With the turning of the leaves and the holidays just around the corner, a sense of nostalgia has kicked in here at Guns.com. We polled some of our writers, editors, and staff to see what their first gun was and why it was so special to them. Here some of the best stories we have on our first guns.
NEF .410 Single Shot and Browning Auto-5 — Kristin Alberts
Hunting, and subsequently, gun ownership, has followed the bloodlines of my family. Thus, it’s no surprise I grew up learning responsible firearms handling with old pump-up BB rifles. Plinking tin cans off the fenceposts, stalking nuisance birds on the farm, and shooting targets taught my farm cousins and I the basics of hunting and marksmanship even before we could fully appreciate the benefits and joy of such an upbringing. When I was deemed old enough for a “real” gun, my Papa took me in the backwoods with a single shot New England Firearms .410 shotgun. When I was able to spot, get in range, and harvest my first squirrel from the tops of that giant oak tree, I was hooked. Under his guidance, I cleaned that critter with my pocket knife, helped cook it for supper with the rest of our harvest, and it fed the family that evening. I also learned how to prep and salt the squirrel’s bushy tail, which we then saved up and sold to the Mepps fishing lure company or traded for more spinner baits.
From that day forward, that simple single-shot and I were inseparable. With a handful of .410 shells from my Papa tucked in my wool coat pocket, I’d spend the day in the woods, learning to call squirrels, to flush rabbits for a close shot, and I always came home either with an offering for the stew pot or lessons learned in woodsmanship.
In a few years, my Papa trusted me to use the Belgian-made Browning Auto-5 shotgun in 16-gauge that he had bought new in the early 1950s. With that, I was able to take pheasants, turkeys, and bigger game under the easy aim of that humpback receiver. When he was no longer able to hunt himself, Papa gifted me that beautiful round-knob Sweet Sixteen, and it was then I realized there is no better gift in life than a gun like that and the lessons and memories attached.
Both those guns, though neither the most valuable nor eye-catching in my safe, are without a doubt, a few of my most prized possessions. That early start in gun ownership and respect has led to a lifelong passion for-- and career in—the firearms industry and outdoor lifestyle. For both love and nostalgia, I still take both those guns out on occasion for a hunt back in those same woods. In fact, with the help of Federal’s modern TSS ammunition, I was able to bag trophy Tom turkeys with both the NEF .410 single shot and Browning Sweet Sixteen. While every hunter has a different story of how they got started in the outdoors and which guns they used, there’s one thing for certain—every one of us has fond memories like mine of guns and hunts and good times shared, and in the end, that’s what makes us rich.
Growing up in the Gulf South way back in the pre-internet days of the 20th Century, guns and hunting were essential rites of passage from an early age. As a single-digit-midget, somewhere around the time you learned to draw your name in crayon, you got a pellet rifle. Pump that bad boy up enough and you could part a cloud. Nothing quite teaches you rudimentary hold over and Kentucky windage like a $20 air gun and no adult supervision.
Once you got to where you were learning cursive-- yes, I was imparted with that ancient skill, now so quaint as to be considered some sort of dark art-- you got a rimfire plinker. Just an old bolt-action .22LR, in my case a milsurp Mossberg 42 whose rifling was shot nearly smooth by the time it reached me, but a quantum leap from the humble .177. Along with it saw much closer education from the designated family elder in charge of basic marksmanship instruction, a Korea and Vietnam-era retired master sergeant that I was to simply address as Paw Paw.
Somewhere between going out for peewee football and memorizing the preamble to the Constitution (go ahead, I still have all 52 words down pat), it became centerfire time. This meant chasing deer with a sporterized 8mm Mauser about as tall as I am and hitting the dove fields with a 12 gauge. The shotgun I was introduced to was a time-tested (southern for hand-me-down) Remington 11-48 Premier. I have no idea how old that semi-auto is, but it hailed from Big Green's prime era that coincided with black & white TV shows and was sandwiched in the production line between the WWII-era Model 11 and the later Model 1100s and 1187s.
