5 Rifles You Should Shoot Before You Die

TimberSmith Red Laminate AK Rifle

I want to let all you in on a little secret. Some guns are just too impactful on a shooter to let you go through life without shooting them. Many of you may already have spent some time behind some of these rifles, but I have a feeling that some of you shooters haven’t shot all five. Let’s take a look at what I feel are five rifles that you should shoot at least once.

1. Ruger 10/22

The Best To Date. The Ruger10/22
The Best To Date. The Ruger10/22

The Ruger 10/22 has been a staple for many new and experienced shooters alike for over 50 years. Not only is it incredibly accurate and reliable, but it is infinitely customizable with thousands of options for aftermarket stocks, barrels, triggers and so on. With the price to get into one of these rifles at right around the $220-$240 mark, not having one in your collection is a disservice to yourself. Right out of the box, they provide a very pure shooting experience that will make even the best shooter better for pennies on the dollar.

2. Remington Model 700

Remington 700 SPS in .22-250
Remington 700 SPS in .22-250

The Remington 700 is the first choice for precision shooters, hunters, police, and military since the early 1960s. A proven platform that lends itself well to whatever task you might have at hand while being almost as customizable as the 10/22. Working on your rifle shooting fundamentals with the strong and accurate bolt action will teach a shooter many things—along with how to handle a good bit of recoil. There are few things as much fun as lobbing big .30 caliber bullets hundreds of yards onto a tiny target. Going through life without experiencing the Remington 700 would be just wrong. Some of my most enjoyable range days have been spent behind one on the 500-yard bench.

3. Marlin Model 336 in .30-30


Marlin Model 336 lever-action rifle with wood stock
Marlin introduced the 336 in 1948. Since then, no rifle in America that has put more food on hunters’ tables.

Marlin introduced the 336 in 1948.  Since then,  no rifle in America that has put more food on hunters’ tables. I almost chose the Winchester 94, but felt the side ejecting 336 would be a better fit for the modern shooter because it allows you to mount a scope low to the receiver. It is hard not feeling like a cowboy when cycling the lever action. I have to admit, the 336 is quickly becoming a fast favorite of mine. I really enjoy the hard-hitting .30-30 cartridge when milling around in the hunting lease’s dense forest. The 336 rides with me in the truck just in case I run out to the lease on a whim. Getting into a good lever gun can be done for under the cost of a name brand handgun making it an affordable rifle to add to your collection.

4. AR-15 Chambered in 5.56

CTD Mike's AR-15
Customized AR-15 carbine

The thought of going through life without experiencing America’s most popular self-loading rifle gives me chills. It has become one of the most adaptable rifles on the market with a blue million calibers to choose from, barrel lengths, different stocks, and accessories coming out the wazoo. The AR-15 in its purest form is the rifle that you really should get behind. The 5.56 (or .223 Remington) is incredibly light recoiling while still packing a nice punch downrange. I personally introduce most new shooters to a self-loading rifle on a 20-inch AR-15 with standard A2 carry handle with iron sights. The beautiful thing about the AR-15 is that after you spend some time on the rifle, you can modify the rifle to your taste.

5. The AK-47 in the Classic 7.62×39

Century Arms C39v2 American AK right side profile view
Century Arms C39v2 American AK

Who can say no to the classic AK-47 chambered in the powerful 7.62×39 cartridge? It isn’t me, that’s for darned sure. Right now is an exciting time for those of you that are after an AK-pattern rifle with so many great options on the market and big manufactures—Magpul et. al—getting behind the accessory market. The rugged reliability that has made the AK legendary is something that every shooter is sure to enjoy. Out of all the centerfire rifles on this list this one is the most economical to shoot steel-cased 7.62×39 ammo coming in at under a quarter per round. Couple the inexpensive nature of the ammo with the industrial feel that the rifle has in your hands and you have something really special that you should really treat yourself to.

There you have it. Now get out there and shoot these fine rifles, your trigger finger will thank you.

What five rifles would you say everyone should shoot before they die? List them in the comment section.

About the Author:

Patrick Roberts

Since founding Firearm Rack in 2014 which evolved into Primer Peak in 2020, Patrick has been published by RECOIL, Ammoland, Gun Digest, The Firearm Blog, The Truth About Guns, Breach Bang Clear, Brownells, The Shooter's Log, and All Outdoor. When he isn't writing you can find him instructing handgun and AR-15 courses, training his dog Bear, or spending time with his son Liam. See what he is up to on his YouTube Channel, on Facebook, or on Instagram at @thepatrickroberts.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (63)

