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Will Hayden’s Favorite Military Firearms

by Will Hayden   |  October 31st, 2011 70

Over the years I’ve handled, built, shot, restored and modified military firearms of all kinds. I never really considered which ones were my favorites. There’s so many to choose from it’s pretty damn insane.

But, at the request of the guys at Guns & Ammo, I came up with my five favorite in no particular order.  Check out the video below to hear my list and be sure to add your favorites in the comments below.

See ya next time.

  • LarryH

    A good list and one that will spark a lot of comments, as such lists always do. There will be the Garand and Springfield enthusiasts who will, I'm sure, have plenty to say. :-)

  • Fernando Tejero

    Military Fireams as a category is quite wide. My favorite battle rifles are the Finish Mosin Nagant, The Swedish Mauser M96, The Garand and the M.14. The best military handgun of my choice is the 1911A1. That would be my choice if restricted to just five firearms,

  • Tedgar

    I definately agree on the M-14 and M-1911A1. After those two, not in order but simply other than your list, I'd have the 03,A3. The A3 has the best sights of the 1903 series rifles. And the 97 Winchester or model 12, flip a coin on those two. The M-1 I'm not listing as I consider the M-14 to be an improved version of the M-1. The fifth weapon is definately not any other handgun, nor any of the M-16 series rifles. Nor any US machine gun. Well, all right, maybe Ma deuce. Yeah, ya noticed they're all US. As an old 0311, I had the best rifle to be had most of my time, but for one month had an M-16. Talk about feeling naked!

  • Will_Hayden

    Well , that was my list and I'm sticking to it : ) . Ya'll come on board and let's hear from you . "Top Five" , whats yours ?

    • Jason Wyatt

      Cool selection Will, i am with you on some of them…
      1873 Springfield "Trapdoor" 45-70, M1911, Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK47), Springfield M14, M16A1.

      those would probably be my top 5 favorite military rigs…

    • Jim M

      My top 5 list would be… #1- M-14 #2- 1911 #3- MG-42 #4- MA Deuce (M-2 for those that don't know) & #5- Springfield 1903-A3. Semper Fi!

      • Jim M

        PS… Honorable mention goes to the tried & true M-60(of MG-42 descent).

    • Chris

      If I could have heard what ya said over the music…it would have been better….

  • Timd1978

    Based on what I see on the show, I am really surprised I didn't see an AK on the list

    1. M240G (carried it in the Marine Corps and loved it)
    2. Mk19…do I really need to explain why
    3. AK74: reliable , lightweight, low recoil
    4. Mosin Nagant 91/30: There is just a manliness factor to a rifle that dislocates you shoulder on one shot and the recoil from the next re-locates it
    5. HK 416: I have heard too many good things about the quality of this carbine

  • AlanG


    I can't believe you left the good and reliable AK-47 out of the list! I love your show!.

    • Will_Hayden

      Thank you Alan , that seems to surprise a lot of people LOL I like AK's well enough , they're damn fine rifles . I based my list on what I normally pick up when I'm going shooting and I have the option . personal preference , thats all .

  • Mike

    Well, now i know you are the screwball like you act on your show. AK 47 tops my list and the m 16 would NEVER be one of my favorites.

    • Will_Hayden

      It's not a contest Mike , but ah , thanks for playing .

      • Gunner

        I knew we couldn't get through a post without a personal insult. Pathetic!!!

        1911, M4, M14, Browning 50 cal, Garand

    • Michael Little

      that comment was uncalled for.
      If you don't like the show don't watch.

    • pete

      It's called "personal preference". Secure folks don't need to call other folks names!

  • H Pearson

    Carried a Thompaon both in the Korean Warad 3 tours in VN, best butt-kicken close quarters weapon made. Too heavy for wimps.
    JP de oppresso liber

    • Will_Hayden

      Thank you for your service Top , and I'd say you called it on the money about the Thompson .

  • Tony

    My favourites (not in any order of preference) are as follows: The M1 Garand; The M-14; The Browning M-35 HiPower (.40 S&W); The Browning M-1911, and lastly The Dillon-AERO. Honestly; there are so many fine weapons that it is difficult to narrow the field…..consider (if you will) The Walther PPK/S; The Walther P-38; The M-60, and………..maybe I should stop now. Thanks Bill; you and your crew have a great show.

