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9 ‘Survival Guns’ That Will Keep You Alive In Any Situation

9 'Survival Guns' That Will Keep You Alive In Any Situation

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There are countless stories of folks getting stranded in the wilderness unarmed and with few supplies. And in many cases, their lack of preparation cost them their lives. There also are many stories of people who get lost and end up surviving. What’s the difference between those who survive and those who don’t? The vast majority of people who survived were sportsmen who came prepared with knowledge and supplies.

One tool for survival which can make the difference between life and death is the firearm. Food, defense and signaling are all possible with a good gun.

Here are my top picks for survival firearms.


1. Glock 17/19

The Glock has arguably the finest reputation in the handgun world for reliability. I have carried a Glock 19 daily for a long time. It has never once failed me — not once. The 9mm is not a choice chambering for bear defense, but for hunting and defense against smaller critters it is plenty adequate. Magazine capacity is excellent with 15-round magazines standard for the Glock 19, and 17-round magazines for the Glock 17. If you carry a couple extra magazines you should have plenty of ammunition to get you through. The Glock safe-action trigger may unnerve newer shooters, but it is completely safe if you practice gun safety.

2. Springfield XD Service model or XDM

Springfield has built an excellent polymer framed handgun in the XD model. The XD, like a Glock, has an excellent reputation for reliability. The XD features a grip safety similar to those found on 1911 model handguns and it has a Glock style trigger.

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XDs are available in many different chamberings, including the big three for auto pistols: 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.  Magazine capacity differs slightly between the service model and the XDM, but is comparable to a Glock.

3. Smith and Wesson Model 29

Go ahead and make your day. If you are in bear country and in need of a handgun that will give you a fighting chance against a brown or grizzly bear, my go-to handgun is a Smith & Wesson 29 chambered in .44 Magnum. Recoil is stout and most new shooters will shy away from such firepower.

4. Taurus Judge

The huge advantage of the Taurus Judge is the ability to shoot both .45 Long colt and .410 shot shells, including slugs, 00 Buck and bird shot. This gives you a wide variety of munitions and you will only be limited by what you pack with you.

5. .22 Pistol

.22I also want to say that having a .22 pistol in your pack is a great tool for harvesting small game for sustenance. Semi-auto or revolver — anything that is accurate to 20 yards and allows you to hit baseball-sized targets with regular consistency is a good pick.


6. Remington 870 or Mossberg 500

This is kind of a no-brainer, and survival shotguns have been argued to death in article after article. Either one of these shotguns will do the trick. Both are reliable and I wouldn’t hesitate to use either. In bear country, slugs and 00 Buck is the ticket, and you can keep shot shells in your pocket for small game. A slug from a .12 gauge will handle any big game in the world under 75 yards. It has put down elephants, hippos, water buffalo, polar bear and Kodiak bear. You will be limited to range, but not on firepower.


If you are out elk hunting and you get lost, you’ll be stuck with your elk rifle. A .30-06, .270 or just about any big game rifle makes a fine survival firearm as long as it is reliable, accurate and has some extra ammunition. I’m not going to list hunting rifles here, as the list would be longer than my arm. But my top picks for hunting rifles are both the Remington 700 and the Savage 11. Both are outstanding rifles. They would do well in a survival situation and are very simple in their operation and upkeep.

7. Marlin 1895G

The 1895 guide gun fires a .45-70 projectile. The .45-70 is a very old and very large hunk of lead that has been in use since the 1870s. With the right loads, it will put a grizzly in its place, put down a bison and bring home the bacon with any large game in North America. You’ll be limited to about 150 yards at most.

8. Ruger 10-22

The perfect lightweight carbine for small game is a great choice if you are not in grizzly country.  The rifle is chambered in .22 long rifle or .22 WMR. This small game rifle is utterly reliable, uses a 10 shot magazine and can be had for about $230.

9. AK-47

The US semi-auto AK variants on the market are fine choices for survival. I would rather have an AK than an AR in a survival situation, as there are fewer moving parts. The 7.62x39mm round is capable of taking up to deer-sized game. It is perfect for a truck gun or in a disaster scenario. The rifle feeds from a 30-round, detachable magazine and has plenty of firepower.

