It's list time again! “Best” lists are always great for stirring debate and getting people fired up (pun not intended, but appreciated). When it comes to first-time shooting, it's best to experience a range of options by trying out different firearms. You can see how they feel, experience how they fire and get a feel for how much recoil they have.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the option to sample as many guns as they would like to, so for those of you with limited experience, we’ve got you covered! Below, we discuss our picks for five of the best rifles for first-time shooters.
How Did We Create Our List of Best Rifles for First-Time Shooters?
The main criteria for guns making this list is that they provide an enjoyable experience for a first-time shooter. The goal is to get people excited about shooting and gun culture. As a result, many popular guns that are highly coveted and super effective are left off the list.
A prime example of this is the Mosin Nagant. It's an excellent gun with a rich history that many people love and swear by, but it's also a gun that kicks like a mule. You don't want to turn off a newbie by starting them with something that smashes their shoulder so hard they never want to shoot again. Where is the fun in that? No, this list is about getting a good experience, trying out new guns, and being exposed to variations in types of rifle.
5 Rifles That Are Great for New Shooters
So, with that out of the way, let's get to the list.
5. The Henry Lever Action .22
First of all, the Henry Lever Action is a .22 and there really is no better round for a first-time shooter. There's practically no recoil from a .22 to begin with, but when coupled with a rifle, it's almost imperceptible.
Throw in the classic wood stock of this particular design, and you've got a robust, good-looking firearm that's loads of fun to shoot. More importantly, it can be shot for a long time without fatigue. The ease of a lever action rifle with a low recoil round and solid wood stock makes for a shooting experience that's satisfying for first-timers — or anyone for that matter.
Take that already enjoyable experience and add the history of Henry, and you have a winning combination. Seriously, what is more iconic than an American cowboy on horseback shooting a lever action rifle? Nothing. In fact, you probably got a vivid mental picture just reading that. It's been in countless movies and TV shows, has a legitimate heritage, and is still manufactured in the United States.
4. The Winchester Model 70 Featherweight Bolt Action Rifle
Bolt action rifles are just pure fun to shoot. There's something about manually ejecting and chambering another round that makes you feel like you're more connected to the process. It's kind of like driving a manual car: You just feel closer to what you're doing. Plus, let's be honest here. It makes you feel like a sniper, and that's just plain awesome.
The Winchester Model 70 bolt action featherweight is called that for a reason. It's an extremely light gun for a firearm of that type. However, its solid construction and bolt action make it a joy to shoot, especially when chambered in .243. The .243 may not be as low recoil as the .22, but it's still a very low recoil round. The design of the gun, which includes a light but sturdy barrel and solid wood stock, aids in absorbing the recoil as well. Combine that recoil mitigation with its lighter weight, and you've got a gun that can be shot all day without wearing you out.
3. The Beretta ARX100
This one may surprise a few people. It shouldn't, though, because when getting first timers into shooting, the point is to expose them to a variety of possibilities and make it fun. This isn't a list of best self-defense guns; it's a list of the best ones to try for new shooters — whether that's you or a friend.
That's why the Beretta ARX100 is a perfect fit. The design aesthetics of this rifle are not standard by any means. It is a very futuristic looking gun, which really makes the experience a fun and unique one. On top of that, it's chambered in 5.56/.223, which is a very common round in most NATO countries, especially the United States. The recoil on the round is negligible to begin with, and the design of the rifle helps mitigate it as well. It's a unique gun in look and feel, and that can go a long way to enticing a first-time rifle shooter to go shooting again.
2. The Steyr AUG
Speaking of futuristic, the Steyr AUG might just be the king in that area. It was created in 1970, but even today we still commonly refer to it as futuristic looking, so that should tell you something. It's without a doubt one of the most unique gun designs of all time. It's also a bullpup design, which means the feed mechanism is located behind the trigger, making literally every aspect of this gun completely different from standard rifles. It's definitely a different feel to insert your magazine behind where your grip and trigger are, to say the least.
The uniqueness of the gun doesn't stop at the magazine location, though. The internals are located farther back, making the overall length of the gun considerably smaller than standard rifles — while keeping the standard length barrel. That means even though the whole gun may be smaller and closer to what the ATF considers a short-barreled rifle (SBR), it's still a standard length and no tax stamp is required. Getting the feel of an SBR without additional cost or risk of running afoul of the federal government is practically worth the cost on its own. Even if you don't buy one, it is absolutely worth seeking out to try shooting.
It's also chambered in 5.56/.223, which, as stated, is great for recoil. Interestingly enough, though, the mechanics of the gun being placed farther back can sometimes throw people off and increase muzzle rise. That being said, having the weight so far back allows for better absorption. This also aids in manipulation and maneuverability, so you can start running and gunning or target transitioning with greater ease, increasing overall enjoyment.
1. The AR-15
This should really surprise exactly no one. What can we say about probably the single most popular gun in the United States? Well, for starters, the AR-15 is popular for a reason. It's an absolutely fantastic gun typically chambered in 5.56/.223 but with an almost endless supply of potential caliber options. From .22 and 9mm to .300BLK and 6.5 Grendel, there are so many options available for this platform, it can be tough to keep up with them all. But that's part of the fun of this gun: It's insanely customizable.
You'll find a literal array of options for customizing the grips, trigger, stock, and almost every other conceivable part of the AR-15. There are entire companies that exist for the sole purpose of producing customized parts for the AR-15. These aren't just cosmetic customizations, either. You can make changes to increase accuracy and comfort or decrease recoil. This gun is one of the most versatile rifles ever created.
The design of the AR-15 makes it a dream to shoot. The rifle itself is pretty light, especially given the standard size barrel. It's an extremely low recoil design, especially in 5.56, and is especially accurate. Plus, what could possibly be a better experience for first-time shooters than to shoot a gun that is similar to those used by the United States military? Being able to shoot an effective, accurate, and wildly popular rifle is something you can't really put a price on. It truly can't be stressed enough that this is the most popular gun in the U.S. for a reason and there really can be no better introduction to rifle shooting for a newcomer than something like that.
Introducing people to shooting or choosing what to shoot for yourself as a newbie can sometimes feel overwhelming or intimidating. A lot of that comes from the fact that you don't know what you don't know. That's why it's a good idea to try out a variety of options. Familiarizing yourself or introducing a friend to the plethora of options available can help make things more comfortable and ensure continued appreciation and participation. With the guns on this list, the first-time rifle shooter will have a good introduction to what rifle shooting is all about.