One Guy's Ideal Gun Collection...
[Updated 1/10...also 7/06]
Free copies of Outdoor Life and Field&Stream started showing up a few months ago.
I read them for the pictures. Usually the stories are trite, but they do run good articles from time to time. They have millions$ in resources and access to a lot of talent (undoubtedly stymied, unless they're true believers, swallowed the koolaid, in blurb-bite journalism). So even a pig finds an acorn every now and then.
Field & Stream ran a wonderful list of alltime greatest guns for Feb. 2005. It's the kind of list that gun-buffs love...love to make and to argue about. I was pleased to see that nearly all my faves made the list, even though I've been outta the loop for years. (Interestingly, they ran another "best ever" list a few months later. The first one was done by one guy. It's great. The second was a reader survey---it's dull, lame, with people voting for the commonest guns. Still, I was impressed at how many preferred wood/blue over the new-tech.)
My idea of an Ideal Gun Collection combines Class, Brevity, Utility and Thrift. (That is, it's the fewest guns you can get on a tight budget and still have a feel for the range of what guns have to offer.) Every buff probably has their own Wishlist. But hopefully I touch on the classic basics. Or maybe it can inspire your own notions. Basically, if one ever rounded all these up, they'd cover the gamut of what firearms have to offer.
I don't list any stainless barrels or plastic stocks. Why not stand up for craftsmanship as long as you got legs? (And if the wood gets scratched or the iron-steel rusted, tidy it up and don't worry.)
Each of the guns I list are worthy of being handed down for multiple generations, and many are old enough that maybe they already have been. If you're so lucky. Unfortunately probably most guns made today aren't worthy of this. Furthermore, the guns I list aren't that pricey and they're all in a category/tradition where one could decorate, modify, customize each one as you liked---you could add to the stock checkering. You could carve in new symbols as you liked. Each gun I list would tend to look OK if given a personal touch of some kind.
I give two lists. A rank of the most important dozen guns to own. Then a list of categories that includes a small assortment in each. OK, I do make a fewwww assumptions...mostly that a person will tend to mostly do plinking, then small game, upland and whitetail hunting for the pot, to round out the top 3 real-world priorities. But of course there are other priorities to be had out there. Obviously the shooting one does most will dictate the #1 most important firearm to own.
Here goes my lists... (with a note on why in parens)
1. 12 ga pump or auto with several barrels (upland, turkey, slug---max versatility!)
2. 12 ga Stevens single shot (classic, tough, useful, cheap) [Update 1/10: get a couple of these! --Modify one into a Camper's Special.]
3. .22 rifle auto (best, cheapest, most fun practice)
3. (tie) .22 rifle target bolt (ditto)
4. .20 Sheridan air gun (ditto---plus usable in neighborhoods)
5. Savage 99 lever deer gun (.300 Sav if you live in brushy, .308 elsewhere) long barrel, schnabel forearm (classic gorgeous deergun)
6. .22 Ruger auto pistol, 8" bull barrel (stainless almost OK---classic, handy, good for bunnies, cheap practice)
7. .45 flintlock smokepole (classic, lovely, for small game up to deer, cheap, fun)
8. .357 revolver (versatile, classic, great for defense or target or hunting)
9. .30/06 M1 Garand auto (classic, great for target out to classic 1000 yds)
9. (tie) .30/06 1903 Springfield bolt (classic, great for hunting and target to 1000 yds)
10. .177 Webley air pistol (classic, handy for cheap practice, pests)
11. TC Encore system (pistol, deer rifle, .22 rifle, shotgun, muzzle---so versatile and clever enough to make you weep)
Update 1/10: 11. Savage M24 O/U Combi -- .22 mag / 20 ga. (super versatile! get 2 and cut one down into a Camper's Delight)
12. pocket pistol (NAA .22 revolver, wood handle---cute as can be, easy to actually carry)
13. Rem 8 .35 auto (in brushy deer country---classic, gorgeous)
13. (tie) Marlin 336 .35 (in brushy deer---classic, accurate)
13. (tie) Winch 94 .32, long octagon barrel (classic, gorgeous, useful---find an accurate one or forget it)
13. (tie) Sav 99 .243 (in open country---classic, accurate, gentle)
14. .45 blackpowder revolver (Walker!---so much fun! noise, smoke, fire! cheap! even useful)
15. Mannlicher-Schonauer 6.5mm butter-bolt (classic, gorgeous, useful)
16. Mauser 98 sporter (tie with #5 depending on druthers---classic, accurate, handsome)
17. Colt .45 Gov't 1911 auto pistol (American history, useful for defense, fun)
18. Colt AR-15 mousegun (American history, accurate to 1000 yds, cheap to shoot, gentle)
19. Kalishnikov or SKS (historic, fun, defense)
OK, now on to the formats...
target .22 rifle like Mossberg M44, wood stock, heavy, peep-sight (superb for practice), $100 from CMP
older .22 autoloading rifle, wood stock (for bunnies, heritage, plinking), $100-200
Stevens single 12 ga., $100
Rem 1100 12-ga., various barrels incl slug (or other pretty system gun), $400
20 or 28 ga double, $200
Winch M12 pump 12 ga.
Browning A5 12 auto
old Sav 99 in .300 Sav, $300
old Marlin lever in .35, $300
old Rem M8, .35, $300
Winch M70 pre-64 .30-06, $800?
Swedish Mauser 6.5, $200
surplus M1, AR15, AK (heritage), $800 all
.22 Ruger auto 8" bullbarrel, $200
SW M19 .357, 6", $300
NAA .22 mini-revolver
SW M29 44mag 8"
Colt Officers .38 6"
some compact snubby or auto
Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 mag 8"
Ruger Single-Six .22/.22mag 6"
.45 squirrel rifle flintlock, $200-2000
TC 5-gun system---pistol, muzzleloader, deer rifle, .22 rifle, shotgun in one
or the 3-in-1 from Rossi or H&R
(these give the hightech modern muzzleloader solution plus many extras)
Sheridan "Steroid", $150
BSA SuperSport breakbarrel
Webley Hurricane pistol