I don’t think any of our readers will be surprised to see that at least one .22-caliber firearm makes this list. But we do have some interesting choices in store for those looking to inculcate non-shooters into the pro-gun rights club we like to call The People of the Gun. Here we go . . .

1. Savage MARK II F

There’s no reason to start a new shooter on a handgun, a firearm that’s more or less an explosion in their hands. It’s better to get newbies comfortable behind a rifle. They’re far less intimidating and miles more accurate — especially for someone who’s never fired a gun.

A bolt-action rifle is ideal for the job. It trains new shooters to treat every shot as a separate, unique event. To concentrate on their form, sight picture (easily obtained, even without an optic) and trigger press. And the easier accuracy delivered creates endless ballistic warm fuzzies.

The Savage MARK II F is an ideal choice. It’s an attractive lightweight rifle (five lbs.) with iron sights that’s drilled and tapped for mounting a scope. It costs less than a Perry’s steak dinner for two ($228 MSRP) and fires the equally thrifty .22 LR cartridge, which generates BB-gun-like recoil. And Savage’s fully adjustable AccuTrigger is an ergonomic delight.

2. Ruger Mark IV

Moving on to handguns, again, I favor firearms where recoil isn’t an issue. The Ruger Mark IV is another gun where sending rounds downrange feels like an ant farting in your hands.

This is a newbie-pleasing tack driver (“Internal cylindrical bolt construction ensures permanent sight to barrel alignment and higher accuracy potential than conventional moving slide designs”). Shooters can concentrate on the fundamentals with a gorgeous-looking pistol that doesn’t cost a lot to shoot.

This, the latest iteration of the venerable Mark pistol line, has the added benefit of (finally) being easy to clean — a ritual that should be taught to new shooters from the onset. Just press the recessed button in the aft end. The upper receiver then tilts up and off of the grip frame. No tools required.

At $500 for the least expensive model, the Ruger Mark IV ain’t cheap. But it ain’t cheap either (if you know what I mean). Especially when you consider that it’s fully capable of creating a lifelong shooting enthusiast.

3. Walther PPQ M2

There are a lot of guns suitable for teaching a new shooter how to master the ever-popular polymer pistol genre. Suffice it to say any good quality medium to full-size semi-automatic 9mm pistol will fit the bill. For this application the Walther PPQ gets top billing.

When it comes to accurate marksmanship, a smooth consistent trigger press is a foundational skill. Just as it’s easier to learn piano on a Steinway, it’s easier to master your trigger skills with a Walter PPQ M2. The “quick defense trigger’s” crisp clean break and rapid reset diminishes the learning curve; its superlative tactile feedback encourages proper technique and “feel.”

It’s also easy to get to grips with this gun. The Walther PPQ M2 combines a natural point-of-aim with a hand-caressing cross-directional grip. With backstraps suitable for all Three Bears and fully ambidextrous controls (minus the old funky trigger guard mag release), the Walther PPQ M2 accommodates all shapes and sizes of newbies. And accommodates them well.

Smith & Wesson 686 Revolver (4″ barrel)

It’s hard for guys who grew up with guns to imagine someone struggling to load, feed and operate a semi-automatic pistol. But struggle newbies do. A lot of that’s down to the fear of the unknown.

Even if you strip a semi (allowed in most jurisdictions), it remains a mystery machine to the non-mechanically-minded. But there’s nothing terribly mysterious about a revolver. You put the bullets in the wheel, a hammer smacks them in the butt and off they go!

The Smith & Wessson 686 is the perfect user-friendly revolver to introduce a new shooter to the joys of shooting — once they get over its size. A hurdle quickly surmounted with a simple explanation that mass reduces recoil. Either that or the newb’s first shot with a .38. It’s soft shooting defined.

