Help create the “Ultimate” Survival Shotgun

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Hi TFB Readers,

A few months ago I was reading Mike Schoby’s article “Is This the Ultimate Survival Gun?” and I was inspired to put one of my own together for pure fun. Since I’m a shotgunner at heart, I decided on the same platform and model, a Stoeger Double Defense side-by-side 12 ga break-action shotgun with 20″ barrels.

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There’s room for a second Picatinny rail on top, which is included (uninstalled) with the Double Defense.

There's a 9" picatinny rail underneath both barrels.

There’s a 9″ picatinny rail underneath both barrels.

The underside with its plastic forearm. Perfect for drilling and storing stuff.

The underside with its plastic forearm. Perfect for drilling and storing stuff.

I chose the side-by-side since it’s half a pound lighter than the over-under model. I chose a break-action because it is as simple as it can get. While I considered a pump, there’s just more points of failure and I’m assuming that I won’t have access to spare parts or perform any repairs.

A shotgun’s versatility is unmatched in my book: it can shoot buck, bird, 00 shot, slugs, flares, dragon’s breath, beanbags, “bearbangers,” Flechettes, and other interesting ammo. With inserts, a shotgun can also utilize rimfire and centerfire rounds. It’s a “One Gun to Rule Them All” approach (but that’s not to say I wouldn’t also mind having an AR on me as well!).

So, let’s build a survival shotgun! However, I don’t have any survival training or background, so I turn to you for savvy advice. What should I do to this shotgun? Why would your suggestion help one survive out in the wilderness?

Here are some extra parameters to work off:

  1. I live in Northern California, so my survival area would probably be near Tahoe National Forest, Yosemite, or Mt. Shasta. There are lots of pine trees and hills, lakes/streams, and wildlife.
  2. I already have two sets of the ShortLane chamber inserts for .22LR, 9mm, and .410.
  3. Assume that I have some sort of backpack for food, medical supplies, and other survival gear, so the shotgun does not necessarily need to hold everything. Of course, the backpack can only hold so much, so anything that can be installed on or in the shotgun is fair game.

Check out the Stoeger Double Defense specs here, and Creek Stewart’s survival shotgun article may also provide you with some ideas and inspiration. I’ll keep tabs on comments and votes over the next two weeks or so, and then I’ll start putting it all together.

Companies and individuals interested in donating their products and/or services are encouraged since I’m on a shoestring budget for this project. Of course, I’ll recognize those folks in subsequent post(s). I can be reached at chris.cheng@thefirearmblog.com.

I’ll report back around March!

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career. He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. www.TopShotChris.com.

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Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and an NRA News Commentator. A self-taught amateur (and former Googler) turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. www.TopShotChris.com.


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  • Geo

    Flashlight and a shell holder on the stock. Shoot a lot of skeet with it. Not need to install the rail on the top.

    • Geo

      and a sling/shell holder

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767053319 James Patrick

    Once you decide what to put on the picatinny rails, you should cut off all extra length that you can, to save weight. “I won’t have access to spare parts or perform any repairs.” I’m assuming this means you won’t have access to tools, so rearranging accessories on the rails won’t be an option in the field.

    • Kyle

      Most picatinny rail accessories come off with thumbscrews, don’t be silly

  • MattW

    Definitely a side saddle for extra ammo. I would also look into a stock that has extra storage built in for things like water proof matches, cleaning gear, ammo, a small knife or other items. A nice flashlight that can be mounted to the gun, but isn’t specifically a gun mounted light. Good all-purpose sights that can be used for short and medium range shots, and useful enough for rifle rounds.

  • http://twitter.com/MrozowskiJesse Jesse Mrozowski

    Anyone have any idea how Stoegers hold up long term?

    • Dude

      I’ve heard they are good for a few years hard use in SASS.

      • http://twitter.com/MrozowskiJesse Jesse Mrozowski

        I thought most of the serious SASS guys send them off to get worked on though?

