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Old 01-09-2021, 03:48 PM   #1
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The Backpack Survivalist (Interesting article from 2004)

The Backpack Survivalist
Guns and Backpacking
by M. Rostov

I like to backpack and the ever present discussions about 'backpack survival' has been something that I have not only thought about but have tested out on numerous occasions. Some ideas work better than others.

When the subject of 'backpack survival' comes out on the web, someone inevitably whips out the old Duncan Long article and - of course - there is the rantings of the infamous GunKid across every gun and survival forum on the Internet (the wannabe backpacking cannibal-hobo of the Apocalypse).

Personally I think both Duncan Long and the infamous GunKid are way off base on what they say and really need to clue in a bit. I also bet that neither of them has seriously backpacked very much, especially in places with rugged mountains and real wilderness like the Sierras.

To be a backpacker that carries a firearm vs a backpack survivalist is an easy line to cross. Basically, a backpack survivalist is a someone who, unlike a regular backpacker, plans on being able to stay out there indefinitely.

We'll discuss backpacking gear itself in another section, but right now let's talk about backpacking with firearms and how it pertains to a backpacker and a backpack survivalist.

The backpacking gear nowadays has gotten pretty good. The gear list can get pricey but if you chose right you can get a cool set of gear that's light and durable, clear on down to super tough titanium tent pegs that weight only 1/2oz each.

Do you NEED titanium tent pegs? No, probably not, and they are over $20 each anyway, but that does show you just how cool the world of modern backpacking gear has gotten.

THEN... the subject comes to weapons - a subject that is seldom covered in places like Backpacker magazine but is much debated upon over the web.

So, why carry a weapon when backpacking? A lot of people who backpack don't.

However, I prefer to and the reason for my carrying a weapon while backpacking is two fold:

1) Self defense (primary reason)

2) Emergency hunting (secondary reason)

What to Carry

Like all gear that you carry into the wilderness, your weapons should be simple, tough and utterly dependable, doing their primary job well. You should also think seriously and always about keeping the weight down on your guns and ammo.

I've packed around many weapons, many times just to test the 'backpacker survivalist theory' and some of my opinions run contrary to what many people perceive as 'orthodox survivalism'.

For instance, I think that the M6 Scout, that utterly survivalist looking weapon that creates so much talk, is an underpowered, ridiculously heavy pig for what it actually is. I know this because I bought my first one in 1985 and I've hauled that heavy, underpowered pig on some serious backpacking trips up some real mountains.

Then there are those who've claimed that they have it all figured out, and have some wunder-carbine that's been so chopped down that it's not really much more effective, in practical reality, than a pistol, but at several times the size and weight - but it looks cool and it has a really impressive muzzleflash.

Some people just can't let go of the 'gotta have an assault rifle' syndrome or the Rambo of the Apocalypse fantasies. Reality has this nasty way of squashing such fantasies when you actually have to do it instead of talk about it, especially as you are trying to make that next mountain pass before nightfall or a snowstorm hits.

Of course, there are also the others who simply don't understand how much several weapons really weighs you down, plus all of the variety of ammo and magazines needed for such weapons. So they talk about going into a backpacking trip armed like they are going to retake Saigon. In one such 'bugout bag' I've seen lately, someone came up with a 100+ pound load that was armed like they were in Marine Force Recon going in for a battle.

When I say 'backpacking', I'm talking about someplace like the Sierras of California or the Rockies of Colorado or Montana - real mountains. Even the Mollogon Rim and White Mountains of Arizona are some pretty rough terrain. You try and pack a 106 lb load over some of that turf and you'll either need to be the Incredible Hulk, or you'll be hating life very rapidly. It's not uncommon on some well used trails high in the Sierras to find excess gear that those who went before you just ditched in desperation in order to lighten the load an soothe their misery.

When you are at +8000 feet, on foot, and humping your entire existence on your back with weather coming in, you will NOT be wanting to be carrying 3 weapons and the logistical support for them necessary for a substantial battle.

You have to remember that if you have a backpack that you are going to have to live out of, you will need to understand that your guns will be used but a fraction of the time while your other gear is used much more often. Your firearms are an insurance policy and they are just one of the items of gear that you are carrying, one taht you may, or may not actually ever need to use on your trip - they are an insurance policy, not the centerpiece item of your gear.

In order to survive with just your backpack you must eat well, stay clean and healthy, get well rested, stay dry and warm in cold weather, and still be able to travel efficiently. If you are warm, well fed, well rested, and clean then odds are you are healthy and fit, this means that you can travel further, faster, and safer - especially if your pack doesn't weight 100+ lbs.

The Right Gun for the Job

After some hard earned experience, it's my conclusion and opinion that for serious survival while backpacking - apocalypse or not - my first and primary choice in weapons is NOT a rifle, but a single, large caliber handgun. I often travel in the wilderness with such a weapon as my only firearm. It's not for waving around or target practicing on things at random, like I have seen some people do, it's there for a purpose, a serious one, and it's treated as such.

What I've found to be the optimal qualities in a backpacking handgun is range, killing power, accuracy, and reliability. It should be controllable for you enough that you can hold it on target for repeat shots against a target as it's coming towards you or forcing it's way into your tent looking for a meal, or something more sinister, in the middle of the night.

