What’s Your Pack Gun? – How Long Could You Survive?

By David Higginbotham

Leftfield Entertainment, creators of Paw Stars and other edutainment type programs for The History Channel, Discovery, A&E and National Geographic, is looking for outdoors survival experts. “No Gimmicks.  No Film Crews.  No Games.”  The goal is simple: survive with only what you can carry on your back.  With that in mind, what gun(s) would you take?

“We’re currently developing an exciting new series with a major cable network that is going to ask the strongest self-reliance experts and enthusiasts in the world a very simple question – how long could you survive alone in the wild?” said Molly Tom, a casting associate with Leftfield Entertainment. “We’re looking for folks who want to prove that they have the skills, determination, willpower and mental strength to take part in the ultimate survival experience.”

I remember back in the mid-90’s, hearing about the original overseas version of Survivor. I thought it was a fascinating philosophical concept.  That was before Hollywood ruined the entire concept by engineering conflict and airlifting in trunks full of Doritos for the team that could produce the best teaser-trailer material. It seemed to me to be a practical exercise in observational science, sort of a Schrödinger’s Cat type of conundrum, with a made-for-TV twist. Can they survive? That’s what I wanted to know, but they died inside the moment the games began.

McCandless went into the Alaskan bush with a .22LR.  He didn't come out.

McCandless went into the Alaskan bush with a .22LR. He didn’t come out.

I digress. This has much more potential. The survivors will go in, alone, with only what they can carry on their backs.  They’ll document the journey themselves. How long can they survive? Where will they go? What will they take?  The options seem endless. And, in the end, when they return (if they return?), their journeys will be packaged, edited and disseminated for the rest of us, the ones who sit around and wish we could go.

So the question is this: what gun would you take? Or is it guns? Speaking of Survivor and the 1990s, Chris McCandless, a rather tragic case of what-not-to-do, disapeared into the Alaskan wilderness with only a Remington .22LR (with which he took down a moose).

If you think you have the skills to survive, consider the casting call. If, like me, you have to wait for the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it to come to you, get cracking in the comments section below. What would you carry and why? How much ammo?

{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Earl Hammer January 16, 2017, 5:15 pm

    For a pack gun, that is easy, my brand new Keltec SU16C. I’ve got 3 of Keltec’s factory 10 round mags, and would probably have about (10) 30 round AR mags. My heirloom Henry 22 Magnum lever… With a couple hundred rounds. For my pistol, I would probably bring my Walther P-99 40 S&W with 6 mags and/or my Charter Arms Bulldog 44 spl, with speed loaders. I have great ammo for all my guns, a lot of excellent Hornady rounds! I can keep the SU16C folded almost exactly in half while pushing out the one pin, while keeping it inside my bugout bag. I have a 5.11 Rush 72 as my primary BoB.

  • Mike Washburn September 12, 2016, 5:42 am

    Pack Gun and Survival in General
    Complete answer not possible without description of location but here are some generalities:
    Sattelite cell phone with GPS, solar charger. Carbine in .222 with scope and iron sights. Flint and steel kit if tinder is available. Good tomahawk. Synthetic parka with layers of clothing. Basic first aid kit and RX as needed. A few hundred feet of parachute cord or similar. Sun glasses. Bible. Pack with wide straps suited to load. Canteen. Small notepad. Adequate training.
    Environments to consider: Wooded area/foothills with game. Desert, Coastal areas. Australia Outback.
    Streets of urban areas: location of ventilator grates, locations of Dempsey Dumpers, welfare documents.
    If near resort areas like Cabo San Lucus all you would need are what you are wearing and a whole bunch of cash.
    Home town: live off of your parents until you are driven out to get a job and go out on your own.

