The Best Rifle for Survival

Mossberg, 702, Plinkster, survival, gun, rimfire, .22

by Jack Woods

Well, its time for some more back woods wisdom from me, Jack Woods. We all have our opinions on our favourite rifle for our favourite job. However, the question here is; what is the best prepper rifle?

If… you only can have one rifle in your bug out bag, what would that be Jack?

What would it be… is it that large calibre rifle that the often, very knowledgeable preppers like to see in those bugout bags? Is it the biggest, the nastiest full auto machine gun that we can find. Perhaps a Rifle capable of mowing down wave upon wave of brain eating zombies, hordes of the oozing- infectious undead. Fellow citizens suffering with some designer Ebola viruses created in a secret lab, right down the street in Main Street USA. A Psyop gone terrible the nightmare they keep warning us about.

Alternatively, on the other hand is it the best rifle able to perform most jobs well enough when the time comes. Like, feed our families, and maybe drop a zombie or two when presented with one.

Custom multi Calibre/Barreled rifles that are available

Now, aside from the obvious over and under models of custom guns by those talented old time gunsmiths like “Krieghoff, Carl Stiegele, or even Savage Arms, theirs are usually referred to as the “Model 24s”. Most are rare guns mostly made by the high-end designer rifle companies?

We often wonder whether they are a myth, to good to be true. How can a rifle do it all? Maybe they are just another example of an all season tire that doesn’t perform well in any season. These fancy checkered stocked shiny hunting irons are being produced with some very expensive tropical woods and gold plated triggers, but sorry they are are not the topic of this article.

These rifles from the fancy sporting makers have dual barrels that often have a shotgun barrel on top, and small calibre like a .22 underneath it, or some have a large bore rifle on top and a 410 under that. Some even have as many as 4 barrels in total. However, I am doubtful about how long you could stand and aim such a weapon accurately. They are beautiful to look at and great, but lets talk about what we can commonly find on most gun store racks, in our lower price range, CHEAP.

Let us look at a rifle as more of a tool than a defense weapon too.

how to bug in

What do you need ideally?

Well let us see, using my infallible back woods reasoning here, lets try to narrow it down a bit. First, we need to consider the scenario of the collapse. What kind of collapse is it? One collapse might be something different to one person then to another. It may simply be that your local Seven Eleven has run out of wonder bread, and cold beer or perhaps it is a short-term food shortage down at the Quickie-Mart, due to a truckers strike.

Alternatively, maybe it is a Katrina hurricane like aftermath, were the National Guard is called in. On the other hand, some kind of apocalyptic Mad Max home coming, that is unfolding uncontrollably across the entire globe, with insurrection, martial law, armoured vehicles roaming the streets, cholera, or some other nasty epidemic. Future calamities, like these hat present themselves this way will create an entirely different set of challenges to most trying to survive, be it by him or her self, or when trying to hold a frightened family together.

The Short List of Survival

Therefore, I always like to start with my favourite list of necessities for your long-term survival.

THE SHORT LIST:

Water

Food

Shelter

Heat

Safety

(Not necessarily in that particular, order either.)

The Zombie Apocalypse

If you ever to find yourself in one of the aforementioned scenarios, and you are missing any one of the five items from the above list, you will understand what I mean by long-term survival. For instance, you might want to get out and procure said essential item right away, while you still can.

Before the looters take it all. That is to say, do it, get out into whatever calamity you find yourself in, which usually happens under the strife of some social upheaval. They always are manifesting themselves in some violent form or another. Your objective is to then try, and flee town for higher ground and some safety for your family. At least until things blow over.

This can be a dicey maneuver for a lone prepper, and trying to do this little reconnaissance move unarmed, and during the heat of an uprising or total collapse, can be impossible. Perhaps there is looting, or better yet, a riot, or maybe there are predatory gangs of miscreants wandering the streets, hunting humans for sport. Yet, all you really need is to do sneak down to the corner store and procure some milk for the wee one who will not stop driving your wife nuts.

This is how that scene could play out.

Your choice of prepper rifle is… “Well easy then”, the man behind the counter slides the rifle across the glass counter, with a squeal. “The rifle of choice is an AK-47 still smelling of the gun oil it is packed in, or an AR-15 with well-stocked 30 shot banana magazines taped back-to-back, and ready for action. Better, yet,” he then heaves from the rack behind him a monster of a gun a flat black M-60 complete with a 6 foot bandolier chock full of shiny 30 calibre brass cartridges. You can see yourself now in the blazing sun of the aftermath. Can’t you?