You'll also find with experience that even a pistol that would be considered a bit large for urban concealed carry (CCW) can usually be readily and adequately concealed if need be out in the field, though your need for concealment is considerably less. I've hiked with some real yuppie types, blending in good, no one but myself knowing that I had a M1911A1 and 80 rounds of .45 ammo in my pack. If things called for it, I could have gotten to that pistol pretty fast.

One of the additional advantages of having a pistol as your primary weapon is that it leaves your hands free for other tasks but your weapon is still rapidly accessible if you have the proper holster setup.

If your primary weapon out in the wilderness is a handgun, some of the features that make a weapon more easily concealable in normal times for CCW in an urban environment can be a detriment while out in the mountains and the forest, especially the shorter barrels found on most CCW weapons. On some pistols, such as the diminutive .22LR, too short of a barrel practically castrates the weapon for anything more than firing snake shot loads or simply pissing off your target.

Your optimum barrel length for a wilderness pistol can vary with the caliber, but in many calibers I've found that I tend to like a barrel of about 5" or so. My last .44mag (Ruger Redhawk) had a 5-1/2" barrel and my .45ACP has a 5" barrel. Both have worked out rather well.


The four big reasons for self defense on the trail are:

Range cattle (bulls mainly)
Feral Humans

I sometimes have packed only a Ruger MkII in the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge, but probably the closest I've come yet to being annihilated while backpacking was when I was carrying only a MkII. I was crossing this patch of open ground when I came upon some cattle on a grazing lease. It was then that some extremely large bull decided that I really needed to be turned into backpacker pudding. Maybe he was bored that day. It was a tense moment. It was also the last time I packed only a .22LR pistol.

Bears? Actually, I tend to travel were the biggest bears are blacks, not grizzlies (which is the case nowadays in most of the lower 48 US states). Cougars and dogs are the more common aggressive wilderness animal threats in most of the lower 48 states of the USA.

The big cats have killed several people in the last few years and they can be very aggressive, regardless of what the overly 'eco-sensitive' folk like to prattle on about, "Oh, the cougar is just soooo majestic and misunderstood, don't you think?" They are coddled in California now, but did you know that in Arizona it's only a $13 extra tag on your hunting license to openly hunt cougars?

A round or two of .357mag Hydra-Shock will mess up a hostile cougar, not so with a .22LR, even with CCI Stingers. If you do run into a bear who takes interest in you, even a black bear, you will definitely need a pistol caliber with better punch than a .22LR to at least make him think twice about messing with you. Fortunately, black bears aren't usually as aggressive as grizzlies.

Feral Humans? There's weirdos and freaks out there, same as in town. One or two rounds from a large caliber pistol such as I'm talking about will drop just about any human and urban shootings have well documented this stopping power.

Harvesting Food

While the most important things your weapon must do is protect you, it can also serve to harvest food if necessary.

When backpacking, if you supplement your diet with animal protein, more often than not it's fish, such as trout. Usually you have the food with you for the trip.

However, if you are in a 'survivalist' type situation, this will change somewhat.

If you have to harvest food in an emergency, let's get real, if the choice is between killing something like a deer vs eating some mangy, disease riddled rodent, I'll blow away the deer or the elk (or the range cow, aka 'slow elk').

For example, a large animal like a deer or a range cow that has been killed with a .357mag has a much higher ratio of weight of meat harvested vs the weight of the round when compared to a mangy, plague infested rabbit killed with a .22LR. With a deer, a range cow, or an elk, one round of ammo has just supplied you with enough meat for quite a while.

If you get stuck in the mountains long term, like say, the balloon goes up while you are backpacking, you can snare small stuff like rabbits and you can run a trotline or some other method to catch fish. If I had to chose between good fishing gear and a .22LR, I'd chose the fishing gear - even in Arizona.

Yes, a .22LR in the right hands can be a fine tool and extremely useful, but it's been my conclusion over the years that many who spout that you ABSOLUTELY must have a .22LR handy are simply using the .22 to compensate for a lack of wilderness skills on their own part. They are using it as a crutch, sort of a magic survival pill.

Now, this statement may cause some arguments with some people, BUT contrary to popular survivalist mantra, you do not absolutely need a .22LR. On the other hand, you do absolutely need something that can kill - quickly - a hungry cougar, a wild dog, or a feral human.

The mountain men got along just fine without a .22LR rimfire, so did the cowboys. That was because they had this thing called 'skill'. Those mountain men who didn't obtain that skill (about 1/3) died in their first two years in the mountains anyway from causes that a .22LR would seldom have helped to prevent or overcome.

You absolutely need something that can drop a deer, a human, an attacking cougar, a wild dog, an ornery bull, and make a bear think twice. Everything else is skill. Having an extra weapon in .22LR and some ammo for it is gravy, not an absolute necessity. Yes, they are nice to have along, but if I have to chose one firearm, I'll take the powerful centerfire pistol and bring some fishing gear and some snare wire.

A Side Note On Slow Elk (Range Cattle)

Range cattle are privately owned cows that roam free and wild on unfenced in land in the national forest. The rancher has a grazing permit which he obtained from the government for a certain number of head to graze on public land.

In some cases, some of these permits have been in ranching families so long that some of the ranchers tend to start viewing that land as theirs, and some of that land is remote enough that sometimes often get away with treating that land as their personal turf, at least for a while.

These range cattle can often be found wandering around all over the national forest.

