Survival Rifles

Note from Rourke: This post was written prior to the recent buy-out of semi-automatic firearms, ammunition and magazines. Please take that into consideration when reading it.

by Thenaturenurd

There are many survival rifles to choose from.  I will break them down into 5 categories: AR, AK, Surplus, Pistol Carbines and Hunting. I will explain their advantages and disadvantages.  After reading my article you should be able to find out which one from the above categories fits you best.

AR15 in action! (photo credit: Some rights reserved by simonov)

Lets start with AR.  Contrary to popular belief the AR does not stand for Assault Rifle.  It stands for Armalite rifle which was the company that first developed the rifle platform in the 1950s before it was sold to Colt which developed it into the M16 used in the military today. The AR15 is a highly popular  civilian version available in semi automatic only as opposed to the military version which is full automatic.  The AR 15 went on the market to civilians in the early 1960s and has been popular ever since.

AR 15  advantages

  • simple to operate
  • ammo is widely available
  • highly customizable
  • very lightweight
  • very accurate right off the shelf or out of the box

AR 15 disadvantages

  • must be maintained regularly
  • many small parts when field stripping
  • can be expensive to purchase compared to other guns ($750-1500+)

AK47 (photo credit:  Some rights reserved by planetc1)

The AK, also know as the Avtomat Kalashnikova was developed by Mikhail Kalsknikov for a design contest for a new rifle for use by Soviet Forces after WWII.  It was first introduced for use in 1947 by select Soviet Army Units, hence the AK47 designation.  A few years later in 1949 it was accepted for use by all Soviet Forces and its allies.  It is estimated that 100 million AK rifles have been produced worldwide making it the most popular Assault Rifle.  Even 6 decades after being first fielded it still remains in service.

AK advantages

  • simple to operate
  • widely available
  • easy to field strip and clean by almost anyone
  • inexpensive to own compared to an AR  ($400-1000)
  • tough and long lasting to abuse

AK disadvantages

  • not as accurate at long distances as an AR
  • 7.62 X 39 ammo not as common as .223/5.56mm
  • known in movies and other media as a “bad guy” gun

Surplus rifles are also quite popular as “survival rifles” too.  Many good choices exist, but a common one is the Russian Mosin Nagant.  It was originally developed by Russian Sergei Ivanovich Mosin and Belgian Leon Nagant. It was adopted into a final design in 1891 and served Russia, Soviet Forces, and allies until adoption of the AK47.

Some Mosin Nagant rifles still are in service today in places like Afghanistan and SE Asia.  The design of the rifle feeds from a magazine that holds 5 rounds and is bolt action, allowing for one shot to be fired at a time.  Many variants exist and they can be acquired cheaply.

Mosin Nagant advantages

  • VERY inexpensive…(a rifle and nearly 500 rounds can be acquired for less than $200)
  • accurate powerful round capable of knocking down any man or beast on this continent
  • easy to operate
  • can hit targets at very long ranges

Mosin Nagant disadvantages

  • heavy, long barrel and bulky
  • not capable of rapid fire
  • powerful kick might be too much for some

Author’s Keltec Sub2000 Pistol Carbine

Pistol Carbines have become very popular lately as “survival rifles.” Several manufacturers have put out carbine models including Keltec, Hi-Point, Beretta, and others.  I personally own a Keltec Sub2000 pistol carbine chambered in .40 S&W.

The Sub2000 like many other pistol carbines shoots the same ammo and most of the time uses the same magazine as its pistol counterparts.  This allows for interchangeability between rifle and sidearm easily.  Additionally, the Sub2000 folds in half for easy portability and storage.  The longer barrel insures longer range and accuracy than just using a pistol.

Pistol Carbine advantages

  • greater accuracy and stopping power than a pistol
  • interchangeability between rifle and sidearms (depending on models)
  • less kick than a pistol
  • more compact than standard rifles (especially if it folds up)
  • can easily hit man-sized target at 100+ yards
  • cheaper than AK or AR ($250-750)

Pistol Carbine disadvantages

  • range shorter than most rifles
  • to insure interchangeability must purchase correct models
  • difficult to hunt small game with at long ranges

Typical Hunting Rifle, the 30-30 (photo credit: Some rights reserved by tombothetominator)

Hunting rifles naturally fall into “survival rifle” territory by the nature of their design.  Hunting rifles are available in wide variety of calibers, actions, and magazine capacities.  As an example, one I have used for a number of years mostly for deer hunting is a Winchester Lever Action .30-30.

Most hunters should be familiar with this rifle.  It is very accurate to at least a couple hundred yards and fires a powerful round.  Its internal magazine holds 5-6 rounds depending on if a round is chambered and you can hunt just about any medium to large game with this round.  Also it is a decent self defense round with its blunt nose and slow trajectory.  Of course this is only an example and we don’t have the time time or space to go into all of the hunting rifle choices available out there!

