Favorite Firearms: Grandpa’s Single-Shot Gift

posted on March 5, 2024
Remington single-shot rifle

My maternal grandparents lived in De Smet, S.D. (from Little Town On The Prairie). Growing up in rural Minnesota, we loved visiting Grandpa and Grandma. It was like a step back in time; it was where the West began.

When I was 11 or 12 years old, Grandpa tasked me to haze the blue jays from his garden. My tool was a Remington single-shot rifle that hung over the back door. Grandpa and Grandma lived on the far western edge of town, and there were miles of open prairie behind them, so it was pretty safe to turn a kid loose with a rifle.

Grandpa told me that, one day, the rifle would be mine. But my dad cautioned me not to bug Grandpa about it because we wouldn’t want to embarrass him if he forgot. One Sunday, we were loading up to go home, and Grandpa said, “You better take your rifle.” I couldn’t believe my ears. All the way home, I was imagining the adventures my rifle and I were going to have. We became inseparable. The rifle always only had match sticks for a rear sight bridge, but it didn’t matter—I could hit whatever I pointed at.

As a kid, mom’s older brother Bill had laid claim to the rifle and carved his name and initials into the stock. (What’s a kid to do on long winter nights before television and video games?) Growing up, Uncle Bill and I had opportunities to hunt and plink together, and I regret never asking him about the rifle. I was concerned that he might think I may not have been the natural heir to the rifle. Thinking back, I’m sure my concerns were unfounded. Grandpa had 13 other grandchildren he could have given the rifle to, but I’m pretty sure not one of them could’ve cherished it more than I did.

I’ll always be grateful to Grandpa and his insight. My hope is that I will have equally good judgment when the time comes for me to pass it along.

—Joel Johnson


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