By: Randy Tucker

I grew up on United States Air Force Bases. I was born at Lake Charles, Louisiana where my dad was stationed with a B-47 wing in the late 1950s. We moved from there to Ramey Air Force Base, in Puerto Rico, to Blytheville in Northeast Arkansas, and finally to Travis and Mather Air Force bases in California.

As an early teenager, I was able to hold and check out one of the coolest weapons I’d ever seen at the time. It was the M6 Survival Rifle. The M6 I handled was made by Ithaca, but Springfield Armory also produced them.

The M6 was just as its name implied, a survival rifle. It was a simple over-under single shot .22 on top with a .410 shotgun underneath. I later learned it came in three models, with a .22 Hornet, a .22 long rifle, and a .22 magnum version, all over the trusty, lightweight .410 shotgun barrel.

A .22 was common to kids in the 1960s; I remember watching an episode of the “Andy Griffith Show” where Opie says to Andy, “It’s not much, they were just shooting .22s.” Imagine that statement on a primetime comedy today, call the counselors, get the news team in here, let’s start an endless debate on how evil this statement is!

But the show was from the early 60s, when America was much less sensitive to every issue, and commonsense still held sway over hysteria.

The .410 was my grandmother’s weapon. Clara Gasser immigrated from Switzerland to join my grandfather Eugene in the wilderness of central Wyoming in 1921. Grandma’s favorite weapon was her single shot Harrington and Richardson .410.

Legend has it that she once shot a chicken hawk that had taken one of her baby chicks from the pen right in front of her. She dropped the hawk, and the chick staggered away, dizzy but otherwise unhurt.

While the M6 was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, I wouldn’t say it was the only gun I’d choose if I could pick only one.

That weapon would be a Remington 870 pump shotgun, in 12 gauge, chambered to handle three-inch shells.

I have one my parents bought me in 1982, a shotgun that replaced my trusty 12-gauge Iver Johnson single shot for most hunting uses.

The 870 is the best pump on the market in my opinion and is easy to maintain, easy to clean, and easy to repair if it ever breaks. The slides are virtually indestructible, and that is a big issue if you’re ever alone in the wilderness.
Mine has a round barrel, but I’d take a ventilated rib over the original round feature just for sighting purposes.

With the three-inch chamber you can fire some very powerful rounds. From nine shot, all the way to .00 buckshot and even slugs, the 870 can deliver in a variety of circumstances.

Many will tell you they keep a .357 magnum or a 1911 .45 acp for home defense. I have a 1911 that I’d never part with too, but if I encountered a home invasion, the 870 would do that job the best as well.

Nothing says you’re serious like a couple of 12 gauge rounds ripping through a door.

Josh Turner wrote the hit country song, “Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy” a few years ago, and it contains a key lyric for those of us living on the edge of the wilderness. “There wasn’t no place I couldn’t go with a 22 rifle and a fishing pole.” Yep, a bolt action .22 would be my second choice.

But another song explains the 870 as my weapon of choice. “I got a shotgun, a rifle, and a 4-wheel drive, and a country boy can survive, country folks can survive,” Hank Williams Jr. sang in “A Country Boy Can Survive.”

You’ll notice the shotgun is mentioned first.

Randy Tucker is a retired history teacher and freelance writer from western Wyoming. He has a lifetime of experience in farming, ranching, hunting and fishing in the shadow of the Wind River Mountains. Contact him at [email protected].

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