Lower 48 Pilot's Rifle


June 29, 2013, 05:17 PM
So, many of us are probably familiar with the Wild West Guns "Alaskan Copilot" - a .45-70, takedown Marlin lever action intended for bush pilots. In the lower 48, .45-70 is probably a bit much, and the "Copilot" isn't exactly cheap. So what would be a good pilot's survival rifle for those flying in the lower 48? It should be legal in all lower 48 states (so most semi-autos are out :banghead:) and in a caliber capable (though not necessarily ideal for this purpose) of defending against larger game but taking small game for sustenance. It should be relatively compact, though not necessarily a takedown rifle.

Also, before someone points out how quickly help would arrive in most places in the lower 48, let me concede that you're mostly right. However, there are plenty of truly wild and desolate places in the lower 48 where help could be long in coming. Recently a pilot and his family died after surviving a crash in the wilderness near a major city in Colorado because nobody saw it happen and it happened very fast. With no preparations (to include weaponry, but also, and more importantly in this case, a compass or ground nav. suitable gps and/or maps) or ability to navigate, any wilderness, even a fairly tame one can be a deathtrap.

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June 29, 2013, 05:59 PM
Winchester Trapper in .30-30 or .44 Magnum. 16" barrel. Either one will take about anything in the lower 48. Or if you're not committed on a rifle, any good 12 ga. pump shotgun with an 18" barrel. Slugs or buckshot for large animal defense. Birdshot for small game. As you suggest in your post, other things are probably more important than weaponry in most places - water, food, GPS, maps, extra clothes, medical grade first aid kit, sleeping bag, shelter. Most important of all, some knowledge of wilderness survival skills and a good mind set.

June 29, 2013, 06:21 PM
I would chk and see if someone makes a .22-30/30 ou survival rifle.

June 29, 2013, 06:30 PM
the new Savage Model 42, a .22 LR over .410 shotgun would probably fill the bill, or an older Model 24 Combination Gun. A ..22 LR Barrel over a 20 gauge would be a great choice.

June 29, 2013, 06:58 PM
I think a lever gun or bolt gun in .22 mag would be a pretty ideal lower 48 pilot's rifle.

June 29, 2013, 07:14 PM
Cant do much better than a 12ga pump.

June 29, 2013, 07:40 PM
For defense as well as survival, the 12 pump seems to be a better choice. from small game, to birds, to defense against two or legged critters, it is hard to beat

June 29, 2013, 09:24 PM
A take down 10/22 would be my choice but I wouldn't bother with a rifle when I could just pack emergency food instead.

June 29, 2013, 09:57 PM
12g pump would be my choice,i'm not a pilot but I used to spend a lot of time in very remote places for work and if I only took one firearm it was my 870,i worked in some very anti gun states so the 870 was great since it was legal anywhere I went and powerful enough for anything I might run into,2 legged or 4.

June 29, 2013, 10:07 PM
im not a pilot but i would pick a 12ga pump

June 29, 2013, 10:13 PM
A Ruger 10/22 Takedown in it's case with 100 rounds of ammo + 6 BIC lighters for starting a signal fire would be my choice.

Save the excess weight of shotguns and shotgun shells in the aircraft.
And apply it to bottled water, shelter, fire starting equipment, and first aid supplies.

If you crash in the mountains, being eaten by a bear or cougar is the very least, least of your worries.

A .22 might get you a partridge or rabbit to eat while you are suffering from injury, cold, and thirst.
If not, you can shoot pine cones with it to pass the time until you die of hypothermia!!


June 29, 2013, 10:41 PM
Big fan of a shotgun for an all around survival situation. Lower 48 I would do a 20ga instead of a 12. 20ga slugs are enough to take down anything in the lower 48 (predator or prey) out to 50-75yards or there abouts, and then game loads for smaller critters. A 20ga is a little lighter, and add in a top folder stock and it won't take up to much room.

Would also mention that the average person hunting with a .22 on small game misses a lot. A shotgun gives you a much better margin for error.....

Float Pilot
June 29, 2013, 11:32 PM
For you non-pilots there are a couple other things that we pilots must consider. WEIGHT and SPACE. .....

.AND in some cases down in the lower 48 states, concealment of the fact you have a firearm while loading and unloading the plane may be a big factor.

