If you are prepping for the zombie apocalypse or the aftermath of a typhoon, self-defense is a vital part of surviving any catastrophe. Each has their choice as to what counts as the best survival tool. History has proven the weapon to be the best all-purpose firearm to face a range of combat and self-defense scenarios.
However, a rifle can only be part of what many preppers refer to as a layered defense scheme. It doesn’t matter whether you are bugging out or sheltering, the need to arm yourself with a range of weaponry, self-defense skills and training is the same. With that said, if you could have just one weapon in a survival situation it should be a quality rifle.
While handguns and shotguns are also to be considered, a rifle will give you the most flexibility for handling a range of post-disaster needs from hunting to perimeter protection. However, the choices and combinations when it comes to choosing a survival rifle are virtually infinite and even the most enthusiastic hunters and preppers fail to select a favorite.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to your own personal desires and needs, since there is no such thing as the ultimate survival rifle. Below we will feature a variety of rifles that are widely considered to be among the best all-purpose weapons to have on hand when SHTF.
Related: 6 Best Guns to Have After an EMP
The AR-15, which is manufactured by hundreds of individual companies and comes in a number of types, is one of the most commonly used rifles in the world. The semi-automatic AR-15 was designed by Armalite, who then sold the concept to Colt in the early 1960s. The modified fully-automatic Colt AR-15 has become the standard infantry weapon of the US Military and has since become a staple of military, law enforcement, and civilian communities alike.
The AR’s success comes from its precision, reliability, and almost infinite levels of customization – thanks to its modular nature and two-piece receiver. The gun is capable of firing either 5.56x44mm or .223 caliber rounds, usually delivered from a 30-round magazine. Both Armalite and Colt also produce semi-automatic models of the AR for civilian purchase, but other common manufacturers include DPMS, Smith & Wesson, Remington, and Bushmaster.
One of the strongest start-up AR-15s for survival purposes is the DPMS Sportical, which will only set you back around $700. It’s a lightweight and ready-to-shoot carbine-style AR with a 16-inch barrel and adjustable stock capable of shooting either 5.56 or .223 rounds. Like most ARs, it can be updated with an endless assortment of accessories to accommodate your post-disaster survival needs.
Like the AR-15, the AK-47 is one of the most common rifles in the world, and easily one of the most widely known. The rifle has seen action all over the globe and is admired for its ability to endure use and abuse in nearly any terrain, environments, or battle scenario. An AK-47 can be buried in water or mud, go through a sandstorm, or fall off a cliff and still shoot without fail.
That’s because unlike most modern-day tactical rifles, the 60-year old structure of the AK employs loosely fitting moving parts that give it the capacity to withstand abuse. The tradeoff is relatively poor accuracy, but a 30-round magazine of 7.62x39mm ammunition should be more than enough to reach your target in a survival standoff. If not, the sheer intimidation of the gun’s presence and rate of fire would be enough to give a strong warning to your attacker not to mess with you.
Though AK-47 is widely considered a “bad guy” gun, the stereotype attached to it in normal times can come as an advantage during a disaster. Basic models can be bought for around $500, even ammunition is cheap and plentiful. AKs are great considerations for preppers on a budget who want to send a strong message to anyone who wants to hurt them when SHTF.
3. M1 Carbine
Though it hasn’t seen active service in combat since Vietnam, the M1 Carbine was for years considered to be one of the best combat rifles in the world. Designed as a more compact and lightweighted variant of the M1 Garand, a WWII infantry staple, the M1 Carbine was an extremely versatile rifle that had high effect and tremendous accuracy, particularly at mid-range.
To that reason, the M1 Carbine still serves as a great all-purpose rifle. The norm comes with a 15-round magazine of .30-caliber bullets, which aren’t the best for taking down targets at a distance, but serve their purpose at closer ranges and in hunting scenarios.
A new take on the M1 Carbine, the AOM130, is available from Auto Ordinance for around $800. The rifle, manufactured in the USA at Kahr Arm’s Worcester, MA factory, weighs in at just 5.4-pounds and features an 18-inch barrel and traditional walnut stock.
