A survival rifle is typically a minimalist rifle that can be broken down and stored in a vehicle, boat, aircraft or backpack and brought to use as a “last resort” firearm for taking wild game. As such, it is typically chambered in calibers like 22 LR, 22 Hornet or 410 shotgun. A typical survival rifle is not the ideal firearm for big-game hunting or home defense. This is something to have when you may need it most. One of the most popular designs was built by Armalite as the AR-7.
The concept of a survival rifle goes back to World War II. Pilots who were shot down but survived behind enemy lines were mostly lucky to have a revolver or maybe even an M1911A1. Those might be good for personal defense if you had to parachute into no-man’s land, but what if you had to bail out on a deserted island with no food prospects?
One of the first answers to these was the M4 Survival Rifle, made by Harrington & Richardson with a 14-inch barrel and wire collapsible stock. These were chambered in 22 Hornet and stowed under the pilot’s seat. They were replaced by the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon, which was an over/under 22 Hornet/410 shotgun combination.
In the 1950s, Eugene Stoner of Armalite came up with the AR-5, a takedown bolt-action rifle chambered in 22 Hornet and all the components were stored in the rifle’s butt stock. The Air Force never picked it up in an official capacity, but the research and development enabled Armalite to improve the idea and develop a semiautomatic 22 LR version for the civilian market.
By making the majority of the rifle from aluminum, Stoner was able to reduce the weight dramatically.
The AR-7 breaks down into four components: action, magazine, barrel and stock. The entire rifle can be stored in the stock – it’s about 16.5 inches long that way — and is capable of floating in the water in this state for a brief period of time.