What’s The Best Shotgun For A Young Kid?
Do you remember the first time you hunted pheasants or ducks? Many of us were introduced to bird hunting by a parent, sibling, or family member with a passion for the outdoors. Times spent with this person may be some of your most cherished memories.
Now it's your turn to introduce you son, daughter, or nephew to wingshooting. Of course, there's a lot for them to learn before they pick up a shotgun. But when the times comes for them to get one, here are some things to consider.
Are They Physically Ready?
Shotguns kick, and handling them safely requires body mass and upper-body strength. So regardless of how mature a kid is or how much time they've spent around firearms, if they're too small, shooting a shotgun--any shotgun--isn't a good idea.
Until they weigh around 100 pounds, you're better off focusing their energies on just getting outdoors. If you want them to learn how to shoot, start with a pellet gun and then graduate to a rimfire single-shot bolt rifle (under your supervisions, of course).
The first time you fired a shotgun, you were probably terrified of recoil. Like puberty, recoil may have been something you had heard about and we're not looking forward to experiencing.
Now you can shoot a round of sporting clays without even thinking about recoil. But the first time your kid fires a shotgun, they're going to have it on their mind. So be sure to take recoil into account. If a gun kicks a lot and hurts them, your kid may be reluctant to try shooting again.
Youth Models Aren't For All Youths
Each year, Santa brings thousands of kids their first shotguns. And what model does he leave under the tree? Short-barreled, short stocked ones marketed to gullible parents as "youth" guns. But by the time most kids are strong enough to handle a shotgun, most "kid appropriate" models are too small. And while you can always lengthen the stock, you can't do the same with the barrel.
Get a gun they can grow into Instead of a "youth" model, buy a regular shotgun with a 26" barrel and a standard stock. Then have a gunsmith cut the stock down to fit. When your kid gets older, you can add this piece back on. Or pick a shotgun model that offers a range of stock sizes. Then you can swap in bigger stocks as your kid grows.
Smaller Gauges Don't Always Equal Less Recoil
Quick quiz: Which recoils more—a 12-gauge shotgun firing a 2 ¾", 1 ? ounce load or a .410 shooting a 3", 1 ? ounce load. Answer: The .410. It recoils a whole lot, make-you-say-ouch more. Why? Because .410s are lightweight, and without weight to soak up recoil, these little guns kick harder than their heftier, 12 gauge cousins.
Keep these two formulas in mind as you introduce your kid to shotguns: Generally, light guns + heavy or high brass loads = lots of recoil; Heavier guns + lighter or low brass loads = less recoil. And just to be safe, keep your kids away from any kind of magnum loads. They aren't worth the all the recoil they generate.
The Right Gun For Now And For As They Grow
Now that you've considered all the above, you're ready to make the big decision. Which type of shotgun should you buy a young shooter? While a semi-automatic in 20-gauge will be a bit on the expensive side, there are several reasons why it's probably the best choice.
First, with their self-loading designs, semi autos soak up a lot recoil. This makes them fun to shoot, and if you want a kid to go shooting again and again, make sure they have fun every time. Second, the scaled-down proportions of 20 gauges are a good fit for the smaller hands and frames of young shooters.
That being said, these guns aren't too small, so a kid can grow into them and use them for years. Finally, 20-gauge ammunition is easy to find and affordable (unlike ammo for 28 gauges and .410s).
With a 20-gauge semi-automatic shotgun in their hands and you by their side, any kid will be ready to learn how to shoot—and have fun while doing it. With a little practice, they'll be ready to hunt birds. Together, you can get started on creating memories you'll both cherish forever.