“Shooting” for some entertainment with six picks – just a few among many
Many gun owners take their shooting very seriously. While they should, seriousness should not rule out fun. Multi-gun owners should own a few “fun guns” to keep the hobby entertaining and to encourage range time. Bonus: many of the guns I’ve identified as fun guns are also lower cost, both to buy and to shoot!
A Personal Observation
As the years slip by, those of us into shooting gravitate toward the latest firearms, equipment and nearly inevitable gun “projects” – possibly at the expense of the fun factor. I’m certainly guilty of that, case in point the following.
Recently, having upgraded a precision .308 rifle, I was drawn into developing a handload that could duplicate the ballistics of a preferred factory load. Beyond the considerable investment in components (and time), the process was more tedious than entertaining. The bright spot was its conclusion, an impact comparison. That step involved the heavy-barreled bolt-action, and a series of steel silhouettes carefully set in 100-yard increments through 600 yards. The velocities and corresponding impacts confirmed the project was a success and did provide an opportunity to ring some steel.
Table of Contents
6 Fun Guns
But truthfully, I had a lot more fun popping airborne soap bubbles with a Daisy BB gun shortly thereafter.
No high-end firearms, optics or pricy ammo. No rangefinder required either. The distance was measured in feet. No need for sandbags or a bipod. Instead, just fast reactive offhand shooting – a perishable skill that often fades through time spent shooting off rests.
Not to mention the fun aspects that got us shooting in the first place, like ventilating cans with a basic .22 rifle. To me at least, a lively rimfire can often provide as much – or more – entertainment than a pricey gear-rich system.
So that’s the focus of this post. And the starting point might as well be a .22 rifle. But which one?
#1 – M&P 15-22
Just about any .22 rimfire suitable for a plinking session can provide plenty of fun. Many people own the ubiquitous Ruger 10-22 semiauto. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a version of this brilliantly designed rifle and, because it’s been a top seller for decades, parts and accessories abound. Heck, half the fun can be the “project” aspect that culminates in a unique customized version.
I share the 10-22 addiction but there are, of course, plenty of other fun picks between pump-guns, bolt-actions, and other designs. My 1960s Marlin 39-A lever-action, a classic plinker, reliably feeds .22 Shorts through inexpensive .22LR loads. Still drives tacks too! Of course, the list of .22LR fun guns goes on and on, subject only to a shooter’s personal preference. However, there is something to be said for a “systems” approach.
Its main components are Polymer (okay, probably plastic), but it runs reliably and functions like the real Mc Coy. A downside is, a shooting session is a lot like eating peanuts – hard to quit after just a few (especially with the 25-round magazine option). Read my article devoted to the M&P 15-22 if you’re considering buying one.
On a positive note, because it disassembles as easily as a true AR-15, maintenance is a breeze. Or pop the lower receiver’s pins, separate it from the upper receiver, and stow the disassembled package in a small space. Practical as well as fun – for a cost on par with many other rimfires.
#2 – .300 Blackout AR
Another tough pick, given the plethora of actions, makes, models and calibers. But the operative word is “fun” as opposed to best-choice or most effective. Adding a dash of practicality, there’s the growing list of 9mm pistol caliber carbines (PCCs) which can make a great home defense carbine.
Along a similar but more dated vein, I’ve been having some fun working up 100-grain cast-bullet loads for a .32-20 Winchester lever-action, a circa 1880s handgun/carbine duo. But a much more recent small cartridge may satisfy any techier cravings while providing some real entertainment.
Developed for the AR-15, the .300 Blackout was developed to shoot lightweight .30-caliber supersonic bullets and ultra-heavy subsonic versions. The latter are extremely quiet when fired through a silencer (otherwise known as a suppressor or “can”). And these devices have recently assumed mainstream status.
If legal in your area, they’re also more readily available, assuming you’re willing to undergo the federally required red tape. But, because some of today’s dealers have much of this part covered, the most odious part of the process could be the $200 federal fee and fairly lengthy processing period. But once through the hurdles, expect plenty of fun lobbing subsonic bullets as quiet as mouse farts – or nearly so. Go with an AR-15 and you may not even need a complete gun. With one already on hand, you’ll only need the upper half (or just switch its barrel).
