The Top 5 .22 LR Survival Rifles

Bill Bernhardt
By Bill Bernhardt May 19, 2016 10:43

The Top 5 .22 LR Survival Rifles

Most knowledgeable wilderness survivalists will tell you that although you can only survive about three days without water, you can survive for numerous days and even weeks without food provided that you are conservative with what energy you have. However, the fact of the matter is that food is every bit as important in a survival situation as water is and thus, procuring food should be your third priority after obtaining fresh, drinkable, water and either finding or building suitable shelter.

Although there are numerous edible plants available in the wilderness, obtaining enough protein is essential to your ability to remain healthy because consuming protein not only increases your metabolism which, in turn, keeps you warmer, it provides the building blocks your body needs to maintain your muscle mass so that you can continue surviving until either help arrives to find you or you manage to find help on your own. Thus, while there are numerous different primitive means of procuring a meal such as snares and traps as well as primitive weapons that will enable you to catch fish as well as small and medium sized game, the fact is that carrying a survival rifle as a companion to your other survival gear will make the task of procuring the protein you need much easier.

Hunting Bullets .22

But, what constitutes a good survival rifle? Well, it must be compact, lightweight, and, it should break down into two or more pieces for easy carry in a back pack, canoe, or kayak. In addition, since the purpose of a survival rifle is to procure food as opposed to defending yourself from attack by large predators, it should fire the .22 LR rimfire cartridge because this cartridge is readily available, is very compact and thus is easy to transport, and it is capable of humanely harvesting almost any small game animal.

Related:Homemade .22 Cal Steampunk Gatling Gun

Fortunately for us, there are five rifles that fit this bill perfectly but, each of them has their advantages and disadvantages:

  • The Browning Grade 1 Semi-Auto .22 Rifle – although not technically a survival
    Browning Grade 1.Semi-Auto .22 Rifle RIOT

    The Browning Grade 1.Semi-Auto .22 Rifle

    rifle, the Browning Semi-Auto .22 rifle is nonetheless well suited for the job. Originally designed for both plinking and hunting, the Browning Grade 1 features high grade, walnut, fore and butt stocks for a very pleasant appearance and, it holds 11 rounds in a tubular magazine that is loaded through a port in the butt stock. Also, both the fore stock and barrel are easily and quickly detachable and, it measures 37 inches when assembled, 19.25 inches when taken down, and it weighs 5 lbs. 3 oz. Last, the current MSRP is $699.99

  • The Savage/Stevens Model 30 Favorite Take-down Version .22 Rifle – The Savage
    The SavageStevens Model 30 Favorite Take-down Version .22 Rifle RIOT

    The SavageStevens Model 30 Favorite Take-down Version .22 Rifle

    /Stevens Model 30 Favorite has truly been a long time favorite with hunters who favor a compact, lightweight, .22 LR. for hunting small game. Featuring a lever action which retracts a falling breech block to expose the back of the chamber, the Model 30 is a lightweight, single shot, rifle that features an American walnut stock and fore end and which measures 36.75 inches when assembled, has a 21 inch octagon barrel, and weighs 4.25 lbs. However, please note that although this rifle is currently out of production, it can still be found on the pre-owned gun market at such sites as

  • The Marlin “Papoose” Model 70 PSS .22 Rifle – The Marlin Papoose on the oth
    The Marlin “Papoose” Model 70 PSS .22 Rifle RIOT

    The Marlin “Papoose” Model 70 PSS .22 Rifle

    er hand is a no-frills, purpose built, survival rifle that has a stainless steel receiver and a removable, 16.25 inch, stainless steel, barrel combined with a black, fiberglass-filled, butt stock and no fore stock. Also, it has a detachab
    le 7 round magazine and it measures 35.25 inches when assembled while weighing 3.25 lbs. Last, the current MSRP is $328.82

  • The Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 .22 Rifle – The AR-7 made by Henry Repeating Ar
    The Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 .22 Rifle RIOT

    The Henry Repeating Arms AR-7 .22 Rifle

    ms is also a no-frills, purpose built, survival rifle and it has been the exclusive choice of the U.S. Air Force since its introduction. Also, it features a semi-automatic action and two detachable, 8 round, magazines combined with a 16 inch barrel and a hollow, ABS plastic, butt stock available with your choice of a camouflage finish or a black, Teflon coated, finish designed in such a way that the barrel, the receiver, and both, eight round magazines can be stored inside of the butt stock to create a very compact, watertight, package that floats. In addition, it measures a mere 16.5 inches when disassembled and weighs 3.5 lbs. Last, the current MSRP for the black version is $290.00 and the camouflage version retails for $350.00.

