41. Winchester Model 71
You could argue that this is a failed design. Only 47,000 were made between 1935 and 1957, and it was chambered for an obscure cartridge called the .348. But that would be only part of the truth. The Model 71 is about the fastest-handling, slickest-operating lever action you can get your hands on. All of them are wonderful examples of pre-64 Winchester craftsmanship, and they pack a wallop. Elk hunters still go dippy over the Model 71, which now costs $800 to over $1,000. Field & Stream Online Editors
42. Remington Model 32
The 32 was a hard-luck gun. To be an over/under in 1931 was to be marked as odd, to have split barrels was really strange, and to be expensive in the third year of the Great Depression was almost fatal. The 32 was made in very small numbers from 1941 to 1947, when it was abandoned. Probably only 7,000 or so were made. But it was a wonderful design, far ahead of its time, and today lives on in the form of the Kreighoff K-80, which is essentially the same gun and is beloved by competitive shooters everywhere. Field & Stream Online Editors
43. A.H. Fox
If I had left Parker off this list, or ranked it behind the Fox, I would be expelled from the Gun Writers’ Union. But forgive me; I believe that the A.H. Fox is better. Made in Philadelphia from 1903 to 1930 and in Utica, New York, until 1946, the Fox was produced in a dizzying variety of grades and gauges, and all of them shared a wonderful simplicity that made them durable and trouble-free. Fox even had a single trigger design that worked reliably, which was rare indeed in those times. Foxes do not bring the same kind of money that L.C. Smiths and Parkers command, but these guns live on today whereas the others don’t-“the Connecticut Manufacturing Co. of New Britain, Connecticut, is making high-grade Fox shotguns that are, if anything, better than the originals. Field & Stream Online Editors
44. Freedom Arms Model 83
This company was founded in 1983 to produce a superstrong, ultra-high-quality single-action revolver chambered (most notably) for the hand-shattering .454 Casull cartridge. The Model 83 is a continuation of the tradition that began with the Smith & Wesson Triple Lock, and like the Triple Lock, it is a very expensive firearm, starting at more than $1,500. But I’ve never heard anyone who owns a Model 83 complain about the price. Field & Stream Online Editors
45. Jarrett Signature Rifle
This bolt action’s antecedent is the Kentucky rifle. Like the Kentucky, it comes from a small shop run by a self-taught gunsmith and designer, Kenny Jarrett. Similarly, it can be had plain or ornate, and the fancy versions are something to behold. It is very expensive, like the Kentucky, even the modestly appointed ones. And like the Kentucky, it is more accurate than anything else available, and not just more than the job requires but more than even the most crazed perfectionist could expect. An African professional hunter once told me that the very best American rifle shots were in a league by themselves. And so is the Jarrett Signature. Field & Stream Online Editors
** 46. Winchester Model 21**
You can argue until your teeth fall out about the merits of the great American doubles, but this fact stands beyond dispute: The Model 21 is the strongest of the lot. John Olin, president of Winchester, wanted it that way, and he put the Model 21 through hell before he put it on the market. There have been two incarnations: From 1931 until 1960 it was a mass-produced gun; from 1960 until 1982, the so-called round-frame 21s were made in the Winchester Custom Shop on a to-order basis only. While the Model 21 is not ranked with the Parker et al, there are a lot of people who are fanatics about it and pay high prices for even the plain field models. The money required for a custom-grade 21 would give you a myocardial infarction. Field & Stream Online Editors
47. Westley Richards Droplock Double Rifle
One does not need a double rifle, but they are beautiful firearms, and romantic artifacts. There are at least half a dozen makers of fine doubles practicing the art, but I like the Westley, probably because I once seriously considered taking out a second mortgage to buy one. I didn’t and still wonder if I did the right thing. You can have a Westley Richards Droplock for $69,000 in most of the standard elephant-bashing calibers. Field & Stream Online Editors
48. Beretta SO6 EL Over/Under Shotgun
Beretta is the oldest manufacturer in the world, period, and produces, for the most part, very good guns that range in price from moderate to fairly expensive. At the top of the line, however, is something else altogether. The SO6 is a true sidelock, made in 12-gauge only to customer specs. It employs gorgeous wood, first-rate engraving, and the kind of metal-to-metal fit that you normally find only in fine watches. The reason it’s here among the 50 best is because even priced at around $18,000 it’s a bargain. For guns in this class, it’s easy to spend two or three or four times what the SO6 costs, and the odds are that what you get won’t work half as well. If I ever hit the lottery, the first words out of my mouth will not be “Oh boy,” but “SO6, please.” Field & Stream Online Editors
** 49. Tikka T3 Hunter**
If you will forgive the blasphemy, this is the modern version of the Winchester Model 70-“a rifle that is just about flawless in every respect. T3s have been around since 2003, and they are as modern as it is possible to make sporting rifles while still retaining traditional lines. It’s light, slick-handling, very tough, and far more accurate than all but the best Model 70s. Field & Stream Online Editors
** 50. Merkel Model 2001EL**
When the Germans build a shotgun, they expect it to breech up just as tightly after 200 years of hard use as it did on the day it was made, and they like it ornate in a Teutonic way, and as complex as it can be made, just to show how good they are as machinists. This over/under will not be shot loose by your unborn progeny 10 generations removed, but it is not overly fancy, and it is not overly complex. Some German shotguns tend to be overweight and don’t handle as well as other fine guns, but the Merkel is a fine-handling, lively gun with distinctive lines and the life expectancy of a redwood tree. Field & Stream Online Editors