How to Build the Ultimate Survival Shotgun

FeaturedContest Winner
Picture of How to Build the Ultimate Survival Shotgun
As a Survival and Preparedness instructor, I take my line of work very serious – sometimes too serious. Occasionally, though, I like to take on survival projects that are just down right fun. This article highlights one of those projects.

I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to turn my passion into my profession – this being the study of Survival and Preparedness. I’ve always enjoyed building survival kits of all shapes and sizes. I enjoy the challenge of fitting life saving survival necessities into small compact containers. I’ve built survival kits using film canisters, candy tins, key-rings, boxes, bottles, tubes, bags and everything in between. For this project I decided to build a survival kit using a shotgun platform – creating the Ultimate Survival Shotgun. My challenge was that everything had to be included in or on the gun itself – no extra pack items or containers. Below is what I did as well as the survival logic behind each decision.

Ultimately your survival needs fall into 5 main categories. Your situation dictates the order. They are:
• Water
• Fire
• Shelter
• Signaling
• Food

Every survival kit must include contents that directly or indirectly meet these 5 basic survival needs. The shotgun platform I decided to use is the Mossberg 500 – PUMP. I chose a pump action because it is easier for me to troubleshoot and work on in the field compared to other models. I chose the Mossberg brand because it is a very popular gun and there are literally 100’s of aftermarket modification pieces and parts designed to fit this gun. I knew I would want to add on some of these ‘extras’ to increase ‘survival value’. In this step is a photo of the shotgun ‘off the shelf’ before my survival modifications.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
This option seems less useful for me personally. I'd rather keep my knife in my belt or boot. (Or as is usual, the pocket knife in my pocket.) I sometimes carry my machete in a back sheath when I'm doing ranch work or know I'm going to be hiking in heavy brush.
I have spare knives everywhere. I always have a folder or two on me. An extra on the SG would just be a bonus! About every pack, bag, case I own has folder of mediocre to good quality in it at least. A knife is just too central to have your only one break with or dropped in a crevasse or down a storm drain with no back up. A human without at least one sharp pointy thing and the ability to start a fire is just whining hairless ape in most survival situation.
"" A human without at least one sharp pointy thing and the ability to start a fire is just whining hairless ape in most survival situation.""

Now YOU sir - are an intelligent thinker also! LOL
(Just don't try to live in NY or NJ with those knives in your pocket or in your gear bags - the authorities around here tend to view anyone who carries a KNIFE!!! (OH MY!) as a de-facto criminal! Their attitude seems to be "Why would anyone carry a knife unless they were planning to cause trouble?" My answer has always been - "Why would anyone NOT carry at least one knife with them at all times?
Why would anyone want to live in NY? :-)
Well, Mein Herr (Panzer??) :-)P If you can get past the nitwit socialist mayor and the plethora of dingelberry Liberal sheep living there - You might consider that The Big Apple is the ONLY place in the world where you'll find: The NY Public Library, the MET, Broadway, Wall Street, The Gugenheim, The AMNH, South Street Seaport, The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ChiTown, Little Italy, Central park, SOHO, Trinity Church, Teddy Roosevelt's birth home,(and his summer place on the Island), Shea Stadium, Yankee stadium (in THAT order!) countless great places to eat, and all sorts of other cultural icons, then NY is a pretty darned good place. LOL!
i'd make such a bad comment, but nevermind, i'd offend many and show no respect for the good people... :-(

good shotgun! bad thing I live in a dummy country where firearms are almost banned (except in criminals hands) and we law abiding citizen have to pay lots $$$$ to have a low power weapons (yeah you can still have a 12, but it's a pain in the a*s, as a single shotshell costs about $ 4,00 (about 2,00 dollars) and limited to 200 a month. .22 lr is at about 20,00 dollars /50 rd, and can buy only 300 month...
i don't see how saying 'sheep are sheep, regardless of affiliation' could be bad... anyway, get some handload gear, save the shells, cast your own pellets from car batteries, tear apart some fireworks for powder if you're desperate. maybe toss a flare shell or two into the kit if you're intending to be 'rescued'.
Southpaw69 skaar2 months ago

What are you going to do for primers?

skaar Southpaw692 months ago

how much does enough primers for 1000 rounds cost, how much do they weigh? how much equipment does it take to make the glassware to purify chemicals to -make- new primers? maybe it'd be possible to modify a shotgun to operate by matchlight... a bit of smoldering twine laced through a drilled out area behind the breech, touched into the primer hole? perhaps a glow plug or repurposed toy sparking car flywheel?