  • 2WarAbnVet

    I started out with the M1; loved it then; love it now. Transitioned to the M14, and was not fond of it at all. Took the M16 to war as a happy camper, but I purchased a M1911A1 just to be on the safe side. I came into possession of an RPD and admired it for its simplicity.
    In lieu of the M14 I'd have selected the FN FAL, even though it just looked wrong to my young eyes in 1962. Subsequent use proved it to be absolutely the right rifle for the free world.
    On the subject of more archaic military weapons; during our Revolution the considerable damage done by the Kentucky rifle in the Southern Theater forced the British to alter their tactics.
    Incidentally, there are a lot of dead Yankees who would attest to the value of the P53 Enfield as a military weapon – if they could. A lot of the "so-called" sharpshooters were just country boys with Enfields.

    • Will_Hayden

      I prefer the FN FAL to the M14 myself . You're right about those Enfields , btw "Co. Ayhtach" is a great book on the War for the Southern enlisted mans perspective .

      • pete

        I own a FN Scar 308"heavy". I like it a lot.

      • Alex

        Agreed. I was surprised nobody else in the thread said this about the FN. Would like to add FN G3A3 or SCAR-17 both beautiful rifles that owe their design to the FAL
        Love the show, keep up the good work

  • Robert Usrey

    As usual, Will has a thoughtful and studied answer to a deceptive question. I would have thought that Ma Deuce would have been on the list, but that's just me.

  • Lopaka Kanaka

    Hello Will:
    Many fine rifle and hand guns to choose from but my choice are the Garand M-1, Browing 1911 A-1 45 AP, M-14, Browing BAR, and the 1903 Springfield. I have had a chance to carry and shoot the Awesome guns and would like to added a few more to my gun case. I will never have a a Browing BAR in the Golden state and a few others because of the strick restrictions on what guns you can own. I have been a fan of your program when you first aired on Discovery channel and hope you will have many more new guns to build and more firepower to you Will.

  • louisianaJoe

    M1 Garand
    Short Magazine Lee-Enfield smooth action and 10 round capacity
    Mosin Nagant 91/30

  • Dave C

    Great picks guys all very good guns… my personal favorites is of course the mosin nagant 91/30 one of the best and most effective rifles ever made. The browning auto-5 in 12 gauge… nobody ever remebers the shotgun, but in personal opinion they are the most effective close quarters weapon. The 1911 A1, the barr and gautlin gun, not the remakes but the original.

  • Mark Newman

    Good choices Will! Here are my five. 1. 1911A1, 2. Springfield 1873 Trapdoor , 3. M2 .50 BMG, 4. Mossberg 500 (I've no experience with the 590, being a Navy guy, but I hear it's very nice.) 5. Sharps carbine in .50-70 Govt.

    Real hard to pick only five with no time period limits.

  • Merlin

    My five (not in order, depends on the job)
    1. Glock 23
    2. Mossberg 590 12-gauge
    3 M-1
    4. M-14
    5. Bushmaster Carbon 15 in 5.56
    6. (I know, I know) Ruger 10/22

    Call me "old school". M-1 and M-14 were not designed to wound. I want 'em DRT in a survival SHTF scenario.
    Can't wait for your show this year Mr. Hayden.

  • Grady Gillis

    Will, I'd go with the 1911A1, the Baker Rifle, the M16A1, Winchester Model 12, and the Ma Deuce. If you asked me tomorrow, I'd probably have a slightly different list. Five is such a short list. These particular five all had important roles in history, were/are widely used and a long service life. My short list would have about 10-15 more "trend-setters."
    I'm looking forward to next season.
    All the best.
    Grady Gillis
    MSgt (First Sergeant), USAF, (ret.)

  • Ironfoot

    Curious, why the Enfield musket, and not the Springfield musket?

    • Will_Hayden

      personal preference , I seem shoot better with the Enfield

  • Charles Bevins

    My five would be
    1. Colt 1911
    2. Winchester Model 97 Trench Gun
    3. M-14
    4. Any of the various black guns AR 15 – M16
    5. My Winchester M1 Garand

  • GregC

    I love the M1 Garand, but I would rather have the Beretta BM-59… even more than the M-14!

    The Finns knew a great action when they picked up the Mosin-Nagants the retreating Russian dropped. A Finnish Model 39, with an excellent Sako barrel on the Mosin-Nagant action gets a thumbs up!

    The Russian SVT-40 designed by Tokarev is a darn good semi-auto battle rifle in 7.62 x 54R.

    Of the Mausers, you can't beat the accuracy of the Swedish M-96 in 6.5 x 55.

    For something offbeat and just plain cool… the 1941 Johnson in .30-06!

