A survival firearm is for when things have gone really, really wrong. Nuclear winter, natural disaster, aliens, zombies, that kind of thing. But what is the best survival rifle?
While your normal SHTF guns will be useful, survival rifles look to not only help defend yourself but also give you a solid option to help feed yourself too.
Because a rifle can be used to hunt small or medium-sized game. It can also protect you from the larger animals, including those on two legs. Regardless of the situation, a survival rifle is always an ideal weapon for hunting and defending yourself and your family.
Rifles we’ll cover:
- Ruger 10/22 .22 LR Takedown: Semiautomatic, the most popular rimfire rifle
- Bergara B-14 Ridge Rifle: Bolt-action, accurate for long-range
- Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle: Semiauto, Blowback-operated
- Chiappa Little Badger: Folding break-action, great for hunting small game
- Savage Model 42 Takedown Compact: Break-action, lightweight (2.9 pounds)
- Daniel Defense MK18 Pistol Law Tactical: Semiauto, famous for its removable barrel
- Mossberg 500 Combo Field/Security Pump Shotgun: Semiauto, Blowback-operated, can be used with 9mm ammo
BONUS OFFER: Get your free shooting range targets to print at home!
Get your free targets to print at home!
What to Look for in a Survival Rifle
Some of the most important features to look for in a survival rifle are:
- Reliable and accurate: It must be built durable, tough, and able to resist the enviorment. A good survival rifle should be accurate within the range it’s designed for. Compactness or the ability to fold/takedown quickly is a huge plus.
- Lightweight and compact: Firearms can be heavy. You need to save weight to carry food, water, and ammunition. And the less weight and volume you have to carry the easier your life will be. So, make sure your survival rifle is lightweight and easy to stow.
Choosing a survival rifle can be overwhelming because of the array of similar-style guns in the market. I’ve handled quite a few guns and found the task daunting as well.
But in the end, we managed to make a list of the best makes and models that check the boxes for the best survival rifle. Let’s begin with some of their basic specs:
|Ruger 10/22 .22 LR Takedown||Semiautomatic||4.6 pounds||.22 LR||10-, 15-, 25- rounds||$439-$629|
|Bergara B-14 Ridge Rifle||Bolt-action||7.9 pounds||.308 Win||4 + 1 rounds||$750|
|Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle||Semiauto, Blowback-operated||3.5 pounds||.22 LR||8 + 1 rounds||$300|
|Chiappa Little Badger||Folding break-action||2.9 pounds||.22LR, .17HMR, .22 Magnum||1 round||$243|
|Savage Model 42 Takedown Compact||Break-action||4.65 pounds||.22 (Top barrel), .410 (Bottom barrel)||1 round||$430|
|Daniel Defense DDM4 VP (Law Tactical)||Semiautomatic||5.5 pounds||.22 Magnum, .17 HMR, .22 LR, 9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10mm, .460 Rowland||Varies (uses Glock-pattern magazines)||$800|
|Mossberg 500 Combo Field/Security Pump Shotgun||Pump-action||7.5 pounds||12ga||5+1||$390|
Ruger 10/22 .22 LR Takedown
|Length||16.12 inches to 18.5 inches|
|Rounds||10, 15, and 25|
- Reliable and affordable
- Great shooting power and accuracy
- Minimal recoil
- Great for short-range shooting only
- The trigger doesn’t break smoothly
The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most American guns you can buy. By far the most popular .22 LR semi-auto rifle ever made, the 10/22 is a classic gun that never goes out of style.
For a survival rifle, you might think .22 LR is too weak. And in a lot of cases, it is. While you can technically shoot deer with it, it’s by far one of the worst options.
That said, in an end-of-the-world type setting — .22 LR is lightweight, easy to carry, easy to find, and will take small game while preserving as much meat as possible. A diet of squirrel and rabbit isn’t bad and will be a lot easier than big game.
Since the 10/22 comes in literally over a dozen styles and models, we recommend the takedown version for a survival rifle. These are super accurate, lightweight, and breaking them down makes for a very compact rifle.
Bergara B-14 Ridge Rifle
|Capacity||4 + 1|
- Reliable and durable
- Great power for large game
- Exceptional accuracy especially for long-range shooting
- Not cheap
- Best at longer ranges, not great up close
If you’re looking for something that will drop deer, bear, elk, and more — a good bolt action rifle is what you should look at.
Honestly, there are a ton of options in this category. Rifles from Tikka, Savage, Howa, Springfield and a dozen custom actions all get the job done and are reliable options.
One name missing from that list is Remington. Long before their bankruptcy, Remington stopped making quality firearms. Now with their being sold off and the production lines restarted, it’s too early to tell if the new owners have solved the problems yet.
However, the R700 is by far the most common and best footprint you can get a rifle in. Because of that, we strongly recommend the Bergara B-14 as our best survival rifle of choice. These are outstanding rifles that are built using an R700 footprint making aftermarket parts much easier to get.
Get it in something like .308 Win or .300 Win Mag and you have a solid rifle that can take game at long range.
That said, a bolt rifle isn’t my top pick for 2-legged threats. Keep your head on a swivel.
Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 Rifle
|Rounds||8 + 1|
The Henry U.S. Survival rifle is a reliable firearm that was first used by the Air Force pilots in the early 1950s.