A survival firearm is just that, for survival, generally it is not an ideal hunting firearm.... In such a case it does not really matter how legal the action or cartridge might be for a particular state.


While an Remington 870 or 1100 shot gun with an assortment of slugs, 000 buck and bird shot are hard to beat. They do not lend themselves to the weight and space consideration. Plus the ammo is heavy and space consuming. You can carry 5 or 6 freeze dried meals which will weigh less than a box of 12 gauge birdshot.

The same can be said for many lever guns. (which by the way have more parts than almost any other action and they usually take tools to disassemble. )

I have a little marlin Papoose 22 that I modified. It works fine out to 50 yards on small edible critters.

For self defense, even here in Alaska you are in more danger from two legged a-holes/weirdoes than you are from a grizzly or black bear. As a result I stopped carrying my 44 magnum revolver and started carrying a Glock 20 10mm with 200 grain FMJ warm hand-loads. (1,200 fps) along with a couple magazines it is easy to hide in a flight bag.

Granted, during active hunting seasons I will carry a regular lightweight bolt action rifle in the plane.

IF, you can find a Savage model 24C (camp) take-down over-under in 20 gauge /30-30 you will be a happy camper.



June 29, 2013, 11:44 PM
There ya go!!

That was what I was trying to say in post #11.

Small airplanes can't haul around as much shotgun shells as .22 shells, and still do the work they are intended for, without crashing more often from high wing loading!!

And there are many more items worth trading the weight for in order to survive after a crash then worrying about the harmless wildlife that isn't going to eat you!!


Float Pilot
June 29, 2013, 11:50 PM
My plan is to shoot some sort of protected critter so the Moose and Goose cop will jump out of the bushes and take me to a nice warm jail.

By the way, that little Marlin 22 will zap a bunny in the head at 50 yards. At 25 yards it shoots groups smaller than a human eyeball.

June 30, 2013, 12:05 AM
I've always thought that a nice M1 Carbine in a paratrooper stock would be a handy thing. It is. Light, compact, easy to shoot, not scary looking and with softpoint ammo, powerful enough.

June 30, 2013, 12:17 AM
Float Pilot said:My plan is to shoot some sort of protected critter so the Moose and Goose cop will jump out of the bushes and take me to a nice warm jail. We have two options here.
1. You really live in the Florida keys, and have never been to Alaska?
2. You really are an Alaskan bush pilot, and really do know what it really takes to survive a light aircraft crash in the bush.

I'm going with #2!!

I am neither #1 or #2, but I do know light weight heat, shelter, first aid, and water would ride in my little airplane before I even considered bringing along a bear shotgun or rifle & heavy ammo for protection.


June 30, 2013, 12:30 AM
float pilot...love the mag lanyard! great idea!

June 30, 2013, 12:31 AM
For you non-pilots there are a couple other things that we pilots must consider. WEIGHT and SPACE. .....

.AND in some cases down in the lower 48 states, concealment of the fact you have a firearm while loading and unloading the plane may be a big factor.


What do you fly, Floatpilot? (a float plane obviously, but what make/model/year)?

I'm getting my primary instruction in a 172, and I want to buy a nice old PA22 Tri-Pacer when I'm done. I have an attraction to the venerated and venerable Super Cub but because of their classic status, they tend to be pretty expensive for what they are. Since most of my flights (when I have my plane) will probably not be anywhere near the weight limit (I'll be flying myself and maybe one other person and not much luggage/cargo, on shorter flights that don't require full tanks), I wouldn't be adverse to putting something like this (http://www.savagearms.com/firearms/model/Model42) in the back seat.

EDIT: I looked at your facebook page, I see Super Cubs and I see that you're a tail wheel instructor... I might have to visit you to get my TW endorsement :)

jim in Anchorage
June 30, 2013, 12:47 AM
For you non-pilots there are a couple other things that we pilots must consider. WEIGHT and SPACE. .....
My plane survival gear is exactly the same as my sheep hunt gear[including food.] The only thing I add is a Browning challenger .22.

June 30, 2013, 01:37 AM
If I were forced down in a truly desolate place and I considered it an emergency, I would flip the ELT on and camp by the aircraft. We had a new kid at work that dropped an armed ELT off of a table. 10 minutes later, we get a call from the FAA saying that Russia called and wanted them to know that they were picking up a ELT signal at our coordinates and asked that we make it stop. LOL!

