The size and content of a bug-out bag or survival kit varies based on the needs and location of the person, but there are some items that always should be included. Among these: firearms that can be used for either hunting or self-defense.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of weapons that you should consider picking up for your bug-out bag. If you are looking into getting a firearm or two for this purpose, these criteria will help you pick the right one:
1. Size. The firearm(s) should fit inside the bag, if possible. This can be a challenge when looking at rifles and shotguns, so find one that can collapse or break down into smaller components for easy storage.
2. Weight. You may be carrying your bug-out bag for an extended period of time, so you’ll want any firearms in it to be as light as possible. You also will need to carry ammunition, cleaning supplies, and accessories for it, as well, which adds even more weight to your pack.
3. Cost. Unlike any other guns you may own, the firearms you get for your bug-out bag should stay in it unless you are shooting or cleaning them. If you can afford to spend a bit extra on a higher-quality firearm, do it; however, you can easily find a firearm for this purpose without breaking the bank. Your firearm just needs to be reliable. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
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A pistol or revolver is a critical tool to have in your bug-out bag. Ideally, it should be one that shoots centerfire ammunition suitable for self-defense, such as 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. In addition to your pistol, your bug-out bag also should contain ammunition, spare magazines, a holster and a magazine pouch. Check out our “best pistols under $300” article for some low-cost suggestions.
Break-action shotguns are simple to operate, have few moving parts, and are very easy to maintain. They also can be disassembled for storage without using tools. When buying a break-action shotgun for your bag, try to find one with a defense-length (18-inch) barrel.
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If you can’t find one with that barrel length in your budget, you always ban buy one with a longer hunting barrel and have a gunsmith cut it down to defense length. Certain companies are also making inserts for break-action shotguns that allow you to fire other types of ammunition types through it. This is a great addition to any bug-out bag, and not something that you can get for a pump-action or semi-automatic shotgun.
If the thought of having to reload after every one or two shots makes you cringe, then a pump-action shotgun is an excellent alternative to the break-action for your bug-out bag. You can easily find one with a defense-length barrel, and aftermarket parts can be found at relatively low price online. These tend to be a bit larger than a break-action when disassembled, so it would be a good idea to buy an aftermarket folding stock or pistol grip for it.
While pistol-caliber carbines may not be the best option for hunting larger game, they definitely will handle small game, and work admirably in a defensive role. Some have the added benefit of accepting pistol magazines, which makes them an excellent companion for a pistol in your bug-out bag. Some models, such as the KelTec Sub2000, can be folded and placed in your bag, while others like the TNW ASR or JR Carbine are designed to be easily disassembled for compact storage.
Depending on your state’s restrictions, you may be able to purchase a “pistol” version of a pistol-caliber carbine, which has a short barrel and no buttstock. Some examples include the Chiappa PAK-9, ATI MilSport, or Angstadt Arms UDP-9. These types of weapons are great for close-quarters defensive scenarios, and their smaller size allows them to fit easily in your bug-out bag.
For both hunting and defensive situations, a semiautomatic rifle chambered in .223 Remington, 7.62x39mm NATO, or .308 Winchester is a great tool to have in your bug-out bag. Unfortunately, most of the AR- and AK-variant rifles in this category are not easy to fit in a backpack. One alternative, the KelTec SU16, is a survival rifle that lets you use high-capacity AR magazines, and folds into a compact 25-inch package.
Another option is to purchase an entry-level AR-15 and install a “takedown” kit, which allows you to quickly remove the barrel for storage. These can be purchased from a number of manufacturers, including Vision Defense, DRD Tactical and Cry Havoc. AR-platform takedown rifles like the Ruger SR556 are another option, although they are a bit more expensive. You also might consider a side- or under-folding AK-platform, which are reasonably compact (roughly 28 inches folded).
Other Rifle Configurations
There are a number of single-shot and lever-action rifles in various calibers that can be disassembled and stored easily. There are many to choose from, including the Rossi W, the Browning BLR-81, the CVA Scout, the Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter, and the Chiappa 1892. If you want a combination rifle and shotgun, the Chiappa X-Caliber is an-over-under shotgun/rifle combination in 12- or 20-gauge and .22 LR or .22 WMR. Other rimfire options include the Henry Arms AR-7 and the Ruger 10-22 Takedown.