This is the fifth installment of a countdown of the 50 greatest classic firearms of all time. I have eliminated guns that are not generally available to the American public, such as the select fire Soviet AK-47 and World War II German STG-44 assault rifles. To make this list, the firearm in question has to be available to the public, made a significant contribution to the shooting sports or the national defense. Here are the next five.
21. Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver. This beauty was the first widespread belt revolver. The design descended from the magnificent Colt Dragoon, scaled to .36 Caliber. The 1851 Navy is still one of the best balanced and best pointing revolvers ever made. Used by Wild Bill Hickok and other shootists of the old west, the legend of the 1851 Navy is immense.
22. The FN FAL Rifle. The FAL used in over 90 countries, then unceremoniously dumped in favor of 5.56 weapons. Their loss was our gain. The FAL performed brilliantly on the battlefield, especially in the Falklands. This success was duplicated in thousands of surplus parts kits and rifles built on semi auto receivers that put inexpensive FALs in the sights of American shooters. The FAL is a 1950s-60s classic that has put excellent performance in our hands today.
23. British Lee Enfield Rifle. From Queen Victoria to the Mau-Mau insurgents, this rifle defended the empire. It has continued to soldier on in India, Pakistan, Africa, and against the Soviets in Afghanistan. On our shores, 40+ years of surplus sales have made the SMLE and its variants classics. AS game getters, the SMLE has taken for every type of North American game, it can also operate in the harshest climate and conditions.
24. U.S. Model 1917 Rifle. The rifle nobody wanted, over and over again. When it was apparent to the “Brass’ that there were not nearly enough 1903 Springfield rifles for WWI, this British design was modified for the 30-06 round and put into service. It equipped 75% if the American troops in France in 1918. The M1917 put into war reserve and called out again in WWII. Mainly used for training in the U.S. a few got overseas with our troops. Mostly, though, it fought with our allies, British, French, Chinese, and Fillipino. After the war it was used in Denmark.
25. Ruger Blackhawk Revolver. This was the first real update of the classic Colt 1873 Peacemaker. Coil springs, adjustable sights, and a beefy frame made the Blackhawk capable of high pressure loads and incredible durability. Blackhawks made in the late 1950s are still banging away with few if any problems, these guns just do not wear out.