The search for the perfect survival rifle continues ...

Mention the topic survival rifles to firearms enthusiasts you'll likely start quite a debate. I offer two of my favorite models. Both have served our paddling teams well and have stood up against extremely wet conditions and harsh expedition treatment.

The M6 Scout, manufactured by Springfield Armory, is available in a full stainless steel model with the choice of either .22 Long Rifle or .22 Hornet barrel over a .410 gauge shotgun barrel. I strongly recommend the centerfire .22 Hornet as it far exceeds the power of the rimfire .22 Long Rifle and will give you greater flexibility in the field for both small and medium game, and larger game, in some instances. This firearm was featured in the National Rifle Association's December 2004 issue of American Hunter magazine, pages 72-73.

Winchester Super X 45 gr. Soft Point

I prefer to shoot Winchester Super X .22 Hornet 45 grain Soft Point bullets (symbol # X22H1) from my M6. These rounds zip from the barrel at an impressive 2,690 feet per second (fps)! More than double the speed of most .22 Long Rifle rounds, which generally range from 1,070 fps for standard velocity 40 grain bullets to just over 1,600 fps for some hypervelocity rounds such as CCI's Stinger 32 grain hollow point. Winchester also sells a 46 gr. hollow point (2,690 fps) and a 34 gr. jacketed hollow point that flies at an amazing 3,050 fps!

Springfield Armory's M6 Scout survival rifle

I also strongly recommend mounting a scope on the rifle. The iron sights work fine with the .410 shotgun barrel, but you can drastically improve the accuracy of the .22 Hornet with the addition of a scope. Springfield Armory sells a 2.5 x 20 scope specifically designed for the M6. A red dot scope is also available. However the red dot is a "zero magnification" scope that requires batteries. It is for these reasons that I prefer the standard 2.5-power scope in survival situations. With a well-placed shot, you can drop a Canada goose standing on the tundra at 100+ yards with the .22 Hornet - 2.5-power scope combination. I carried my M6 with the 2.5-power scope on a 650-mile canoe expedition in 2003 and we encountered lots of wet weather -- the scope did not leak.

The .410 gauge barrel is chambered for a 3-inch shell and has a fixed full choke. Although the .410 is the lightest shotgun shell made, it will do the job out to a maximum of 25-30 yards, depending upon the load you choose and the game you are pursuing. I would definitely like to see the company release an M6 Scout with a 20 gauge shotgun barrel, as it would be a much more versatile round in a real-world survival situation -- especially when trying to shoot flying birds, such as ducks and ptarmigan. You can drop these birds with a .410, but it's tough. I have read that .410 gauge signal flares can be fired from the M6 Scout, but I have been unable to locate a company that manufactures them.

Winchester Super X .410 ga. High Brass Game Loads

I prefer to shoot 3-inch, Winchester Super X .410 ga. High Brass Game Loads with No. 7 1/2 or 6 shot from my M6. I had originally purchased Remington shells, but found that they did not seat well in the chamber. Stick with the Winchester ammo and you can't go wrong. It's a good quality product.

Another nice feature of the M6 is the ability to store rounds and shells in the rifle's stock. Simply press a button on the left side of the stock and lift the cover and you've got easy access to twelve .22 Hornet rounds and four .410 shells.

The M6: affordable ($249 for the stainless steel model), lightweight (36 ounces), durable and accurate (with a scope). An excellent survival rifle both on and off the water. But if you are worried about bears ... you might want to consider my next suggestion.

The Model 1300 Coastal Marine 12 gauge pump shotgun, manufactured by Winchester Arms, Co., combines a stainless steel barrel with a corrosion resistent alloy receiver. It is a great addition to the M6 because with various shot sizes a paddler can take anything from small game with No. 7 1/2 or 6 shot, to geese with No. 4 shot and in a dire survival situation you could take larger game such as caribou and/or protect your team in the event of a bear attack with 12 gauge slugs. The shotgun weighs 6lbs 8oz. and lists for $524. It has an 18" barrel length with a fixed cylinder bore choke and an eight-shot magazine capacity. Be forewarned, however, the firearm's short barrel makes it VERY LOUD and the recoil of this pump action shotgun gives the shooter quite a POWERFUL KICK! If circumstances allow it, I would strongly advise wearing hearing protection when firing this shotgun.

Winchester's Model 1300 Coastal Marine shotgun

I highly recommend both of these firearms, but if you had to choose just one and you were NOT traveling in either Grizzly or Polar Bear country I'd suggest taking the M6 Scout. I say this largely because of weight concerns regarding both the firearm and the ammunition, as well as the increased range afforded by the M6's .22 Hornet ammunition. But on the otherhand, you can't beat the versatility and reliability of a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun! These are tough decisions, but choosing the perfect survival firearm has never been easy.

With teams of four or more paddlers I would recommend taking both firearms, but each expedition situation will dictate whether or not your team decides to include a firearm in the outfit. It is very important to note, however, that if a firearm of any kind is included in your outfit it is absolutely imperative that EVERY member of the expedition be trained in the proper handling of firearms. If firearms are improperly handled in a wilderness setting the results can be DISASTEROUS! BE SAFE, ALWAYS!

What's your favorite survival firearm? Got a survival story to share? Email the Webmaster

* Important information for U.S. citizens entering Canada with firearms *

If you are planning to transport a firearm into Canada it is important that you visit the Canadian Firearms Centre (CFC) website to familiarize yourself with the most current regulations and to download the necessary forms.

In addition to use by properly licensed hunters, firearms may be transported into Canada for protection against wildlife. The CFC operates a toll-free information line that can be reached at 1-800-731-4000. The purpose of the 1-800 line is to provide information about the law to individuals, businesses or others who may be affected by its provisions.

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