Survival Guns

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 7 months ago

Survival Blog has a great article up on winter outdoor survival lessons, and I’ll reiterate part of it here while driving you to the Survival Blog for the rest of it.

Darkness was rapidly settling in, I was soaking wet, and the temperature was falling as fast as the snow.  There were still about 8 miles of very rough country between me and my truck and I was flat out smoked from hiking all day in deep snow at high elevation.  I realized I could not hope to navigate by headlamp the many blow down trees and steep canyon walls that separated me from my truck in my current condition.  While I realized the seriousness of my situation, I was not particularly worried and silently thanked the Lord I had practiced the skills essential to surviving in the wild and carried the appropriate gear on my back.  As I quickly went about the tasks required to set up a field expedient bivouac camp, I contemplated the many similar situations I had been through in my life were the main goal and focus was to not die.

Curled up comfortably in my emergency blanket with my face towards my fire and my back to a large log serving as a heat reflector, I realized that without the proper skills and some basic gear the situation good have been deadly.  The sounds of a distant wolf howl in the night reminded me of the thin veneer between polite society and the wild, were man is reduced to the basic necessities of survival; food, fire, and shelter.  In my experience, most people fail to realize how delicate the balance of our society is and how quickly they can be thrust into a situation where the main focus is survival.

Not dying has frequently been a priority of mine while fighting in Iraq as an Infantry team leader and designated long range marksman, followed by a career in law enforcement in western Montana.  My love of hiking, hunting, and camping has resulted in many hours spent in the wilderness of western Montana and northern Idaho.  While enjoying these pursuits, my focus has had to frequently switch from hunting and camping to not dying.  While some of these instances were indeed emergencies caused by bad decisions and a general lack of intelligence, some of them were self induced to practice survival skills in the wild.  After surviving several life threatening situations while hunting and camping with me, many spouses of my friends no longer allow their husbands to go hunting or camping with me.  I have had to resort to marketing my frequent hunting trips as “hands on survival courses” graded on a pass or fail depending on whether they make it back alive or not.

I have an affliction that is probably encouraged from reading way too many books about Mountain Men and Native Americans that causes me to constantly push myself to the limits and test myself by surviving in the wilderness with minimal equipment in varied terrain and all kinds of weather.  Frequent trips into the wilderness to practice survival skills have resulted in a fairly good working knowledge of what actually works when the chips are down versus what just sounds good in a book read by the warmth of a fireplace.  After spending his childhood tramping around the woods with me and camping with minimal equipment, my son decided to join the Marine Corps to relax for a while.  He’s joked that after some of our hunting trips, the Marines should be a walk in the park.

There have been countless books and articles written about what to carry in your survival pack and how to survive if lost in the woods.  I don’t plan on reinventing the wheel and will not bore you with writing a field manual on the many varied tasks and skills required to survive in the wild.  I would like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned and some of the items I always carry whenever I go into the backcountry along with a few essential skills that I’ve found to be absolutely necessary for survival.

Now that it has grabbed your interest, go read the rest at Survival Blog.  He has some great counsel, and I don’t necessarily disagree with any of it, but would emphasize other things.

I am not a proponent of the lone wolf scenario as you know.  See Tactical Considerations For The Lone Wolf and especially Surviving The Apocalypse: Thinking Strategically Rather Than Tactically.  I won’t rehearse any of that here.

I’m not a proponent of pushing the edge.  If you need to climb, do it with qualified ropes.  For example, rappelling is safe if done correctly.  Don’t see how little you can get away with – carry the right equipment for the job and make it as light as practical.  Cordage is a necessity, and paracord is cheap.  Don’t look for cordage in the wild.  It’s a waste of precious time.  Time is one of your greatest assets.

Don’t start fires with primitive means, even if you know how.  Never walk into the wild – even if for a day trip – without a knife, cordage, a container, cover, and a means of starting a fire.  Carry multiple means of starting a fire, such as a lighter and a ferro rod.  Never plan to be out in the wilderness where you could get lost or stranded for weeks.  Be closer than that to egress.  There are so many things to address and yet the author has done a good job of listing most of the considerations.  But I note that the author didn’t address guns.

Guns may be the most important asset at your disposal, and as one who carries, I certainly wouldn’t be in the wilderness without a firearm, even if only for a day trip.  I would like to address a little about survival guns as an adjunct to Jim’s post at Survival Blog.

A long gun is an unlikely asset on a long hike or overnight trip.  It’s just too heavy and bulky to carry, especially a .308 or 7.62 mm rifle.  Too much weight can be a detriment to your survival.  I am a proponent of the .270 cartridge, but a rifle still suffers from the same fate regardless of caliber.

What is true of the large caliber or bolt action rifles is also true of carbines such as the AR-15, M1 Carbine or pistol caliber carbines.  While it may be nice to have rapid fire capabilities, it’s just not feasible at least some of the time.

Frankly, if you’re going to carry a long gun, a shotgun may be the best choice given the fact that you can hunt fowl (with bird loads) and larger game (with slugs).  But because of weight of the weapon plus ammunition, it still suffers from the same limitations as other long guns.

So if we’ve settled on hand guns, this narrows the field a bit and makes our choice easier.  Here the best counsel I think anyone can give.  Choose reliability above all else, and choose the weapon with which you are practiced and familiar.  There is no comparison to hitting your intended target.

For semi-automatic weapons I like my .45 and .40, Springfield Armory XDm and Smith and Wesson M&P, respectively.  But it might be a different manufacturer for you.  If I carry a revolver I like my Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum.  I would carry any of those weapons into the wilderness, as I consider them large enough calibers to accomplish the intended purpose.  I have hand guns that I consider to be range toys, and I wouldn’t carry those for self defense whether in the wilderness or not.

Remember too that whatever weapon you carry must be accompanied by enough ammunition to make it effective.  Except for the .357 Magnum, none of the rounds I mentioned would likely be enough for game hunting, so the goal of the weapon would be personal defense.  If you intend to carry a weapon with which to hunt, you are planning a different trip than the one Jim and I have described.

Prior: What Happens If Your Bug Out Gun Breaks?


  1. On April 15, 2013 at 10:49 pm, Paul Bonneau said:

    Take a look at the little H&R Handi-rifle in .300 AAC. Accurate, so good for small game, handles up to deer, and not impossible for medium range personal defense against 2 legged varmints. Inexpensive gun, ammo pretty light weight and not bulky. The rifle itself is quite small and light. With a suppressor can be used for taking game without advertising your position to any enemies in the area.

  2. On April 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Hmmm … very interesting, but I might go with my M1 carbine if I want a .30 cartridge, although it isn’t suppressor-ready like the rifle to which you refer.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Guns,Survival and was published April 9th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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