In Thoreau’s earlier article, “Good Prepping Guns – What To Buy” he challenged himself to choose a great Prepping/Survival gun that fit the following conditions:
• Good for self defense
• Good for taking small game
• Fits within a $500 budget including sufficient ammo and accessories
You can read his post here if you haven’t already to hear his opinions. In this article I’d like to put forward a couple of my own picks.
First of all, if I had to choose only one gun to own it would be a 12-gauge shotgun. I think they are great for home defense as very few bad guys who know anything about weaponry will want anything to do with you once they hear that telltale terrifying sound of a shell being racked into the chamber. This sound is universally known to mean, “Bad things are coming your way, so beat it”. Also the wide range of options you have for ammo allow the gun to be used for home defense as well as taking down small game such as rabbit, wild turkey, pheasant, dove, et cetera… With a slug you could even take down a deer. That said, I will concede that there could be too much power here for an inexperienced shooter and coming in under the $500 limit including plenty of ammo would be tough.
So, on to my next choice… A gun specifically designed for survival situations, the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 .22 Rifle. I own one of these little guns and think it is absolutely great. For those of you who are not familiar, the AR-7 was designed for U.S. Air Force pilots to keep in their packs should they ever have to ditch or eject in a remote and possibly hostile area.
The rifle is designed to be disassembled into three parts (Stock, Receiver, Barrel) quickly and easily without the use of any tools whatsoever. Once taken apart the receiver and barrel fit nicely into the stock, which is designed to carry the pieces snugly, and is waterproof and impact resistant. There are even a couple of slots for two eight round magazines, allowing you to carry three magazines total if you keep one in the receiver. With everything tucked neatly inside the stock you end up with a 16.5” package that weighs a tidy 3.5 pounds. The whole thing fits easily inside a backpack or just about anywhere you’d need to stow it.
Putting the rifle back together is easy as pie. I watched a YouTube video on how to do it before I went to pick mine up at the gun store and was able to put it together on my first try in about one minute. Now that I’ve practiced a bit I can easily get it assembled in 30 seconds or less.
The AR-7 fires the .22LR cartridge, which, as I’ve said in the past, I’m a huge fan of. The ammo is cheap, it’s light so it’s easy to carry a lot of it with you, and if you choose some of the fancier rounds CCI is putting out it can be a very lethal round as well. One thing about the Henry Survival Rifle is it is a bit picky about what ammo you use. I’ve found that you really need to use high-velocity rounds in order for the weapon to cycle. I tried using cheap bulk .22’s and found that the first bullet would fire and eject the cartridge just fine but the next round would not feed into the chamber. I haven’t had a problem with jamming, just a failure to feed. So, I guess if all you had at your disposal was the cheap stuff you could still use the gun but it would function more like a bolt action as you would need to manually chamber each round. I’ve experimented with mini-mags, stingers, and a couple of other high-velocity rounds and have not had any problems whatsoever.
Fully assembled the rifle is 35” long and has an adjustable rear and front blade sights. I’ve said before that I don’t consider myself to be a particularly great shot by any means but I have no problem putting round after round into an 8” circle at 50 yards using just the sights on the gun. At 25 yards I was tearing up the bulls eye. I don’t think I would have any problem taking out small game with this rifle. In a self-defense situation, with the right ammunition, I think it would be quite effective as well.
The Henry Survival Rifle currently has an M.S.R.P. of $275. Throw in 2,000 rounds of nice .22 ammo and you’re still under the $500 limit Thoreau challenged us to. So that’s my pick. The price, availability of ammo, ability to transport discretely, accuracy, and the reliable functionality won me over.