Fellow gun nuts, tactical enthusiasts, and would-be survivalists often ask me “What do you think the best survival rifle would be?” I always find it difficult to answer that question, because there’s just so many cool options out there! I think what it really comes down to is this- price, reliability, ease of maintenance, caliber, and intended use.
Now, there are a bunch of different articles on the web that talk about the best firearms out there. You will see many parallels between my thoughts and some other survivalist blogs- and that’s for good reason! These firearms just work, flat out. All of the firearms I’m going to mention have been time tested contenders in the market because they get the job done. From combat in the deserts of the Middle East to hunting back home in your good ole’ back 40. The mentality I apply toward survival rifles is this- keep it simple stupid. You don’t wanna go forking out thousands of dollars for some crazy platform that sets you apart from everyone else out there unless you have a very good reason for it. Survival isn’t about being a unique little snowflake, it’s about maximizing your efficiency. Not only do you make yourself a huge target when you have some tricked out futuristic bull pup Robocop firearm but you also run into cross-compatibility issues. If something fails on my rifle I want to be able to replace it as quickly as possible, whether that be by procuring it from a friend or “tactically acquiring” it from an enemy, or even reverse engineering the part myself if I have the proper tools and knowledge to do so! (Which I probably won’t, but I digress.)
So let’s get into it. I’m going to start at the cheapest options possible and work my way up all the way to things your average Joe will likely never be able to afford. I like gun porn and so do you, so for the sake of cool factor I’m just going to include some of the crazier stuff down the line that makes sense in a survival standpoint because simply owning it will likely mean most folks are immediately inclined to be on your side!
- The Mosin Nagant is not to be taken lightly! No pun intended (this is a heavy rifle) the Mosin serves as a great sniper or hunting setup and for the price is truly a rifle that should be in every survivor’s vault! Image Credit- www.armoryblog.com
First on the list- the infamous Mosin Nagant! This weapon helped win a world war, and has seen use since the late 19th century all the way until now. Its reliability is world renowned, it’s accurate as can be, and packs a quite a wallop with the 7.62X54 round! This weapon was made by the millions by Mother Russia, and though it is over 100 years old, there is no doubt that it will be a contender in the tactical world for years to come.
Price- 150-400$ depending on variant and season. So cheap there’s no excuse!
Caliber- 7.62X54R, a heavy hitting, accurate round that, while Russian, is still prolific in the United States. It is also one of the cheapest high caliber rounds out there!
“Pimpability”- The Mosin is a very customizable setup, with aftermarket parts all over the place. While it can be difficult to find a reliable optical setup, it’s well worth it in the long run!
- This guy doesn’t look extremely happy to be holding his SKS. A shame- because it’s actually a pretty nice firearm! Image Credit- www.firearmstalk.com
Next up- the SKS! This big ‘ole lugger of a rifle may not be the prettiest girl on the block, but she performs! The precursor to the AK, the SKS has seen service world wide for decades. For the price it’s a great rifle if you’re budget conscious. It fires the 7.62X39 round, an easy to find and cheap form of ammunition. It can be converted to take AK magazines, it’s accurate and heavy hitting, and once again- cheap!
Price- 370-600$ not bad!
Caliber- 7.62X39, a cheap but effective round that gets the job done.
“Pimpability”- Over the years the SKS has become quite “pimpable”. It’s got many stocks and mods, and can be outfitted with a variety of optics and accessories.
- The Ruger 10-22 is a beauty of a little firearm. It serves well in multiple purposes, from your child’s first rifle to a seasoned marksman’s hunting or plinking setup! Image Credit- www.lumberjocks.com
Next on the line- the Ruger 10-22. This little plinker has served many a backwoods marksman over the years. With an astounding variety of stocks, barrels, triggers, magazines, and other accessories it is also one of the most customizable rifles out there. You can go from a traditional walnut stock squirrel hunter to a full on badass setup without breaking the bank. The only real disadvantages to this firearm are its small caliber round, which lacks the punch to take down some large game at long distances without very precise application of fire, and ammunition availability. Since it is such a popular firearm ammo for it has become few and far between since the arms scare, but that can change at any time, and ammo is still decently priced for it! An awesome little rifle for its price, this will serve any survivalist well in their endeavors.
Price- 200- 400$, the price of 10 22’s has nearly doubled over the past few years, and for good reason! Its popularity has been well founded, and with the increased need for survival ready firearms the price change has reflected that. Get one while you can still afford it and you won’t be sorry!