  1. After having shot the M16-A I back 1980-1981 , I would not want to depend upon, it is accurate, able to stay on target, but it jammed alot. My Rifles that I like The M1 Garand, accurate hard hitting , The M!-A aka Civilian M14 , Love it but thought it was a little to long, but accurate delivered a lot of fire power, Model 1917 U.S. Enfield primary battle rifle of U.S. Forces in WWI excellent rifle 30-06 great sights , The Model 1903 Springfield 30-06 also very accurate, but I think the U.S. 1917 Enfield had a better stock design, The Winchester model 1886 in 45-70 excellent and Browning Model 71 in 348 winchester excellent

  2. AR-15
    Rem 700
    Marlin Guide Gun, a Lever Action which utilizes the 45-70 a round that dates back to Custer’s time
    Flintlock, There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a Deer or Bear with a Flintlock

  3. Seriously! No on the Marlin, change that to the Henry Big Boy in .44, everybody needs to shot the Springfield 1903 at least once, and last I would change on your list would be to the Belgium Browning BAR in .308! The AK and the 700, keep on the list. Price range is all affordable! Great weapons! I own them all! Plus many others for hunting!

  4. I would never describe a 7.62 x 39 as powerful. It is the same as a 30-30 ballistics, but able to handle pointed bullets, making it just slightly better. The 336 would be much better in .308. I have a couple or AR-15s, but I would hesitate to trust my life to them. A much better choice is the M-14, better reliability and better round. I have a factory 10/22 that shoots groups of ten in 1 1/2 inch at 100 yards with a 24X scope. I paid much more for the scope than I did for the rifle, but if you cannot see it you can’t hit it is my belief.

  5. Hmmmm… I shot a 10/22 but didn’t find it that much different from my Mossberg Plinkster. Maybe it’s because I am more of a bolt action kind of guy.

    Never shot a Remington 700, but I own three WW2 rifles, so the fun of “lobbing big .30 caliber bullets” is not new to me. ;D

    Never shot any lever action. I do think I ought to, even if they don’t really appeal to me much.

    AR15? Tried it. Too much plastic for my tastes.

    AK47. Yes, I do like it. I feel WW2 bolt actions are the most manly guns ever made, but AKs are the most manly assault rifle/weapon. A working man’s assault rifle, yes…

  6. I’m sure that whatever 5 guns were listed, someone would want 5 other guns. Just one man”s opinion and not a bad one. Just shoot and have fun!

  7. 1. 1874 Sharps
    2. Winchester 94 in 30-30
    3. ANY sholder fired bolt or semi 50 BMG
    4. m14 or m1a
    5. Savage 10 in 22-250 Ackley Improved

  8. I agree that the list should go to eight or 10. 5 is just not enough.
    That said the Saiga 12 Gauge needs to be near or at the top of that list. If for nothing more than the giggle factor from dumping a 10 round mag of 00 Buck Shot.

    1. @Robert

      Very good list. I would add the M1carbine and Henry lever guns to it.
      They are all fun to shoot.

  9. I have all but the AR in my safe, though in college I tagged along to fire the M-16. My Rem. 700 is a factory custom .30-’06 with a 16.25 inch barrel. I zeroed it for 300m with 180 grain partitions.

  10. I am so glad to see mention of the SKS here in comments. I bought a Russian military surplus SKS at Big 5 Sports some 20 years ago for $150. It came with military sling and bayonet, plus oil can and field cleaning pieces all in military style holders. It is an absolute blast to shoot and I can hit targets out to 300 yards with the iron sights.

  11. I have shot all of ur top 5, and I still own 4 of them. My all time favorites are my M1’s! Three of which are re-barreled in 6.5-06, 270 Win., and 280 REM. I hunt with my M1’s, all of them, and I have harvested all of the North American game animals with my M1’s.
    As the AK-47, my first time was with a battlefield pickup in SE Asia. It shot over 3 feet to the right at 100 meters. Yes the barrel was bent.
    The battlefield pickup SKS was another kettle of fish. That weapon shot straight and hit were I needed it to.

  12. I somehow think it should be the top 8-10. How can one do without an SKS(the Ak47`s starter)…a good 12 gauge pump (your preferred manufacture)…and a Mosin Nagant ( one of the worlds first bolt action accurate sniper rifles).

  13. Although I served in the military as a machine gunner. My favorite two rifles ever shot is the Ma Duece, and 240G, with the MK-19 a close third. Nothing beats the feel of a Ma Duece as she’s spitting hot brass and cool links ya know.

