Re: Clay Gun
For the $500 mark, a previously enjoyed (a.k.a. used!) semi-auto would be the way to go. There are a lot of good choices out there, but gun fit is a big part of which SG to choose. Choices could include the venerable Remington 1100, Winchester SX2 or SX3, Beretta 390, 391, 3901 series. They'll all great guns to start with, can be used with all clay sports (trap, skeet, sporting clays), and can be competative as your friend gets better. I started out with a Beretta 391, and now shoot a Browning Citori XT as my skeet/sporties gun. I do have an SX-2 as my extra gun for friends/wife to use though. Good luck!