A .300 Blk upper assembly should readily attach and function off your existing magazines. This saves money for a suppressor (which will also take the edge off 5.56 loads). If we lump training and practice in with the fun factor, this bigger brother to the rimfire offers some practical advantages – to include hunting (see my article on .300 Blackout hunting ammunition).
#3 – .410 Over and Under
Judging by a personal collection of choke tubes, shells, and equipment (not to mention guns), apparently, I take shotguns seriously – possibly to a fault. But, once in a while, I let what’s left of my hair down and break out a petite .410-bore. More often than not, the targets are informally tossed claybirds, although woodcock sometimes make the list.
The downside of course is, factory .410 shells are expensive, although still comparative to many centerfire rifle loads (is reloading shotgun shells worth it?). However, 2 ½-inch reloads pinch pennies by consuming only ½-ounce of expensive shot per pop (#8s or #9s). No real recoil to speak of, either. Granted, these aren’t 40-yard loads, but they’ll still break standard claybirds at 25+ yards if we do our part.
Throughout the years, my actual .410 has varied but, eventually, I settled on an over & under FAIR/Rizzini with fixed IC/IM chokes. The Italian gun might seem snobbish, but I snagged it at a bargain price. Meanwhile, my son’s Mossberg-branded Turkish-built O/U offers as much fun for much less money – and it even comes with interchangeable chokes.
A nice bonus: Nowadays, in my state, these guns, and other .410s, are now legal for turkeys with super-dense 3-inch Magnum Tungsten loads. No bruised shoulders to fret over either. There’s even a crop of new purpose-built, affordable, break-barrel single-shots. In between, you’ll find a number of pumps and autoloaders configured as adult or youth guns.
#4 – Remington Model 1858 Cartridge Conversion
Again, talking “systems,” I can see much merit in a two-gun strategy; perhaps a 9mm pistol and PCC that can share the same ammo and magazines – a concept that would propel the Glock toward first place. Add a similar .22 LR pistol and you can reap practical and fun benefits. Another possibility is a .22 LR conversion kit; a popular option for the Model 1911. Or go purely for entertainment.
Recently, I was invited to participate in a “gong shoot;” steel handgun and rifle silhouettes with a catch: The firearms had to be pre-1895 designs. I did own a suitable rifle (the .32-20 mentioned above), but I was SOL in the handgun department. However, I was sitting on a large stash of .38 Special ammo (an authorized caliber).
This provided the impetus to spring for a 7 ½” Uberti Model 1858 Cartridge Conversion: the .38 Special model. Like other pre-Civil War revolvers, the 1858 Remington debuted as single-action percussion (cap & ball) six-shooter. Later, many were converted to fire metallic cartridges, but both are still produced by the Italian firms of Pietta and Uberti for distribution in the USA. Partly for nostalgia’s sake, both still incorporate the original loading lever!
Mine, (a version of the .36-caliber Navy model) was manufactured by Uberti and marketed by Cimarron. And it can really shoot! It rivals the accuracy of my S&W .357 Model 686 and, at the expense of a more tedious loading and unloading process, it also has a sweeter single-action trigger.
Still, it’s best limited to standard-pressure .38 Special loads. Mine initially shot a few inches “low” (as designed), but part of the fun can be tinkering. Through trial and error, I eventually gained the proper elevation by carefully filing (lowering) the front sight. A minor windage error was corrected by drifting it in the barrel’s dovetail – the reason I chose this particular 1858.
However, the .45-caliber version is more popular, and it offers some interesting possibilities. Say you start out with the .44-caliber percussion version (lots of fun in itself). Because it’s considered a muzzleloader for federal purposes, the FFL process can be skipped.
Order a spare .45 Colt cylinder later (again, no FFL required) and you’ll wind up with a revolver that can fire all of the above. This is possible because the percussion model’s bore isn’t really .44-caliber. In actuality, it measures .452 to .454; same as a “.45 Long Colt”. And swapping cylinders is a cinch.
FYI, the same approach is possible with a .36/.38 Special combination, but their bore diameters differ (.375/.357), leading to possible accuracy issues – the reason I went with a .38 Special version, produced with a .357-diameter bore. Bought new for around $600, it also circumvented the messy cleaning process associated with black powder. Not that smoke poles can’t provide real entertainment.