Please don't go shooting Mr. Rancher's cows if you do not need to - unless it's an emergency. The cows are there grazing legally.

However, that said, since it's public land, the basic rules are if human life is in danger, you can kill animals on public land for food and/or safety in order to save human life - and this includes range cows.

The most a rancher can legally do under such life threatening circumstances, no matter how pissed off he is, is to bill you a fair market price for the cow if you slaughtered a non-threatening cow for food - and if he can figure out and prove who did it (or you can leave him a note if you feel so inclined). If he doesn't like that arrangement, then he can get his cows back on the ranch and off of public land.

But, remember, it has to be a life threatening circumstance, no casual picnics on the cows, please.

If it's a bull who tries to turn you into backpacker pudding, then simply kill the stupid thing and walk on. You have as much right to be there as he does and the rancher has no right to endanger the public while they are on public land with a privately owned animal - it's the same as having a vicious dog who tries to bite someone. The coyotes and other scavengers will help mop up the mess.


Weapons and Calibers

So, what weapons and calibers am I talking about? Well, actually, a lot of it depends upon your personal taste and preferences. If you have read the above criteria your choices are narrowed down somewhat.

Revolvers still have their place with backpackers and the .357mag and .44mag are still potent but relatively portable packages for defense or hunting in the wilderness. A large magnum like that would be my primary reason to carry a revolver.

The few autos made in those magnum calibers have never been quite as reliable as they should have been and they tend to be excessively large and are usually rather finicky on ammo. Even though there is the .357Sig which is now a common caliber for autos, when you get past 125gr bullets the .357mag still outclasses the .357Sig by a significant margin. The .357mag is still a very potent killer and a very versatile weapon.

Taurus makes the Taurus Tracker Model 627 Titanium, a mostly Titanium, 7 shot .357mag that only weighs 24oz (1.5 lbs) with either a 4" or a 6" (1.75 lbs) ported barrel. With the ammo weighing in at about 1.9 lbs per 50 round box for the most common .357mag bullet weight (158gr) this pistol has 'backpacker' written all over it. This gun is so cool, it had me thinking about packing a revolver again.

The .44mag isn't for everyone, but it is an impressive round and a lot more controllable than some would have you think. If you are carrying a .44mag Ruger Redhawk with a 5-1/2" barrel with modern ammunition and maybe a couple of speed loaders, you probably have a better hunting and fighting weapon than your average .50cal Hawken muzzleloading rifle that the mountain men would have sworn their lives by.

There are some other very potent handgun rounds, mainly chambered in revolvers, such as the .45 Colt (.45 Long Colt), the .454 Casull, the .500 S&W, the .480 Ruger, etc. Sky's the limit, just be sure you can realistically handle it.

My personal preference nowadays in handguns while backpacking is for autos but the Taurus Tracker might change my mind. The pistol I've been packing for a while in the boonies is an M1911A1 in .45ACP with a 5" barrel. It has a good trigger, all weather grips, and adjustable sights.

These (trigger, grips, sights) are the main modifications I consider important in a pistol that I might need for hunting and fighting. These mods help you hold onto the pistol in inclement weather conditions and they help you hit the target.

There are a lot of other things that people put on their M1911 - beavertail grip safeties, etc - but they are, in my opinion, functional fluff - nice to have but not really that necessary. There's an old saying, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it." You're better off spending your money on good magazines, such as Chip McCormick or Wilson and a decent holster rig.

The best holster setup for backpacking is a quality thigh holster of the sort made by professionals for law enforcement and the military. The best ones, the ones that do not wander around or flop about, are So-Tech (what I currently use), Safariland, and HSG (High Speed Gear). I generally carry three holsters with me, the spares in the pack. They weigh little and they provide flexibility on the trail and about camp. I carry the thigh holster, a Bianchi UM-84 nylon/kevlar belt holster, and a nylon shoulder holster. My pistol also has a lanyard loop and so I carry a US military issue lanyard for it.

One thing I will comment on is luminous tritium night sights. My personal experience, and the experience of some of the gunsmiths I've talked to which often service various police officers in the Southwest, is that tritium night sights are surprisingly fragile (I've broken them myself) and WHEN they go out during very rough use, they are less than optimal to use. Also, during the daytime, when you do a lot of your hunting or when adversaries are more likely to spot you, they are not the best sights you can have. At the short ranges you normally encounter at night, you'll find that tritium sights are not the 'magic pill' that some believe them to be. Furthermore, if someone has a decent night vision device, tritium gunsights can illuminate their user pretty well.

A Side Note On The .400 Corbon

If I were to hike much more in bear country I would install a .400 CorBon barrel. Of all of the hot-rod wildcat cartridges for the M1911, the .400 Corbon is by far the most practical in the real world. I've shot them and they feel pretty good, not like you are shooting some super-hot magnum.

You can buy the ammo or buy the casings and reload, or you can simply run a .45ACP case through a .400 Corbon resizing die in an ordinary reloading press which necks the case down to .40 caliber. It's one of those good ideas that both actually works well and is practical - qualities that not every 'good sounding' idea has.

Unlike all of the come and go .45ACP wildcats, the .400 Corbon has stayed around because you do not need to hot-rod your pistol in order to shoot it. You simply swap out the barrel - that's it. There is no exotic chamber pressures or howitzer style recoil to deal with.

