Top 5 Defensive and Survival Rifles

These choices are from actual experience with these guns. The number 1 choice is a gun I would not part with under any circumstance.

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Yes, I know, usually this type of article involves the top 10 favorite firearms of whatever type. However, space limitations limit me to covering only five firearms, so I decided to only cover one category for this post-rifles. Sometime down the road I will cover my top five favorite handguns and shotguns in additional posts.

Here are the parameters I used. First, the guns selected had to be guns I owned (all but one was, and I will explain that one) currently or in the past. Second, the guns had to still be available on the market for purchase as either new or used. Third, each gun had to be available at an "everyman" price point. Specifically they had to be theoretically affordable by married guys-including me-which for the average married guy means they had to be reasonably priced. Fourth, each grouping had to have firearms listed that were purposed for mostly defensive or survival missions.

Remember that my list is not meant to be agreed with by all or any of you. While it is my opinion, feel free to talk it out amongst yourselves, and try and come up with a list of your own. You will likely also find that it won't be as easy as you first thought. You may also find it hard to keep your choices to only five total.

Which Rifles and Why?

Here are my top five selections ranked from low (5) to high (1). Remember that my choices are from actual experience with these guns. The number 1 choice is a gun I would not part with under any circumstance.

    Henry Classic Lever Action 22
  1. The Henry Classic Lever Action .22-this choice might surprise some of you, but not because it's a .22 rimfire, but because it is a manually operated lever action repeater rather than a semi-automatic. Here is my rationale. The Classic Henry .22 Lever Action is trim and compact. It is light in weight and capable of mounting a scope. Its accuracy is excellent. In terms of survival, having a .22 in the armory is a must if one is thinking of taking small game or predators. During the first great Obama ammo shortage one could not lay their hands on the high velocity .22 LR ammo needed to operate the semi-automatic rifle action. However, I was able to find plenty of standard velocity .22 LR ammo as well as .22 Longs and Shorts. Not one of those three rounds will run a semi-auto, but the Henry gobbled them up. This .22 will shoot all day long without a hitch and holds 17 rounds of .22 LR ammo in its tubular magazine. The stocks are walnut-the same used for the original assault rifle (M2 Carbine) and later M-14. Walnut is certainly tough enough.
  2. AK-47 Semi-Automatic Rifle
  3. The AK-47-without a doubt, the AK-47 is the most reliable semi-automatic (or full automatic) small arm out there. Even the least expensive or poorly finished models run and run and run with next to no maintenance. Inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov designed the AK-47 to be capable of being operated by even the most uneducated peasants with the least amount of support equipment. Nothing can hold a candle to it in terms of reliability, due to its liberal dimensional tolerances. These sloppy tolerances at one time caused folks to deride the AK for poor accuracy (six inch or larger groups at 100) yards. Today's American made AK brands, such as those form Century Arms ( are capable of much better accuracy-usually three inches and under at 100 yards. The AK's recoil is zilch and it can be handled by nearly any shooter. The intermediate powered original 7.62x39 or later 5.45x39 chambering's offer reasonable levels of power, and both calibers are relatively inexpensive to purchase.
  4. M1 Carbine
  5. The M1 Carbine-I've always had a thing for the easy handling M1 Carbine. I got to see it in action every week as a kid in the hands of Rick Jason (Lt. Hanley) on the 60's television show Combat! What was so cool about the M1 was its 15 round magazine capacity-30 round M2 Carbine style magazines up the capacity even more. If one wanted a high capacity military shoulder arm in those days, a surplus M1 carbine was the only way to go. I had to wait until the 1980's to get a chance to fire one, which was really made me fall in love with its light recoil and ultra-sweet handling. During that same time, the Columbus Police Department SWAT team issued M1 Carbines to its entry team officers, since Colt AR15's were not readily available and quite expensive. The M1 Carbine I own today is a modern replica built by Kahr Arms ( which originally had the "paratrooper" folding wire stock. I purchased a full walnut stock from Kahr for added versatility. It's still a fine CQB arm, and with modern ammo, has more power than most folks realize.
  6. DPMS A1 Lite Classic AR15
  7. The DPMS A1Lite Classic AR15-this is basically a semi-auto M16A2 combined with a lighter barrel. Although I don't own this rifle, I own a Vietnam style/era AR15A1 that was built for a short time by Century Arms. In AR's, I favor full length rifles with the standard fixed carry handle/sight array for several reasons. First, a 20 inch rifle barrel takes full advantage of the high velocity 5.56mm round, something which is lost in a 16 inch M4 carbine barrel. Second the sight radius is longer. Third the fixed carry handle sight system is about as indestructible as fixed sights get. Fourth, the slim barrel brings the weight down from 9 lbs. for a standard DPMS A2 to 7.3 lbs. for the Lite version, making all day carry less fatiguing.
  8. M1 Garand
  9. The M1 Garand-Here is my number one choice, the .30-06 caliber M1 Garand. The first one I ever fired one I was hooked. The one I own today birthday present from my late father. Manufactured in 1942 by the Springfield Armory, mine was later refurbished during the Korean War. The .30-06 cartridge it shoots was the most powerful battle rifle cartridge ever used by the U.S. Military. Its semi-automatic eight round capacity gives the Garand the ability to lay down a reasonable level of powerful fire at extended ranges, which makes my Garand my outer perimeter defense choice. Its 10 lb. weight and semi-automatic action tame the powerful .30-06's recoil, making it fun to shoot. Reliability is outstanding. Used M1's are still available today.

There you have it. Like I said, you will have your own choices, and I have just shared mine. But having your own favorites is what makes this topic so fun.