skaar skaar1 year ago
never mind the flares, mentioned in the next section...
About cops, knives and the nanny-state...(I'm in Canada so I know quite a bit about the tyranny of a nanny-state) one thing I can suggest is carry the ever -sharp Olfa knife, with snap-off blades. I'm a trades person now so I rarely am not wearing carrharts, but despite having gone through numerous security checkpoints and interactions with the authorities, no one seems to even question this handy little tool of my trade. With the blade retracted the tip is a great screwdriver and fantastic little wonderbar (especially the one inch Olfa). The worst that ever happened going through an airport style screening point at the local court house to pay a traffic fine. I tossed the knife in the little box it went through the scanner. The guard picked it up and said, I don't think you can take this in. I openned up the knife, took out the 50 cent blade gave it to him and went on my way with the knife body. Of course I don't know that it wouldn't get you in trouble, but it does everything a knife needs to and then some, requires very little maintainance and the yellow plastic knife seems not to fit into the paradigm of "bad guy knife" that triggers such a hostile response from cops...heck most of the time they seem amused by the useful little tool that they seem so unfamiliar with (for the life of me I can't understand why).
"I'm in Canada so I know quite a bit about the tyranny of a nanny-state"

Seriously ??

I was born in Canada 46 years ago. I have lived here my entire life... and yet I can't relate to your above statement at all.

Care to elaborate? I'm curious about your point of view.

IMHO Canada is one of the most free places to live in the entire world... on par with the US.

One thing we don't share with our neighbors to the south is their very liberal attitude towards guns.

Don't get me wrong, we Canadians can own guns. Heck, I own a gun. I could probably even build a version of the ultimate survival shotgun. I can even own pistols or revolvers. I just can't own a full-auto machine gun or carry my pistol openly in the street like in the US.

Cheers !!
Are you serious? I was born and raised here in Canada and I know for a fact that Canada is a nanny country, your talking about a place that outlaws tonfas (basically a stick with a handle on the side) so I don't know what part of Canada you live in but its definitely nowhere near me.
In America we can walk down the street with an assault rifle and its legal.... God i love America
Definition of "assault rifle" means FULLAUTO or selective cannot walk down a U.S. street with this.
yeah you can to be honest. there might be some town laws against open carrying but if its legal to open carry and you have a class 3 firearms license i am pretty sure you could walk down the street with an assault rifle.
I'm sorry, "DTTAH" - but I'm afraid you are incorrect, and unfortunately you're giving people in other countries the wrong impression of America by your casual comment. Folks, you may definitely NOT "walk down the street with an assault rifle" in America - not legally, at least. You MAY, in many states and jurisdictions in the US (although not in my young friend's state) walk down the street with a rifle, although the local police will definitely look askance at you unless you're either hunting or otherwise legally engaged, and your final destination is close by. I find that a regrettable circumstance, however I can see the merits of the police getting kind of upset if you do.

As for "Open Carry" of handguns - that is allowed only in relatively few states and jurisdictions. Concealed carry is far more commonly allowed, provided you have no criminal record and pass muster in a number of areas, according to the specific laws of the state in which you reside. (Would that I lived in a state that allowed me to do so I would carry - because I believe in my right to defend myself from dangerous people, and I'm getting too old to fight with youngsters such as my online friend!)

LaLunette - I CAN relate to CdN Sapper's comments about the nanny state. (That term being used to mean a place in which the government gets to decide for you, what is and is not in your own best interest. I thank God that i do not (YET!) live in such a country, even though I think Canada is a most beautiful country indeed, with some lovely people. LaLunette, the US is NOT the Wild West you may think it is - recent tragic events notwithstanding. (I do however, respect your opinion). To each their own, but IMO America is FAR more free than Canada, insofar as our ability to make our own decisions regarding what is and is not "safe" for our families. This, however, is currently changing, and will definitely change completely, if our Socialist-leaning "National- Embarrassment-in-charge" is reelected in November.

A true Assault Rifle is by definition any small to medium-caliber rifle capable of a fully automatic rate of fire. (In other words - a Semi-automatic rifle, which fires ONE round for each SEPARATE pull of the trigger, is NOT an Assault rifle). True Assault rifles are most commonly used by the military, and are usually rendered in caliber .233 ( 5.56 mm for those who use the metric system). This is as opposed to a "Battle Rifle", which is essentially the same item in a larger caliber (usually .308/7.62mm). Based on the "Eagle, Globe and Anchor" logo which he uses, I suspect that "Don't try this at home" has aspirations of joining the US Marine Corps (Semper Fi!) and I hope he does, as that is a fine group of outstanding warriors, who operate on the "sharp end of the spear" to keep our country free, and protect our Constitution, and a group for which I have the utmost respect. Hoo Rah!

