intruder gets hit with shot that may not neccessarily take him down immediately, but you hit him with 00-buckshot I guarantee he’s going down.
You’d prefer him to be unable to make any retaliation.
Any head or torso shot with a slug or buckshot is going to blow a significant hole in him, and all the desire to reach you or your family will leave immediately.
My personal shotgun of choice is the Kel-tec KSG, but the Mossberg 500 in its many variants in 12 gauge, which also happens to be the shotgun of choice for the US Army.
So what is the best all around Survival Rifle?
So if I could only take one, what do I consider the best all-around survival rifle? I would not choose a 10/22 although it is a great rifle. I do think there may be a better choice—or at least a marginally better choice.
I personally would have to choose AR-15 for my all around rifle. Not the best, by far in many categories, but good enough to use in just about any situation.
Runner Up Best Survival Rifles
So how about some runner’s up? Here are some other best survival rifles to consider:
- 7 – Remington 597
- 8 – Winchester Model 70 (in .30-06, .308 Win, .300)
- 9 – Kel-Tec SU16 in many of its variants.
- 10 – Kel-Tec KSG (in 12 Gauge)
- 11 – Sam Yang .50 Cal Air Rifle and just for all around use in major World ending SHTF situations. It can be used as a shotgun, rifle, and shoot arrows. You don’t need powder, and can easily cast your own bullet.
Written by Rich G, SHTFandGO LLC. excerpts taken from other articles