Some people feel the need to justify every gun purchase. Every new firearm, they figure, must serve a higher purpose if they’re going to shell out hard-earned cash to own it. Maybe it’s the gun that they plan on taking on a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. Perhaps it’s the competition gun that will help them win a title. Maybe it’s the ultimate home defense weapon. But for the rest of us, here's the big question: Since when do all guns need a comprehensive curriculum vitae? Why not just buy a gun because it’s affordable and loads of fun to shoot?
Sure, plinking cans in the backyard is slightly less ambitious than filling your once-in-a-lifetime bighorn tag or winning the Grand American, but there’s something to be said for whiling away the hours target shooting with no goal in mind other than having fun with friends or family and improving your shooting skills. Here’s a rundown of six guns that are sure to make you smile. Sure, you could use them to fill your freezer or defend your home, but you’re likely to spend more time just shooting these guns recreationally—and have a blast doing it.
1. Ruger Wrangler
Like any fan of western culture, I wanted this .22 wheelgun as soon as I saw it. When I saw the price I wanted two of them. For under $250 you can own an authentic, American-made Ruger single-action revolver chambered for the ultimate plinking cartridge, and this is a gun that’s sure to bring you hours of fun at the range. The sights are basic, but this gun has some pretty appealing upgrades considering the price point, including a cold hammer-forged barrel, transfer bar (for added safety and security), and three different Cerakote color options. Buy one of these guns, a brick of .22 ammo and case of soda and you’ll still have plenty left over from the original $400. Ruger.com
2. Mossberg Maverick 88
I grew up in Ohio, and until recently shotguns were the firearm of choice for deer hunters. That meant that just about everyone in my neck of the woods had a scattergun, and we used them for everything from defending our homes to bagging upland birds and small game. The Mossberg Maverick 88 was one of the most popular shotguns in my home state, and it’s easy to see why when this workaday pump shotgun carries a price of just $231. That’s a cheap introduction to the world of clay breaking, and when you pick up your Maverick you’ll also want to buy a handheld clay target thrower, a box of targets and some hearing and eye protection. That’ll lead to hours of backyard fun, and it will vastly improve your shotgun skills. No matter how crowded your gun safe there’s always room for one more affordable pump gun. Mossberg.com
3. SCCY CPX-1/2RD
Red-dot-equipped pistols are all the rage, but they can be costly. The SCCY CPX-1 and CPX-2 RD is the exception to that rule, though. For just $339 to $349 (depending on which model you choose—the CPX-1 has a manual safety, the CPX-2 does not), you get a 9mm semi-auto with a 10+1 capacity and a red-dot sight. Red dots are simpler for many people to shoot accurately because they don’t require you to line up traditional iron sights on the target. That also makes them ideal for people with poor vision, astigmatism or cross-dominance. Use the rest of your $400 allowance to buy some 9mm ammo and some paper targets or steel plates, and you’ll have a blast with this little gun. Despite its small size recoil is pretty manageable, so even new shooters will enjoy this one. www.sccy.com
4. Taurus TX22
When Taurus launched the TX22, the company set a new standard for affordable rimfire pistol performance. This polymer-framed semi-auto holds 16 rounds of .22 LR ammo and weighs in at a scant 17.3 ounces, so just about any shooter can have fun with these guns. The ergonomics are stellar, and these guns are very reliable and quite accurate. That accuracy is aided by the fact that Taurus put a set of real, adjustable sights on this gun. The best part? The TX22 is somehow priced at just $349. Buy one of these guns and I’ll bet it’ll travel with you on every trip to the shooting range. Taurususa.com
5. Winchester Wildcat
Everybody needs a Wildcat. These affordable, reliable .22 semi-auto rifles clock in at just 4 pounds, and have a length of pull (LOP) of 13½ inches. That means that even young shooters can generally handle this gun effectively. Winchester outfitted the Wildcat with a sleek detachable magazine, Picatinny rails for mounting optics and a durable polymer stock. Takedown is fast and easy so there’s no excuse not to keep this gun clean, and if you do so you can expect that you’ll be plinking cans and punching spinners for years with this rifle. The price? Just $249.99. winchesterguns.com
6. Savage Rascal Target XP
I cheated a little here. The list is supposed to be limited to guns that are $400 or less, but the $405 Rascal Target XP is too cool to pass up. Like other Rascal guns, the Target XP is built with small-statured shooters in mind, but Savage didn’t skimp on this gun. It gets an AccuTrigger just like their big-game rifles, and comes with a bipod sling swivel stud mount and a pre-mounted 4x scope. The black hardwood stock is durable...and these rifles are quite accurate. Now that young shooter doesn’t have to sit on the bench anymore. When they’re ready to be properly trained to shoot, the Rascal Target XP will provide all the features of a full-sized .22 in an affordable, manageable package. Savagearms.com