Five Firearms to Stoke Your Passion
Can’t decide what gun to buy first? Here are a few to consider
When first getting into shooting, sorting through all the requisite gear to buy can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, though, all you really need (aside from shooting glasses and hearing protection) are a firearm and some ammo.
While we can’t cover all the different kinds of guns available, I’d like to share my personal recommendation for the five best firearms for newcomers. Keep in mind this is my opinion, and ultimately you’ll have to decide what is best for you. But I’ve been down several bumpy gun-buying roads, and made plenty of (costly) mistakes, so hopefully I can help you avoid making the same ones.
.22 LR Pistol
Many people start out shooting a pistol because it’s smaller than a rifle or shotgun and therefore easier to transport, store, carry concealed, and, in theory, handle. However, handguns can be difficult to shoot well, as they require good technique. If you choose to start with a pistol, start with one in a lighter caliber. While 9mm is very popular, it can be a bit much recoil for first-timers. Instead, consider something in .22 LR, which is quieter than full-size cartridges, has very manageable recoil, and is relatively easy to get on target.
Pistols are bought far more frequently than rifles—at a rate of roughly 10 to 1—due in large part to the reasons stated above. However, rifles are incredibly fun to shoot (especially .22s), and a semi-auto .22 rifle is widely considered a rite of passage. Like their pistol siblings, .22 rifles have little to no recoil, are comparatively quiet, and provide a longer sight radius for more accurate shooting. Not to mention that .22 ammo is cheap, so you can shoot a lot more of it for less money than you can larger calibers.
Suppressed Bolt-action .22
I’ve got a few different bolt-action rifles, some in larger calibers that are just amazingly accurate and fun to shoot. But if I had to choose my most fun rifle, I’d select my suppressed .22 bolt action any day. When used with subsonic ammo it makes virtually no sound and has zero recoil. A suppressor is a National Firearms Act-regulated item and therefore requires the purchase of a $200 tax stamp, but I can assure you that the extra money and paperwork are worth it once you experience shooting suppressed.
The AR-15 is the most popular modern sporting rifle (MSR) in America, and with good reason: AR-15s are both affordable and extremely versatile. An AR-15 can be used for home and personal defense, hunting, competition, training, and general shooting. There are many manufacturers of AR-15s, and it’s currently a buyers market with plenty of options to be had. While it shoots the larger .223/5.56×45 cartridge, the AR-15 has very manageable recoil and can be easily handled by a wide range of shooters. Ammunition is readily available and affordable, too. And if that wasn’t enough, there are countless ways to accessorize and customize AR-15s, making them arguably the most fun and addictive firearm platform available.
If the shotgun sports are calling to you more than pistol or rifle shooting, you might consider getting your feet wet with a 20-gauge shotgun rather than jumping into the deep end with a 12-gauge, which has more recoil. In terms of the type of shotgun to buy, you have three options. A pump-action is typically the most affordable route, and will be very reliable and withstand a lot of abuse. Semi-auto shotguns don’t kick as much as pump-actions, but require more care and maintenance and are typically more expensive. Break-action shotguns are the most simple and carefree platform, but only allow for one or two shots before having to reload.
About the Author: Sean Utley is an accomplished writer and photographer covering firearms and the shooting sports. His work regularly appears on the covers and within the pages of the nation’s top firearms-related publications. Sean is an avid shooter with a penchant for long-range shooting and precision rifles