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Your First Rifle

Marlin XT-22

Marlin XT-22

A few months back I wrote an article about choosing your first handgun, as it’s a question that I get quite often. Lately I’ve also had an increased number of questions about choosing a first rifle, particularly for a new rifle shooter, as well as choosing a first “battle rifle”. We’ll save the battle rifle discussion for another day if there’s enough interest, and today talk about a first rifle.

Bolt Action .22 LR

This one is actually pretty easy for me to narrow down – if you’re looking for a first rifle, a rifle that you can learn to shoot with, then buy a bolt action rifle chambered in .22 LR. An excellent example would be the Marlin XT-22 that Dan reviewed a while back, but there are many good ones out there.

Why .22 LR?

This one shouldn’t be much of a mystery. I recommend the .22 LR because it’s cheap to shoot, has extremely low recoil and isn’t very loud. For new shooters, these are all really good things. When trying to learn the fundamentals of shooting, the last thing you want is to develop bad habits because you’re anticipating recoil. Additionally, .22 LR is an excellent small game hunting cartridge, so you’ll also have a very useful rifle.

Why Bolt Action?

The reason I recommend bolt action over a semi-auto for most shooters is because bolt action rifles are simple to operate, they are very accurate in trained hands, and they help force a new shooter to slow down and make every shot count. Hand a new shooter a Ruger 10/22 with a 25 round magazine and if they are anything like me, they’ll proceed to dump the mag, because, well it’s fun. In my experience teaching people to shoot a rifle, bolt action rifles tend to curb this tendency. Having to work the bolt between shots forces the shooter to slow down and think about the fundamentals instead of rushing to the next trigger squeeze.

Other Great Options

Sticking with the .22 LR theme, if you’re looking for a first rifle and you don’t want a bolt action, there are two semi-automatic rifles that I own and recommend: the aforementioned Ruger 10/22, and the Marlin Model 60. Both are excellent rifles.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully this helps someone who is looking for a first rifle but doesn’t know where to start. Have a suggestion? Leave me a comment below.

8 Responses to Your First Rifle

  1. Ira G October 9, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    What Bolt action would you get a new shooter ?

    • Brandon October 9, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      I think that Marlin XT-22 is an excellent choice.

  2. Markus October 9, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I learned on a Marlin 39A lever action. Anything that breaks the shooter’s position and force them to reacquire their position and sight picture is a good thing.

    • Brandon October 9, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      Agreed – I have a soft spot for lever action rifles.

    • Eric Lopez October 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Yup, great point!

  3. TK October 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Nice write up Brandon. I learned to shoot on a 22, best way to do it in my opinion.

  4. Robert October 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    I’m a huge fan of the 17HMR for new shooters. The high velocity round does a number on small potatoes and is fun to see the look in a new shooters eyes when that potato vaporizes. Ammo is fairly cheap as well.
    As for brands of rifles, I am a HUGE fan of Savage. Their accu-trigger combined with one of the best barrels in the industry, its a no brainer. I’m 28 and I still love taking that rifle out a lot. Its also very accurate out to 150 yards plus.

    • Brandon October 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      That’s awesome man, and I agree, Savage makes great rifles.