I still get a lot of hits for people searching for survival rifles and that sort of thing, so I thought I’d write another piece on them – that and because the topic is utterly fascinating to me. This rifle that I’m going to describe below doesn’t exist (that I know of), but I could put one together for a semi reasonable cost by performing some modifications to existing rifles.
The rifle must be suitable for taking game to fill the pot, defense against local predators, which are generally not bigger than coyotes; light enough to hump all over the countryside, and able to place accurate fire out to 100 yards. This isn’t a bear rifle, or a battle rifle, I’m not planning on taking this rifle to Iraq and testing its combat readiness.
I’ll probably take some flack for this, but the caliber I would choose for my ultimate survival rifle is (surprise) .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire; or as it is more commonly known: .22 Magnum.
I’ve blogged about my deep and abiding love for the .22 WMR on a couple of occasions. My actual decade of experience with the cartridge is what brings me around to choosing it for my survival rifle. It’s not merely the big brother of the .22 LR, it’s a real bullet with actual jackets that has excellent killing power. Add to this the wide variety of bullet selection, ranging from 30 grain CCI TNT rounds for little animals up to 40 grain Jacketed Soft Points from Remington for bigger game that requires a bit more penetration. While it’s not the perfect load for deer, or the best rifle for squirrels; the .22 WMR cartridge provides excellent power in a very light package. The weight of the cartridge is actually the final deciding factor, I can pack A LOT of .22 WMR ammo around before the weight starts to become an issue.
Action & Magazine
For action type, I’d prefer a bolt action. Hypothetically, I’m going to be sloughing this pea-shooter around the woods, and a bolt action is generally more resistant to inclement weather, dirt getting in the action, etc. Plus, since I’m in a “survival” situation; a good bolt rifle encourages me to make my shots count. The rifle would feed from detachable 10-round box magazines, I’d also locate the magazine release in roughly the same position as the mag release on the M14 family of rifles. Now, I personally feel that if I’m firing this thing fast enough to need a rapid magazine swap I’m probably in deep shit; however it is nice to have the capacity for a quick magazine change.
Stock, sights, barrel, & finish
The stock for my dream rifle is made of polymer, and is (of course) black. While I prefer wood stocks, a black polymer stock is again going to hold up better in the wild than a nice wood stock. The same thought goes into the finish, again I prefer a nice blue steel finish for my guns, but in this case the rifle would be finished in a more weather resistant stainless. The disadvantage to stainless is that it reflects more light – but again if I’m engaging hostile forces I’ve probably already given my position away with rifle fire. For the sights, I want some sort of aperture sight, no glass sights. If I’m off in the woods, I don’t need something that could break and leave my rifle without an aiming method, so sturdy iron aperture sights are the ones for me. Finally, the barrel should be no longer than 18 inches in length. This is long enough to squeeze maximum terminal performance out of the .22 WMR, without being so long as to cause me problems carrying it.
Marlin makes a rifle that is almost perfect, but it’s lacking iron sights and only comes with a seven round magazine. It would certainly do in a pinch, but hey, this was a hypothetical exercise anyway.
Your mileage may vary of course, but if you were wondering what I’d take, that’s it. A bolt action, polymer stocked, fixed sighted, .22 WMR with detachable magazines and an 18 inch barrel. Now if I could just get Marlin or Savage to return my calls…