A cautionary note: For safety’s sake these guns should only be carried with five rounds. The sixth empty chamber should be aligned with the un-cocked hammer to avoid contact with its firing pin!
#5 – .50 Caliber Muzzleloader
A few years ago, I logged hours of range time stretching the capabilities of a two scoped modern-day .50-caliber “in-line” muzzle loaders. The shooting involved saboted projectiles and a specially formulated propellant ignited by a #209 shotgun primer. The outcome provided a pair of legal 200-yard rifles and a dash of entertainment – but for real fun I break out the flintlock!
My Lyman .50-caliber Trade Rifle (sadly discontinued during 2023), follows traditional lines. Thus, although I did eventually switch from patched round balls to Hornady 240-grain lead PA Conicals, they’re fired (literally) by genuine black powder; 90 grains of FF-G for the main charge, and a small priming deposit of FFFF-G for the pan. The latter, dispensed from a small container, is ignited by a shower of sparks. The source, a chunk of rock – the flint – is secured in the hammer’s jaws. The priming charge completes the loading process. Read my article on how to load and shoot a flintlock rifle for more information.
Hopefully, its ignition will touch off the main charge – if the shooter does his part. Follow through is important because there is a slight delay, although done “right”, it’s surprisingly brief. Admittedly, the system is “fiddly”. It’s also messy and smelly. But, for those willing to pay attention to the details, a flintlock can still deliver. Last December, mine provided a memorable if pyrotechnic end to the 2022 deer season by topping off the family freezer.
An important note: Get on the cleaning process ASAP. Black powder residue is highly corrosive!
#6 – Daisy Red Ryder
Not too many years ago the frame of reference for an airgun was a basic BB gun. But that situation has changed for the better. Today’s increasingly popular pre-charged pneumatics (pressurized with SCUBA tanks, etc.) offer a whole new level of performance. Mine regularly drive .22-caliber airgun pellets beyond 900 fps and print dime-sized groups at 50 yards. But, as fascinating as this technology is, for good old fashioned airgun fun, I’ve gone full-circle.
- Daisy Fully Prepared Package Includes - Daisy Adult Air Rifle BB Gun (.177 Cal) + 1500 Metal BBs + 10 Count Shooting Targets + ArmyBoy Wristband Item
- Speed and Power - This Daisy Semi-automatic Air Rifle BB Gun Fires Up to 350 FPS Assisted by a Smooth Bore Steel Barrel to maximize speed, accuracy and performance
My adult Daisy Red Ryder BB gun spits BBs into golf ball sized groups at 10 yards while struggling to achieve 350 fps (still enough to shoot your eye out). Purchased on a whim after watching my four-year-old grandson engage blown bubbles with his trusty squirt guns, enough trophy-sized aerial targets escaped to provide the inspiration.
Initially I considered a CO-2 powered semiauto pellet gun but, wound up back at my roots with an eminently practical Daisy. A pleasant surprise: The near immortal (circa 1940) Red Ryder is also produced as an adult version. I snatched one up locally for $50.
For six additional bucks I scored a 2400-count jar of “Premium” Daisy BBs. The gun, fully loaded, supposedly provides 650 shots! Gravity fed; it offers lots of entertainment at a fast pace – as quickly as you can cycle its lever. I won’t belabor the gun’s details, partly because it’s probably already familiar to many of us – and also because it’s worthy of a stand-alone article (due to its training potential). For now, I wound up hanging an aluminum beverage can from a tree at around 15 yards. Within a couple days it was hanging only by a sliver, nearly cut in half by rapid barrages of BBs, shot with a hasty gun mount.
Fun Guns – Final Thoughts
The takeaway: a fun gun could be just about anything amenable to a lively shooting session – hopefully something already on hand. If so, it’s also the most prudent way to preserve your savings – and sanity. Until purchasing my 1858 repro, I hadn’t owned a single-action revolver for almost four decades.
No regrets over its purchase but I wound up headed down the fiscal rabbit hole through a follow-up single-action Schofield .45 Colt – which led to its cylinder making a trip to TK Custom. Mailed back in a week, the same pretty hinged-frame revolver can now also fire .45 ACP cartridges, using TK’s furnished moon-clips.
Fun? You bet, but without restraint, better sit on your wallet.