By The Maj
When it comes to anything labeled “Survival”, the market place has been experiencing a bit of a boom as of late. When the market place couples “Survival” with “Firearm”, the boom seems to go nuclear in an instant. Such has been the case with many of the less expensive takedown rifles in the market place. Much of the fervor surrounding such firearms can be attributed to the overall firearms and ammunition scare that has been ongoing since Obama was reelected and further fueled by the gun debate that followed the tragedy in Newtown. Give these compact firearms a perceived niche in the survival/prepping world and it creates a backorder nightmare for those interested in acquiring one.
The concept of the takedown rifle has been around for a very long time. Early designs date back to the 1800’s and were primarily marketed for hunters and sportsmen utilizing public transportation to reach their destination(s). Naturally, if you were boarding a train or ship and you did not want the other passengers to know you were packing a rifle, a takedown was the way to go. As with most other firearms, changes in the market place and everyday life made the necessity of a takedown rifle less prevalent and many models faded into obscure or military applications. For many years the military drove the manufacture and design of these compact, storable rifles primarily for use as aircrew survival weapons.
Their popularity has never been higher than it is today. I am certain that some of it is the “cool” factor and even some can be attributed to functionality or specific need. There are many advantages for a takedown rifle for prepping and the most obvious is their ability to be taken apart and stowed in an inconspicuous manner. The more popular brands weigh in at 4.7 pounds or less, broken down they range from 18.5 inches to 16.25 inches in length, and fully assembled they range from 37 to 35 inches in length. Regardless of the specifications and advantages, many are flocking out to snatch them off the shelves as soon as they hit the local FFL.
The question is, is a takedown rifle what you need for your own unique situation?
I spent all day this past Saturday on the range putting the Henry US Survival Rifle, Ruger 10/22 Takedown, and Marlin 70PSS through their paces. These are the three most popular takedown rifles on the market today and what I found might help you to answer whether you need to add one to your inventory or not.
Henry US Survival Rifle, AR-7:
Leave it to Henry Rifles to take a design and improve upon it. The AR-7 was the civilian version of an Air Force survival rifle designed by Eugene Stoner, which Henry acquired the rights to circa 2007. As you can see from the picture, the rifle disassembles and fits into its own buttstock which is “water resistant” (Henry claims it will float and it may but don’t bet on it).
Fully disassembled and stowed in the butt-stock, this rifle is 16.5 inches long, weighs 3.5 pounds, and there is room in the butt-stock for two 8 round magazines. The stock is ABS plastic, the barrel and receiver are Teflon coated, and assembly is no trouble for anyone remotely familiar with firearms. The receiver is slotted to accept optics (even though there is nowhere in the stock to store them), and the rifle is equipped with adjustable rear peep and fixed post front sites. The Henry AR-7 is chambered in .22LR and what you see is what you get. At first glance, this is the perfect BOB or throw in the trunk of the car rifle.
On the range, the first thing I noticed “odd” about the AR-7 is that the stock fits funny and seems to be offset somewhat. This did not affect the overall performance of the rifle, but it was the first thing that struck me when I sighted down the rifle. I ran 50 rounds of Remington Thunderbolt ammo down the barrel to warm the rifle up without incident, then proceeded to fire another 300 rounds of Thunderbolt ammo through it. Out of 350 rounds, I had zero FTF and 3 FTE or mis-feeds. One of the mis-feeds can be attributed to operator error because I put pressure back on the magazine which caused the round to hang up. An important note here, the magazines do not have a bottom plate, so they cannot be easily cleaned and the top of the magazine is actually the feed rail for the receiver so rough handling of the magazine could cause you some significant issues.
Accuracy of the AR-7 was about as I expected. At 25 yards, the rifle is good for roughly a 50 cent piece, which is good enough to get you dinner. At 35 yards, it provides 12 oz soda can accuracy and at 50 yards you will be within an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper consistently. So, out of the box, the AR-7 is not a tack driver but would you really expect to be able to drive tacks with a rifle you can stow in its own butt-stock?