It’s incredibly lightweight at 3.5 pounds and can easily disassemble and store all parts in the hollow stock. The stock is made of ABS plastic and is pretty durable.
Moreover, it floats even fully loaded with the rest of the rifle parts! The stock is not really watertight. Fortunately, the rifle’s steel parts are Teflon-coated which provides corrosion resistance.
Moreover, it’s accurate, reliable, compact and it comes with two eight-round magazines. It also comes in three variants â Black, True Timber Kanati Camo, and True Timber Viper Western Camo.
For the definitive survival rifle, this is awesome.
- Great accuracy
- Reliable survival rifle
- Lightweight, compact, and it floats
- Stock is long, making the rifle less ergonomic
- The trigger is not smooth
Chiappa Little Badger
|Calibers||.22 LR, .17 HMR, .22 Magnum|
The Chiappa Little Badger is a break-open action, single-shot rifle. It consists of a small wire stick, a receiver, and a barrel.
It’s also the simplest, lightest, and most affordable rifle on this list. Additionally, you can carry this 2.9-pound rifle anywhere. Fold it in half and stow it in a manageable size, and you’re ready to go.
The Chiappa Little Badger comes in .22 LR and .22 WMR calibers. It also comes equipped with an M1 carbine-style front and rear sight. It’s highly customizable with its four Picatinny rails.
In addition, you can add scopes and any other accessories you like. Furthermore, it’s uncomplicated to use and great for hunting game meat. Although it’s not a rapid-fire weapon, its compact features and high power make it viable as a survival weapon.
- Simple design is easy to use
- Compact and lightweight
- Cheap price
- One round per shot capacity only
BONUS OFFER: Get your free shooting range targets to print at home!
Get your free targets to print at home!
Savage Model 42 Takedown Compact
|Caliber||.22 (Top barrel), .410 (Bottom barrel)|
The Savage Model 42 Takedown is great for youngsters and small-framed folks.
This break-action, hammer-fired rifle is accurate for medium-range shooting and has amazing accuracy.
The stock is made of polymer, which makes this gun lightweight at 4.65 pounds. Additionally, the Savage Model 42 Takedown has a crisp trigger and a rubber recoil pad.
It also has an ergonomic foregrip with ambidextrous thumb grooves. You can easily disassemble it with one push of a button.
The upper barrel fires .22 LR rounds while the bottom barrel fires .410 bore shot shells.
While .410 bore isn’t our favorite, it’s still a shotgun that gives you some good options for defense and hunting.
Plus, .22 LR is perfect for small game.
- Great for beginners, youngsters, and small-framed shooters
- Lightweight and compact
- Can be disassembled easily by pushing a button for maintenance and cleaning
- Can be quite noisy when shooting with it
- Some parts are made of mediocre-quality plastic materials
- Only one round capacity
Daniel Defense MK18 Pistol Law Tactical
|Length||30" (20" folded)|
- Compact and reliable
- 10.3″ barrel
- Folds down for even easier storage
- Lots of firepower in a small package
Daniel Defense is one of the gold standards when it comes to great AR-15 rifles and pistols.
While legally a pistol, this MK18 comes with an SB Tactical SOB Pistol Stabilizing Brace and a Law Tactical Folding adaptor. These combined give you a rock-solid platform to shoot with and the ability to fold the brace out of the way for even more compact storage.
When it comes to firepower in a small size, you can’t beat this. While 5.56 NATO isn’t the best for large game animals, it will knock down a deer at 200 yards no problem. When the world has gone upside down, a good AR-15 is a powerful argument.
Mossberg 500 Combo Field/Security Pump Shotgun
- Two barrels, 18″ and 28″
- Wide range of ammo choices
- Affordable price
- Limited magazine
- Generally close range weapon
Mossberg has a long history of making some outstanding shotguns that everyone can afford. Since Remington went down the tubes, I think it’s safe to say that Mossberg has taken the crown as the king of American shotguns.
The Mossberg 500 Field/Security is an outstanding combo that gives you a Mossberg 500 with both a 28″ and a 18″ barrel.
Switching barrels on a shotgun is pretty easy and takes little more than field stripping the gun. Having two barrels to start off with gives you a huge range of options with your shotgun.
Long barrel and birdshot, perfect for upland game.
Long barrel and slugs, perfect for deer in the woods.
Short barrel and buckshot, the final word in home defense.
If you want a firearm that lets you cover a wide range of problems and options, you can’t go wrong with this set up.
That’s it for the best survival rifles that you can find in the market. They are all reliable and accurate, as well as lightweight and compact. Pick one of these and you should be as happy with your weapon as I’ve been with my current survival rifle.
Most importantly, don’t forget to practice, practice, and practice some more! You’ll want to know how to get the most out of it the day you really need it.
Now, are you still not sure what caliber to choose? Check out our guide about Rifle Calibers [Ultimate Guide].
I’m all for a good rifle as a survival tool, and you explained the many benefits in your article, I’d certainly not discount the shotgun though. I actually believe I’d choose a 12 gauge over a rifle as a survival weapon. A shot gun is just so versatile. You can defend yourself and hunt as easy or better so with a 12 gauge. And as far as hunting, the shotgun allows for such a wide variety of game just by changing what type of round you load into it. I think you picked some great rifles in this list…another great article!