A couple Readers (one assumes New ones) wrote me and asked (and I paraphrase): “So what’s YOUR list of ten rifles everyone should own?” Of course, keeping it down to ten is a little difficult — certainly for me, and I suspect for most others too — but I’ll give it a shot, so to speak, and confine it to center-fire chamberings (no rimfires) as the original article did, with mostly bolt-action types (and only one semi-auto). Rather than advocate specific rifles, however, I’m going to classify them by category. I understand that not everyone is active in every category, of course; but it helped me crystallize my thinking.
So let’s imagine that you must have at least one rifle per category, just to make this interesting. There are nine categories, so you only get an extra rifle in one of them. And the finalists are:
1) High-capacity (10+ magazine) semi-automatic combat rifle. I don’t really care whether it’s an AR-15 type or AK-47 — and for the old-timers, the M14/M1A and even the M1 Carbine can be acceptable — but everyone should own at least one of these because
a.) the Socialists want to take them away, and
b.) you never know if a random Pantifarian / BLM uprising may occur in your neighborhood. (And I don’t have to tell you that you need LOTS of ammo for this category, do I?) Here’s a pic of some choices, as an example.
2) Mauser 98k-type. This category exists because in the domain of Emperor Kim, everyone has to own at least one Mauser. Once again, the choice of which one is up to you. Personally, I favor the CZ 550/557 type because of its set trigger:
…but should you want to go all traditional 98k in this category, you won’t get any arguments from this side of the keyboard:
Caliber is up to you; the CZs offer just about any chambering you wish, while the actual 98k comes pretty much only in 7x57mm or 8x57mm. Not that this would leave you disappointed, of course.
3) All-Purpose Bolt-Action. As the name suggests, this should be the rifle that in a pinch you can grab and use for just about any application. It could also be called “My Last Rifle” (last to be let go, last to be purchased, last gun to be taken from your cold dead hands, whatever).
4) A vintage battle rifle. These old ladies are desirable for pure nostalgia reasons, and because I think it behooves every rifleman to be aware of and appreciate our rifles’ heritage. I will leave the actual rifle up to you, because far be it for me to be all judgey when it comes to my favorite class of rifles of all time. (And if you picked the 98k above, then feel free to drop it in here.) Here are just a couple of obvious choices that were not covered in the Great War Rifles post:
5) Deep-woods hunting rifle. I already covered a part of this earlier, in recommending the wonderful Savage 99 (here).
But if you want to keep it to “traditional” lever rifles such as Marlin, Henry or Winchester, then have at it:
6) Reach Out And Touch (a.k.a. “sniper”) rifle. This is for when your quarry is further out than a city block, for example. It doesn’t have to look all “urban-SWAT-y”, but whatever. Here I’m going to get specific, because you need several characteristics to make this shot more than a “by guess or by God” proposition, as seen below. Any one of these would be an excellent choice.
Savage 110 FPS
CZ 557 UCS
Note that each of these rifles has a honking great scope on it — don’t skimp on your glass: Nightforce, Zeiss, Swarovski, Steiner, Minox etc. should be your standards.
Now as I said, it doesn’t have to be a “sniper” rifle as above. But whatever it looks like (see below), you need to be absolutely confident that you can make a sideplate-sized grouping at 500 yards minimum with whatever you choose. Here’s an idea of what I’m talking about:
Remington 700 VTR
Winchester Mod 70 Extreme Weather
Remington 700 AAC-SD
They could also be older rifles (e.g. pre-’64 Winchester Mod 70), but they must be dependably accurate.
With this type of rifle, chambering is very important. My choice would be 6.5x55mm Swede (simply because I know the cartridge so well), but .308 Win, 6.5mm Creedmoor and .300 Win Mag are also excellent choices. (Watch out for exotic cartridges like .338 Lapua and such: they’re expensive and scarce on the ground.) Lighter bullets will get blown around a lot, so be very discriminating in your selection.