What about options you say? Well, the AR-7 is a meat and potatoes takedown rifle. It is available in camo and extra magazines are available on the market but I could not locate or even see how any aftermarket add-ons would be available. The slotted receiver does provide options for adding optics but you will have to plan for storage of the optics in the stowed position. Overall, the AR-7 performed about as I expected. Accuracy was not great but it would get you by in a pinch, the storage in the “water resistant” butt-stock is a nice twist and make packing in the BOB easier, and with an MSRP of $280.00, you can pick one up at most gun stores for $250.00 or less.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown:
Ruger capitalized on the popularity of one of their best platforms and turned it into a takedown rifle. Since its debut, this has been a hard firearm to find because people have been scooping them up faster than Ruger can make them. Who can blame them? Most shooting enthusiasts have had a 10/22 in their collection for years, so the natural next step is to acquire a takedown for their collection. As the name would state this rifle breaks down into two pieces and reassembles without the use of any special tools.
Fully assembled, the Ruger 10/22 Takedown is 36.75 inches when equipped with the 16.6 inch barrel and 37 inches when equipped with the 18.5 inch barrel. Yes, in true Ruger fashion, you have the option of a standard barrel or tactical barrel which is threaded and finished off with a flash suppressor. Broken down, the maximum length on the rifle is roughly 20 inches and it can be stored in a backpack style case. The empty weight on the rifle is 4.67 pounds.
The case is well constructed (although I am not crazy about the red, Ruger eagle on the outside of it), zips open to store the receiver and barrel in separate compartments and has an extra barrel or scope sleeve. There are also extra pockets on the outside of the case for extra magazines and ammunition. With some ingenuity, the case can be externally mounted to most bugout bags.
The Takedown is available in black synthetic stock and stainless or alloy barrel, but you will see other production models out there with a camo stock (many of these were dealer models early on, which I suspect will become available as production increases). The Takedown accepts the standard 10/22, 10-round magazines as well as many of the aftermarket high capacity magazines, which is a huge plus in my book. The sights are standard flip, adjustable rear and fixed post front. The receiver is tapped to accept a scope base and with a compact scope attached the barrel will still fit in the carrying case when disassembled. Coming in at just under 5 pounds, 4.67 to be exact, the Takedown is not the lightest of the most popular takedown style rifles, but it is a manageable weight.
At the firing line, I was comforted by the fact that the 10/22 Takedown had the same feel as the 10/22 I have had in the safe for years, even complete with the “squishy” trigger common to the 10/22. I ran 350 rounds of Remington Thunderbolt through it (50 warm-up / 300 evaluation) and the Takedown performed flawlessly with each round using the standard Ruger 10-round magazine. I then ran another 50 rounds through it using aftermarket 25-round magazines and the results were the same.
Accuracy for the 10/22 Takedown was great for a takedown rifle with iron sights. At 25 yards it held a quarter, at 35 yards it was between a quarter and 50 cent piece, and at 50 yards I managed to keep everything on a Post-It Note. With optics, I would reasonably expect it to drive tacks at 50 yards. Also, between the 10-round magazines and start of the 25 round magazines, I disassembled the Takedown and reassembled it to see if there would be any affect on accuracy – there was not.
Options? Well, it is a Ruger 10/22 and you can bet the aftermarket guys are already gearing up for production of stocks and other items to complement the Takedown. Most of the modifications I have seen to this point have been custom jobs on existing 10/22 stocks but I have seen some Takedowns fitted with folding/collapsible stocks already. Also, since the receiver accepts the standard 10/22 magazine, there is already a whole host of aftermarket magazines available. Overall, the Ruger 10/22 Takedown performed better than I expected from a takedown rifle. Accuracy was what I would expect out of a standard 10/22, the case offers nice storage options for the rifle and accessories (even though I wish Ruger would make the subdued versions more readily available), and the options already available, as well as those sure to come, give it a big thumbs up from me. MSRP for the Standard Ruger 10/22 Takedown is $399.00 ($419.00 for the “Tactical” Model), which means it will probably run you around $350.00 once the buying craze begins to calm down.
