As a father, few things are as rewarding as passing along my love of hunting and shooting to my three children. The looks of joy on my kids’ faces when their shot rings a freshly-painted steel target are memories that money can’t buy. Shooting was a way for me to bond with my own father, and I am now enjoying that same opportunity with my family. Teaching kids to shoot builds responsibility and demystifies firearms, hopefully satisfying some of that natural curiosity. With the correct equipment and close supervision, shooting is an incredibly safe activity. The ability to use a firearm safely and put food on the table is a valuable skill that has endured in our nation for centuries.
Through my own experience, I’ve learned more than a few things about the right and wrong way to teach young shooters. For starters, a rifle that fits the child’s stature is an absolute must. A rifle that is too large is setting the new shooter up for failure, so it is important to pick the right tool for the job. A rifle that fits an eight-year-old isn’t going to be ideal for a teenager and vice versa. Length-of-pull and comb height can be critically important since both dimensions are key in ensuring that the shooter can use the sights effectively. It can be incredibly frustrating to both the shooter and the coach when the child can’t find the sights or reticle.
A cartridge that is inexpensive to shoot and minimizes recoil and muzzle blast is a must, making the .22 LR a natural choice. Most children have limited attention spans so creating a rifle that will give the young shooter a good possibility of success is key. Nothing will be more frustrating to a young shooter than not achieving the gratification of a hit on the target so quality sights or the ability to mount optics are a must.
Choosing the correct rifle can mean the difference between your child or grandchild becoming a lifelong shooting enthusiast and someone who is scared of firearms. You only get one chance to take them shooting for the first time. Here is a closer look at four rimfire rifles that are ideal for youth shooters.
When each of my children were born, my local gun store gifted each of them with their first rifles. Those little guns were made by Crickett, pink stocks for the girls and camo laminate for my son. Crickett rifles are single-shots with 11 ½” lengths of pull and 16 1/8” barrels. Weighing just three pounds, these tiny .22LRs are ideal for beginners. As the child grows, spacers can increase the length of pull so the rifle can grow alongside. Crickett rifles are available in a wide variety of configurations and colors and come equipped with simple but serviceable iron sights. I added an optional rail so that I could mount an Aimpoint Micro red dot to my son’s rifle, which uses with great success. For those who own a rimfire suppressor, threaded barrel models are available. I’ve found suppressors to be a fantastic tool for teaching new shooters. Starting at $163; keystonesportingarmsllc.com
A bolt action fire can get a bit boring for a child, especially a teenager. Winchester’s Wildcat is a compact and lightweight semi-automatic .22 LR. With a length-of-pull of 13 ½”, the Wildcat is better suited for older children. This autoloader comes with both aperture sights and a Picatinny rail for mounting optics. Its synthetic stock A 10-round rotary magazine means that more time will be spent shooting than loading. $250; winchesterguns.com
Henry Golden Boy Youth
There isn’t much more American than a lever-action rifle, especially one made by a company that prides itself in making everything here in the U.S.A. Henry’s Golden Boy Youth rimfire will bring out the inner cowboy or cowgirl in all of us. This little rifle can use .22 Short, Long or Long Rifle ammunition, which is a real benefit for younger shooters. Like most lever actions, the Henry feeds from a tubular magazine, the capacity of which varies with the size of the ammunition used. The brass receiver, butt plate and barrel band are a throwback to some of the earliest lever-action rifles from the 19th Century. The length of pull on this Henry is 13” and the octagonal barrel is 17” long. A brass front bead and buckhorn rear sight come standard and the receiver is also drilled and tapped for scope mounting. Like most lever actions, this rifle is ideal for right or left-handed shooters. $589; henryusa.com
Ruger Precision Rimfire
Long-range shooting has become incredibly popular in past years and young shooters aren’t immune to its challenging appeal. Ruger’s Precision Rimfire combines all of the features of its centerfire Precision in a lighter, more compact and less-expensive format. The real beauty of this rifle is its adjustability: The length of pull can be adjusted between 12 and 15” without tools so it can be tailor-fit to each shooter. An M-LOK-compatible forend makes mounting accessories such as a bipod simple and painless. The 18” barrels is threaded ½”-28 at the muzzle, meaning that it is compatible with rimfire suppressors. The rifle looks very modern, like something kids might see in a video game. Let’s face it, that’s important. $529; ruger.com