  • The Rossi Single Shot Matched Pair .22 Rifle/ 20 Gauge Shotgun – last but not
    The Rossi Single Shot Matched Pair .22 Rifle 20 Gauge Shotgun RIOT

    The Rossi Single Shot Matched Pair .22 Rifle 20 Gauge Shotgun

    least, we have the Rossi Single Shot Matched Pair which is a unique survival rifle combination that is available in both blued and matte nickel models. Also, it is available in several different caliber/gauge configurations but, for survival purposes, the .22 LR/.410 shotgun combination is the best choice since the shotgun barrel will fire both shot shells and .41 caliber lead slugs for hunting both small and medium sized game. Last, although no length specifications are listed for this gun on the Rossi web site, it does say that this particular combination weighs 3.75 lbs. and that the current MSRP is $263.21.

Last, although many experienced woodsmen consider the .22 LR to be the perfect wilderness survival cartridge and the five rifles listed above to be the best of the best when it comes to compact, lightweight, survival rifles, they each have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, while the Browning is a beautiful rifle and is an excellent choice for hunting and plinking, it is rather expensive and thus, it may be difficult for some people to convince themselves to carry it in a survival pack. On the other hand, the Rossi is a very basic rifle/shotgun combination and thus, it may not be ergonomic enough for some shooters. Whereas, the take-down version of the Stevens Model 30 Favorite is an excellent compromise but, they can be hard to find. So, that leaves both the Marlin Papoose and the Henry AR-7 (which are actually very similar to each other in both appearance and operation as well as features) as the most popular choices for dedicated wilderness survivalists. However, regardless of which model you choose, they each perfectly fit the niche of a compact, lightweight, survival rifle.

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Bill BernhardtBill Bernhardt is a professional outdoor/wildlife writer and is a professional fly fishing instructor and guide as well as a professional hunting guide. He is an avid outdoorsman with expertise in fly fishing, hunting, firearms, archery, cutlery, outdoor survival, camping, and kayak touring.


Bill Bernhardt
By Bill Bernhardt May 19, 2016 10:43
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  1. mikeinsa May 19, 12:45

    I don’t think you images of the rifles matches the adjoining description. I’ll leave it at that.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Omi May 19, 13:00

    How could the Ruger 10/22 not be included?

    Reply to this comment
    • JP May 20, 16:00

      Because it doesn’t breakdown for carrying in a backpack.

      Reply to this comment
      • Rick March 19, 15:45

        You obviously haven’t heard of the 10/22 Takedown model. It comes in a rugged carry bag. Not only do I have my Ruger stored in mine, but there’s also room for my Henry survival rifle, a Walther P-22 pistol, and several magazines, including a few BX-25 mags.

        Reply to this comment
      • AKEducator May 21, 18:16

        There is one 10/22 model that is in a breakdown version.

        Reply to this comment
  3. Capt Tom May 19, 13:03

    I aould think that the Ruger 10/22 stainless Takedown would be a better choice than a conventional stock Browning at twice the price. With its flush mount 10 round mags and the option for much higher capacity it is a dependabke and versatile firearm.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Prepper May 19, 13:20

    I agree with Capt Tom I have most of the above rifles including the 10/22 stainless and by far it is the gun I would choose out of all of them. Much more rugged than the Marlin or the Henry and semi auto compared to the Rossi

    Reply to this comment
  5. Tony May 19, 13:58

    While I totally agree with the Henry AR-7, how can you leave out the Ruger 10-22? Specially a Stainless version, either the take-down model or configured with a Butler Creek folding stock. Superbly reliable and simple to maintain, I believe it must be included in any “Best of Survival Rifles” short-list.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Tony May 19, 14:00

    While I totally agree with the Henry AR-7, how can you leave out the Ruger 10-22? Specially a Stainless version, either the take-down model or configured with a Butler Creek folding stock. Superbly reliable and simple to maintain, I believe it must be included in any “Best of .22 Survival Rifles” short-list.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Datwick May 19, 14:04

    10/22 nuff said.

    Reply to this comment
  8. slie May 19, 15:01

    Before the 10-22 there was the Marlin 39A lever action, still one of the most dependable rifles around

    Reply to this comment
  9. Doc Trout May 19, 15:35

    Hello folks,

    I see that some readers are wondering why I failed to include the Ruger 10/22 stainless steel takedown model and, although I am embarrassed to admit it, the honest truth of the matter is that I did not know about it! However, now that I am aware of it, I have looked at it on Ruger’s web site and I see that it is a takedown version of their carbine model. But, although I have a 10/22 with a laminated wood stock and a heavy barrel that I absolutely love, I did have a non-takedown version of the carbine that I did not like because the length of pull was too short for me and it made the rifle uncomfortable to shoot.

