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Best Survival Guns: Top Picks for Versatile and Reliable Choices
created: 7/5/2024 7:08 PM in GEAR

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Survival Gun

Having the right firearm can make all the difference in uncertain times. Whether preparing for an emergency or planning an extended stay in the wilderness, selecting the best survival gun is crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various firearms that are ideal for survival scenarios, inspired by those carried by military pilots. We will also delve into the criteria that make a firearm suitable for survival, covering everything from reliability and versatility to ammunition availability and ease of use.

Why a Survival Gun is Essential

Versatility and Reliability

When it comes to survival, versatility and reliability are paramount. A survival gun should be capable of handling multiple tasks, from hunting small game for food to self-defense against potential threats. This dual-purpose functionality is crucial for any firearm considered a top contender for the best survival gun.

Ammunition Availability

Access to ammunition can be limited in a survival scenario. Therefore, choosing a gun that uses commonly available calibers increases your chances of finding ammo when needed. We will explore various calibers and their availability, ensuring you are well-equipped for any situation.

Ease of Maintenance

Survival situations often mean exposure to harsh environments. Your gun must be easy to clean and maintain without requiring specialized tools or extensive knowledge. A reliable survival gun should be straightforward to disassemble and reassemble, ensuring it remains functional even in challenging conditions.

Top Survival Guns Inspired by Military Pilots

Military pilots have historically relied on specific firearms for survival when shot down behind enemy lines. 

These guns are chosen for their reliability, compact size, and effectiveness in hunting and self-defense.  

Below, we explore some of the most popular survival guns inspired by these military choices.

1. AR-7 Survival Rifle

The AR-7 Survival Rifle, designed originally for U.S. Air Force pilots in 1959, has proven its reliability and practicality over the decades, making it an excellent choice for survival scenarios. This semi-automatic rifle is chambered in .22 LR, a caliber known for its lightweight and widely available ammunition, ideal for small game hunting and basic self-defense.

The AR-7 is renowned for its portability and ease of assembly. Weighing only 3.5 pounds and measuring 16.5 inches when disassembled, it can be conveniently stowed in its impact-resistant, water-resistant stock. This design allows it to fit easily into backpacks or small storage spaces, making it perfect for bug-out bags. The rifle is simple to assemble without tools, enhancing its usability in emergencies. 

Its construction includes a steel barrel with a protective ABS plastic coating, ensuring durability and corrosion resistance. The AR-7’s reliability and ease of maintenance make it a standout choice for survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts. Even after extensive use, its consistent accuracy adds to its appeal as a dependable SHTF firearm.

2. M6 Scout

The Springfield M6 Scout Pilot Survival Rifle, initially designed for U.S. Air Force pilots during the Cold War, is a versatile and reliable choice for survival situations. This unique firearm features an over-and-under configuration, combining a .22 Hornet rifle barrel with a .410 bore shotgun barrel, providing flexibility for small game hunting and self-defense.

The M6 Scout is known for its rugged, minimalist design. It folds in half for easy storage and transport, making it portable and ideal for bug-out bags. Its durable, corrosion-resistant steel frame ensures longevity and reliability in harsh conditions. 

The simplicity of its break-action mechanism and the ability to store extra ammunition in the stock enhance its practicality as a survival tool. The M6 Scout's versatility, durability, and ease of maintenance make it a top choice for those preparing for the worst.

3. Henry U.S. Survival AR-7

Building on the legacy of the original AR-7, the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 is an updated version of the classic survival rifle. Known for its reliability and compact design, this rifle is a favorite among survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts.

Chambered in .22 LR, it offers lightweight, easily storable ammunition. The AR-7 features a unique design where all components fit into the impact-resistant, water-resistant stock, making it highly portable at just 3.5 pounds and 16.5 inches when disassembled. Its assembly requires no tools, ensuring quick readiness in emergencies.  