Word is that Glock may start to support the .400 Corbon with a factory barrel in what would be just a re-barreled G21 but with a dedicated .400 Corbon Glock with it's own model number.

.400 Corbon
Factory Ballistics
135 grain at 1,450 fps
150 grain at 1,350 fps
165 grain at 1,300 fps

Essentially you can carry an extra barrel and you can quickly swap an M1911 or a Glock 21 between .45ACP and .400 Corbon. You can find .400 Corbon barrels on the web for not too much. A quick search turned up one made for the M1911 for $70.

If I were to carry something other than an M1911 in the wilderness, I would pack a Sig or a Glock in .357Sig or .45ACP. The advantage to a Glock is that they are light, are high capacity, and like an M1911, you can carry multiple barrels and .22LR adapter kits, both of which are easy to obtain.

The .357Sig Glock 32 is a nice pistol. The whole weapon with the mag weighs about 1.35 lbs. An empty 13 round mag for a Glock 32 is 70 grams or about .154 lbs. The 125gr load in .357Sig generally weighs about 1.6 lbs for 50 rounds.

The reason I have stayed with the M1911 in .45ACP is that it is a tough single action and mine has proven to be extremely accurate. The M1911 also has a positive safety, which I like. Both the M1911 and it's single stack magazine has a proven track record over the last 94 years of reliability under harsh circumstances and a proven ability to drop a hostile attacker. A steel frame M1911A1 with a 5" barrel weighs in at about 2.5 pounds.

The 8 round stainless mags for the M1911 are usually .2 lbs. I normally carry 5 of them, one in the weapon, two in the thigh holster's mag pouch, and two spares in a second mag pouch stored in the pack. This is about 1 lb of magazines when they are empty.

When backpacking I like to carry about 80 rounds of ammo for my M1911A1. My total weapons load with the pistol, 5 mags, and 80 rounds of ammo is about 7.28 lbs with 3 lbs in the pack and 4.28 lbs in the holster.

If I were to swap out my M1911A1 right now for a new one to carry in the field, the main difference I'd chose would be I'd get one in stainless steel, or maybe stainless with an alloy frame. The one I have is blued steel but I've been carrying for a long time and I'm just used to it. This particular pistol has proven to be a very tough, reliable, and a very accurate weapon. I may switch calibers and/or pistols again, but for now I like my trusty 70+ year old M1911A1.

I like the .45ACP round and I keep coming back to it from other calibers because it is very controllable and it will drop a deer, waylay a dog, and it's quite a bit tamer on the ears to fire it without earplugs vs a full strength .44mag load. A milspec .45ACP round with a 230gr bullet weighs in at 331gr. There are 7000 grains per pound, so that makes about 21 rounds per pound if you are packing 230gr ammo, either ball or hollowpoint.

Now, the pundits of packing only a .22LR weapon might say that since a single round of .22LR CCI Stinger weighs only 47gr instead of 331gr, then you can carry 7x as much ammo per weight. To this I ask, "When Mr. Hungry Cougar sticks his head into your tent and says, 'Meow', which caliber do YOU want to have in your hand?"

Besides, if it's a short term survival situation (no apocalypse), or you are just a backpacker that wants some fresh meat that day, and you simply must eat a rabbit, just shoot the critter in the head or forward part of the body with your primary weapon. So, you've used a round of centerfire ammo on a rabbit, big deal, if you were smart you will still have a bunch of extra rounds in your pack. How many rabbits can you eat on a backpacking trip? A .45ACP, what I normally carry, won't vaporize a rabbit into a puddle of goo, like say, a .223 will, but it will pretty much take his head off if you are decent shot.

You can also use an old muzzleloader's trick against small game. Remember, the .22LR wasn't in common use by frontiersmen back in the old frontier days. You simply kill or stun the critter with concussion and/or fragmentation. Land the bullet next to the critter, preferably near the head. Say it's a squirrel up in a tree, just hit the branch he's sitting on right beneath him. The main drawback to these tactics for many people is that it does require some degree of marksmanship, so you do need to have the skill required to hit what you are aiming at.

That said, having something that shoots .22LR is sometimes pretty handy to have.

The Handy Little .22LR

Since we are backpacking, we are trying to keep weight down somewhat, so any .22LR addition to your gear should be as light as possible if you decide that you need to pack one.

Probably one of the best ways to carry a .22LR while backpacking is to carry a subcaliber adapter for your primary weapon, provided that your large caliber pistol is an automatic. The two best pistols for the wilderness that .22LR kits are commonly made for are the M1911 and the Glock.

There are several kits for both the M1911 and the Glock. These kits generally all have the slide made out of aluminum alloy with a stainless steel barrel. They all also come with a slightly higher priced option for adjustable sights (my preference) and they all tend to weight about 1 pound with the adapter and a single magazine. The M1911, like most automatics, changes to .22LR simply by changing out the slide/barrel assembly and the magazine.

Of all of the .22LR units for the M1911, the one made by Ceiner has a reputation for probably being the most omnivorous in it's ammo consumption. The Ceiner M1911 kit also comes with a 15 round magazine while most of the others hold 10 rounds. However, the Ceiner does not hold the slide back on the last round fired, and the Advantage Arms does.

Several outfits such as Kimber, Jarvis, and MArvel also sell .22LR kits for the M1911. The Glock kits are made by several makers also, such as Ceiner and Advantage Arms. Some of these kits are match grade and at least one made by Jarvis was specifically made to be shot with a silencer.