    Bill Bernhardt

    Reply to this comment
    • Crazy Ivan June 11, 12:28

      I prefer my 10/22 blued takedown to the “stainless” model (which is just polished aluminum anyway). My reasoning is that my stainless version has been a jam master and my blued one has eaten any ammo I shove in. BTW, my wife And I have the Henry AR 7’s and they are nice, but much harder to aim than the 10/22. Just my opinion.

      Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck February 10, 16:52

      Duh, there are all kinds of devices in the market place that adjust length of pull including a rubber-like sleeve that goes on the buttstock that sells I think, for less than $10.00. I have three of them for the short l.o.p. SKS which was designed for use in Russian winters where one would be wearing heavy winter clothing.

      Reply to this comment
    • john_atlanta March 1, 09:01

      You can not know everything, I was aware of the Ruger and would like one, I did not know about the Marlin.

      If we could only get a take down version for a Calico 😜

      Reply to this comment
  10. Secondhand Jones May 19, 15:52

    I like the Springfield Armory M6 .22/.410 survival rifle. Easy to knock down and stores ammo in stock. Have 2, one in each truck. I paracorded a cut down bolt from my crossbow to the barrels for more .22 ammo storage.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Art May 19, 16:38

    Claiming ‘expertise’ in firearms and NOT knowing about the Ruger 10/22 SS Takedown??

    Reply to this comment
  12. Bctruck May 19, 19:17

    Without a doubt,the take down ruger 10/22 with a factory 25 round magazine is the survival rifle I would choose in the .22 cal category.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Bri May 19, 19:32

    Just do a search of the best .22 Takedown. Its the Ultimate Survival Rifle!

    Reply to this comment
  14. woodswalker May 19, 22:44

    I dont know what picture is with the Browning but its a bolt action rifle in the picture not a semi auto. And Im sorry but a 10/22 not making the list makes me really question the quality of these articles.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Farmer May 20, 01:19

    Sorry Bill … there are many more very serviceable .22LR and combo rifles out there. I agree on the caliber, but think you need to widen the scope of the article a bit.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Joe May 20, 03:51

    what a nipplehead

    Reply to this comment
  17. JP May 20, 16:14

    My choice is the trusty AR / M16 rifle (5.56 mm and .223) with a .22LR conversion. That way you have two calibers for a wide range of hunting and defense. Far too many people underestimate the capabilities and advantages of the .22LR. Here are a few… 1. Ability to carry a ridiculous amount of ammo without much space or weight. 2. The .22LR can be fatal at any range where the shooter can reliably hit the target. Note that defense does not need to be a fatal shot, incapacitate your attacker will suffice. 3. It is possible to take large game. 4. It is much quieter than larger calibers so it has less chance of scaring off potential game or attracting humans. 5. It can be reloaded in the field with common materials found almost anywhere. That is a huge advantage in a world where commercial ammo or reloading components are no longer available. 6. It is a proven design and has served reliably for decades and many wars.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Beavis June 15, 09:24

    Where’s the Chiappa Little Badger or the X-Caliber(multi caliber), or the Savage model 42 take down.

    Reply to this comment
  19. bob July 21, 21:21

    As mentioned, the 10/22 break down should be included in this list. Likewise, there are more than a couple of the listed weapons that I’d forego in order to include my Henry lever action .22. Its accurate, reliable, lightweight, compact and a mechanically operated (rather than recoil operated semi auto) so it will not fail to cycle due to low power ammo. It is reasonably inexpensive and well made as well. It also can use .22 shorts, so its not a unitasker. Lastly, it can be cycled much quicker than even the slickest single shot. I think the author may have overlooked a few weapons, or maybe he should have made it a top 10 rather than top 5.

    Reply to this comment
  20. TSgt B December 23, 19:10

    Consider taking a course in effective writing and proper use of punctuation.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Mo December 23, 23:46

    No list is every complete. The writer gave his acessment and stated his own opinion. Some of it I agreed with and some I didn’t. Just as I did with some of the comments. I have the Henry and like a writer said it’s a little harder to sight than some of the others. But for the money and the quality it’s hard to beat for a SHTF happening. Light weight and very functional.

