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April 28, 2006

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The 50 Best Guns Ever Made, Revisited

Editor's Note: Last February, Dave wrote a cover story titled "The 50 Best Guns Ever Made" that generated lots of heated opinion. In case any of you missed the piece, we've posted links to it in photo gallery form below. Keep an eye on this page next week as he returns to the subject with updates to the list and some fresh thoughts on these guns.

The 50 Best Guns Ever Made

Numbers 1 through 152

Numbers 16 through 3016

Nu31mbers 31 through 40

Numbers 41 through 50


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Sadly USRAC closed the last day of March and the Model 70 is no more.

Vincent Cutino

How did a revolver come before the Model 700? That is blasphemy in the gun world if I ever saw it. The Model 700 deserved a much better place than 7th and I can say that it is definately a much better gun in design and function than the M70.

Michael Pinter

You are certainly to be commended for braving a list like this. I have a few comments, which I wish to be accepted in the spirit of "I would have done it like this...", instead of "you made a mistake leaving this out...". Subjective is good.

As preface, I think there is a distinction between "best" and "most important", although most of your choices I accept in both categories. I would personally exclude the H & R Topper from "best", but it may be in my "important" list for the number of rabbits it has bagged over the years.

For "important" I'd put the Winchester Model 1890 (and offspring the 1906) .22 slidegun near the top of the list. It was probably the first "real gun" experienced by more of many generations than any other - thanks to carnivals and county fairs. And wasn't it what Annie Oakley used to hit everything she ever aimed at? I'd even include it in "best" for being cheap, accurate, simple and more fun than playing baseball.

I couldn't compile a "50 best" list without including a Drilling type rifle, which are typically complex and of superb craftsmanship. And I couldn't leave out a real "best gun" like a Purdy or Holland & Holland double.

You included a competition piece that isn't used for hunting at all. If that Perazzi is allowed, then then at least one Hammerli and/or Anshutz match gun would be mandatory in my list. And the Hammerli might even be one of the .177 cal. "smokeless" ones.

Also, if competition guns are OK, the 1911 autos should be represented, as so many "race guns" are built on it. And why no other centerfire auto pistols, like the legendary Sig P210 or a Browning Hi-Power?

For me a short action Steyr mannlicher might edge out the New Ultra Light Arms Model 20 because it was first in the category.

While I'm glad you included the Blackhawk, I think the Super Blackhawk was more important to handgun hunting.

Well, I've had my fun - and I hasten to say that I can't argue at all with most of your selections for either of my categories. It's actually pretty hard to limit yourself to 50, once you start going. What if you had to name your "five best" or "three most important" guns of all time? Now THAT would be tough. Let's see, one would have to be the Mauser, and another would probably be an 870 pump...


I wont "RANT" too much, Dont you think one of the Guns from the Sako Line should be mentioned. If I had to choose it would be the Sako Deluxe chambered in just about any caliber. I was also surprised not to see a Remington 11-48 on the list.


something is wrong when the beretta 391 isnt mentioned in the top 15.

Hey Petzal - You really ought to shoot a gun before you criticize it. You seem to suggest the Browning A-5 kicks like a mule when you claim, "The Humpback had one glaring fault: It kicked. Its bolt came crashing back with enthusiasm."
I've been shooting skeet with A-5s for 20 years or so and this is news to me. In fact, that's the exact reason I use an A-5 for target shooting: Because it DOESN'T kick. Yes, the bolt (and the entire barrel) "crash back with enthusiasm" when the gun is fired; that's exactly why the gun DOESN'T kick. The energy of recoil is used to drive the barrel and bolt backwards, and the recoil impulse is delivered over a much longer time period beginning when the gun is fired and ending when the bolt and barrel return to battery.


i dont know if anybody has heard of this gun, but does anybody know a gun called a colt 1911? it only served the U.S. in WWI, WWII, korean and vietnam wars. so yeah i guess it dosent deserve a spot in the list.

That gun should be in the top ten "Best guns ever made" list, if not the top 5.

Dave Petzal

To Jermey:

A lot of other people have made this point, which will be the subject of an upcoming rant.

Dave Petzal

To whoever posted the comment on the A-5.

My memory of the A-5 is that it was a kicker. When the Model 1100 first came out it was a sensation because just about everyone thought it kicked far less.

Cory Neumiller

Still can't believe the Ruger M77 didn't make the list.


Cory, youre right the m77 is a great firearm. it certainly deserves a spot on the list.

O Garcia

Because it is a subjective list, I really can't argue with the choices. I would have included some more London guns myself, especially on the shotgun side, but the Westley Richards double rifle was an excellent choice.

I cannot disagree with those who wonder why the Ruger M77 is left out. 50 is too short a list, I suppose. But if the M77 deserves inclusion, so too, I think, does the Brno 602, or CZ550 as we know it today. After all, if one were to pick a 'cheap', strong, true magnum-size Mauser action for conversion into a Rigby-style classic custom, what better choice than the Brno or CZ?