The other lightweight, packable .22LR options generally revolve around carrying a small .22LR carbine or .22LR pistol inside of your pack or in a small scabbard or holster on the outside of your pack. Carrying a .22LR carbine or a pistol in .22LR in a quickly accessible holster or scabbard in your pack can come in handy.

The two lightest options for a carbine are to carry a small child's single shot rifle, such as the Cricket or the Chipmunk, or a Henry AR-7.

I know of someone who backpacks in the American East and for a while now he has packed a .22LR Cricket and a .38 snubnose revolver for personal protection, and evidently for him the combo works out quite well. He swears by his little 2.5 lb Cricket carbine and it's superb accuracy. He says it doesn't rust as readily as the Chipmunk.

The AR-7 has a mixed reputation for reliability. I had an old Armalite made one and it was rather nice. The new Henry seems to have gotten a bit better than when they first came out and it uses a synthetic barrel with a steel liner, making the package lighter than ever. The cool thing about the Henry is that it's very light (2.5 lbs), compact, and it can also float. It is also a semi-automatic, not a single shot.

Both of these options - the child's rifle and the Henry AR-7 - weigh 2.5 pounds. The main advantage of the Chipmunk vs all of the others is that you can also get it in .22mag and .17HMR. The .17HMR is way more powerful than a .22LR and the ammo is about the same weight as the .22LR.

The venerable Ruger semi-auto pistol is about the best there is in a .22 pistol. The all steel Ruger MkII weighs in at about 2.18 lbs while the synthetic frame Ruger 22/45 weighs in at about 1.75 lbs.

If you don't mind shelling out the money, putting a Pac-Lite aluminum alloy upper receiver that is one piece with an aluminum alloy, steel lined barrel, on a synthetic Ruger .22/45 frame is a lightweight, but expensive option. A 4.5" Pac-Lite upper on a .22/45 lower weighs in at a bit less than 1.4 lbs. It will save you about 1/3 of a pound and make the muzzle rather light.

One of the cool side bonuses of the little Rugers is that the 4-3/4" standard barrel versions can use most nylon and leather holsters made for the full size M1911.

I have also packed around my little stainless MkII in addition to the M1911. It's not as light as the Ceiner (and extra 1.18 lbs), but, this also means that I have an extra pistol, and I don't have to disassemble my M1911 just to pop some critter. When I pack the Ruger I keep it in the pack unless I'm hunting with it.

If you are willing to pack a couple of pounds more, a Ruger 10/22 modified with a Butler Creek synthetic stock and a lightweight, stainless steel lined synthetic 16" barrel with iron sights, also from Butler Creek, can be shockingly light for a 10/22 and is a superb rifle for both foraging and a pack scabbard. The 10/22 is one of the toughest .22 semi-autos you can lay your hands upon and they carry well strapped to a pack.

The Arsenal in Your Pack

All said and done, do not get so carried away with your arsenal that you overly weigh yourself down with it, and this is very easy to do.

Remember, probably 99% of the time you will not be using your firearms, even in a survival situation, and you could have to do a wide variety of things and travel long distances with what is on your back including possibly crossing streams, ascending mountains, hopping freight trains, traveling through peaceful but guarded towns, etc. Not only is weight and encumbrance a factor, but looking like you are on a militia patrol is often a magnet for trouble.

In a long term 'survival' situation someone who starts off just with what they have in their backpack will be feeding themselves Indian style - off the land. Regardless of what weapon(s) you are packing, you need the appropriate skills or you are simply not going to make it, no matter how well armed you are.

If you have the proper skills, you'll generally gather far more food from fishing and trapping than from bullets, unless you are in an area with some large game, such as elk, deer, or range cattle. I've probably killed as many quail with a slingshot (wrist rocket) or a sling (David and Goliath type) as I have with a .22LR. I got turned on to the real value of a slingshot when I was a kid by the writings of Sun Bear, and after much practice I discovered that the old Indian was right. Myself, I am also well practiced at the ancient style (David & Goliath) sling. Now THAT takes some real practice to master, but it can be very effective and the weapon weighs virtually nothing, in fact, you can even wear it on your wrist as a kind of bracelet or stuffed into a pants or shirt pocket.

All in all, you should be skilled in as many ways as possible at harvesting game with a minimum expenditure of ammunition.

So, what to pack? That's a tough call. You have to remember that you'll be carrying a lot of other stuff that you will really regret not having over the long haul, and you have to be mobile. Just keep it simple and then work with what you have. If you have those imminent survival skills of flexibility and adaptability you'll find that your thinking and your tactics will adjust to what you are carrying.