    • T-Bow

      Like you said about the Finn's knowing a great action, yeah the Mauser fits that category, too. I'm surprised you're the first to mention it, but hard to beat the Good Ol' Mauser in my opinion.

  • roger

    ones i have personal knowledge of=thompson-1911-M-1-BAR-air cooled 30 cal MG=all old school all heavy all effective. 30 cal for keeping them at bay,thompson and 1911 for up close and personal

  • CharlieWatRJF

    Working with the FN/FAL really opened my eyes to how great a weapon that is.
    Hey guys!

  • T-Bow


    LOVE THE SHOW!!! I never miss an episode.

    Every time I watch it I drool such a mess all over myself, my wife has to slap me upside the head to snap me back to reality. Speaking of wife…she loves the show, too, which says a lot because she doesn't even like guns all that much!

    Oh, and because I can't help myself, my list (based on a composite of both what I consider to be great guns, and guns that are just plain fun to shoot):

    1.) AK-47 (or 74)
    2.) M-16 (or any quality variant)
    3.) M1911
    4.) 8mm Mauser (or any quality variant)
    5.) Mossberg 500 (or 590 does it matter? They're both great guns!)

    Cause I can't stop there…

    6.) M-1 Garand (or M-14, once again does it matter? They'll both "get 'r dun!")
    7.) Browning Hi-Power
    8.) FN FAL
    9.) AA-12 (need I say anything more about a fully automatic shotgun with 32 rd drum mag?!)
    10.) Anything .50 cal (or bigger)

    Oh, and I sure wish I could work in your shop!

  • David Simerman

    My Top 5- Mauser 98K., Browning 1911, AK 47, M1 Garand, Winchester Model 97 Trench Shotgun.

  • Troy S. Lindsrtand

    let's see when it comes to military 1:1911;2:M16A1/M203(carried one for awhile);3:new British 7.62 or U.S. M110 sniper AR based rifle;4:MA Duece;5:M79 grenade launcher,I like things that go BOOM!.

  • Zachary

    Military Weapons…..there's a lot of good ones out there. I guess my top five not in order would be the Lee Enfield SMLE, M1 Garand, M 1911, the Mosin Nagant, and the FN FAL. Lee Enfield because it gives that smooth feel when you pull the bolt back, M1 Garand cuz its an American icon and it rocks on power, M 1911 because of its simplicity and nice caliber, Mosin Nagant because of its great accuracy, and the FN FAL because it is a work horse weapon and knocks men down.

  • Shawn O'Loughlin

    Like your show will. more handguns older U.S. military please. :)

    1) AR-10 (original belt fed/ detachable mag feed (7.62 NATO)
    2) 1911 (.45ACP)
    3) Glock 31 (.357Sig)
    4) STG-44 (8mm Kurz)
    5) MG42 (8mm Mauser)

  • strider98

    The Schnellfeuer version of the C-96 (Partially because Han Solo's blaster was based on it)
    The Schmidt-Rubin K-31 (my dad has one and it is a tack driver, he calls it his K-Swiss)
    Dragunov – first built from the ground up semi-auto sniper rifle
    The Colt Single Action Army – need I say more?
    The Israeli TAR-21 Tavor- cuz it is the coolest looking battle rifle I have ever seen

  • Chaz

    Best military weapons that I've shot. Not necessarily in order. (rifle and pistol that is…)
    1. HK91
    2. RPK
    3. 1911
    4. M16 HBAR
    5. M14
    Love the show. Got me back into being a gun nut again. Within the last year seeing your show I've spent about 8G's on new weapons….Love my Bushmaster ACR and Kriss Super V and such….USMC vet also. Keep the shows coming! All the best to you and "your" cohorts! It's really cool that your daughter is a gun nut!

    • Will_Hayden

      I forgot about the Kriss , I went nuts a while back and got the pistol , carbine and SMG LOL Love them , the SMG is unbelievable . I keep meaning to turn the carbine into a integrally suppressed version , just got to find the minute .

      • Ryan Jones

        I would love to see a Kriss in action. Especially if the integrally is put into it. It would give an mp5a run for it's money. See if you can put it on the show I doubt you or I would be the only ones that are interested in seeing it. Most people have no clue or have never seen one. Plus I think it would be an offshoot to your laptop gun you guys tried last season. As always keep the crew in check. Can't wait for the new season.

