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Charlie Z adds new requirements by specifying an airplane gun. When I fly where I think I need to carry a rifle or am required to I take my M600 350 Rem. mag. with both full power 250 grain Speers and hard cast 158 grain SWC's at .38spcl +p equivalent. This same rifle is what I would grab from the safe if I had to head to the wilds with one gun.

Mr. Gates' shotgun suggestion would be very rugged, capable, and have some redundancy to ensure against breakdown, but suffers from the same fault as any shotgun for aircraft carry -- heavy, bulky ammo. Combination guns partially solve this but they are usually heavy themselves. Range is of course limited with any shotgun ammo as well.

I am looking for a permanent airplane gun myself and have narrowed my choices to:
      * Legacy Arms Puma .454 Cassul - Light, holds more rounds and best buy price
      * Marlin .35 Rem. mini GG - perhaps a little underpowed in the north but nice
      * TC Katahdin Carbine .444 or .45/70 - Takedown, light, powerful, but single shot.

Great topic
 

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The virtues of the .22 for a secondary "wilderness gun" are beyond dispute, but this topic was about the one and only one gun you would carry. Now that someone else has opened the door for long gun hand gun pairs I will share my rule on these for any time ( if legally allowable ) that I am beyond sight of "civilisation": big gun & little gun. If I am out with a smallbore rifle or less than 12 ga. shotgun, I wear a .44 or .45 handgun. If the rifle is powerful or the shotgun is 12 ga. I wear a .22 handgun.

Back to the one "wilderness gun" concept, I think that weight of gun and ammo is the key factor since the two most likely modes of transport to or in any true wilderness are aircraft and on foot. I think that as a practicle matter the weight of tools plus the vulnerability of powder and primers to adverse storage conditions limits us to the ammo we carry. I suggested the lever and singleshot carbines due to their light weight, compactness, and availability in suitable cartridges.  FA18CUB rightly points out the increased durability of bolt actions, but this leaves a very short list of suitable candidates. The "wilderness gun" bolt action would need to be compact, light, durable, and powerful, but adaptable to reduced loads for birds and small game -- takedown would be nice but not mandatory. These requirements dictate a short action, short barrel, laminate or composite stock rifle in a potent medium or large bore cartridge. Only two factory rifles meeting these needs come to mind, both now discontinued I believe, Reminton's 600/660 in .350 or the Steyr Scout .376. Custom rifles of course can be had any way your can afford them. I did not say I was unhappy with my .350 for this role, but this seems an exceptable reason ( excuse ) for another rifle.
 
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