Which guns are best for prepping and survival? Opinions vary widely. In this post, I consider the venerable Marlin Model 60 and its suitability, or lack thereof, as a prepping gun.
My definition of a prepping gun, which may differ from your definition, is a multipurpose gun that can handle self-defense as well as hunting small game. The gun should be inexpensive, because the more money you spend on guns and ammo, the less money you spend on prepping for other needs, such as food, water, medicine, shelter, etc. The accuracy, range, and lethality of the gun are also considerations.
The ammo in particular should not be too expensive. They say: “Guns are cheap, but ammo is expensive.” You buy a particular gun once. You buy ammunition for that gun repeatedly, over the course of many years, thereby spending far more on ammo than on the gun. This is particularly true for preppers, who may decide to buy and store a larger amount of ammo than the typical gun owner.
Background Info on the Marlin Model 60
An economically priced rifle that´s earned the title of “most popular 22 in the world.” Since it was introduced in 1960, it has continuously represented one of America´s finest rimfire values. It has a 19″ Micro-Groove® rifled barrel, cross-bolt safety, manual bolt hold-open and a patented automatic “last-shot” bolt hold-open. The tubular magazine holds up to 14 Long Rifle rounds. And with features such as its sleek walnut-finished hardwood stock and a precision-crowned muzzle for enhanced accuracy, it´s easy to see why the Model 60 continues to be one of America’s best-selling rifles.
There is not much marketing hype in that statement. Certainly, the Model 60 is one of the most popular .22LR rifles in the world, having been in production continuously for over 50 years. I would say that the Ruger 10/22 has a similar level of popularity. But in terms of value, the Model 60 does excel beyond other 22 rifles.
As far as I know, the Model 60 is currently (as of this writing) legal in all 50 states. Even California and Massachusetts permit the Model 60, despite its more than 10 round tubular magazine. There is an exception in the law in both States for 22 rifles with tubular magazines of more than 10 rounds. The gun passes muster in New Jersey as well, by keeping its magazine capacity under 15 rounds. However, laws are subject to change; always do your own research and check local and national laws.
The Model 60 is auto-loading, and takes only .22LR ammo. (Some lever action 22 rifles can function with different types of ammo: 22 short, 22 long, 22LR.) The receiver is grooved and tapped to accept a rail mount, so a scope or red dot can be easily added. The safety is located behind the trigger, and the bolt release lever is located in front of the trigger guard. The bolt holds open after the last round is fired. The controls on the rifle are not exactly standard, like an AR, but they are easy to learn and use.
Pros of the Marlin Model 60
At 5.5 lbs., the gun is a little heavier than the Ruger 10/22, but lighter than most rifles in higher calibers. It’s wood stock and 19″ barrel give the gun good balance, so it handles well. I easily added a rail to the receiver. The out-of-box accuracy can be improved for longer ranges with a scope. But the iron sights worked well enough for me.
For a prepping gun, one of the main advantages to the Model 60 is low price. At under $200 (currently; prices subject to change), you would be hard-pressed to name a gun with more value for less money. But more important, perhaps, is the low price of the ammo. Even top quality 22LR ammo is inexpensive. Hundreds of rounds cost tens of dollars. A thousand rounds can be purchased for less than the cost of the gun. Even if you buy the highest quality top-of-the-line ammo for the 22, it is still inexpensive compared to the cheapest 9mm or .223 rounds.
This gun has good out of the box accuracy. From a prepping point of view, this means that you can use the gun to hunt small game. Accuracy is crucial when hunting, and the smaller the game, the more accurate the shot needs to be. Small game (rabbits, squirrels) are generally shot inside of 100 yards, so greater range than that afforded by a 22 rifle is not necessary.
For self-defense, the 22LR is obviously under-powered. On the other hand, you should not under-estimate the effectiveness of a well-aimed 22 shot. A round like the CCI Velocitor (40 grains at 1435 ft/sec) would penetrate well. And a headshot against a dangerous aggressor would almost certainly be fatal. Follow-up shots with the Marlin Model 60 are very fast: the recoil is very low and the rifle stays pretty much on target. A double-tap that is well-aimed would suffice for self-defense, if necessary.
The low noise of a 22 rifle is an advantage. In SHTF situations, you might not want to draw undue attention to yourself. You can also shoot the 22 in a self-defense situation with less danger of harm to your hearing than larger caliber guns.
For any gun you can name, opinions vary: hate it, love it, or somewhere in-between. But for the Model 60, almost everyone who owns one, considers it a favorite. And almost everyone who sells one, soon regrets it.
Cons of the Marlin Model 60
There are substantial cons to the Model 60, from a prepping point of view. The gun is excellent for what it is: a low-cost 22LR auto-loading rifle. The cons relate mainly to its limited suitability for prepping purposes.
The lethality for self-defense purposes is very limited. A double-tap to the body might not stop a determined aggressor. Also, inside of a house, a handgun is probably preferable. A rifle can more easily be grabbed by an attacker, and the one or two shots you get off before that happens might not be enough.
The 14+1 capacity of the rifle is more than enough for most purposes. But the tubular magazine does not allow for fast reloads.
For hunting small game, a 22 rifle is one of your best choices. But you simply do not have the option of hunting anything larger. The AR platform can be used to hunt medium game. And while some States don’t allow hunting with the .223/5.56, a change of the upper can change the caliber to something more suitable.
By comparison to a shotgun, the 22 is better for small game, and offers less noise and recoil. But the shotgun far exceeds the 22 in self-defense lethality, and in hunting a wider range of game. The shotgun might be a little more expensive for the gun, but it is much more expensive for the ammo (although you probably need less of the shotgun ammo).
Any good 22 rifle is an inexpensive and highly useful gun for prepping purposes. The Marlin Model 60 is among the top choices of guns in that category. My opinion is that, for all its benefits and limitations, the gun is worth every penny. Buy and store some quality 22lr ammo, and you will have a great resource to use in many different situations.