The Smith’s trigger is the third best bit for new shooters. Fired in single action, it’s almost as good as a 1911: no creep, no appreciable effort, just BANG! In double-action, well, if a new shooter can master the 686’s long eleven-ish pound trigger pull, they can master any gun’s go pedal. A noble pursuit if ever there was one.

5. Rock River Arms LAR-15 BTB Carbine

As with the XL (though not X-framed) Smith & Wesson 686, an AR-15 can be more than a bit intimidating for a new shooter. True story! I once taught a newb who gladly fired a .308 Blaser rifle, but  who wouldn’t even touch an AR-15. Weapon of war, dontcha know.

Yes, well, the AR’s advantages for a new shooter are inescapable. The rifle gives them three points of contact, an adjustable stock, minimal recoil, a long sight radius, light weight, cheap-ish ammo and, now, a low price of entry. What’s not to love?

Deciding on an AR-15 for the newbie-teaching is a job in itself. Like the striker-fired handgun selection, there’s a seemingly infinite farrago of firearms from which to choose. I choose the Rock River Arms LAR-15 BTB Carbine.

BTB stands for “better than basic.” The $825 MSRP LAR-15 comes complete with a crisp clean trigger, forged upper and lower receiver, six-position stock, NSP flip sight set and two magazines. All that and it shoots 1 MOA at 100 yards.

That’s where the Rock River Arms LAR-15 BTB Carbine really shines: accuracy. Nothing brings a smile to a new shooter’s face faster than the ring of steel or a well-perforated bullseye. The BTB makes that perfectly possible for the neophyte marksman, at a price that makes it a relatively inexpensive training tool.

———————

No matter what gun you use to welcome a new shooter into the fold, remember that they can’t learn everything their first time. If they enjoy themselves and leave the range with the same number of holes with which they started, consider it a victory.

49 Responses to Top 5 Guns to Train A New Shooter

  1. How come these lists never have what I consider the most obvious choice for teaching someone to shoot: the single action revolver. Having to pull the hammer back for each shot is a good safety measure for those involved, and helps the shooter focus on accuracy instead of speed, plus they come in a whole spectrum of calibers. A single six in 22 for beginners, then move them up to a Black Hawk loaded with 38 special when they’re ready something bigger.

      • No kidding, having to take the time to powder, ram and cap after every shot is a good safety measure for those involved, and helps the shooter focus on accuracy instead of speed, plus they come in a whole spectrum of calibers.

    • I agree with not focusing on speed. In fact, I have students load and fire only one round in a magazine or cylinder at a time. I don’t want anybody playing Rambo their first time out, or being so surprised by the recoil or report that they freak out and keep firing.

      However, I would strongly disagree with focusing on accuracy. OK, aside from the obvious of making sure the round goes down range, I don’t care where or even whether the round hits the target. I actually follow the NRA approach and just use a regular ol’ 12″ paper plate taped to a cardboard sheet as a “target.” There’s no need for newbies to feel intimidated and pressured to achieve some arbitrary accuracy level on their first attempt.

      Sure, there will come a time for that, as accuracy is a crucial component of firearms proficiency. Still, at the newbie stage, I focus first on basic safe handling and operation of the firearm. We’ll get to the rest in due time.

    • While you make (some) good points, it is most likely that they are not recommended because there is not a large percentage of POTG who have a single-action pistol in the safe while almost all have a modern revolver or semi-auto, or both.

      And while I’m here, I recommend that when you graduate your new shooter from a .22 semi to a full-power (9mm or greater) cartridge, load one round at a time until the are comfortable with the recoil. I had a scary moment with my mother when she flinched the first shot and allowed the pistol to recoil to almost vertical with me standing right behind her. As light as the trigger on a striker-fired pistol is, that could be hazardous up and down the firing line.

  2. My recommendation? Smith & Wesson SD9ve.
    Why? It’s as easy to use and more comfortable than a Glock, controls are larger and easier to actuate. And it teaches an important lesson: a decent gun needn’t cost $500 or more, which just might get a noob off the fence and up to the gun counter with their wallet.