Anyway, assuming that the ELT is inop or out of the question, I wouldn't mind having a 10/22 takedown with a few hundred rounds of assorted ammo.

June 30, 2013, 11:46 AM
Also, before someone points out how quickly help would arrive in most places in the lower 48, let me concede that you're mostly right. However, there are plenty of truly wild and desolate places in the lower 48 where help could be long in coming.

I would flip the ELT on and camp by the aircraft.

While staying with the plane is generally considered a good idea, I’d never assume that help would necessarily be quick to arrive following a crash in the lower 48, even in relatively populated areas. Some plane crashes in the lower 48 are not found for days, weeks, months or even years. Steve Fossett’s plane was missing in Nevada for 1 year. A Lear jet that crashed in New Hampshire was missing for 3 years.

10 or 15 years ago, another pilot and I discovered a crash site in well populated farm country. The plane had been missing for 5 days. The ELT battery was so weak by that time that the signal could only be received for Ĺ mile in any direction. Both occupants had survived the initial crash but one died after the first day. The plane crashed into a small woods at night while flying VFR, and was not in contact with ATC at the time of the crash.

As far as a survival gun is concerned, I have a Super Comanche 45LC/410 single shot pistol that I think is ideal for the purpose. In locations where possessing a handgun is an issue a single shot 20 ga shotgun makes a very good choice. I would go with the smallest, lightest, break down, single shot that I could find. If you choose a 12 ga you could use it as a flare gun as well....

June 30, 2013, 12:39 PM
Even though I have a wide variety of firearms to choose from the most used gun on my farm is a H&R single shot 12 ga. shotgun. It is lightweight, very simple to operate and arguably has the most rugged and reliable action. It can be disassembled in two pieces for storage and the barrel length could even be cut back for more size and weight savings. A mix of shotshells, say for example a few slugs for big game such as deer, #6's for upland birds and waterfowl and birdshot for small game would just about cover every situation.

June 30, 2013, 01:15 PM

June 30, 2013, 02:38 PM
I've been told these are jam-o-matics.

June 30, 2013, 02:41 PM
They generally work/function perfectly. However, many, if not all iterations are horribly inaccurate.

Float Pilot
June 30, 2013, 02:47 PM
One problem with the AR-7 type platforms is that the rear sight is on the receiver and the front sight is on the removable barrel. After a few installations they are seldom very tight and seldom aligned the same as they were when you sighted the rifle...

What do you fly, Floatpilot? (a float plane obviously, but what make/model/year)?

These days my personal instruction plane is an old PA-11. It is my 6th airplane and she is about ready to be replaced. I also teach in any plane a client may own. there are a lot of folks who have owned a C-180 or 185 for years and finally install floats when they can afford them. So they call me for a float rating. I have also been known to prostitute myself to other employers such as lodges (Beavers) when I need the extra income.


I like to wear a floatation vest with some rudimentary gear stuffed in the pockets. ELTs fail in over 50% of all crash landings and since I fly off lakes which are sometimes 300 feet deep I figure my ELT might be far underwater soon after a landing boo-boo.

I have a flat tent in the lower back part of my float vest and some basic gear. This is an older photo (right) of the items in my vest,,,, so it has been updated some. I have a SPOT locator in my vest these days. I guess I forgot all about the Airlite eight-shot .22 that is in my float vest. It is so light I am always forgetting the darn thing is there.

The survival gear box is a small one made up for Super Cubs. I have long since replaced the MREs with freeze dried food bags which I repackaged with my vacuum sealer into flat shapes. The box acts like a seat, a water bucket and a step.

June 30, 2013, 08:15 PM
For that role, probably something like my FR-8 Spanish Mauser Scout rifle, in 7.62x51.

A .30-30 lever gun would work too. It would trade weight for power and range.

Here is my Scout rifle:


July 1, 2013, 07:24 PM
I have a pair of Savage 24s to choose from. My favorite is a 24V in .223/20ga., the other is a 24F in .223/12. A little heavy, but breaking them down for stowage is no problem. A Savage 24 in .22RF/20 would be ideal, but they've gotten pricey.

