When it comes to gathering food in a survival situation, a significant component is going to be hunting. Hunting isn’t easy, but its a lot harder if you go with the wrong tools. Today we are going to talk the right tools. And by tools, I mean guns and calibers. I’ve chosen my top three choices, but I’ve also listed an alternative to each. Call it my way of over-delivering.
I chose the 22 LR as my small game round of choice for a few reasons. First off, it’s quite common and at this time easy to find on shelves. It’s a capable little round that’s well suited for getting small game. Another reason is that’s also lightweight. A brick of 500 rounds could fit in a cargo pocket. The rifles are mostly affordable and accessible to find and their small and light nature make them easy for almost anyone to shoot. The downside is the caliber isn’t suited for anything more significant than varmints.
Chiappa Little Badger
The Chiappa Little Badger is everything a survival rimfire rifle should be. It’s lightweight, super handy and folds in half. This mini rifle sports a threaded barrel for a suppressor, adjustable sights and one of the barest bone designs I’ve ever seen. The addition of Picatinny rail allows shooters to mount a simple red dot if the sights aren’t doing it for them.
The rifle is as skimpy as it gets. It weighs under 3 pounds and folds into a super compact package. It comes in 22 LR, 22 Magnum and 17 HMR. For survival purposes, I’d go with the 22 LR model due to ammunition availability and how cheap 22 LR ammo is. The rifle’s design makes it perfect for the small game like squirrels, rabbits and birds on the ground. Naturally, when stomachs start grumbling, you won’t be so picky, and this gun has no issues with possums, raccoons, and other small, nontraditional food game.
The gun is hammer fired and a single shot. The simple design aids in reliability and you don’t have to worry about malfunctions. When the barrel is broken open, the ejector pushes the round upwards and makes it easy to pull out. This is a must for cold environments where you are wearing gloves. Trying to pry out teeny tiny 22 shells without an ejector is a significant hassle.
The rifle has a few downsides. First, this will never be a gun you’ll ever feel super comfortable with. There is no cheek rest, and the stock is indeed minimal. However, the almost zero recoil from rimfire rounds never makes it painful or difficult to shoot.
The Alternative – Ruger 10/22 Takedown
If you want a more “Made in America” option, the Ruger 10/22 has long been the standard in which semi-auto 22s are built. These robust little guns have been around for decades and come in every make and model you could ever dream of. For survival, I’d suggest the Take-Down variant. The Takedown variant allows you to remove the barrel from the receiver and store them separately. This makes it a small package that’s relatively easy to fit in small places.
Ruger is now producing 15 and 25 round capacity magazines that are extremely reliable and just as robust as the guns. These magazines give you a substantial amount of firepower, and, in a pinch, could make the Ruger 10/22 a defensive weapon. It’s not optimum for defensive use, but it works.
As a hunting rifle, it covers all your small game needs and does allow you to take a quick second shot if you need it. Because these rifles are so popular, there are also endless options to customize the gun to your liking. It’s much easier to add an optic than the Chiappa and is a lot more comfortable to shoot. Of course, it’s also bigger and bulkier.
If I could only choose one caliber and weapon for hunting when SHTF, it would be a 12 gauge. I have my own bias, and I live in the swamps and not the mountains, so that plays a role too. The round is insanely versatile and can be used to kill bear, deer, as well as birds and squirrels. 12 gauge is a powerful close-range round that is also incredibly common and easy to find. Downsides include a short effective range compared to a rifle, sharp recoil and heavy ammo.
The Mossberg 500 is America’s shotgun. The gun has been pumping out of New Haven since 1960 and has been used by hunters, trap shooters, police officers and Marines. This pump action shotgun is well proven for getting game of all kinds. Taking advantage of shotgun ammo versatility will allow you to take ducks in the morning and deer in the evening. The Mossberg 500 is a pump action shotgun that has a capacity of anywhere from 3 to 9 rounds depending on the option chosen. Barrel length can also range between 18.5 to 28 inches on conventional models.
The benefits of a pump action are numerous. As a repeating firearm, it’s very quick to reload, and since it’s manually operated there is less room for failure. Another benefit to a manually operated gun is that it can handle any light loads or reduced recoil loads without stuttering.
I’d recommend something in the middle or even go with an 18.5-inch model. You’ll lose sight radius, but have a more compact package. If birds are a significant source of food for you, then a longer barrel may be a better option for taking the swing and follow through needed for bird hunting.