  • Cam July 4, 2014, 10:55 am

    A scoped AR15 in 5.56, with a .22 conversion kit in the pack. 4 ar mags loaded, 2 .22 mags loaded, 80 rounds of loose 5.56. 200 rounds of .22LR. And a 460 Magnum on my hip for close encounters, with a box of 395 grain lead bullets. .22 LR is for squirrels and rabbits, only an idiot would bet his life on it in big game country. I understand shot placement is critical, and I’ve heard of some incredibly large game taken with a .22, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it, shot placement is critical, but bullet penetration can be just as important, and .22LR reliability is lacking as well. I normally carry a 30-06 or a 308 for a rifle for hunting, but in a survival situation, an AR15 in 5.56 with an optional .22LR kit would take care of most game that would come across your path, and the 460 covers the big boys. I’d also have some fishing tackle, snares, and water and a means to filter water. I also prefer to have a compass and local maps depending on the area. Two of the most of important things to have though are a knife and a multitool.

  • David M June 6, 2014, 9:06 pm

    I would carry three weapons.
    1. 22 Rifle for small game.| rounds, as much as I could practically carry
    2. S&W 460 for large game and defense | rounds, as much as I could practically carry
    3. Wrist Rocket (sling shot)

  • Trapper June 4, 2014, 11:57 pm

    I would carry a TC Encore with a 24″ .308 barrel with 200 rounds of 180 grain accubond handloads. I would have an extra barrel, a 15″ .22LR with a brick of 40 grain hollow point ammo carried in my pack. I would carry a .22 LR Ruger or Colt single action revolver on my belt. As to other survival gear: belt knife and pocket knife, 2 flint strikers, one for pack, one for pocket, bedroll with wool blankets, tarps, plenty of salt, pepper, billy kit for cooking and boiling water, extra change of clothing, all wool or wool blends. 3 pairs of wool socks and 1 pair of deerskin gloves. Hat to shed water, snow and for shade. A whet stone and hatchet in pack. Fishing hooks and line would come in handy. A small bible in a sandwich bag. A 2 quart canteen.

  • Ralph DuBois June 4, 2014, 7:30 pm

    I’m old fashioned, I would take an M1 and my 1911. Then I would be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.

  • Choctaw Bob June 4, 2014, 8:02 am

    The choices need to be determined by where you will be surviving and how far you will have to travel and the type of terrain. Most old Indians I knew that lived off the land in Oklahoma/Texas in the 1900s did just fine with a .22 rifle. You can kill nearly anything in this part of the country with a 22. Walking around in bear country dictates something a little heavier. A semi auto or lever action 30-06, .308 or .300 Savage would be the minimum for me. In the 1800s survival was a common every day experience for a lot of people. At that time, hand guns were something law men and criminals carried. Common people rarely carried hand guns. Rifles were much more accurate and useful. Cowboys on horseback slinging Colt army .45s is a Hollywood invention.

  • greg June 3, 2014, 10:53 pm

    I just put an FN Five-Seven in my “extreme emergency lightweight go-bag”. It is light, compact (compared to a rifle), high capacity, has some power, and shoots a greater distance than any other handgun I can think of. The ammo is relatively light and compact, making a large quantity easier to carry than any centerfire rifle or large caliber pistol ammo.

  • Russell June 3, 2014, 10:28 pm

    I would use a cz452 FS .

  • mc June 3, 2014, 9:09 am

    Well, I live in Alaska and wouldnt be caught dead in the woods with just a .22. Sure, you can eat grouse, geese, and rabbits, but I’d hate to cross a brown bear, angry mother moose, or pack of wolves. Better take a .308 or .30-06, at the very least a 12 ga.

  • michael June 2, 2014, 9:40 pm

    you are all missing the ultimate pack gun..check out feather industries I have the .22 but they make other calibers I love this gun.check out the you tube video.holds 20 rounds of .22 I think their new ones use glock mags .

  • michael June 2, 2014, 9:40 pm

    you are all missing the ultimate pack gun..check out feather industries I have the .22 but they make other calibers I love this gun.check out the you tube video.holds 20 rounds of .22 I think their new ones use glock mags .