As for how much or how little the A-5 kicks, I remember from Bob Brister's articles that the Browning A-5 kicked with a "double shuffle" effect. It annoyed some shooters, but not others, but it made the Remington 1100 gas autoloader even more attractive to less experienced shooters.

If I have something to complain about, it's the photos. The Mauser 98 and 1903 Springfield, while identified as originally military arms, were shown in sporter versions, but with what appear to be synthetic stocks. Not the best looking ones, in my opinion. And the double rifle was shown with a scope.

For me, the Springfield's story is a most compelling one.
The Springfield was supposed to be an "improved Mauser", but objectively, it really wasn't better than the German rifle. Speaking of the action alone (not the whole rifle), it has a 'split' receiver as a result of the position of its safety lug, while the Mauser doesn't, which makes the Mauser look better in my 'subjective' opinion. And as we can see today, nobody's calling for its resurrection, while the Mauser lives on and on. (Of course, in the Winchester Model 70, we have the Springfield's DNA, but even the Model 70 is gone.)

In the war it was supposed to fight (WW1), the Springfield was actually outnumbered by the Enfield M1917. In WW2, when it was supposed to be obsolete, it was still in the hands of Pacific Army units plus the Marines (it wasn't until the later stages of the War that the Marines adopted the Garand). Dutifully, it swung into furious action to face the Japanese. And with Garand production not yet in full swing, and with most Garands going to Europe, new Springfields had to be made by Remington and Smith Corona to fill the arms gap in the Pacific. And it wasn't until the end of the Korean War, when marine snipers turned in their 1903-A4's that the Springfield finally went out of service. It had served longer than is commonly known, and it was only begrudgingly given up by the men whose lives it had saved.

In WW2, after making more than 300,000 of them in the original 1903 version, Remington even had time to tinker with the design, to come up with a less costly A3 version, of which they produced over 1 million units. After the War, Remington opted to follow a different path in rifle design, which led to the Model 700. The 700 is one of the greatest rifles ever, but I wonder how history might have turned out if Remington decided to sporterize the Springfield instead. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be. Even when Remington was making a sporter rifle based on a military action, it was based on the British-designed 1917 Enfield. It was called the Model 30.

I think the 1100 kicks MORE than the A-5. Then again, what do I know? I only put about 50 pounds of lead per month through mine.

Roger E. Reeves, Sr.

I can think of many firearms I would like, but i don;t own the Denver mint. My choices of Rifles is the Remingotn 700 CDL in 30-06: My choice of shotguns is my ll00 Magnum 30" full choke in 12 ga. I also own a Spotsman 48, where bbl and bolt all recoil, maybe a tad less recoil in the 48. As for Handguns, I would have to state my S&W Special in 27-2 ,in caliber 357. I have taken a 6 x 6 Bull Elk, a 3 x 3 Mulie, and many whitetails with the 30-06 as well as many deed in East Va. wher they chase deer by dogs, and a shotgun with buckshot is a must. If all is well this fall, I have drawn Elk?Deer tags for Montana and a hunt for Antelopes in Douglas Wy. I will use my Rem 700 in 25-06 with l00 gr. Ballistic ti ammo. I don;t want all the firearms made, just one of each?????

Jeff Nelson

The pre-64 Model 70 was indeed based on the M54, which was in turn based on the 1903 Springfield, NOT the 98 Mauser!

Jeez, Dave!

Dr. M. A. Kunkle

Good attempt. You will never satisify all of us. I definitly would add the Colt Python ...greatest revolver ever made, the Garand, and the AK-47

Harry Andreas

What I can't believe is the Model 29 was listed as #5, while the gun that started the whole high velocity thing, the original S&W .357, was left out entirely.
It was, after all, developed by Keith and S&W as a hunting gun.
I would also have added the Dan Wesson revolver for it's removeable barrel, and the Glock as the first polymer frame handgun.
I've hunted with both.

Joseph A. French

The Winchester Model 94 is one of my favorite rifle's. Now with the new leverevolution bullet, I plan on using it exclusively this deer season.

Jeff Potter

This was my favorite article in F&S since I was a kid. Bravo! What great guns! So refreshing to see, in contrast to the flash-in-the-pan guns usually featured.

F&S more recently ran the results of a reader survey of "great guns." Almost embarrassing. Apparently everyone simply voted for the last gun they bought at WalMart. It highlighted how much better THIS reasoned "big picture" article was. The masses aren't always worth listening to, are they. But! I did like seeing the surprisingly strong view that wood and bluing are real. I was glad that not every shooter today wants stainless and plastic.

Anyway, I lost my copy of this Feb '05 classic "50 Best" issue! Anyone have a spare? I'll pay! : ) Please email jeff (at) outyourbackdoor (dot) com.

