For years, and I mean for “years”, my survival rifle list went something like this – Marlin 336 in 30-30, AR-15, Ruger mini-14, Ruger mini-30, AK-47, Ruger 10/22 and the Marlin model 60. The problem with that list, all of the rifles are short and medium caliber. The largest caliber rifle would have been the marlin 336 in 30-30 or the AK-47 in 7.62×39.
In my opinion, no survival rifle collection is complete without at least a rifle in the 308 Winchester and 30-06 range. When push comes to shove, a survivalist needs a rifle with some knock down power. In north America, the 308 and 30-06 are capable of taking just about any animal, except for the most dangerous grizzly or polar bear. For most applications – whitetail deer, hogs, prong horn, coyote, mule deer,,,,,, the 308 Winchester and 30-06 Springfield can fit the bill.
So where does this leave us? We could go with a bolt action rifle like the Remington model 700, Weatherby Vanguard or the Ruger model 70. But for a long term SHTF survival situation, I would like something with a detachable magazine.
Bolt actions rifles aside, this leaves us with the M1A, PTR-91, and the FN/FAL.
Instead of going into a lot of detail about each rifle, long story short, I decided to go with a DS Arms SA58 FN/FAL in 308 Winchester.
Some of my choices included:
- Remington model 750 woodsmaster
- Springfield Armory M1A or Scout A1
- Saiga in .308
- FN/FAL Imbel
- DS Arms SA58 FN/FAL
- Atlantic Arms Imbel FAL carbine
- Norinco M305B (M14 clone)
Related article: Top 5 survival rifles
What were some of the things I looked for in my quest for an ultimate SHTF survival rifle.
1. Military grade – I wanted a rifle that has seen action in some kind of combat situation. We know for a fact that the M1A (M14), AR-15, AK-47 and the FN/FAL have seen combat all over the world. Each rifle has its flaws, rather then trying to pick the best, its more like a balancing act. I needed to pick the rifle that was best suited for my requirements.
I wanted a rifle that does well in marsh, woodland and tropical conditions. Since I do not live anywhere close to a desert, lots of blowing sand will probably not be a factor.
3. Detachable magazine, and the magazines have to be affordable.
4. Tons of accessories and spare parts – grips, lights, aftermarket sights, scopes, aftermarket trigger, availability of spare parts,,,,,.
5. Medium sized caliber. Since I already had a 223 and a 7.62×39, I wanted something in the 308 / 7.62 NATO range.
One of the first rifles I looked at was the Remington 750 woodsmaster. I know a couple of people that have the 750, and the rifle seems like a solid performer. The issue is, I do not know of any military that has ever used the 750 as a battle rifle, and the magazine has a limited capacity. For a regular deer rifle, the Remington 750 is an excellent choice.
Then there was the PTR-91. A buddy of mine has a PTR-91, its an outstanding rifle that has lots of accessories and low cost of ownership. Awhile back, this buddy was able to get some PTR-91 magazines for $1 each. That sure beats my FN/FAL magazines at $20+ each.
The AR10 models were too expensive for my taste, I do not know of any military that has battle proven the AR-10, and I am unsure as to the avaibility of spare parts. Even though their chambered in 308 winchester, the various AR-10 models do not fill the other requirements.
On the forums there are a lot of people that talk about the Century Arms CETME. This would be a very cost effective solution, but I have heard hit and miss stories about the quality of the rifles. I do not need hit and miss quality product that will give decades of service. If I were to buy a rifle to leave at the Bug Out Location, the CETME would probably be it.
Another rifle I gave serious consideration to was the Atlantic Arms Imbel FAL. But once again, I found various, and sometimes conflicting reports of quality. The price is good on the Atlantic Arms Imbel FAL, but I did not want to take chances on quality. If I did buy a Atlantic Arms Imbel, it would probably have been stored at the Bug Out Location, or a hand out rifle to family members during a SHTF situation.
The M1A is an outstanding rifle that meets all of my requirements. The problem is the cost, its a little out of my price range.
The finalist were:
DS Arms SA58 FN/FAL
It seemed that the final rifles came down to price, and ergonomics.
The Springfield M1A is a great rifle, buts its out of my price range, so it was out.
There were a couple of things with the PTR-91 that cost it some points. First was the location of the charging handle. When firing from a prone position, it would be nice to have all of the controls in the same “area” of the rifle. Also, there is no bolt hold back. I would like a rifle where I insert a new magazine, and let the bolt go forward, instead of having to cycle the weapon again.
There is nothing wrong with the M1A or the PTR-91. In fact, if someone handed me either rifle, I would not turn them down.
Ultimately, I decided to go with the DS Arms SA58 FN/FAL as my SHTF survival rifle, and as my primary hunting rifle.
Some of the extras I want to install on the rifle:
Reflex / Red Dot scope
Scope for deer hunting, something like a 3-9×40
Since we are only 4 months from the start of deer season, the first thing to be installed on the rifle was a scope mount. Hopefully, next month I will be able to get nice scope and get the rifle sighted in.
To me, the ideal survival rifle should be balanced – balanced enough for an urban survival situation, deer hunting, hog hunting, or an all out SHTF long term survival situation. To achieve those goals the rifle will have a scope for deer hunting, and a red dot scope for hog hunting or urban settings.
Now, I just need to stockpile some magazines and ammo.