How to Choose the Best Survival Rifle (for Hunting or Defense)

Proper planning is what separates true survivors from the rest. If a survival scenario were to arise, such as after a natural disaster or economic collapse, are you prepared to care for your family?

Having the best survival rifle on hand can help you weather the storm. But how do you choose the right one for your situation?

While I’d love to be able to recommend a single option that works in all situations, that simply isn’t possible. Every firearm has a combination of features and capabilities, and no single weapon is perfect for all scenarios. However, you can choose the best survival rifle for you based on your anticipated needs.

After reading this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of the categories of survival rifles, allowing you to make the right selection for you. Each group will include recommendations based on some of the best survival rifle options available.

But, before we begin, here is some general information you need to know.


Why Buy a Survival Rifle?

Some of you may be wondering why a rifle is an ideal choice for survival. Many of you likely own other firearms, like handguns and shotguns, and may favor another design. However, a rifle offers a level of versatility you simply don’t get with other guns.

What makes them so versatile? It’s their suitability for a range of purposes. The best survival rifles available perform multiple functions. They can work for hunting as well as perimeter security.

These firearms are also suitable for self-defense. Handguns are often lacking when it comes to long-range shooting, and a shotgun doesn’t offer the same level of precision.

So, if you don’t have a rifle available, you might not have the best weapon for the situation.

With that in mind, here is an overview of the five primary categories and information about some of the best survival rifles in each group. You’ll find information based on the following four common tasks below:

  • Small Game Hunting
  • Large Game Hunting
  • Perimeter Defense
  • General Self Defense

Let’s begin!


Small Game Hunting

When your life hangs in the balance, being able to hunt small game makes all the difference. Yes, a larger animal can feed your family for weeks, but your opportunity to land such a prize could be rare.

Often, it’s easier to come across animals like squirrels and rabbits than deer or bear, so having the best survival rifle for that job makes sense.

Now, there are multiple calibers of rifles designed for small game hunting. It may be tempting to grab one that uses the .17 HMR cartridge. These rounds are hard-hitting and offer excellent accuracy.

You may also be intrigued by .22 Magnum options for the superior power. However, these less common rounds might not be easy to come by in a long-term survival scenario, making them not as ideal.

Instead, the .22 LR is your friend. It’s an incredibly versatile round and generally affordable. Plus, carrying around thousands of these won’t hurt your back thanks to their lighter weight. The .22 LR is also very common, so finding more won’t be as difficult if the situation carries on for weeks, months, or longer.

So, if you want a durable option that is the best survival rifle for small game, the Ruger 10/22 Take-Down with a scope is a great buy. It can hit a target with ease at 100 yards and doesn’t have as much recoil as some other similar rifles.

It’s also suitable for beginners as well as experienced shooters. This can be an excellent feature if you need to arm a less skilled family member during an emergency.

Since .22 LR ammo is incredibly affordable, you can also take the time to familiarize others in your family with the operation of a Ruger 10/22. The 10-round rotary magazine means they can get a few shots in quickly, making practice sessions a breeze.

This also gives the rifle a lower profile, making it comfortable to carry over long distances. The take-down variant also comes apart easily, giving you the option to pack it up instead of carrying it as is.


Large Game Hunting

Now, if you do have the opportunity to take down a 10-point buck, the above-mentioned Ruger isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need something with more power and accuracy at ranges of 300 yards or more.

Being able to take a deer down in a single shot is critical in survival situations, as chasing it through the woods might not be an option.

There are multiple firearms that can theoretically handle the job. Typically, they’ll fall into the .30-06, .308, or .300 caliber ranges. Anything that offers that kind of power can take down most potential big game targets you’ll find in North America.

A variety of high-quality rifles fall into this category, so it’s difficult to make a single recommendation. With that in mind, the best survival rifle for large game hunting can easily be one of two: the M1A or the Remington 700. If you’re looking to take down small game then we suggest one of our recommended air rifles.

The M1A has been around since 1974 and is quite popular among shooters. It uses the .308 Winchester round, providing a lot of stopping power for large game hunting. This rifle also has an excellent range and is relatively simple to operate.

The M1A is also recognized for its reliability, something you certainly want in a survival scenario.

There is also a wide range of accessories and configurations for the M1A. This means you can choose options based on your preferences.

The Remington 700 is also a high-quality precision rifle with suitable stopping power. This gun offers a tried-and-true platform that has been in use since 1962. It offers a rugged design and a high level of accuracy, making it ideal for long-range hunting, as large game targets often require.

In comparison to other rifles, the Remington 700 is also low in cost. This means you can get a top-notch experience without shelling out cash unnecessarily.

You’ll also find multiple configurations are available as well as a slew of accessories. This means you get a customizable experience featuring your ideal set up.

Remember, large game rifles pack a serious punch and are not for novice shooters. Keep your guns safe at all times when you’re not out hunting by locking them up in a gun safe. Check out our epic guide to choosing a safe for more information.


Perimeter Defense

During a survival scenario, you might need to keep people away from your property, family, or general vicinity. While some passersby may be discouraged by threatening signs, when things are falling apart, others will be more brazen. This means you need to be able to reach out and touch someone.