        • Dude

          I think it’s mostly to facilitate a quick unload/load.
          But I imagine most of the serious guys get their guns worked on that would serve the rest of us just fine.

  • Mark

    Am I alone in thinking that this shotgun looks like a prop for a mad max remake? I mean, in the post-apocalyptic badlands Max would presumably saw it off into a lupara, but possible leave on part of the upper rail for a laser of some kind.

  • Jim

    savage 24V or a M6 scout…24V 30-30 over 20 ga. and the scout .22 lr over .410.

    • Jim

      24V on top, m6 on bottom

      • TG13

        i’d like to get an M6..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004106828707 Ben Franklin

    start with a Saiga 12 ga cyl bore W/ no recoil comp on muzzle
    add a bayonet lug & a quad rail to the for-end for flashlight etc add a large storage space to the stock & a slide saddle to hold extra shells

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.maddox.96 Todd Maddox

    Could you add a set of AR back up sights to the top rail for more accuracy with 9mm and 22lr?

  • Damiano

    1) “Montecarlo” stock: it’s possible that sooner or later you are forced to shoot a looong shot.

    2) Both barrels must be “slug” (cylindrical bore)…

    3) RED safety button (you have to remember both lock-unlock).

    4) LIght Gray finish: wichever tape color you add, you’ll always have a good camo effect.

    5) 1 centimeter Iron butt: don’t force me to describe the use, I’m such a sensible guy.

    6) Because of point 2: adjustable sights.

    7) Picatinny rails are ok.

    8) Hollow in the shoulder stock (a couple of “special rounds”).

    • Duray

      You can shoot slugs through choke fine, and choke will extend effective range with shot.

      • bevan everett

        Only certain chokes. Modified and improved are the only chokes you can send slugs through. Any tighter and you risk mass failure. Most guys I know will run improved.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Epstein/667480221 Paul Epstein

          Paradox chokes are specifically designed to get tight patterns with shot while still allowing you to shoot slugs.

    • okto

      1. Not out of an 18″ unrifled barrel you won’t. Also a raised cheekrest only makes sense with a scope.
      2. Different chokes on the barrels is even better. One for birds, one for bear.
      4. This is not even a consideration. Your prey isn’t going to not smell or hear you, but notice your gun.
      5. Iron rusts and is heavy. This is a survival tool, not a CQB weapon.

      It sounds like you’re preparing for some fantasy SHTF scenario.
      A survival gun needs to be optimized for acquiring food, defending against predators, and being easy to carry, not WOLVERINES.

  • Bbob

    Pop a tritium big dot on top. Will allow you to shoot 24 hours a day if need be.

  • Kyle

    Make it even simpler: A single shot shotgun with an exposed hammer.

    • Geo

      Rossi Handi or H&R?

      • jhyers

        H&R

        • Geo

          H&R wins for quality. Plus my very first shotgun when I was a wee one was a 20g H&R, so I have a bit of a bias. Yet the Rossi allows for an true rifle barrel to be interchanged.

  • Bull

    personally i think its a bit silly to have all those stuff in the gun. matches and stuff should be in a pouch or bag.

    a sidesaddle for ammo. low light sights (or red dot). maybe a light. a good sling. nothing more.

    weight is the thing i should spend time/energy on. maybe bullpup it :-)

  • Raven

    Why did you pick a double over a pump?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767053319 James Patrick

      He explains this in the post: “While I considered a pump, there’s just more points of failure and I’m assuming that I won’t have access to spare parts or perform any repairs.”

      • Raven

        I dunno. I’d be a lot more comfortable looking for parts for an 870 or a Mossberg than an imported double like the Stoeger.

  • Komrad

    I really wish Shortlane made 8″ rifled 20 ga adapters. Sure, I can order some from mcace.com, but I’ve not heard good things about customer service (or even answering emails/phone) and the wait is unduly long.

