A well-prepared go-bag load-out ideally includes some type of hunting and self defense firearm. Why a firearm? There are surely plenty of other options when it comes to self defense and hunting. While this is partly true, firearms can be arguably more powerful for their weight and size and have the added use of being a compact valuable item. Such items can be leveraged as a bartering chip further down the road if you decide you don’t need a firearm. This makes go-bag guns vitally important.
Factors and features that were used in judging were primarily weight, size, ammunition, versatility, and availability. In the event that you are resorting to a go bag for any number of reasons, those factors are some of the most important to take into consideration. The main use in mind here is survival first and defense secondary. Using a small caliber rifle to hunt in a survival situation has several advantages.
Hunting small game is going to allow for quicker field dress and preparation as opposed to attempting to process an entire deer or other herd animal which can quickly lead to waste and scavengers/ predators finding your kill. Also, in order to make these rifles easy to break down and stow away, the lower chamber pressure created by these small calibers results in less gun weight to carry overall.
Ammunition itself is another factor to consider in choosing a firearm for your go-bag. For that reason, there is a 22LR rifle listed here because it’s ammunition is so light and compact in comparison to even the handgun caliber rifles. In short though, the best firearm to have in a survival situation is the one you have with you.
Preparation is key, and that is why these firearms were explored; to assist you in making the best informed decision for your particular situation. Drawing on my professional experience with firearms, spending some time at local gun shows, researching, and asking a lot of annoying questions, here is the spread that I can best recommend.
Photo credit: HenryUSA
Henry US Survival AR-7
As a military veteran myself, I am aware of the pros and cons that come with trusting military selected equipment. The joke on the ground was always that our gear was ‘built by the lowest bidder’. That being said, the AR-7 entered into service during wartime, when the standards were still high. This survival rifle was built to demanding specifications by the US Air Force and Henry arms delivered with this successful offering. The AR-7 has all of the features that a downed pilot would need nearly anywhere in the world.
When it comes to survival situations, the Air Force and their pilots have to plan for some of the hardest to imagine survival situations across the world. For that reason, the AR-7 is space saving with all components fitting neatly in the buttstock. It’s waterproofing serves the dual purpose of not only keeping the components dry but also floating the entire rifle should it become submerged or dropped in water.
Hunting small game with this 22 is going to be one of the most efficient ways to find food. Perhaps one of the major advantages of the AR-7 is it’s caliber. A 500 round brick of 22LR ammunition weighs less than 4 pounds. That is surely something that can’t be said about any other handgun or rifle cartridge. For the durability, weight and space saving nature of the rifle, and it’s ammunition, the Henry AR-7 tops this assessment of ideal go-bag guns.
Notable features on the KelTec Sub-2000 from left to right: adjustable stock, ambidextrous charging handle, poly magazine well grip, versatile calibers, ghost ring rear sight, 16’ barrel with picatinny rail, and removable front sight. Photo Credit: KelTec
Sure, there will always be classics, but what about modern technology? That is where the KelTec Sub-2000 settles into this list. The Sub-2000 is a versatile platform, offered in 9mm and .40 handgun calibers used by the M&P line, Sig Sauer, Glock, and Beretta. Each design is made to fit the corresponding handgun magazines as well, giving added versatility. That is, on the surface at least. Digging deeper into the ballistics of the 16 inch barrel, it’s added length doesn’t actually add the velocity that is implied at best by this ‘sub-rifle’ as it is classified. This is due to a number of reasons, primarily that most 9mm handgun ammunition is designed and balanced for 3 to 4 inch barrels.
To get the most out of the Sub-2000 it is probably beneficial to find or manufacture purpose-made cartridges. Reliability and KelTec aren’t exactly synonymous with each other, and malfunctions are almost expected to come with the territory. What it really offers is a more stable platform to deliver sub 50 yard shots at. The picatinny rail system and a well zeroed optic complete this stable platform that would enable more confident shots at small and medium size game. As most collectors will admit, the picatinny rail also invites your imagination to a myriad of accessories to maximize the utility and accuracy of the Sub-2000.
Overall, by itself, the KelTec Sub-2000 may not be one of our top choices to solely depend on. However, when used as a compliment to whatever handgun you carry, the Sub-2000 finally shows what it was purpose-built to support.
Battle tested: Your author pictured here carried a Glock 17 throughout a 13 month security contract in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. I wasn’t a Glock fan until I saw it perform in that environment, one of the reasons a Glock 17 made this list of rugged survival guns.
Of all the handguns to choose, why the hell not a Glock 17. Besides it’s compatibility with the aforementioned Sub-2000, the Glock 17 has proven itself several times over in the field. With the compact size of a handgun and the capacity and reliability of a Glock, the 17 was bound to make the list. While this is a great self defense choice, it has also been increasingly acknowledged as a viable hunting gun for small game. Of all these firearms, maintenance on the Glock 17 is going to be the easiest. It’s rugged and weatherproof design is meant to keep the firearm functional through heavy use and exposure to water, mud, dust, and everything in between. Even when you may have to do a quick field strip, the gun breaks down into 4 large pieces and concentrates carbon build up in only a few key areas.
In short, the Glock 17 is going to be the ideal go-bag gun if you already own one. If you don’t, adding the Glock 17 to your collection was probably already in the back of your mind, now you just have another reason to sell it to your significant other!
In conclusion, these suggestions are not by a long shot exhaustive. The analysis and research done is meant to not only give a professional recommendation, but also give you the reader factors to consider and details to look for when selecting your survival firearm. As I mentioned before, when all else fails, the best firearm is the one you have with you. For that reason it is also important to fully familiarize yourself with your firearms, which is where professional training comes into play. Find a local trainer today and push your training limits.
What firearm(s) do you have planned for your go-bag? Share with me in the comments!
What do you think of these guns for your go-bag? Let us know in the comment section below.