April 24, 2024

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Shooting for some entertainment with six picks – just a few among many An AR-15 .22 LR clone, S&W’s version. The bad news: It’s all-too easy to burn through large quantities of ammo. The good news: Previous availability and cost issues have recently improved (the magazine in the rifle holds a half-box’s worth).

Many gun owners take their shooting very seriously. While they should, seriousness should not rule out fun. Multi-gun owners should own a few “fun guns” to keep the hobby entertaining and to encourage range time. Bonus: many of the guns I’ve identified as fun guns are also lower cost, both to buy and to shoot!

A Personal Observation

As the years slip by, those of us into shooting gravitate toward the latest firearms, equipment and nearly inevitable gun projects possibly at the expense of the fun factor. Im certainly guilty of that, case in point the following.

Recently, having upgraded a precision .308 rifle, I was drawn into developing a handload that could duplicate the ballistics of a preferred factory load. Beyond the considerable investment in components (and time), the process was more tedious than entertaining. The bright spot was its conclusion, an impact comparison. That step involved the heavy-barreled bolt-action, and a series of steel silhouettes carefully set in 100-yard increments through 600 yards. The velocities and corresponding impacts confirmed the project was a success and did provide an opportunity to ring some steel.

Table of Contents Toggle 6 Fun Guns#1 – M&P 15-22#2 – .300 Blackout AR#3 – .410 Over and Under#4 – Remington Model 1858 Cartridge Conversion#5 – .50 Caliber Muzzleloader#6 – Daisy Red RyderFun Guns – Final Thoughts 6 Fun Guns

But truthfully, I had a lot more fun popping airborne soap bubbles with a Daisy BB gun shortly thereafter.

No high-end firearms, optics or pricy ammo. No rangefinder required either. The distance was measured in feet. No need for sandbags or a bipod. Instead, just fast reactive offhand shooting a perishable skill that often fades through time spent shooting off rests.

Not to mention the fun aspects that got us shooting in the first place, like ventilating cans with a basic .22 rifle. To me at least, a lively rimfire can often provide as much – or more – entertainment than a pricey gear-rich system.

So thats the focus of this post. And the starting point might as well be a .22 rifle. But which one? #1 – M&P 15-22

Just about any .22 rimfire suitable for a plinking session can provide plenty of fun. Many people own the ubiquitous Ruger 10-22 semiauto. Its pretty hard to go wrong with a version of this brilliantly designed rifle and, because its been a top seller for decades, parts and accessories abound. Heck, half the fun can be the project aspect that culminates in a unique customized version.

I share the 10-22 addiction but there are, of course, plenty of other fun picks between pump-guns, bolt-actions, and other designs. My 1960s Marlin 39-A lever-action, a classic plinker, reliably feeds .22 Shorts through inexpensive .22LR loads. Still drives tacks too! Of course, the list of .22LR fun guns goes on and on, subject only to a shooters personal preference. However, there is something to be said for a systems approach. S&W M&P 15-22 set up for accuracy testing off sandbags (the smaller-capacity 15 round magazine works better for that purpose). Not match-grade performance but certainly adequate for a fun-filled plinking session.

Thus, considering the vast number of AR-15s in circulation and its huge popularity, a .22 rimfire version rates a spot on the fun-gun list. S&Ws M&P 15-22 is, no doubt, the most popular example.

Its main components are Polymer (okay, probably plastic), but it runs reliably and functions like the real Mc Coy. A downside is, a shooting session is a lot like eating peanuts hard to quit after just a few (especially with the 25-round magazine option). Read my article devoted to the M&P 15-22 if you’re considering buying one.

On a positive note, because it disassembles as easily as a true AR-15, maintenance is a breeze. Or pop the lower receivers pins, separate it from the upper receiver, and stow the disassembled package in a small space. Practical as well as fun – for a cost on par with many other rimfires. #2 – .300 Blackout AR

Another tough pick, given the plethora of actions, makes, models and calibers. But the operative word is fun as opposed to best-choice or most effective. Adding a dash of practicality, theres the growing list of 9mm pistol caliber carbines (PCCs) which can make a great home defense carbine.

Along a similar but more dated vein, Ive been having some fun working up 100-grain cast-bullet loads for a .32-20 Winchester lever-action, a circa 1880s handgun/carbine duo. But a much more recent small cartridge may satisfy any techier cravings while providing some real entertainment. A 16″ AR-15 Carbine, set up to shoot subsonic .300 Blackout loads. Absent a telltale supersonic crack, the slow heavy bullets are extremely quiet with a “can” spun on. A .300 Blk upper will drop right on to a standard AR-15 lower receiver and suppressors have now gone mainstream. Result: Where locally legal, a fun system like this is no longer a dauting prospect.

Developed for the AR-15, the .300 Blackout was developed to shoot lightweight .30-caliber supersonic bullets and ultra-heavy subsonic versions. The latter are extremely quiet when fired through a silencer (otherwise known as a suppressor or can). And these devices have recently assumed mainstream status.