You fondle it, “This will work nicely to deter those crack heads and losers down at the quickie- mart, simply by its merit of pure intimidation”.

As soon as they take one look at that babe hanging from your shoulder, they will not be messing with you my friend, trust me.

Now for My Devils Advocate

What if on the way back from the corner store you come upon a covey of quail or fuzzy bunnies, or maybe that big city vermin, the common pigeon. What luck an entire flock has alighted on that statue of that dead president you always-hated, right there in your favourite park.

Then you think to yourself, “darn, I forgot to pick up that can of baked beans and Vienna sausages for the kiddies”.

You don’t, want to make your way back through those zombie hordes surrounding the Quickie-mart, or wade across those cholera-choked drainage ditches, all for a simply can of beans, do yeah?

Then it hits you, “I have a weapon, sure it’s a might bit big for the job, and not for hunting but who cares? Besides, the little woman has been hankering for some squab. She said so just the other day. So why not stop by the park test it out on a bevy of pigeons. Turn the shiny new 30 cal. Monster that you purchased at “Big Bob’s Battle Emporium”, into a fowling gun”, why not?

“Besides, it’s on the way, and those gang bangers and crack heads won’t bother me for sure”, not while you are spraying the park for pigeons, with your new toy.

You think to yourself, “This is a great idea”, and all seems right with the world again; except after you gather the remains of your quarry in one of those plastic bags from the Quickie-Mart. You arrive home, and present the prize to the little woman. She looks at you disappointed, then at the bag of gore and feathers, then back to you. You swell up proudly. Unbeknownst to you, you have just presented her with what you thought was a fine dinner. She waves the dripping plastic bag of mush like a hypnotist waves a gold watch, back and forth in front of your vacant stare. You smile ear-to-ear thinking “what a great provider I am”.

Then you really see it… for the first time.

The bag of bird parts, and your ever-beautiful ever patient honey bun glaring back at you with that look… you know the one… the one she uses when you have disappointed her yet again.

She then points her trembling finger at the barricaded door, and before you even have a chance to pull your combat boots on, she swings the bag at your head containing what should have been some fine dining for you and the missus, but now have cat food in it for Mr. Tickles. How can this be?

Your intentions were right on. It was such fun spraying the ex president’s effigy with a barrage of gunfire, unseen since the battle of Iwo Jima. Never realizing as you collected up the thoroughly masticated pigeon parts, looking as if they went through a Cuisinart, that bag now looks so silly in her hands, you look away.

How did this happen?

You stare back at her confused, you wondering why is life so unfair. Surely, the nice man with the tattoo that read KILLER on his bicep would not have steered you wrong. After all it is a reputable downtown gun store surely he, was telling the truth when he sold it to you. You spent all afternoon reliving his old combat stories from Iraq, and it was all in good fun. He said it was the best weapon for anything you might come across during an apocalypse. Your only decision was whether to get it in flat black or desert storm beige. Eventually settling on the black, after Killer told you how he used it to mow down that Taliban hooch.

Back to Reality

I know this may come as a surprise to some of you preppers out there, and perhaps this way of thinking, does go against every John Wayne moving ever made, but BIGGER AIN”T ALWAYS BETTER when it comes to food gathering…

Affordable Choices

Now lets look at the affordability factor of your rifle of choice. I assume there is a budget in mind, unless you are independently wealthy. When it comes to basic surplus military rifles and there are plenty around nowadays. Even the low-end sporting models of rifles are cheap enough to buy if you are not seeking brand new.

They are in pretty much the same price range with either choice of low-end sporting model or surplus bolt action. A novice prepper can certainly pick up any one of the older 30 calibres like a Lee-Enfield, or a 30-06 US, or even a 30 calibre Garand or some NATO rifle in the 7.62 range. Getting any post WWI or WWII surplus rifles easily, they run under $400 bucks nowadays but check, the rifling to be sure they are not bagged-out. You might want to find some reproductions instead, like brand-new copies as long as the fact that they are not being made in American does not bother you.