I was pleased to see so many of my own guns (or personal faves) on this list.

I'm not sure the HR Topper is the single to call out. I don't know the pedigree but the Stevens-style single seems far better and far more common. The square button-release of the Topper was (is?) injurious and hideous.

I'm surprised people are complaining about lack of military arms. Dave explained this at the start. Obviously, most tactical arms have been hunted with, but c'mon. Mauser and Springfield are the legit winners here.

My browser is slow and my memory is bad, but it seems to me that the TC Encore should be listed. The multigun concept is just so cool and it seems the best of them. Thankfully the Contender made it. Were any other smokepoles on the list? What a wonderful movement/revival muzzleloading is. Maybe the list is limited to smokeless? If not, probably a Hawken shoulda been there. Or *maybe* a hideous inline. I admit they're a tremendous innovation.

Enjoy, everyone!

Jeff Potter

PS: Like other readers, I was shocked that the Mauser and Springfield were shown with hideous plastic stocks. (Get real! No world-rep will be made on plastic! Uh, I suppose I'll be shown wrong 50 yrs from now.)

PPS: Say, does anyone know how to find/read older reader-remarks on this article? My list only goes only to April 28 '06. Thanks.

Jeff Potter

PPPS: Here's a link to an article I wrote up last year in response to this "50 Best"---offering, of course, my own list. My standards were: class, utility, thrift, brevity (what's the shortest list to cover them all.)


Enjoy! JP

Roger E. Reeves, Sr.

To me the WSM's are just another tool to sell firearms. I don;t see any advantage over the regular calibers. If I had to sell all most of my firearms, these are the one's I would keep. A Remington 700 in 30-06, Remington 12 ga ll00, Marlin 336 in 30-30 and my S&W 27-2 in 357 mag. and my Remington model 552 in 22, all have nice walnut stocks like a gun should have. Who wants a piece of plastic with a water pipe for a bbl.In addition, all my rifles and slug bbl shotgun have Nikon scopes, not the top Dollar stuff we read about, but at a mid-range price, and all have done the job necessary along with Nikon Bincs and Rangerfinders.I will be hunting the Rockies this fall using the Rem 25-06 for Lopes and theRem 30-06 for Mulies and Elk. Would appreciate any feedback on type, make of ammo sugested for Lopes in WY using the 25-06 topped with a Monarch scope zeroed at 200 yds. Roger Reeves, thanks for any info.

Jeff Potter

PPPPS: The greatness of Petzal's "50" is highlighted against the "try it again" story in the March 2006 issue---the reader's survey of their idea of the best guns. What a flop! Readers all vote for the last gun they bought at Walmart. Basically we saw the most common budget or glory guns praised. The one surprising saving grace in my view was how strong the wood/blued view still was. Thank heavens! (To me only a few people can make the synthetic/stainless combo make sense and look good---those are the guys hunting so hard and shooting so much and running their stuff over with ATVs that they make normal mortal usage pale. I give them their props. For more moderate types like myself, who have the time and situation to include true beauty into the equation, gimme wood and blued!


I reckon I will jump in the fray with my carefully selected collection of firearms. First of all is my Winchester Model 100 .308. I changed the firingpin, scrubbed the bore with my homemade borecleaner which brought it back to factory clean. Polished the gas system and stripped the stock and hand rubbed 50 coats of oil, finally, reblued it. Worked up a load and it shoots sub MOA everytime.The Marlin 1895 45/70...sweet. 2 inch groups with handloaded 405gr. hollowpoints.A Winchester Model 67, the old single pumper that puts 'em through the same hole every time.Not to forget the Marlin 60, after polishing the feed ramp working over a few springs,sear,etc...no more jams, and oh,so tight, groups.My Remington 700 in 7mmMag. I restocked a BDL bought back in 83 with a Classic AA+ with really sweet butt stock grain and nice straight forend wood. Glass bedded, trued the reciever, lapped the lugs, polished the raceways until it felt like an ol Argentine Mauser.Had the crown recut to a recessed target variety and worked the trigger down to 8 ounces...no overly large groups with this one :)...last but not least, is my matched pair of old war horses...That Winchester Marked M1 Garand brought into National Match specs, and that old Colt 1911A1 with tightened ramps and worked over trigger...both are serious business when lobbing lead at about any range you care to plunk it out at.As for a shotgun? I'll stick to my pair of Remingtons...that ol'12Guage Wingmaster and the venerable Steel Barreled 1900 double that i messed around and had screw in chokes installed in.Even did the same for the 870 and they both swing like a well balanced Louiville Slugger in The Babes hands and knock feathers flying every pull of the trigger.

Heath Blaylock

I need some help I just got a TC Encore muzzeloader but im not sure what caliber barrel I will need for rifle hunting its just for whitetail deer hunting so I dont need anything to big but somthing with a punch can you guys help? thanks!

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