  • Bubba K June 2, 2014, 8:45 pm

    For guns: Something like my model 37 Mosin Nagant with custom iron sights and a 3-9 variable scout scope. About five lbs of ammo for it. Pistol would be a .22 mag revolver…probably the old double action S&W model 51(?) if I could get it from my buddy. About 200 rounds ammo for it. No knowing where I would be surviving or if I would be in hostile territory, I would probably opt for a small stone casting cross bow for small game hunting. Snare wire, parachute cord, first aid kit, K-Bar knife and a medium swiss army knife with mini-saw and file. Roll of monofilament and some fish hooks. Poncho, good boots and at least two layers of clothing with a change if I had the weight allowance. Rubbers, and a couple stronger water carriers. GI metal canteen sets aren’t that bad and they even make them in titanium now! Magnesium fire starter and five lbs each of dried meat and trail mix. If push comes to shove, forget the handgun and the stone bow. Also the other stuff except rifle and ammo, fire starter, knives and first aid kit, and water carriers. Got to have some plastic sheeting if this is desert survival. Compass and map if that is an option. The whole list will shift quite a bit if we are talking arctic survival!

  • Larry McConnell June 2, 2014, 8:11 pm

    Glock 17, Keltec Sub 2000 9mm in the pack, Colt new frontier .22/.22M, Carry my Rem.870 w/rifled barrel. The glock and the sub 2000 use the same mags, sub 2000 will shoot into 3 inches at 100 yds, hunted squirrels and rabbits for years with the Colt. With the right ammo nothing in North America can’t be taken with a 12ga. If pressed I would give up the Sub 2000 first and the Glock 17 second.

  • Zach Rinehart June 2, 2014, 6:16 pm

    Ruger 10/22 it’s the toughest and most reliable. I know it’s good up to 150 yards for whitetail. I lost one in a mudhole for a month when I found it I put new ammo in and it didn’t miss a beat round after round.

  • Mark Wynn June 2, 2014, 4:17 pm

    Ruger stainless steel, single-six revolver with 6 ½ inch barrel, target sights, .22/.22 Magnum. Leave the .22 cylinder at home to save weight. Carry as much .22 Magnum solid-bullet ammo as expedient … a box of 50 is lightweight and takes little room. The .22 Mag bullet out of the 6 ½ inch barrel is flat-shooting and penetrates fairly well. If in a locale with edible snakes, a few .22 Mag shotshells might be handy … load a shotshell in the first cylinder. Only deadly up to about 6 feet. Best part for me … wouldn’t need to buy one as I’ve owned it since “200th Year of American Liberty” which is stamped on the barrel. .22 cylinder allows cheap practice. Great, safe pistol to introduce kids to shooting … as I did with my daughter 20 years ago, and will do with the grandkids in a couple years.

  • Robert P June 2, 2014, 3:29 pm

    Yep, 22LR would be best for the sole reason one can take lots of ammo at the cost of least space and least weight. Marlin 60 would work due to 14 shots and semi automatic. For same reason, I would likely want my Ruger SR22LR pistol for its light footprint and commonality for ammunition. If weight was not an issue for example for 500 rounds, I would prefer Mossberg 500 12 gauge so I can take song birds off the limbs. Perhaps the most important item would be drinking water so I would take several dozen plastic gallon storage bags with zippers. Six hours lying in the sun will render stream water safe to drink. Perhaps a poncho for evening shelter, for protection against the rain, and to double as backpack using 550-chord to make the harness for my back. Add several butane lighters, a compass, a folder, a signal mirror, and fish hooks. That is the start. The keys are to avoid weight and to keep hydrated.

  • Whit June 2, 2014, 2:11 pm

    I’ll stick with my Marlin 1895g 45-70 with 40 rounds of 300gr Lever Revolution and my Browning Buckmark with 200 rounds of CCI. Knife, rope, magnesium fire starter, solar blanket, water purification pills, 6’x8′ tarp and as many protien bars I can stuff in remaining crannies. This all changes depending on location. Northwest vs southwest. I sure don’t need a parka in the southwest. Oh yeah, and a hand cranked flash light and mirror. Keep all of this (except guns) under 45lbs.

  • Rob W June 2, 2014, 1:45 pm

    Wow great comments!!!

