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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.