By Mark Fike
I realize that is quite a title to lead off with, but it was an honest representation of the article. I am not a prepper in that I don’t have multiple bug out bags in my house, but I do try to be prepared. We always keep some extra food on hand, although we don’t keep months of food. However, we are knowledgeable in how to obtain our own food from the land.
This brings me to my next point, the title. Given the current state of affairs, I have had a lot of questions thrown to me by acquaintances over the past month about living off the land and firearms. I found it curious that all of a sudden people would start thinking about these things when we have had our entire lives to consider the possibilities.
One of the questions that was posed to me several times was: “What is the best firearm to have in order to survive?”
That is a loaded question, no pun intended. My response was to ask what the circumstances are that one was trying to survive. Did survival include living off the land for a month or two or was it asked in the perspective of protecting themselves from other humans that were bent on doing bodily harm?
Even in those two contexts, the question does not have a straightforward answer. So, I will answer the question as I see it as I would advise my own family.
If I had to choose only one gun for my family in a “survive off the land scenario” anywhere in the United States, the choice would be a .22 rifle, hands down. A .22 rifle will not legally or ethically take down a moose, elk or bear but you don’t need to shoot those animals to survive off the land.
A .22 rifle has many advantages for a family. First, anyone in the family can adequately and even skillfully shoot a .22 rifle. Recoil is negligible, and most of the rifles are lightweight. These rifles come in a variety of sizes, actions and even configurations to include AR styles, bolt actions that are super accurate, down to the Henry Survival AR-7, Marlin Papoose Rifle and Ruger 10/22 that breaks down as well. A plain old Marlin Model 60 would work just fine!
Second, you can carry lots of .22 ammo versus any other ammo and it is relatively inexpensive. Five or six years ago, people made a run on .22 ammo and for several years it was hard to come by. People were hoarding it and that should tell you something. Now you can find .22 ammo in stock in most places and the price is back to almost normal.
Last, a .22 rifle is perfect for taking small game, birds in a pinch where legal, and dispatching threats like rabid animals, snakes, groundhogs in the garden, and putting down larger animals with a well-placed shot to the brain. My butcher uses an old .22 bolt action rifle to shoot the beef animals before he butchers them. They go down with but a quiver and then the butchering begins.
For these reasons my family would easily choose a .22 rifle if we could only have one firearm in a survival situation. Being able to accurately, easily and effectively shoot it, take game for food, protect against small threats and dispatch problems is easy with this choice.
I would like to add that I was also asked by a few people a variation of that question with regards to a carry gun or a self-defense pistol for the entire family to have in the home. That is not a fair question as there are so many variables. Ages and abilities of those in the family whether it be a 12-year-old or an 80-year-old with arthritis must be considered. Pulling a slide back on a handgun can be problematic in some circumstances.
That said, ideally I would want something with tremendous stopping power. I like my .45. There is no question it will do the job and do it well. But if you have a teenager who is afraid of loud guns or heavy recoil, the .45 is not the answer.
So, again, the question becomes, “What is the best all-around fit for every person in my family to have the ability to pick up and use in an emergency if I could only choose one firearm?”
To me, that simplifies things considerably and while my answer is not exactly ideal, it does work. I would choose a .22 revolver or pistol. If my family could work the slide on a .22 pistol I would most certainly choose that. If my grandmother were in my home for the duration of whatever the emergency event was, I would probably consider a revolver.
My choice for the family pistol would easily be the Ruger SR22, although there are a number of .22 pistols out there that are well made and would serve well. For a revolver, the choices are numerous.
The .22 caliber round is not high on stopping power but it does get the attention of those bent on doing harm and if the person using the gun has confidence in using it and is not afraid of using it, they are going to be much more effective when or if they need to fire the weapon.
The goal is to be prepared and hope and pray we never have to “survive” or use a firearm in defense of our lives, but it is good to consider your options before life becomes an emergency and there is no time to prepare.
Now is the time to figure these things out. Whatever you decide for your family, my advice is to be SAFE, teach SAFE handling of firearms, and practice safe handling so when things get crazy, you do stay safe.