  • darrel land

    i watch your show and i am a big fan i grew up with gun and i hope to be bured with one my fav are
    m1 grand rifle
    m 14
    Ar 15 just a well round rifle
    1919 browning 30 cal stinger it kinda make the mg 42 look like a wimp just a lil
    Sturmgewehr 44
    tommy gun best way to put it
    1903 springfeild
    type 99
    1911 colt
    kriss super v i have only seen one up close and it was like heaven never got to shoot it though but the feel is like yah boy my farther got me into it at a young age so i have a thing for guns and i like reenactments ww2 my fav and my guns list is huge but that why i about to start school to build them like u will and thank for a really great show keep it up

  • PAUL

    What a show Will. Thank you from a Brit.
    I've used all below and they are simple and bomb proof. If you had to bet your life on a tool none of these would let you down.

    FN/FAL 7.62x54paratrooper version.
    1911 .45
    Thompson .45
    FN GPMG 7.62×54 (or M240 as you have called it) A battle winner.
    Lee Enfield .303inch Jungle carbine. Hurts a bit but beat Ruger's Scout carbine by 60yrs.
    All the best.

  • Paul Christy

    My faves have all been mentioned above, but I see many votes for the M14. Really? Are we talking about an M14 different from the fiber-glass stocked nasty critter I went through basic with? Do I really need to list its problems? We lugged those dogs while Special Forces got AR15s–and we were mighty jealous. (Later we got M16s, which had their own development problems, but were much superior.)

  • Tom

    Will, your show ROCKS!!! I love old guns myself however, going strictly on military guns I would have to agree on the mg42, and M16, but would opt for the Stg44, AK47, and FAL to round out my list.

  • Old_Sgt

    Just my personal favorites, basically from my 6 yrs AD in the USMC – and later in life. Fun to shoot:
    (Hated the M14 – the flash suppressor kept going out of alignment, altering the accuracy)
    My M1 Garand
    My IBM Manufactured .30 Caliber Carbine WWII Vintage
    Colt .45LC Revolver SAA

  • DonM

    I rather like the
    Hall rifled musket, a big advance from muzzle loaders.
    Spencer carbine, won the battle of 5 forks
    Gatling (pick the .30 Krag version in Cuba, for choice)
    M2 hmg, relied on to put a german infantry company with their nose in the dirt for an afternoon.

  • Robertwatts

    got to say love the selections all apart from the m14's ( just plain no there ! )
    heres my top 5 all time :
    1) BREN GUN …. because its the god father of most modern LMG'S and the first to include an interchangeable barrel .
    2) ANY OF THE AK SERIES … Russian engineering , pure perfection in a firearm * could do with the rear site moving further back for better accuracy .
    3) L85A2 – standard British assault rifle , bull pup master enough said really with the new upgrades this weapon system is fantastic
    4) L115A3 – A high accuracy bolt-action sniper system, based on the Accuracy International AWM rifle fires a .338 lapua magnum round
    5) SIG P229 – sidearm enough said really this bit of kit is self explanatary every serving operator's wet dream really

    • robertwatts

      ok just like to add to this list one more weapon system and that is L128A1 or as the Americans designate it an benelli M4, as a serving member of the British forces i managed to grab hold of one of these bad boys on the range the other day , fitted with an eotech 552 sight and loaded with slugs this bad boy smashed through targets like brick through a window every squeeze of the trigger just lit a fire under my arse and now i gotta have one

  • bhp9

    OK, how about some of the worst military arms ever made.

    1. 1911 .45acp. Hated by most G.I.s because of its inaccuracy, excessive recoil and huge size that did not fit the hand. It was chambered for an anemic cartridge that had such poor penetration and in U.S. military tests after WWII it actually bounced off of a G.I. Helmet at only 35 yards. The 9×19 penetrated the same helmet at an astonishing 125 yards. Most nations adopted the 9×19, because of its superior penetration, low recoil, high capacity and superior accuracy in military weapons.

    1903a3 Springfield. A cheap and inferior knock off of the 98 Mauser. It broke firing pings, had a coned breach which had way less cartridge head support, had a gas hole drilled on the wrong side of the receiver, had a very poor gas escape system and did not have a stepped barrel, many had cheap two groove barrels and undersized bolts for speed of production which resulted in a rough action. It had cheap stamped sheet metal bottom metal and a cheap rear sight.

  • bhp9

    M1 Garand: It broke op-rods, it gauled and seized the bolt when fired in the rain (a special grease was issued to held prevent this) and it did not have a metal lined stock which caused accuracy problems because the stock soon loosened up under recoil. It had a troublesome en-block clip that often jammed if not loaded properly, it could not be topped off resulting in waisted ammunition, and it made a loud clang when ejected.

