Compact Defensive Rifles For The Survivalist

As a Survivalist, your primary role is not as a combatant, but as a “Jack of All Survival Skills”. As I’ve said before, a Survivalist should be a jack of all trades, master of some (specifically the life saving and protection arts). A Survivalist needs to understand farming/gardening, animal husbandry, woodsmanship, mechanical repair (vehicle, farming implement, and firearm), and the technical/tactical skills of first aid (TCCC), extended wound care, coupled with the defensive tactics implementation of firearms, blades, and empty hands.


While this is an extreme type of activity while having a rifle slung on you back (most rifles will flop around on your back), the Keltec SU16C is light enough that it isn’t a problem.

Although a Survivalist should always be ready to fight after a SHTF scenario has taken place, that is generally not his primary task on a day to day basis. If there is a good possibility that a fight will happen, and it is possible to carry more than just a pistol, you carry a rifle, period! carrying a full size rifle all the time every day is extremely inconvenient if your primary tasks are not that of a grunt. While growing up on a farm, I can tell you that if you are carrying a full length rifle around (us kids didn’t have handguns, but during hunting season we always had a rifle handy), you are always looking for a place to stash it so that you can accomplish the task you are involved in.


Full size long guns are very inconvenient to carry while doing everyday chores.

Although a Grunt usually doesn’t have a dire need for a compact rifle unless he is operating out of a vehicle, the parameters of what a Survivalist needs and can use can be very different. A Survivalist uses the type of rifle we are talking about for defense of himself and those under his care. While the combat rifle is EVERYTHING to an Infantryman, the rifle is only one tool of many to the Survivalist.

Enter the Compact Fighting Rifle (CFR). Having a rifle that is reliable, durable, powerful, and compact is a tall order. There are a few out there, but they’re few and far between. I generally will only use a system that has been adopted by a military with high standards (this doesn’t apply to .22LR’s). I’m still waiting for the AR-10’s to be vetted and proven reliable to my satisfaction (still a lot of the feedback has been negative),  so I’ve never owned one.


A pic of a DSA SA58 (FAL) carbine I had back in 2002 during the ’94-’04 federal gun ban. No threaded barrel (integral brake) or folding stock was allowed, and this was about as compact as you could get with this type of rifle.

Others in the 7.62N (.308Win) category that I have owned and used are the M1A (M14), HK91 (G3), and FAL, and I can vouch that they’re all reliable weapons with good reputations. I’ve owned one HK91, seven FAL’s (of various configurations), and four M1A’s (of different configurations). In the assault rifle caliber category, the majority of what I’ve owned were AK’s or AR’s with a few Mini-14’s and one Daewoo K2 (A Fed Ban model). I have had a dozen AK’s of various configurations, and a half dozen AR’s (two Rifles and four carbines).


Although the M1A Socom in an EBR stock is somewhat compact, it’s loaded weight of 14 lbs. with an optic makes it somewhat cumbersome to be considered a “Compact Fighting Rifle”.

The US military has used the short M14 (16 inch SOCOM with Sage EBR stock) that weighs in at 13 lbs. empty, and is 34 inches long. The HK91 with the factory collapsible stock weighs 10 lbs. and is 33 inches long. The FAL carbine with folding stock is 8.75 lbs. and approx. 27 inches long. In the rifles of the “assault rifle” calibers, you generally have the AKM and the M4 variant of the AR-15. The average folding stocked AK (7.62x39S or 5.56N) weigh in at 7.5 lbs, and is approximately 28 inches long. The average M4 weighs in at 7 lbs. and is approximately 33 inches long.


Of course we’d all love an SBR, but who wants to do that paperwork?

In the bullpup category (all the mil models are 5.56N), readily available, military tested rifles available to civilians, are generally the IWI Tavor TAR-21 and X-95, and the Steyr AUG A3. The TAR-21 is approximately 26 inches long and weighs in a 8 lbs.. The X-95 is almost exactly the same. The AUG A3 is almost 9 lbs. with its optic, and a little over 28 inches long. All the specs listed above are factory tech specs reflecting rifles with no accessories and no magazine.


Although the Keltec SU16C is a lightweight and capable rifle, I would relegate it to the “Truck Gun”, or “Get home Bag gun” and not give it the position of “Combat Rifle”. Empty, this rifle weighs right under six pounds with the optic and is 26.75 inches long. The only reason I still have this rifle is due to it’s super light weight and compact size.

