Sorry for the delay in updating, we had a wee bit of snow in Central Hoosierland.
In the past, I’ve visited the topic of pistol caliber carbines for survival, as well as certain center-fire rifles for homeland defense. Today, I’m going to be talking about the one rifle that should be in every gunsafe in the country, if not the world. The lowest of the low, the .22 caliber rimfire. Yesterday I talked about my deep, personal affection for the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire; that love is almost as deeply held for the .22 Long Rifle as well. If I could make sure that every law-abiding gun owner had at least one rimfire rifle and pistol in their gun collection, I would.
Today, just like in the previous entries, I’m going to break down the various rifles by action type, in the order that I would take them into the field. I’ll also look at the various advantages and disadvantages of a .22LR “in the field”. The purpose of the .22LR for survival differs greatly from the center-fire rifle and the pistol caliber carbine, in as much as for obvious reasons the .22LR is less than ideal for punching into “two-legged” predators. If you’re going to go it alone and choose a .22LR for your primary long arm; take a major caliber pistol for backup. Of course, if you’re fortunate to have friends invited to your survival shindig, they can round out your armaments with rifles of their own. If you’re packing a .22LR, you have to bear in mind the limitations of the round. It’s primary purpose is going to be for collecting food and dealing with the dangers posed by smaller, four-legged predators such as coyotes (which we have all over the place out here). If your bug out area is in bear country…take a bigger gun with you.
The .22LR does actually carry some inherent advantages if it’s going to be used as your primary weapon in the field.
- Ammo weight – You can get two or three hundred rounds of .22LR for what a single box of fifty 9mm would cost you in weight. While on the surface that doesn’t seem like much of an advantage, if you’re going to be walking any kind of significant distance, you’ll be glad for the reduction in weight that the lighter ammo brings. This also applies (to a lesser extent) to .22 Magnum ammo.
- Noise signature – .22LR isn’t very loud. If your weapon has been so modified, it can be quite easy to suppress even further, which again is an advantage if you’re concerned about giving your position away while foraging for food.
- Familiarity – If you’re like me, you shoot more .22 than anything else. Sure, I have my “serious practice time” with my centerfire pistols and rifles, but one or two rimfires usually sneaks its way into my range bag, and I’ll usually end up putting 100 or 200 rounds down with just the rimfire. Not only is it fun, but it’s relaxing; it’s also led me to associate rimfire shooting with just having fun.
- Shootability – “Shootability” is my favorite made-up word of all time. It refers to the ease with which one can produce accurate fire from any given weapon. With the majority of rimfire rifles, shootability is pretty high, as even bone-stock 10/22s come with a decent enough trigger and fair sights. The low recoil of the cartridge does nothing but help the “shootability” factor. I’ve said this a lot of times, but a small caliber weapon that you can place accurate hits on target is much better than a big gun that you can’t hit squat with.
Unfortunately, my pet cartridge does carry some disadvantages onto the field with it.
- Stopping Power – Or lack thereof. Ambulance Driver provides an excellent example of both the .22LRs killing power and lack of stopping power, all in one post. For a .22 to do the job of stopping a rabid coyote, angry hog, or bipedal varmint, shot placement is going to have to be pretty much perfect. If you can achieve that kind of accuracy under stress, good for you. There is also the option of putting a 30 round magazine into your 10/22 and letting the predator in question have all of it; the bottom line is that a .22LR will not do the job of stopping a thread as quickly or efficiently as a larger, more powerful round.
- Stupid little magazines – Sorry, this is just a personal gripe. Why the hell do the magazines for almost every rimfire rifle or pistol in the galaxy have to be such a pain in the ass to load?
- Reliability – While some rifle rifles are notorious for their ability to feed every type of ammo under the sun (10/22); if your weapon of choice is a semi-auto rifle, make sure you select your round carefully so that it will feed all the time, every time. The rim on the .22LR has been known to complicate feeding in a few different types of weapons.
With that out of the way, let’s get on to the different models of rifles that I would take. Again, your mileage may vary.
- Ruger 10/22 – This pick is pretty much a no-brainer. Reliable, accurate, built like a rimfire tank; this is the first .22LR I would grab if I had to leave the house in a hurry. Actually, if I could only take one gun with me, this is what I’d take. I’d make two modifications, first I’d switch out the factory iron sights for nice set of ghost ring sights, and I’d replace the factory wood stock with a Butler Creek folding stock. The folder makes it even handier to carry around.
- Marlin Model 60 – Marlin makes about 30,000,000 different variants of the Model 60, including the Model 70 which is the same rifle with a detachable magazine instead of the tubular magazine. Both are reliable, accurate, and can be fitted with different stocks. There’s one variant that even has a take-down barrel, which would be very handy for a survival situation.
- Henry Survival Rifle – This is a modern run of the much maligned AR-7, however it seems that Henry has fixed any reliability issues the original may have had. Plus, it floats. You can put everything in the stock, and the whole kit-and-kaboodle will float. As far as actual work goes, it’s accurate, reliable (with good ammo), it’s super-light, and IT FLOATS. The reason it wasn’t rated higher is that the shootability factor is much lower for this than it is for the 10/22 or Marlin 60.
Other action types
Once you get out of the semi-automatic action types, the field sort of blows wide open. Fixed magazine, detachable ma
zine, Ruger, Marlin, Savage, and Remington all make excellent bolt-action and lever-action rifles. My first choice would be one of the rifles listed above, but if you’re got a Marlin lever rifle that you can shoot well, than you’re better armed than the guy with the Rambo knife.
My first choice into the woods would be a Ruger 10/22. I feel like for survival purposes when it comes to rimfires; you’re much better off with a semi-automatic than you are with a bolt or lever gun. I wouldn’t feel under-equipped with either a bolt or a lever gun, but it just wouldn’t be my first choice out of the gate.
A good rimfire has a lot going for it for survival. I’ll say here what I’ve said in my other posts about weapon selection. Pick one, and practice. If your “Oh Shit” rifle is a .22LR, shoot it a lot. Shoot it to the point where it honestly feels like an extension of your body. With a little bullet, shot placement is the most important factor in producing reliable stops on “meat” targets. Practice practice practice.