Here's a some carry options to consider, but you can use your imagination and personal tastes to come up with many other different options:

My Normal Carry Load

M1911A1 - 2.5 lbs
5 mags (8 round stainless) - 1 lb
80 rounds .45 ammo (230gr) - 3.78 lbs

Total = 7.28 lbs

In Pack = 3 lbs
Carried Externally (normally) = 4.28 lbs


M1911A1 - 2.5 lbs
3 mags - .6 lbs
50 rounds .45cal ammo (230gr) - 2.36 lbs

Total = 5.46 lbs


M1911A1 - 2.5 lbs
3 mags - .6 lbs
100 rounds .45cal ammo (230gr) - 4.73 lbs

Total = 7.83 lbs


M1911A1 - 2.5 lbs
3 mags - .6 lbs
75 rounds .45cal ammo (230gr) - 3.55 lbs
Ceiner or Advantage Arms .22LR Adapter - 1 lb
150 rounds .22LR ammo (32gr CCI Stinger) - 1lb

Total = 8.65 lbs


M1911A1 - 2.5 lbs
3 mags - .6 lbs
75 rounds .45cal ammo (230gr hollowpoint) - 3.55 lbs
Ruger MkII - 2.18 lb
150 rounds .22LR ammo (32gr CCI Stinger) - 1lb

Total = 9.83 lbs


Glock 32 - 1.35 lbs
2 mags - .31 lbs
75 rounds .357Sig ammo (125gr) - 2.4 lbs

Total = 4.06 lbs


Glock 32 - 1.35 lbs
2 mags - .31 lbs
75 rounds .357Sig ammo (125gr) - 2.4 lbs
Ceiner or Advantage Arms .22LR Adapter - 1 lb
150 rounds .22LR ammo (32gr CCI Stinger) - 1lb

Total = 6.06 lbs


Taurus Tracker Model 627 Titanium .357mag revolver - 1.5 lbs
75 rounds .357mag (158gr Hydra-Shock) - 2.85 lbs

Total = 4.35 lbs


Taurus Tracker Model 627 Titanium .357mag revolver - 1.5 lbs
75 rounds .357mag (158gr Hydra-Shock) - 2.85 lbs
Ruger MkII Stainless 4-3/4" barrel - 2.18 lbs
150 rounds .22LR ammo CCI Stinger - 1 lb

Total = 7.53 lbs


Taurus Tracker Model 627 Titanium .357mag revolver - 1.5 lbs
75 rounds .357mag (158gr Hydra-Shock) - 2.85 lbs
Chipmunk single shot carbine 16" barrel - 2.5 lbs
150 rounds .17HMR ammo - 1 lb

Total = 7.85 lbs

Centerfire Rifles for Backpacking the Apocalypse

Now, you'll notice that with the weight of the weapons and the ammo that some may start to talk about also packing a rifle, like a CAR-15, a Mini-14 or some lightweight bolt action, like a Remington Model 7 in .223, etc.

However, these people need to keep in mind that you are backpacking and your most needed weapon for most backpacking situations, especially in 'normal' times, is a handgun. Then you're back into the weight issue. If you have to bring a rifle, you'll have to sacrifice on other things or your weights will start accumulating.

Now some who've never been backpacking sometimes try and cheat on this a bit by saying something incredibly stupid, like they can just ditch the sleeping bag and other vital gear. The silliest thing I've hear is the self-proclaimed 'expert' who's never been actually backpacking claiming that he can suffice merely with a couple of space blankets and a poncho - have fun hamburger meat.

Keep in mind that in the event of some social catastrophe, your best bet as a backpacker is to get high into the mountains where most people cannot follow with vehicles and they are not prepared to go. At this point, your skills and your handgun will do you just fine.

If there is some sort of war that comes to your area and you feel the need for an assault rifle or some other serious hardware, odds are if the hostilities come your way, and you really want to get involved instead of leaving (remember, you're nomad with a backpack) then one side or the other has to bring the bad boy toys into the area for there to be a conflict in the first place. At that point, you already have a decently lethal handgun with which can get you more guns.

If you must pack yourself a rifle from the get go, you need to keep in mind that the lightest centerfire rifle you will probably acquire for any reasonable amount of money will be between 6 and 7 pounds and that does not include the optic or ammunition - both of which are pretty handy accessories to also have on hand.

If you are willing to pack the extra weight of a rifle, then there are numerous options that you can try, each with it's own advantages and disadvantages.

Because of the nature of backpacking in the high country, your handiest weapon is still the pistol, so you really should try and carry a good one. When you discuss packing a rifle while backpacking and all of the extra weight that it entails, that Taurus Titanium revolver starts looking mighty good as does the Glock pistols.

For carrying a centerfire rifle while backpacking during some sort of crisis, probably one of the best rounds you can carry for a bolt action or a semi-auto is the .223 Remington, aka the 5.56mm NATO military cartridge.

In .223/5.56mm NATO for a semi-auto, your two best rifles are the Ruger Mini-14 and the CAR-15. The Mini-14 is legal in more places (California, Canada, etc) than the CAR-15, and is considered a sporting weapon, not a paramilitary weapon. They both weigh about the same.

If you build a basic CAR-15 with a 16" lightweight barrel, you can get a .22LR adapter for it, and then you have a total package of about 7.5 lbs including the adapter, not counting optic or ammo. A 30 round aluminum GI mag weighs .25 lbs and a 20 round mag weighs .2 lbs. Thermold plastic 30 round mags weigh the same as the aluminum. A fully loaded 30 round mag weighs 1 lb loaded with 55gr milspec M193 ammo.

So, a CAR-15 with a lightweight 16" barrel, a small optic, 4 - 30 round mags of ammo (doesn't necessarily have to be milspec), a .22LR Adapter kit, and 150 rounds of CCI Stinger, all together weighs in at about 13.5 lbs. If you factor in a Glock 32, 2 mags, and 50 rounds of ammo, then you have an additional 3.2 lbs. So you're into the package for about 16.7 lbs for your total arsenal.

