As the holidays roll around, we start looking for gifts to share with the special shooting-sports enthusiasts in our lives. I remember the year my in-laws pitched in to get me a Mosin-Nagant M44 with several rounds of Russian surplus ammunition. It wasn't particularly expensive or fancy, but it was an extremely thoughtful bit of shooting history that still has a special place in the collection.
However, most folks are fairly picky about their primary-use firearms, such as hunting rifles, home-defense guns and concealed-carry options. This makes trying to pick out something in one of these categories a bit tricky. However, there are plenty of just-for-fun guns that don't cost a fortune to buy and are chambered in affordably priced calibers. Here are a few practical, playful and curious models to consider for your favorite trigger tripper's holiday delight! Before you make any purchases, we recommend you take a few minutes to read over columnist Jo Deering's advice on How to Give a Gun as a Gift.
Ruger 10/22 ($369+)
After the first models were introduced in 1964, the Ruger 10/22 has gone on to become one of the most popular rimfire semi-automatic rifles ever devised. Its reliability and affordable price have made it a go-to option for those in the market a solid little rimfire to enjoy at the range or when out and about. But this rifle also has a convenient modular design, which makes it a popular choice for enthusiasts who want to customize their rifles at home without the need for professional gunsmithing. Few guns are as well accessorized as the 10/22 with aftermarket stocks, triggers, barrels, sights and magazines in abundance.
I have an old 10/22 that was manufactured in the mid 1980s and was purchased used at a deep-dish discount due to a broken front sight and some scratches in the stock. It still ticks along like a metronome at the shooting range. There is quite a variety of 10/22 models to choose from these days at various price points. But the basic blued-steel carbines with wood or polymer stocks have a suggested retail price of $369.
Heritage Rough Rider Series ($173.33 +)
Heritage Manufacturing, Inc. has grown into one of the largest revolver manufacturers in the United States due in no small part to the popularity of its affordably priced series of Rough Rider revolvers. Chambered for .22-caliber rimfire cartridges, these single-action wheel guns have suggested retail prices starting at around $130, with the most expensive option listed at $225. With real-world prices as much as $50 lower, these sturdy little revolvers command a quiet but loyal following.
Another reason Rough Riders sell well is that Heritage offers a so many configurations and a respectable selection of low-priced upgrades available through the company’s online store. Choose from the flat-bottom, ploughshare-style grip frame or more curvaceous birdshead frame. Barrel lengths range from the 2.68" Barkeep to the 16" barrel model inspired by the Colt Buntline. The revolvers are available in 6-shot and 9-shot configurations with either old-fashioned fixed sights or modern fiber optic sights.
The low prices and 19th century design should be clear indicators that the Rough Riders are not high-speed, low-drag competition guns. But the models I’ve tested have proved to be utterly reliable with clean triggers that are ideal for casual plinkery at the range or in the field. Here's a closer look at what these budget friendly revolvers have to offer: Easy Going and Affordable Heritage Rough Rider Rimfire Revolvers.
Ruger Wrangler ($269)
In short, the Wrangler is Ruger's answer to the popularity of budget-priced Heritage Rough Rider revolver and $300-ish semi-automatic pistols. This company has been making excellent rimfire single-action revolvers for many years, including the Single-Six and the more diminutive Bearcat (which is one of my all-time favorites). But the manufacturing process and all-steel construction of these single-action wheelguns keeps their suggested price tags riding steadily north of $700.
In 2019 the company launched the Wrangler .22 LR 6-shot single action with suggested price of $269.
Based on the 4" barrel version of the Single-Six, a variety of changes were made to reduce manufacturing costs without sacrificing reliability or accuracy. The barrel and cylinder are made from carbon-steel alloy, with the cylinder frame and loading gate replaced with die cast A380 aluminum alloy. The grip frame and integral trigger guard are die cast from a zinc alloy which is even less expensive than the aluminum components. The guns are treated with a uniform Cerakote finish in Black, Silver or Bronze and completed with textured black polymer grip panels. For more information, take a look at this range test.
Bond Arms Rough Neck 9 mm Pistol ($269)
Bond Arms' over/under double-barrel pistols are essentially the Remington Model 95 derringer on steroids. These American-made pistols are wholly constructed from stainless steel. The frames and barrels have been beefed up to handle big-bore cartridges including .357 Mag., 10 mm Auto and .44 Special. Dual-caliber barrels are available to fire either .45 Colt or .410 Bore shotgun shells.
Added safety features include a rebounding hammer, a release-lever retention device, to prevent the pistol from bumping open while firing, and a cross-bolt button thumb safety. Most models are available with removable trigger guards.
For several years these pistols were remained something of a niche product due to their relatively steep price tags. In order to fend off the “junk gun” reputation that continues to cling tightly to derringers, each Bond pistol was carefully buffed and polished throughout to for high-polish finish. But the polishing process is quite labor intensive.
In 2019, the company launched the Rough series. Using the same stainless steel components and attention to proper fitting, the Rough guns skip the final buff and polish process which in turn cuts the price in half when compared to high-polish models. Shown here is the Rough Neck. The 3" barrel is chambered in 9 mm with a rubber grip and a suggested retail price of just $269. It’s a terrific way to try the Bond on for size without breaking the bank. Once you own a Bond frame the removable barrel can be swapped out for other accessory barrels ranging from 2.5" to 6" in length and chambered in calibers as diverse as .327 Federal Magnum, .44-40 Win. and .30 Carbine. Click here to see a review of this pistol.
North American Arms Mini Revolvers ($226 +)
If you want one of the smallest handguns available that can fire common rimfire cartridges like .22 Short, .22 LR and .22 WMR, then the stainless steel single-action North American Arms Mini Revolvers are just what you're looking for. How small are they? The model NAA-22S chambered in .22 Short, which is the smallest revolver the company offers, is best be described as a piece of jewelry you can shoot at the range. With its 1.13" barrel and an overall length of 3.63", it weighs in at just 4.1 oz. with a sticker price of $226.
The company also offers the slightly larger NAA-22LR series chambered in .22 Long Rifle and the NAA-22Ms with cylinders and frames stretched to accommodate the more potent .22 WMR cartridge. I've given these terrific little guns as gifts to friends and family over the years and enjoyed seeing their faces light up every time! Take a look at this review to see the .22 Short in action.
The North American Arms .22 Short atop a sub-compact Glock G26 for size comparison.
Trailblazer Firearms LifeCard ($299–$359)
Here's an unusual rimfire pistol which has the nifty gadget factor in spades! First released in 2017, the Trailblazer Firearms LifeCard is a folding single-action, single-shot “utility pistol.” When folded, it's small enough to fit comfortably into an Altoids tin or the watch pocket of a pair of jeans. Because it cannot be fired with the grip in the folded position, the LifeCard does not fall under the purview of ATF regulations and can be sold over the counter like other handguns. The tilt-up barrel, bolt and trigger are made of steel with an Isonite finish while the receiver is fully machined from billet aluminum. The grip has small storage compartment to hold a few extra rounds of ammunition.
In the time since I first learned about the LifeCard, the product line-up has grown in some interesting ways. The .22 LR version now has a polymer grip frame which reduced the price to $299 and shaves the unloaded weight down from 6.6-oz. to 5.5-oz. An all-aluminum .22 WMR version is now available for $359. Both calibers can be had in different Cerakote colors including Black, Flat Dark Earth and Sniper Gray. Here's a Gun of the Week video review of the original .22 LR model.