  • Bruce Steger June 2, 2014, 12:47 pm

    My Savage stainless fiberglass stock bolt action 22 magnum painted camoe with a 2 to 9 power Nicon scope mounted so I can sight under it with the steel sights. On my hip is my ruger 22 magnum 6 inch barrel revolver. Have a couple hundred rounds each of 40g and 30g bullets for small to medium size game. A cable style cleaning kit along with my other supplies are in my back pack.

  • Bruce Steger June 2, 2014, 12:09 pm

    I own two guns that I believe are the perfect pach guns for the wild. My Savage stainless bolt action fiberglass stock 22 Magnum rifle camoe painted with a Nicon 2 to 9 power scope that is mounted so I can sight under it with the steel sights as well. A few hundred rounds of 40g and 30g bullets would take care of small and somewhat large game. On my hip would be my Ruger 22 magnum 6 inch barrel revolver that would be loaded with the 40g bullets. In my pack would be two change of cloths, a sweeter, wetgear, lemonade powder, flour, salt, pepper, a first aid kit,a spare pair of glasses, a fire starter flint stick, small can of waxed matches, compass, plasticised map of the area, a small saw, a spare hunting knife and amunition. A bed roll and a small tent secured to the pack. A hacthet and a hunting knife on my belt.

  • C June 2, 2014, 11:56 am

    Henry brake down 22 LR. Fits. In my pack easily. I also carry a kel tech sub 2000 40 cal,heavily modified and eotech sights as well as a laser. The weapon is much. More accurate than you may think ,once you get used to it. I carry a glock 22 which is compatible magazines and ammo. This way I am carrying only two types of ammo ,with. The 22 being somewhat lighter WIEGHT . You must consider WIEGHT .

  • Steve Haynes June 2, 2014, 11:55 am

    Back in the day the U.S. Air Force used a .22 Hornet as a survival weapon. Short barrel, clip feed bolt gun, folding stock, with a wire frame. Of course a different model would be used today. Pretty good caliber, light weight, plenty of power and range.

  • Uncle Nat June 2, 2014, 10:26 am

    Single barrel shotgun, without a second thought. Probably my old Springfield 20-gauge. Easy to pack, easy to shoot, easy to repair (my Springfield has a firing pin fashioned from a nail). Plus it will kill anything on the planet in proper circumstances. I’d pack a few buckshot, slugs and lots of #8 shotshells. It was my first firearm and I began hunting with it at age 9 (I’m 56 now) and I shoot it better than any firearm I own–you have to hit what you shoot at and songbirds are pretty small.

  • Dallas June 2, 2014, 10:07 am

    Light AR-15 in .223/5.56 such as BushMaster Carbon 15 pre-dry lub treated (such as Mil-tec – good for hot or cold, sand or tundra) with folding/collapsible stock (compartment with fish hooks & line – in an old patch box type compartment), sling & aluminum quick disconnect mounted high power scope such as 6-to-24 variable – plus fold down iron sights (& optional folding bipod – for steady spotting scope) two 20 round aluminum loaded mags of hollow points & 60 loose rounds. 6.25 lbs gun ~2 lbs scope ~3 pounds mags and 100 rds – stay as close to 11 lbs as possible. Dual purpose scope low for hunting, hi-power for spotting; sheathed and stowed in back pack until needed. Normal carry would be in .223/5.56 mode iron sights down & stock folded-in. I’d have to first load out my backpack and if appropriate, within self imposed weight restrictions, would consider a 22 LR bolt and Black dog 25-round magazine & ~200 rounds 22 LR, could even consider using as a single shot without a mag, for small game meals first. For survival energy the 22 LR mag & bolt thrown away upon expiration of 22LR ammo. Also in backpack would be a screw together 22 cal cleaning rod with 4 -10 inch sections (rod multi-use: cleaning snow or sand out of barrel, skewer for over fire, fishing rod, Surgical tourniquet twister for stopping blood flow, metal to strike flint for fire making [substitute for knife], makeshift spear, four posts of a snare, etc. of course choosy with minimal adapters purposed for each too, like ground down to a point, blunt for cleaning bore, one end could have a permanent handle/knob which done correctly could serve as the rotated heating agent for making fire). If allowed prep time a Picatinny rail or two could be made of flint.