    • Recommend Ruger SR .22lr, comes with ten round magazine. Additional magazines are readily available, fun to shoot, ammo is post Hillary scare affordable, totally adequate for self defense using CCI mini mag 100 round box. Now it’s myth than 22lr is not a good self defense caliber. Won’t permanently make you stone deaf. Tell me 10 rounds center mass is not going to stop further aggression! Understand no one wants to be shot period! Will be looking at the handgun and laugh because it’s a humble.22 thugs are not going to know it’s not the choice of Dirty Harry. Keep front ramp cleaned and lubed and you are good to go. It’s my go to self defense weapon, since I don’t wear ear muffs when not shoot on a range.

      • I teach newbies at no charge to shoot. Ruger American Rimfire bolt action & Ruger SR22 pistol to start with. Depending on how good they do they can try out other .22 LR guns plus .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, 38 Spl & .357 Magnum. All Rugers of course.

  3. I can’t disagree with any of your choices. I started my kids on a pump air rifle, and then moved up to an older version of the Savage bolt action rifle. It is better, IMO, to the Ruger since it forces the shooter to take his/her time actually aiming rather than blasting away (which is fun but not optimal for teaching). The next move up for my son and I was a Glock 9mm, but eventually I bought a Springfield XD that my daughter learned with also. The next gun, a Mosquito, was a mistake, as it is overly complicated and not terribly accurate. One of these days I will have to get one of the Rugers, but I suspect the Mark IV is not on the California roster.

  4. Star Firestar M43 9mm

    Heavy and small. Good size for smaller shooters, weight and moderate cartridge make it easy and nonthreatening to shoot.

    And it’s pretty. Classic looks with a blingy nickel finish put non shooters at ease.

  5. A bolt action single shot 22 is a good choice for a first rifle (it was mine) and that is what the Boy Scouts use to introduce firearms
    I would also recommend a single action 22 revolver as a first handgun for the same reason as a bolt action 22. If cocking and reloading is needed, the beginning shooter will be more careful with their shots.
    I would introuduce a new shooter to the AR15 type gun with a S&W AR14 sport II (I just bought one). They shoot great out of the box and they are selling for well under $600 and are very reliable.
    I would introduce the new shooter to the semi-auto pistol with a Ruger Mark whatever and let them graduate to a S&W SD9VE (under $300 on sale) since is is very Glockish for $200 less.

  6. I like the Beretta Neos for a .22 pistol better than the Ruger. It’s half the price, incredibly reliable and looks like something out of a sci-fi movie to boot. And it’s easy to take down for cleaning, not that you often need to, it’ll run forever with no more than a bore snake run through it when the chamber gets fouled.

      • All of my experiences with the Beretta Neos was that of an unreliable jamo-matic. Same with the Walther P22. In my book the Ruger Marks are the go to semi autos along with their SR22.

    • ‘…looks like something out of a sci-fi movie…’

      That’s not a selling point for most buyers.

  7. My three oldest daughters all first learned to shoot on a 1930s Winchester Model 67. Single shot bolt action .22LR, and you have to cock the striker to shoot after you close the bolt.

    It’s a fun little gun. My second oldest wants to inherit it when I die. I’m hoping we’re a long way off from there.

  8. In dry fire practice, my wife much preferred a J-frame Airweight to my 686 because it was much lighter to hold up & aim. She hated both at the range for obvious reasons & had problems racking the slide on the Walther P22, so that was out too. I finally bought her a Ruger LCR in .327 & it’s absolutely perfect. S&W .32’s to learn with, .32 Longs to get used to (slightly) more power, then moving up to .32 H&R Mag for a small but manageable self defense load. Next step, the .327 Fed Mag. is quite the round & I wouldn’t feel under-gunned with 6 rounds of it at hand.
    Another plus is that I can reload all four .32 cartridges – try that with your .22LR!

