Three guns to go anywhere
I really like firearms, and I must confess that I have more guns than I really need, but less than I would like to have, although my wife will only agree to the first part of this comment.
But many times I ask myself what would be the minimum gun battery that I could get by?
If I had to be very frugal or would have to explore new country; or take a long trip restricting my luggage to manageable size and weight; and yet have enough flexibility to hunt almost any game, survive for long periods and be able to defend myself, I narrowed down my choices to three firearms.
First and foremost would be a 12 gauge side-by-side shotgun with double triggers. Many people would say that they would do as well with a Remington 870 or other comparable pump shotgun, but let me explain the details of my first choice.
A double trigger side-by-side shotgun, hammerless or not, is effectively two guns into one. There is a separate locking mechanism and trigger for each barrel, so if one of them breaks down for some reason, you still can use the other half of the gun. Over-under shotguns could also be an option, but they are less common with two triggers and I like the way that side-by-side guns handle better.
Also, for the occasional or roaming hunter, the two barrels can be stuffed with different loads for small and big game. Load buckshot or slugs in the right (open choke) barrel and a charge of No. 6 birdshot in the left (tighter choke), and you are ready for just about anything in the American continent, provided that you can get within 40 yards or so. This would be effective protection even if traveling in bear country.
Another reason that I would select a 12 gauge double barrel shotgun instead of another action or smaller gauge is the flexibility that this platform provides. The 12 gauge can take a multitude of sub caliber devices that allow it to use a lot of different ammunitions. “Little Skeeters” (www.littleskeeters.com) are ones that I have experience with. They are basically a chamber within a chamber, and in a 12 gauge “break-up” shotgun you can use 20, 28 and 410 shells. There are many other similar devices, but these are simple and relatively low cost. Actually, anyone with a late and some aluminum bars could make such devices.
I also have an adaptor that allows me to shoot .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle from any break-open shotgun (I will cover than in detail in the future), and I have seen others in .22 Hornet, .38 Special and .45 Colt. I have a friend in Brazil that made a .38 Special sub caliber for one of his shotgun out of discarded carbine barrel. While my unit has an extractor and the point of impact can be adjusted, his home made version is bit more like the “Little Skeeters” mentioned above, but it works properly.
The final advantage of a shotgun is that is easy to reload its ammunition. Basically the only “store bought” components that you need are primers and some kind of gun powder. When I was a teenager growing up in Brazil I would use brass shot shell, black or smokeless powder, use old newspaper or even toilet paper for wads, and just about anything that fit the barrel for projectiles. If the intended prey was large game (in my case, capybaras) I would just look for some large sinkers from my dad’s fishing box, more or less fitting the bore and I had a new slug load in less time than it takes to write this. I could keep all my reloading supplies in a small zip lock bag.
Next gun would be a .22 LR carbine because it is light, quiet, easy to use, the ammunition is cheap and low weight (a brick of 500 .22 LR cartridges probably weights less than a couple boxes of 12 gauge shot shells).
In a survival situation it is most likely that you will see a lot more small game than big animals, and the .22 LR is about as perfect a small game round as any. But the .22 LR can take even large game (although that is probably not legal anywhere in the US and Canada), and I once killed a 1,600 pound Brahma bull with a single .22 bullet to the forehead.
My personal choice for .22 LR ammunition is the solid bullet. In order to preserve edible meat in small game animals we should take head shots, and for larger game in survival situations (please, remember that rimfire ammunition is generally illegal for big game animals) we need all the penetration that we can get from such a small bullet.
The exact model and action of the .22 carbine is a matter of personal preference. The old Winchester Model 62 and similar rifles that can accommodate .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle would be a plus. My personal choice is a Browning 22 Auto for a couple reasons. It is a classic design, light and reliable, easier to scope than the Model 62 and I already have one.
The other important characteristic is that, like the Model 62, The Browning 22 Auto is a take down rifle, just like almost all double barrel shotguns. This means that the long guns can be disassembled and transported in a ruck sack or backpack. Many times being inconspicuous is an advantage.
I would strongly recommend a robust scope in your rifle as bullet placement is the most crucial aspect of bringing game down, especially with the limited power of a .22 rimfire. My rifle has a 2½ power Lyman, but I would be as happy with a 4X or 6X unit provided it is not bulky.
The final component of my “minimum gun battery” would be a handgun, and the main reason is that it can be carried in a holster all the time while keep your hands free for other shores.
Having at least one gun always attached to your body is not a bad idea. During the late Coronel Roosevelt’s expedition “through the Brazilian wilderness”, and after their party had split in two, the naturalist Mr. Fiala and his team capsized their canoes and lost almost their gears and our their guns, and had a lot of trouble securing food through hunting afterwards. A revolver in the holster and a dozen or so additional bullets would mitigate this problem.
Modern auto loading pistols are completely reliable, but my personal choice would be a revolver. I am a traditionalist at heart, revolvers are very robust and much more flexible is digesting different bullets and loads, and they keep the fired cases inside the cylinder chambers so it can be reloaded later.
The specific revolver choice, especially regarding caliber, would depend on your “environment” or location. For general use I believe that the .38 Special is hard to beat. The ammunition is available almost anywhere, powerful enough for personal defense and medium sized game, and easy to reload. Off course, a .357 Magnum could be an alternative, but I personally don’t see the benefit.
A nice point about the .38 Special (and .357 Magnum) is that you can reload it with 9 mm Parabellum, 380 ACP or 38 Super components. Also, the .38 Special takes a lot less powder per shot than the .357 Magnum.
If you are in a “low intensity” scenario, than a .22 revolver would probably fit most of your needs. It can’t be reloaded, but it shares the ammunition with your rifle, and you can carry a lot of it, with reasonable low weight.
However, if I were in big bear country, I probably would choose a .44 Magnum. I have a very nice Smith & Wesson Model 29 in almost mint condition, and a Ruger Bisley single-action, and the later would be elected to go rough. The Ruger is very robust and is probably the most affordable .44 Magnum in the market, used or new.
Most common pistol calibers can be reloaded with a “Lee Loader” (www.leeprecision.com) that weights less than a pound and costs less than forty bucks. With a bit more money you can add a bullet mold to it.
Although shotgun and pistol ammunition takes different primers, they will generally use the same type of fast burning powder. A couple hundred primers and a pound or two of gun powder should fit in your long-term travel or survival bag. Lead can be scavenged if you are creative enough.
My choices are not particular high tech or tactical. The guns that I selected for my minimum battery are time proven, robust, available and affordable. They can be used for many hunting and survival situations, or just for plain fun. You probably can put together a similar kit that fits your specifically needs with firearms that you already own.