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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 good survival guns.
Here are my top picks for survival guns.
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.
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
I 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. It uses a 10 shot magazine. And you can get it for about $230.
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.