The 50 Best Guns Ever Made (16-30)

16. Mossberg 500
Unglamorous guns need love too, and there are few more utilitarian arms than Mossberg's bread-and-butter pump, which made its entrance in 1962. It figures not in verse and song, but it's affordable, and it works, and that is enough for thousands and thousands of shooters who swear by the 500. Like all hugely successful designs, it has been produced in many configurations and is in current use by the U.S. military, which is a sure sign that the thing is tough. When your Purdey balks and your Parker doubles, turn to the Mossberg 500, for it will not fail you.
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17. Remington Nylon 66
It's quite possible that our acceptance of synthetic stocks is due to a .22 rimfire autoloader that Remington first offered in 1959. It was called the Nylon 66 and had a stock made of a high-strength DuPont material called Zytel. It weighed only 4 pounds, held 14 rounds in a tubular magazine in the butt, and was offered in brown, black, or green. And it was unstoppable. I never cleaned mine and used it in 20-below temperatures, and it never failed me. In 1959, over a period of 14 days, Remington's exhibition shooter Tom Frye shot at 100,010 wood blocks thrown into the air, using two Model 66s. He hit all but six and had no malfunctions. The Nylon 66 had a 41-year production run, and over a million were made.
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18. New Ultra Light Arms Model 20
Prior to 1985, all light bolt-action hunting rifles began as heavy factory guns that were chopped, gouged, and hacked into svelteness. The first bolt gun that was born truly light was a .308 that weighed 51/2 pounds with a scope. Melvin Forbes, a West Virginia gunsmith, enlisted the help of two friends to create a Kevlar stock that weighed only a pound, and then he designed a barreled action that did not have an extra ounce in it. The result was so light it seemed like a toy, and it was as accurate as much heavier guns. As for durability, a NULA action, used for testing by Nosler Bullets, had 4 million rounds cycled through it over 121/2 years before it was finally retired. That is probably more than you will shoot through one.
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19. Weatherby Mark V Deluxe
Roy Weatherby designed the cartridges that bear his name in the 1940s and built custom rifles around them, using whatever actions he could find. In 1958, he announced his own action, the Mark V, and it was as radical as his cartridges. Employing a massive bolt with nine, rather than two, locking lugs, it slid like a piston in the Mark V's receiver. The stocks were claro walnut, often very fancy, and as unlike other stocks as a California hot rod was unlike a showroom Buick. On special order, Weatherby would build you a rifle that was fancier than anything else in any gun rack. Profuse engraving, gold and silver or contrasting wood inlays, carving, and elaborate checkering patterns were yours for the asking. At its dandified peak, the Mark V was not so much a firearm as an original American art form. It is an extremely strong lockup since the case head is fully enclosed (B) and because the strain of firing is taken up by nine lugs. When he created the Mark V action in 1957, Weatherby designer Fred Jennie made a major departure from the Mauser design. He employed a bolt (A) that was just slightly smaller in diameter than the receiver, which eliminated the Mauser bolt's "slop" and wobble. And instead of dual locking lugs, the Mark V employs nine much smaller lugs, which reduces bolt lift from the Mauser's 90 degrees to 45 degrees.
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20. Smith & Wesson Triple Lock
Officially, it is called the .44 Hand Ejector First Model or the .44 Hand Ejector New Century, but to handgun fanciers it will forever be the Triple Lock, so called because its cylinder locks at three points instead of the usual two. The Triple Lock is a big, heavy, strong revolver that was revealed to the world in 1908. Terribly expensive to produce, even in those days of cheap labor, it sold for $21 at a time when the average American worker made $5 a week. The standard chambering for the Triple Lock was the .44 Special, although it was also offered in .38/40 and .45 Long Colt. Decades before the advent of the .44 Magnum, venturesome handloaders found that they could stuff .44 Special shells with far more powder than was ever intended, and that the results were interesting to say the least. You could not do this with just any revolver, but the Triple Lock could take it and not shoot loose or blow up. Sadly, Smith & Wesson could not afford to make the gun past 1917. The Triple Lock was discontinued with only 15,000 produced. Today, it is regarded as a treasure, one of our finest American handguns, and a Triple Lock in prime condition will command $3,000 instead of $21.
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21. Savage Model 110
Debuting in 1958-"the same year as the Mark V-"the Savage Model 110 was the polar opposite of the Weatherby. A cheap bolt-action rifle put together out of inexpensive parts, it had a rotten trigger, and its barrel was screwed to the receiver by a slotted collar that added to the gun's ugliness. But the 110 functioned, and it didn't cost much, and it shot very, very accurately. And nearly 40 years later, this unassuming rifle would save Savage Arms from oblivion. In the mid-1990s, when Savage had fallen on hard times and was about to close its doors, the company's new president, Ron Coburn, asked which gun they could still produce. The answer was the Model 110. And so it was all Savage made for a while, but the company put everything it had left into that one gun. Gradually, shooters caught on that the homely rifle would outshoot just about anything else out there, and the company prospered. Savage 110s (and its variants, the Models 111 and 116) will still win no prizes for beauty, but they are probably the most accurate factory rifles on the market.