7) Trunk rifle. Generally speaking, a trunk or “truck” rifle should be able to be abused and handle extreme temperature changes, and still be able to fire. It should also be cheap enough that if it’s stolen, you won’t be out serious money. From my perspective, if it’s got to be cheap, ugly and effective, it’s gotta be Russian. Like this one:
It’s uglier than Hillary Clinton’s backside and will kick you around worse than a drunken rugby player, but it will do everything you ask for, and then some.
I do know an old boy who has an ancient Marlin .30-30 lever action stashed in his car, but then he has at least a half-dozen other Marlins in his safe, so that’s to be expected.
8) Varmint rifle. Think “prairie dogs” or similar, and that’s what I’m talking about. It’s a variation on the “reach out and touch” principle, but in a much smaller caliber like .223 Rem, .22-250, or even .22 Mag or .17 HMR. Given that you’re going to be hunkered down, it doesn’t have to be an especially light rifle, but you’ll know best how heavy a rifle you can handle comfortably. I have a Marlin 882 in .22 Mag for this purpose:
…but you’d probably need something with a little more legs / oomph than .22 Mag, like the Cooper Mod 21 in .22-250 Rem:
9) “Safari / Dangerous Game” rifle. This is going to be the least-necessary category for most riflemen, unless you have a thing for Kodiak bears, African lions and such. And in this category, you can’t think that your trusty .30-06 will do the trick — well, not in Africa or Alaska, anyway. (Doc Russia once shot a warthog with a .30-06, absolutely nailed it with a heart/lung shot, and he finally caught up with it over half a mile from where it was shot. For his Cape buffalo, he went to .375 H&H and it still took more than one shot to kill the thing.) There are only a few rifles to choose from in this category, but the go-to rifle — the one which when you uncase it, the PH will nod approvingly — is the venerable Brno 602 (nowadays the CZ 550 Safari). But there’s also the Mauser 98 Magnum, which is offered in .375 H&H, .416 Rigby and .450 Rigby:
So after looking at all that, here are Kim’s Top 10 Rifles, in category order as listed:
SAR-1 (AK-47) (7.62x39mm)
Mauser M12 (6.5x55mm)
“Heritage Rifles” / Mauser 98k type:
Mauser M48 (98K) (8x57mm)
SMLE No1. Mark III (.303 British)
Browning Hi-Wall (.45-70 Govt)
Savage Mod 99 (.243 Win)
“Reach Out and Touch”:
Mauser Mod 41b (6.5x55mm Swede)
“Trunk / Truck Gun”:
Cooper Arms Mod 21 (.223 Rem)
CZ 550 Safari (.375 H&H Magnum)
You all knew I was going to be heavy on the “Heritage” rifles, didn’t you?
But let’s say that you disagree with all the categories (and it’s a valid argument), and just want to see the rifles I want to own*. In that case, Kim’s Top 10 Rifles (uncategorized and unranked) are:
- Mauser M12 (6.5x55mm) — do everything
- M1 Carbine (.30 Carbine) — because it killed Nazis and Commies
- SMLE No1 MkIII (.303 British) — smooth action, kept the Empire going
- SAR-1 (7.62x39mm) — Swalwell and Beto, eat your fucking hearts out
- CZ 550 Safari (.375 H&H) — just in case I’m ever invited to hunt grizzlies
- Browning High Wall (.45-70 Govt) — sentimental reasons
- Savage 99 (.243 Win) — ditto
- Cooper Arms Mod 21 (.223 Rem) — in case I’m ever invited to a varmint shoot
and the last two (not on the list above):
9. CZ 527 Carbine (7.62x39mm) — my idea of a “cabin” rifle
10. Marlin 1894 CB (.357 Magnum) — companion piece to my .357 revolver
Those are my top 10… this week. Choices may be subject to change without prior notice.
*I don’t own any rifles, ever since that canoeing accident on the Brazos lo those many years ago… wait, I do have a bolt-action .22 rifle, but it’s old and rusted, can barely shoot.