Survival Forum

Prepping For SHTF

Picking a SHTF Survival Rifle Caliber

There is a thread in the forum asking whether the 7mm or 8mm would make a good caliber for a survival rifle.  When you walk into a pawn shop and you see a bunch of a certain type of firearms, that is usually not a good sign.  If people like a product, they tend to hang onto it.

.30 caliber survival rifle

22 Long Rifle Survival Rifle

The 22 long rifle should not need an introduction.  The ammunition can be fired in rifles and pistols, firearms are not expensive and they have a long life expectancy.  With the low recoil of the 22, parts last long then a full sized rifle caliber.

The low cost of the 22 ammunition makes it attractive to survivalist who want to stockpile thousands or tens of thousands of rounds.

The 22long rifle is effective on small game and does not do a lot of damage to the meat.  When you use a 12 gauge on a squirrel, you might have to pick out a bunch of BBs.  If you take a squirrel with a 22 short, you have 1 bullet hole.

A couple of my favorite rifles in 22 long rifle include the Marlin Model 60 and the Ruger 10/22.  My Ruger 10/22 was bought in January of 1986 and is still going strong.

223 Remington / 5.56mm Survival Rifle

Standard service round of the US military.  there are survivalist out there that plan on using the 223 as their main survival rifle after SHTF, but I personally would not want to use the 223/5.56mm on deer sized game.

If you want a rifle for hunting after SHTF, there are better options out there besides the 223.

One of the really nice things about the 223, there is a wide range of rifle options available on the market.  There is everything from bolt actions rifle, to the Ruger Mini-14, to the AR-15.

243 Winchester / 6mm

The 243 is favored by a lot of people who hunt deer sized game, mainly due to the low recoil. for small framed people the 243 is a viable deer option, but bullet placement is critical.

I say the 243 is good for small framed people, but I used to work with a guy that was around 6 feet 3 inches tall, and he liked using the 243 for deer.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the 243.  Shooters should be aware of the limitations of the cartridge.

270 Winchester and 280 Remington

I have a Remington model 700 in 280/7mm express. Ammo is expensive and difficult to find. But, it is very effective on whitetail deer.  The main reason why I picked the 280/7mm express is that the bullet is larger in diameter then the 270, but not as large as the ’06.

A lot of people that deer hunt in Texas like the 270.  Its a flat shooting caliber with plenty of knockdown for deer sized game.  I used to work with a guy who hunted in west Texas, and he really liked how flat shooting the 270 is.

The ’06 has a little more recoil then I wanted in a deer rifle.  so I saw the 280 has a good middle of the road caliber.  I discovered later on that the 280 in the Remington model 700 mountain rifle still has a good bit of kick to it.

Ten years ago ammo for the 280/7mm express was not “that” expensive, but over the past 10 – 15 years prices have become prohibitive.  I think the last box of 280 I bought was in the $25 price range for 20 rounds.

7.62X39 Survival Rifle

Another caliber that should not need an introduction.  the 7.62X39 has been battle proven the world over, and in all types of climates and conditions.

If I had to pick 1 caliber for a long term SHTF survival situation, it would be a tough choice between the 22 long rifle, 7.62X39 and the 308 Winchester.

If someone handed me either a Ruger 10/22, AK-47 or a rifle in 308 and said “here ya go”, I would not be disappointed.

The honest truth is, the AK-47 is the ultimate SHTF survival rifle.

30-30 Winchester and 308 Winchester

This is where calibers like the 30-30 and the 308 Winchester come in.  Ammunition is cheap, neither caliber has excessive recoil and ammunition is readily available.

The last box of 308 Winchester 150 grain I bought cost around $16 a box, where the 280/7mm express is over $25 a box.   With a $9 a box price difference, it does not add up to stockpile a lot of 280 Remington.

Some of the exceptions of picking the 280 Remington over the 308 might be if you live in moose, elk or bear territory.

Keep in mind that the ’06 is the largest caliber that most people can shoot accurately. The recoil is the main reason why I do not suggest the ’06 unless you need that much firepower.

For the majority of the people living in the lower 48 states, you should be able to take just about anything you want with either a 270 or a 308. The exception is moose, elk and bear.

As for a rifle, its going to be difficult to beat a Remington model 700. If you want a 308 semi-auto, there is the Remington woodsmaster 750 semi-auto rifle.  My brother and my dad both hunt SouthEast Texas whitetail deer with a woodsmaster 750.  The synthetic stock makes the 750 tolerant to weather change and poor hunting conditions.

M1A, PTR-91 and the FN/FAL

If you want something a little more military, there is the M1A, PTR-91 and the FN/FAL.

The PTR probably has the lowest cost of ownership, magazines are only about $2 each, sometimes $1 each. Now compare that to the $15 – $20 for a FN/FAL magazine.  The low cost magazines is one of the main reasons why a lot of people choose to go with the PTR-91.

The M1A, PTR-91 and the FN/FAL are all military grade weapons that should give years of service.  If someone handed me either one of those 3 rifles and said “here ya go”, I would not be disappointed.

30-06 Springfield

The 30-06 was made famous by veterans returning from World War II.  if you are looking for an all around good caliber for taking just about anything in North America, the ’06 is the way to go.

One of the drawbacks to the ’06, its the largest caliber that most people can shoot accurately, and some people find the recoil a little excessive.

I normally do not recommend the ’06 for as a family based SHTF survival rifle.  If you want something the whole family can shoot, there are better options out there, such as the 30-30 and the 308.

Final Considerations For a SHTF Survival Rifle

If you are looking for something in a medium sized caliber, I suggest you go with something that is going to be easy to find ammo for – 270, 308 and the 30-06.  Buying an off the wall caliber for a SHTF rifle just does not make any sense.

Talk to your friends and family that you are making plans with, what kind of rifles do they have?

One of the problems that my friends and family are in, we have too many different rifles and calibers. We have 30-30, 308, 270, 280 and the 30-06. Stockpiling and keeping track or several different types of calibers can get confusing.  When my brother goes to the camp during hunting season, he will call me and ask if we have any 30-30 or 308 in stock.

During some kind of SHTF survival situation, I look at rifle ammo as being in 2 categories – hunting and defense.

Hunting ammunition – this would be your 22 long rifle, 243, 270, 280, 7.62X39, 30-30, 308 and the 30-06.  This is going to be the ammunition that you use to feed your family with.

Defensive ammunition – this would be your 223, 7.62X39 and the 308.  This is going to be what you use to protect your family and your property.

When picking a rifle and caliber for some kind of SHTF survival, I do not think there is a perfect choice.  At the very least I would look at buying 2 calibers – depending on what you are going to be hunting.

If you are going to be hunting in the southern states, its unlikely you will run into a Grizzly like what people in the Northwestern states would.

For example, living in East Texas, I would pick something like the 22 long rifle for small game, and something like the 308 for deer.


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