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22. Ruger Mark I
William B. Ruger's first venture into the gun business failed, but he knew what he had done wrong, and his second attempt is the stuff of legends. He went into partnership with the artist Alexander Sturm, and Sturm, Ruger & Co. began selling a .22 semiauto pistol that looked a little like a German Luger and sold for the low (even for 1949) price of $37.50. This delightful little gun was rugged, accurate, and simple to manufacture. It was a huge and instant success. In 1951, Alexander Sturm died, and the red Ruger eagle on the Mark I grip was changed to black in mourning, but the pistol has remained intact.
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23. Parker
There is magic to that one word: It's shorthand for the Golden Age of American shotgunning, or simply for the finest American shotgun. Parkers were produced from 1866 to 1934 and spanned the transition from black to smokeless powder. They were crafted in a stupefying number of grades, gauges, and frame sizes. The Trojan was the plain working gun of the line, and ascending grades led to the sumptuous A-1 Special and the fabulous Invincible, of which only three were made. The Parker is a beautiful, fine-handling, and distinctive gun that is treasured above all others of its time. I can even put numbers to the esteem in which it is held: In perfect condition, the plain-vanilla Trojan is worth $2,000, and some versions of the A-1 Special will fetch $100,000. The three Invincibles are now regarded as priceless.
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** 24. Browning Gold**
How do you replace a legend? Browning answered that question in 1994 with the Gold, the successor to the great but outdated A-5 autoloader. In 1997, Browning debuted the 31/2-inch version. As the first "all-load" gas auto, the 31/2-inch Gold broadened our idea of versatility; with one gun, you could interchangeably shoot anything from light 23/4-inch target loads to 31/2-inch, 2-ounce turkey magnums or 1550 fps steel screamers, all with the significant recoil reduction of a gas-operated action. The Gold has matured into a wonderfully shootable, reliable gun. The sporting clays version is one of just two autos (the Beretta 391 is the other) that you see in the winner's circle at sporting clays tournaments.
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25. Marlin Model 336
Marlin's 336 is not as famous as the Winchester 94, but that is about the only way in which it falls short. It is the other Deer Rifle Supreme, and I believe it is a considerably better gun. It first went on sale in 1948. Like the Model 94, it is short, light, quick to point, and dead reliable. I have found it to be considerably more accurate than the 94, and because it was designed with side ejection it takes very well to a scope. Finally, it is chambered for the .35 Remington, which is a better cartridge than the .30/30.
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26. Marlin Model 39A
This is the other great Marlin-"a .22 rimfire lever action that has been in continuous production in one form or another since 1939. I doubt if there is an experienced shooter who has never owned one of these rifles. If the 39A has a fault, it is the takedown feature that has been part of the gun for just about forever. Turn a big knurled screw on the receiver, and the rifle becomes two pieces. Other people must like it, but I do not. When I owned one, I never saw a compelling reason to take the gun apart, and the feature added a needless complication to a design of otherwise sublime simplicity. That said, it is a marvelous gun that everyone has lusted after at one point or another.
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27. Ruger Single-Six
In 1953, America was entering a TV Western craze; it was impossible to turn on your set and not see some horse's ass-"literally. With all these small-screen cowpokes waving around Colt Peacemakers, Bill Ruger reasoned that an inexpensive version of the Peacemaker might sell well. And so was born the Single-Six, a .22 rimfire clone of the Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army revolver. This was at a time when the single-action was thought by the gun industry to be deader than Billy the Kid. Ruger proved them wrong and resurrected the thumb-buster from oblivion.
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28. H&R; Topper
It's a basic, single-shot, exposed-hammer shotgun that dates back to 1946. Even today, when shooters are willing to pay any amount for guns, it's only $150. There is no counting how many Toppers over the years have enabled people to hunt who would not otherwise be able to do so.
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29. Perazzi MX Series
The Perazzi Over/Under is on this list even though it is used almost entirely for competition. It got here by virtue of its excellence, because it is the first modular shotgun, and because it has had a profound effect on the design of other shotguns. You can swap chokes, barrels, trigger groups, and stocks in the twinkling of an eye. The Perazzi company has been around since the 1950s, but its guns did not make their presence felt here until the late 1960s. "Fifteen hundred dollars for a plain gun?" people bellowed. Then they got in line to buy one. Perazzis are expensive, incredibly durable, and supremely successful. It is quite possible that, in the last 30 years, more clay-bird championships have been won with them than with anything else. Perazzi has perfected the modular shotgun. The comb (A) can be raised or lowered, adjusting the point of impact higher or lower. Choke tubes (B) can be interchanged. Trigger groups (C) can be swapped in a couple of seconds, giving you a choice of coil or V springs and/or barrel-firing sequence. The buttstock itself (D) can be removed and replaced in a minute or two via a bolt that's accessible through the recoil pad.
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30. Ithaca Model 4E
This single-barrel trap gun was the last survivor of the Golden Age of shotgunning. Introduced in 1926, it did not breathe its last until 1991, 50 years after Parker, L.C. Smith, A.H. Fox, and LeFever had all become history. Ithaca single-barrels came in eight grades and were prized during the early days of American trapshooting. It was a very simple gun, and very, very strong. Renowned composer and conductor John Philip Sousa used an Ithaca to break clay birds, and the company named its top-grade trap gun after him. At the very end, 4Es were made exactly as they always had been, by hand, with pride.
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