Part 5: The Best Survival Carbine (AR Style Rifle)

Part 5: (Commercially available DI/DGI Direct Gas Impingement Systems) There are more companies than we can list here who build DI/DGI AR-15 Type Survival Rifles, but if you start with these 8 manufacturers you can’t go wrong.

This article is Part 5 in a series of post.
Read Part 1: (A Little Background)
Read Part 2: (History)
Read Part 3: (Direct Gas Impingement (DI/DGI) vs. Gas Piston Operated)
Read Part 4: (Build Options)

8 Manufacturer Choices


This company is usually referred to as the standard for DI/DGI systems and their Noveske-AR-15-Survival-Rifleaccuracy and dependability enjoys the best reputation I have seen of any company currently in the market.

They also offer a switchblock option with some of their rifles, which is an interesting method to control the gas settings during different conditions a user may be required to shoot under (i.e. shorter barrels, suppressed, etc.). Noveske sets the standard for a Survival Carbine in Urban Survival and TEOTWAWKI situations –


This company gets mentioned twice (both in this section and the gas piston section) LMT-Survival-Carbine because they offer extremely high quality rifles that can operate as a gas piston system and then be “quickly” switched by the user to become a DI/DGI system or vice versa with the right parts.

Make sure you have gloves if you go the other direction or have been shooting a heavy rate of fire because that barrel is going to be extremely hot.


This is the company that has been the standard for DI systems since the 1960’s with Colt-AR15their introduction of the M16 and then the M4 in the 1990’s. This rifle is also the standard for the U.S. military and most U.S. law enforcement agencies as a patrol carbine. Their reputation and legacy speak for itself.

“Colt Defense LLC produces the M4 Carbine, M4 Commando®, and AR-15® series of semi-automatic rifles for use by US Armed Forces and US Law Enforcement agencies. As the exclusive supplier of the M4 Carbine to US military forces, the versatile M4 is built to strict US Government specifications. Furthermore, all of our rifles and carbines are built in our ISO 9001:2000 registered facility with the same high quality and reliability standards.” –


This is the company that started it all with the development of the AR10 and AR15armalite-survival-carbine carbine rifles. They rose to prominence in the late 1950’s and sold the rights to these rifle system designs to Colt who subsequently was able to make them the standard for the U.S. military where although slight changes have occurred over the years, the basic concept and design remain the same. –

Daniel Defense

Has received great reviews from consumers both civilian and Mil/LE.

“DanielSurvival-Carbine-Daniel-Defence Defense engineers and manufactures parts and accessories for Military Small Arms. We are intensely focused on providing top quality small arms product solutions to our Military and Law Enforcement community with innovative engineering and our state of the art manufacturing facility.”

Daniel Defense was recently awarded the sole source contract to produce the RIS II for the SOPMOD block II.” –

Sabre Defence

This company has had positive reviews from folks all over who’ve been Survival-Carbineexposed to their superior weapon systems. They also offer piston driven rifle variations.

“Every Sabre product is the sum of superior materials, precision engineering and painstaking quality control, fueled by uncompromising passion. No wonder our single largest client is also known as the industry’s most demanding: it is our honor and privilege to have been selected as a supplier to the United States government.”

If you see U.S. military personnel anywhere in the world using a Browning M2 caliber machine gun, 7.62 mm mini-gun or M16 rifle, chances are very good you’re seeing Sabre products in action –


A favorite of some state and local law enforcement agencies, Bushmaster has a long Survival-Carbinehistory of making the AR-15 style rifles. You can find a Bushmaster Rifle at almost any gun store across the country and they have the status of the Chevrolet of AR-15 style rifles.  Nothing fancy here but they work.

Bushmaster has recently launched a piston driven gun called the Bushmaster ACR which they licensed from Magpul, who called it the Magpul Masada.  This rifle will compete against rifles from Colt, HK, and FN to replace the Army’s M-4.

Smith & Wesson

Probably better known for making revolvers, Mr. Smith & Mr. Wesson can Survival-Carbine-AR15also make a pretty good Survival Carbine as well. Their M&P series (Military & Police) are well thought of by rifle enthusiasts as a quality product. This is definitely a rifle you can depend on.