I can remember the first time that I laid eyes on the Marlin Papoose series of rifles and I got my first 70P for Christmas in the early 80’s. I have no idea how many thousands of rounds I have put down range in that old 70P but my son still shoots it to this day. Most in that series of rifles fell by the wayside over time, but the Model 70PSS still remains in Marlin’s inventory.
Similar to the Ruger Takedown, the Marlin 70PSS breaks down into a barrel and receiver. While the 70PSS goes together easier than the other two models mentioned above, it does require a barrel wrench to tighten the ring on the barrel to the receiver. Overall length of the 70PSS fully assembled is 35.25 inches, it is equipped with a 16.25 inch stainless barrel, and the length disassembled comes in at 19 inches.
The 70PSS does come with a floating, Cordura case with storage for the barrel, receiver, optics, and wrench but the case is nowhere near “tactical” in nature. Also, there is not a lot of extra room for extra magazines or ammunition. The case is functional as a store in the vehicle or boat case, but a secondary case would have to be identified for attachment to the BOB.
The stock for the 70PSS is a black, fiberglass filled, synthetic stock. Magazine options include a 7-round and 10-round factory magazines. Also, since the 70P utilizes the same magazine as the Marlin 795, there are high capacity, aftermarket magazines available for them. The sights are standard dovetail with fixed front post and the receiver is slotted to accept some optics. Overall weight of the 70PSS is 3.25 pounds, making it the lightest of the three takedown rifles in this category.
Having shot the 70P for years (wood stock) the awkwardness created by the lack of a forearm grip was no surprise to me, but most people will find it awkward the first time they pick it up. Also, the trigger is a stiff trigger but it is common for rifles of this type. After 50 warm up rounds of Remington Thunderbolt down the barrel, I ran another 300 through it utilizing 7-round factory magazines. Out of those 350 rounds, I encountered 2-FTF and 4-FTE. I then disassembled the rifle, reassembled it, and ran another 50 rounds through the 70PSS utilizing 25-round aftermarket magazines. Utilizing the 25-round magazines, I experienced 7-FTE/mis-feeds.
Accuracy for the 70PSS was decent utilizing iron sights and produced 50 cent piece accuracy at 25 and 35 yards, while dropping to post card accuracy at 50 yards. Having owned the 70P for many years and topping it with optics, I can say Marlin did not improve on the grooves on the 70PSS over time and you can expect to have to have some custom work done if you want to mount quality optics that will remain in place on the grooves. Optics are an option though.
The Marlin 70PSS does have options for higher capacity magazines but the quality of the aftermarket magazines are nowhere near the quality of Ruger aftermarket magazines. After magazines, there are not a lot of options available without some custom work, which I have seen. Overall, the 70PSS is functional and accurate enough to be considered as a viable option for a takedown rifle in a survival situation. If you have never fired a 70PSS, do not expect for it to fit like a glove the first time you shoulder it and I really wish Marlin would consider making some changes to their case to make it more “tactical” in nature. MSRP for the Marlin 70PSS is in the $290.00 range which means you should be able to find one priced between $250.00 and $260.00.
Now, before you run out and buy one of these rifles, take the time to determine if this is something that actually fits your prepping strategy and plans. All of these rifles serve a purpose and they are all chambered in .22LR so there are limitations to their use and functionality. Also, do some research and read some more detailed reviews where people have taken the time to run different types of ammunition through them and “dirty” them up while putting them through their paces. My range time and ammunition allotment was limited this weekend, so I do not have a recommendation on which rifle is “best” but “best” to me may not be “best” for you. Personally, I like them all and can see practical applications for each.