Best Survival Rifles to Survive With

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated 2/28/2024, written by Mike Searson & David Lane

BEST SURVIVAL RIFLES

  • Best “Every Man” Survival Rifle: Ruger 10/22 Take Down
  • Best Retro Survival Rifle: Springfield Armory M6 Scout
  • Best Over/Under Survival Rifle: Savage Model 42 Takedown
  • Best Self-Contained Survival Rifle: Henry AR-7
  • Best 12ga/.22LR Survival Rifle: Chiappa X-Caliber
  • Best 9mm Survival Rifle: Ruger PC Carbine & Charger
  • Editor’s Pick: FoldAR

Call them whatever you want — bug out guns, pocket rifles, get home guns, survival rifles — if you ever need one you’ll be damned glad to have it. There are a variety of them available, and all come close to the same principle.

Each is a compact rifle that can be broken down and stored in a boat, ATV, small plane, or even day pack.

Before we get to the list, we have thing we’d like to clarify.

A survival rifle is not necessarily the same as a truck gun or trunk gun. While they can fulfill that role, somewhat, none of these are really intended as a primary self defense weapon.

Rather they are something small and compact that can be taken afield at need (or relied upon under dire circumstances) to dispatch vermin or harvest subsistence game.

BEST SURVIVAL RIFLES

Ruger 10/22 Take Down

We first looked at this in our sister publication OffGrid. Ruger took what was our favorite 22 lr plinker and made it into a smart little take down rifle that stores away in a pack. Unlike most of the rifles on our list, this one gives you a substantial capacity, is threaded for use with a silencer, and allows the mounting of optics.

Now, the optics part is probably the weakest link in the system. Removing the barrel for take down will undoubtedly change your zero. We recommend a red dot or just factory irons.

Magazines in 10-round and 25-round configurations are available from Ruger for this accurate and reliable carbine.

Springfield Armory M6 Scout

Based on the US Aircrew Survival Weapon, Springfield Armory made a few changes to make this little rifle NFA compliant and consumer friendly.

m6-scout

This over-under rifle-shotgun combination sported 14 in. barrels, with the top barrel chambered in 22 Hornet with the bottom in 410 shotgun. It stored, folded in half, inside a mechanic’s tool bag and used a trigger bar so pilots and crew wearing mittens could fire it if they went down over the Arctic Circle.

Springfield brought the barrels up to 18in., offered stainless as a finish, and made 22 lr barrel an option in place of the Hornet. They also installed a trigger guard over the bar. This prevents it from folding completely, keep someone from getting his fingers inside to actually shoot it. Well, unless the shooter is a six year-old girl or Patrick “Eel” O’Brian.

m6-folded

Long out of production, these rifles suffer one significant deficiency (other than the inability to thread the barrel for suppressors or choke tubes): there is no rear sling swivel, though an M14 rear sling mount bolts on nicely. Oh the front swivel is Euro-sized, as these rifles were built by CZ for Springfield.

It’s a decent concept hampered by an atrocious trigger.

Savage Model 42 Takedown

In all honesty, this is basically the same idea as the M6 Scout, except the Savage Model 42 Takedown is still in production.

Two barrels, the top in .22 LR (or .22 WMR) and the bottom in .410 bore shotgun, the Model 42 is hammer fired, breaks in half at the front of the action, and gives you two single shot options to stay alive.

Both barrels are 20”, and the total weight of the Model 42 is only 6.1 pounds. 

Maybe best of all, MSRP is pretty low at only $560, and Savage even throws in a bug-out bag designed for the Model 42.

Sadly, this only has irons and doesn’t have mounting points for anything else. 

Compact, lightweight, and not expensive.

AR-7

When most of us think of a “Survival rifle” the AR-7 often comes to mind. Helped along by appearances in James Bond movies and other flicks, this lightweight weapon is a 22 caliber rifle that stores inside its own stock. And it floats. This makes it pretty much the epitome of a pocket rifle.

The Air Force issued them to zipper suited sun gods pilots, so they must be good, right?

AR-7 Stowed Away

Not exactly.

First of all, the AR-7 was never actually issued to the US Air Force, although the Israeli Air Force modified and employed a version by Armalite for use as a pilot bail out rifle in the 1970s.

