Who can forget their first firearm? That sense of personal ownership and responsibility. It’s empowering, and it’s a shared journey familiar to millions of American gun owners.

Michael calls his first rifle “Ol’ Reliable” because, even after 35+ years, his budget-priced .22 caliber Marlin 25 still shoots true and has provided decades of affordable enjoyment. It’s one of those few guns that he just can’t part with no matter how old it gets. 

He bought it back in 1985 after he turned 18. Fresh out of high school, Michael didn’t have a lot of money on hand. All he really wanted was an affordable, reliable, well-built, and accurate gun. Without the near-infinite wealth of knowledge provided by today’s internet, Michael and his friends turned to the firearms magazines of the day to read reviews. 

Marlin 25
The Marlin 25 is a budget bolt-action rifle with a box magazine. (Photo: Don Summers/Guns.com)

His research eventually led him to the rifle that will probably never leave his collection: the Marlin 25. This small magazine-fed, bolt-action rifle is chambered in .22 Long Rifle. It’s a budget gun, to be sure, but price is relative when you’re an 18-year-old on a shoestring budget.

So how did Michael pay for his first gun right out of high school? Well, he did what many of us did as we raised funds for our first gun purchase. He worked a low-paying job that could slowly help him foot the bill. In Michael’s case, he worked a summer job at a 300-acre aquatic farm raising goldfish and water lilies. 

After getting his gun, Michael would take it to a dried pond to practice. That is where he became familiar with firearms as a young man. His mother was adamantly against owning guns in the home. So, coming from a family that did not own any firearms, this was Michael’s personal introduction to responsible gun ownership. 

Marlin 25
Even 35+ years later, Michael still takes his Marlin 25 out to enjoy shooting it like he did when he was 18 years old. (Photo: Don Summers/Guns.com)
Marlin 25
The gun continues to perform, hence Michael's nickname for the rifle, "Ol' Reliable." (Photo: Don Summers/Guns.com)

Naturally, Michael’s mother was not pleased when she learned about the Marlin 25 now in his possession. But as an adult, he had made his decision. Michael did take a hunter education class to learn more about gun safety and to provide some additional peace of mind for his mother. 

Whether it was plinking down by the dried pond or culling the muskrats that tore up the ponds, Michael learned to love the little shooter. He also developed an appreciation for firearms that has continued to this day. 

That first little step led to many years of collecting and shooting other rifles and handguns. He’s taken that experience and brought it to his own family, helping to educate his own sons about shooting and gun safety. 

Marlin 25
Michael uses his first gun to teach his own son to shoot. (Photo: Don Summers/Guns.com)


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