  9. I started my 7 year old nephew with my new (for the occasion) “Mannlicher” stocked 10/22 with Simmons scope and my Single Six.

    Load each 10 round magazine with 2 to begin with and teach “aim small: miss small. The scope is great for demonstrating breath control, push/pull grip, and windage when outdoors. We used a sandbag also. Stop before the fun runs out.

    I gave him his own glasses and muffs so he will want to go back to a range.

    I did let him move up to my CZ-75 for a few rounds when he was comfortable with the Single Six.

  10. Only problem starting someone with a PPQ is that they will forever be spoiled with that trigger. To a new shooter, every pistol after that will feel like it doesn’t have a good trigger.

    • I was going to ask if that was a really bad thing… but you may have a point. Okay then – as an amendment to my SD9ve recommendation i made earlier I’ll also throw in the Ruger 9E. Less than $360 in Texas and still has a better trigger than most any other striker-fired pistol that ISN’T a Walther.

  11. I started at age10 with a Daisy then graduated to a Benjamin pump, followed by a couple of different .22 rifles. Added in a Ruger Blackhawk .357 and a S&W Chief Special (later labeled the Model 36). Then came my military training beginning with the M-16. That was followed by the S&W K15. Add the M-12 12 gauge pump, the 1911, M-14 (along with M-60, M-2, M-79, M-67).

    My grandfather started me out with the Daisy and taught me safety first, and the technical skills. We switched to handguns when shooting rifles became so natural we rarely missed the targets, and that began a new training period.

    This is the way I would have taught my son. It’s the way I think America should teach all kids who have the physical and mental ability. It’s pretty much the way the Founders generation learned their firearms skills, and remained a mainstay through the generations since… until now. It met the need they saw as being a national necessity.

  12. I agree on single shot bolt action 22. Have an old savage bolt that u need to cock the knob after working the action. Forces children to be patient and aim. Believe its the model 3 maybe. So old it doesnt have a serial number, but is deadly accurate. Plus length of pull is short for kids, and its very light. Its also simple to break down and clean. My kids all use this 1st, then onto ruger 10/22s

  13. I like RF’s 1st choice of a .22LR bolt rifle. It is how I started at age 11 or 12.

    I have a Walther P22, the only CA legal Walther semi pistol, and after some initial problems I love it. Since the P22 was patterned after the P99, I’d really like to own it too, but it is not legal. Part of the reason I would buy the P99 over the PPQ is because that “funky trigger guard release” is so much better than the silly push-button releases that Americans seem to demand.

    Seriously, practice mag drops with a paddle release a dozen times using BOTH thumb and index finger and you will never go back to that grip-flip drill. Or maybe you have thumbs as long as Sissy Hankshaw in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”?

    • I bought the Mrs. a PPQ mod 1. She liked the ergonomics, I liked the paddle release. She’s getting pretty good with it!

  14. A revolver can be handy to deal with a new shooter flinch, too- if you only load 3 of the charging holes.

  15. 22 rifle with decent peep sights. People learning need to learn iron sights before transitioning to scopes. Or you will have the same thing as people not able to drive a stick shift car.

  16. ‘Fired in single action, it’s almost as good as a 19 11…’

    Or you could go with a GP 100 and have a trigger that’s every bit as good as any 19 11 and not just ‘almost’ as good.

    • *grinning*
      Keep up the faith, Gov! We’ll get these heathens worshiping at the Altar of the Red Phoenix eventually!

      • While WFR was responsible for the brilliant firearms designs, it was Alexander Sturm who gave us the red ‘heraldic eagle’. When he died (at age 28), Bill had the color changed from red to black to mourn his loss. Many years later George Lucas ripped it off as the symbol for the ‘Rebel Alliance’.

    • Agreed. I’ll take my GP100 over a S&W 686 any day of the week. Actually, I’d take anything by Ruger over another gun maker.