They are new, and right out of the box, or maybe something cheaper like a .22 rifle. Perhaps an old used Coey or Martin .22 calibre for under $250 bucks. Therefore, if this fits into your price range we still are on the right track.

Ammunition Availability

Now lets consider ammo, and availability here and the cost of ammunition. The cost of ammo and availability after such an end of the world collapse will most likely begin to rise soon after it happens, due to supply and demand. Some of the most popular calibres out there from North America are according to Sales in 2014 by Federal Ammunitions are as follows:

In order of popularity;

  1. .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
  2. .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO
  3. .30-’06 Springfield
  4. .30-30 Winchester
  5. .270 Winchester
  6. .243 Winchester
  7. .300 Winchester Magnum
  8. 7mm Remington Magnum
  9. 7.62×39
  10. .300 Winchester Short Magnum
  11. .22-250 Remington

(I cannot help noticing that they do not list 22 Long Rifle here at all.)

Reloading your own Ammunition

Now, a true gun enthusiast, one that reloads his or her own ammunition might not care about availability after a collapse. Reloading can save plenty of dough if you shoot plenty of targets. Though I am sure if you are an avid shooter, you have probably stopped reading this article several paragraphs ago, with the pigeon story, and so be it. However, I bet this rant will still give even an avid gun enthusiast something to consider when choosing another rifle for their bugout bag.

Either way, if you are still are reading, then great, nice to still have you here. I must assume that if you are that novice, and you do not have a thousand dollars worth of reloading equipment in your bugout bag, and you do not make your own gunpowder, and food is still a major consideration for your rifle of choice. Then we have a different situation here, and not the same as the old time veteran survivalist, or well-heeled prepper finds himself or herself in.

For instance, the equipment alone for reloading your own ammo, can run you minimally, as much, if not more then the rifle that you just purchased. So, do not forget for a minute that the “reloader-guy” the prepper with everything might be better off, as he needs some of those tiny little projectiles we call bullets and a lot of new primers as well as a pound or two of smokeless powder to reload that ammo he or she makes for their sheer enjoyment.

Unless, you are SO SKILLED, you can make your own modern smokeless gunpowder, and cast your own bullets from old car batteries or the chimney lead off the neighbour’s house. So, if you can’t, and I recommend you do NOT try this yourself by the way, without some guidance. If you do not know how to make gunpowder already, and you still want to learn, then watch some one else first, because at best, it will not light and at worst, it will light when you do not want it to, and there goes the damage deposit.

Tried and True Black Powder

Perhaps soon I will write an article about homemade black powder for the future for you guys, but not now.

Black powder is one thing, and a black powder rifles are certainly a fine consideration as an alternative weapon for when things get scarce. Like ammunition, and factory made bullets. A smooth bore black powder gun with a flintlock can be used any old day, with just a lead ball or shot, even just about anything that fits inside it in a pinch will do. However, either way, black powder is relatively easy to make at home, unlike smokeless powder.  So read, read , read before trying it.

My Experience

Yet, this is not the original question is it? The original question was what is the best prepper RIFLE.

In short, and in my humble opinion since I am the one writing this article, is this. What is the best calibre for all around use?

Here is my honest opinion, be it as it may…

First, what makes me an expert on this you ask? Well nothing really, I guess. I have not lived through an apocalypse or even killed any zombie hordes, or even lived through an economic collapse, great enough to cause a long-term food shortage. Nevertheless, I have lived in some very rural areas of wilderness; where it was necessary to hunt or gather food for a living.

Taking from the wild surroundings, and preparing it each fall for the winter, usually just before freeze up. I have also, made black powder at home, and reload my own match grade ammunition for my rifles. I own half a dozen rifles and several shotguns, as well as many handguns too. I have been a hunter and a trapper all my life, and have lived well off the land, at least for my meager 53 years. So the answer finally, what is my favourite calibre of rifle you ask…. Drum roll please…

My Choice

The .22 Long Rifles, TA-Daaaa…

I can almost hear the crickets and groans of disappointment from the readers, but here’s why I chose this often over looked rifle:

To begin with, it is reasonably priced. Most .22s can be picked up used for less then $200.00 bucks. Certainly, that is within our budget. The ammo is readily available anywhere in the world. You will find it from the far north all the way to the tips of the Dark Continents. It is certainly the cheapest and no less available then any other ammo, due to the recent shortages in North America. I will not get into that right now. DHS might be hogging it I guess.