The pre-cursor to the AR-7 was the AR-6 (which looks similar, except the AR-6 was a bolt action chambered in 22 Hornet). While it was selected as an Aircrew Survival Rifle, it never made it to any cockpits. There were simply too many M6 Aircrew Survival Rifles in use.

Armalite was not one to let all that tooling go to waste, however, and rechambered the design in 22 lr. This smaller caliber allowed them to see life in a semi-auto format as opposed to the bolt action.

Camoflauge AR-7

The original Armalites are touted as the best of the breed, with three other incarnations by Charter Arms, Survival Arms and AR-7 Industries being hit or miss. Henry has the newest version out, and it ‘s said to be better designed and constructed with superior materials and QC than earlier Charter Arms version. That form features a Picatinny scope rail and the ability to fit an additional magazine in the stock.

Chiappa X-Caliber

If you took the aforementioned M6 Scout and gave it a decent trigger system with other caliber options at the user’s discretion, you would end up with the Chiappa X-Caliber. Yes, thank you.

It’s an over/under design featuring a rifled 22lr and smoothbore 12ga barrels that allow you to use chamber inserts for other rounds. This gives you a total of 12 different caliber options. That’s the 2 calibers we’ve had for years in the M6, plus eight pistol calibers (.380 , 9 mm, .357Mag/.38SP, .40 S & W, .44 Mag, .45 ACP , .410/.45colt ), and 2 shotgun calibers (.410 and 20 ga).

That’s a lot of numbers.

Chiappa X-Caliber Systeam

Each insert is a purported to be a high quality barrel machined from steel and contoured to fit into the shotgun chamber. Once inserted, the cartridge or shotshell for that insert can be chambered and fired in the shotgun. X-Caliber inserts can be installed and removed without tools or any modification to the shotgun.

Inserts available for 12ga. shotguns include .380acp, 9mm Luger, .38spl/.357mag, 40S&W, .44mag, .45ACP, 410ga/.45Colt and 20ga. Inserts for 20ga shotguns include 9mm luger, .38spl/.357mag, .45ACP and 410ga/.45Colt. The complete kit comes in a high quality nylon case that holds all of the inserts safely and securely. Inserts can also be purchased individually.

Chiappa X Caliber 6

It is, without a doubt, the most versatile rifle on our list.

Ruger PC Carbine & Charger

A 9mm isn’t what I would want to be holding when I come face to face with an angry grizzly, but it’s better than holding only a sharp stick or less. And if we’re being fair, there are a lot of things 9mm can put down just fine. Plus, ammo is hugely available, and you can stack it pretty deep.

Ruger’s PCC and PC Charger answer the question, “What if the 10/22 grew up” since they have very similar controls and feelings to them. 

The PCC comes in takedown models that separate the barrel from the action and stock almost exactly like the 10/22 Takedown does. Using Ruger SR or Glock magazines, you can cram as many rounds into the thing as you want. 

The Charger version is technically a pistol and has a barrel that is only 6.5” long. If you want to attach a pistol brace or, better yet, SBR the Charger and add a folding stock, the rear of the firearm has a 1913 mount perfect for either. 

While I’m not sure why, the Charger features the same takedown as the full-size PCC. Just in case you need to make this already small pop-gun even smaller.

Both versions also come railed with 1913 on top, so attaching a red dot is super simple.

FoldAR

There are several options for making an AR-15 folding. From Cry Havoc Tactical’s barrel takedown system to a Law Folder to make your buttstock folding, these options exist and work really well.

However, one of the best out-of-the-box options comes from FoldAR. As you may have guessed, they make an AR-15 that folds.

Taking an AR-15 and simply folding it in half makes for a compact package with a lot of firepower.

FoldAR rifles feature everything you might expect, a Magpul buttstock, 4150 QPQ “Melonite” Black Nitride barrel, ALG Defense trigger, and M-LOK forends. The BCG is a nice touch since FoldAR uses the Bootleg, Inc. Adjustable Gas BCG, perfect for quickly adjusting your gas. 

FoldAR rifles and pistols come in a wide range of flavors. Personally, I love that they offer a 6.5 Grendel version of their FoldAR rifle. If you want an AR for survival, I think 6.5 Grendel is one of the best options you can have.

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