The Mossberg 500 uses an aluminum receiver that helps reduce weight, and the lighter models can weigh only 7.5 pounds. The Mossberg 500 can even be easily converted into a slug gun with a rifles barrel, and cantilever scope mount as well a black powder muzzle loader with a simple barrel swap. The gun is another model that can be converted and customized to an insane degree.
The downsides are of course the shotgun’s short range and sharp recoil. It’s certainly a weapon perfect some environments and terrible for others.
The Alternative – Single Shot Shotgun (H&R)
A single shot shotgun is an efficient choice for a survivalist looking to either trim weight in his packet or keep the weight in his wallet. Any half decent sing shot will work, but I know for a fact the H&R Single shots are well-made, affordable and available. I like the Pardner model and find it to be robust and dependable.
This gun rocks a 28 or 32-inch barrel, but because it’s a single shot it’s only about 43 inches overall. It’s also lightweight at only around five pounds. With the lack of a pump, a magazine tube and big receiver, the gun is svelte and doesn’t take up much room. It’s easy to strap to a pack and forget about.
As a single shot, it can eat everything, from your standard 3 inch magnums to those tiny Aguila Mini Shells, without issue. These are rugged and straightforward guns that are perfect for hunting. When combined with shell inserts you can even convert the weapons to fire 20 gauge and 410 safely. If you aren’t planning to use the shotgun defensively, then the H&R Topper is an excellent choice.
The 308 Winchester
When it comes to rifles, you have hundreds of different calibers. The 308 is my choice for a few reasons. First, it is a powerful round that can reach out and touch a target. It excels with medium to even some large game, and it’s super common. New cartridges like 6.5 Creedmore are great but haven’t reached the same level of commonality as the 308. The 308 Winchester is a game-getter, and there are plenty of affordable FMJ and purpose-built hunting rounds floating around
The AR-10 is the big brother to the AR-15. This full powered semi-automatic rifle is magazine fed and is an outstanding hunting rifle. One of the benefits of this platform is it could be a great defensive weapon as well. A good number of companies produce AR-10s, and the DPMS models are some of the most affordable, but I have a preference for the Stag Arms 10S model.
As an AR platform, there are lots of accessories, options for upgrades and mounting optics is super simple. With a modern version like the 10S, it’s also easy to mount accessories of all kinds onto the platform. I chose this platform in particular because it’s superbly simple to use, lightweight, and thoroughly modern. In a hunting situation, you have a rapid follow up shot that may be necessary when hunting animals like hogs who tend to travel in herds and be aggressive. The semi-auto design makes it easy to use in close range.
When it comes to bear, maybe one 308 won’t do it, but a handful usually will. In terms of long-range power, the 308 has what it takes to deal death at standard hunting ranges. As a more prominent and heavier round, it’s also less determined when going through light vegetation.
The AR-10’s semi-automatic action also takes some sting out of the recoil of the 308 and with modern muzzle devices, it’s not hard to reduce recoil and muzzle rise even more. The AR, as a platform, is very easy to shoot, aim and point. The design allows you to break the weapon down to a smaller size and make it easy to carry in a pack.
The Alternative – Mossberg MVP
The Mossberg MVP is a simple bolt action rifle that’s thoroughly modern and very precise. If you want a bolt action rifle in 308, the Mossberg MVP is hard to beat. Even though its a bolt action rifle, the gun uses detachable magazines for both the M1AM14 styles rifles and SR25/AR10 magazines. The MVP comes in a variety of different configurations, but I’m partial to the Patrol rifle model.
It uses a shorter 16.25-inch barrel, has a medium profile barrel and is threaded for attaching flash suppressors, compensators and more. The guns weigh 7.5 pounds and have a length of 37.5 inches. The Mossberg MVP is optic’s ready, and Mossberg even has scope combos with Vortex scopes. One of the big reasons I like the Patrol models is the inclusion of iron sights.
Bolt action rifles are manually operated rifles making it extremely reliable and simple to use. It’s slower than a semi-auto, but more precise for more extended range shooting. The MVP is a robust rifle built for dangerous tasks. There are more affordable options, but I find the MVP to be the most robust for the money.
The MVP also comes ready for everything. This includes scopes, slings, suppressors and more. Out of the box, you’ll never need to gunsmith anything. That’s valuable as far as I’m concerned.
There is never a perfect answer for what’s the best hunting tool. That’s why we listed three – well technically six. There are tons of guns out there and maybe none of these are right for you, but they should give you an idea of what works and why it works. I’d love to hear from our readers what you think, what are your caliber choices and what are your top three hunting rifles.