If legal in your area, theyre also more readily available, assuming youre willing to undergo the federally required red tape. But, because some of todays dealers have much of this part covered, the most odious part of the process could be the $200 federal fee and fairly lengthy processing period. But once through the hurdles, expect plenty of fun lobbing subsonic bullets as quiet as mouse farts – or nearly so. Go with an AR-15 and you may not even need a complete gun. With one already on hand, youll only need the upper half (or just switch its barrel).

A .300 Blk upper assembly should readily attach and function off your existing magazines. This saves money for a suppressor (which will also take the edge off 5.56 loads). If we lump training and practice in with the fun factor, this bigger brother to the rimfire offers some practical advantages to include hunting (see my article on .300 Blackout hunting ammunition). #3 – .410 Over and Under

Judging by a personal collection of choke tubes, shells, and equipment (not to mention guns), apparently, I take shotguns seriously – possibly to a fault. But, once in a while, I let whats left of my hair down and break out a petite .410-bore. More often than not, the targets are informally tossed claybirds, although woodcock sometimes make the list. A lively little .410-bore over & under set up for a fun-filled claybird session. The shells are 2 1/2″ #9 reloads containing 1/2-oz. of shot. But they’ll shatter targets within 25-30 yards and whatever recoil exists is minimal.

The downside of course is, factory .410 shells are expensive, although still comparative to many centerfire rifle loads (is reloading shotgun shells worth it?). However, 2 -inch reloads pinch pennies by consuming only -ounce of expensive shot per pop (#8s or #9s). No real recoil to speak of, either. Granted, these arent 40-yard loads, but theyll still break standard claybirds at 25+ yards if we do our part.

Throughout the years, my actual .410 has varied but, eventually, I settled on an over & under FAIR/Rizzini with fixed IC/IM chokes. The Italian gun might seem snobbish, but I snagged it at a bargain price. Meanwhile, my sons Mossberg-branded Turkish-built O/U offers as much fun for much less money – and it even comes with interchangeable chokes.

A nice bonus Nowadays, in my state, these guns, and other .410s, are now legal for turkeys with super-dense 3-inch Magnum Tungsten loads. No bruised shoulders to fret over either. Theres even a crop of new purpose-built, affordable, break-barrel single-shots. In between, youll find a number of pumps and autoloaders configured as adult or youth guns. #4 – Remington Model 1858 Cartridge Conversion

Again, talking systems, I can see much merit in a two-gun strategy; perhaps a 9mm pistol and PCC that can share the same ammo and magazines – a concept that would propel the Glock toward first place. Add a similar .22 LR pistol and you can reap practical and fun benefits. Another possibility is a .22 LR conversion kit; a popular option for the Model 1911. Or go purely for entertainment.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a gong shoot; steel handgun and rifle silhouettes with a catch: The firearms had to be pre-1895 designs. I did own a suitable rifle (the .32-20 mentioned above), but I was SOL in the handgun department. However, I was sitting on a large stash of .38 Special ammo (an authorized caliber).

This provided the impetus to spring for a 7 Uberti Model 1858 Cartridge Conversion: the .38 Special model. Like other pre-Civil War revolvers, the 1858 Remington debuted as single-action percussion (cap & ball) six-shooter. Later, many were converted to fire metallic cartridges, but both are still produced by the Italian firms of Pietta and Uberti for distribution in the USA. Partly for nostalgias sake, both still incorporate the original loading lever!

Mine, (a version of the .36-caliber Navy model) was manufactured by Uberti and marketed by Cimarron. And it can really shoot! It rivals the accuracy of my S&W .357 Model 686 and, at the expense of a more tedious loading and unloading process, it also has a sweeter single-action trigger.

Still, its best limited to standard-pressure .38 Special loads. Mine initially shot a few inches low (as designed), but part of the fun can be tinkering. Through trial and error, I eventually gained the proper elevation by carefully filing (lowering) the front sight. A minor windage error was corrected by drifting it in the barrels dovetail – the reason I chose this particular 1858. This “Remington Model 1858 Cartridge Conversion” is a reproduction produced by Uberti. But it’s faithful to the original design, to the inclusion of a cap & ball loading lever (interesting potential there), Chambered in .38 Special, it produced this respectable 5-shot group from 25 yards. The upper group was fired with a modern-day S&W using the same 158-grain LSWC load.

However, the .45-caliber version is more popular, and it offers some interesting possibilities. Say you start out with the .44-caliber percussion version (lots of fun in itself). Because its considered a muzzleloader for federal purposes, the FFL process can be skipped.

Order a spare .45 Colt cylinder later (again, no FFL required) and youll wind up with a revolver that can fire all of the above. This is possible because the percussion models bore isnt really .44-caliber. In actuality, it measures .452 to .454; same as a .45 Long Colt. And swapping cylinders is a cinch.

FYI, the same approach is possible with a .36/.38 Special combination, but their bore diameters differ (.375/.357), leading to possible accuracy issues the reason I went with a .38 Special version, produced with a .357-diameter bore. Bought new for around $600, it also circumvented the messy cleaning process associated with black powder. Not that smoke poles cant provide real entertainment.

