Imagine that you decided to go camping. You brought your tent and camping gear with you and enough food to last you the entire trip.
But something went wrong, and now you're stuck and can't go home when you thought you would. You're alone in the wilderness with only the limited food and supplies you brought and no way to get more.
Or, imagine you're traveling on a road in the middle of nowhere.
Whether it's your daily commute that routes you through some isolated areas or you're on a trip, you're in your car and some kind of emergency happens.
It's the kind of emergency that leaves you stuck alone in the middle of nowhere with no one coming any time soon — if they come at all.
Sounds scary, doesn't it? What's even scarier is that either of those scenarios could happen to any one of us. In situations like these, you want a survival gun.
What Is a Survival Gun?
A survival gun is different from a gun used for home defense, competitions, or time on the range.
A survival gun is specifically intended for use to help you in a survival situation. Much like the idea of a go-bag or bug-out bag (link to “What is a Bug Out Bag?), a survival gun is a piece of gear for a specific purpose.
As such, it has its own set of requirements that separate it from what you'd want in other firearms.
When speaking of a survival gun, many people tend to associate the concept with the idea of a doomsday scenario — the kind of without rule of law (WROL) survival situation that might be found in a post-apocalyptic or disaster movie.
It's the kind of situation that doomsday preppers are preparing for. While that discussion has its place, that isn't the subject being covered here. What is actually generally meant by "survival" with regard to a survival gun is less "end of the world" and more "getting by in the wilderness."
A survival gun is something that you can use for fending off snakes and various predatory animals while also being able to effectively hunt small game in order to feed yourself.
It isn't something you'll use to defend yourself against another person, but rather something for defense against the great outdoors.
Ultimately, it's a gun to help you survive — not a gun to help you fight.
What Makes a Survival Gun?
To function as a survival gun, firearms must meet a few criteria.
- The gun should be light. This is something you'll store in or with your camping gear or bug-out bag, so it can't add an excessive amount of weight.
- The gun should be small or capable of becoming small for the same reasons.
- The gun must fire readily available, common ammunition that also won't weigh you down or take up a ton of space.
- It's ideal if the gun doesn't break the bank. Since you're rarely, if ever, going to use this gun, you don't want to spend a ton of money on it.
There are a few great rifles that meet these standards and can fit your survival gun needs well.
Honorable Mention: Kel-Tec Sub 2000
The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is an interesting gun.
Available in pistol calibers, specifically 9mm and .40 S&W, it's a good gun for those who don't want to have a survival-only gun, but want something a little more multipurpose.
Being chambered in pistol calibers makes this a good option to bridge that gap, as it could also be used for personal defense in addition to fending off wild predators and hunting small game.
The Sub 2000 uses a variety of pistol magazines from various manufacturers.
This is particularly helpful because you can use the same one you use for your everyday carry. Plus, it folds in half, making it small enough to fit inside a backpack. In addition to that, it only weighs 4.25 pounds.
5. Ruger 10/22 Takedown
The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is one of the most popular rifles ever manufactured. It has sold millions of units since its introduction in 1964, and with good reason.
It's an accurate, reliable rifle that is easy to disassemble into a small, lightweight package that fits neatly into its provided carrying case.
It won't break the bank, and it gives you the option of adding various accessories such as different sights and hunting scopes.
Plus, you can add suppression to this firearm, making it a full-featured package with a compact size and 4.6-pound weight.
It's a semi-automatic .22 rifle, so it can double as a range gun if you want. It also has 10, 15, and even 25 round magazines available.
The Ruger 10/22 Takedown is definitely more robust than its small stature would indicate.
4. Marlin 70PSS
The Marlin 70PSS is another extremely popular rifle. Like the 10/22, it is chambered in .22 and breaks down into components that can be stored in a provided carrying case.
However, it's a scant 3.25 pounds, making it extremely lightweight. The length is very manageable, as the assembled rifle manages to come in at under 3 feet long.
An impressive feat, considering the barrel alone on most ARs is often around 2.5 feet.
The 70PSS is also optics-ready, and its carrying case is padded with built-in flotation, making it an excellent choice to throw in your BOB (link to: Bug out Bag Checklist).
3. Savage Model 42 Takedown
The Savage Model 42 Takedown is a feature-heavy machine.
It sports two barrels, one chambered in .22 and the other in .410, in an over-under design. It breaks apart at the touch of a button and can accept optics.
It's accurate, reliable, durable, and offers multiple caliber options; it's almost the perfect survival gun.
Almost. All these features do come at a price, and that price is weight. While not heavy by any stretch, the Savage Model 42 Takedown is considerably heavier than anything else on this list at 6 pounds.
2. Chiappa Little Badger Series
In stark contrast to the weight of the Savage Model 42 is the 2.9 pounds of the Chiappa Little Badger.
The Little Badger is under 17 inches folded — it might actually be the most foldable and storable gun on this list.
Most of these features are due to its minimalist and very recognizable buttstock. The buttstock is skeletonized, and there are four removable Picatinny rails that can be used to customize the rifle configuration.
This skeletonization is not without its drawbacks, though, as this does make the gun slightly less durable. Still, it's perfectly capable and valuable as a compact survival gun, especially at its well below $200 price tag.
1. Henry AR-7
The Henry AR-7 might be the perfect combination of the previous two entrants to this list.
It combines the features and reliability of the Savage, with the compact and lightweight nature of the Chiappa. There isn't a "perfect" survival gun, but the Henry AR-7 does come close.
Originally designed with military survival in mind, the AR-7 is rugged and durable thanks to the proven design of other AR platform guns.
Weighing in at 3.5 pounds and sporting a 16.5 inch barrel, it's the not too hot, not too cold, just right size and weight for a survival gun. It also has the capability of accepting an optic like some of the other guns, but the optic would need separate storage.
The reason an optic would need separate storage is actually a direct result of one of the biggest features of this rifle.
The design of this rifle is that the rifle itself is the storage compartment. All of the components of the Henry AR-7 break down and store within the buttstock, making it extremely user friendly and easy to carry.
It is also primarily chambered in .22, so it can kill small game and keep pests away, but it can also be found in other caliber options.
A compact gun that stores in its own stock and a small brick of .22 ammunition will take up very little space in your BOB, vehicle, or even a small standard backpack.
Regardless of your unique situation, there is a survival gun that is right for you — whether it's on this list or not. Hopefully this list encourages you to take a look at your own situation and determine your needs.
The important thing is to consider that you may need a gun to help you survive in certain situations. Does everyone need a survival gun?
Possibly not, but one thing is for certain: It is far better to have one and not need it than need one and not have it.