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Old 02-25-2011, 03:26 PM
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Default Picking a 30 caliber shtf survival rifle

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If you were going to pick a .30 caliber rifle for a SHTF situation, which one would it be? The contestants are: 7.62Χ39, 30-30, 308 and the 30-06. Lets take a look at each of those calibers, and what rifles their currently available in.

For the sake of discussion, the 30-06 is the largest caliber that will listed in this article.

7.62X39 – made famous by the AK-47 and SKS, developed in 1943, has seen service in major conflicts all over the world, available in civilian rifles such as the Ruger Mini-30 and various bolt action rifles.

Bullet weight: 110 – 155 grain
Muzzle velocity: 1,900 – 2,100 fps, depending on load
Effective range: around 350 meters
Availability: Plenty

There are at least 3 things that makes the 7.62X39 a good choice as a survival rifle – 1. Availability of ammunition, 2. Availability of rifles, 3. Low recoil.

With post-soviet block countries strapped for cash, many of them have decided to sell off their surplus semi-automatic rifles, and surplus ammunition. In the 1990s, $200 would get you an SKS and a case of 7.62X39 hollow point ammo. Over time the price of AK-47s, SKSs, and 7.62X39 ammunition has crept up, but its still reasonably priced.

Firing a 123 grain full metal jacket or soft point, the 7.62X39 is well rounded for deer and wild hog sized game.
Since most of the rifles that fire the 7.62X39 are semi-automatic, this makes it a good choice for recoil sensitive people, or people who do not like the full sized rifle cartridges.

30-30 Winchester – made famous by the lever action Winchester model 94, has probably killed more north American whitetail deer then any other round, light recoil, chambered in a variety of rifles, ammunition and rifles are easy to find.

Bullet Weight: 150 – 170 grains
Muzzle velocity: 1,600 – 2,600 fps, depending on load
Effective range: 200 yards
Availability: Plenty, found in just about any store that sells ammunition

If there is one thing that makes the 30-30 a good choice for a survival rifle, its 100+ years of killing deer sized game. If the lever action rifle and 30-30 were not effective, it would have faded into history a long time ago. The fact that the 30-30 has not been replaced by more modern cartridges in the past 100+ years speaks for itself.

The 30-30 is considered by some people as an “entry level deer rifle” – due to its light recoil, and limited effectiveness range. While some calibers like the 308 and 30-06 are effective out to the 800 meter range, the 30-30 is limited to 200 yards or less.

308 Winchester – introduced in 1952, made famous by a combination of rifles – FN/FAL, various bolt action rifles, and the M1A and M14, moderate recoil, as been used in various military conflicts since the 1950s.

Bullet weight: 150 – 180 grains
Muzzle velocity: 2,600 – 2,800 fps
Effective range: 800 meters

Whitetail deer taken with Marlin 336 30-30

There are several factors that makes the 308 Winchester a good choice for a survival rifle – its accurate, available in a wide range of rifles, ammo is easy to find, rifles are available in semi-auto, single shot and bolt action, recoil is not punishing.

If there is one thing to keep in mind about the 308 Winchester, its the top choice of police and military snipers. If its good enough for a military sniper, it should be good enough for a survivalist to take a hog or deer with.

30-06 Springfield – introduced in 1906, ammunition is popular and easy to find, rifles are available in everything from single shot to semi-automatic, recoil is on the heavy side, effective on just about all non-dangerous north American game, has seen military service for the better part of the 20th century.

Bullet weight: 150 – 220 grains
Muzzle velocity: 2,500 – 2,900 fps
Effective range: 800 meters

If there is one thing to keep in mind with the 30-06, it helped win 2 world wars, and has probably killed more men then any other modern cartridge.
One of the drawbacks to the 30-06, a lot of people find the recoil on the heavy side, even in semi-automatic rifles. With the added recoil also comes trigger flinch, and reduced accuracy. While some people can shoot the ’06 well, its not for everyone.

Calibers not listed

There are a lot of calibers that were left out, not that they are good calibers, or a poor choice as a survival rifle – their either difficult to find, or have a lot of recoil. Take the 300 Winchester magnum for example – the 300 WinMag packs a lot of recoil and is overkill for deer sized game. On top of that, the ammunition can get expensive, and not all major retail outlets carry the 300 Winchester Magnum. If your in moose, elk or bear territory, then the 300 magnum might be right up your alley.

Picking the best caliber

Is going to be left up to the shooter. What purpose will the rifle serve, what size game will be hunted, will the rifle be used for urban survival, or in a rural or remote area?

People with limited funds may go the SKS, AK-47 in 7.62X39 or a 30-30 lever action route. All of which are current;ly available in the $400 price range or less.

A little more money to spend, then maybe a 308 or 30-06 in a Remington model 700, 750, Ruger M77, or a Savage rifle.

A little more money may get an M1A, FN/FAL or PTR-91.

So what is the best 30 caliber survival rifle?

DS Arms SA58 FN-FAL, surefire G2X Pro and Maxpedition Noatak

6 months ago I would have said either the 7.62X39 in the SKS / AK-47 or a lever action rifle in 30-30. Both rounds have low recoil, so just about everyone in the family should be able to shoot them fairly well.

Now that I had the chance to hold and shoot an FN/FAL, there is no real comparison, the FAL with the larger 308 Winchester wins.

But the FN/FAL is just my personal preference – the PRT-91 and the Springfield M1A are both excellent military grade weapons, that should give years of service and should be just as reliable as the FN/FAL.

The 2 things the SKS and AK47 have going for them – weight and cost of ammo. Compared to the FN/FAL, the AK47 is super lightweight, with the SKS being a little more heavy then the AK-47.

Sometimes you can still find 7.62X39 for $4 – $5 a box of 20. That is a lot cheaper then 308 ammo. I’am buying 308 Remington Core-Lokt at $16 – $18 a box. $5 a box, or $18 a box,,,,, big price difference there.

But,,,, with the 308 Winchester you get more bang for the buck. With a 308, you should be able to take just about an non-dangerous game animal in North America, you can not say the same thing about the 7.62X39.
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Old 02-25-2011, 03:32 PM
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If I had to choose, it would be the 30-30 or the 30-06. I have shot both, and feel the most comfortable with one of them.
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Old 02-25-2011, 03:55 PM
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great set up kev, my personal preferences is the 336 marlin 30-30. with a close second being the FAL. AK's are fun as are SKS, but i'm not a huge fan of semiautos, nor assult style rifles. but i resently had the chance to be hands on with a FAL, and i loved it. you could really reach out and touch some one with that thing. while it did seem alittle on the heavy side to me, it was built very stout. i dont think anyone is going to be doing much 800 yard shooting with out a good scope, and its very difficult to use the carry handle and a scope together on the FAL.

besides a 30-30 is easy to make reloads for and its one of the few cartriges that will work with old timey powder. i dont see anyone casting thies own 308's out of lead.
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Old 02-25-2011, 04:26 PM
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My overall pick would be the 308, it will do it all, plus ammo may not be to hard to find.

Rifle platform is also a big win with the 308, from single shot to semi-auto, in a SHTF situation Offense will be just as important as Defense, so the more firepower you have around the better it could be for you. Another win for the 308 would be ammo, in a SHTF you will not only be needing to defend yourself but also hunt for food, and because there is so much 308 ammo around in both softpoint and FMJ.

In a Bolt gun the 308 shines, there are some super accurate 308 bolt guns, so as I see it the 308 wins for me hands down.

Next would be the 30-06, it has a lot to share with the 308, FMJ ammo is not so abundant.

The 30-30 IMHO is one of the very best Deer cartridges ever, add it to the Marlin rifle platform and it gets no better, but in a SHTF, there are better options.

The 7.62X39, today there are almost any types of rifle platforms that you can get in the 7.62X39, SKS, AK, are by far the most popular, and rightly so they work oh so well, and in a SHTF they would be a great comfort to have around, but! I do not own one, I do not care for the 7.62X39, first it's a UnAmerican cartridge, then add the fact that almost all your ammo will be FMJ, and add alot will be steel cased, I hate steel cased ammo, and I do not really care for a SKS or a AK, not my cup of tea, yes they work, and work well. I know this sounds shallow, but in my lifetime, too many Americans have died by this cartridge for me to embrace it.
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:20 PM
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All of the rifles and calibers are good, just some are better than others depending on the area and conditions they will be used.

That being said, I am not a huge fan of the 30-30. While they work reasonably well for a short range hunting rifle, it was never a military caliber. The lever action saw very little military use (mainly with Russia). While for the first few shots, they are reasonably fast, they are slow to reload. On the plus side, they do present a non threating look (grandpaw's old deer rifle) compaired to the usual battle rifles on the market.