  14. Have fired all of ones mentioned and of course all are for sale at CTD but By the title I was thinking of the superstars not the bottom feeders easily obtained toys
    Yes I am on the economy’s bottom rung but I have been fortunate enough tobof fired European Drillings, ownedvathree barrel 30/40 Krag caliber andvits engraving , lock up and perfect trigger system were clock jewel soft.
    A Beautiful Merkel in 30/06 andnhopefully some day even if I will not own A Merkel in 7mm.
    Sakos made for Browning and a rarety S&W bolt 223 made in Japan.
    An HK model 270 in ee caliber will out shoot any damn stock vlunker 10/22 any day of life.
    True manyof US will never get a chance to own but Even A top line Ruger or Wetherby with ##Stocksband engravings are a treasure to fire.
    Today my pocket book is almost there upon abSavage Wood Dtocked Magazine fedd vhrome twist barreled withvacu-trigger in 7/mm mag.
    Its beauty outshines ugly utility of Rem 700 and in 308 I would bet it would outshoot the Rem 700.
    Old school who as kid guidedcand was fetch snd gun bearer to men with “braces of either shotguns or riglesbof quality.
    All shootist deserve at least I quality built and beautifuly swood stocked custom Rifle not just to shhot once but to show pride of ownership also showsbquslity of character in theowner.

  15. You missed the most iconic firearm of all time, that’s responsible for more full freezers than any other rifle. The Winchester Model 94. It’s the king of deer rifles. The Marlin is a superb firearm, but the 94 has taken way more game. Just saying.

  16. Disagree with #3. It should be the Winchester model 94 in 30-30. Besides being around for over a half century longer than the Marlin 336, it’s been a well known fact for decades that the model 94 has killed more deer than any other rifle on the planet. The Marlin is nothing but a cheap imitation IMHO.

  17. I agree with the 5. I own and often shoot all of them. I also think the M1 garrand and the M1A (M14) should be added and for the machine gun lovers ya’ just have’nt lived till your thumbs mash a Ma Deuce!!

    1. I was at a local range in Fairbanks siting my brand new Garand and about 30 ft. to my right a guy set up his MA Deuce. I thought it was demilled to a single shot version. The concussion from 30ft away was extraordinary. Then he let loose on full auto….the ground literally shook. I did not ask if I could put a few rounds down range, as at the time 50cal ammunition was upwards of $5 a round. AGREED…That piece is one to fire before you expire

  18. My M1E5 “Tanker/Airborne/Garand” and M1E6 “Sniper/Garand” were Presentation Rifles in Absolute Mint Condition. A friend of Mine that I knew when I was Working Suddenly Died and “Willed” the to me. He acquired them through various Friend who were Automobile Dealership Owner, and were Awarded these Rifles for have made Record Sales. In total there are ~13, “A Baker’s Dozen”. His immediate Family Didn’t Want Them, even his Son’s Didn’t Want Them. So I got them. Part of my “Non-Retirement Package” so too speak. And I got a Couple, that by themselves could buy me a Bentley or a Nice Boat or even a Small Private Plane…

  19. i have an ak in 7.62 and it is hands down the funnest gun i have ever owned. every single person that has shot it at the range gets a huge grin when they try it. i have to have at least 500 rds. to take it out because so many people want to shoot it. the next favorite is my HK g3 in 7.62 NATO. a heavy battle rifle that is a “blast” to shoot.

  20. I own 3 of the 5 – AR, AK, 10/22. The Remington 600, in .35 Remington, was the first high powered rifle I ever shot. Quite the recoil for a 14 yo!

  21. Done, done, done, done, and done…. All good choices!
    Here’s a few more…..
    Barret in .50 BMG
    Barret in .416 Barret
    Ruger Alaskan in .375 and .458
    Sake TRG42 in .338 Lapaua
    H&H side by side in .460 nitro express
    1903A3 Springfield
    30/40 Krag
    Those will keep some busy for awhile.
    OH, and for a bench mark give a .68 caliber Brown Bess musket with a full charge a go.
    So so many ….. Do little time!

  22. I have to agree with a couple of the other comments that the M1 Garand is a must-shoot. I’ve owned two, and still own one built in 1943, and I have never shoot a more comfortable, accurate or sheer fun rifle, and that includes my M1A.

    I can shoot mine offhand-standing and hit anything I need to. It’s no wonder the USMC regularly trained Marines to hit targets out to 500 meters, and why they could stop Japanese charges when grossly outnumbered.

    And there’s just something about the sound of that “ping!” after round number 8 and the clip flies out. Nothing else quite like it.

    1. Agreed, The Garand 30-06 is a very fine rifle. A few years back, Springfield retooled and produced 10,000 Mil Spec Garands MSRP $999.00. Well I got one new in the box for $1200. The first time I used it in a three gun match, it was the “Only” rifle out of 19 that had “Zero” malfunctions. All the other shooters (mostly cops) had so many issues, there times and hit percentages were well below mine even though all of them were using 30 round mags verses my 8rd clips….lol
      Way to go Springfield

    2. So true!

      My first Garand was one of the new Springfields I bought at a consignment gun shop for $500. It was a beautiful gun. Brand new, pristine, and flawless. I later sold it to a LEO friend of mine along with some Korean surplus ammo for $700. Years later, my new and better wife ;-), bought me an original 1943 Grand for $900 for Christmas. It shoots just as good as the new one.

