31. Thompson/Center Contender Pistol
The T/C Contender was first marketed in 1967. It's a simple, single-shot, short-barreled firearm that offers almost unlimited versatility by virtue of interchangeable barrels. You can get it in a startling variety of calibers, from .22 LR up through centerfire rifle cartridges, and it will shoot with great accuracy. Ironically, the T/C Contender is now available as a full-size rifle, which utilizes the same action but employs a 23-inch barrel, a full-size fore-end, and a buttstock. So this one-hand rifle is now a two-hand rifle. Field & Stream Online Editors
32. Winchester Model 52 Sporter
For many years, there was only one fine .22 sporter, and that was the Winchester Model 52. It got its start in 1934 with the Model 52 target rifle action at its heart and went through four variations. In production until 1958, it was unrivaled for beauty and accuracy-“the rimfire version of the Model 70. Used 52 Sporters in good condition are bringing fabulous sums. Field & Stream Online Editors
33. Ruger Number One
Part of Bill Ruger’s genius lay in the fact that he did not believe in market research. He built what he liked, for his own reasons. In 1966, he literally raised the dead by bringing out a single-shot falling-block rifle. It was like reintroducing the matchlock or the snaphaunce, but Ruger doted on the single-shot, and that was that. It would have cost a fortune to make, except that Ruger had conveniently reinvented a process called investment casting (last used in ancient Egypt). This enabled him to avoid the machining that would have been necessary to make the Number One’s receiver. Bill Ruger’s baby was a solid success from the start, and it single-handedly resurrected the single-shot rifle. Field & Stream Online Editors
34. Tar-Hunt RSG-12
Here is another gun that redefined firearms performance. During the 1970s and 1980s, rifled slug guns grew increasingly important, but for the most part, a slug gun was a 50-yard machine. A few could hack it at 75 yards, and a very few at 100 or more. Enter Tar-Hunt Custom Rifles, which in 1990 unveiled a bolt-action slug gun that was built like a rifle and shot like a rifle. It cost a lot of money, but it would put those big lumps of lead through the same hole at 100 yards and beyond with deadly certainty. Fourteen years later, it still has no serious rivals. Field & Stream Online Editors
35. Savage Model 99
its streamlined form first graced the shooting world a year before the 20th century, and it stayed in production for nearly all of that century. I think it is the greatest lever action, period, and at the least, it was far, far ahead of any other lever gun. The 99 was strong and sleek. It could handle pointed bullets because it used a rotary magazine rather than a tubular one, and thus could be chambered in .250/3000, .300 Savage, and other calibers more inherently accurate and powerful than those the Winchester Model 94 was chambered for at that time. It had a good trigger, and its accuracy was, for the most part, excellent. Sadly, it is a gun that cannot be produced without a good deal of hand labor, which makes it impossible to manufacture at a competitive price. The good news is that there are still plenty of 99s around, and they are just as effective in the 21st century as they were in the 20th. Along with the Mannlicher/Schoenauer, the Savage Model 99 was one of the very few rifles to employ a rotary magazine (A). It held five cartridges in a spool that rotated into battery with each stroke of the lever. This enabled the 99 to employ spitzer bullets, which other, tube-magazine lever actions couldn’t. The 99’s bolt (B) locked at the rear, with the lever (C) camming into place behind it. It was a very strong system and allowed the use of high-intensity cartridges such as the .250/3000. Field & Stream Online Editors
36. Dakota Model 76
The Dakota 76 was introduced in the year of America’s Bicentennial and makes this list for one simple reason, best put by the dean of American custom gunmakers, Jerry Fisher: “It’s a perfect action that comes off an assembly line. No matter how fussy you are, you can’t find anything wrong with it.” The 76 is the ultimate refinement of the Model 98 Mauser, combining the 98’s best features with those of the Winchester Model 70. Only about 100 are made a year, and they start at $3,600. Nonetheless, Dakota is hard put to keep up with the demand. Field & Stream Online Editors
37. Knight MK-85
Tony Knight is another country gunsmith who changed the way things are done. In 1985, he built a muzzleloader with the nipple at the rear of the barrel, directly behind the powder charge instead of alongside. This made ignition far more reliable and began the Great Blackpowder Revolution, which has resulted in muzzleloaders that are practically as accurate, reliable, and fast to load as cartridge-firing arms. All this drives traditionalists mad. But ordinary hunters love it. Field & Stream Online Editors
38. Ruger Blackhawk
With the Single-Six a success, Sturm, Ruger announced the Blackhawk single-action revolver. It was a much improved version of the Colt Peacemaker, chambered in .357 magnum, and was simple, extremely strong, and affordable. It marked the return of the single-action centerfire revolver as a viable firearm. The Blackhawk was yet another Ruger triumph and enabled untold thousands of shooters to pretend that they were Wyatt Earp-“except that their revolvers were better than his. Field & Stream Online Editors
39. Ithaca Model 37
t’s hard to please everyone, but the Model 37 has come pretty close. The 37-“introduced in that year-“loads and ejects from the bottom. This protects its innards from the weather and makes for an unusually reliable gun. Duck hunters loved it for that reason, as did cops and the military. It is also light for a pump gun, and so upland hunters took to it. The smoothbore slug version of the Model 37 was among the most accurate you could get in the era before slug guns were built like rifles, so add deer hunters to the list. All in all, there were 2 million Model 37s produced. Field & Stream Online Editors
40. Remington Model 600 Magnum
In 1965, I owned a brand-new Model 600 in .350 Remington Magnum. It was short and light, and it kicked very sincerely. The 600 Magnum lasted only three years, and then a funny thing happened: People recognized that this gun with the odd laminated stock and the nonfunctional nylon rib was sensationally effective. Nearly 40 years later, it has come to life again as the Model 673 Guide Rifle-“a gun whose time has come round at last. Field & Stream Online Editors