Here in NY, flying over the Adirondacks can get you thinkin'...

Float Pilot
July 2, 2013, 12:16 AM
I always thought something like a Savage 24 with a 357 Maxium ( 375 Win lever or 444) upper barrel and a 20 gauge lower would be just fine..
In fact I always wondered if you could bore out a 30-30 to 357 max. I think they are the same rim size.

Ignition Override
July 2, 2013, 12:46 AM

Was it reported that this stranded family died of thirst, hunger, possibly impact injuries?
I can't imagine that they landed on a smooth field or road in most of those areas. We flew just north of Denver on a recent return from Tucson, and none of the terrain looked smooth enough for a landing (but hard to distinguish from FL 350), even as low as 70 kts.

July 2, 2013, 03:09 PM
Here is a couple ideas...

This is an Ar7 with an aftermarket stock. I took the pistol grip off and reduced it to the minimum. 16" OAL when taken down. About 2lbs. Holds three mags under the rubber bands (inner tube bands).

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v489/mac66/IMG_0272_zpsb98982d5.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/mac66/media/IMG_0272_zpsb98982d5.jpg.html)

Another take down option is an H&R/NEF single shot. This one is shown with the 12ga bbl. The pouch holds 20 rounds. In 20 ga. the buttstock pouch holds 7 shells outside and 20 inside or a combination of caliber reducers and other ammo. Of course you can also use the handy rifle version in any caliber. I have 20 ga, and 357 mag barrels for this gun all cut down to the legal minimum length. The 357 mag is pretty versatile out of rifle. It can be loaded up or down. Some people bore out the 357 mag to 357 max. Then you can use anything from light .38 spls up to heavy .357 max loads.The dime is the take down tool.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v489/mac66/105_9678.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/mac66/media/105_9678.jpg.html)

July 2, 2013, 05:35 PM
mac66 - Can the shotgun barrel on the H&R/NEF receiver be swapped out for a rifle barrel or is the rifle receiver different?

July 2, 2013, 10:52 PM
H&R/NEF Rifle and shotgun barrels are interchangeable. However the earlier H&R pre 1988 receivers were cast iron, post 88 were steel. The cast iron receivers (case hardened) can take any shotgun barrel, pistol caliber barrels and any low pressure rifle calibers (ie. 30-30, 35 Rem, 444, 45-70 etc). The steel receiver ones including NEF shotguns and handi rifles can take anything including high pressure rifle rounds (308 family, 30-06 family, .223 and other modern rifle rounds).

It should be noted that barrels need to be fitted to specific receivers. It is not hard to do but you do have to know how to.

Also be aware that 12 ga bbls and some of the rifle cartridges on these things kick like a mule, particularly, buck and slugs. 20 ga is not too bad, and even hot loaded .357s are pretty mild.

July 2, 2013, 10:57 PM
My heart says 16" lever action Trapper Carbine in .45 Colt.

My mind says Kel-Tec SU-16A 19" barrel. Very light, very compact, much more potent than a .22LR and not much more space needed for 3-4 magazines with ammo, but it comes with two 10-rounders that fit in the stock. Or one 30 rounder will fit in the stock.

July 3, 2013, 12:03 AM
1) 16" lever gun in 30-30;
2) H&R 20 ga in a Survivor stock with survival equipment
3) H&R 357 Mag in same Survivor stock and equipment

July 3, 2013, 06:23 AM
mac66 - Thanks for the very specific reply. I have the case colored receiver that you mentioned with a 20 gauge barrel, so I think a 30-30 rifle barrel would be a nice compliment to it for a pilotís survival combo.

Iíve shot a lot of small game with it, mostly squirrels and doves, so itís a proven game getter. The rifle barrel in 30-30 would be a plus if you were to find fresh deer, hog or other large game tracks at your location.

Also, when I fly in private airplanes I always carry my CW as a continuing precaution against predators of any kind. The exception being when I go to a State that doesnít honor my CWL, then it gets locked in a storage compartment until I get to more ďfriendly skiesĒ.