Continue Reading: Part 6: Commercially available Gas Pistons Systems

You also might find this article interesting:
Survival Shotgun: 6 Reasons you need one

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

36 thoughts on “Part 5: The Best Survival Carbine (AR Style Rifle)”

  1. I second Noveske Rifles, they are phenominal weapons. Edward grow a pair, even if the guy is dead, death is natural, not unethical, and in any situation that you are going to have to use any of the information from this site you are going to have to see a lot worse.

  2. That guy lying down in the street isn't dead is he? If so, this is a highly unethical picture and should be removed or changed. I'm sure that there are other photos of carbines in action that would keep this website a safe place. This is a great site and I wouldn't want a simple oversight or temporary lack of judgment to reflect poorly on the very good article, its author, or this site.


  3. Part 1: Edward's comment and the reactions to it bring up a very critical point. If you have not actually taken a human life, up close and personal, the first time or first few times will most like be very traumatic. (Pray it never becomes routine or worse yet, enjoyable.) Death by gun shot is very messy. If a frangible bullet is used, you will successfully have turned a human being into something resembling hamburger. One of the reasons I recommend having a lawyer expert in gun cases on retainer is that after this event is not the time to be making statements to police. Most normal people are still on an adrenaline high, they may be physically ill over what has just happen, the bloody mess that use to be a person (knowing they are/were a BG doesn't help much) can actually cause shock in an uninjured individual. This may be a good topic for a thread – In TEOTWAWKI it will be bad enough. If TSHTF in your living room at 0 Dark Thirty during what otherwise passes for 'normal' times all your acquaintances will look at you differently. You become 'the one who killed'. Even in a righteous shoot, your friends will treat you differently. Your family might as well. I'm not arguing against self-defense here; I'm simply pointing out that part of survival planning has got to include the moral and physiological effects of successfully (or even, God forbid, unsuccessfully) defending yourself, your loved ones and your home. The good guys don't always win and sometimes the BG is not bent on evil intent but is simply a neighbor who got drunk and entered the wrong house. You must work these things out in the quiet of your own room, maybe over a glass of your favorite adult beverage and probably over several sessions.

  4. Part 2: You also need to discuss it with your spouse, especially if she also carries. Using deadly force changes you and the way people look at you. You can never go back after the fact so prepare. Even those who fought in wars are affected since it actually is different fighting an enemy soldier (even at close range) and killing a civilian (even an armed bad guy) up close. It may need to be done, it may be the absolutely, no other choice, right thing, but it will have emotional and relational consequences.
    If the government is still functioning, it may also result in the removal of your firearm until after the investigation is complete. If it was a gang banger you shot and you don't have a backup weapon, what are you going to use to 'communicate' with his gang when they show up?
    One other quick point here, prior to TEOTWAWKI, I would strongly urge your home defense round to be a factory load that is used by the local, state or federal police. You don't want there to be any question that you have a hot, man killer, round in your gun. The FBI load in .38 SPL is what is in my .357 for home defense. It is proven effective and NO ONE can argue that I have a deliberate man killing round in the gun. My high speed reloaders are all loaded with .357 Mag rounds. If 5 won't do it, I need something bigger than the FBI load. After TEOTWAWKI, if you have the ultimate stopping round that you hand load, go for it, but as long as we have to deal with the legal system as it exists today, playing Dirty Harry can cost you your freedom.

  5. One company that needs to be on your list is Bravo Company USA. They make outstanding guns, on par with the quality and quality control of the top tier manufacturers like Colt.

    I strongly urge you to reconsider listing Armalite, Bushmaster, Sabre Defense, and Smith & Wesson rifles. The reasons why are varied for each manufacturer, but they generally can be described by saying that these guns cut corners to save cost. They are fine for a day at the range, but not as a real working gun and not as a gun you need to work every time under heavy use or tough conditions.

    Read after-action reports from any number of vetted training institutions and you will see the guns that go down are the ones from these makers, the various other known-low-quality guns such as DPMS, CMMG, and Rock River, or the guns running cheap ammo.

