The Survival Rifle: Not what you expect


When ever I talk to people about survival rifles people tend to think the wrong way about guns. The most prevalent idea is based around Hollywoodish idea of a rifle going through years of abuse, mud, blood, and all bad things and it still shoots. Can anyone guess which rifle is mostly seen in these horrific conditions? Of Course the Russian AK-47. The rifle that can be buried in a cave for twenty years be dug out, oiled and it still shoots! Sounds like the perfect gun right? No. The AK-47 was designed to work in battlefield conditions, not worst case scenario conditions.

The AK-47 was designed to handle battles like Stalingrad. It performs well on the battlefield and has very high tolerances to mud, sand, and water. A useful thing for terrible conditions such as Vietnam, but not very good in the long run. The AK-47 is a good rifle but it is not a survival rifle. In a later post I will discuss this rifle more both in it’s plus and minus, but for long term survival it is not the perfect gun.

So what about the infamous AR-15 or M-16 in the military. Again it is just like the AK-47, built to face battlefield conditions but not suitable for actual survival.


Then if these two rifles are good for survival then what gun is best suited for the survival environments? Strangely enough it is a blast from the past, quite literally. The black powder rifle. The black powder rifle has an advantage over modern cartridge rifles. It’s ammo is easy to produce. Quite simply The black powder rifle has few parts and can be repaired very easily. It doesn’t need to be oiled so it won’t break down. It uses black powder which means that when you run out of black powder, you can make more. Black powder is exceptionally easy to make and the ingredients are very easy to find. Unfortunately I won’t tell you how to make black powder. Though I wish I could put everything up you need for survival, I do have some instances that I draw the line for safety sake. If you want to know the internet is full of it, but I recommend you find a professional chemist, or old weapon’s technology professional and ask.

Typical black powder rifles come in two calibers, .58 caliber and .32 caliber. Both calibers are well suited for hunting of animals of any size. I do recommend the .58 caliber if you want to take down a bear, especially if you are a slow loader. However the ammo for the rifle is simply a either a ball or mini-ball. Both are devastating and are cast out of lead. So it is very easy to create more projectiles. Lead has a low melting point so if you run out a simple fire will melt excess lead or lead ore. Though lead is not necessarily easy to recognize in nature, it is plentiful in most temperate environments.

lead-ballskentucky-long-rifle3 minie-ball

The greatest advantage to the black powder rifle is that it does not use cartridges. In survival situations that lack of weight, is just more weight you can carry of necessary items like water, food, or what ever item you find necessary. To most people this would seem as a disadvantage, having to load your own rounds not in a self contained cartridge. I want to point out a very important thing to remember, cartridges have a shelf life. Depending on the environment depends on the life of the cartridge. In WW2 the European theater had no real problems with cartridges, in the Pacific theater however the constant changing of the temperatures caused the brass cartridge and the lead projectile to become more unreliable, misfires were more prevalent in the Pacific theater by 31%. Of course remember that is with proper maintenance. In a worse case scenario such as the Walking Dead. You can bet that cartridge corrosion will be compounded.

Also remember that standard assault rifles and shotguns need to be oiled regularly so it is just another draw back to those weapon systems. The AK-47, AR-15 generation weapons are wonderful but in long term survival situations I would prefer to have a black powder rifle. Of course if you can somehow manage running through the woods with one listening to The Last of the Mohicans theme then you have achieved an epic life.


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