To many people the word survivalist conjures up visions of a camo clad individual equipped with an AK-47 and a bandolier of 30 round magazines. I hate to disappoint these folks, but my idea of the primary survival weapon is the .22 rifle. Why the .22 you ask. Well there are several good reasons. First, it is capable of killing small game like rabbits, squirrels, possums, etc. I don't know about where you live, but around my place I see 100 rabbits and squirrels for every deer or wild hog I see. It is not legal to bird hunt with a .22, but in a survival situation you're going to anyway; and you won't feel bad about using a 2 cent .22 cartridge to kill one. Shells for a .30-06 are a dollar each and I'd hate to think about what would be left of a bird after a .30-06 hits it. Second, which was just addressed, the ammo is cheap; and it is the most commonly available ammunition in the United States. Every sporting goods store, gun shop, Wal-Mart, and practically every hardware store in the U.S. carries .22 ammo. Also, .22 ammo takes up virtually no space. You can put 1500 rounds in a shoebox, and carry 50 rounds in your pocket. The third virtue of the .22 is its low signature. That is to say, it doesn't make much noise. Remember, if the world as we know it has fallen into chaos, and the unprepared hoards are scouring the countryside in search of food, your best defense is to stay under the radar. You don't want to make a lot of noise that draws attention to your presence. Even a standard .22 longrifle cartridge will probably not be heard from 1/2 a mile away; a .22 short will carry even less. But if you really want to stay under the radar, buy yourself a few boxes of .22 CB's. These little sub-sonic cartridges are the size of a .22 short but they have even less powder in them than a short. I have fired one of these from a rifle on my back porch; and my wife, sitting in the living room 30 feet away, never heard a thing. But don't think that these little cartridges are toys. I shot one into a phone book and it penetrated 300 pages. They are less powerful than regular .22's though, so I would recommend that you re-site your rifle when using CB's and use them at fairly close range (30 yards or so). One drawback of CB's is that they are not powerful enough to cycle the bolt on a semi-auto. I always shoot them in a single-shot bolt action that I have.
From left to right: .22 Longrifle, .22 Short, .22 CB Short
I have two favorite .22's. One of them is the venerable Ruger 10-22, a very reliable semi-auto that comes with a 10 round magazine. I ditched the puny scope that was on it and replaced it with an inexpensive Bushnell variable power scope. You can buy all kinds of accessories for the 10-22, but it's hard to beat the basic gun as is. My second .22 is a little thing called the Crickett. I bought this gun from Wal-Mart for my son when he was younger. It is a tiny thing; about 30 inches long and weighs about 2 1/2 lbs. It is a single shot bolt action. I put a pretty good scope on it, attached a sling, and added a little cartridge holder to the stock that holds an extra six rounds. You can throw this little beauty over your shoulder, carry it all day, and never even know it's there.
My favorite .22's
Top: Ruger 10-22 Bottom: K.S.A. Crickett
I won't go into any long involved spiel on how to hunt. It's something that you really have to learn on your own, and it involves a lot of woods time. I will say that survival hunting is nothing like modern day deer hunting. Knowing how to sit in a stand over a feeder will not help you much in doing some cost effective survival hunting. For one thing if you have a 40 lb. bag of corn, you can bet that you're going to eat it, not feed it to Bambi. To survival hunt you're going to have to learn about the habits of animals. Where they feed, what they feed on, where they nest or bed, where they go for water, and what paths they use to move through the woods. As I say, learning to survival hunt involves a lot of woods time, just a little walking, and a lot of sitting and looking. Not a bad way to spend some time if you think about it.