    Examples of these cuts include not Magnetic Particle Inspecting of all bolts, wrong-height front sight bases ("F" marked FSBs are the proper height for correct backup iron sight alignment — non F-height FSBs are for A2-style non-railed uppers and will require you to adjust the BUIS lower and the front sight higher than normal, sometimes maxing out adjustments before you are able to get a proper zero), incorrect barrel steel, no high-pressure barrel testing, poor choice of barrel twist rates (1:9 instead of 1:7), poorly reamed chambers or .223 chambers marked as 5.56 (HUGE safety issue if you shoot true 5.56 pressure ammo), standard weight rifle buffers in carbine length gas system guns, cheap roll pins holding the FSB rather than taper pins, and overall lower quality control measures.

    A routinely-updated resource for information about all the gun makers can be found on Google Documents here, and is maintained by a number of members of the forums.

  6. CaptBart is exactly right. The AR was designed as a combat weapon, although the .223 is effective against people it isn't very effective against larger game… .30 cal and up is a better choice for dear, elk, moose or bear. I personally don't plan on sticking around a population center if the SHTF big time. In order to get game most of us will probably have to move out into TMOFN (the middle of f***ing nowhere).
    The likelihood that anyone will have to shoot someone is very low. Being somewhat optimistic, and remembering how polite everyone was for the first few days after 9/11, the first few days after a major disaster is a good time to get out of Dodge. How many people where shot post Katrina, Northridge earthquake, power grid failure? Very few. Most deaths, over 99.9% were caused by the event itself or the conditions it caused after.

    • The problem with focusing on deer, elk, moose, etc, is that they are large game that will quickly be depleted / skittish and will be slower to repopulate. A whole lot of hunter gatherers spent far more time living off small game than large. How much rabbit is going to be left after you plug it with a .30 cal round? Hell, I question whether you can successfully bark squirrels with a modern .30 cal round.

  7. I love the M-4, really! I love the MP-5 too but I own an AR-7 .22 cal. It breaks down, fits it's butt stock, can be carried in a day pack and is fine for shooting small stuff. For bigger stuff a 12 gage pump shotgun. Lots of different rounds from bird shot to slugs. The pioneers got more meat with a shotgun than with any other weapon. Rounds are cheap and readily available at Wal-Mart for both.
    Anyone ever shoot a bird with a .223? Makes a mess… Try eating what's left.

    • I picked up an 870 Express Mag for $180 at a pawn shop. I consider it as good of a survival tool as anything ever made. I gave it a complete take apart cleaning and lubrication. It functions flawlessly. I have a Noveske N4 as well. Ya need both.

  8. I just got a hi point 9mm carbine. I know thatit isnt an AR style gun but it is light, CHEAP and so far very reliable. I've put nearly 1000 rouns thru it an it only jammed once. I think that is pretty goo especially cosidering the jamming problems poeple have with other hi point firearms. im very please with it an it was only $258 brand new.

  9. Alas, I am afraid that trying to get a Napoleon mounted somewhere in front of the apartment building I live in would be an exercise in futility. To say nothing of trying to get it up two flights of stairs. :-0

    However, there is also an extent to which I think it simply depends on how much land you own. If instead of living in an apartment or having the typical "postage stamp" size yard that most modern houses do these days one had ten acres or so then one probably could set up a "decorative" field piece by one's door. However, there's that problem, then on a larger scale, that one simply can not leave muzzle loading black powder weapons loaded indefinitely. Otherwise I could see potential house crashers becoming rather subdued by an 8 pound charge of grapeshot. 🙂

    As to the flag that you suggested, it was my (possibly mistaken) understanding that when the Mexicans tried to take the cannon from the town that had it they were repulsed. Eventually they came back and tried to take the entire state. While they might have taken that town at that time, I think we all know what the eventual outcome of the war was. Alas, what remains to be seen is what the ultimate outcome of the current peace is. I am afraid that Texas will likely continue to have problems of some type as long as they have to/are forced to depend on the federal government to defend their borders. But that takes us even farther off topic.

