I have been fortunate enough to shoot many, many different firearms over the course of my life. While I have enjoyed most, a precious few have made their way into my heart as towering giants that provide an unparallelled shooting experience that is meant to be savored and appreciated. Know this; this list is nothing more than one man’s meandering opinion on ten firearms that everyone should give a try to maximize enjoyment in marksmanship and to better appreciate firearms technology.
10. Mauser 98
I have called the Mauser 98 the perfect rifle. Everything about them is just excellent and the parts work together in perfect harmony to drive lead downrange. The rifles are strong, easy to shoot, clean, train with, and are as reliable as a toaster, but the 98 makes it to number 10 simply because a bolt action rifle will only entertain many shooters for so long. The trend these days is towards self loading firearms and it is easy (and embarrassing) that many members of my generation will forego the Mauser shooting experience in favor a hod-rodded semi automatic… not that there is anything wrong with that either.
9. M1 Garand
Ah, the venerable M1 “Garand” rifle. A symbol of American might, innovation, and pride… that was invented by a Canadian. Nonetheless the Garand served the USA valiantly for over twenty years as a main service rifle, and the United States Civilian Marksmanship Program offers the ability to have one shipped right to your door if you meet a set of qualifications. In my humble opinion if you have not taken advantage of the CMP, you should do so! The Garand honestly does provide a marksmanship experience like no other. When you get behind a Garand, you have eight rounds of heavy hitting 30-06 ammunition, and the firing of the famous last round results in a harmonious ping that always brings a smile to my face. Garands are incredibly accurate rifles, and even today are used in competitions across the USA, ranging from less formal bowling pin shoots, and up to Camp Perry.
8. Self Loading Bullpup (Any)
It seems like people either love bullpups or hate them. The only way to find out which side you are on is to pick one up and get some trigger time. There are several good options on the market right now; The AUG, TAVOR, PS90, FS2000, and more but the experience you get when shooting one of these firearms is unique to say the least. Are bullpups the future of small arms development? Some nations seem to think so, but other big players are hedging their bets on conventional layouts. Either way, give a bullpup a try!
7. A Good 1911
There is a reason why 1911s have been around for over 100 years: People like the way they shoot. John Browning’s genius shows through his many designs that are still around and relevant today, and the 1911 is no exception. The crisp single action, grip angle, user friendliness, and safety of 1911 pistols have ensured that shooters have used them to fight wars, defend their homes, and win numerous competitions. It is not uncommon for a plastic-fantastic pistol owner to not understand why anyone would want a heavy, low capacity and dated pistol, but they need only shoot one to get why this amalgamation of parts come together in perfect harmony to provide a brilliant shooting experience.
The weapon that separated America from it’s love-affair with wooden stocks and .30 caliber cartridges. The M16 is an incredibly accurate rifle that borrows parts and concepts from other guns that came together spectacularly:
- From the FAL it took the hinged receiver system allowing the rifle to be opened for cleaning
- The ejection port cover is similar to that found on the German World War II-era StG44
- The non-reciprocating charging handle was a relatively new concept
- The bolt locking mechanism is similar to the M1941 Johnson rifle
- The ejecting mechanism is similar to a Remington model 8’s
- From the German FG42 and M1941 Johnson machine gun came the idea of straight-line stocks to reduce muzzle climb in fully automatic fire.
These factors contribute to the platform’s inherent accuracy. Stoner’s use of aluminum alloys and polymers combined with the aforementioned features borrowed from other designs culminated to create a new American rifle that was destined to hit the jungles of Vietnam. This new weapon was light, accurate, easy to field, ahead of its time, and loved by the soldiers who initially got their hands on it. Controllability on full auto is also amazing and it is easy to keep shots on target even when dumping a magazine:
5. H&K MP5
The MP5 is the gold-standard when it comes to SMGs. While closed bolt sub-guns were nothing new, the MP5 was the first to gain widespread acceptance (the Reising was a closed bolt SMG, but there isn’t much positive I have to say about mine). Until short 5.56 carbines became the norm, the MP5 was the gun of choice for military people in tight spaces, letter agencies, police, and even civilians who worked over HK94s. So many MP5s were sold, that Jim Schatz, a 20 year HK employee said that it was the only gun keeping the company afloat for a period of time.
The MP5 suppresses well, is accurate, easy to control, and light. If you could only ever choose one SMG to shoot, it should be an MP5:
4. A Big Bore Revolver
Do you feel lucky punk? If you own a nice Smith and Wesson Model 29, you should! Shooting a big bore revolver can be a bit painful to a noobie, but with some practice and instruction a revolver shooter can harness the power of a .44 Magnum and do some amazing things with it. I have seen my friend CJ nail 100 yard ringers over and over with his, and I know people who have taken plenty of game with one. It takes a while to get over the reflex to flinch when shooting a big bore revolver, but shooting one will make you feel as manly as can be. If you don’t have one or have a desire to own one, go to your local indoor range and see if they have a rental unit. It will be well worth your time and money!
3. Something Belt-Fed
I popped my belt-fed cherry on the M60 pictured above. A few years ago we had a company shoot where we rented the local indoor gun range and I asked a friend to bring out some stuff for my coworkers and I to play with. The big hit was definitely the pig:
It is hard to explain the experience of shooting a 30 cal machine gun that has little to no recoil but I can sum it up with one word: Awesome. Since then I have shot a 1919a4, Shrike, and I have an M2HB pending transfer. Having the ability to set the gun down on a tripod and burn through ammunition is an experience like no other, and I would definitely put a belt fed gun on your firearm bucket list!
2. A Select-Fire AK47
Anytime someone mentions that AKs are easy to control or shoot on full-auto, they are wrong. I have numerous select-fire full caliber rifles and the AK even gives experienced machine gun folks a hard time. In this video, my friend CJ and I tested my post-sample AK I built, and we felt battered by the thing:
That said, these rifles have been used in conflicts all across the globe and have more than proven themselves effective. To understand the doctrine of the AK, one needs to shoot on on fun-mode. While they will group minute-of-enemy on semi, the Soviet doctrine called for thousands of BMPs carrying hordes of angry Russian’s spraying their AKs towards those unfortunate enough to bear the brunt of the Soviet onslaught. While difficult to control on full auto, the experience is still enlightening and that is why I placed it at number 2 on the list.
1. A Suppressed Bolt-Action .22lr Rifle
Wait, what? A .22lr on the list, much less at number one?
Yes. Hell yes. Shooting a suppressed bolt action .22lr rifle has given me more joy than any of the above mentioned firearms. The accuracy of a good bolt-action 22lr such as my CZ 452 pictured above combined with a good optic will let you ring your target all day and affordably. A suppressor simply adds some more giggle-factor as your ringer is louder than the report of your rifle. I use my .22 for target practice and hunting small game primarily but I also use it to teach new shooters due to the simplicity and silence. With suppressor ownership becoming more mainstream, you now see folks everywhere with cans on their rifles, and in my opinion a suppressed .22 will provide you with just as much fun as high dollar NFA firearms.
Thank you for reading, if you have your own additions you think are essential, post below in the comments and I would love to read them!