Firearms for competition, hunting and personal defense get a lot of attention. Others just beg to be taken out for a leisurely afternoon on the range.
Some firearms serve very specific functions. It might be the compact carry pistol that rides on your hip each day that you’re counting on to save your life in the worst circumstances. Other guns are built strictly for competitive shooting. That might be a highly tuned, long-range chassis rifle or a purpose-built trap gun with a high rib and adjustable comb. But other guns, while useful for a variety of real-world applications, are just plain fun.
They’re affordable to shoot, easy to carry and put a smile on your face each time you pull the trigger. I like to print tight groups at a quarter-mile as much as anyone, but sometimes, I also want to toss a pop bottle downrange and make it dance. Here’s a nod to 10 of my favorite fun guns—the firearms I
go to when a little leisure time on the range is called for. You might have your own list of such guns, and it might look very different than mine, but if you need a break from the office or simply want to ventilate last year’s rotting jack-o’-lantern, these are my weapons-of-choice.
There’s no better place to start a fun guns discussion than with the 10/22. Bill Ruger’s archetype fun gun utilizes a blowback action that has withstood decades of abuse. It’s affordable to buy and shoot, and even the most basic versions come with an excellent trigger, reliable action and clever rotary magazine and are capable of superb accuracy. Plus, if you want to dress up your 10/22, there are buckets of aftermarket accessories—from target stocks and barrels to extended magazines, drop-in triggers and much more. As far as factory options go, I like the Takedown Lite. It features a cold hammer-forged barrel with alloy barrel sleeve, a threaded muzzle and adjustable stock inserts. It can easily be broken down to fit in a compact carry bag.
RUGER MARK IV
SMITH & WESSON VICTORY
I’m cheating by listing three guns here, and I understand that. But these three semiauto blowback .22 pistols are all so much fun that they deserve a shout. In terms of design, they’re similar in the most basic sense, but they all have their nuances. I have my personal connection to each: I’ve found the Ruger to be the most accurate of the
bunch; I love the cool configurations and ergonomics of the Browning; and the S&W is affordable and easy to customize. Regardless of the maker, these three guns offer a lot of low-cost shooting fun, and you’ll be astounded by how accurate they can be.
MSRPs: Ruger: $409–$799; Browning: $389–$599;
Smith & Wesson: $409
The whole bunch are fun! Some are better than others, and some have high-end furniture. Some have pistons, some offer gas impingement systems. But at the end of the day, all ARs are fun to shoot. That’s part of the reason for their sudden boost in popularity.
Sure, you can hunt with them; and sure, they make great home-defense guns; and they can help you win shooting matches. However, digging into a canister of budget 5.56 ammo and ringing steel or punching paper with an AR is all sorts of fun. You can shoot them at close range, shoot them at long range and, with scant recoil, even new shooters can quickly master the AR. (Just don’t forget your ear protection.)
MSRPs: $599 and up
UBERTI 1873 RIFLE/CARBINE
The Uberti ’73 is a nod to the rifle that was popular among early western American ranchers, hunters, lawmen and outlaws. There’s no mistaking the stylish profile of these guns (some say there hasn’t been a more beautiful rifle crafted since), and in an era when many shooters were still loading up black-powder guns, the ’73 was quite a weapon. Even though other designs have come along and eclipsed it, getting behind a ’73 rifle or carbine is a treat. With pistol-caliber cartridges, the recoil is minimal, and you can run through a whole case of ammo pretty quickly once you start working that lever and sending hot brass whirling through the air. Fun guns don’t need a practical task to justify their existence, but the ’73 in all its forms (Uberti offers nine) is still darned effective for keeping two- and four-legged predators away from camp.
When the Judge broke cover just over a decade ago, there were a lot of shooters scratching their heads. The naysayers brushed off the design, but within a few years, they went from crying, “Gimmick!” to saying, “Gimme!”
The Judge, for those of you unfamiliar with Taurus’ most groundbreaking firearm, is a double-action revolver that fires both .45 Colt pistol cartridges and .410 shotshells. The Judge’s size precludes it from concealed-carry duties, but that heft makes it very comfortable to shoot at the range, where you can obliterate watermelons, pumpkins and cantaloupes with your choice of loads. I’ve tried to break hand-thrown clay targets with this gun—with varying (okay, low) levels of success—using .410 shells, but it’s a safe bet that sometime this summer, I’ll be trying once again. (There’s also a .454 Casull version of this boomer, which seems cool, but I’m not including the .454 on any list of guns I consider “fun” to shoot.)