Caliber- .22 LR, a deadly accurate, effective little round that can be bought in massive bulk quantities at fairly cheap prices. Don’t underestimate the .22! No one wants a hole in them, even if it’s small!
“Pimpability”- This rifle’s pimpability factor is through the roof! It can be outfitted with a plethora of gadgets, and can be personalized to your heart’s content. Every 10-22 is somewhat unique in some way, but with cross compatible parts it can be changed at a moment’s notice.
Shotgun- Mossy 500 or Remington 870
- A Mossberg 500 and a Remington 870, go-to platforms for no-shit survivors. Image Credit- www.ar15.com
Coming in fourth on the list- the shotgun! You didn’t think we’d release a survivor rifle article without bringing up the classic zombie killer did you? Of course not! Now, I will admit bias here, I think the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 are the best overall options from a survival standpoint. There are so many of them on the market and in the field that it just makes sense. You could easily find parts to replace if they were damaged, and that also means that the customization factor is also high! There’s a staggering amount of parts out there for these two shotguns which can turn them from a deer hunting platform to an Alien or Zombie killing nightmare at a whim!
Price- 250-500$, Not a bad price for such a heavy hitting platform.
Caliber- 410, 20 ga, 16 ga, 12 ga, 10 ga, etc, etc. There’s so many calibers out there it’s impossible not to find one that works for any shooter, and ammo is widely available and cheap.
“Pimpability”- As previously mentioned, there are parts out the yin-yang for these guns. Barrels, rails, stocks, you name it, someone’s got it!
Henry Survival Rifle
- The Henry Survival Rifle will serve you well whether you’re a secret agent or a squirrel hunter. Image Credit- www.zombiehunters.org
Next- the Henry Survivor Rifle. This rifle was designed with pure survival in mind. Used by Air Force pilots to stow under their seats in the event of a crash over possibly hostile wilderness, these rifles are tried and true. Super lightweight and modular, this gun goes from being an inert piece of plastic to a small game hunting or self defense platform in mere seconds!
Price- 290- 350$, not a bad price for the package.
Caliber- 22. LR
“Pimpability”- Almost none. Though the rifle can be fitted with any optic that can fit on its small integrated Picatinny rail, the Henry Survival doesn’treally need to be customized! It is what it is!
- The Savage Axis is bar none one of the best modern bolt guns for its price. Image Credit- www.armslist.com
The next rifle is an awesome hunting rifle, and man is it a bargain! The Savage Axis- I truly don’t understand why this gun hasn’t been on more lists. It’s a superb platform for the price. It’s available at nearly any firearms outlet, costs very little in comparison to high end bolt actions, and can easily shoot 1 MOA groups! You can’t ask for much more than that. I truly love this gun, and advocate every would-be back woods sniper go ahead and invest in one while the prices are still low.
Price- 350-400$, like most other guns, this rifle has gotten a bit more expensive over the years as gun prices have hiked along with its popularity, but it is still a great bargain.
Caliber- .223, 270 Win, 308, 30-06, 7 MM, etc, there are plenty of calibers available for this platform so you can tailor it to your uses.
“Pimpability”- Unfortunately the Savage doesn’t have many available customization options. It has some triggers and some stocks, but nothing too special. It’s a great rifle out of the box and there’s not much need for customization with its streamlined design.
Kel-Tec SU 16
- The Kel-Tec SU16 is light weight, can be folded into a small package, and is highly affordable. What more can you ask for? Image Credit- www.thehighroad.org
The next rifle featured is fairly new to the game, but has definitely hit the market by storm. The Kel-Tec SU-16. A very unique blend of different concepts, from the reliable gas system reminiscent of an AK variant to the effective caliber of an AR platform, this is definitely a great deal for a low price, and it accepts AR magazines.
Price- 550$, a very low price for a semi auto, combat ready platform.
Caliber- .223, 5.56, the best thing about this rifle is it takes the same round and magazine as the AR 15 but yet can be bought at a much lower price!
“Pimpability”- Since it is a relatively new addition to the market, this rifle still has its issues as far as personalization goes. It’s difficult to find good rail systems to replace its awkward heat shield, and that certainly leaves something to be desired. However, its standard configuration is nice just by itself.