    M16: Absolutely the worst modern military rifle ever made. It did not work in Vietnam and despite its half-baked improvements does not work in harsh conditions to this very day. No need to go into its jamming stories.

    • Tedgar

      Couldn't agree more! The M-14 is the ultimate upgrade of an M-1. Those M-1 problems mentioned were all corrected in the M-14. If anything, I feel you to be overly complimentary to the M-16 family of rifles. Need I mention I prefer crotch rot to the M-16?

  • BULL



  • Ryan Jones

    I have a bit of a fascination for the Colt SAA and the 1911 as for the ?M 14. I like to think the FAL would kick it's butt in the accuracy contest and over all feel. And the AK and all it's variants have to be on the list. The thompson is just crazy of a weapon to have that much lead being shot at such a short range is just magnificent. And last is the Barrett 50 cal. If the GI's had that at normandy the nazi's would have thrown up the white flag in a hurry. And just for fun is the winchester 73 just because it's just fun to shoot.

  • Millard Fewell

    Mr Will do something good with a Mosin Nagant on your show . Supressor for hog hunting and a night scope. Love the show.

    • Will_Hayden

      I like the Mosin Nagant's but we went in a different direction for a suppressed hog gun . Jupiter filmed it so I can't really talk about it yet . You'll see it in a month or so .

  • simon munslow

    Forget the AK 47- the genesis of the assault rifle was the Sturmgewehr 44
    I agree with the MG42
    Browning 1911
    Gatling gun- first effective MG-basic design still used
    Baker rifle- took world armies to rifles

  • Phillyborn

    SMLE in all its incarnations, K98 ditto, M1 Garand, AK47, 1911. Good show–more of the same, please.

  • Pete

    I was wondering what Will might call the best"bang for the buck" I am thinking about optics for a rifle good up to 1000 yards.

    I would listen to others who have the reps to know.I am thinking Night Force as Trijicon was my favorite but need some new ideas.

  • bob Macke

    Based upon my experience and in the order I shot/used them.
    1. BAR
    2. M-14
    3. 1911A1
    4. Thompson/M3 grease gun
    5. AK47 ( my choice if maintainence materials were not available or almost non existence

    USMC SSGT (ret)

  • Alan_T

    Okay Will , since you asked for my list , here it is :
    1 ) Colt Government Model of 1911A1 .
    2 ) Colt Model P ( single action army )
    3) M1 Carbine …. 3 of my uncles brought theirs home with them from WW II , I know , I know , they were under powered for their mission , didn't have the range , etc. ….. I don't care , it's my list .
    4 ) Winchest Model 97 12 gauge Trench Gun ( the original version that you can hold the trigger down and pump untill you're empty ) .
    5 ) Colt 1860 .44 Army .

  • Guest

    This is my list of the top 5 military guns

    1. AK-47/74 reliable as hell god and knows how many were made both legally and illegally
    2.Mossberg 500 damn good shotgun one of the few shotguns to pass all military trials
    3.AR-15/M-16 low recoil and the new piston models semm like a hell of an improvement
    4.M1911 what other handgun can really claim a 75 year service history
    5.Mcmillan TAC50 holds the record for longest confirmed sniper kill at 2,600 yards

    Just my own opinion

    • Guest

      Sorry little typo on the ak comment i meant god knows how many were made both legally and illegally

  • bob johnson

    1 the m1 garand 2 ak-47/74 3 mg-42 4 mossburg 500 5 ar-15/m16

  • Rich Metzger

    Been 9 weeks since a post! WAKE THE HELL UP, PEOPLE! *banging trash-can lid down the hall*

    Yugo model 59/66 SKS …. 7.62×39 built with thicker steel and heavier woodwork than their Russian/Chinese/wherever-else counterparts, due to ….waaaait forr itttt….. GRENADE-LAUNCHING!

    Garand…fun to shoot 6 rounds, place on "safe", hand to unsuspecting buddy who shoots 2, gets "PINGGGG" and you say, "how the hell'd you break my gun?" :-D

    AR-15/M-16 Eugene Stoner's sense of functional elegance with modern materials…what can I say?

    Model 97 Winchester "trench gun" ….not modern. not elegant. A shotgun with a 16" bayonet affixed makes a statement

    #4Mk1* Smoothest bolt-battle rifle I've shot. Just feels good.

    Not necessarily in any order

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