July 3, 2013, 09:33 AM
The Survivor Stocks are pretty neat in that you can store stuff in them, though they tend to be heavier. The wood stock is ok. I've been looking on ebay for a plastic youth stock. They are lighter than the wood. The other thing to consider if you are looking for additional barrels. The ones that came on the youth versions of the handi rifles and shotguns are thinner and lighter than the regular ones. They still fit on the receiver but they are lighter. I wish I knew that when I first got my H&R topper shotgun. (cheap garage sale find :D)

Here is mine again, this time set up in 20ga. It is my truck gun. It rides around in my truck all the time. Kind of the "the things you see when you don't have gun" gun.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v489/mac66/100_9938_zps9faac3ec.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/mac66/media/100_9938_zps9faac3ec.jpg.html)

Another lighter option is a .410 bbl. can use shot or buck or slugs and carry a lot more ammo. I will probably add a .410 bbl to my collection.

July 3, 2013, 11:35 AM
My suggestion a .357 Magnum 16 inch carbine Rossi 92. Holds 9 rounds of 357 Magnum which is enough to take most of not all creatures in the lower 48 and the Rossi 92 only weighs about 6 pounds loaded. God Bless :)

July 3, 2013, 11:51 AM
I agree with rcmodel and Float Pilot. Weight is a serious consideration in a light plane.

Also, in the lower 48, there is different needs depending on where you are flying. In the east, eating, drinking, surviving and signaling is more important as there is less dangerous animals. A 22 rimfire with lots of ammunition would weigh the least with the largest ammunition supply.

Out west, there are more numerous dangerous animals. But, still an abundance of 22 rimfire ammunition would be better with a few heavier caliber rounds for the occasional dangerous game. I would go with a combo gun like the Savage.

I used to be active with the Civil Air Patrol, and even in "populated" east Tennessee, there were several downed aircraft searches that it took several days to find the wreckage. I have read stories of crashes out west where the planes were found several years later or never found.

July 3, 2013, 02:26 PM
How about something small and relatively light like a Kel-Tec Sub2000 folding 9mm carbine?

More powerful than a .22, more accurate than a pistol. The Glock version takes most size 9mm Glock mags up to and including the 33 round model.

Price and availability (gun and ammo) may be an issue at this point though.

Elm Creek Smith
July 3, 2013, 06:59 PM
I don't go anywhere that doesn't accept my Oklahoma Handgun License, and I carry when I fly*. I keep looking for a little short-barreled H&R rifle in .357 Magnum for those times when my ATI Strikeforce stocked Mini-14 won't do.


*(Don't go to those big airports. I hate to taxi.)

July 3, 2013, 07:25 PM
http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r263/Averageman1/336SC001.jpg (http://s146.photobucket.com/user/Averageman1/media/336SC001.jpg.html)

Gun Master
July 3, 2013, 07:51 PM
I have the 2 above picture's gun in the form of AR-7 by Charter Arms, with a Mitchell Arms collapsing stock (which makes for smaller storage and quicker usage). This would be good for small game, but the area should also be considered. Think survival in Grizz country. The .45-70 also should be an option. An over&under with .22LR and .45-70 would be great! Don't know if any are currently being manufactured.:confused:

July 3, 2013, 08:12 PM
If a normal-weight arm was okay, Remington 7600 in .35 Whelen.

A M4 stock can be fitted, if the user's okay with slightly less accuracy in return for compact storage.

July 3, 2013, 10:43 PM
If I were flying over the lower 48 my concerns would be being located, treating injuries, dehydration, and exposure long before hunting food or self defense. If weight were really that much of a factor my allocation would be in accordance with my concerns. As such I would carry a Personal Locator Beacon, handheld aviation radio, first aid kit, water, etc. long before my weight was used up by firearms and ammo.

That being said, the OP is asking about the firearm. My suggestion would be a youth take-down single shot. I happen to use a Rossi 22 & 410 combo that is light and small. Ammo can be mixed and matched to suit your territory that trip. There are probably better choices but that is what I have.


And don't forget a locking case if you plan to crash in New Jersey...

July 3, 2013, 10:47 PM
I always thought the Rossis looked like neat little rifles, but my 7.62x39mm won't reliably fire even commercial US ammo...