But back to the topic - due to the silly National Firearms Act of 1934, we Americans are permitted to own a fully automatic rifle ONLY IF we comply with the proper paperwork, and pay a $200 "Tax -, but that is both expensive and a real pain,. Ownership of such weapons is thankfully permitted here, but it is near impossible to legally walk down the street with one. (And to hopefully ausuage your fears that we are a ruthless bunch of shooting yahoos, LaLunette - the majority of people I know who hunt do not want to use an automatic, because while they're fun to shoot, they are definitely LESS accurate than a single-round capable or semi-auto rifle.

I wrote back a long essay proveing alot of what you said wrong and spent about 2 hours writeing and geting sources but i hit the back key and it all got erased. i will rewrite the whole thing when i get a chance
DAMN! I wrote you a long reply - saying essentially that you were correct in most of your rebuttal, but that I though your point about blowing off your hand was overstated, but I LOST the damned thing at the very end! RATS!

I won;'t have time to retype it, but for the benefit of everyone else, I apologized for sounding a little more harsh than I wanted to, and tried to explain to everyone else that we in the US are not all "crazy gun nuts" as is so often portrayed in the US and international "court of opinion". I mentioned that many of us attend expensive schools in order to learn safe and proper gun handling, and that I wished that people in other countries knew that most of us gun owners take owning a potentially dangerous weapon VERY seriously.

Semper Fi.
Yeah just about every gun owner takes safety class to learn how to safely handle and fire the firearm. Aso some people take more advanced taical training with firearms. I take all firearms seriously and treat them wit the upmost respect like most Americans so i agree when you say we are not all crazy gun nuts just alot of americans like sport shooting and hunting. I admit that me saying shooting a 5.56nato in a .223 was abit over stated but it could happen bu not too likely it will just mess your gun up pretty fast.
It sucks that your reply got erased the same thing happened to mine and i had to rewrite it lol.
Im afraid that your wrong Delaware is an open carry state for rifles and handguns and you dont need permits to open cary both of them


Your definition of assault rifle is mix up with the definition of an machine gun. accrding to is " 1.
a military rifle capable of both automatic and semiautomatic fire, utilizing an intermediate-power cartridge.
a nonmilitary weapon modeled on the military assault rifle, usually modified to allow only semiautomatic fire."
The definition of a mechine gun is "a small arm operated by a mechanism, able to deliver a rapid and continuous fire of bullets as long as the trigger is pressed."
So an assault rifle does not have to be select fire and my ruger 10 22 with the achangel 556 tatical kit would be consitered an assault rifle wich according to Delaware i can openly carry it aslong as the action is open and the mag i out.

Your comment "unfortunately you're giving people in other countries the wrong impression of America by your casual comment" What do you mean by wrong impression?? Because i excerise my 2nd admement right by chooseing to carry an assault rifle im giveing people the wrong impresson of America??? If anythng it should show everyone that in America you are truely free unlike alot of nations today.

Also i would like to add that an .223 and an 5.56 is not the same "The 5.56 ammo has a higher velocity once discharged. This is a result of the higher CUP rating. In order to handle the higher pressure, this ammo also has thicker walls and a thicker head. Another difference is that .223 ammo can be fired safely from a gun that fire an 5.56 butHowever, some loss of accuracy may occur but you cant fire 5.56 fro a ,223 the gun veary well may blow up." I just wanted to add that because if some poor soal in America sees you post "True Assault rifles are most commonly used by the military, and are usually rendered in caliber .233 ( 5.56 mm for those who use the metric system)." and he has a gun that fires a .223 and goes to walmart and buys a 5.56 nato he or she veary well may blow there hand off.