MARLIN 39 HENRY GOLDEN BOY .22
I’m cheating again, and I get that. Don’t care. The Henry and Marlin are two of my go-to guns for a fun day of shooting. They differ slightly in design: The 39 has that unmistakable Marlin profile, and the Golden Boy has a
characteristic brass receiver. But ultimately, these two rimfire lever guns operate in much the same manner.
And man, are they fun to shoot! A box of .22s (scratch that—a case), a few soda bottles and cans, and maybe a bag of half-rotten apples will provide hours of shooting fun. Recoil isn’t worth mentioning, and with high tube capacities, you can shoot and shoot and shoot before reloading, especially with .22 shorts.
MSRPs: Used Marlins: about $350 and up (the 39A is not currently in production, but there’s hope the company will revive it … fingers crossed); Henry: $550–$610
I will go to my grave singing the praises of the 572—the gun I consider to be the most underrated in Remington’s line. Yes, it’s a pump .22; and yes, those dropped in popularity sometime after the days of travelling carnivals with shooting galleries. But I don’t care. When you actually get behind one of these guns, you’ll be impressed with what it has to offer: a nice stock, sleek design, decent trigger and a crossbolt safety, among other things.
However, the sights are one of this gun’s greatest features. Unlike some other rimfire manufacturers that try to skate by with subpar irons, the 572 gets real-gun sights. They’re sturdy, easy to use and easy to adjust. And once you get the hang of shucking and shooting, it’s possible to shoot this gun very accurately and very quickly.
COLT NEW FRONTIER
Some of you are probably already shaking your fist at me for not including the Single-Action Army. However, I consider this gun and the SAA close kin, so I think they both fit. The New Frontier is a single-action revolver—
the flattop target version of the original SAA. It’s chambered in .44 Special and .45 Colt, two big revolver cartridges that don’t have the painful recoil of Magnum loads.
The New Frontier is undoubtedly a formidable weapon, but it’s also loads of fun to shoot. The adjustable sights are accurate, and the fit and finish on current guns are superb—so much so that you’ll need to stop admiring it long enough to shoot it. And if you happen to buy one in .45 Colt, you might as well just go ahead and get the Uberti 1873 in .45, too. Makes sense to me.
Fun guns are often modern takes on historical pieces, and while I am a fan of classically-styled side-by-side shotguns, I don’t have the desire to pay the premium for a new Italian or German double. The Sharp-Tail by CZ is a good-looking, smooth-swinging double gun that’s available in a variety of chamberings (12, 20 and 28 gauge and .410) that are good for everything from hunting to backyard clay target-breaking.
The one I shot was a 28 gauge—a svelte, light little gun you could easily tote on afternoon walks through the squirrel woods. (And it looked great in pictures!) There’s just something special about breaking the action and dropping two shells into a good-looking double gun that brings a smile to your face.
THE FUN RANGE
You probably have a bunch of free targets in your home in the form of empty milk jugs and an avocado no one is ever really going to eat. So, why would you spend money on a target range?
Good question. While I’m a frugal backyard shooter, I did spend the $15 bucks required to own the Right Now Range, a clever target system made of heavy cardboard that offers a wide array of targets and target stands.
There is a shelf for shooting apples and grapefruits (and avocados—if you never really made the guacamole you intended to), along with cutouts in the top that hold 108mm (standard) clay targets. There are also hanging toggles that support the most popular of all rimfire targets: the aluminum can.
Best of all … when the shooting is over, there isn’t a giant mess to clean up.
“…some guns just beg to be taken out for a leisurely afternoon on the range.”
- BROWNING ARMS COMPANY
- COLT’S MANUFACTURING COMPANY
- HENRY REPEATING ARMS
- MARLIN FIREARMS CO.
- O.F. MOSSBERG & SONS
- REMINGTON ARMS
- RIGHT NOW RANGE
- STURM, RUGER & CO.
- SMITH & WESSON
- TAURUS INTERNATIONAL MFG., INC.
- UBERTI USA
If shooting this gun doesn’t make you smile, check your pulse. The light, AK-ish Blaze-47 (also called the “Blaze-Nikov” by the clever marketing team at Mossberg) is a blowback .22 rimfire dressed in wolf’s clothing.
Even so, it’s comfortable to shoot, affordable to own, has great fiber-optic sights and is surprisingly accurate.
No, you probably won’t see a lot of them in the squirrel woods, but the one I own is called upon regularly when there is a gang of apples sitting on the nearby fenceposts and they all look … well, rotten to the core.
Despite its look, the Blaze-47 is a very light gun, and kids will have a great time with this rifle.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.