When putting together a bug-out bag—your 72-hour survival insurance policy—rugged, reliable and lightweight gear is a must. You may need to move fast and move a long distance to get out of danger and into a safe place. A plus for any bug-out bag is lightweight gear. The same goes for a trail gun. A gun is more likely to be carried if it is lightweight and easy to tote. I’ve hiked my share of trails with large centerfire handguns, and I’ll take a small, light, accurate .22 LR pistol or revolver every time.
That’s why my bug-out bag weapon is a .22 rimfire pistol, specifically a Ruger 22/45 model with adjustable sights and a threaded barrel. The smaller caliber is one of the compromises made when kitting out your bag, a simple trade for weight and a space. I can carry two, three, or up to four times as much .22 LR ammo than I can centerfire ammo within the same space, depending on the centerfire caliber. That means I can pack extra MREs, clothing and water.
What’s In Your Bag?
My bag is typical of what you’d find with any backcountry camper. The Boy Scout in me has always had a bag ready to go at a moment’s notice because I love hiking and camping. As I have gotten older, having lived through 9/11 and one of New York City’s blackouts, my bug-out bag has come in handy. It hides in plain sight.
A trail gun, like a bug-out bag gun, should be lightweight, reliable and accurate. My previous trail gun and bug-out bag weapon was a Ruger Mark II, the older model with the Luger-style grip and butt mag release. The Ruger 22/45 Threaded Barrel model is an upgrade and fits the requirements for trail or emergency. On the plus side, it is compact, so it easily fits in a pack pocket or can be easily concealed on my person. Magazines are relatively inexpensive, so I keep at least three with the pistol and have others tucked away. The caliber is anemic as compared to a centerfire pistol, but the idea is less is more. Even a novice or a person without any gun training can shoot a .22 LR well and accurately. Choose an accurate .22 LR. I cut my teeth on a High Standard .22 LR and have an aversion to inaccurate .22 rimfires. Call me jaded, call me spoiled, but a .22 is only as valuable as it is accurate.
The small caliber also makes the weapon a good small-game hunter. The .22 LR kills game efficiently and destroys less meat. Protection from four- and two-legged predators is also part of the duties of a bug-out bag weapon. In a potentially lethal situation, running away to fight a different day is a wise move, but if push comes to shove, an accurately fired .22 LR can be lethal.
Hands On The Mark III
The 22/45 mates Ruger’s renowned Mark III action to a grip frame that provides a feel similar to a 1911. If you are a 1911 shooter, the Ruger 22/45 is a good choice for a rimfire. The safety, magazine release and bolt stop are also in 1911-esque places, though on the 22/45 the slide stop and thumb safety are circular buttons, not levers. The grip frame is polymer, so it is lightweight—a plus for any bug-out bag—giving the pistol a total weight of 32 ounces even with the 4.5-inch bull barrel. The threaded muzzle allows attachment of a suppressor. The sound of a rimfire may attract unwanted attention, but the 22/45 with the threaded barrel helps mitigate the noise signature when used properly. Some bug-out scenarios may cause you to be in a suburban environment, and residents may mistake hunting for aggression. Tread lightly and leave nothing behind, even the sound of the .22.
Any bug-out bag weapon should be easy to disassemble and clean. Field stripping the Ruger 22/45 can be confusing the first time around, but eventually the process becomes second nature. I carry a small Otis cleaning kit in my bag to maintain the 22/45 in the field. The dry lubricant on .22 LR cartridges can quickly gunk up the extractor and make chambering a round or extracting a round difficult.
Testing the 22/45 for accuracy using a rest and open sights, I averaged 2-inch groups or smaller. Most 10-shot groups—the capacity of the magazine—were in a 3-inch circle.
A lightweight .22 LR pistol like the Ruger 22/45 can fit into anyone’s bug-out bag, and as a trail gun it takes no effort to carry.
For more information, visit http://www.ruger.com.
This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of COMBAT HANDGUNS. Subscription is available in print and digital editions below.