    • The Texans at Gonzales successfully defended their cannon (provided by the Mexican government 5 years earlier for their protection against Indians – when the politics changed in Mexico, the Mexican military commander in Texas decided to confiscate the cannon – sounds like New Orleans, doesn't it?) from the Mexican Army. I learned in school that it was sent to the Alamo where the Mexican Army did manage to 'reclaim' it. Some say it was just buried but my preferred version of Texas History has it at the Alamo. Down here we already have, supposedly rogue, Mexican Army units crossing the Rio Grand into Texas as well as the Aztlan movement in the SW US. This certainly bodes ill for the future of peace in the southern states. There are already national parks where US citizens are warned not to go because of armed Mexican gang activity. All along the border, ranchers and other citizens go armed, LEOs are fired at by Mexican Army units allegedly associated with the drug cartels, etc. So yes, I suspect problems will simply continue to escalate. Our LEOs have an incredibly difficult job and DC isn't helping – sending Border Patrol agents to prison for defending themselves is an abomination but most inside DC don't seem to care.

    • For the record, there used to be (not sure if he still has it or not) a gentleman who lived in Fredericksburg VA who owned a working cannon, that he displayed in his yard. If I am not mistaken, it was a 4lb gun, he used to "pop it off" every July 4th (Independence day for those of us who do not know our US history). I heard that he was a former Fredericksburg Police officer, but I never actually got to talk with him, so I am unsure of this. I do know for a fact that he had a working cannon, and would "fire" it.

      When I was learning to drive, my father was having me drive him through the neighborhood where said gentleman lived (maybe still does). As I drove up the road in front of his house, I noticed the cannon and it looked like he was cleaning it…. Well he certainly WAS NOT cleaning it! As we passed his house that sucker went off and scared the hell out of me! I almost wrecked my 1965 F100 in the ditch across the street form his house!

      I have never heard of this individual "getting in trouble" for firing the cannon, and have seen him "fire" it several times (other than the time that almost made me wreck my first truck), including when there were uniformed officers present. My family used to live about 3 miles away from his neighborhood and would hear cannon fire from that direction fairly often.

  10. If your state allows deer hunting with a .223 (Texas allows ANY center fire cartridge which would include the .17 but no rimfire which would forbid the Henry Rimfire 44 – law can be strange so check your state) and you are a good enough shot to get solid, first round take-downs and you can get close enough or have the discipline to hold fire unless close then I applaud your skills. It doesn't change my opinion of the .223 as a deer round. Just because deer have been harvested with it, doesn't make it a deer rifle, anymore than harvesting a deer with a 22LR (been done) makes my 22 a deer rifle or elephants killed in Africa by poachers with AK-47s make the 7.62X39 an elephant gun. If TSHTF I must know that my choice of hunting round/platform will perform properly each and every time. Further, if I am out of action for any reason, I must know that other members of my family can get food with my weapon choices. If my weapon requires exceptional skill or unique ammo or repeated hits on a running animal I do not consider it adequate for the task. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm just arguing that one (or even a few) examples of successful hunts does not a deer rifle make.

    • Good points all around Bart … one of the older gentleman in our camp has been hunting with a Remington 700 in .223 for several years due to arthritis, small stature, and constant ailments (the guy's a wreck) but he harvests several deer each year with his "deer gun" as he calls it. I've taken more than a few with my AR (all one shot stops with longest running only 40 yards after impact). Neither me nor my son will shoot if it's not a sure shot.

    • Good points all around Bart … one of the older gentleman in our camp has been hunting with a Remington 700 in .223 for several years due to arthritis, small stature, and constant ailments (the guy's a wreck) but he harvests several deer each year with his "deer gun" as he calls it. I've taken more than a few with my AR (all one shot stops with longest running only 40 yards after impact). Neither me nor my son will shoot if it's not a sure shot.