So what is available for the Survivalist in the category of compact semi automatic rifles? We are going to look primarily at side folding stocked rifles, and Bullpups. I have never been a big fan of the Bullpup design, but I know some people that love ’em, and have nothing but good things to say. In the following paragraphs, we are going to look at what the practical weights are of different rifles when compared to the caliber of the rifles being covered.


Probably the most popular of the semi-compact fighting rifles. The M4 version of the AR is usually around 33 inches long (stock collapsed) and in this configuration weighs 10.5 lbs.

First up, we’ll look at some Bullpups to see what their specs are. IWI  is a well known manufacturer and is known for it’s reliable rifles. Pictured below (rifles in the center and on the right) are the Tavor’s X-95 and the TAR-21. they are both chambered for 5.56, and with muzzle brakes are 29.25 and 28.5 inches long. With a tac light, IR laser, and Elcan 4x optic, the X95 weighs 11.3 lbs, and the TAR-21 weighs 11.75 lbs.


The rifle that is pictured to the left is an M1A Scout in a Rogue chassis. The overall length with muzzle brake is 30 inches, and with a 6x Trijicon optic, tac light and DBAL IR laser, this rifle weighs 16.3 lbs. (compact but very heavy). Both the Tavor bullpups and the M1A (not in the Rogue chassis) are considered to be combat tested systems, and although there are a number of other bullpups out there in the 5.56, the Tavors seem to be the most economical in the combat tested category. There really isn’t any combat tested .308 bullpups available out there that I’m aware of (the Keltec RFB is not combat tested), but as I’ve said, the M1A platform is a time tested system, and it has performed well in the Rogue chassis through a number of tactical rifle classes for the owner.

Next up we have two folding stocked Sig rifles. One is the model 556, one is the model 522 (it’s the owner’s cheap shooting “training rifle”). The 5.56N chambered 556 weighs in at 12.35 lbs. with an Elcan 4x, Vltor bipod, and a tac light. Overall folded length is 28 inches and 36.25 inches with stock locked open. The .22LR 522 weighs 12 lbs. with a Trijicon 6x optic, a Vltor bipod and a tac light. Folded length is approximately 27 inches and 34.5 inches with the stock extended.compact-rifle-post7

When this type of comparison is done, the calibers of the rifles in question are typically of the “Assault Rifle” variety. Although there are a number of compact rifles available in the usual 5.56×45 or 7.62×39, there are a few available in 7.62Nato (.308 Win). One such rifle is the DSA SA58 (FN FAL) Compact Tactical Para Carbine.


DSA SA58 (Para FAL) Compact Tactical Para Carbine with a 30 round mag at the top. AKM with Magpul Zhukov folder on the bottom.

Most will tell you that you can’t compare a battle rifle with an assault rifle in size or magazine capacity. Below are some picks of the FAL in comparison to a AKM with a Magpul Zhukov folding stock. The FAL weighs in at 11 lbs. with an optic, tac light, and DBAL laser (unloaded weight). It’s overall length is 37.75 inches, and the folded length is 29 inches.


In the compact defense rifle category, it’s hard to beat the FAL Para or a folding stocked AKM.

In comparison, the AKM that is pictured weighs 10.5 lbs. without any accessories, is 36.5 inches long, and 28.25 inches folded. Here’s an interesting comparison. With a 30 round magazine the AKM weighs 11.75 lbs. and the FAL weighs 12.85 lbs. with 30 round mag. Normally, battle rifles use 20 round magazines, since they are the most convenient. Since people like to make the apples and oranges comparison with these two rifle types, I figure I’d show that the size disparity isn’t as great as some would have you believe.


The AKM pictured on top of the SA58 showing the size is almost exactly the same, but the 7.62N cartridge far exceeds the performance of the 7.62x39S.

In contrast to the AKM with side folder shown above, this AKMS is a lot harder to put optics on.



The DSA SA58 Compact Tactical Carbine with it’s normal 20 round magazine weighs 12.25 lbs.

If you are looking for a super compact defense rifle, it’s hard to go wrong with one of the bullpups we talked about earlier, an AKM folder or FAL Para. There are a number of good rifles available to civilians these days, and the most important thing to keep in mind is that when you make your selection and purchase your rifle, TRAIN WITH IT! It makes no sense to have something for that purpose, but to not train and become proficient in it’s use.