The same package with the Mini-14 (6.875 lbs) with the .22LR adapter for the Glock 32 (the Mini-14 .22LR kit is a pain to change in the field and on the fly), and the 120 rounds in 6 steel 20 round Ruger factory mags or 12 steel 10 round mags (California) (all loaded into the pockets of an SKS chest bandolier) - total weigh in is at about 17.58 lbs.

A Side Note On The Ruger Mini-14

There used to be two versions of the Mini-14 but now there is only one. The old Mini-14's were a regular version that had fixed sights and required aftermarket products to mount a scope, and a 'Ranch' version that had provision to mount Ruger scope rings and had a flimsy, fold down rear sight. The new Mini-14 is essentially a Ranch rifle with improved, non-folding, 'ghost ring' sights and a more refined exterior on the receiver.

The quality of Mini-14 mags varies greatly with the best being Ruger factory originals but they are usually rather expensive - but worth it. Ruger reportedly no longer makes the factory 30 round mag.

A quick fix to an aftermarket high capacity mag for the Mini-14 is to scavenge the follower from a Ruger factory 5 round mag and put in a stronger, quality Wolf spring.

The best 10 round (California) mags are reportedly the John Masen Co. mags. these are essentially a direct copy of the Ruger factory 5 round mag that has been extended to 10 rounds.

You can shave some off of the weight total of a Mini-14 setup by changing the Mini-14 stock out to a synthetic one, such as Butler Creek or the Houge overmoulded.

Notice that on a Houge overmoulded stock for the Mini-14 you can replace the buttplate on the stock with the trapdoor buttplate from an M-16 stock, giving you a handy place to store gear, just like on a regular US military rifle.

If you like bolt actions, a Remington Model 7 carbine in .223 weighs 6 lbs and is a sweet rifle to handle. It holds 5 rounds in it's internal mag.

The CZ 527 is also a very nice rifle that weighs in at 6.2 lbs. Not only is it a very nice weapon, but uses super reliable, detachable, 5 round single stack magazines. Using a detachable mag can be a significant advantage under many circumstances.

For either rifle you should carry an extra 5 rounds that are reusable .22LR subcaliber inserts so you can shoot .22LR cartridges.

With either of these rifles in a survival package with a Glock 32, 2 mags, 50 rounds of .357Sig, 120 rounds of .223, a scope, and 150 rounds of .22LR CCI Stinger comes out to about 14.2 lbs for the Remington and about 15.4 lbs for the CZ and 5 magazines.

Another light weight option would be a handy little 6 lb Winchester or Marlin lever action rifle chambered for .30-30 or some pistol cartridge that matches your pistol.

If you are packing the Taurus Tracker 627 Titanium .357mag revolver and a lever action rifle in the same caliber, say with a 16 inch barrel, along with 100 rounds of ammo that will fire in both weapons - you're looking at about 11.3 lbs.

You can see from the 11.3 lb figure why many cowboys chose the combo of a pistol and a lever action rifle in the same caliber for their 'survival battery'. It does make some sense and is rather practical.

One option that is also workable, if you still insist on being a human packmule, is to have a semi-auto carbine that can shoot your pistol ammo while using your pistol mags. For instance, a steel frame M1911 with 100 rounds and 5 mags weighs 8.23 lbs. A Marlin Camp Carbine chambered for .45ACP weighs about 5 lbs and uses the same magazines and ammo, so the entire package then comes to 13.23 lbs.

So, essentially, even if you keep the load down a bit in many of the options by using a .223, carrying a centerfire rifle with a decent supply of ammo and a basic optic will generally add a noticeable amount of carry weight to your backpack.

This total extra weight of a full arsenal with a pistol, a rifle, their ammo, etc, probably exceeds the weight of your sleeping bag, tent, and sleeping mat all combined and then some. This weight will also cut into other vital supplies such as food, etc.

That extra weight can be used to pack a lot of Mountain House freeze dried food for your initial bug-out into the mountains.

Sticking to the Basics

My general opinion on packing both a rifle and a pistol while living solely out of a backpack is the mantra of 'big rifle-small pistol; small rifle, big pistol'.

For instance, the main reason I carry a big, heavy pistol while backpacking is that I do not carry a rifle. For 99% of all I might need to do with a firearm while backpacking, that M1911 is more than sufficient. If I had to stay in the mountains for an extended period with just my .45 and 80 rounds of ammo, I could do it.

If I did carry a rifle while backpacking it would be a very, very light one, the heaviest being a lightened-up Ruger 10/22 but probably something simple like a 2.5lb Chipmunk, maybe in .17HMR. A 3 lb load of .17HMR will have about 400 rounds in it. A 550 round bulk pack box of Federal 36gr high velocity hollowpoint weighs almost exactly 4 lbs.

A Chipmunk or a Cricket or a Henry AR-7 in .22LR with a 550 round box of ammo weighs just about what a centerfire rifle weighs with nothing else. You can do a lot of shooting with 550 rounds. A Cricket and 150 rounds of CCI Stinger weighs 3.5 lbs total and just about the same for a Chipmunk and 150 rounds of .17HMR.

If I'm packing a light carbine for hunting, I'd much rather use the much more powerful .17HMR than the .22LR, especially since the ammo weighs the same. Besides, in the high country, what you go in with is probably what you're going to have. Your odds of scavaging extra ammo in some remote valley in the Sierras or on some mountain pass is not that high.