  11. The problem with Black Powder cap and ball for primary self defense is of course reliability. That changes radically depending on how you store it and where you live. Here in Houston, moisture will be an issue. In the desert southwest or high mountains, not so much. Frequent reloading is a good idea but that doesn't necessarily mean daily. Also, prior to TSHTF, it isn't necessary to keep it loaded. As long as I have my primary defense weapon, a cap and ball can stay unloaded except at the range. A properly loaded cap and ball SHOULD stay in shooting condition for a good while. Most did, even in the early west and civil war, BUT failure occurred often enough that it was a concern and remarked on. I haven't looked it up but I believe it was just such a misfire that saved Hickok's life in a fight with 3 soldiers in a bar which helps explain his religiously reloading daily. If I KNOW it is good for 3 days, reloading daily gives me a great deal of assurance that it goes bang when needed.

  12. Congratulations to your son. Nice shooting. The AR platform is a really nice shooting platform in 5.56, very flat and accurate. I have always enjoyed shooting one. My dislike for them as survival weapons stems from reliability under field conditions and lack of flexibility (in my not so humble opinion) in handling the full range of survival chores. In its niche it does well, but its niche is either a varmint gun, plinking, or part of a full combat team with proper support. In those cases it does well and its history for maintenance problems may or may not still apply but in the group, it is a little less critical since you have support. If you see your survival carbine as primarily a combat rifle the AR platform might be what you need especially if you have 'recoil sensitive' shooters in your group. I tend to think that a survival carbine or rifle will spend little or none of its life as a combat weapon. Since my thoughts run more to 1 on 1 or 1 on few encounters as the combat scenario, a good hunting firearm also makes an acceptable fighting weapon. It depends on your view what happens after TSHTF. It sounds like you have access to a fairly solid arsenal. I would add something like a Savage bolt action in 30-06 (on sale at Academy for $250 here in Houston) to round out the rifle side of things but that's just me.

  13. A lot of people buy not just one , but several AR style carbines …..Why not save your money , buy a license for full auto , AND GET THE REAL THING ?!!? when the collapse happens , wouldn't it be better to have the real AR or SMG instead of the overpriced pretenders ? Yeah it looks good and like a machine-gun but in truth its no better than my cheaper mini 30 or an M-1 . I can squeeze the trigger as fast as you can ….. for less money . If your a gunsmith or know one willing to convert it after the fact , thats a different matter .

  14. Well said. Seems there are a bunch of folks who think they know what they are talking about when it comes to firearms, and then there are the folks that really shoot them and actually know from real world experience what they are talking about.

    I can only say this; if you are going to trust your life to a firearm make sure you get a quality arm that functions perfectly in adverse conditions and then train with it as often as you can. Consider getting professional instruction, dry fire every day, learn the fundamentals of marksmanship, and know what your about when your behind the trigger.

  15. Wolfie,
    As an aside, I contacted Hornady about the use of their CD ammo in tube magazines. Hornady told me that the CD ammo is just as safe in the lever gun as their "Leverevolution" ammo. That means I can use CD in my .45 Colt and in the lever gun with the same chambering. Nice to know for the .357 Mag revolver/rifle users as well.

  16. I bought a Hi Point 995 TS about 2 months ago, I paid 190 used (gently) and put about 1500 rounds through it so far. I am keeping 2 inch groups at about 40 yards and it takes any ammo i put through it. I usually use the cheap Russian ammo (Tulammo) 9.95 for 50. These groups are with stock sights, i am very happy with it, i wish it had a larger mag capacity but I will be buying some Hi cap mags eventually. All in all, I like it, it points naturally, it is comfortable to shoot, not a jam yet, a bugger to take it apart, but I dont do that all that often, basic cleaning and lube works just fine. I will be torture testing it soon and will post the results.

  17. Top tier like Colt….rotflmao. Like my crappy "milspec" Colt made M4 that I used in three tours in Afghanistan? The one that broke down constantly? That thing was complete & utter crap. Having been in combat in Afghanistan, I wouldn't use a DGI gun ever again, at least not in a desert environment. If you want to trust your life to DGI, good luck. Do yourself a favor and buy a piston gun. Be real smart and buy two of the same model in case something on one breaks.

  18. the Hi-Point 995 is a great little gun and it has a life time warranty. It doesn't matter if you are the first or the 40th owner of the gun. If it breaks they will fix it. I personally like the Kel-Tec sub 2000 in 9mm because you can fold it in half to fit it in a briefcace. Also stows very well in a back pack. You can get one that takes standard Glock 17 mags, it will even take the 33 round Glock mags. Kel-Tec also has a life time warranty but only for the original owner.