This post is about being realistic. Be realistic in what you think you will be doing during a SHTF situation. If you think you will be running from firefight to firefight, like your Modern Warfare 3 video game, you need to read some of Selco, or FerFal’s stuff. Be realistic in the rifle you select as your “Go to gun”. A compact rifle for a Survivalist beats the Hell out of a typical full size Infantry long gun for all but a few limited uses. Being practical, being realistic, and being ready is what it’s all about. Just like most people won’t carry their handgun if it is too large or uncomfortable for them to conceal, so to, the compact rifle will be carried more in a SHTF situation while doing the chores if it’s not a pain in the ass to transport.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

34 thoughts on “Compact Defensive Rifles For The Survivalist

  1. Nice job JC. I like the new paint work!

    Desert Tech is slated to release their MDR bullpup in Jan2017. It is a multi caliber platform, 7.62N, 5.56 and 300 Blackout. In the 7.62N the unloaded, bare rifle is slated to be 7.1#, pretty light. Adding a scope, tac light and laser, probably ~11#. 5# lighter than the M1A in a Rogue chassis!

    One thing which has not been discussed much, is the difference in where the center of gravity is located on a bullpup as compared to a conventional rifle layout. I am going to make some CofG measurements along with some subjective comments, and will pass these on to you.

    Rifle cartridge chambered handguns are an option in the compact category. The Extar, in 5.56, is ~4# unloaded, bare handgun. Its barrel is ~8.5″ with an OAL of 20.5″ with a Noveske Flaming Pig concussion redirector muzzle device and a QD adapter added to the rear of the receiver. Using a sling in tension, pushing with the fire control hand and pulling with the support hand, casually yielded 6 MOA @100yd offhand. An extra value is that 5.56 mags may be legally kept loaded during transport, as they are the Extar’s magazines.


    • It would be interesting to see those specs for the MDR with all accessories (optic, laser, light) and see how it compares. I agree the rifle caliber pistols are definitely an option, but they are stopgaps (a good one, but still stopgaps) when compared to an actual rifle.

  2. Great post JC. I have a custom M14 (semi) built on an E-2 stock (reduced in size a bit) but with intermediate wt premium grade 1 Douglas barrel in 1:10 twist, all like new GI parts. The receiver is an LRB hammer forged steel. The gun smith (former SF master armorer) cried when he cut the barrel down to 16.5 inches. Battle sights. Not much longer then an AK. 7.62×51 rules. Oh I have full size ones too, with optics which are likewise custom built. You can probably guess my age bracket being a lover of the M14 rifle. GRIN.

      • Your welcome to your opinion just as I am. Best be good at what you carry, regardless of what you carry. My father an old cowboy knocked down everything in the 48 states but big horn sheep with a 300 Savage. His lesson to me back when I started hunting in 64 was bullet placement. I met old men that killed white tail and mountain lion with a 22 magnum. Bottom line be good with what you have.

        • Well you know I’m a big fan of the M14 too, it’s what I usually use whether short or long rifle. I developed my affinity for that system from the same era of men that you served with. Ironic that out of a 16 inch barrel, the 308 is similar in ballistics to the .300 Savage your Father used to use.

          • Something else he taught me which came around shortly after 1900 by big game hunters in Africa. The knock out or KO factor in calculating what will stop “something” bullet weight x bore diameter x velocity. One figures bore diameter into the equation you get more of actual killing effectiveness then simply bullet weight x velocity. Why I don’t carry a 9mm even though it has done it’s share of killing. When I am up in the Winds of Wyoming fishing for trout in bear country, I pack a Marlin Guide gun in 45-70 that is tricked out with ghost ring sights, wild west happy trigger, slightly larger loop for gloves, cross bolt safety eliminated plus a few other tricks. Load my own of course 265 grain coming out of the muzzle at 2,100 fps. A bit of a thumper but I can hit with it. My pistol is an early model (before the cowboy version and strong like a black hawk) Ruger Vaquero Bisley in 45 Colt all jacked up on steroids. Just in case I left the rifle to far back. GRIN

          • Eventually, I plan on getting on of the Marlin “Guide Gun’s” in 45-70, it’s a hard cartridge to beat in the wilds. For now I just use my Ruger .308 Scout Rifle. I usually carry a magna-ported 4″ S&W M29 with a good trigger job as my fall back gun when in the woods. I also agree with that math for figuring cartridge effectiveness, and it’s one of the reasons I carry a .45ACP or a .44Mag in a pistol.