Hunting rifle advantages

  • good stopping power  (of course depending on caliber)
  • many actions, caliber, and round capacity choices out there
  • most are easy to learn and use

Hunting rifle disadvantages

  • gun itself and ammo can be quite expensive ($200-2000)
  • most have low capacity magazines (1-5 shots at time)
  • some may have a learning curve to fire accurately
  • again depending on rifle can be difficult for some to handle

In conclusion there are many choices out there and of course you can only fire one gun at a time.  Think closely about what situation(s) you could be in should SHTF happen and choose wisely.  Also take into consideration stronger gun control restrictions may be on the way in the near future! I welcome your comments and suggestions.  Happy Prepping and be safe out there!

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  1. If you want controversy, just opine about the best gun, knife, and/or truck.

    I’ll stick with the Springfield M1-A. I’ve used both 5.56 and 7.62 NATO in combat situations and there is simply no comparison. Both will terminate the target at 500+ meters with well placed shots. The difference is the 7.62 NATO puts them down and they know they’re dead. Even a limb shot will usually put the target on its ass. The 5.56 often leaves them standing and still firing even after several life ending wounds have been inflicted. Look at the recent shooting in Aurora – 70 hits and only 12 deaths. Although the shooter used a pistol and a 12 gauge shotgun, most of the hits were from 5.56 from his M-4. That’s probably a lousy example and I would personally like to bury the SOB in a pile of pig poop, but it does show the lack of effective killing power in small caliber rounds.

    If you have to hump your weapon and a substantial ammo load through the boonies lighter is better. If you are in a fixed position or riding weight isn’t as much of an issue and a heavier round which travels farther and hits harder is a better choice.

    Pistol cartridge weapons are OK for back up use and low light urban encounters. Not so much in the open country. If you want a single cartridge consider acquiring a M1 Carbine and Ruger’s Blackhawk revolver in .30 Carbine. One round fits both weapons. I have some poker buddies (the old farts of the group) who carried both in Nam and still swear by them. A 110 gr FMJ bullet from a Carbine travels at 1,900 FPS with almost 800 F-lbs of energy. A 9×19 Parabellum 115 gr FMJ travels only 1,300 FPS and has about 420 F-lbs of energy. The .30 Carbine is designed to be lethal up to 300 meters and the 9 mm up to 50 meters. Both will travel farther and produce kill shots at much longer ranges, but the design criteria show the 9 mm is not intended for anything but close combat.

    I now jump off my soap box and pass the baton to the next poster.

  2. Even before this the base cost of an AK was about the same as an AR. Even bare bones AK’s were running $600 which put them in the range of a lot of SW and DPMS type rifles.

  3. I agree with Harry, the reach and power of .308, especially if one can only afford one rifle, cant be passed up. Also opposition forces will have m4 carbines so people should not fret if they dont have one. they will be readily available shortly. Once one figures out the reach advantage over .223 , .308 looks quite appealing.

  4. The 7.62x51mm NATO / .308 Win has the 600m knock down power.
    Look for common action type, E.G. pump action – Rem 870 in 12ga, Rem 7615 in .223 Rem and Rem 7600 in .308 Win. This makes learning, using and accuracy quicker and cheaper to learn = muscle memory. Same capability, but look as they are – hunting firearms. LOTS of after market add-ons. Write to your politicians, get involved.

  5. If anyone lives in New Mexico–or a contiguous state, there’s a fairly new gunshop here that has a number of tactical AK’s and AR’s, magazines and ammo in stock at the time of this writing. Because it so new, not many know about it. It’s called Tactical Survival Systems, the phone is 505-717-1953

  6. Very interesting thread. I have chosen a 9mm carbine and a 7.62×39. I like the carbine because its light and ammo the same. I like the 7.62×39 is a heavy hitter, ammo is cheap and lots available. I think its all about preferences. I hear a lot of trash talk between AR and AK, the are both great, I just cant afford the AR platform, I can 2 or 3 ak”s for the price of 1 AR. I have picked up 7.62×39 for as cheap as 18cents per round, I cant get 223/5.56 for that. Again, chevy or ford its allo a personal pref. After all we are all on the same side.

  7. Since I live in the Northeast and can’t have semi-auto centerfire rifles and the
    distances aren’t so great, my pick for an urban survival rifle would be a pistol
    calibre lever action carbine like a Winchester or Puma .357 magnum. You have a choice of loading with .38 short or wadcutters (if you operate it single shot), .38 special, or .357 magnum; and the muzzle velocity of the latter is up to around 2000 fps. – out of a 20 inch barrel that round delivers very impressive ballistics for hunting deer or “varmints”. You can use .38’s for plinking, small game, .38+P’s for home defense with 11 shots in the tube – and you can reload while maintaining your sight picture. With a .38 snubbie or a .357 mag revolver you can feed multiple guns with one calibre. It also looks less threatening than an AK or tricked-out AR (neither of which I legally can own). It’s definitely worth considering for reliability, ease of handling, very light recoil and versatility. Let’s see how long it stays legal. Very pleased with mine.

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