In the 30 caliber battle rifles, I like the M-1A platform. I had an FN-FAL one time before. While it shot well and mags where a LOT cheaper, being a left handed shooter, the safety was not user friendly for me. This is also a problem for me with the AK platform. The SKS, while liked by a lot of other's is just not my cup of tea.

Of the M-1A platforms, I enjoy the SOCOM 16 and the SCOUT SQUAD size the best for ease of use. If I am going to be doing some serious long range shooting I will go to a good, well set up, bolt rifle.

I have never shot an M1 Garand, but I always thought they had a good feel to them when holding one up. They seem to have worked well for a lot of G.I.'s for a long time.

Another thought that while is not nearly as common, is the 6.5 & the 6.8 platforms. It would make a good setup on an AR platform with the 5.56 as an everyday rifle and a second upper in either the 6.5 or the 6.8 with good optics mounted on them ready to go for the times when a heavier caliber might be desired. I have thought several times about getting a good 6.5 upper for my AR. My hunting rifle is a .264 Win Mag (also a 6.5 caliber) an I have been very happy with it. I know that these calibers were not in the list you posted, but thought I would toss them in as food for thought.
Old 02-25-2011, 05:29 PM
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308 or 30-06 in a Remington 700 with a good scope
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:39 PM
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.308 is probably the best choice. Though more expensive, the caliber is very common. Every store that sells ammo will have it. You can still find surplus ammo for pretty cheap too.
It is a proven hunting and military cartridge with excellent long range performance.
I would choose a semi-auto over a bolt gun for the volume of fire it can provide. Although, my main strategy in a survival situation would be to avoid firefights whenever possible.
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:53 PM
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Simply... the .308

Often considered whimpy...and many other less than flattering adjectives...

It is actually capable of taking any north american big game animal.

It is easy on the shooter.

It is very accurate regardless of the weapon system. With a little bit of cash you can design and create a weapon system with minute of gnats ass accuracy.

Should things go down hill in a hurry it is one of the easiest cartridges to find "on the shelf" Should things get really bad ... well the military has many applications for this caliber and there will be ammunition to be "found"

It is one of the easiest cartridges to reload for with numerous offerings in bullets, suitable powders and primers.

I've had the opportunity to live many places from the east to the west one caliber has served me well from varmints to Elk.... the .308

It can do everything the 30-06 can do save the 190+ gr bullets. However there is very little need for such heavy bullets in the 308 considering the variety of 150-180 gr bullets from solids to hp's.

if I could only have one rifle it would without question be chambered in the .308 win.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:11 PM
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Out of the choices, probably the 308. However, I think the FN/FAL weapon is extremely heavy, especially when compared to an AR-15 or AR-10.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:19 PM
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I own at least one rifle in each caliber and hand load for them. Each have their strengths and a few weaknesses.

If I lived in Alaska, I choose the 30-06. But only because the 338 is not on the list.

If I don't have to carry all my stuff on my back, I'd pick an M1-a and a butt load of ammo. They shoot well enough at long range for hunting and handle well enough for most defensive chores.

If I did have to pack every thing, I'd pick a mini-30 in 7.62x39. Not the best beyond 200 yds, but it weighs 3 lbs less and so does the ammo.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:32 PM
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I like one of each...Oh pick one, that's like choosing who is my favorite kid. Each does have an intended purpose I know, that's why one of each is best.
Old 02-25-2011, 06:34 PM
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I think terrain has alot to do with your caliber choice. For me it's easy 7.62x39...
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Old 02-25-2011, 07:23 PM
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Surplus 762nato can be found for about $0.45 a round.

The FAL is heavy, but is sure is sexy!!
Old 02-25-2011, 08:12 PM
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I'm already a big fan of the AK/7.62x39 platform, especially with the limited visual ranges we have here in Georgia. But,some famous shooter ( I forget who) once made a great case for the .308 bolt action being the ideal SHTF weapon, and his arguments stuck with me.
Though many of us envision big firefights with our AK's and AR's post SHTF,this really isn't very realistic, for what should be fairly obvious reasons. An accurate bolt action .308, in the hands of a stealthy marksman would scare me a whole lot more than an assault rifle in the hands of a spray & pray suburbanite hunkered down in his living room.
My vote is for either/both a bolt action .308, and a AK in x39 ( but NOT a Mini-30, due to high cost and incidences of broken firing pins from east-block ammo).
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Old 02-25-2011, 08:54 PM
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As a combat arm I would take an an ak with a low power scope or red dot. As an all around survival gun, I'll take a bolt gun in .30-06. (I don't consider survival just a combat arm like many here)