July 3, 2013, 11:50 PM
If you want something that can hunt small game AND defend you from a large animal or two-legged weirdo, I'd go with some kind of takedown shotgun: you can change the ammo type for different purposes. Though this does lead to the problem of not only needing to carry bulky shotgun shells (unless you get a .410), but needing a decent amount of multiple ammo types as well. Another obvious option is an over-under combination gun like the M6, though you've now got the problem of only being able to get one shot off from each caliber before needing a reload.

If it was me personally, I'd take a folding pistol caliber carbine or 5.56mm, like the Kel-Tec SUB-2000 or SU-16. The SU-16, if you get the right variation, also lets you store a mag or two in the stock to make for a more compact package.

July 4, 2013, 07:30 AM
H&r 20 gauge with a survivor stock. Got a fishing kit, geber pliers, 4 kinds of ammo (slug, buckshot, light target loads and heavy turkey loads) some gateraid energy chews, tp, a mini survival kit from bear grills. I tried to upload the pic. But having phone trouble. I will try again later

July 4, 2013, 07:47 AM
You guys seen those "Tuffy" .410s at Big 5?? They are tiny. Meant for kids. But would be perfect in a little suurvival bag behind an aircraft seat.

July 4, 2013, 10:28 AM
A folding high capacity semi-auto could be problematic, unless you only flew over states where it was legal.

A .410 is not a serious survival piece. It's great against poisonous snakes at 15 feet, but if you see them at 15', you can just walk around. Even a .22 WRF would be more useful, and more compact.


July 4, 2013, 12:33 PM
The Rossi Tuffy 410 is basically the old Snake Charmer shotgun. .410 ammo has come along way since the introduction of the revovlers chambered for it. Slugs, buckshot etc.

I carry a Snake Charmer on my ATV when out in the boonies. I've taken squirrels with it.

Another suggestion might be a shotgun with caliber reducers in it. You can get 12, 20 and 410s reducers in a variety of calibers.

July 4, 2013, 12:39 PM
I have taken squirrel, bunnies, quail, and dove with a .410, OK long ago but I did, and a guy in my club has taken over a dozen little Florida white tail deer with the old .38 wadcutter based slug.

Because of this the Springfield survival .22 over a .410 (based on a design used in some cold war bombers as a survival gun) would seem to be an excellent chose.

A friend used to carry an Armalite made AR7 in his little high wing.....but got far more use from the two lightweight aluminum and nylon strap lawn chairs he also carried.


July 4, 2013, 03:41 PM
a guy in my club has taken over a dozen little Florida white tail deer with the old .38 wadcutter based slug

And lots of deer have been poached with .22LR, too. Doesn't mean it's a good idea.


July 4, 2013, 04:24 PM
A folding high capacity semi-auto could be problematic, unless you only flew over states where it was legal.

A .410 is not a serious survival piece. It's great against poisonous snakes at 15 feet, but if you see them at 15', you can just walk around. Even a .22 WRF would be more useful, and more compact.

What about this?


July 4, 2013, 04:40 PM
Nope. A .410 is a gun for sport- if you're trying to actually survive, almost anything is better. More powerful rounds take up less space. For small game, rimfire rounds are considerably more compact, but have longer range. .410s are toys. Even that load you linked specified it's for close-range defense. If you're going through the trouble of packing a shotgun or rifle, why would you limit yourself to something that won't even extend as far as a decent handgun can effectively shoot?

A single-shot .357 rifle would be much better- heck, one could even get a Contender rifle, put an M4 adapter on it, and get a sliding stock little carbine that would shoot .38 or .357. It could be a little pricier than some other options, but could be extremely compact, and with good ammo, would be very accurate.

A cheaper way to go would be to buy a H&R .357 Carbine (http://www.galleryofguns.com/genie/default.aspx?item=sb1%2Ds35), and have a gunsmith shorten the barrel to 17", and the stock to 12.5" LOP- or just buy the very short youth stock (http://www.riflestock.com/store/do/product/19-01-24). Then you'll have a compact, lightweight carbine that can shoot .38 wadcutters for harvesting small game with low report and minimal meat damage, and move all the way up to full-bore .357 for rifle-sized game. ATI also makes an M4-style sliding stock, but I'd prefer Choate.

Though not as useful for outright defense, any of the "pocket rifles" like the XP-100 and T/C Contender or Encore, in the right caliber, could take game out to 200 yards or further. These would be even easier to pack than any longarm except perhaps the Sub-2000.

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