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It might not save you from being struck by lightning or keep you from being swept downriver if your canoe capsizes, but when it comes to sheer security in the wilderness, nothing beats a gun. While any gun is better than no gun at all, some are better than others for specific purposes. Here are the pros and cons of the primary types of survival guns, along with some of our favorites.
Pros: Easy to disassemble; most are of a small caliber so you can carry lots of ammo; lightweight; perfect for potting grouse and small game; .22 models can be loaded with birdshot; combo models offer both rifle and shotgun capability.
Cons: Small calibers are of little value in bear country should you need to stop a marauding grizzly; though a .22 is capable of killing deer-size game, there are certainly better weapon choices.
Ideal for: Stowing under the seat of a bush plane, behind the seat of a pickup or in a canoe.
Henry U.S. Survival This takedown .22 weighs just 2½ pounds. It breaks down in just a few seconds, and all the gun’s parts fit in the hollow stock.
Marlin 70PSS Papoose This stainless, seven-shot, semi-auto .22 offers a takedown barrel and synthetic stock. It even comes in a padded carrying case.
Savage 24F Predator This over/under combination gun is available in .22 Hornet, .223, .17 HMR and .30/30 over a 12-gauge barrel, and .22 LR, .22 Hornet, .223 and .17 HMR over a 20-gauge barrel. Takedown action makes storage easy.
Pros: Simple to operate; can be fired single- or double-action; available in a wide variety of calibers, including huge stopping rounds; birdshot loads available in some calibers; lightweight; short-barreled models are easy to wield; speed loaders available.
Cons: Limited magazine capacity.
Ideal for: Concealed carry, or stowing in a backpack.
Smith & Wesson AirLites Smith offers a whole family of AirLite revolvers in a number of calibers and configurations. Models like the M386 Mountain Lite are excellent for survival use.
Taurus 617SH2C This mini titanium revolver in .357 Magnum offers a seven-round cylinder instead of the traditional six-shot, yet weighs less than 20 ounces.
Pros: Greater magazine capacity than a revolver; available in big stopping calibers; relatively lightweight; autoloading system helps soak up recoil in larger calibers; spare magazines are not difficult to carry around.
Cons: Complicated safety system takes more training to learn.
Ideal for: Stowing in a backpack, or concealed carry. Useful in the same circumstances as a revolver.
Glock 20 This polymer-framed semi-auto can stand up to practically any sort of abuse and still function. It offers plenty of punch in 10mm as well as 15-round capacity in a compact package.
Browning Buckmark Rifle Integrated scope-rail mount, laminated hardwood or walnut stock, 10-round capacity in .22 LR. Lightweight and easy to carry.
Winchester M-9422 A lightweight lever gun like this offers lots of magazine capacity and the versatility of using either birdshot loads or standard bullets.
Pros: Good stopping power; can handle both slugs and shotshell loads; good magazine capacity; synthetic-stocked, stainless and marine-grade models are weather resistant; extremely rugged in pump-action versions.
Cons: Heavy to carry; ammo weighs more than handgun ammunition; limited to close-range use.
Ideal for: Carrying in a boat or canoe where weight is not a significant factor.
Pros: More caliber options; more firepower for stopping larger critters; people generally shoot more accurately with shoulder-fired arms; louder report for sending distress signals; able to down big game at 100 yards or more.
Cons: Heavier to pack and carry than handguns; bigger-caliber models don’t have as much magazine capacity as the .22s; ammo is heavier.
Ideal for: Carrying in a scabbard on horseback.
Thompson/Center’s G2 Contender This single-shot is known for its accuracy. It comes in a number of different calibers, is easily scoped and stows effortlessly.
Marlin Model 1895GS Guide Gun This stainless lever-action comes in .45/70. Bigger still is the 1895MR in .450.
Remington Model 870 Marine Magnum This version of the 870 is similar to the classic Model 870 Wingmaster, except the metal parts are plated with electroless nickel for weather resistance.
Benelli Nova Pump H2O This gun features nickel-plated parts and can handle almost any shotgun ammo you feed through it, from 3½-inch magnum shotshells to slugs.