Next, it is the least expensive per round to buy of any kind, and averages about  .05 cents a cartridge, if you buy bulk. That means you can buy as many of the tiny little buggers as you can afford, and no reloading required. This calibre is very versatile, and works across a wide range of practical hunting applications. Birds, small game, varmints, and yes in a pinch even larger non-lethal game animals such as small deer and feral pigs. You might even be able to afford one that takes .22 magnum and .22 long rifle cartridges. (MY WAIVER IS: Although using small calibre on large game is immoral and illegal in most any country. And I would only endorse it in a dire situation of a family starving.)

Nevertheless, all of these aforementioned tasty critters are potential food for the prepper’s pot. Lets face it, if we look back to the original list of five basic human needs. Food is definitely way up there for any prepper. The .22 rifles can still be used for a self-defense too. No, it will not cut a zombie in half with one shot, but it is small enough to be used by everyone in your family. That means Mom as well as the kids are not going to be afraid to pull the trigger when the time comes. Another bonus is its power; it is certainly enough to easily drop a pigeon or two at the park, pecking around those dirty hypodermic syringes in the grass.

Well, let us see does the mighty, .22 rifle also has a fair shooting range for its tiny size, but yes it does, and it still packs a punch too. Its able to kill small game out to 200 yards on a good day. Unfortunately, the arch of this tiny calibre resembles more of a rainbow then a straight line, at that distance. However, anyone who has shot gophers on the back forty, or squirrels out of some tall trees will attest to being able to do it with ease.

The newer .17 HMR arguments

I am not going to debate the .17 HMR caliber’s velocity with anyone here or argue stats with those who own these rifles. They are not common enough in most areas and therefore I have ruled them out, and will not being considered them here for that reason. Therefore, the champion and still my choice for best rifle for a prepper in my honest opinion one that you can and should be able to use to feed the family everyday, the .22 long rifle. Because, lets face it that is the number one consideration in any prepping situation, feed the spouse and kiddies.

My Opinion about defense

Therefore, in my now frequently over stated and forever contradictory humble opinion, I will say this one and salient fact. Unless you are a trained warrior and hanging around with a platoon of other trained warriors, you are probably NOT going to be fending off an onslaught of brain eating zombies by yourself. Just you and the missus in some twisted version of the Last stand at the Alamo you firing away and the kids and Mom reloading your M-60 while you swap it out for the AK-47 you got thrown in at “Big Bob’s Battle Emporium”, I don’t think so.

However, WHAT you most likely ARE GOING to be doing, is trying to survive by being stealthy, using those evasion apache ambush tactics from that Calvary survival book of 1865. (Or like us lay persons, you will be using the reliable running away tactic, with you and your kid’s arms pin wheeling as Mom tries to keep up.)

Whatever way you shake it, the zombie hordes are not getting you, and your family. They duck into a drive through car wash, and the kids shake them using those revolving doors at derelict shopping mall. Then, you and your love ones quietly bugger off to somewhere safer, and with less hostile horizons about you. Go now, get out, ride off into that sunset, well past the blazing apocalyptic burning city skyline, and get the hell out of dodge people.

Although most likely you will still find that there are not tasty cakes hanging from the branches of trees out there, and the term out in the woods means just that out in the woods. The inevitable fact is this, these .22 rifles are relatively light, they’re cheap, they shoot well, and they are easier to run with when zombies are chasing you, and just fine for shooting grey squirrels, or red, or what ever you prefer; from out of that pine tree at 50 yards.

What more could a prepper possibly want, and when you get to the woods, in any event, you and your .22 rifles, are going to be the best of friends. Because it is the best tool for the job, even the tiniest creatures, DO taste far better then nothing at all.

What do we have so far fellow preppers?

How about another list of the Pros and Cons of a .22 rifle. Just before I conclude this:

Pros for .22 Rifle Cons against the .22 Neither good nor bad
Ammo is cheap can buy 500 hundred rounds at Wal-Mart for less then $25/ box

 

Great for small game and you won’t need to pick pellets out of your ducks.

 

The whole family can shoot it with ease.

 

Its lightweight makes it easy to carry, for long distances.

 

Very common calibre ammunition, in any country.

 

Cheaper for shooting fish in a barrel.