Even better yet is the Ceiner kit, which combined with 150 rounds of CCI Stinger is only 2 lbs total for the kit and it's ammo. Shazam! now you're back to packing just a pistol, nice, simple, and easy to stow and carry.

Another 1.18 pounds and you've replaced the Ceiner with a Ruger MkII and you also have a super tough .22LR backup pistol that's easy to stow in your pack. If you're packing a revolver, a Ceiner kit is out of the question, so a MkII or .22/45 if your first and best choice anyway.

For backpacking on foot in the real wilderness of the mountains, either for recreation or survival, that is about as encumbered and weighed down with guns as you really want to get.

All in all, if you are backpacking with no other transport but your two feet in someplace like the Sierras or the Rockies, you don't need much more in the way of guns, either normal times or in a 'survival' situation.

Furthermore, there are other things you need to pack if you plan on staying out there a while - decent cutting tools, fishing gear, etc. Being too gun heavy will hurt you more than it will help you. For a 'SHTF' survival situation, you should to be a lot less concerned about mythical gunfight situations or militia firefights and a lot more concerned with surviving the coming winter.
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Old 01-10-2021, 12:17 AM   #2
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From: USA

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give us a video of this getting a pistol out of a backpack "pretty fast" I bet it's WELL over 3 seconds, starting with hands at sides and gun in the pack, on your back. you've always been nothing but a bser. A proper backpacking pistol belongs in a front pants pocket, then it's just 1.5 seconds away from being fired, by a good man. Which is at least as fast as you can do the same from under a T shirt, without any pack being an issue. In 3 seconds, I can, from a stanting start, kill you with my bare hands from 10m away. Youll be looking at the bottom of my foot as it smashes your face in.
Old 01-10-2021, 04:22 AM   #3
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From: Canadian Badlands

Posts: 9,391
Proof positive Melvin that you have never been out in the bush for any significant amount of time!
Old 01-10-2021, 07:31 AM   #4
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Joined: Jun 2015
From: North

Posts: 1,871
Mentions the 400 CorBon. Did not see a thing about the so called wonderful 9x21.
Old 01-10-2021, 09:28 AM   #5
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Posts: 944
Originally Posted by boati View Post
give us a video of this getting a pistol out of a backpack "pretty fast" I bet it's WELL over 3 seconds, starting with hands at sides and gun in the pack, on your back. you've always been nothing but a bser. A proper backpacking pistol belongs in a front pants pocket, then it's just 1.5 seconds away from being fired, by a good man. Which is at least as fast as you can do the same from under a T shirt, without any pack being an issue. In 3 seconds, I can, from a stanting start, kill you with my bare hands from 10m away. Youll be looking at the bottom of my foot as it smashes your face in.
Had to go back and edit this post. The highlighted part above is probably one of the dumbest things I've read in a long time. It really underscores a complete lack of any authoritative knowledge of backpacks or backpacking. It's clear that Boati has never worn a proper backpack, and he certainly has no experience in carrying a firearm while wearing one. His dependence on a pocket pistol is pretty funny too. (They have a time and place, but this scenario isn't one of them)

My backpack has a place for a pistol in a hip pocket. It also has a place on the hip belt for a molle holster. The pocket on the hip belt is very fast to access. The molle holster is quicker, but not concealed.

You aren’t getting into a front pocket quickly if you have a decent backpack on, clearly you lack basic experience. Do you even know what a hip belt is and how to properly fit one?

I’m also not carrying a pocket pistol, other than as a backup.

Stick to stuff you know about. Backpacking isn’t one of them, neither is field craft, hunting, or long range shooting.

And you’re full of crap, mr bad back, on the martial arts threat. Does your association know about you? Or are you lying again about your martial arts training?

When is the last time you actually fought against a black belt? Or anyone with training? It is a perishable skill. Nobody is even a little bit afraid of you.
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Last edited by Dorobuta; 01-11-2021 at 03:35 PM.
Old 01-10-2021, 12:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by boati View Post
In 3 seconds, I can, from a stanting start, kill you with my bare hands from 10m away. Youll be looking at the bottom of my foot as it smashes your face in.
You aren't dealing with people that don't have martial arts training, Jailhouse bragging doesn't work very well.

I really hope you actually try a high kick in a real fight against someone with even a little training. This is also how I know that if you had any training, it was not advanced.
Old 01-11-2021, 08:13 AM   #7
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Joined: May 2004
From: Central Arkansas

Posts: 5,586
I had martial arts training, both Tae Kwon Do and Shaolin Kung Fu (and MUCH preferred the Kung Fu - the TKD tended to attract and foster juvenile motards with a Billy-Badass-wannabe complex); but it was in the early & mid 1980's. Meaning it was more than 35 years ago, and I'm grownup enough to acknowledge that it means pretty much nothing this many years later.

With this "my karate student" theme going on with gunkid lately, I'm picturing the dojo equivalent of Voda Tactical, if anyone remembers that other guy who also claimed genius/guru status.
Old 01-11-2021, 08:19 AM   #8
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From: North

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juvenile motards with a Billy-Badass-wannabe complex)

That fits Mel! Around these parts, he used to be called Igmo by everyone who knew him for more than 2 minutes.
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