  • northor

    Aimpoint comp4 is a must, sturdiest sight out there and one battery will last you longer than any tritium sight . Have as simple iron sight as possible and get the sturdiest hollow stock you can find to hold extra batteries and other misc small items. Also get a proper barrel shroud covering those rails (get rid of the underbarrel rails altogether really only thing usefull in a survival situation you can put there is a grip and you don’t really need that). If you find yourself out in winter without gloves a standard railcover won’t cut it, bare skin will touch cold metal and you will get frost damage real quick, and trust me, those are a bitch. . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/ethan.bewley Ethan Bewley

    Get a .410 revolver. Why? Just because.

    • abprosper

      Not legal in California. Also not a very good survival weapon.

      As the OP’s question, that shotgun is good right out of the box. Most accessories are not necessary or useful for most people.

      I might suggest a sling for easy carrying and one of those leather butt stock sleeves that fit on the stock to carry a few rounds.

      Beyond that, anything else is dead weight.

      As for spare ammo, how you carry that is up to you. Whatever is most comfortable. I think a simple hunting bag with some extra rounds and a cleaning kit (a small one just in case) and maybe tape, screwdriver little repair stuff is about right

      Just remember that shotgun round are heavy and you won’t carry that many

      Oh and a point on ammo. there are only three kinds that are generally useful.

      Birdshot for small game and birds and close range (not defence its too light to penetrate ) , buckshot for well deer sized game or self defence at close range (25 yards max) and slugs good to maybe 50-100 yards or a bit more.

      The exotics are usually highly specialized, overpriced and many of them are illegal in California . They are fun though and if you are somewhere its permitted and want to shoot a few , it can be a blast. Pun intended . In that situation I’d get a cheap single barrel 12 gauge and spare my good gun though especially if I was shooting dragons breath

  • Jacob peacock

    Well ipmy survival shotgun it double barrel with 10″ barrel inserts for 5.56 9mm 45/410 and 22lr. I put tritium sights on it along with a quick detach 1-5×20 scope. In addition to this I’m looking at adding one of those USAF zip 22 things. I also have a combo fore grip-bipod shell holder and I’ve hollowed out the but stock to put in fishing gear, flint fire starter, a small Swiss Army knife and some what’re purification pills. In the forearm I drill three channels for 4 .22lr rounds, 3 9mm rounds and one 5.56 round.

  • anon

    Personally I’d go with a Baikal Izh-94 combination gun. .30-06 over 12ga with inserts for the shotgun barrel and a low-power scope.

  • Dale

    Get a good, no frills two point sling, and make sure that you have some sort of way to attach a light (dedicated or otherwise) to the Picatinny rail

  • Andrew L.

    According to Joe Biden this is way better than an AR

  • max
  • carter

    The double 12g was Stormin’ Norman’s go to gun during the first Gulf War. Good choice, gee, now I want one.

  • Giolli Joker

    I would start from this: http://www.newsystemarms.com/new-system-arms_news.php?language=2&Id_news=62
    With synthetic stock and some accessories already suggested by others…
    Maybe instead of depending on chokes for both barrels I would get the lower barrel fully rifled and the upper one smooth with interchangeable chokes.

  • Survivalist

    1. SxS with 18″ barrels is great platform to start a Survival Shotgun as it can be broke in two of almost same length and is relatively light weight.
    2. Mounting too many gadgets will increase weight and handling/drawability.
    3. I will add (possibily Streamlight TLR) laser+light and a Holographic sight (possibily trijicon)
    4. I will add retractable dagger mounted below barrels with horizontal blade (oppose to vertical)
    4. Replace stock with another/modified pistolgrip + detachable stock which can store basic survival kit (match sticks+firesteel+whistle+signalling mirror+water bag+water treatment tabs+poncho+space blanket+duct tape piece) swiss knife/Multitool + boresnake/cleaning kit + mini flare
    5. Some of No. 4 items can be filled/carried in pistol grip
    5. Spare ammo holster on stock
    6. .22 insert barrel can be mounted below 12 G barrels (willl increase weight and handling but one can carry much more .22 ammo for – in case), alternatively a compact .22 can be carried in stock
    Note: another product idea strike mind when writing is .22 pistol with detachable barrel/stock/action for easy carry/storage
    7. Survival cord sling
    8. Shotgun back strap holster with extra pockets to carry items, it will be made by unfoldable waterproof cloth and will convert to tarp-tent/shelter/rain cover/blind upon unfolding.
    This is my two cents I could come up at the moment, will coem back soon.