Sorry won’t cut a brain eating zombie in half with one shot, but can kill a pigeon.

 

Not recommended for large game or zombies for that matter.

 

Not very good for long range shooting.

 

Not very intimidating to the rioters looters, and crack heads, until you shoot a few, first.

 

Not ideal in ever situation but it comes close, you can still kill a zombie if you have to (but you may have to beat him with it too).

Most big calibre rifles are just more expensive then a .22 rifle.

 

If you run out of ammo, both are just an ergonomically designed club, and quite useless.

 

Both types will kill large animals at point blank range. (Do not try this with a .22 on a Grizzly bear though.)

 

Guns aren’t dangerous Zombies with guns are…

 

 

My Conclusion

I know I have not convinced everyone with my back woods logic. Nevertheless, I hope that I raised some valid points here, and entertain a few of you a little bit any way. I’m an avid outdoorsman, I honestly hunt for my own food, and eat what I kill, I always feel munch better prepared to bag some game in the short term with 500 hundred rounds of .22 in my survival bag, and a decent .22 rifle, then having a box of twenty or so 308 rounds and a deer rifle only.

Your chances of finding a meal that very day is far better with a rim fire then seeing a big game animal the first day out. Besides a .22 shot from a tree stand, only twenty feet above the game (Especially a magnum), and right at the old brain pan, is going to kill any small deer or pig, even if unethical or illegal. I contest, those who disagree that with a starving family at home, this gives you that right.

I could be wrong… probably am.

I was never very good at following rules; when my family is hungry, I hunt:

Happy hunting,

The Practical prepper Jack Woods


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16 Comments

  1. The Savage 24s have become pretty expensive. Combination rifle over shotgun single shot rifle. Came in both rimfire and centerfire over shotgun. Not the best self defense gun facing zombies but for TEOTWAWKI foraging (I need to bring home SOMETHING to eat), very good. Instant choice of shotgun or rifle – makes a lot of sense to me.

  2. I am not surprised that the overall pick would be the .22LR. I brought home from overseas a bolt action .22 Hornet that was all metel and incorporated a metal pull-out steel stock. Yes , it was issued to pilots and crew of aircraft deployed outside the US. This was a knock-down kick-ass little rifle. I used it to hunt stateside many times and was very impressed with the accuracy and know-down punch of the .22 Hornet. This rifle was STOLEN from me in 99′ and was not registered and never recovered. I now have a Remington Speedmaster 552. It is a good rifle, my son and I use it often around the farm. But I sure do miss that .22 Hornet. I wish I could find another one. 22. Hornet’s are not easy to find nowadays. jw

  3. The 5.56x45NATO (but not the .223 Rem) and .308 Win (but not the 7.62x51NATO) offer the best in power with manageable recoil. These pairs of cartridges may be similar but synonymous they are not. Responsible shooters know the difference and will not casually mix and match.

    Bigger may not always be better but only a fool would casually argue with a nest of Ma Deuce or even SAW.

    PR

  4. J.W. Griffith, they did make an over under combination in .22 Hornet / .410 called the Springfield M6. It was the later made version of that military pilot bolt gun you mentioned. I’ve only seen the bolt gun in photographs – you were lucky to have access to it.

    Many refuse to acknowledge the .410, but I think the small shot load is an advantage in survival foraging. 1) – wing shooting and shots at running game will be much less in use – a sure shot at standing game will be more likely (limited ammunition). The smaller shot load will do less damage to the meat than the large 20 and 12 gauges. 2) Easier to carry due to smaller bulk. 3) Less noise as well – I have a Yildiz single shot .410 with longer 28″ barrel that is pretty quiet. 4) Less shot means reloading will last longer with the smaller gun.

  5. The Best Rifle for Survival is the one you have taken the time to be proficient with.
    Your greatest “weapon” is the time and skill invested “NOW” in accurately utilizing the rifle in your hand “AND” any weapon system you may acquire in a collapse situation.

  6. I have extensive experience in the mountain Northwest. Considering significant wilderness experience, wood cutting alone miles from nearest habitation, I say keep it simple-In the first place anyone crossing mountain terrain is constrained by weight. My favorite is the .22 long rifle because you can eat well, and well: I back it up with a .30 cal pistol. My absolute
    monster favorite is the Remington 870 12 Ga, but ammo weighs a lot. I love 30-06 bolt action, and for where I live a Russian SKS is enough. In conclusion-Again if it is a long march on foot and you carry considerable weight, the .22 backed
    by a good pistol does the trick. City survival is not a priority to mountain types. Most urban folk would become animals and not live long in the wilderness.