    Reply to this comment
  22. dpm December 24, 03:06

    Wow hard to believe a article about 5 of the best 22,s and 10/22 doesn’t even get a honorable mention ? It should be at the top of your list ! I have had most of those other 22,s mentioned and can tell you none even come close to comparison in reliability , durability , and accuracy ! not to mention the vast array of accessories that can be purchased anywhere ! try and find parts for any of those other gun,s ! I must say this does call into question the credibility of this site ! ! ! And I really hate to say that . without some kind of retraction I’m afraid you are going to loose much of your firearms credibility ! I hope someone is listening , this is how good sites start to fade away !

    Reply to this comment
  23. left coast chuck February 10, 16:48

    This article is typical of much of what you find on the internet. Some self-appointed “expert” writes a half-baked article on some topic of which he has limited expertise and posts it and people who have less knowledge on the topic than our “expert” take what he says as gospel. I don’t consider myself an “expert” on any topic. I have some knowledge of firearms and I certainly feel I have more knowledge than the author of this article. He has posted the wrong pictures to illustrate the firearms he was describing. He is focused in on take-down .22s yet he admittedly is totally ignorant of the largest selling take-down .22 in the marketplace and, indeed, the largest selling .22 in the history of .22 rifles. The 10-22 is the 870 of .22 rifles. There are more after market products for that particular .22 than any other .22 ever. Replacement parts for that .22 are common. Most 10-22s will digest any brand of .22 LR without difficulty. I see this is re-posted from an earlier time. Claude, you should take down this post and dis-invite this author from submitting any further “advice”. Based on this article I would be strongly disinclined to hire him for his expertise in any of the many fields in which he professes expertise. Jack of all Trades,Master of None? I certainly wouldn’t want him proffering advice on a topic where my life might be in danger. His expertise might well be like Napoleon’s jackass. Napoleon and his staff were discussing generals to lead a campaign. The staff was suggesting a certain general but Napoleon demurred. The staff all said, “But he has been in 20 campaigns.” Napoleon replied, “So has my jackass but he doesn’t know any more now than he did in the first.”

    Reply to this comment
  24. Troop February 11, 06:27

    I have experience with the Charter Arms version of the AR 7 during a two week solo back packing trip in the late 70’s. I ate small game everyday. I also found accidentally that you can easily turn this fully automatic with just a simple adjustment of putting it back together incorrectly. This is my choice of a one gun .22 survival rifle. Mr. Stoner who designed this and the M16 did quite well. So if you really want to discover a good survival rifle. Load up your back pack and go walking for two weeks in the wilderness.

    Reply to this comment
  25. seabee February 11, 13:17

    I find the best of .22’s are the ones that will take malty different .22 loads. From shorts to long rifles. Since you can always use different .22 rounds. Might not find long rifles. But plenty of shorts ? This is just my option.

    Reply to this comment
  26. Ray C. February 16, 17:24

    The Browning Grade 1 Semi-Auto .22 Rifle, word of caution with this outstanding rifle. When the bolt is removed there is a small slot machined into the receiver that holds a small metal part that only allows one round at a time. This little piece falls out very easily and can be hard to find.

    Reply to this comment
  27. Rod April 5, 17:58

    The omission of the 10/22 takedown was a poor one. However, Unless you’re backpacking why would you use the take down feature? If you’re hunting it needs to be together, if you might be expecting trouble, the rifle still needs to be in one piece. However the 10/22 TD is expensive-$350-400. I can buy two or three used semi-auto 22’s for that. I just paid my top price for a Norinco ATD ($225), this is a clone of the Browning. I have 3 Model 60’s (17 shot tube feed) that work great: bought them at auctions for $150 or less. I also have a super Winchester Pump w/tubular feed that’s almost as quick to shoot as an autoloader (less than $200). All of these required a good teardown and cleaning but they all are flawless in operation.

    Reply to this comment
  28. Cdn April 28, 05:31

    You are forgetting the venerable Cooey Mod 39. Single shot. Nothing to go wrong. Easy maintenance. Accurate. Tried the AR7. Nope. Tried Marlin Papoose. Nope. Both failed. Too many plastic parts. No plastic on a Cooey. None on the old Winchester or Remingtons either. Some people are missing the point of the article I believe. It was about a good survival rifle. Not a “combat” rifle. Remember also the .22 has killed every game animal on the face of North America. Small and large.

    Reply to this comment
  29. NewAKPrepper May 17, 20:58

    I love my new Henry AR-7. Lightweight and collapsible, which suits me well up here in Alaska where we do a lot of hiking and backpacking, and it’s pretty accurate from what I’ve seen thus far. My ONLY gripe about the AR-7 is that you’d have to store the larger magazines somewhere other than inside the stock since it can only hold the two 8 round mags there. Still, it was an excellent buy in my opinion.