Now, you may be wondering why you can’t just grab the M1A or Remington 700 for the job. Well, you could, but there is one issue. Both of those rifles are bolt action, making it hard to fire multiple shots quickly.

If you’re dealing with more than one intruder, a bolt action might not cut it. This means you need a combination of accuracy, speed, and power. Enter the AR-15, one of the most popular firearms in America.

When you’re looking for something that provides the right combination of range, reliability, and lethal force, the AR-15 is hard to beat. It has less recoil than the AR-10 thanks to the 5.56 mm rounds.

The addition of a scope makes it easier to stay on target, even at long distances. For perimeter defense, being able to hit a person at 400 yards is important.

Since the AR-15 is semi-auto, you can get multiple shots off quickly. If you’re ever faced with an advancing crowd, you can handle the job with greater ease. The rounds are also lighter than .308 and .30-06, making them easier to carry if the need arises.

Based on the AR-15’s popularity, it is easy to customize the configuration and find accessories. This means you can choose options based on personal preference to make the firing experience as comfortable as possible.


General Self Defense

Unless you live in a plains state, you might not have a full 400 yards of view for perimeter defense. For these situations, finding the best survival rifle for use within 200 yards might be a better option. In fact, having a firearm designed to handle attackers within 100 yards can be necessary.

In these cases, you need suitable accuracy as well as excellent reliability. No one wants to worry about whether their rifle is up to the challenge when people are advancing and likely firing back.

In a high stress situation, reliability and simplicity are key. You want a gun that you know will fire repeatedly and rapidly. Nerves will affect your accuracy, so you probably want a semi-automatic rather than a bolt action. Additionally, when exposed to enemy fire, you need to make every second count.

That means you need to know every round will do its job and the firearm isn’t going to jam. While an AR-15 performs admirably in these areas, it also takes a moment for spent rounds to eject.

And, when you’re under fire, that could be a second you don’t have. So, you are likely better served by the AK-47.

To be clear, we’re not talking about the full auto AK-47 that often makes the news. Instead, this refers to the variant that has the semi-auto functionality. Often, a fully automatic weapon just isn’t necessary.

Unless you’re doing battle with a small group or favor the spray and pray method, semi-auto helps you save ammo while still being able to respond quickly.

Since the AK-47 was originally designed to withstand the demands of full auto functionality, the semi-auto version is tougher than it needs to be. The mechanical operations are intended to empty a clip in a matter of seconds, so even heavy use won’t bog it down.

It is also one of the best survival rifles in regards to maintenance, as skipping a cleaning here and there won’t do much harm.

The AK-47 uses 7.62 x 39 mm rounds, which are less expensive than 5.56 mm in many cases. Additionally, the standard magazine holds 30 rounds, which can do a lot of damage in the hands of a skilled shooter.

If you want more fire power, consider switching to the 75-round drum. Yes, it’s heavy, but it works well for defending the home front. If you plan to carry the AK-47 with you, then the standard clip is a better choice.

With the addition of a better site, such as a holographic version, you get decent accuracy within 200 yards. This means you can bypass adding a scope, which does improve accuracy but also increases the weight.

It’s important to note that the AK-47 is quite heavy. That means you want to plan wisely when adding items that bring the weight up. Even if it is one of the best survival rifles, it won’t do you any good if you can’t lift it.


Close Quarters Self Defense

You may be wondering, what about close quarters self-defense? If a person makes it into your home, is there an ideal rifle for that?

To be honest, the AK-47 is likely the best survival rifle for that job as well. However, if you’re in a tight space, then switching to a handgun or shotgun is a smarter choice. Why? Because a high-powered rifle can easily shoot through walls.

Now, this might sound like a bonus if you want to attempt to hit again in the other room. But you also put your family members at risk if you aren’t exactly sure where they are located and fire in their direction. Finally, using a rifle in close quarters can be extremely unwieldy.

Therefore, what you do at this range is personal preference. If you have a trusty 1911 that you favor, it’s suitable for the task. A Mossberg 500 shotgun can also work whether you use buckshot or slugs.

Granted, buckshot might not be lethal in all cases, but it still gets the job done. It also gives you some leeway regarding accuracy, as the wide pattern makes it hard to miss at close range.


Conclusion

As you can see, there isn’t a single best survival rifle for all situations. To make the choice that is right for you, assess your personal needs and preferences.

For example, if you don’t have a large, wide open property, then a long-range perimeter defense rifle isn’t necessary. Or, if you currently hunt locally with a shotgun, then a hunting rifle might not be at the top of your list. Some people also see the AR-15 as suitable for perimeter and general self-defense.

Ultimately, you want to choose the best survival rifle for your needs. Every person is different and has unique physical capabilities.

Consider your comfort level with various firearms, whether you envision staying at home during a disaster or taking off, and how you imagine taking care of your family when choosing your ideal weapon.


This article is by Will Salisbury, owner of the website Best Gun Safe Pro. Best Gun Safe Pro provides the best gun safe reviews and information out there.

I’m an avid hunter and gun enthusiast, and have been hunting since the age of 12. Educating people on gun safety is one of my passions, as it can help save lives.

Hi there, I'm Will and I'll be your guide. Here at Gun News Daily, we support guns for self defense and and competitive shooting. We believe that America should be free and support the 2nd Amendment.