It was with that gun that I hit the soybean and cornfields of family friends to clean out crows (don't get me started), guard the family pecan trees from wide-bodied nut-thieving squirrels, and was instructed to leave loaded in the closet for those weeks spent in the dark after hurricanes long before FEMA was a thing. In high school, I would have it in the truck of my time-tested car, so it was ready to head to the woods with friends during dove season right after class. Barring said souped-up pigeons, it clocked in smoking hand-thrown clays because if you bought a case of No. 8 shot, you shot a case of No. 8 shot. I dropped it once off a boat on the river while heading out for hogs and didn't feel bad about getting soaked to retrieve it. I pawned it once in college because I needed gas and didn't feel bad about going hungry to get it back out of hock.
Today, after replacing the long-ago busted furniture and a couple of worn-out springs, I still have it in the safe. One day, my own grandson will have it in his.
My first gun — or at least, my first gun that I bought entirely with my own money -- is still one of my favorites. I’d spent weeks going to the same display rack in a local gun shop just to look at it, hold it, and whisper sweet nothings before it would finally be mine. I’ll never forget the feeling of giddy excitement once I finally got it home, and then again when I got out to the range.
Fast forward to about seven years later and my Daniel Defense is still one of my favorite ARs. I’ve made some modifications in the time that we’ve been together, so she’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s creation now, but that’s sort of what makes her even more special to me. I still get excited every time I get a new gun, but nothing is quite like the first time.
My first time firing a gun was with my dad as a small kid, probably 4 or 5-years-old. I still remember plinking old cans off an old fallen log in the fall foliage of Pennsylvania. We only did that a couple times before we moved and didn’t have the yard to shoot in anymore. He sold that old .22 LR plinker and unfortunately, I never learned the make or model, but it gave some great memories.
Fast forward just over 23 years and I hadn’t really touched a gun outside of the shotgun at the occasional boy scout camp. I was introduced to concealed carry because I worked for a marketing department at a small concealed carry gear company. We were encouraged to learn everything there was to know about concealed carry and how to carry a gun. It took me almost a year of working there before I mustered up the courage and determined I had the know-how to carry.
I didn’t have much money at the time and after doing a bunch of research online I came to the conclusion that I either needed a Smith & Wesson Shield 9 or a Springfield XDS. I felt like these were both reasonably priced for what I could afford, and both had lots of respect from comments I was seeing. I still remember going to the Gander Mountain and talking to the gun store clerk for the first time, how he continued to try to steer me towards a Glock. After handling a half dozen guns, including Glocks, I felt like those were still my best choices. I ended up not liking the grip on the XDS as much as I liked the Shield 9, so I decided to go with S&W. Because I was a newbie, I also thought I should get a model with a manual safety, that is the only decision about the gun I wish I could take back.
I have now had the gun for over seven years and have put thousands of rounds through it. I may have encountered a failure along the way, but I honestly cannot tell you the last time it’s happened. I’ve trained with the manual safety now, so I feel confident with that feature even though I still wish it weren’t there. While I’ve bought a handful handguns since then, and have fired countless others, this S&W Shield 9 still holds a special place in my heart and I still carry it to this day. While I could get an updated concealed carry gun it would take me a while to establish the trust I have with my Shield and for those reasons I’ll always keep this gun.
My journey with guns began as a child. In the mountains of East Tennessee on my grandparent's farm, my dad nestled a 12-gauge shotgun under the small space between my arms and ribs. Instructing me to hold tight, he told me to pull the trigger. A thunderous boom and a half-step backward, and I had fired my first shotgun. The rest of my time was spent plinking at cans with a .22 rifle. I wasn't immediately sold on the idea of guns, though. In fact, I didn't pick up a gun again until I was an adult.
As a petite woman, I became interested in self-defense and knew I wanted some means to protect myself. Problem was, like a lot of women without extensive experience, I didn't know where to start. I was immediately steered to the table of .22 LR pistols. While now, I would take great offense to this, I didn't know any better back then. I handled a few and eventually settled on a Walther P22. It felt comfortable in my hands and, honestly, seemed less intimidating than the 9mm pistols on the other tables. A couple hundred bucks later, and I was the proud owner of a new Walther.