    Reply to this comment
  30. Archer January 9, 20:07

    If I was to use a .22 cal. for survival it certainly would not be a single shot. I would want capacity and accuracy as with a small round like a. .22 bullet placement is critical. It is hard to reload when running hence the high capacity requirement. Not everything one will need to shoot at can’t shoot back.

    Reply to this comment
  31. Labienus March 3, 15:58

    What no marlin 60? I’ve been using it for 15 years when I go trapping.

    Reply to this comment
  32. Skyman April 21, 20:01

    One of the first steps in becoming an “expert” in anything is to take what other “experts” have said and done and verify the truth of it for yourself. Then you’ll know.

    And then you’ll realize the Ruger 10/22 Take-down is just about the best survival weapon you can tote around when the CHTF. (crap)

    Reply to this comment
  33. Caleb August 13, 17:48

    Okay, I think everyone piled on enough. 10/22 syn/stainless would be my choice with 3 bmx mags. Aside from that, how about the ruger charger takedown?

    Aha moment? 10.xx inch barrel, eaaasyy to add small scope (skip the red dot, batteries eventually become an issue), integrated bi-pod already there and accepts all mags although the 15 round might be advised……might


    It breaks down….too? Takes less space and compliments the number one rule in survival….survive.

    Add some hyper velocity ammo for defense and for the first 30-40 yards you have near 22 mag performance?

    Self defense? Check.

    Now add taking game. I love all three of my 10/22’s and yet none have a bi-pod? Enter the charger. The 10 inch barrel does not sacrifice much ballistically in the first 75 yds. The distance at which 90% of YOUR rounds will be placed.

    Read: it will take small game…..too?

    Read: it will take miscreants…..too?

    Add the bi-pod, small scope if you need or want it and darn near everyone in your simpson party can become an annie oakly…..too?

    Charger 10/22 takesown in laminate stock, teflon coated barrel….give it some thought…..oh and it accepts all the 10/22 mags……too….

    Reply to this comment
  34. 6shooter August 26, 17:44

    I hike around 6 days a week, camp often, have been shooting for decades. While I shoot all sorts of calibers, in revolvers, rifles, and pistols, big bore & small, I think I’ve been after the ideal trail or survival gun much of my life.

    22LR is a great round, cheap to shoot, and great for small game, but I’ve actually concluded I like 22 WMR better as a survival & trail round. It is almost as small as LR, so very easy to carry ammo in the pack, much smaller & lighter than any centerfire round, can still take down small game, but offers a much harder hitting round out of longer barrels, capable of taking down a predator with good shot placement, if needed.

    As far as what to pack, I actually think a 8 or 9 round revolver in 22 WMR, 4 or 5 inch barrel, light, accurate, and reliable, is pretty ideal. Ruger has some nice A & DA options, as do others. I like the KT PMR30 too as a trail gun. Less reliable, but higher capacity, and nice & light, also accurate, and they are more available now, so prices are down. Probably not as durable, but still nice for that use.

    On the rifle front, I’ve owned the original Armalite version of the AR-7 for decades. I later added the Charter version too, but do not have the Henry version. I do have several Henry levers which I like, including 22LR & 22 WMR versions. Love em.

    The AR7 is a nice light package, but they do not cycle as well a the 10/22, and are definitely less reliable. Not a big fan of the sites either, but light, small, floats, etc. I like my 10/22s or plinking. 10/22 carbines are short, reliable, and the take down breaks down into a nice package, but they are a bit fat, and a bit heavy compared to other options or the trail IMO.

    Love the Browning levers & Semi auto you listed. My BL22 is one of my favs, but wouldn’t use it for survival.

    Have not bought a Papoose yet, but am looking at it.

    I recently added an interesting survival option worth consideration, a KSA Cricket in 22 WMR. I know it is a gun designed for a child, and only a single shot, but OAL is only 30 inches, shorter than all of the above, and it weighs only 3 lbs, also less than all the ones you listed, the 22 WMR hits hard, and the stock is hollow. If you pull of the butt plate, you can store matches, a fishing kit, ammo, etc.

    Thinking it might be worth having at camp, along with a 22 WMR revolver, both using the same ammo.

    Reply to this comment
  35. Sweet Steve November 5, 00:05

    Nothing was mentioned about Winchester 22 pump. Is it obsolete? It holds a tube and it breaks down into two parts. Fits into a small backpack.

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