10 Best Survival Rifles To Protect and Defend Your Family

Here’s the deal…

Listing the 10 “BEST” Survival Rifles requires real compromises.

A single perfect survival rifle doesn’t exist.

There are too many unique scenarios to consider.

Plus, owning ten survival rifles won’t do you much good (unless you have a very large family).

So, I decided to fight conventional wisdom…

Today, I’ll focus primarily on the top five (or what I consider the best of each survival category).

And then give you five runner-ups.

But again, let me be crystal clear.

One weapon can’t do it all.

And 10 options leave a lot of room for “less-than-stellar” performance in various roles.

It’s sort of like expecting a dump truck to accelerate from zero to 60 MPH in 4 seconds.

In the right application, a dump truck is extremely useful, just not when acceleration is the goal.

The bottom line is:

Survival situations vary, as well as the tasks required of your firearms.

So, what are the roles we expect our survival rifles to play?

The main survival tasks into 5 broad categories:

  1. Hunting Small game
  2. Hunting Large game
  3. Perimeter defense beyond 200 yards
  4. Self-defense inside 200 yards
  5. Self-defense in close quarters

Let’s take a look at each and the best survival rifles to accomplish them.

Hunting Small Game

In an actual wilderness survival situation, you may need to live off the land.

And that means we can’t overlook small game.

There are more squirrels, rabbits, possums, and other varmints around than there are deer.

Dropping a ten-point buck might feed the family for weeks…

But those will be few and far between if times get tough.

Squirrels, on the other hand, are rats with cute tails, and we have no rat population problems.

Dropping three or four squirrels (or rabbits) every few days can feed your family in a pinch.

But in the small game arena, there are many excellent rifles, each firing a variety of respectable calibers.

You could look at the .17 HMR cartridge, a very flat shooting, very high-velocity round.

And realize it’s the be-all and end-all of the varmint rounds.

You may also become intrigued by the .22 Magnum for its power over the standard .22LR.

This cartridge is excellent as long as you can run down to a local store and buy another box of shells.

If the big box stores run dry, these more exotic calibers will be useless unless you have a large stockpile of ammo.

But wait, you say.

These cartridges are available at the local big-box store, but the .22 LR is always sold out.

And you’re right—however, let’s look at the reasons why:

Reason 1

The .22 LR is never in stock because people recognize this cartridge as the most versatile, desirable, and affordable survival round.

People hoard them by the thousands when they do become available.

Reason 2

It’s the only cartridge with which you can carry 500 rounds in your pocket or a lifetime supply in your backpack. 

They don’t weigh much.

So it’s a well-established fact that the .22 LR makes the grade for best survival small game caliber.

So, let’s choose our small game survival rifle to match the best survival ammo.

And there’s only one choice:

Ruger 10 22

Scoped Ruger 10/22 Take-down

To be honest, I own a Remington 597 with a good scope and love it.

However, having taken it down for gun cleaning and discovered all the small and seemingly fragile internal parts, I have to say Ruger’s design seems more durable in the long run.

And that is what the Ruger has been in for decades – the long run.

Plus, the newer take-down versions break down into component pieces.

So you can easily store it in a survival backpack to be reassembled later as the situation requires.

Perfect for those whose survival plan includes bugging out.

↓ Ruger 10/22 Takedown, The Perfect Survival Rifle?

Hunting Large Game

So your family is sick of squirrel and rabbit stew, and suddenly, that ten-point buck presents itself at 300 yards.

Which rifle do you wish you had in your hands in that situation?

Well, you need a cartridge that can reach out and stay lethal at 300 yards or more.

You also need to kill that deer with one shot.

You don’t need to wound him and then lose him.

Remember, he’s got a 300-yard head start, and he’s a deer—which means he’s fast, even when injured.

If you get off a bad shot and hit him in the left front leg, you want the leg blown clean off.

That should slow him down somewhat.

So we’re not talking about mid-sized cartridges, like a 125-grain 5.56 or 7.62 x 39mm traveling at 2100-2400 FPS.

Instead, we’re talking about something in the 170-220 grain region in .30 caliber soft-point or better traveling 2700-3000 FPS.

We’re talking .30-06, .308 Winchester, or .300 Win Mag.

So, what is the best rifle for delivering this type of bullet?

Call me a traditionalist, but the US Army and the US Marine Corps are pretty good references.

Remmington 700 Survival Rifle

Remington 700

The Remington 700, in various forms, has been the mainstay of the bolt-action sniper world for decades.

When the Army began sniper school during the Vietnam War, it had no weapons designed for the role.