  17. My son and I introduced my wife to handguns last year. We had a Sig 1911-22, a Glock 17, a Springfield XDS in 45 and an older Beretta 92F. After sampling all four, she spent the rest of range session with the Beretta. The action was butter smooth, the DA-SA trigger was clean and consistent and the recoil was extremely manageable due to 30-plus ounces it weighed and didn’t wear you out like the XDS had a tendency to do.

  18. I’ve personally found that a great trick to help someone learn to shoot is to, before you even go to the range, strip down the gun(s) you’ll be shooting and give a basic overview of how firearms work. That takes away a good portion of the fear of the unknown, as well as helping them to understand how/why you manipulate guns the way you do. The most recent time I taught some newbies how to shoot, I started them with a bolt action .22, then a .22 revolver, then a Glock 21 (at their request; they wanted to fire something with a bit more oomph).

    I had only one pistol and there were three of them, so I had them practice loading 4 rounds, racking the slide, firing three, removing the magazine, then kicking the last round out of the chamber and re-inserting it into the magazine. They would then give the magazine and the pistol (separately) to the next person in the rotation, and on it went. There was a bit of confusion at first, but all in all, it was an excellent drill for not just shooting, but understanding the manipulation of firearms as well. Plus, for new shooters, remembering that there can still be a round in the chamber even if the magazine is out is a HUGE safety thing. Kicking out a live round even when the magazine is clearly absent seemed to do a great job of driving home the point.

  19. Just took my sister shooting for the first time a few weeks ago. I started her off with a Walther P22, then the Glock 17, then the Walther Q 5 Match, which she said was her favorite.

  20. I’ve got one: a 10″ Contender in .22LR. Absolutely understandable, even by the rankest newbie, without need to strip or explain what’s going on. Put a round in the hole, close the action, cock the hammer, pull the trigger. It can’t get any simpler.
    Then later, when they desire a little more oomph, a barrel change can take them up to any caliber they want, without changing any of the other handling characteristics. Within reason, OFC. Although it would be possible to go from the rimfire barrel directly to one of the JDJ handcannons, no instructor with a brain is going to allow a newbie with only RF experience to jump to a .416 JDJ unless he is downright evil.

  21. Hmm. I am a bit surprised. While I don’t find anything objectionable in the choices suggested within the article… I wonder why none of the choices (or even suggestions within the reader comments…) recommended a single shot or pump-action shotgun.

    My first gun was a Mossberg 500 pump. I stopped counting well over a decade ago, after surpassing the 10,000 round mark… it’s a bit beat up, but being always properly maintained, it still sits at my bed head with its original parts, dutifully awaiting service as it’s done for over a quarter century.

    Point being: that a basic pump shotgun is a gun that keeps on giving, and that a shooter can grow up with, long past the point of the student becoming the teacher. It teaches the fundamentals of shooting and safety– and like the bolt-action rifle also treats each shot as a singular, focused event. Its unmatched versatility, using any common gauge, is not only a learning experience, but also part of the fun and usefulness of ownership. Perhaps most importantly, the shotgun forces the shooter to leave the encapsulated tunnel vision of paper targets, and move around within “the real world” shooting real, physical objects… it teaches distance, leading, timing, and how to appropriately select the proper load for the given task. All this, apart from being great fun, also introduces these practical skills unto the real problem of practical self-defense.

    Of course, the shotgun’s Achilles’ heel here is… what would we call it? General ballistics of the bullet, I guess? I won’t pretend that using slugs would be an ideal equivalent way of learning proper sighting and sight picture, groupings, and all manner of adjustments with regard to firing bullet projectiles. However, we were talking about guns for beginners… and as we get past the fundamentals of handling and maintaining a gun, and applying those basic shooting and safety skills, then a beginner can move on towards the experience of rifled handguns and long guns.

    Yes, portable on-person carry for self-defense is a weakness of this platform, too. But again, for beginners….