With a corrosion-resistant steel barrel and excellent balance, the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 maintains accuracy and performance, making it an essential tool for any survival kit.

4. Marlin Model 70PSS

The Marlin Model 70PSS, also known as the Papoose, is a semi-automatic rifle designed for portability and ease of use. Its stainless steel construction makes it resistant to rust and corrosion, ideal for harsh environments.

The Papoose’s lightweight design—it weighs just 3.25 pounds—and its ability to be disassembled into a compact package make it highly portable and perfect for backpacking or survival situations. It features a 16.25-inch barrel and a seven-round magazine, providing reliable performance for small game hunting and target shooting.  

The Marlin Model 70PSS combines durability, convenience, and accuracy, making it an excellent choice for survivalists or outdoor enthusiasts.

5. Chiappa Little Badger

The Chiappa Little Badger is a minimalist, lightweight survival rifle that folds down to a very compact size. It is highly portable and ideal for emergency kits. Chambered in .22 LR, .22 WMR, or .17 HMR, it offers small game hunting and self-defense versatility.

Its simplicity and ruggedness ensure reliability under harsh conditions. The Little Badger features a single-shot, break-action design with a skeletonized metal frame, weighing only 2.9 pounds. This no-frills rifle has a built-in Picatinny rail for mounting optics and accessories, enhancing its adaptability. 

Its compact, foldable design allows it to be easily stored in a backpack, making the Chiappa Little Badger a reliable and practical choice for any survival kit.

Popular Survival Gun Calibers

Choosing the right caliber is one of the most important factors when selecting a survival gun. Common calibers like .22 LR, .22 Hornet, and .410 Bore are popular due to their availability and versatility.

.22 LR: The Ultimate Survival Caliber

The .22 LR (Long Rifle) is a highly popular survival gun caliber due to its versatility, affordability, and wide availability. Known for its low recoil and lightweight ammunition, the .22 LR is perfect for small-game hunting, target practice, and even self-defense in a pinch. Its compact size allows for carrying large quantities without adding significant weight, making it ideal for extended survival scenarios. Additionally, the .22 LR’s widespread use ensures that ammunition can be found in various locations, enhancing its practicality as a survival caliber.

.22 Hornet: A Versatile and Powerful Choice

The .22 Hornet is favored in survival situations for its balance of power, range, and accuracy. Unlike the .22 LR, it offers higher velocity and energy, making it suitable for hunting medium-sized game. Its flat trajectory and effective range of up to 200 yards provide versatility in various environments. The .22 Hornet’s lightweight and relatively compact ammunition makes it a practical choice for survivalists who need a more powerful option without sacrificing portability.

9mm: The Go-To Self-Defense Caliber

The 9mm is a popular survival gun caliber known for its effectiveness in self-defense and versatility. Widely used by law enforcement and the military, it balances stopping power and manageable recoil. Its availability and cost-effectiveness make it a practical choice for survivalists. The 9mm’s capability to be used in handguns and carbines enhances its utility, allowing for consistency in ammunition across different firearms.

.410 Gauge: Lightweight and Versatile

The .410 gauge is a lightweight shotgun caliber known for its versatility and ease of use. It is suitable for hunting small game and birds, making it a practical choice for survivalists. The .410’s low recoil makes it accessible for shooters of all skill levels, and its ammunition is lighter than larger shotgun shells. This caliber’s versatility in hunting and self-defense scenarios and its manageable recoil make it a valuable addition to any survival kit.

12 Gauge: The Ultimate Survival Shotgun Caliber

The 12 gauge is renowned for its power and versatility, making it a top choice for survival situations. Its wide range of ammunition types, from birdshot to buckshot to slugs, allows it to be used for hunting various game and for self-defense. The 12 gauge’s stopping power and adaptability in different scenarios make it an essential survivalist tool. While its recoil is more substantial than that of smaller calibers, the 12 gauge’s effectiveness and reliability in critical situations are unmatched.

SHTF Guns: Preparing for the Worst

When considering the best gun for survival in a "Shit Hits The Fan" (SHTF) scenario, it's crucial to think about worst-case situations. These scenarios might include societal collapse, natural disasters, or extended periods without resupply.

1. Ruger 10/22

Chambered in .22 LR, it offers affordable and widely available ammunition, ideal for hunting small game and self-defense. Its lightweight design and high-capacity magazines enhance its practicality in survival situations. The 10/22’s modularity allows extensive customization, from scopes to stocks, tailoring it to individual needs. Overall, the Ruger 10/22 is a dependable, budget-friendly option that excels in utility and performance for any SHTF preparedness plan.

The Ruger 10/22 is renowned for its reliability, versatility, and ease of use, making it an excellent choice for a "Shit Hits The Fan" (SHTF) scenario. 

What Is The Best Bug Out Gun?

2. Kel-Tec SUB-2000

The Kel-Tec SUB-2000 stands out as a prime option for SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) scenarios.

This innovative pistol-caliber carbine folds in half for easy storage and transport, making it perfect for bug-out bags. Chambered in 9mm or .40 S&W, it uses common pistol magazines, ensuring ammo availability during crises. Lightweight at 4.25 lbs, it’s easy to carry, yet robust enough for self-defense. Whether facing societal collapse or natural disasters, the SUB-2000’s versatility, portability, and reliability make it a top choice for survival situations. Prepare for the worst with this adaptable and practical firearm.

3. Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 is a top-tier choice for SHTF scenarios due to its reliability, versatility, and AR-15 style design. 

Chambered in .22 LR, it offers cost-effective and widely available ammunition, perfect for hunting and self-defense. Its lightweight, user-friendly design ensures ease of handling and rapid target acquisition. The M&P 15-22’s compatibility with AR-15 accessories allows extensive customization, enhancing its adaptability in various survival situations. Its durability and ease of maintenance make it a dependable tool when preparedness is key, securing its place as a premier SHTF firearm.

4. Savage Model 42 Takedown

The Savage Model 42 Takedown is an exceptional choice for SHTF situations due to its dual-caliber versatility and rugged design.

This break-action firearm features a .22 LR barrel for small game hunting and a .410 bore barrel for additional versatility in defense and hunting larger game. Its takedown design allows for easy transportation and storage, making it perfect for bug-out bags. Lightweight and reliable, the Model 42 Takedown excels in durability and simplicity, ensuring consistent performance when it matters most. Its straightforward maintenance and dual functionality make it a standout survival tool for any preparedness plan.

5. Glock 19

The Glock 19 has been a trusted firearm since its introduction in 1988, proving its staying power and reliability over decades.

Chambered in 9mm, it offers an ideal balance of stopping power and manageable recoil with widely available ammunition. Its compact size makes it easy to carry and conceal, perfect for self-defense and tactical scenarios. Renowned for its "goes bang every time" reliability, the Glock 19’s durable polymer frame and minimal maintenance needs ensure flawless performance under extreme conditions. With extensive aftermarket support, it can be customized to meet various survival needs, solidifying its status as a premier SHTF firearm.

Budget-Friendly Survival Guns

Not everyone has the budget for high-end survival guns. Fortunately, several affordable options do not compromise on reliability and effectiveness.

1. Ruger American Rimfire

The Ruger American Rimfire is an excellent choice for those seeking a reliable and affordable survival rifle. Chambered in .22 LR, this rifle offers a balance of accuracy, versatility, and affordability, making it a top contender for survival situations. The .22 LR caliber is widely available and lightweight, making it ideal for hunting small game and for target shooting.

One of the standout features of the Ruger American Rimfire is its adjustable trigger, which allows users to customize the trigger pull to their preference, enhancing accuracy and comfort. The rifle's ergonomic design ensures a comfortable shooting experience, with a stock that fits well in the hands and shoulders.

Durability is another key advantage of this rifle. Built with high-quality materials, the Ruger American Rimfire can withstand harsh environmental conditions, making it suitable for extended outdoor use. Its simple design also makes maintenance easy, requiring minimal tools and effort to keep it in optimal condition.

Overall, the Ruger American Rimfire combines reliability, ease of use, and affordability, making it a practical choice for anyone looking to add a survival rifle to their gear. Whether you are a seasoned survivalist or a novice preparing for emergencies, this rifle offers the performance and dependability you need.

2. Mossberg Maverick 88

The Mossberg Maverick 88 is an excellent choice for those seeking a versatile and reliable shotgun for survival situations. Known for its affordability, this pump-action shotgun is designed to meet a variety of needs, from home defense to hunting, all while maintaining a budget-friendly price point of around $262.

The Maverick 88 is often compared to its more expensive sibling, the Mossberg 500, and shares many key components. This includes compatibility with Mossberg 500 barrels, tubes, and stocks, allowing significant customization and upgrades. This flexibility is particularly valuable for users who tailor their shotgun to specific survival needs.

Key specifications of the Maverick 88 include its 12 gauge chambering, an 18.5-inch barrel, a capacity of 5+1 rounds, and a blued finish. It is designed to be simple and reliable, featuring a cross-bolt safety on the trigger guard. While some users may prefer the top tang safety of the Mossberg 500, the Maverick 88’s design ensures it remains intuitive and user-friendly.

The Maverick 88's strong suit is durability, with its pump-action mechanism ensuring dependable performance in various conditions. Maintenance is straightforward, requiring minimal tools and effort, which is crucial for any survival firearm.

The Mossberg Maverick 88 combines reliability, versatility, and affordability, making it a top choice for a survival shotgun. Whether for home defense, hunting, or as a general-purpose survival tool, it offers robust performance and the flexibility to meet a wide range of needs.

For more detailed comparisons and reviews, refer to the full article on Armslist.

3. Hi-Point 995TS

The Hi-Point 995TS is a budget-friendly pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) that offers significant value for survivalists and those seeking a reliable firearm without breaking the bank. Chambered in 9mm, this carbine is known for its simplicity, affordability, and practical performance, making it an ideal choice for various survival scenarios.


One of the primary advantages of the Hi-Point 995TS is its cost-effectiveness. Priced around $300, it provides a budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on essential features. Despite its low price, the 995TS is praised for its durability and reliability, which are crucial for any survival firearm. Its blowback action and robust construction ensure consistent performance under various conditions.

The 995TS’s design includes features that enhance its practicality for survival. It has a 10-round magazine capacity and is compatible with +P ammunition, which means it can handle higher-pressure rounds, offering greater versatility in ammunition choices. The carbine's ergonomic stock and straightforward iron sights make it user-friendly, even for novice shooters.

Additionally, the Hi-Point 995TS comes with a lifetime warranty and excellent customer service, ensuring any issues can be quickly addressed. This support adds to its appeal as a reliable budget option. 

The Hi-Point 995TS combines affordability, reliability, and practicality, making it an excellent choice for a survival PCC. It’s a solid investment for those looking to add a dependable firearm to their survival gear without spending a fortune. 

Conclusion: Find Your Best Survival Gun on Armslist

Selecting the best survival gun requires careful consideration of various factors, including versatility, reliability, portability, and personal preferences. 

Whether you are preparing for a wilderness adventure or a potential emergency, having the right firearm can provide peace of mind and a critical tool for survival.

Armslist offers various survival guns to fit every need and budget. 

Join Armslist today to find the best survival gun for your needs and ensure you are well-prepared for any situation.

created: 7/5/2024 7:08 PM in GEAR


commented on 07/07/2024 07:18 PM

great article

Fredrick M. Pozzini

commented on 07/05/2024 06:23 PM

AR-7 survival rifles are not known for their reliability.

Don Schalk

commented on 07/05/2024 04:06 PM

Great article!Thanks!

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