Survival Weapons part 1.
How many of us have really evaluated the weapons that we have put aside for Survival usage? I recently looked at my personal weapons choice and several lights came on, the weapons that would probably get the most usage were those that were getting the least amount of attention. A quick look at the Great Depression and the Old West (1900-1940) and the weapons used and available at the times give us a good picture at what we need to be looking at ourselves. These weapons had to be simple, so anyone could work them. These weapons had to be rugged, I.e. built to last, as the nearest gun shop could be hundreds of miles away. These weapons had to have a common caliber, one that they could find at the local hardware store or a neighbors ammunition box. At the same time these weapons had to be easily serviced and cleaned. This cannot be ignored on something that must last.
Looking at modern weapons we have some problems, how many untrained people can just pick up an AR-15 or a Steyr AUG and have them function right away? Not many . Adding to the modern weapons problem is ammunition, most of the military rifles are chambered for ammunition that is not designed for hunting, but was intended for battle. This is not a bad thing for defense, but for hunting it is a really poor choice.
What does a modern military look alike rifle possess that a common lever gun does not? Firepower? Yes and no, the AR does carry more ammunition and has a greater rate of fire but when considering a survival rifle, unless you expect hordes of chipmunks or rioting like L.A. the firepower afforded means nothing in practical terms.
The common lever gun has much going for it today as yesterday. Ease of use, anyone can figure a lever gun out in just a few minutes. Durability cannot be argued in most designs, the Marlin 336 action for example, a solid steel receiver with a side ejection port for greater stability and rigidity, with scope mounting holes already drilled and tapped into the top of the receiver. The loading port is easy to locate and use even when wearing gloves, and the current production 336ís have an effective safety that blocks the hammer from hitting the firing pin completely. This is a really nice feature for those who do not have as much training in weaponscraft, as it makes it possible to load and unload the weapon with utter safety.
I cannot bash the military rifles too much; I prefer them for rural defensive usage. But back to practical usage, what weapons will get the most use?
ARís, I hope not.
Handguns, probably quite a lot.
Shotguns, realistically not, these use too much ammunition for the number of animals gained especially when the hunter uses normal "sporting" hunting methods. The ammunition is heavy and bulky and generally expensive. But these will be covered later in this article.
Centerfire Rifles, will probably see more use than the previous two types due to availability and neccessity. The ability to take an animal from long range cannot be discounted from the hunting fields.
Rimfire Rifles. The lowly .22LR. This will probably be most peoples best answer. Ammunition is inexpensive, light, accurate, and kills out of all proportion to its size. The .22 rifle. An often overlooked item for survival. Prices run the gamut from downright cheap to extremely expensive. Unless you are rich the high dollar rifles are not practical, so we will focus on the less expensive models.
Bolt action rifles. Probably still the best of the breed for our purposes. These are generally light, have adequate sights, and most often the detachable magazine fed models are the most reliable. Bolt guns generally outshoot all other types, and their slow manual action forces one to make the shot count, as a follow up can be very slow in coming.
A good example is the Remington 511 Scoremaster, it is extremely accurate, has a 5 round detachable magazine, has a full size wood stock, this is an extremely important point, as most .22ís are downsized a bit for younger users. After all most adults do not use .22ís much and they are bought for the youngsters. The 511 has decent iron sights, a positive safety that mimics those on centerfire bolt guns, and on later models has a scope mounting groove cut right into the receiver. The 510 (510-513) series rifles also have dual locking lugs on the bolt adding just that extra bit of safety.
Lever Action rifles, my personal favorite. These wonders of modern manufacture hasten us back to the days of Wyatt Earp and Marshall Dillon. And probably the most respected of these is the Marlin M-39A. The same basic rifle came out in 1892 or so, and has been in production ever since, not a bad track record. The current model, the M-39A came about in the late 1930ís and with only minor changes is still with us today.
The M-39A is a throwback to older weapons, it is all steel and wood, no plastic except for the buttplate, and has an aura about it that says this rifle is dependable. I have examined many specimens and have never seen one worn out yet. That included an original Model 1892 made in 1894 that had seen constant use on a local ranch. That rifle still functioned perfectly and shot well after 103 years of daily service.
Semi-Automatic Rifles, these technical wonders have been with us since about 1903 and have been giving excellent service ever since. And probably the most popular since itís introduction in the 1950ís has to be the Ruger 10/22. These inexpensive rifles feature a rotary 10 round magazine that never seems to jam or hiccup. And with all of the custom parts available such as synthetic stocks and extended magazines (pre-ban) it is also one of the most customized rifles today. The only criticism of the Ruger 10/22 is the stock, it only seems to fit those of a small stature.
Another excellent choice is the Remington Nylon 66. This plastic marvel came out in the 1950ís and was discontinued in the late 1980ís but is one of the best rifles of itís type. Due to its construction the weapon never needs lubrication as such, just a really light film on the few metal parts to keep rust away, and the guns will go forever. The weapon makes sense for a bug-out pack as it weighs only 4 lbs., is easy to clean, and has an internal magazine that never seems to fail.