    • okto

      Confirmed for video-game ninja. You don’t know anything about survival or woodcraft, do you?

  • 5

    12ga., single barrel shotgun, hamerless, set trigger, tang safety, screw in chokes, barrel interchangeability like TC, .223 barrel, 22lr. chamber inserts, painted up in tan/green Cerakote like finish.

  • Disco Dave

    Is this the ultimate survival shotgun? Hardly. You get two shots before a reload and I don’t think this particular Stoeger has auto ejectors and it’s heavy. Time can be a killer.

  • Scott

    I’ve got one of these shotguns and I love it. Following along.

  • Brian

    I think it all depends on which type of survival you are going for here.

    1) “I got lost / dropped in the middle of nowhere and I need to survive until I am rescued or can find my way back to civilization”. This scenario I assume you are mostly going to be using the firearm for hunting, in which case simplicity I agree is your friend and I think you have a pretty good starting point. You just need something to fire off a shot or two every now and then for food, and a side by side is fine for that.

    2) Post apocalyptic / “Zombie” survival. Here you most likely are going to be dealing with roving bands of looters / thugs / “zombies” (just included due to popularity). A side by side is simply going to be too slow at getting shots off to ward off danger. Your primary goals here are probably going to be finding more guns / ammo, so I feel reliability and repairability can take a bit of a backseat. I’m torn as to whether I’d want a pump or something like a Saiga here. I’m leaning more towards the saiga assuming you can get some decent capacity magazine, the initial speed at which you can ward off a group is high, tailing off when you need to reload, at which point a pump will likely become better. Though if you can’t get away from danger after ~40 rounds you are probably screwed anyway.

    • Hyok Kim

      2) scenario, one would want to conserve the ammo. Make each shot count.

  • http://twitter.com/Soul_cake_duck Soul Cake Duck

    you’ll need a good long bayonet since you’ve only got a 2-banger. first, because you will probably need to cut a bitch if they are serious, bang bang poke, bang. secondly – if they are not serious they will turn and run when they see 12 inches of sharp and pointy looking at them. a blade always changes the game.

  • Jacob Fuerst

    Any survival shotgun should have a good set of rugged iron sights on it for use with slugs. There are two suggestions I have for this. 1) Find a decent set of flat base rifle iron sights and have them installed on the center rib by drilling and tapping. LPA and Williams both make decent Irons. Any set that are designed to fit and octagonal barrel should work. 2) Have the front of the rib drilled a tapped and install front rail to match the rear rail. Then find a decent set of AR15 irons and mount them to the rail. This might be the best method. I recomend the Magpul MBUS for sheer rugged value.
    This has been my complaint regarding all the double barrel survival/tactical shotguns. No ability to shoot slugs with any degree of accuracy. If you can’t score a 50 – 75 yds hit, it’s not a true “survival” gun.

    • Hyok Kim

      How about a single shot?

  • Tim Ralston

    If you added an XCaliber system by Gearupcenter.com you would have the perfect scavenger survival rifle. you could shot 10 different calibers out of the 7 in. rifled beauties.

  • Slim

    I live in Northern California. I read most of the replies and of coarse your article. I walked away and came back with an answer that probably won’t help you “build” much. Any shotgun would do best here in NorCal. I understand the simplicity of the side by side, that’ll do…
    After talking to most hunters after last season, they weren’t very lucky to come back with big game. For survival food, it’s probably going to be squirrel in the winter, rattlesnake in the summer. Small game shells are going to be your primary ammunition.
    I would not worry about adapters for other calibers. Shot shells are made for shotguns, rim fire/center fire are meant for the like. You want what is going to shoot most reliably. You will probably take what you shoot with the appropriate game load.

