What if you were the victim of a car breakdown, a wrong turn while hiking or tracking an animal, or found yourself up a creek without a paddle?
Two of the most popular platforms for surviving in the wild is the .22 LR rifle and the shotgun. Each have their merits and demerits, but many tout the shotgun as the better of the two. Let’s examine why someone might turn to a shotgun as a survival tool.
In the wild, the ideal survival shotgun would be light enough to carry, weather resistant (as possible), and have a reliable action—preferably with few parts to break. As I’m already a fan of the H&R break top rifles, I snapped up what they offer as a survival shotgun, the H&R Tamer. Overall, I’d consider it an excellent-functioning firearm, but in this article, I’m going to look at it with a survival eye, specifically.
Many fans praise the ability of the shotgun to handle a variety of ammunition so as to be effective against a wide assortment of game. Shotguns have this ability due their barrels: shotgun barrels are smooth-bored, like the inside of a pipe. In my opinion, this is the shotgun’s greatest advantage over the .22 LR rifles. To demonstrate the H&R Tamer’s versatility, I went to the range armed with No. 6 bird-shot and slugs.
Shooting a short barreled shotgun like the H&R Tamer was not pleasant from the bench, but that didn’t translate to inaccurate shooting at the range. I was able to maintain groups up to 100 yards with the slugs, and 25 yards with the bird shot. Remember, since the small balls of shot are not aerodynamic, they lose their power and their trajectory drops off quickly—despite the short range, bird shot is very handy for shooting something that is moving. But not all was bliss as I headed for the South Louisiana swamp for a more realistic test.
H&R Tamer Advantage Recap:
- Firearm weight. Compared to other shotgun options, some as heavy as 10 or 12 pounds, the H&R Tamer is a light weight long gun.
- Accuracy. Being able to take out game and provide yourself with food is key for survival. The H&R provides that.
- Variety of ammunition options. In a survival situation, you may not have a lot of option for food. The more choices you have available to you for ammo, the better the chance you’ll have what you need to get whatever game presents itself.
Despite my ability to place accurate shots, I noticed some distinct advantages that using the H&R Tamer as a survival tool.
Gun weight matters because a heavier gun becomes more taxing on your body the longer you carry it, such as, while you await rescue. Granted, the shotgun may be able to provide you with more game, and therefore food, what happens if you are injured? Will you still be able to operate a heavy-kicking long gun as well as a lighter .22?
Ammunition weight is all about how many rounds you can carry. The extra power and versatility of the shotgun is a tradeoff for how cumbersome the ammunition is to carry. When survival is the goal, more ammo = more food. Having a few extra rounds may mean the difference between making it long enough to last until help arrives. Problem is, ammo weight only adds to toll already put on your body in a survival scenario, on top of the weight of the gun itself.
Recoil is another factor that could be considered a handicap when using a shotgun. Even though shooting offhand was more comfortable than off the bench, I realized that the recoil from the 20 gauge with the light H&R Tamer is still substantially more than a .22 LR would offer. The 20 gauge’s kick could detract from accurate fire if a follow-up shot was needed. And if the operator is injured, the recoil could make the H&R Tamer unwieldy, or even painful (depending on the injury location). If recoil is a concern, you may want to consider the softer-hitting .410 bore option.
H&R Tamer Disadvantage Recap:
- Firearm Weight. While the 5.5 pound H&R Tamer is light for a shotgun, it is heavier than many .22 LR rifles one might consider for survival-type firearms.
- Ammunition Weight. Shotgun ammo, regardless of gauge, is larger, and therefore heavier, than .22 LR ammunition.
- Recoil. While the 20 gauge, and even less so for the .410 gauge, isn’t what I’d consider heavy-hitting, it’s still a far cry from the low recoil of any kind of .22 LR.
In short, the H&R Tamer shotgun is an excellent hunting weapon, versatile, accurate, and maneuverable, but it could be considered a mixed bag when it comes to meeting survival needs. Is the Tamer the ideal survival gun over a .22 rifle, or even a different shotgun? Ultimately the final decision up to you. Survival situations are unpredictable, so there is no perfect solution. You’ll need to find what works best for your anticipated needs and abilities. I might appreciate having the H&R Tamer at my disposal for survival, but what would you choose?