With the various hunting seasons approaching or just beginning, it is important that your young hunter is equipped with a shotgun that he or she is comfortable with. Nothing is more important than selecting a firearm that your child can safely handle. If the young hunter is “over gunned”, the experience of shooting can be very unpleasant and may lead to the young person not wanting to shoot the gun at all. To keep this tragic outcome from happening, here are a few things to consider as you choose and equip your young shooter with their first shotgun.
This may sound simple but every year young hunters go into the field with a gun that does not fit them. It is very important that the firearm is light enough for the young person to carry easily and handle safely. Most gun manufacturers make youth models which are scaled down from the adult guns. However, even some of the youth models may still be too heavy for very young shooters just starting out.
I have three youth models for my children and all are very good guns. They include a Remington 870 youth model, a Mossberg 500 Bantam and the Rossi youth model. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I started my children at an early age so I wanted to be sure the gun fit them the best it could. For that reason, I started them with the Rossi youth model which is a single shot. These firearms are very scaled down and lightweight making them easy and safe for very young shooters to handle. As the children get older and stronger they move to the heavier 870 and Bantam pump models.
All gun manufacturers make youth models. Take your young shooter with you as you choose the gun. Choosing the right gun is like trying on shoes or clothes. Because no two shooters are alike, the firearm must fit the shooter so let them “try it on” before you buy it.
This again is a matter of comfort and safety depending on the age of the shooter. It is very important that the shooter’s first experience is a positive one. For this reason, I always suggest beginning young shooters with a .410. Yes, it may limit the game they can harvest initially but making the experience enjoyable far outweighs the long-term consequences of having a young shoot become “gun shy” because of a painful experience. The goal should be to get the young shooter wanting to go hunting or shooting as much as possible. By over gauging the gun from the start, the young shooter may not even want to go hunting or shooting because of the unpleasant experience of shooting too big of gauge.
Both of my children began with the .410. However, like many dads, I wanted them to be able to kill their first turkey at an early age. I tried to get them to shoot the 20 gauge youth model but both of my children found it very unpleasant. As a result, we went into the field with the .410 knowing our effective range will be extremely limited. Needless to say, my son and I had his first two birds at 30 yards but had to let them walk because I felt they were out of range of the .410. Yes, that was tough but I do not regret the decision to make the overall experience pleasant so my children will want to continue to hunt and shoot.
The overall goal of choosing any youth gun is to create a pleasant experience that the young person will want to engage in often. Here are some other tips that will make the shooting experience a positive one.
Although this should be a given in any shooting situation, it is sometimes overlooked. It is very important that young ears are protected by the loud muzzle blast of a shotgun. Always use ear muffs or ear plugs when at the range to make the experience pleasant.
Recoil can be very unpleasant to young shooters. However, today there are several products that can reduce this painful factor. One is the recoil absorbing pads that are on the market made by Simms Limbsaver products. The other is an aftermarket SpecOps stock made by Knoxx. This stock has a recoil reduction system built in and also has an adjustable trigger pull length of 11.25” to 15.25”.
Remember, choosing and outfitting your young shooter’s first shotgun is a very important decision. The bottom line is to choose a gun that will encourage them to want to shoot and not dread the experience.
Good Hunting and Shooting,
Dave Shellhaas, Editor
Outdoor IQ Magazine