The first time I walked into my local range, I was terrified. Loud and full of men -- not a single lady in sight, other than me -- I questioned what I had gotten myself into as I filled out the range paperwork. Luckily, the staff was supportive, kind, and encouraging, which gave me the guts to sidle up to a range stall with my Walther case in hand. My hands shook as I loaded the magazine, inserted it, and aimed the Walther at the paper target. The first two shots rang from the .22 pistol, and I flinched. I sat the gun down and took some deep breaths. I was still shaking, but this time it wasn't nerves. It was excitement and exhilaration. I picked the gun up again and, from that moment on, was hooked. I became a gun junkie -- absorbing all the information I could about my new favorite hobby. While some might roll their eyes at the Walther P22, it proved a useful starting point in what would eventually become a career. When I eventually traded it in for a Springfield XD in 9mm, I was a little sad to see her go.
I had a buddy at high school whose father was big into guns and hunting. We were talking one day about guns and he mentioned his father had a .30-30 rifle that he no longer wanted. I'd never owned a real gun. I'd gone through a half dozen or so air rifles growing up, but I was ready for the real thing.
Not knowing what a .30-30 was, I visited a local gun shop and looked at the bullets. I remember marveling at the size of them, almost as big as my finger. When you shook them, you could hear the gunpowder inside. I remember thinking to myself, this is the real deal, this is big step up from BBs.
I started pestering my buddy about the gun, and finally, he agreed to sell it to me. After school one day, I biked over to his house and I saw it for the first time. The first thing I can remember is how heavy it was. On the side was written Winchester Model 94. It was also pretty beat up, with a crack in the wood stock and rust on the receiver. But I didn't care. I paid him fifty-bucks and rode home with my new rifle wrapped in a garbage bag feeling both nervous and excited.
That night, I made a custom box out of plywood for it with padding and a lock. I hid the box in the attic. No one knew it was there except my brother. I trusted him to keep it on the low.
The first time I fired the .30-30 was out of my upstairs bedroom window. I aimed at a tree stump in the backyard maybe 40-yards away. Everyone was away except my brother, who stood behind me wide-eyed. We didn’t know what to expect. I remember pulling the trigger and bang! The blast blew me back a bit and the curtains aside and the whole world seemed to shudder and then the ringing in the ears. It was awesome.
I hid the rifle under the bed and we ran outside to check the stump. There was just a neat clean hole where the bullet went in. I tried to dig out the bullet with my Rambo knife, but it was in too deep.
A few weeks later, I brought my rifle to a sand pit and fired it clean across a 250-yard expanse. As soon as I pulled that trigger, there was a puff of sand in the distance. I was amazed at how fast the bullet traveled. I started to grasp the power.
It turned out a neighbor called my dad one day complaining about possible gunshots at our house. You have to understand, we were four boys growing up together and we caused the neighbors a lot of grief. When my dad confronted me, “Do you have a gun in the house?” I didn’t bother denying it, “Yes.” He looked upset. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He said.
To my surprise, the following week, he took me to a gun range and taught me how to properly shoot my rifle. It turns out he grew up with guns and used to hunt and trap for subsistence. He'd never even mentioned until then. It took me getting a gun to get him talking about the stories of his youth, and we bonded over firearms.
Not long after that, he helped me purchase a second gun. It was a little less powerful, but a ton of fun to shoot. It was a Ruger 10/22.
I grew up watching my father bring home game from many hunting trips, wishing I was big enough to go along. I also watched my grandfathers hunt and fish as a child, and as far back as I remember, I have always wanted to emulate their adventures.
Both my grandfathers and my dad took me shooting as a child, and I jumped at the chance every time. Shooting assorted .22s and a shotgun here and there was pretty common, but it wasn’t until I was old enough to get a job, that I finally got to shoot a gun that was mine.
I was just old enough to drive, and I had worked all summer at a local golf course to save up enough money, and it was finally time to head to the local gun shop and make a purchase with my dad. I had become quite the addict of waterfowl hunting, so a good 12-gauge was what I wanted. After perusing the shelves for a bit, my eyes settled on the time-tested Remington 870. In my 16-year-old eyes, it was the archetype that defined pump-action shotguns.
The cold and wet winters that followed found me knee deep in snowy mud, blowing into a freezing duck call in one hand, and that old 870 in the other. We’ve knocked untold birds and clays from the sky over the years, it never once let me down despite going for many a swim in the muddy waters of The Great Salt Lake. And even today, it still sits in my safe, ready to go bust clays with the kids. I don’t shoot shotguns much anymore, but that old Remington carries as many memories as any gun I own.