    Slap a bayonet on there, some reliable iron sights your are comfortable with and I say you are good to go.

  • oldtoot

    Pump requires both hands…fire i pump 1 just the same as a bolt gun….autos and pumps slow to reload long barrels…ejecctor require them to be fired from same shoulder..ammo should be what is made for police or military…12gauge ,7.62,223….anyother would be optional gun should be clean and not catch on things…only carry things for gun on gun…maybe afolding metal stock….a flare pistol on swevel to rotate aroundcbarrels…oone which fires 12gau also..acarry saddle hoster on back to carry ……i prefer vet nam tomahak use shot gun as defence an hawk to work wiith…i can send 18 balls down range fire both barrels or one after another faster than auto or pump all with out entering a room…most auto or pumps will not be fully loaded in a fire fight.once first load is gone…this does not apply to new a12 or russian versions. Unless u have unlimited tec support for get the tec stuff rely on your own skills note…think more on how to stay wake, energy for long runs your own night vision…even with a great gun u still have be up to able to survivle when all seems to be going to hell.
    !

  • 1911a145acp

    I would like all the single shot and double barrel advocates to carefully consider a realistic fight between yourself and an equally skilled adversary armed with a Rem 870 and or Moss 500/590 5-8 shot repeater equipped with iron sights, firing slugs and buckshot. The fight starts at 100 M and closes…. you REALLY want a single shot or a 2 shooter, firing PISTOL bullets from an insert?

    • Hyok Kim

      This is supposed to be a ‘survival’ gun, not just combat only gun. Single shot would be lighter, a lot handier than pump or semi, especially in close quarters, and faster to get into action as well. Plus maintainence would be far simpler.

      • 1911a145acp

        I have repaired FAR more single shots and side by sides with broken extractors, ejectors and firing pins from LIGHT use than I have ever repaired 870s or M-500s from HARD use. Single shots are lighter, and kick MUCH more in the same gauge- that’s about it. Doubles have two different triggers, two different barrels, that very often shoot to two different places- most assuredly when slugs are fired. There is NO major military or police force that uses single shots or side by sides.They offer no advantage in the CQB arena. I can agree that single shots are simpler- but not necessarily more durable or reliable. Good used Mossberg 500s can be had for ONE-THIRD the price of an American made side by side. Again, what can the single shot do in a “survival ” situation that a reliable repeater can’t do better?

        • Hyok Kim

          “I have repaired FAR more single shots and side by sides with broken extractors, ejectors and firing pins from LIGHT use than I have ever repaired 870s or M-500s from HARD use.”

          Thank you for sharing your first hand experience, which I suspected. Btw. One does not want to abuse firearms on SHTF situatioin. Also, one wants to protect one’s firearm as much as possible. Another word, one doesn’t want to use one’s firearms HARD in such a situation.

          “Single shots are lighter, and kick MUCH more in the same gauge- that’s about it.”

          It’s also shorter than pump and semi-auto (barring bull pups), given the same barrel length, which can be real handy in ECQB.

          “Doubles have two different triggers, two different barrels, that very often shoot to two different places- most assuredly when slugs are fired. There is NO major military or police force that uses single shots or side by sides.They offer no advantage in the CQB arena.”

          Technically true, I’ve seen Brazilian Jungle Special Forces point man using o/u. They might as well have used s/s.

          “I can agree that single shots are simpler- but not necessarily more durable or reliable.”

          I agree, on its own, but it is easier to maintain, which leads to more frequent cleaning, which leads to more reliability and durability.

          “Good used Mossberg 500s can be had for ONE-THIRD the price of an American made side by side. Again, what can the single shot do in a “survival ” situation that a re liable r epeater can’t do better?”

          Lighter weight, means one doesn’t have to spend as much energy on extended mission.

  • Bryan Woodman

    Sounds pretty good already as you have described it. I don’t know much/anything about the inserts, but, size (length and diameter) permitting, go with a synthetic stock with bore-outs to store two conversion inserts