  7. Nicest thing about .22 is that you have the option of carrying a rifle and a pistol using the same ammo. Though you could also do the same with several other calibers such as 357/38 special or .44 magnum.

    Then, again as mentioned in the article, you can have a lot more ammo for the same cost by using .22.

    The more important aspect, to me, is shooting enough to KNOW you have the skills to accurately place your shot for a clean kill on the rabbit or bird the first time. Missed shots will only teach the prey to leave your vicinity when you are farther away, making future opportunities to harvest food harder to come by.

    The more you have to shoot, the more likely you are to give away your position. One shot taking a rabbit or squirrel with a 22 is less likely to give away your location than taking multiple missed shots. Each added shot you take gives others who may be more hungry than you the chance to close in on your position. One shot may not give people off in the distance a accurate direction to go. Also, larger caliber weapons give a larger “report” that carries a lot farther, potentially to a lot more hungry hungry competition.

    As a last point, some weapons can shoot other available ammo. A 357 magnum can also use 38 special. While a 38 special cannot shoot the magnum rounds. The same is true for 44 magnum, which can shoot 44 special. This has the potential of making a bit larger range of ammo available to use. Imagine going to buy ammo and all that is on the shelf is magnum ammo, which is longer than your 38 SPECIAL can chamber. The point is this, if you are going great to buy a new weapon, buy the one that gives you the best chance to find ammo in a potential shortage situation. Just because you have a 357 magnum doesn’t mean you can’t use lower power 38 special that is easier on you to practice with, but it does give you more options.

  8. I “had” a lot of 38 special.. yes good to practice with but most of the time it
    wouldn’t pierce an old metal barrel at a short distance, one for burning trash.

    Prefer 357, with a long barrel revolver 6 or 7 inch it’s just about as easy to
    handle as a 9mm semi auto but not easy to hide.

  9. When in the world was this article written? Recent shortage on 22LR, this shortage has been going on for over 7 years and I haven’t seen a 500 round brick for 25 dollars for atleast seven years. Although I do agree it is probably one of the best all around prepper rifles. Maybe one day all of those hoarders will get stuck with all the high priced 22 ammo that they have stashed when ever the market does finally get flooded. Trekker Out.

  10. I have had a 22 rifle for 50 years. bolt action. My dad gave it to me when i was 10 years old. He bougth it for $10.00. The 22 was what most of us grew up shooting. I remenber buying winchester longs in a white box for .50 cents. I was 12 years old. It is part of my history. My family now has 10/22 rugers . The 22’s are the first to go in the truck when we go to the range. We have a couple of 22 pistols They are just to fun shoot.

  11. Of course I agree I have posted the same ideology for years.
    my only added opinion is to have all the same brand bullet weight / style bullet velocity
    This makes you shot to shot differential as close as possible making your MOA as good as it can be. having too many brands and bullet weights makes for a shotgun pattern over a tight group, this works for any caliber or gauge firearm black powder as well.

  12. Long, long, ago, when I worked with the Michigan department of natural resources, by far more deer were taken in the year by .22 rifles than any other caliber. Now most of those deer were poached, poaching is a common way to feed your family if you live in northern Michigan or the U.P. But the common knowledge was that upwards of 60% of the deer harvested were shot with a.22. No, it wasn’t legal. And Michigan deer aren’t “little” deer.

  13. I have a little russian .22lr – a TOZ 78-04. It has a 1/2″x20 UNF thread at the muzzle which can help making your rifle pretty silent 😄
    Therefore one needs to shoot subsonics and of those my pick are the “CCI quiet”. In my experience they really never spook any wildlife around you.
    The drawback is the much shorter distance you can effectively use such a round, of course. I’d say one could use these (shot to the brain) very reliably out to 50 meters but not much farther.
    My 2nd rimfire is a Savage chambered in .17 HMR but I gues it is not an option disussing this caliber here. Let me only say one thing about it though:
    .17’s are excellent but to birds and very small game these rounds do too much damage.

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