Unfortunately, the original models from WWII and Korea are getting harder to come by, which is unfortunate considering the fact that even the old ones are still battle-ready anytime. However, .30-caliber ammunition is becoming increasingly more costly and harder to come across making the M1 Carbine what is potentially its only drawback as a modern-day survival rifle.
4. Ruger 10/22
Some preppers insist upon arming themselves with the latest and greatest tactical firearms with the most firepower. Others believe simple is better and consider the .22-caliber Long Rifle (LR) to be the best and the only rifle you need to survive any catastrophe. If you hold to the above theory, there are few better choices than the Ruger 10/22.
Like most quality .22 LRs, the Ruger 10/22 is the ideal rifle for those new to shooting and a fantastic starting gun for children and young adult shooters. The .22-caliber rimfire ammunition doesn’t offer any kickback or recoil, but can strike targets at 100-yards with deadly accuracy and ease. The carbine-style rifle comes in stock with a 10-round rotary magazine that sits flush with the stock of the gun, helping to give it a lower profile and more convenient carry.
One of the greatest benefits of a .22-rimfire long rifle is the availability and affordability of ammunition. This will encourage you to enjoy endless days of target shooting before SHTF and the ability to stockpile plenty of backup rounds to have on hand when disaster hits. Fortunately, ammunition costs shouldn’t be much of a problem to begin with, since the gun itself will only set you back a few hundred bucks. From there you can customize and accessorize your Ruger to meet your unique survival needs.
5. Marlin 1985 GS
If you want a compact rifle with big stopping power that will take down nearly every kind of game in any kind of weather, look no further than the lever-action Marlin 1985 GS. Despite the presence of a menacing big-game hunter, which is indeed, the 1985 GS only measures 37-inches overall and weighs only 7-pounds.
At 18.5-inches, the barrel of the gun is just marginally larger than a carbine-style rifle, but the .45.70 Gov’t issued rounds over stopping power unlike most weapons of its size. If you’re up against a crowd of angry looters, zombies, or a wild bear, the Marlin 1985 GS will have no problem mowing down anything in its way.
In addition to its sheer stopping ability, the rifle classic employs a classic walnut and stainless steel design that’s both aesthetically appealing and functional for battling against corrosion in rough weather. The gun starts at around $650, a fair price to pay for a rifle that’s sure to put food on the table and stop enemies in their tracks when the going gets tough.
6. Henry Arms AR-7
The term “survival rifle” was originally named for certain weapons intended to be kept in the cockpits of military aircraft when a pilot was shot down in enemy territory.
The gun needed to be small, and capable of taking down both wild game and enemy combatants with reliability and accuracy. To that tune, the US military adopted the Springfield Armory M6 Scout as their rifle of choice for aircraft pilots. This collapsible gun featured two barrels that fired both .22 LR and .410 shotgun rounds giving it additional flexibility.
Though the Scout may still be considered a good survival rifle today, a more modern take on the survival rifle can be found in the form of the Henry Arms AR-7. The AR-7 weighs a mere 3.5-pounds and measures only 16-5-inches when broken down, making it suitable for concealed carry in a bug out bag, vehicle, or even underneath your jacket.
The gun comes with two 8-round magazines for chambering .22 LR ammunition, which is one of the best and most readily available all-purpose survival rounds. The gun will only cost you around $280 and can act as either your main or backup survival rifle.
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The rifles featured above by no way represent a comprehensive list of the best all-purpose survival rifles. There is a near infinite variety of choices to choose from, many of which have their supporters and represent different needs in the military, law enforcement, hunting, and target shooting culture.
If you want to have the best chances of surviving a disaster scenario, you must arm yourself with a firearm that you feel comfortable firing at both two-legged and four-legged targets to defend and provide for yourself.
The choices above were chosen for their popularity, flexibility, affordability, and ability to be managed by shooters of all levels. The decision comes down to you, but in the end the best survival rifle is the one you have with you, the one you have ammunition for, and the one you’re qualified to shoot effectively.