A cautionary note: For safetys sake these guns should only be carried with five rounds. The sixth empty chamber should be aligned with the un-cocked hammer to avoid contact with its firing pin! #5 – .50 Caliber Muzzleloader

A few years ago, I logged hours of range time stretching the capabilities of a two scoped modern-day .50-caliber in-line muzzle loaders. The shooting involved saboted projectiles and a specially formulated propellant ignited by a #209 shotgun primer. The outcome provided a pair of legal 200-yard rifles and a dash of entertainment but for real fun I break out the flintlock! Lots of entertainment before and during the shot with this .50-caliber flintlock. All sorts of widgets to play with, and the pyrotechnic discharge is worth the price of admission. No FFL process required either. But it’s still not a toy; we’re talking serious power on the business end!

My Lyman .50-caliber Trade Rifle (sadly discontinued during 2023), follows traditional lines. Thus, although I did eventually switch from patched round balls to Hornady 240-grain lead PA Conicals, theyre fired (literally) by genuine black powder; 90 grains of FF-G for the main charge, and a small priming deposit of FFFF-G for the pan. The latter, dispensed from a small container, is ignited by a shower of sparks. The source, a chunk of rock – the flint is secured in the hammers jaws. The priming charge completes the loading process. Read my article on how to load and shoot a flintlock rifle for more information.

Hopefully, its ignition will touch off the main charge – if the shooter does his part. Follow through is important because there is a slight delay, although done right, its surprisingly brief. Admittedly, the system is fiddly. Its also messy and smelly. But, for those willing to pay attention to the details, a flintlock can still deliver. Last December, mine provided a memorable if pyrotechnic end to the 2022 deer season by topping off the family freezer.

An important note: Get on the cleaning process ASAP. Black powder residue is highly corrosive! #6 – Daisy Red Ryder

Not too many years ago the frame of reference for an airgun was a basic BB gun. But that situation has changed for the better. Todays increasingly popular pre-charged pneumatics (pressurized with SCUBA tanks, etc.) offer a whole new level of performance. Mine regularly drive .22-caliber airgun pellets beyond 900 fps and print dime-sized groups at 50 yards. But, as fascinating as this technology is, for good old fashioned airgun fun, Ive gone full-circle. ArmyBoy Kit for Daisy Adult Red Ryder BB Gun Bundle? Kit Includes: Daisy Air Rifle, 1500 Metal BBS and 10 Targets? Features: 650 Shot Spring-Action Lever Cocking Daisy Air Rifle Air Gun – 350 FPS Daisy Fully Prepared Package Includes – Daisy Adult Air Rifle BB Gun (.177 Cal) + 1500 Metal BBs + 10 Count Shooting Targets + ArmyBoy Wristband ItemSpeed and Power – This Daisy Semi-automatic Air Rifle BB Gun Fires Up to 350 FPS Assisted by a Smooth Bore Steel Barrel to maximize speed, accuracy and performance $99.95 Buy on Amazon

My adult Daisy Red Ryder BB gun spits BBs into golf ball sized groups at 10 yards while struggling to achieve 350 fps (still enough to shoot your eye out). Purchased on a whim after watching my four-year-old grandson engage blown bubbles with his trusty squirt guns, enough trophy-sized aerial targets escaped to provide the inspiration.

Initially I considered a CO-2 powered semiauto pellet gun but, wound up back at my roots with an eminently practical Daisy. A pleasant surprise: The near immortal (circa 1940) Red Ryder is also produced as an adult version. I snatched one up locally for $50. High-cap guns may be “in”, but Daisy had ’em beat back in 1940 with their Red Ryder BB dispenser. Just pour ’em in and get to shooting. Total cost for this adult-sized system was around $60. For some challenging entertainment try popping aerial targets like breeze-driven soap bubbles – a real hoot!

For six additional bucks I scored a 2400-count jar of Premium Daisy BBs. The gun, fully loaded, supposedly provides 650 shots! Gravity fed;it offers lots of entertainment at a fast pace – as quickly as you can cycle its lever. I wont belabor the guns details, partly because its probably already familiar to many of us and also because its worthy of a stand-alone article (due to its training potential). For now, I wound up hanging an aluminum beverage can from a tree at around 15 yards. Within a couple days it was hanging only by a sliver, nearly cut in half by rapid barrages of BBs, shot with a hasty gun mount. Fun Guns – Final Thoughts

The takeaway: a fun gun could be just about anything amenable to a lively shooting session hopefully something already on hand. If so, its also the most prudent way to preserve your savings – and sanity. Until purchasing my 1858 repro, I hadnt owned a single-action revolver for almost four decades.

No regrets over its purchase but I wound up headed down the fiscal rabbit hole through a follow-up single-action Schofield .45 Colt which led to its cylinder making a trip to TK Custom. Mailed back in a week, the same pretty hinged-frame revolver can now also fire .45 ACP cartridges, using TKs furnished moon-clips.

Fun? You bet, but without restraint, better sit on your wallet.