    That’s the way I did it, anyway. I went from the Mossberg, to a Ruger 10/22 rifle (within a year), and then to a Glock handgun (four years later). Over 25 years, a few modest canoes (not quite row boats, definitely not yachts) of guns have come and gone… but even when I once faced financial hardships and had to sell most of my arms, the one gun I would never even think of selling was always my first Mossberg 500. If you have at least a good pump shotgun, then there you can always eat, defend yourself, and have a good time shooting. And… it’s cheap to buy, own, and feed.

    I can’t see a better beginner firearm than one you’d keep and use forever, whether or not you’d decide to delve further into the world of shooting. It’s a versatile and reliable tool for active shooters and non-shooters alike.

    Makes me wanna go dust some clay pigeons!

    Be safe, and have fun.

  22. The problem with a .22 semi-auto is the potential for a lot of jamming and other malfs with cheap ammo. If you want a .22 handgun, use a revolver.

    For a handgun, I have had good luck with new shooters using my wife’s 9mm Springfield Range Officer 1911A1. That heavy metal beast thoroughly tames the 9mm round.

  23. For handguns, it really depends on the hand size/strength of the newbie. I thought a .22lr revolver would be a good start with my 73 yo female friend, but she did not have the finger strength to pull back either the trigger or safely cock the hammer (stronger springs on 22’s). The bolt action rifle would be ideal.

    She did better with a 38 special, but was a little intimidated with the kick. The reach was a little to far on the Ruger GP100 for her small hand. Just like buying a gun, it is best they try it on (rent) before the lessons. There is no way for her to pull back any slide.

  24. I don’t like using semi-autos to train shooters, especially on indoor ranges.

    When one eliminates the issue of brass flying around, it is easer to keep the shooter’s concentration on the task at hand.

    Furthermore, this list contains nothing about shotguns. There’s no need for the striker-fired pistol in training at first. It is simple enough to keep all the training guns as .22’s.

    I’d also have a break-action shotgun in the mix for training a new shooter how to use a shotgun.

  25. I’ve introduced 2 new shooters to the sport with my Henry lever action 22. Same principal, that it requires extra action to make it ready to fire after a trigger pull. But that extra action is so fun!

    When my kids get a little older they’ll learn on it as well.

  26. When my wife decided to start shooting (late in life) we took an intro to handgun class at the indoor range that we later joined. We got to try a variety of firearms; from 22’s, to 38’s, to 9mm’s, even a 45 acp (16 total). It was a great experience, we both rented several ones in order to prepare for qualifying for our CHL, wound up purchasing a Canik TP9 V2 for HD and a Performance Center Shield for EDC for my wife. Next one is for me. Can’t wait to try even more types of firearms (AR-15).

  27. Personally I like the 357 Mag revolver especially for someone who is afraid of recoil. I can load 38 spl down to mouse fart levels and slowly work them up to full power loads. It also helps the new shooter understand what goes into the rounds they are sending down range at at least a basic level.

  28. Personally, I say go big or go home. So, a revolver in 454 Casull, 460 or 500 S&W should do the trick. Once the new shooter is ‘shock & awed’ by the recoil, noise, muzzle blast and flash, they will be pant wettingly impressed by the general manliness of anyone that shoots as a hobby!!

  29. I ‘d say start them out on something memorable and everything after that would seem like a walk in the park. 454 Casull for a pistol or a 458 Lott for a rifle. That would eliminate a some problems, maybe not all.

  30. A decent list, especially regarding to types of guns. I thought the sentences “A bolt-action rifle is ideal for the job. It trains new shooters to treat every shot as a separate, unique event.” were especially good. i spend uncounted hours at Boy Scout camp back when it was really a good organization, shooting bolt action .22s on the range. Great fun and lessons that have lasted a lifetime.

  31. Great article, RF! I won’t quibble about your choices, either (plenty of that already). BTW, I’ve already stolen your “like an ant farting in your hand” line…too funny!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *