Many people have the notion that to survive in a remote area they will be catching trout and shooting deer. But the truth is, survival subsistence is a matter of foraging. You eat whatever you can get whenever you can get it. If you don’t have a weapon and you don’t know how to trap and snare little critters then you must depend on the lower forms of life such as tadpoles, insects, slugs, worms, grubs, etc.
Having a firearm gives you an edge and allows you to reap a bountiful harvest of the most common animals you will encounter – mice, rats, lizards, squirrels, snakes, small birds, porcupines, and the like. Often, deer and other large mammals are either not present or rarely encountered. Therefore, the best firearm to have in such a situation will be one that will take the small and very small game at close to moderate ranges, allow you to shoot the quarry when it is running or climbing, and still has the capability to down a big animal if you are lucky enough to have one come your way.
Only a shotgun can meet those requirements. Shot cartridges fired out of rifle and pistol barrels, even .410 from rifled barrels, produce wide uneven patterns that are of limited usefulness even at very close range. But a true shotgun, even a .410, is quick and effective and will easily take crawling, running, climbing, and flying small game. A shotgun fires a variety of shot sizes, including buckshot and slugs. A shotgun is just the thing for foraging.
Various repeaters and combination guns are often recommended as good candidates for a survival gun. But let’s assume that because of cost, weight, and simplicity we have decided on a single-shot shotgun.
If I had to choose a single-shot shotgun for a survival situation it would be a lightened break-down 12 gauge with cylinder bore. The effectiveness of a 12 gauge for game of any size is well established. I would choose a variety of shotgun cartridges that included birdshot, No. 4 buckshot (.24 caliber, 27 pellets), and slugs. I would also add some 12 gauge flare cartridges and some 12 gauge whistling cartridges to use for signaling.
If I had to reduce weight, my reluctant next choice would be for a .410. A 28 gauge would be a better choice than the .410 but 28 gauge buckshot and slugs are almost impossible to find. Regarding a 20 gauge, if I can carry a gun with the size and weight of a 20 gauge then I might as well just take a 12 gauge.
If you plan on putting together a survival kit, here are just a few thing to consider. Make sure you include some wire for snares. You can wrap it around a knife handle or some other item you already have in the kit.
Mousetraps and rat traps are also very handy to have. You don’t take the whole trap. Instead, remove all the metal parts from the wooden board, discard the board and keep the parts.
Then, in the wild, you can reassemble the trap on any piece of wood – log, branch, stump, driftwood, etc. A metal can or cup can be a lifesaver. You can boil water in it, use it to make soup out of little animals, polish the bottom to make a mirror for signaling, collect dripping water or scoop up water from puddles and depressions with it.
And a metal can won’t take up any space at all if you use it as a container for your survival items.
To learn more about how to choose among various gauges of guns and different shot sizes read The Selection Of A Gun By Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey.
For “Best Loads For Best Guns” visit ClassicShooting.com.
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