Guns come and go. Through most gun owner’s lives, they’ll own tons of guns. Some they’ll keep, some they won’t, and some they’ll regret selling. Sure, we all have our favorites, but there are few guns that every gun owner should own at least once. It doesn’t matter if you keep them or sell them, just to have owned them is special in itself.
1. A Colt 1911
1911s are not created equal. You can buy a cheap, off-brand 1911 for $500 and you will get 500 dollars worth of 1911. That’s not very much. But the real 1911 experience, to actually own a part of the legacy that made the 1911, that can only be had when you own a 1911 with a prancing pony logo and the word “Colt” stamped on the slide. Preferably a Series 70.
2. A Ruger Vaquero
Why a Ruger and not the classic example? Because a classic SAA is ridiculously expensive, and the Vaquero is beautiful, shootable, and excellent in every way. It gives all the sensation of the classic single action six-shooter without having to drop over a thousand dollars, and you can get one in .357 Magnum. You shouldn’t though, you should get it in .45 Colt.
3. An 8mm Yugo Mauser
It’s not an expensive custom rifle by any means; but it is the surplus rifle that everyone should buy. Why? It’s less than 250 dollars, it has the Mauser bolt action, and 8mm Mauser ammo is quite affordable. Plus, and most importantly, it’s a Mauser action. I know we’ve mentioned that before, but the Mauser 98 is one of the best bolt action designs in history. For less than 250 bucks, you can and should own one of these rifles.
4. A quality AR15
There are a billion different AR manufacturers out there. Buy a well set up gun from a quality manufacturer like Colt, Daniel Defense, Smith & Wesson, etc and you’ll be perfectly happy. It’s the most popular rifle in America for good reason, and I think that everyone should own one at least once in their life.
5. Remington 870 shotgun
“And on the 8th day, God said, let there be scatterguns. And God created the Remington 870, and gave it unto his children in cop cars, and it slew many badguys.” Pump action shotguns are cool, and if you’re going to own a pump gun, you want a Remington 870. It’s the pump gun that all other pump guns want to be when they grow up. The only caveat is that if you already own a vintage ’97 Winchester, you’re good. So we could call this one a tie, but for everyone else: get an 870.
6. A traditional muzzleloading rifle
It’s important to understand the roots and history of marksmanship in the United States. My earliest introduction to this was through muzzleloading rifles, and I’m glad it was. It creates and understanding of the importance of making your very first shot count, because frequently that would be the only shot you’d get. Modern muzzleloaders are nice, but they rob you of the sensation and the delicacy of the process. “Powder…patch…ball” you’ll chant during each loading cycle, then ease the rifle to your should, pull the set trigger to the rear, then just gently touch the main trigger and you’re rewarded with a cloud of smoke and pleasant thump of recoil…if you did everything right.
i grew up hunting small game and white tail deer with an 870 shotgun. my first lessons in life were hunting, fishing, and trapping. when i became a teen, i got my first traditional muzzle loader, figured out the right load of powder for it through many practice rounds and i have never had a more accurate weapon since. while i may not own a colt 1911, i do own a beretta in .45 and my next acquisition will be a shotgun modeled in an ar style because i feel it will be more beneficial than a standard ar. I like where you went with this article, brings back great memories and traditions passed down from generation to generation and could sadly become all but forgotten in the not too distant future.
A little surprised you left out generic gun 9mm, G19
Honestly, I don’t think everyone should own a Glock 19 before they die, because it’s just a very generic experience. All of the guns made the list because they’re notable for one reason or another. A Glock 19 is notable for its lack of notability.
I own 4 of the 5 now, have had all 5 at one time or another. Of them all, the flintlock muzzleloader is the most iconic and the one the kids will fight over when that time comes. There is something so visceral about loading and firing it that nothing else can give you.
You left out a cheap 22. Any make.
1873 Winchester? Or replica?
Debated long and hard about the ’73 Winchester and the Garand. The real decision came down to “significance” for me, and the 98 Mauser action is one of the most important “guns” in the history of the world.
The Mauser action is especially nice in an ’03 Springfield! 🙂
It was said about World War I that the Americans had a great target rifle (Springfield ’03), the Germans a great hunting rifle (Mauser Gewehr 98) and the British…a great battle rifle (SMLE).
Carry on, chaps.
Caleb, the days of cheap corrosive 8mm ammo are about done. Soon, the ammo will be as hard to come by as .303 Brit is now.