I will have to agree with you in your 3rd paprgaph you say we might and probly will lose more rights if obama is reelected in nov. Judgeing by the bills he proposed and pasted into law like the obama care that will force Americans to have health care orpay for gov. health care or be fined. I find that highly unconstitustional. Also Obamas trying to pass an high compasity magazine ban wich i find veary wrong on the grounds that the citizens should be just as well armed as the goverment.
Thanks for your opinion and may God bless on par... perhaps a bit of leeway can be called for, but that's a bit much. there was a chart i saw recently, dang hard to find it in the mess i have, perhaps a bit hard on the states, but showed them ranking at about half of canada for civil liberties, we were tenth on the list though.

to shotgun... perhaps a rifle would be good enough, a tiny little mauser action peashooter with a nice big hole in the stock...
I'll elaborate if we keep it civil. At the time I wrote this I don't think I was aware that the National Long Gun Registry had been repealed from law. Nanny state is a term of British origin that conveys a view that a government or its policies are overprotective or interfering unduly with personal choice. I think that what one person considers an intolerable interference of the state another person feels is a reasonable curtailling of freedom in the public interest. I find it interesting that you say we Canadians can own guns. This is true, but not so many months ago we Canadians had to provide the state with information on long guns we possessed, guns which are difficult to conceal without modifications and with such modifications illegal, and are therefore of limited use to criminal elements; and guns which are rarely used in the commission of offenses. The purpose of the long gun registry was of a political nature; it was to pander to Canada's urban gentry, in particular those in Toronto following the shooting death of Jane Creba, and garner urban support for the Liberal Party of Canada. This was in spite of the fact that none of the shooters involved used a long gun, as the shooters were gang members and carried out the crime with illegal handguns. The long gun registry though, instantly turned previously law abiding citizens into criminals at the stroke of a Liberal pen; I personally chose not to keep a gun after the adoption of the long gun registry, particularly because, should police be visit my home for any reason any query of my name or address would result in police being informed of a gun in the home and the potential of a police confrontation involving my family was too high a risk. The gun registry proved so unpopular throughout the country that a continuous amnesty was granted, however, in a few instances heavy handed police tactics were obfuscated by simply threatening home owners with improper storage and registration charges. So while today you can build the above shotgun, legally, in Canada. It was only a few months ago you would have had to submit a great deal of information to police and state about that gun, and police and the state had the power to enter your home without warrant because you possessed that gun (a fact few in government talked about to law abiding Canadians). Only recently has the new party in power in Canada killed the registry. Previous to this the law proved too onerous to many, such as myself to consider owning a sporting gun. With the recent repeal of the Registry I am now reconsidering my previous choice and am now planning to get my PAL and am shopping for a sporting gun. As a Canadian Sapper who served in the CF I am keenly aware of the destructive nature of firearms, but feel there was little merit to any increase in public safety in the registry.
I think the many US citizens on this site are probably gobsmacked by such an infringement what they consider 1st ammendment rights in Canada (I am aware, Canada has no such rights in it's constitution). As well I agree with you that full-auto weapons should continue to be prohibited in Canada, I'm not in agreement with handguns as I have noted that states where concealed carry is legal have a lower overall incidence of ALL violent crime than Canada. There are other issues as well in Canada including human rights commissions (quasi-legal Canadian courts, where onerous penalties are handed out by busy-bodies untrained in the law, and often fastidious supporters of extremely left-wing policies, against defendants with little in the way of rights and often for behavior that real courts would uphold as lawful). I can go on and on. I will however say, I'm not unhappy in Canada, natural born as you sound like you are...I just think it could be better.
Respectfully to you, "the moon". (Quebecois or Acadian I'm guessing?)
Wow, i wish most people were half as informed as u
amen im a country boy from texas i have a knife on me at all times and in my truck,bags and a shotgun to almost always
ilpug Lt.Greg2 years ago
I usually have a multi-tool and a nicer pocket knife on me. I kinda feel naked without them.
a.steidl2 months ago

Hmmm.....very well thought out. I have an idea, however, that would be excellent to consider adding to the Ultimate Survival Shotgun: A magnifying glass (for making fire), a dosimeter, and finally, a VaulTec Assisted Targeting System.

a.steidl2 months ago

I like the knife right where it's at; it'll keep most zombies from trying to grab yer shotgun from ya, without losing its fingers first.

Southpaw692 months ago

As far as the cordage/sling- You need to take a regular sling, and wrap the paracord around it! That way, if you need to use the cord, you won't have to dismantle your sling to get to it! The first time you need any cord, you will now no longer have a sling! Or, it will be too short.

I think having too much stuff attached to it will make it unwieldy and hard to shoot. I don't think having the knife mounted to the bbl is a good idea. Contrary to other posters opinions, it is not in a position to make a viable bayonet. Shooting birds on the wing in the sky requires good swing of the bbl & follow through- and having all that stuff will make it harder.

As far as ammo- for use against humans, use either 00 or #1 buck or slugs. Bird shot is not recommended. And save the 'will you let me shoot you with it' garbage. I don't want to get shot with a bb gun either, but that still doesn't change the fact that birdshot is very underpowered for humans.