So they pulled scoped Remington 700s (and Winchester Model 70s) from the shelves of local sporting goods stores for use in combat.

Decades later, the Remington 700 in military trim is still a frontline bolt action sniper rifle.

A high-quality scope is a must in order to build your ultimate sniper rifle.

↓ Best All Around Rifle?

Perimeter Defense

Let’s face it:

Perimeter defense means keeping the bad guys away from your loved ones at long range.

Maybe effective signage will keep them away.

Or perhaps you’d prefer the incoming rounds to be a complete surprise.

That’s your personal moral choice.

However, you do want whatever lead you send their way to have the proper impact in the desired location.

That means you need accuracy and lethality.

So why not pick the Remington 700?

Surely, if your survival rifle can take down a deer at 400 yards, it’s good enough, right?

However, the bolt-action’s advantage in accuracy is also a liability when it comes to quick follow-up shots.

Or hitting multiple moving targets.

The deer might stand there wondering why the dirt kicked up next to it and wait for a second follow-up shot.

But humans will realize immediately what’s happening.

So, a semi-automatic option is your best choice for perimeter defense.

↓ 10 Best AR-15 Rifles for the Money

AR-15 Rifle

When we’re talking semi-auto, lethal, and accurate at these ranges, we’re talking a scoped AR-15 in 5.56 NATO.

Or maybe a scoped AR-10 in .308 NATO.

The AR-10 has the better knockdown power.

However, the recoil of the 5.56 mm round fired from an AR-15 with a quality buffer is negligible, so your aim is less affected.

Your shots should come fast, and you should easily acquire your second, third, and fourth targets.

Quality AR-15s are cheaper than the AR-10, and so is the 5.56 mm round.

You can carry quite a few rounds on your person as opposed to the .308, .30-06.

And they’re readily available and affordable – at least before the excrement hits the fan.

So, stock up.

Self-defense Inside 200 Yards

Let’s say you don’t have the advantage of a wide field of fire.

You live in the dense forests of Georgia, not the plains of Kansas.

In this case, perimeter defense might shrink to an uncomfortably close distance of fewer than 100 yards.

In close quarters, you need a weapon that is both accurate and reliable.

Now, we’re not talking 400 yards accurate.

We’re talking guaranteed lethal hits at less than 100 yards.

There is one other significant problem at this distance – you can expect the bad guys to shoot back.

So, every round you fire must count, and the weapon cannot jam.

An AR-15 stovepiping a spent round at 400 yards takes just a moment to clear – a moment you might not have at 50 yards.

So, what do I recommend?

ak 47


There is only one choice – the favorite weapon of every despot, dictator, and communist in the world –the AK-47.

Now, to be fair, I’m not talking about a real AK-47.

You can’t just pick up a full-auto AK-47 on Gunbroker.

I’m talking about an “Americanized,” semi-automatic AK-47 variant.

The original’s full auto function is relatively useless unless you are fighting in a small room.

Or spraying and praying to provide covering fire for someone else.

Accuracy goes out the window in full auto.

Oh, you’ll kill at 100 yards, might even hit him two or three times…

But you’ll also empty your magazine in 3 seconds, spraying the surrounding trees with the rest of your precious 7.62x39mm rounds.

The AK design is tough and designed for the mechanical torture of full-auto operation.

In semi-auto operation, everything is simple, over-engineered, and reliable.

I’ve owned a cheap Romanian AK variant for four years, fired thousands of rounds through it, cleaned it only every five or six times I went to the range, and never experienced a jam.

The 7.62×39 mm round is lethal and even cheaper than the 5.56 mm.

Inside 200 yards, the AK has adequate accuracy.

However, the one concession I would make is to add a holographic sight – even a cheap one enhances the shooting experience.

I have a little $30 unit on my AK, and although the open sights are fine, I love having the fine cross-hairs to lay across the target.

Most AKs come with side rail scope mounts.

At one point, I had a 9-power scope on my AK, but I had mixed results.

The large, somewhat heavy scope’s side rail mount, along with the significant slamming of the gas piston and bolt mass within the rifle, prevented the scope from holding a reliable zero.

The small holographic sight offers no magnification.

But it is so light on the rail that it holds up better to all the steel being thrown around inside the old Soviet design.

It holds a pretty decent zero, and my follow-up shots are right where they are supposed to be.

With the 30-round magazine as standard, you may want to invest in some of these gems and keep them loaded and ready in your gun safe.

Another option is the large 75-round drum magazines available for the AK.

However, these don’t hold any attraction for me.

They just look heavy and attached to an already heavy AK – makes the weapon freakin’ heavy.

