When most people think of survival rifles, they picture a compact, lightweight, single shot or semi-automatic rifle chambered for the venerable .22 LR or perhaps a Drilling chambered for a .22 LR and a 20 Ga. However, when people think of the AR-15 rifle, they tend to automatically picture a home defense rifle or a U.S. Military battle field rifle; certainly not a survival rifle! But, due to its rugged construction and relatively light weight (especially in the M-4 and carbine configurations) along with the proliferation of the many new calibers and cartridges specifically designed for use with this awesome rifle platform, the AR-15 can easily be transformed into the perfect survival rifle for hunting various game species.
Plus, when purchased in either .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO, it can quickly and easily be converted to the venerable .22 Long Rifle cartridge; thus making it capable of hunting any game species from Squirrels to Whitetail Deer. Therefore, it has been my experience that AR-15 is quite possibly the ultimate survival rifle!
In fact, when I think of a survival rifle, four criteria immediately come to mind such as: it must be compact, it must be lightweight, it must be extremely durable, and it must fire the .22 LR cartridge. Fortunately, the AR-15 platform can be made to meet all of these specifications! For instance, by installing a collapsible stock in conjunction with a 14 1/2″ (M4) or 16″ (carbine) barrel, the rifle immediately becomes both very compact and relatively light weight. Plus, .22 LR drop-in conversion kits are readily available that will easily enable any AR-15 chambered for .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO cartridges to also fire .22 LR cartridges without making any permanent alterations to the rifle.
Consequently, simply by carrying the rifle chambered for .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO along with a drop-in .22 LR conversion kit, you effectively have two rifles in one that will enable you to harvest game animals ranging in size from squirrels and rabbits to Eastern Whitetail Deer and small feral pigs. Plus, because the AR-15 was specifically intended to be a battle field rifle, it was specifically designed to function correctly every time it was needed even in extremely harsh, inclement, weather conditions. In addition, it was also specifically designed such that all of the internal parts can easily be replaced in the field by someone with only moderate mechanical skill and nothing more than a steel punch and a wood baton or a rock for use as a hammer. Thus, the AR-15 platform also meets my criteria for a rifle that is extremely durable (and easily repairable).
Furthermore, the reason that I refer to this rifle as a “platform” is because it was specifically designed by Eugene Stoner to be a modular system so that the rifle could be quickly and easily reconfigured to meet the needs of various missions. Consequently, this ability has given rise to various manufacturers offering numerous caliber conversions in addition to the .22 LR such as the 6.8mm Remington SPC, the 7.26 x 39mm, the .300 Whisper and the .30 AR. In fact, all that is needed to convert this rifle from .223 Remington/5.56 NATO to .22 LR is to push the rear pin in the lower receiver out until the upper receiver can be titled up, then you simply slide the bolt carrier out, slide the .22 LR conversion kit in, tilt the upper receiver down again, push the pin back in, and then change the magazine and you suddenly have a .22 LR instead of a .223/5.56mm.
In addition, by carrying an additional upper receiver/barrel assembly chambered for one of the numerous different new cartridges designed for this platform, you can quickly and easily convert your rifle to a much more powerful cartridge capable of hunting medium to large size game species at much greater distances than is possible with the .223 Remington but, you also retain the ability to hunt medium sized game such as Whitetail Deer and feral pigs with the .223/5.56mm cartridge and small game with the .22 LR cartridge. Plus, by choosing a flat top upper receiver with a Picatinny Rail, reflex sights (aka red dot), holographic sights, and scopes can easily be mounted on the upper receiver to provide pinpoint accuracy when shooting at small and/or distant targets.
Therefore, if you have never before thought of the AR-15 as a viable survival rifle, then perhaps you should take a second look at this amazing modular rifle since it fits the bill perfectly!
Bill Bernhardt, Outdoor Professional
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