What firearms would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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  1. If you have a Glock , XD, or 1911, you can always get a Mech Tech conversion that turns the handgun into a carbine giving you greater distance into the 100 yrd range.

  2. Sure, Glocks and Springfield XDs are reliable – But then, So is a Slingshot. For a Handgun, you cannot Beat a Beretta 92G (for 9X19 Luger), S&W M&P 45 (for .45 ACP), and CZ 75s and CAI SDs for 9X19 (9mms) also. For Heavy Hitting, I carry my S&W 29 in .41 Mag – Just as Hard hitting as a .44, but more accurate AND Easier to shoot. There are Also 10 or more great Carbines firing pistol cartridges.

  3. One correction. You mentioned the Ruger 10/22 as being in 22 long rifle or .22 mag. The 10/22 is NOT offered in .22 mag. Ruger, at one time, did offer it in that caliber but experienced so much difficulty with mis-feeding when the rifle was fired that the 10/22mag was phased out. I know this because I owned a Ruger 10/22 mag for years. I was keeping it as a gift for my son when he grew up. I heard that the Ruger 10/22 mag had reliability problems, so I took mine out and fired 9 rounds through it. The rifle jammed every third round. I had to send it back to the Ruger factory and they replaced it with a bolt action .22 mag, which functions quite well, as could be expected. To my knowledge, Ruger never has attempted to make a .22 mag. in semi-auto since then. Thanks. dvp

  4. A further addition, is the Ruger Mini-30 rifle, chambered in 7.62 x 39 (same as AK47. I have owned one for years and routinely take it out deer hunting. Accuracy is pretty reasonable.

  5. I am a big fan and agree with the AK47 comments. Get a European, or Chinese made
    model and you can depend on them for generations.

    • Catherine Klimenkov

      If you want a AK-47 get a Soviet block version due to the berral chrome lined and thus will stand up better to use and abuse. I talked to a gunsmith who agreed with me as he told me he has had to change many berrals on the Chineese AK-47’s many time due to wear.

  6. One item I would add to the list is a good multi-pump or NitroPiston Air Rifle chambered in .22 pellets. It would be ideal for a shtf situation, because you can get ammo cheap and it is plentiful, and it would quietly take down small game in a survival situation. Remember, the air for the rifle is always available and it’s free.

  7. SKS over a AK as there is no mags to loose or get damaged !

    Marlin 60 or other tube fed 22 as no mags to loose or get damaged !

    Revolver over a auto as there are no mags to loose or get damaged !

  8. I noticed right off the bat that the first gun mentioned is the Glock, which is fine. Glock is a decent gun, but in my humble opinion, over-rated. The Springfield XD models are considered by some to be superior to the Austrian offering. If we could get the Glock for what they are sold to the Austrian army for ($85 USD) I would consider it perfect. I have a suggestion for the list, two additions, actually. All of the guns listed are fine for their price, and only a small portion are affordable for many people. I saw something in a related article about used guns. Maybe I am a bit of a gun snob as well, but i feel about a used gun like I do a used car. you are buying someone else’s problems. For a handgun, I would add the Hi-Point pistol in one of the three calibers, 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. I know how some people talk about the Hi-Point, like the NOPD officer on Nightwatch, calling a Hi-Point the world’s worst gun. If he ever took the time to try one out, he would probably buy one. The hi-Point guns, pistol or carbine are well known among people who have an open mind as a very reliable weapon.. I bought a forty caliber pistol and a forty caliber carbine for less than an XD in .40 would have cost. The carbine is just as reliable as the pitol, and both guns reliably feed whatever ammo you shove in the magazine. In addition, the pistol and carbine of the same caliber use the same magazine. The idea is not new, cowboys often carried a handgun and rifle in the same caliber, even though they loaded differently. Hi-Point also has one of the very best warranties in the world, repair or replacement, virtually no questions asked. If I were rich, I guess I would not mind having a gun that cost upwards of a thousand dollars. But I would rather buy two guns for a lot less and use the difference for ammo. Other than my observation, a good article. Some inexpensive guns make great boat anchors, but the Hi-Point goes bang every time you push the go button.

    • Allen you’re right about guns and cars but remember, everybody drives a used car and after you pull the trigger the first time you’re firing a used gun.

      • USMarine_Then_Now

        My comment is as some others, in that what feels good to your hand, works for you! I use a Glock 19 made in America, that handles any 9mm round I throw at it! NATO works great, and I haven’t had any trouble from it! I carry at least 3 mags with it, 2 filled with hollow points which are best for “in a crowded room” situation, and 1 filled with NATO FMJ’s!
        I also have an M-4 with several mags, holding from LAP’s to green combat loads. Some are filled with .223’s and the others have .556NATO in them!
        Also, when it comes right down to it, a good all around survival rifle in .22LR hollow point is exceptional! The one I have is an AR-7 survival rifle! And YES that’s what it’s called for good reason! The entire weapon breaks down into the stock, floats, and is fairly accurate close up! When in the stock, or put together, the rifle floats if dropped into the lake! I don’t recommend bear hunting with it, but when you get caught out in the forest and need food, or protection, it’s a great piece to have. They were originally made (as I understand it) by Charter Arms for Navy Seals, but can be had from Henry today.

  9. Not to be a S. A., but the best survival gun is the one you already have.

  10. Glocks used to be great, but the around 2011 the company started having quality control issues, especially with 9mm guns. FTE and brass-to-face are common. If you want a Glock, the G21 Gen 4 is probably your best bet right now.

    The HK45 and HK P30 are probably the most reliable semi-auto pistols made in .45 and 9mm. Pricey, but if you want the best, get one of those and break it in with full-power ammo for a few hundred rounds.

    A Ruger GP100 is about as bomb-proof as handguns get. They rarely break parts and will probably last forever, especially if you mainly stick to shooting .38 +P.

  11. The HI POINT CARBINES are a great match for the pistol calibers, 999, 4095 and the 4595
    in… 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP, respectively! Each can be had for under $300, base models.
    These work very very well, feed reliably, and all handle the +P versions in their calibers.

  12. What are the odds of a gun helping you survive? How about those of injuring or killing your friend or yourself? What proportion of those who survived wilderness experiences had guns with them compared to those who did not?

  13. Both Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 are good shotguns. Some people even decide to get both 🙂 Just compare them and get what you like.

  14. Gents, I think you possibly over looked a short rifle that can shoot 38 shot, 38 long, 38 s&w, 357mag & in a pinch 9mm one shot at a time in a reliable lever action would be a great choice

  15. I have carried a Glock 20 in 10mm for a number of years in the Rockies of Utah. All kinds of game in the forest can present a number of challenges. The Buffalo Bore 10mm is a power house and the recoil is manageable (more so than my Model 29 S&W) I’m not saying the 10mm is better, only that it is big medicine on your hip or shoulder holster. With two extra mags, that’s 45 rounds. It’ll shoot 40 S&W cartridges as well. For smaller game. I generally have the Glock 20 on my hip (or shoulder holster) and a Ruger SA .22 in my pack. With a good first aid kit, and freeze dried food, your chances in the mountains go up significantly.

  16. Nice article Zach Dunn, but while not meaning to nitpick or anything, the Ruger 10/22 can be provided with larger capacity magazines not to mention all the stocks and other accessories for that rifle. And the AK-47 like many other semiautos can use 10, 20 and 30 round magazines or even drum magazines. Regardless of what they are sold with or how they’re full-auto counterparts are issued to soldiers, we have some options or choices.
    I know you’re aware of these things, but for the sake of those who are new to guns or have less knowledge about them, I feel it’s less confusing, more educational and accurate to mention such things. I did take into account that you were talking about off the shelf purchases and not picking and choosing parts or buying a custom built weapon.

    Lastly, I don’t disagree with your choices…. but there are other rifles and pistols that I have heard are worthy or may qualify such as the Ruger GP100, Marlin Camp Carbine, .30 caliber Ruger, and others. There are 1001’s of models and for every popular firearm there seems to be a clone or counter part built by another company. Nobody is wrong as long as the facts are accepted about a firearm’s reliabilty and capabilities. Some of the best guns have been plagued by problems which can be remedied and some never.

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