And now that the practical is out of the way, lets talk about handguns. Letís admit it right here first, that most pistoleers couldnít hit the proverbial barn door while in a stressful situation, let alone feed themselves with one. The primary function of the handgun is defensive and as such it serves well. The greatest feature is the portability, you donít set it against a tree when going out to answer a call of nature, so it is always there. Handguns are a personal item, my choice is good for me, but would be poor for others. And with that in mind you have to pick the one that fits you.
The first consideration has to be purpose, purely defensive? Hunting backup as well as defense? You can pick the type of handgun with this in mind, semi-automatics are generally better suited for defensive work , while revolvers give yeoman service in both defense and hunting areas.
Caliber has to be the next choice. With only 4 calibers that need serious consideration, .45 ACP, 9mm Parabellum, .357 Magnum, and .22 LR. The .45 ACP or .45 Auto as some call it is after 87 years arguably still the best defensive caliber. And when combined with a M-1911 style pistol is one of the best packages for defense devised. The .45 ACP is however not a premier hunting caliber, it has a trajectory like a watermelon, and in unaccurized handguns is generally not a stellar performer on targets, Although this is when the package works the most reliably, when slightly loose, there is space for crud to go and not jam up the works. But for a defensive handgun and caliber there is no other choice for many people.
The 9mm Parabellum an even older caliber than the .45 ACP, has some of the best handguns in the world chambered for it, and is also one of the better defensive choices. But for hunting is leaves a lot to be desired. The same characteristics that make it a fine defensive load kill its performance on game. The bullet in its defensive form tends to blow up before penetrating far enough on game and in its military FMJ form just drills a hole right through without doing enough damage. Keep this one for defensive use generally.
The .357 Magnum, the one that started it all. Designed in the 1930ís this is still the best general cartridge available. It does it all, with full power 158gr. loads it will take a deer or bear if the hunter does his part, with 125 gr. JHPís it is still the most reliable and effective defensive caliber around, and with target loads it can take small game with the best of them. Not to forget snake shot, for those hated pests at close range. In a good quality revolver with a 4" barrel the .357 Magnum is probably the best choice, all around. You can do almost anything with it. Concealed carry where legal, hunting is not out of the question, and defense, not a problem.
And the .22LR again, once again the .22 makes an appearance as a general cartridge, it works well here for hunting, target shooting for big bore practice and maybe defense if you have nothing else. Here a nice quality .22 Auto or revolver makes a choice trail companion, and in many areas of the country there is no need for a larger caliber, no dangerous animals, no predatory people to speak of, and the .22 makes its home here. The .22 handgun is generally extremely accurate, although many people cannot use one well enough to see that, the .22 makes for cheap practice so they can get better. It has been used to take all sorts of game in survival situations including deer. The semi-automatics generally get the nod here, size consideration, magazine capacity, better grip angle to bore center, and cost.
Many of the finer semi-automatics cost less than a comparable revolver. The fine Ruger MK II models are prime examples here, reasonable weight, good to excellent accuracy and simple manufacture as well as low cost. The Browning Buckmark is another that fits the bill, and has nearly identical controls to the popular M-1911 series handguns.
Several other handguns deserve mention, the Smith & Wesson K-22 or M-17 as it is now called and the Ruger Single-Six. Both are reliable revolvers, the Ruger getting the nod for pure ruggedness, while the Smith & Wesson has all of the refinements that the Ruger lacks.
Now back to Shotguns. As I mentioned before these weapons have one real fault, the ammo. It is heavy, 1 oz.+ per round, and not cheap, about $5.00 for 25 for standard birdshot. On the other hand there is nothing else that will do what a shotgun can. For home defense there is nothing better, almost always if you hit something with a shotgun at close range such as across a room it falls down and doesnít get up. In the game fields it can take small game and fowl, and in a survival situation you could sluice an entire covey of birds at once on the ground , and with buckshot at close range or a deer slug you could take big game animals pretty reliably.
A good shotgun also costs considerably less than a handgun, so the purchase of one if needed shouldnít be a problem. Several discount stores sell New England Firearms single shot shotguns at rock bottom prices. These are reliable, rugged, simple to operate weapons that cost well under $100.00. These discount stores also sell Remington 870 Express model shotguns with both a standard barrel and a rifle sighted deer slug barrel for under $300.00 generally, the deer barrel being used for home defense as well as hunting. A good 12 gauge shotgun cannot be ignored as many lawbreakers have found out over the years. Stick with 12 gauge as the ammunition is the most plentiful.
To sum up this article in a few sentences it would have to be, look at what you may need, plan accordingly. Purchase the best quality you can afford, quality lasts. Purchase lots of ammunition especially .22, it makes good barter goods if nothing else. And practice.
Good Luck Hope You Never Need It.