      In my opinion, every true gun lover, and every WWII history buff should own, or at least shoot, a Garand. As George Patton said “The greatest battle implement ever devised.” Yeah, outdated by modern standards, but still the gun my father carried in North Africa and Italy, and the best infantry rifle of WWII.

    3. Wow, $900 for a WWII Era Garand. That’s an extraordinary find…and, it’s still usable. I have been to countless shows over the years. Every WWII Garand I have inspected was shot out (smooth bore) and priced from $2500 to $4000. Your wife is either a very good shopper or extremely lucky or both. Kudos to her. My Garand has a seven digit serial number beginning with a 7…lol

    4. My M-1 is a NM conversion to 7.62 NATO. I fired it with Pakistani surplus ammo in a precision stage in a 3-gun match once and placed 2nd. First place was taken by a guy firing a much customized AR-15 with optical sights (I was using the NM irons); he had a one-hole cluster and I had one out.

    5. @ Larry.

      McCann Industries of Tuscon, AZ. (www . mccann @ abrams . com), produces a .458WM (.459/11.6586×63.5) Garand Rifle, cost’s ~$7,875.00 USD and comes with a spare 5-round clip. A “Real Show Stopper” Literally, Maximum Range is ~500-meters and Effective Range is ~251-meters…

    6. @ Larry.

      If it’s Mil-Spec., it’s Civilian Grade Garand. NOT Mil-Std., “As Good As, But Not the Same”. Lower Carbon Rating in Barrel Manufacturing…

    7. @ Larry.

      If you ONLY paid $1k for a Mil-Spec. Garand. Then you bought a Reproduction Civilian Garand. Mil-Std. Garand’s are ~70% Greater in COST, if NOT MORE…

    8. Thanks for your input Scan…As for my Garand…I have only repeated the advertisement produced by Springfield. I am unaware of any difference in the materials used in the manufacture of the piece. I have never fired a WWII Garand so I cannot determine if there is a difference…although…mine performs flawlessly.
      And as for the 458wm…I have not fired that caliber…but, IMHO…If a 338 is good for one shot one kill at a mile (Kris Kyle, Afghanistan) I believe the maximum effective range is a bit greater than 251meters, with all due respect.

  23. 1. Thompson SMG with both 20 and 50 round mags, full auto.
    2. Russian-made AK-47, full auto.
    3. German Sturmgewehr 44.
    4. German Sturmgewehr 45(M).
    5. M3 SMG (“Grease Gun”).
    6 Russian Mosin/Nagant
    7. Chinese SKS

  24. If we’re going to include full auto machine guns, might I suggest an MG-42. At 1200 RPM, it has the fastest cyclic rate of any non-motorized machine gun, throwing a lot of 8mm rounds down range real quick. I got to shoot one several years ago at a machine gun shoot, and even firing short bursts, burned through a 50 round belt like it was nothing. Mounted on a tripod, I found it really controllable and easy to operate. To me, it’s one of those crazy “win the lottery for millions” type of purchase.

  25. My choices would have to include;
    10 22 Magnum (semi rare)
    the M1 Garand (historical value)
    M1 Carbine (again for historical value)
    Thompson Sub Machine gun (because they are cool)
    any double barreled rifle, especially in a Nitro Express caliber (because I am a glutton for punishment).

  26. That Ruger 10/22 looks just like my Marlin 99M1 except it has a tubular magazine and is a dream to shoot. Why Marlin discontinued it baffles me!

  27. What? No M1x variant like the Garand or the M1 Carbine?

    The actual rifles are not the diversity, it’s the action and the bullet. The list has a 22 auto, a mauser-like bolt action in 22-250 which I could say should be in 30-06 or possibly in 7.62×39 or 7.62×51, a lever action in 30-30 (there are other calibers), the ubiquitous 5.56/.223 AR and the AK-47.

  28. Do I get a prize since I’ve shot them all and currently own 4 out of 5? I don’t currently own a model 700.

    When I first saw the email and the title I thought they would all be gee whiz exotics, but these are the staple of practical guns. Great choices.

  29. I figured that there would be a .50 Cal BMG, and a 7mm Rem. Mag on there too. Glad to see the 10/22 in there, and of course, if you didn’t include the AR-15, it wouldn’t be a credible post. But limiting it to five guns only, I guess we can’t make everyone happy,can we? I included the 7 mm Rem. Mag, as that is my favorite rifle for hunting AND self defense too. I have actually two 7 mm. My first choice is from my father, a Savage 111 bolt, the other is a Remington770 I purchased from Wally World. Since there are so many different cartridges to choose from, it can accommodate all my hunting needs for moderate to large game. Maybe you can increase your list to TEN ??

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