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?

"A trail gun, like a bug-out bag gun, should be lightweight, reliable and accurate."
“A trail gun, like a bug-out bag gun, should be lightweight, reliable and accurate.”

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

Easy operation and portability make the Ruger 22/45 a bug-out bag staple.
Easy operation and portability make the Ruger 22/45 a bug-out bag staple.

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.

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This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of COMBAT HANDGUNS. Subscription is available in print and digital editions below.

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