AK or AR 15
- An AK and AR side by side. Slobber worthy guns for those who just “have to kill every mother-f’er in the room” Image Credit- www.thefirearmreport.com
Now we come to the two reigning champions of the world! The AR 15 and the AK 47 platforms. I coupled them in together because it really doesn’t matter much which one you choose. These are both time honored rifles that serve their purpose over and over again. The AR is an astoundingly accurate and effective rifle, the AK is a heavy hitting and super reliable platform. Both are more than sufficient for engagements from 0-600 meters, though the AR does win out in accuracy at longer distances. You’ll never regret having either of these bad boys in your inventory!
Price- 500-2000$ depending on manufacturer. You do tend to get what you pay for with these platforms, some of the more expensive ones can perform by leaps and bounds compared to the cheaper ones, but even the cheapest of the cheap are still pretty nice.
Caliber- 7.62 X39 or 5.56X45, these are two very popular and easy to find calibers. The 7.62 of the AK runs a bit cheaper than 5.56, but would be less available in the long term in a SHTF kind of situation due to the 5.56 being the standard caliber for our armed forces.
“Pimpability”- These are easily the most pimpable weapons on the planet. The AR 15 can be outfitted for almost any purpose, while the AK is slightly more limited in that regard due to its long range disadvantage. However, both rifles can be pimped out to an insane degree!
- A Remington 700 with a bull barrel and tactical stock will put a hurt on the largest of game to the fattest of bad guys. Image Credit- www.thefiringline.com
Next up- the Remington 700! A gun that’s severed more heads than the guillotine, this is the go-to sniper platform for both the US Army and the Marines. When fielding the incredible 300 Winchester Magnum round, the R700 is a sexy beast of a bolt-action! With sub-MOA groups, a wide array of after market parts, a dizzying variety of calibers, and a well tested brand, this gun will never fail to impress.
Price- 600-3000$, this is not the cheapest rifle on the block, but Remington never fails to perform.
Caliber- Almost everything under the sun!
“Pimpability”- This thing is ultra customizable, with stocks, magazines, triggers, and barrels to stroke the ego of even the most insane of megalomaniac gun owners!
M1A or M14
The next rifle up is the M1A, or M14. What more needs to be said? This battle rifle has kicked ass and taken names since Vietnam, and has served many a weekend warrior, back woods hunter, mountain man, combat killer, and everything in between since. With 20 round magazines packing a massive punch with .308 or 7.62X51 rounds, this thing will never, ever fail to put a hurting on the bad guys.
Price- 1300-3000$ the M1A is an expensive investment, but you won’t be disappointed with its performance. Super reliable, super accurate, this is one of the best battle rifles on the planet.
Caliber- .308 or 7.62X51, the M1A is the standard Squad Designated Marksman platform for US soldiers, and fires the .308 with little recoil to devastating effect.
“Pimpability”- The M1A is a bit less “pimpable” than some other firearms, but still has plenty of options for stocks. It doesn’t need to be pimped out! The thing is damn near perfect right out of the box.
Barrett .50- just because
- I’ve seen the M107 in action, and I would never, ever want to be anywhere near the receiving end of that thing! Image Credit- www.militaryfactory.com
Finally, the Barrett M107. Why? Because if the SHTF and people see you with this thing they’re gonna be on your side or wishing they were. Okay, I’ll be honest, this isn’t the most practical firearm to put on the list, but man, it’s just so cool I couldn’t help myself. Firing the .50 BMG round, this thing is a heavy hitter bar none. Sure, you could buy a car for the price of one. Sure, the ammunition is incredibly expensive and would be hard to find in a survival situation, but I’m throwing all reason aside and saying that this thing is amazing nonetheless! Seriously…just look at it! (I threw this one in just for the cheese-factor)
Price- 7,500 to 12,000$ this is not the car you deliver pizzas in. Only the ritziest shooters would ever be able to afford one of these…but I’ll tell you what, if you can afford one of these and the shit hits the fan, you can hire me as a member of your personal security detachment because I’d rather be with you than against you.
Caliber- .50 BMG baby! You hit someone with this and they aren’t getting up…no matter what!
“Pimpability”- None needed. Slap a scope on this monster and you’re good to go!
All in all it’s up to you to decide what the best survival rifle is for your needs. Your area of operations may call for different options depending on the terrain and the operational tempo. You may be in a congested environment where CQB is likely, a rural environment where your biggest foe is bear, elk, or other hunters, or in a jungle environment where an area of effect weapon like a shotgun may serve you best. That’s up to you to decide. All of the firearms I mentioned will serve you well no matter the purpose, but your pocket book and your intended mission should be what dictates what you get.
Just remember, it’s better to have something than nothing.
“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” — Tommy