Might want to add a pre cerberus 870, remington stuff seems to be going downhill. I had the threading wear down on a 870 endcap and a barrel come off while firing.
I have 4 of the 5. My traditional muzzleloader is a TC Hawken I built from a kit as a teenager. Looks like it was built by a teenager, but it shoots great. The 870 I just picked up this week. A very clean late 60’s vintage Police Magnum. Maybe I will go looking for a Mauser soon.
Not sure why a short pistol grip 870 needs an optic, but yeah best shotgun ever.
You forgot to mention a Phase Two Plasma rifle in the 40 watt range
That’s simply a “Phased Plasma rifle in the 40 watt range.” Good suggestion.
close… ruger and kimber 1911s, blackhawk in 30 carbine, 8mm mauser, pre-2013 noveske AR, 870 in black with extended tube and red dot, and muzzle loader… good enough?
Model 70 Winchester in 30-06?
I’ll never be without a 1911, until the day they shovel the dirt on me, but I’ll never own a Colt 1911 again. I lived through the “who cares about quality, people will buy it ’cause it’s a Colt” period. Won’t do that again.
Will pass on the Mauser, since I’m left-handed, and it isn’t. Do have two .30-06s, one Ruger No.1, and one M-77LH. Three Vaqueros, all in .45 Colt (and they’re the old models, which means I can use the “Rugers Only” section of the reloading manuals.
Got the AR, will pass on the 870, since I’ve got Dad’s Ithaca M-37, and I’ve got two left-handed flintlocks that are a riot to shoot (especially when the range is busy.)
Colt SAA instead of Ruger Vaquero (I have both) and 1903 Springfield instead of Yugo Mauser (or at least original Mauser) I’d add the 1873 Winchester and the M-1 or M-1A to the list. If you want to make it 10, add the Colt 1860 Army.
About the Mauser and 8mm ammo. Affordable? It used to be. Today, if you can find it, it’s going to run you $1.50 a round for the most part, unless you buy corrosive Iranian surplus.
Hmmmm…if you count a “Mauser-action” like the ones I have on my Winchester Model 70, Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, or my M1903 Springfield, then I have 5 out of 5!
I can’t count—how about 6 out of 6!!!
Remington 870? Um, how about no? It’s a decent hunting gun. It’s a great gaming gun, for a right-hander at least. But unless you’re going to practice loading the thing like Owen Pitt and kill off the nerves in your thumb, or if you’re left-handed and don’t have giant, long-fingered gorilla mitts, it’s not the best “tactical” shotgun. For one, it is definitely NOT ambidextrous. The safety is located in a great spot for a right-handed person. For lefties like me, the safety is essentially unusable except as an afterthought. I can flick it ON at a moment’s notice, but flicking it to FIRE requires me to move either the trigger or support hand, as my fingers just simply don’t reach otherwise. So, either it’s carried safety off, empty chamber, or safety off, loaded chamber; the safety is useless to me on this as a defensive weapon.
More damning is the shell lifter. I have seen and caused jams on loading the 870 under stress drills, where the shell is not-quite-loaded into the magazine, but still inserted far enough to clear the lifter. Result of this failure (and yes, it’s a user error, but one the firearm design lends itself to) is that the shell pops back out of the magazine and binds between the lifter and the bolt, if it’s closed. The gun is now a single-shot, if the chamber was loaded, and not easily cleared (hint, it requires a thin tool to reach in there, slamming the butt on the ground while holding the slide, or orangutan arms to pull it past the binding). This is fine if you only have one attacker, you don’t miss, and the single shot serves to end the fight. It is also fine if your attacker(s) are the cowardly sort, who run at the first sign of resistance from their intended victim. But it’s playing the odds, the shotgun is supposed to be a repeater, and if we only expected to need one shot, not only would we not be topping off the magazine, we’d be carrying a Stevens 94A.
Go Mossberg if you’re not a dedicated 3-gun competitor with thumbs of steel and thousands of practiced loadings and just want a quality SHTF shotgun that’s easy to use. The safety is ambidextrous (albeit poorly placed for guns with pistol-grips), and a fumbled loading of the magazine won’t turn your gun into an oar with a shotgun barrel. Or change your name to Owen Pitt and do those loading practice sessions, but remember, even OZP upgraded from the 870 for “social work.”
…. (yes, I know Pitt is a fictional character)
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