Plus, with 75 rounds at your fingertips, the temptation to spray and pray rather than carefully aim may cause you to unintentionally waste a ton of ammo.

So, in summary, to quote Samuel L. Jackson from the movie Jackie Brown:

“AK-47. When you absolutely, positively have to kill every MF in the room.”

↓ Why People Are Buying AK’s…

Self-Defense In Close Quarters

Let’s say you live in a heavily forested area with no long line of sight and fell asleep on your watch.

The bad guy is now inside your perimeter or even inside your house.

At this point, in a perfect world, you could choose to engage the bad guy with a handgun.

However, the word handgun does not appear in the title of this article.

So, let’s assume you are grabbing for something larger.

So, what would you prefer?

When you’re startled by close-quarters combat, you naturally begin to spray and pray.

If you have the AR-15 or AK-47 variant, you can make a lot of noise and poke a lot of holes in your walls, possibly killing your family members in the next room…

However, if you want to remove doubt at close quarters – use a shotgun.

Mossburg 500 Tactical Survival Shotgun

Mossberg 500

A tactical pump 12 gauge, such as the Mossberg 500, takes spraying and praying to a whole new level.

You fire a couple of salvos of this bad boy down a hallway; you are going to hit your target – multiple times.

Regular, long-hunting shotguns are at a disadvantage in these conditions since they are not as conducive to mobility in an enclosed area.

The little street-sweeper holds this nickname for a reason.

Go tactical.

So the next question now becomes – shot or slug?

Double-aught buckshot increases the likelihood of a hit, but a slug delivers an exceptionally deadly blow at close quarters.

Here are the two big differences.

A shot pattern does not guarantee involuntary incapacitation.

Now, if the intruder gets hit with a shot in a vital area (without wearing a plate carrier), then the matter of his withdrawal doesn’t matter.

He’s going down.

However, he can be hit several times, even mortally, and still decide to scram of his own volition, or he may decide to fight back for his few remaining minutes in this life.

You’d prefer him to be unable to make this choice since it could turn out bad for you.

On the other hand, if he’s hit with a 12-gauge slug, he won’t be able to make this decision.

Any head or torso shot with a slug is going to blow a significant hole in him, and all the walk is going to go out of his feet.

Even if he is hit in the leg or arm, he’s still in no position to fight back.

It’s likely his arm will be blown clean off (though it could hang on by a few tendons), and although it’s less likely to blow off a leg, it’s more likely he’ll bleed out fast with the largest artery in the body running through that part of the anatomy.

Regardless, the shock of his injuries will prevent his choice to continue the fight. 

Slugs deliver devastating blows.

However, they also defeat the purpose of the shotgun – the large pattern of projectiles that virtually guarantee a hit.

You can miss with a slug.

So it’s your choice.

Or do you have to compromise at all?

There are self-dense shotgun shells that incorporate a slug along with buckshot.

My shotgun of choice is the Mossberg 500 in its many 12 gauge variants, which also happens to be the shotgun of choice for the US Army.

↓ Mossberg 500 – What NO ONE is telling you!

So here’s a quick recap of my 5 top survival rifle choices:

  1. Ruger 10/22
  2. Remington 700
  3. AR-15 (reputable brands include CMMG, Inc., Bushmaster, Sig Sauer, Ruger, Colt)
  4. AK-47 (semi-auto variants-Krebs, Mossberg, CAI, Kalashnikov, Saiga, etc.)
  5. Mossberg 500 Tactical Pump Shotgun

My Vote For All-Around Best Survival Rifle

So, if I could only take one, what do I consider the best all-around survival rifle?

I’m going out on a limb here and not choosing a .22 LR rifle.

I do think there may be a better choice—or at least a marginally better choice.

Do you want range? Reliability? Lethality? Readily available ammo?

Do you want the best survival rifle that can do it all?

Well, that weapon does not exist – HOWEVER – I do have a good candidate:

ruger gunsite scout

6. Ruger Mini-14

This little jewel is a compact carbine that packs a 5.56 mm punch.

It is semi-automatic, reliable, durable, and optics-ready.

Runner Up Best Survival Rifles

So how about some runner’s up?

Here are some other best survival rifles to consider:

7.  Remington 597, Marlin Model 60 (in .22LR)

8. Winchester Model 70, Savage XP Trophy Hunter (in .30-06, .308 Win, .300)

9. Sig Sauer M400 SRP (in 5.56mm), Ruger Mini-30 (in 7.62X39mm)

10. Winchester SXP Defender Shotgun (in 12 Gauge)

That puts me at this article’s goal of the 10 Best Survival Rifles.

Prepare, Adapt, and Overcome,

“Just In Case” Jack

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