Say you are alone in the woods for an extended period, backpacking, camping, and just communing with nature. Or you are flying over a remote area in your private plane, or boating in that out of the way place and you run into trouble. You find yourself in that situation where an emergency could leave you at the mercy of the wilderness. You need a survival gun. Springfield made one of the best.
Why a survival gun
Ever since the dawn of the airplane, it became readily apparent that these high-tech flying machines had the possibility of crashing in some pretty remote and inaccessible places. Early pilots carried personal handguns and rifles with them on long distance flights for protection. In WWI, pilots carried stripped down M1903 Springfields. In WWII, they carried Stevens Combination guns. After WWII the US military developed the M4 Survival Rifle, a short collapsible stock .22 Hornet bolt action rifle made by H&R that could be stored as part of the survival gear of an aircraft to give stranded aircrew a small caliber tool for harvesting food and keeping away predators. The M4 was neat but it only carried four rounds of this marginal ammunition and at just over 4-pounds, could have been a tad lighter. That\'s where the USAF\'s M6 came in.
Design of the original
Designated in 1951 as the \"Cal.22/.410 Gage Survival Rifle-Shotgun M6,\" the air force chose a combination gun to give the lost crewmembers as many options as possible. The German Luftwaffe of WWII had what they termed the M30 survival rifle, which was a three-barreled gun chambered in 12-Gauge and 9.3x74mm. The USAF went with a smaller two-barreled over and under, break-action gun with a .22 Hornet on top and a .410 gauge shotgun on the bottom. Built for sustainability and survivability, it did not need to be cosmetically appealing which was a good thing. It needed to be capable of taking small game such as rabbit and wild pigs for food purposes, but also capable of providing a margin of protection from wolves and predators all the way up to the occasional two-legged variety. Hence the two calibers.
Designed to fold neatly under the seat of a military plane, the M6 had to be as light and compact as possible. Just 3.75-pounds total weight and just 15-inches long when folded, it was ideal. This weight included four .410 gauge shotgun shells and nine .22 Hornet cartridges packed in the rear storage box inside the buttstock. Inside said butt-storage box was a small amount of room for matches, fishing line, and other small knick-knacks if desired. There were no wood, rubber, or plastic parts except for the cover of the storage section of the buttstock, the gun being all-metal, made from light steel stampings.
Unlike just about every other rifle or shotgun that uses a hinged or pivoting trigger, the M6 had a trigger lever. This lever had a very stout pull to it, which provided an extra layer of safety. To squeeze the lever, one grips it and presses up with the fingers like a stapler. Aiming was through simple fixed front sights with a rotating rear for either shotgun or rifle, and the single-action hammer had to be cocked before each shot. A knob atop the hammer selected which barrel to fire.
Springfield\'s Civilian Version
By the 1980s, the old M6 was out of production for the military for several years. With lots of interest in the handy little gun, Springfield Armory contracted in 1984 with CZ in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) to make an updated version.
They had to make some modifications to make it legal (an 18.5-inch barrel rather than the original\'s 15), and safe (the addition of a trigger guard) for the general population to give it a second look. Instead of folding completely in half while still being pinned together, Springfield\'s version simply breaks down into two pieces for storage by removing the pin.
To add some variety to the line, SA offered their M6 \'Scout\' in either matte stainless or parkarized black and in either the more popular 22LR or .22 Hornet over .410. In the case of the 22LR models, the gun stored 15 22LR rounds and 4 410s in the buttstock cartridge box. Overall length was 32-inches assembled, 18.5 packed, and weight loaded was right at 4-pounds. The Springfield versions also came drilled and tapped for standard Weaver bases. In the 1990s, these retailed for $179, which was a bargain in hindsight
Getting your hands on one
Springfield dropped their M6 Scout series for reasons unknown a few years ago. When looking at picking one of these guns up second-hand, be sure to check the shotgun barrel for bulges, splits, and warps. Occasionally users try to shoot a .45 Long Colt through the .410 barrel with the unintended result of damaging the gun. Needless to say, never shoot a round through a firearm it\'s not chambered for. It\'s just bad for business. Used Scouts since then have skyrocketed from a bargain at $200 to nearly $600 today.
We vote that they go back into production as of yesterday.