Guest post by Conrad Novak
When selecting a survival rifle, it is important to pick one that can wear many different hats. The firearm should be capable of both hunting food as well as defending yourself. You also want a weapon that can be easily fixed and has plenty of inexpensive ammunition.
While it may not strike fear into the hearts of bandits and highwaymen, the .22 caliber rifle is easily one of the best options available for a survival rifle. It checks all of the boxes–even if it is not as impressive as a larger caliber rifle. Here we have a list of the 7 best .22 caliber survival rifles for your hunting needs.
Seven .22 Caliber Rifles for Hunting and Survival
Image Credit: Ruger
It really should not come as much of a surprise that we rank the Ruger 10/22 as the best .22 caliber survival rifle. In fact, from this point on, you can just rank the rest of the firearms as “1B, 2B, 3B…” Without even looking at the specs or qualities that make this .22 so good, you should probably know that it is the highest selling .22 rifle ever.
That saying about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time has some merit because the 10/22 is not just hype. The action of this firearm is so natural and smooth that you might almost forget that you are using it. There might not be a truer extension of the power a firearm provides than the 10/22 with everyone from the young to the frail being able to competently use this survival rifle.
Include the rotary 10-round magazine as well as the cottage industry of aftermarket additions and you have one of the most robust firearms in the world. It also helps that being the most popular .22 rifle ever means that you can get one cheap and maintain it yourself. This makes the Ruger 10/22 not only one of the best .22 rifles for hunting and survival, but it might just be the best survival rifle that you can find. (Ed. Note: the Ruger 10/22 also has a take-down version, which would be my second choice for a long term Bug Out Bag or INCH bag.
Image Credit: CZ-USA
There is a pretty good chance that the next 2 firearms will have adherents on both sides suggesting it should be higher on the list. For us, it will come down to a matter of personal preference more than anything else, and the utility of the CZ 455 nudges it ahead of the Marlin 60 in our eyes. Still, the CZ 455 is primarily known for being reasonably priced and incredibly reliable making it an amazing value.
First, the CZ 455 is ridiculously accurate in the hands of a skilled shooter with 5-shot groupings within 1” being the norm, not the exception. While plinking does not require the same level of accuracy, hunting rifles usually only give you a single shot. So you need to make sure that shot counts and the CZ 455 provides that kind of accuracy.
Of course, there are plenty of extremely accurate .22 caliber rifles on the market, so the utility of the CZ 455 distinguishes it from some of the other rifles on our list. The ability to easily change out the parts cannot be ignored. This allows you to do away with additional firearms for different purposes or a bag full of attachments.
Image Credit: Marlin
The Marlin 60 may not have the same history as some of the company’s other firearms, but it is easily one of the best survival rifles that you can find. The reason it is not higher on our list has to do with its options. While there are plenty of Marlin 60s these days that can be modded to the absurd, in its essence it is a fairly straight-forward rifle.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit the average Marlin 60 in some ways. Still, the primary quality most relevant to hunting rifles–the accuracy–is top notch. The Marlin 60 comes with a 16-groove, micro-filed barrel that greatly increases accuracy and prevents the deformation of softer bullets.
This .22 rifle also comes with a precision crown helping even average shooters remain more accurate. In fact, this may be one of the better .22 rifles to train with as it offers an experience that provides something for all shooters, no matter their mastery.
The Marlin 60 does have some nice utility features, but these are mostly due to the popularity of the firearm more than anything else. That still means that it is not difficult to find replacement parts and many components are backward compatible throughout the rifle’s lifetime.
Image Credit: Smith & Wesson
Personally, we prefer a more classing style of .22 rifle for hunting, but more and more hunters these days are learning how to shoot using tactical rifles. While those firearms are incredibly effective in a number of different situations, including hunting, they do require different shooting techniques. This means that shooters who learned using tactical rifles are more likely to find the traditional design less natural.
Either way, the S&W MP15-22 does provide all of the bells and whistles that you would expect from a “modern” firearm. The S&W MP15-22 is ultimately a .22 caliber rifle at its guts with the tactical arrangement of the AR-15 model. This makes holding and bracing the firearm easier for smaller shooters. It also allows the S&W MP15-22 to fire without much kickback.
As with all tactical firearms, one of the biggest draws of the S&W MP15-22 is the attachments. And the S&W MP15-22 will not disappoint in this department as it can support virtually all of the S&W AR-15 aftermarket accessories. It is also made of synthetic materials and features a 25+1 magazine making it great for those long hunting trips during a survivalist retreat.