  19. Actually T.Rapier a semi-automatic will be better in SHTF or even god forbid TOETWAWKI situations as you won't need to spray and pray to get out of tight spots, but place a few well aimed shots at individuals within the mob to stop them. Look back on historical situations where the lemmings got out of control. The places left alone were the ones where a few cops with their pistols and shotguns or an armed citizen even with a bolt action or a lever action rifle shot a few well placed shots into the hoard of lemmings (sheeple as some of you say) and force them to go else where.

    • I don't have an M4/ AR clone at hand, but I do have an M1 Garand and an M59/ 66A1 SKS (this is the Yugoslavian SKS.) I know where the author of this story is going and I suspect he selected the AR/ M4 platform due to the availability of .223 and 5.56x45mm ammo here in the states. I have my rifles because of two different reasons. The Garand was bought when I was part of a WW-2 re-enactment group because I wanted one and wanted to feel what it was like to use and carry. The SKS I bought because it was a good quality rifle at a reasonable price and in Kansas .223 and 5.56x45mm aren't legal for hunting big game, but 7.62x39mm and .30-06 are.

  20. CaptBart,
    So far in my life I've not had to fire a shot in anger at anyone. I can only say to those that have had to take that step that they should get a good lawyer in all but the TEOTWAWKI situations as after the world returns to something resembling normal after a SHTF situation I think the LEOs will be required to investigate any taking of a life just as before the disaster struck.

    I've spent 15 years 6 months as a part-time soldier even in war times (the Persian Gulf War and the war with Serbia over Kosovo) though I never deployed to the combat zones I was still trained that it may be necessary to take lives in order to save other lives. It is the five hundred pound gorilla that lives in the deep dark reaches at the back of mind and I hope I never have to face it, but any civilian should look into forming relationships with defense attorneys that have handled self-defense cases for the just-in-case situation.

  21. I use Hornady Critical Defense rounds in .45 ACP for my RIA M1911. I use TulAmmo, Winchester, Federal, military surplus, etc. FMJ rounds for practice, but I use Hornady CD rounds for my defense loads. I may get some Federal or Remington JHP rounds for the 1911 sometime as locally the CD rounds are like $25 for 20 and the Federal and Remington rounds are that much or less for 50.

  22. I only had one Colt in my 15 years and six months in the KSARNG that was an M16A1 when I was in my first two units (same weapon both units.) It was a piece of shit the only worse one was the Colt M16A1 I had in basic training. That one I could take the assembled rifle by the carrying handle and rock it back and forth then stop. While I held the upper receiver on that one still by the handle the lower receiver would still be rocking.

    My second M16 was an M16A2 made by Fabriq Nationale USA for the Army, that rifle to me was a nice piece of equipment. Just like Colt's M1911/ 1911A1 the only ones I turly like came from decent gun makers. In KSARNG two units I was in my personal weapon was the M1911A1. In the first unit my M1911A1 was a POS Remington Rand and in the second one though still WW-2 vintage it was a nice tight and accurate Ithica made M1911A1. In that unit and the previous one the Colt M1911A1 of WW-2 vintage were POSes and the ones made between the first and second World Wars were still shooting accurately and were actually M1911s.

  23. hpt is outdated and a harmful process resulting in premature parts breakage. Mpi is a useless test when using good bar stock to begin with. Barrel twist is personal preference. 1/7 was adopted for the longer tracer rounds. 1/7 barrels wear out faster and there is no guarantee they will perform better with heavier rounds. Most shoot 55-62gr ammo and 1/9 is best for that weight. Armalite is GTG

  24. This page needs updated badly. There are so many other rifles missed by this author. I will give a real top 10 list and I'm in the business of knowing comparing rifles for a living.

    Top five in no particular order as they are all awesome.

    Larue, JP, LMT, Noveske, Hodge Defense, Seekins

    Many others for the budget minded folk (great gun but not as awesome)

    Daniel Defense,


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