Defense, big game, small game, the essential long arms

If you could only have one long arm, it is hard to beat a shotgun for utility. With good slugs it will bring down big game even at 100 yards. With light shot loads it is fine for rabbit, squirrel, or other small game. With buckshot it is fine for home defense.

The humble shotgun has quite a bit to recommend it. But the utility comes at a cost. It lacks the range of a true big game rifle, it lacks the stealth of a subsonic rimfire, it lacks the rapid fire of a semi-auto carbine with a 30 round magazine. It is by all accounts perfectly adequate for any number of tasks and yet it is the best option only as a fowling piece.

So if you already have a decent shotgun for the end of the world, by all means keep it and stack your ammunition deep. If you want to branch out into other long arms I recommend three, a big game rifle, an AR-15 carbine (although an AK variant would generally do just as well), and either a 22 long rifle or 22 caliber air rifle.

Now before you take my advice and make a purchase you should ask yourself whether or not it fits into YOUR plan and situation. If you live in an apartment in New York City odds are quite good that any sort of firearm is going to be more trouble than it is worth, so alternative tools (longbow, crossbow, compound bow, blow pipe) should be worth considering. If you live in a retirement community in southern California you probably don’t have much use for a big game rifle, and my recommendation of an AR-15 could get you into legal issues with the state so a Mini-14 might be a better choice for you. If you have a specific situation that you would like my input on, comments are open.

But, on to what I think are the essentials.

A big game rifle is a huge category in and of itself. It can be a 30-30 lever rifle for taking deer, or it can be an ultra huge magnum that would bring down an elephant. I recommend only two cartridges, the 30-30 and the 308 Winchester. I recommend this because they are cheap. There are better options out there for ballistics, but there are no better options for cost. A lever action 30-30 can be had used for quite reasonable, or a new Savage or Ruger American Rifle in 308 is readily available for cheap (as are Marlin or Remington).

An AR-15 carbine is about the most common lightweight option out there. With three magazines someone has 90 rounds of “self defense” at their beck and call. One in the mag and two in butt stock pouches makes for a pretty handy bit of kit. It can take deer sized game if need be (in a survival situation I wouldn’t worry about state minimum caliber requirements) and is a proven man stopper in combat. Odds are that anyone serious about prepping will be able to assemble an AR-15 carbine from a parts kit and save quite a bit of money, but even a factory carbine can be had for a reasonable sum.

The rimfire or air rifle is the small game and trainer rifle. This is the one that kills the rabbits that eat the garden, and trains the kids to be the next generation of riflemen. A semi-auto rimfire is a lot of fun, but with the cost of rimfire ammunition being what it is, a break barrel 22 caliber air rifle makes a lot more sense from a cost perspective.

The common thread here is that I’ve recommended less expensive tools. In a survival situation the odds of using a rifle in a firefight are much less likely than using the rifle to gather meat for the pot. And in a survival situation there are a lot more small animals than big animals. If you live in a suburban area, I would forgo the big game rifle all together and just get the AR and an air rifle. A squirrel in the stew every now and again will prevent malnutrition much better than a non-existent big game protein source.

Protein sources vary quite a bit based on geography. If you live near an ocean you can get fish or shell fish. If you live in the midwest possibly antelope or prairie dog. If you live in Florida alligator becomes a distinct possibility. But your situation might make more sense to invest in good fishing gear instead of a big game rifle, or if you live in rural Alaska or Montana, forgo the AR-15 entirely as the sparse human population makes the need for having a lot of firepower all at once less desirable than a big game rifle that could bring meat for the pot.

Comments are open.

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3 Responses to Defense, big game, small game, the essential long arms

  1. B says:

    Ah, the classic “what’s the perfect battery?” quandary. You basically outlined my long arms with the exception that I’ve forgone the AR15 and chose to split the 30 cal in your above mentioned multiple platforms (308 & 30-30). I’m a huge fan of the air rifle (daisy 953) and 22lr (ruger 10/22) for stealthier applications. I’ve become an ‘if it ain’t broke…’ kinda fellow when it comes to tools for exsanguinations. I figure the low end for small game and the high end for zombies. No need to stock the middle (556) unless you got a radio to call in back up. 30 caliber makes it a battle rifle so I can ‘represent’ (through an engine block if need be). Everything else (shotgun, 22lr, air rifle, sword, bow, blow gun…) is either for eatin’ small game or controlled close quarter defense against more ‘squishy’ targets…


    • rthtgnbs says:

      Honestly the AR-15 is like the “utility infielder” because it is essentially light and handy with magazines that hold a substantial amount of ammunition. It really isn’t “ideal” by any stretch of the imagination for anything but being there when you need a rifle. I keep it on the list because there odds are that the availability of such lightweight carbines with big magazines means that not having one could put you at a disadvantage as a hypothetical. Sort of a personal arms race.

      If you have taking game clearly taken care of, it is easy to press in other long arms into the “defense” role without losing any sleep over it.


  2. Dick B says:

    In a pure ‘Survival’ situation, most people will be eating dogs and cats, birds, rats and mice. The .22 and Air Rifle pretty much covers that application, but traps will be more productive. Low noise signature is a good thing, when Big Bob and his cutthroat band are out and about.
    Horses, cows, deer will be gone inside three months anywhere near a population center. A lot of that meat will be wasted. People are fools and greedy, they’ll poach a deer and leave most of it where it fell. Lacking motor fuel, they won’t hump the meat back to the hovel. So it becomes carrion for the scavengers. Indians used to hunt in parties so there enough hands for the work and they dressed and smoked the meat in situ, preserving the hide. In a real survival situation, that would be tactically dangerous. Big Bob and his Gang would show up and take what you’ve got, and probably make you a slave, if you’re lucky.
    History tells us there are always ‘governments’; the French revolution changed the faces in the palace, the Russian revolution did the same, the Chinese as well, even our insurrection only brought new rulers and authorities to the fore. In the coming dark age, there will be some sort of
    ‘gummint’ even if it’s only Big Bob and the Crew. They will do as governments have always done, take your stuff and get you killed. So, some heavy artillery would be prudent to have available. Better organize your own Citizens Volunteer Defense Corps, train it up, and who knows, you might become Governor General of New Kansas Territory.


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