          • Sweet, I like the way you have it set up. 308 is what I hunt with for muley and antelope. But your rig looks very good.

  3. huh…my stock DPMS with the stock fully retracted is pretty short. I don’t know what the problem is? I haven’t painted it up pretty though, so maybe that’s a problem.

    • Because paint makes the gun? Not really, but it’s the practical thing to do for a defensive rifle used in the woods, wouldn’t you agree. Although the DPMS uses some AR15 parts, it’s not a tested military system (Hell, even the Mil M110 has issues), and is the reason I won’t own one. Bottom line, if you know your gun and have tested it for reliability, go for it, and be happy. The “Nut behind the Butt” is the most important part of the equation anyway.

  4. If it was TEOTWAWKI I would go for my “banner” Mauser or 1903Mk1A1 before anything else. They like my Garand are both in 3006. I don’t like and wouldn’t carry anything with a folding stock and other than my 18inch 870 “Wingmaster” nothing shorter 22 inches. If the SHTF and I cannot avoid armed conflict I plan to use my “stand off” capability as a “force multiplier”. I plan on doing most hunting with my muzzle loaders or my bow if the world really turns “Mad Max”. I make my own stone points, and knives and can make my own arrows, as well as my own summer and winter mocs , leather craft, clothing, ECT. “Surviving” is something you and your family should be able to do with pocket litter and guile. Modern tools should only be a benefit. Not a crutch as so many “survivalist” have made them.

  5. I am just grateful to have a few rifles of different caliber/uses.I will keep working with what I have and get better with them.I at least feel at the moment a phrase I keep saying on different sites is true but without vigilance may change,see if you recognize the tone:”If you like your rifle,you can keep your rifle”,struck me on Wed. will reading different headlines.

  6. Do you think the M1 Garand Tanker has any merits ? Fixed 8 round capacity, en blocs are compact and don’t suffer from spring fatigue (if that exist :^). About 6″ shorter than the full size Garand.

    i guess Mini 14 is beyond this topic, but a folding stocked version is pretty lightweight. Just not designed for battle rifle conditions.

    • It’s definitely more compact than average, even without a folding stock. It also fits the military tested and approved system criteria. I like tanker garands, and it will do if it’s all you have, but it’s still not a “Compact” as the term relates to this article. The Mini 14 has had mothing but issues when put through military standardized testing, but yes, it can be very compact and loghtweight.

  7. Pingback: MDT: Thoughts On The Compact Fighting Rifle | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  8. Thickness ought to be a consideration also; kind of hard to carry a big lumpy thing on the back, compared to something flatter like the SU16C. Also that SU16C being able to fire when folded, means you could dispense with a handgun or at least to replace a serious handgun with a little backup like a Keltec P32.

  9. Your thoughts on the Daewoo? I have heard a lot of good and no bad about them other than some replacement parts being hard to find.

  10. For all the AR15 and AR10 users out there:

    It’s the only folding stock adapter that I’m aware of for the ARs, and it’s very pricey ($300), but of bomb-proof construction. I’ve been in extensive discussion with their customer support due to needing non-standard parts for the non-standard BCGs in my piston ARs. Although it is not practical for them to retool their production CNC lathes for my needs, they have been very accommodating with regard to getting me some uncoated pieces raw off the production line for me to do the custom machining myself. So, 5 stars for customer service so far.

    Although I haven’t yet gotten any of their products operational on my own rifles, some other locals whose experience I trust give them high marks for functionality under adverse conditions. Firing while folded is not recommended, so of course everyone I know has tried it. The gun will fire but will not cycle, and may mung a detent pin making the latch/unlatch.operation sticky and difficult.


    • They are solid pieces of kit, and an extremely viable option for retrofitting a direct-impingement AR to a side-folder.

  11. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the side folder made by Dead Foot Arms LLC. Made for the AR-15 and they are also coming out with a AR-9 compatible version. Good folding stock for the AR-15 that you can fire full or semi-auto with the stock folded.

    • I was always a fan of the Mini (probably because I’m a huge M14 fan), but having owned six at one time or another, I realized that it couldn’t compete with rifles like the AR in rounds down range in a short time without having issues(especially stainless models). The newer, heavier barreled models are a step in the right direction, and the above fact doesn’t take away from it’s handiness. utility, or ability as long as you keep that limitation in mind.

  12. Winchester 94 Trapper 357 Magnum, not saying it competes with what else is here just what I can shoot instinctively.

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