Browning SA .22
Image Credit: Browning
One thing you should pick up on as we continue through the list is that many of these .22 rifles will be “classics” or known for their iconic design. This is no accident since these are often some of the most reliable and accurate .22 caliber rifles available. However, this often means that these firearms have not always upgraded when new technology becomes available.
Still, the Browning Semi-Auto .22 is in a class unto itself as the first semi-automatic .22 caliber firearm ever. Despite that legacy, the Browning SA .22 is every bit as effective today as it was in 1914. Though it is important to keep in mind that the Browning SA .22 was meant more as a training rifle, especially for children.
Of course, that also means that the Browning SA .22 was designed to be reliable and easy to use. Though one of its features is also often considered one of its flaws as the Browning SA .22 discharged from the bottom of the receiver. While this was great at protecting the eyes, it also meant that the spent hot casing could quite easily slip down the sleeve of the shooter.
Image Credit: Henry
If this list were not focused so much on hunting, the Henry AR-7 may very well the number one .22 survival rifle. This is because the Henry AR-7 can be broken down into 4 different parts with the receiver, barrel, and magazines fitting into the stock. If nothing else, this design makes the Henry AR-7 easily one of the best backup .22 hunting rifles. (Ed. Note: the Henry AR-7 is my choice for a long term Bug Out Bag or an INCH bag.
This actually comes in handy in a couple of ways. One of the best qualities of the Henry AR-7 is that it only weighs 3 ½ lbs. Even better, when broken down and stored in the stock, the entire package is only 16 ½” long making it easy to sling over your shoulder while still carrying a primary firearm. This arrangement is why we would highly recommend this .22 rifle for a survivalist.
Of course, that singular trait aside, the Henry AR-7 is still an exceptionally well-made firearm. Originally commissioned from ArmaLite for the US Air Force, this .22 rifle is now made by a couple different companies, but the Henry model is a bit better than the rest. The Henry AR-7 is made of more sophisticated materials than the other brands and features accessory options the other brands do not afford.
Image Credit: Marlin
As one of the few lever-action .22 rifles to make our list, the Marlin 39 is only as low as it is because it has not kept up with the times quite as well as some newer models have. Of course, there is not much point in trying to reinvent the wheel. As a design, the Marlin 39 has survived for over 100 years largely because it is reliable, inexpensive, and an all-around solid firearm.
Simply put, the Marlin 39 is a straightforward .22LR rifle that gets high marks in all of the relevant qualities without necessarily blowing you away in any given spec. This makes the Marlin 39 extremely versatile, and it can be effectively used for pest control, small game hunting, and plinking. In fact, the 39’s predecessor, the Winchester 1973, is roughly the same design and was used by Annie Oakley to pull off many of her amazing feats of marksmanship.
A capable hunter could potentially use the Marlin 39 to take down a mid-sized game as it is surprisingly accurate despite the legacy of its design. The reason it is so low on our list has more to do with its reloading process, but it does at least hold 19 rounds.
There are plenty more .22 caliber survival rifles that we could put on this list, but we avoided choosing firearms that are no longer in production. We also left off any of the popular .22 caliber firearms that use the body and stock designs of other weapons. Remember, since a .22 caliber firearm does not have the stopping power of larger caliber rifles, it needs to be as accurate as possible.
With that in mind, the .22 caliber survival rifles we selected all get high marks in accuracy and reliability. While their bells and whistles may differ a bit, the core function remains solid for hunting all kinds of game–both big and small. To learn more about the different firearms used in survival situations and other tips and tricks, check out our survival skills 101 guide.
- The Top 5 .22 LR Survival Rifles – Ask a Prepper
- Best .22lr Rifles for Hunting Small Game & Survival: Rimfire Rifle Reviews – Wilderness Today
- The Ten Best .22 Rifles – Range 365
- Best .22 LR Rifles : Bigger Isn’t Always Better – Pew Pew Tactical
- 10 Best .22 Rifles for The Money In 2018 – Gun News Daily
About the Author:
Conrad Novak is a proud father of two children. His journey as a prepper began when Hurricane Katrina hit and he lost his job due to the 2008 economic crisis. That made him realize that everything can change for the worst in a very short time. This experience was the detonator for him to pursue learning and becoming better prepared to face the kind of unexpected disasters that may occur at any point in our lives. You can read more of his content at SurvivorsFortress.com
Main image by Christopher Burns