The 06 will kill anything on this continent. Want to blast chucks for fun? 125 grain bullets are available. Want to kill deer? 150 and 165 grain is there. Want to kill elk and moose? 180 grain is available, and for whopping anything bigger the 220 grain loads from Remmington and Federal WILL kill grizzly and Polar bear just fine. Ernest Hemmingway loved the 220 grain '06 in africa for cape Buffalo for heavens sake. It'll reach out and touch someone just as good, if not a tiny bit farther than the .308 while stablizing heavier bullets for bigger game. My 06 is a savage and will shoot 1" groups with any cheap facotry load from the big 3, and will shoot .5" groups with Remmington 180 grain core lokts ($17 from Gander mtn). No, it's not a combat gun, but for long distance work and meduim to big game hunting I do not feel at a disadvantage at all.

EDIT: for a self defense rifle I have owned an sks. Recently I have decided on an AR ,but have not dicussed it due to it not being a .30 cal.
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Old 02-25-2011, 09:12 PM
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I think that you under-rated the 7.62x39 ballistics a tad. Not sure what gun you are getting your data from though. I know that through 7.62x39 VZ58 with 15.5" barrel, most 7.62 loads are 2300fps+. Through my 18.75" CZ858, it is on the shady side of 2500. This makes it an ideal all around caliber. Ammo is cheap, thus practice is more likely. I have used 7.62x39 on big Saskatchewan whitetails without any problem.

7.62x39 gets my vote for first one to grab. I also have a number of .30-06's and trust them big time too.
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Old 02-26-2011, 12:00 AM
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7.62 x 39 for me.

Even though it's not on the list, I'm also fond of 7.62 x 54R.

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Old 02-26-2011, 12:19 AM
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Originally Posted by kev View Post
If you were going to pick a .30 caliber rifle for a SHTF situation, which one would it be? The contestants are: 7.62Χ39, 30-30, 308 and the 30-06. Lets take a look at each of those calibers, and what rifles their currently available in.

For the sake of discussion, the 30-06 is the largest caliber that will listed in this article.

I'm going to cheat and say all of the above. or most of the above. I'm all for limiting calibers, keeping things simple, but from a practical point-of-view, I degress on .30 cals.

In this country, there are too many 30-30 and 30-06's to ignore. Odds are most of us already have one or both.

I'm hot to get the new Ruger Gunscout scout in .308. For what a used 30-30 or 30-06 sells for or trade-in value, I may as well keep them. Now I'm up to 3 calibers.

Sooner or later, a 'deal' will come your way. Guess what, it will be a 30-30 or 30-06. Also, if you acquire a rifle after SHTF, I'm betting it will be a 30-30 or 30-06. Same with ammo, I wonder how many rounds of 30-30 and 30-06 are in American homes?

Remember the rifles you have today may not be the guns you have tomorrow. Guns can brake, get lost, taken, stolen, or traded.

The 30-30, .308, and 30-06 all take a .308 dia. bullet. Lots of overlap in components. The 7.62x39 is the oddball as it takes a .311 bullet. Setting up to reload all 4 calibers is not much more expensive than 1.

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Old 02-26-2011, 12:21 AM
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I made my decision quite a while ago to go for .30-06 as my 30 caliber workhorse. I have an M1 Garand, a Lee Enfield in .30-06 (uncommon) and a Ted Williams in .30-06. (Yeah, I know. The youngest rifle there is 60 years old.) I got my son a single shot that is giving sub-MOA accuracy. (It's only 33 years old.)

The Garand doesn't suffer from what I call "ugly gun syndrome". That is a benefit I value highly.

You can still get fairly cheap surplus ammo (altho not as cheap as 7.62 x51) and the Garand is serious combat rifle that penetrates. (Love that Korean surplus AP ammo!) If I were stuck with a turn bolt gun in a fight, the Enfield would be the best choice you could get. And here in the desert SW, the extra range is a benefit in hunting.
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Old 02-26-2011, 01:34 AM
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Depends on what type of SHTF really and where I'll be. If it's a stay at home and guard the preps situation it'll x39 in one of my AK's for reasons already known and mentioned. If it'll be a long range/hard target type of sitation then my 06 Garand would get the nod, nothing like a clip of blk points to ruin ones day.


30-06 for survival, 30-30 for survival, 308 for survival, 308 survival rifle, 7.62x39 for survival, ak-47 for survival, marlin 336, marlin lever action, shtf rifle, shtf survival rifle, sks for survival, survival rifle, survival rifles

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