I think you would be better served by putting all this stuff in a small bag that is right next to the shotgun that you sling over your shoulder when grabbing it or attaching it to the sling somehow- along with extra shells and a boresnake and some solvent/oil. Actually, a shoulder slung dump pouch is good for shells and other needed items while shooting in the field. This way, you can get to them quickly, without having to dismantle anything on your firearm. You don't even have to unsling it to get to them with a pouch.

Also, the vertical forend really isnt' suitable for anything other than close range CQB. A SureFire forend with integrated light is a better option.

I'm not trying to dump on your post- just offering some tips & opinions. I've been a certified firearms instructor since 1999 (rifle/pistol/shotgun), and have been shooting since the mid 1980's. I have a mossberg 500 as well, and it's a great shotgun. At any rate, Keep shooting! :-)

Ouranos5 months ago
This thing is amazing thanks for posting it
This is SO FREAKIN' awesome!!! gotta show this to my hunter buddies!!! Peace!
Rambo5569 months ago
great shotgun! i would use different ammo to give myself a better chance of hitting in 1 shot. i would use #6 shot for birds, 3 in. magnum #4 shot turkey loads for turkey sized game, and buck and ball rounds for deer, hogs, etc.
CapnTac11 months ago
Could you look into possibly doing a similar project with a Mosin Nagant or similar bolt-action rifle?
gen8146512 months ago
For my "ultimate" survival kit, I like the one mentioned in the movie "Dr. Strangelove". As the bomber is approaching the target, the B-52 pilot, Major T.J. "King" Kong (played by Slim Pickens) does a check list of the items in the standard issue survival kit: "Survival kit contents check. In them you'll find: One forty-five caliber automatic,
Two boxes of ammunition, Four days' concentrated emergency rations, One drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills, One miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible, One hundred dollars in rubles, One hundred dollars in gold, Nine packs of chewing gum, One issue of prophylactics, Three lipsticks, Three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."
dovehunter22 years ago
Nice! a Bible verse! You should add a New Testament in the stock. I love the shotgun
How about this one? It's my favourite!

Jesus sez 'Pack Heat' Luke 22:36: "Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."
My choice of quotes for pump shotguns is: "Aim. Pull trigger. Pump. Repeat as necessary", but if the survival gun is a double-barrel shotgun, the following (per)verse may seem appropriate: "If thou hast given him all that is in thy left barrel, now give him the full measure of thy right barrel as well. Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition."
BluesBayou1 year ago
Well, a few thoughts. As a nearly retired Infantry Marine (hence that lack of spelling/gramer), I can see the practicality in something like this. The autor did state that he likes to build survival kits and his challenge was to build one into a shot gun. Even though I do not agree to some of the things he did, you have to admit that his intent was met and the mission was accomplished...
- Weight issues putting all this stuff in there shouldn't be an issue provided you are comfortable shooting it - a shot gun is more an area fired weapon vice a point weapon like a rifle. A SG is a work horse, so it make for a good platform for this type of project..
-I think that saw is great, but I think it needs to find a new traveling home (along the barrel??) in the event you take a tumble, the blade will break...
- 550 cord - man ya'll love you some 550 cord.... Always something to carry, all my boys carry 150 feet in their assult packs... Once you start to use it the way you have it now, you won't have a sling - not a big deal though, just carry the SG..
- A handkerchief - fan-freakin-tastic! Hands down one of the best survival tools around that isn't a blade! Why do you think the Boy Scouts still wear them? I wish the mil still had them as a field uniform item, though most who live in the field a lot do carry one or two...
All in all, I wouldn't do any of this (my SG is all wood!) I am partial to a good fishing vest to carry most of my stuff, or my pack when I am at work.. But if you happen to bite it on Day 13 of a survival sit - I wouldn't leave it in the woods either - your legacy would live on!! Good job.
Actually, I think he said he stored the saw blades in the buttstock with most of the rest of the items. As a backup, I'd also pack a small cable saw. It wouldn't work for large branches, but then again, for those I don't believe the sawblade would work either; it would need an axe or hatchet. And as for the 550 cord, I couldn't agree more; you will find more uses for it than you can possibly imagine. Personally, instead of making my sling out of paracord, I simply wrap multiple layers of it around the sling, over and over until the whole thing is about an inch thick. I can get several hundred feet of cord that way, and I can cut off just what I need without reassembling the rest.
asphalt1 year ago
I expected at least half of the modifications to make the weapon illegal. Quite a pleasant surprise.

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?


PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!