  • RL June 2, 2014, 8:56 am

    .22 can kill anthing if the bullet placement is right. Most people cannot get in position nor are they marksman enough so they want larger caliber more powerfull guns. Surviving is all about where… if there is no game you will need different talents. Shelter, water then food are the line up.. The most dangerous element in your survival, if every one else is trying to survive also will be another person or group of people that want what you have.. LOL

    • spike June 2, 2014, 7:16 pm

      would you want to face down a brown bear with a .22? that wouldn’t even piss him off LOL!

  • Johnobody June 2, 2014, 8:53 am

    Rossi Wizard with.22lr, .308 & 12 gauge barrels seem like an appropriate combination. 1 gun with 3 of the available barrels. They break down to fit in a pack.

  • Craig Warren June 2, 2014, 8:47 am

    It would only make sense to carry light, but with enough power to kill small and large. I’d say the .22LR would be probably the smartest choice, bring lots of different ammo weights, quiet ammo. fast ammo, and heavier loads. Something that has a lower chance of issues, broken parts, rust, doesn’t mind if it’s dirty, easy to clean up (You can use oil from animal fat in a pinch – but that might make you a target….or attract more dangerous and non-threatening animals both…). While a bolt would make the most sense in some cases, if you had to shoot more than once at a charging animal you’d wish you had a semi-auto. A sleeve .22 (Marlin 60) sounds about right, but too many things to break and can get gummed up. A lever action is another option. I come back to the thought of something more powerful and the option of more than one shot but not at risk of long term issues. A gun with magazines make sense, but so would a revolver action….. alas I land on a Single six .22/.22 Mag with a long barrel – accurate, fast enough, small enough, and can run all kinds of different ammo weights. Tote in about 1K rounds of various ammo and that should last for several years if needed.

  • Laurence June 2, 2014, 8:38 am

    Henry AR-7 .22 take down. Receiver and barrel store in butt stock along with three 10-round magazines. Probably carry 100 rounds of spare ammo. With judicious application, I could eat fresh meat for 130 days with minimal weight.

    For personal defense, my trusty Springfield XD-45 would also accompany me!

  • Laurence June 2, 2014, 8:37 am

    Henry AR-7 .22 take down. Receiver and barrel store in butt stock along with three 10-round magazines. Probably carry 100 rounds of spare ammo. With judicious application, I could eat fresh meat for 130 days with minimal weight.

    For personal defense, my trusty Springfield XD-45 would also accompany me!

  • Wayne June 2, 2014, 8:33 am

    Where exactly in the bush are these adventurers to challenge the wilderness? If several of them meet up are they allowed to join forces?…I lost my salivary glands to radiation treatments and am on a liquid diet as solid food is extremely frustrating to try to eat (no matter how much I chew it is never ready to swallow). Perhaps I could pack in a hand-cranked meat grinder or pedal-powered blender…or millions of packets of powdered milk and instant breakfast? What about fiber? Now where is the water? Guess I’ll be in a world of hurt when TEOTWAWKI hits.

  • Eric Bell June 2, 2014, 8:32 am

    Ruger M77 Scout, Aimpoint Comp M4, 2 10rnd mags, 300rnds .308. Great combo.

  • Puz June 2, 2014, 8:21 am

    .22 Magnum Rifle (Semi-Auto, Lever Action, Bolt, take your pick).

  • Mike K June 2, 2014, 7:37 am

    Lever action Model 99 Savage 4x scope 300 Savage caliber….light weight, same ballistics as a .308. couple thousand rounds..last quite a while.

  • Evile451 June 2, 2014, 6:47 am

    Mcandless most likely died from eating a poisonous plant which blocked his bodies ability to absorb any nutrients, least that’s one of the theories, the plant was native to the area and traces of it were found at the scene…he actually did well for himself hunting up until then, his choice of rifle had nothing to do with his death

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