I will always remember my first firearm. I was 12 years old, and the firearm was a Marlin model 98 .22 long rifle. The rifle-fed from a tubular magazine in the butt stock. It had been my Uncle’s, as had the .12 Gauge break action that was handed down to me. Both guns were old, had little sentimental value since my Uncle was alive and were notoriously unreliable (had not been properly taken care of).
My Dad, not wanting his son to have inferior firearms, went to the local gun shop and picked me up a Remington 870 Express .12 gauge. I opened the package the 870 came in that Christmas. I pulled back the wrapping paper to reveal those beautiful green letters that spelled “Remington,” and I knew it was going to be a good Christmas! I was taller than most boys my age and I could easily handle the .12 gauge. In fact, I lugged that shotgun all through my beginning hunting years as I pursued turkey and deer in upstate New York. To this day it still accompanies me in the field every year for turkey. I’ll never get rid of that shotgun.
The Right Firearm
As a hunter, shooter and firearms instructor I have folks ask me all the time, “What gun should I purchase for my child?” As a father of three, with my oldest just now closing in on the age where they will get their own firearm, I can say there are 50 different answers to this question. My wife and I both hunt and shoot and our children have shown strong interest in both sports.
After teaching young folks how to shoot for years and taking youngsters into the woods on their first hunt on many occasions, I have some very strong opinions. Here are my top picks for a youngster’s first firearm.
1. Davey Crickett .22 long rifle built by Keystone Arms. This is a great rifle for a little one to start shooting at around the age of six. It is smooth, easy to operate and has a solid cross bolt safety. I like the single shot .22 for first-timers because the process of loading a single shot is a great way to instill firearms safety in your child. And your child is going to have to learn to make every shot count. Single shot rifles also are a great way to conserve ammunition in an ever-changing world. One nice little gimmick about these rifles is they come in several different color options, so a boy can go for black or laminate, and a gal can go for pink.
Price Tag: Around $100-$120
2. Remington 572. The iconic Remington pump .22 has been in production for 60 years. Built like a tank and with a silky-smooth action, this is a perfect .22 for the older child/teenager. It costs a pretty penny as .22s go, but this is a rifle your child will have their entire life and will probably be passed down for a few generations to come! This is not the rifle for a first-time shooter, but for an older child or your teen, there is no better choice out there.
Price Tag: Around $550
In my opinion, a child needs to be around 10 or 12 before being taught to shoot a shotgun. Sure, there are some children who start younger, but with the much stouter recoil it can be hard on young ones. Both of my choices are pump shotguns, as they allow for follow-up shots and their heavier weight reduces recoil for small shooters.
3. Mossberg 510 Youth 20 gauge. This is a great little shotgun. It has a 3-plus-1 capacity, adjustable shoulder stock that grows with your child and an assortment of chokes. You also can purchase an adult stock to install when junior gets bigger. I have found these shotguns to be very quick pointers and very handy in the woods. My wife has one with an adult butt stock and I have even borrowed it before for squirrel.
Price Tag: Around $320
4. Remington 870 Express or Wingmaster in either .12 or .20 gauge. This shotgun has much more heft, is quite a bit larger and should only be considered for your growing teenager. For young ladies and smaller-statured teenage boys, a .20 gauge is a fine choice. For those strapping farm boys in your family, get the .12 gauge – they will thank you for it later on. The Express my father gave me has been with me for more than 20 years. The firearm is indestructible and has never failed me. If you want a prettier gun with superior fit and finish, get the Wingmaster model. Either option, this is a gun that will stay in the family.
Price Tag: Around $320
The Game Rifle
5. Rossi Single Shot Youth .223 Rifle. This is my first choice for a young child’s deer rifle. Yes, a .223 can kill up to a deer-sized critter. With this rifle there is no recoil, which is a very attractive thing for a youngster. No, it is not suitable for elk, moose, bear or anything larger than a whitetail. But if you want a first deer rifle, this can work well. It also is great for kids wanting to get into the shooting sports.
Price Tag: Around $250
6. Ruger American Rifle. This is a terrific, cheap and accurate rifle. The trigger is great and the accuracy and relatively-smooth action are also very good. Fitted with a decent optic, you will be very surprised with the rifle’s accuracy. For the older kid or teenager, this is a terrific choice for a first “real game rifle.” For a younger child, I would suggest a chambering in .7mm-08, which is one of the most effective and light kicking cartridges around. For a teenager, I would choose a .270 or .308 for a little heavier punch.
Price Tag: Around $350
What would you add to this list? Take away from the list? Share your opinion in the section below: