January 26, 2022
I spent three years as a 4-H shooting sports instructor, and one lesson I learned from that experience is that kids can’t enjoy shooting guns they can’t control. The primary reason that kids can’t handle and shoot full-size firearms effectively isn’t the weight of these guns but rather the length of the stock. The farther away the center of balance is from a young shooter’s body the more difficult it is for them to manage the firearm.
Finding a gun that fits the youth hunter in your household will go a long way toward maintaining their interest in hunting and the shooting sports. In this article we’ve listed off the best youth firearms for every discipline, whether that’s rimfire target shooting, competitive clay target sports or big game hunting.
Ruger American Rifle Compact
The Ruger American Rifle Compact bolt-action features a shortened synthetic stock with a length of pull of 12.5-inches and an 18-inch barrel, and that keeps overall length you just 36.75-inches. The six-pound Ruger is manageable for kids, and it’s also extremely accurate thanks to its precision cold hammer-forged barrel, Marksman adjustable trigger, and Power Bedding integral bedding block system. The tang safety is easy to access and a picatinny rail comes standard. Chamberings include .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Win, and 6.5 Creedmoor.
Winchester Xpert 22
AT SHOT Show 2022 Winchester announced the addition of their new Xpert 22 bolt-action .22 rifle. This affordable rimfire utilizes the company’s crisp, clean, three-lever MOA trigger system that was only previously available in their centerfire rifles. The Xpert 22 comes with a 10-round magazine and also accepts Ruger 10/22 rotary mags. The polymer stock is rugged and nearly indestructible, but it’s also very light: with its 18-inch barrel the Xpert-22 weighs just four-and-half-pounds and measures just over three feet long. Iron sights come standard, but adding a scope (the top receiver is drilled and tapped) allows you to wring all the accuracy from this rifle.
Franchi Affinity 3 Compact
$950 - $1,050 | franchiusa.com
Franchi’s Italian-made semiauto shotguns use the tried-and-true Inertia-Driven system first brought to market by sister company Benelli and, not surprisingly, the Affinity 3 handles a wide range of shells from dove and target loads to three-inch magnum waterfowl ammo. These 20-gauge guns come with either 24 or 26-inch barrels and four LOP spacers that allow owners to adjust the length of the stock from 12 3/8-inches to 13 3/8-inches. Other features include oversized controls and beveled loading port, fiber optic front sight, screw-in choke tubes and shim kits for adjusting cast and drop. The gun’s overall weight is just 6 pounds or less, but the TSA pad effectively manages recoil.
Bergara BMR Carbon
You can’t go wrong with Bergara’s standard BMR (steel barrel) or BMR Carbon, but I think the BMR Carbon with its lightweight #6 contour carbon fiber barrel and overall weight of 5 to 5.4 pounds is the best choice for young shooters and hunters. Minimal weight combined with superb accuracy make these rifles fun for anything to shoot, and they’re loaded with premium features including a Bergara Performance Trigger (compatible with Remington 700 triggers) and a 30 MOA rail. The barrels is threaded ½ x 28 and you can choose among .22 LR, .17 HMR and .22 WMR chamberings.
Fabarm L4S Sporting Compact
More schools across the country are fielding clay target teams, and the Fabarm L4S Sporting Compact 12-gauge semiauto shotgun can put your young competitive shooter on the winner’s podium. The stock is made from European walnut and features a Tribore protective wood finish, and the stock and forearm have been shortened. This, along with the trim wrist and Monet Carlo stock, help manage recoil effectively. At 6 ¾ pounds, the Fabarm isn’t the lightest gun on the list, but that bit of extra weight combines with the gun’s sophisticated gas system with stainless steel piston make this a very soft-shooting 12 gauge that’s perfect for hunting upland birds, doves, and waterfowl. The L4S is available in both right and left-handed versions, and it’s backed by Fabarm’s fantastic customer service.
Mossberg Patriot Youth Super Bantam Scoped Combo
If you want a hunting rifle that can grow with your son or daughter look no further than the Patriot Youth Super Bantam Scoped Combo. This rifles uses Mossberg’s proven Patriot push-feed bolt action design and comes with a 3-9x40 scope on Weaver rings and a stock spacer that allows for one inch of LOP adjustment (12 to 13-inches). Color options include a black, Muddy Girl Camo (shown here) and TrueTimber Strata, and there are several chambering options including .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester and 350 Legend.
Browning Cynergy Micro Midas
The Cynergy over/under shotgun utilizes reliable mechanical triggers and features a slim receiver profile with silver nitride finish and game scene engraving. The receiver contrasts nicely with the blued barrels and grade I/II satin finish walnut stock. Three Invector-Plus flush-fit choke tubes come standard, and the 20-gauge Cynergy Micro Midas weighs about 6 pounds with either the 24 or 26-inch barrels. Length of pull has been shortened to 13-inches This gun is light and rugged and will serve the young hunter in your family well for years.
CZ 457 VPT MTR
The CZ 457 VPT MTR (Varmint Precision Trainer Match Target Rifle) transforms a standard 457 .22 LR rimfire into the ultimate tack-driver. The heavy target barrel measures 16.2-inches long and comes with a match chamber and ½ x 28 threads. The Manners carbon fiber stock features a unique camo paint finish as well as an adjustable cheek piece and bag cutout. A 5-round magazine comes standard and there’s hardly a whiff of recoil from this 7 pound gun, especially with a suppressor in place. This gun is built (and suitable) for competition, but it’s also a great small game hunting rifle.
I was one of the millions of kids that grew up learning to shoot with a 10/22, and these rifles have all but spoiled me on any other .22 semiauto rifle. The 10/22 is robust and reliable, offering the best rotary magazine in the business and available in a dizzying array of configurations that include a compact model that comes with a synthetic stock with adjustable comb that weighs just 4.4 pounds and measures 34-inches long, making it the smallest gun on the list. If your kid is into competition shooting or hunting—or both—check out this left-handed Custom Shop Competition rifle introduced this year, a rifle that’s accurate enough to win medals or take out small game at the extreme limits of the .22 LR’s effective range.
As its name suggests Minimalist rifles have a modern, reduced laminate stock that keeps weight to a minimum yet remains comfortable to shoot. These bolt-action rimfires are available in .22 LR, .17 HMR, and .22 WMR, all of which come with 18-inch carbon steel barrels with ½ x 28 threaded muzzle and AccuTriggers that adjust from 2.5 to 6 pounds. 10-round detachable magazines come standard and buyers can select either a green or brown laminate stock. With an overall length just over three feet these rifles are very easy to maneuver, and they weigh in around 5.5 pounds.
Winchester SXP Youth Field
Did we say Top 10? One more gun wouldn't hurt.
Winchester’s SXP Youth Field comes with a walnut stock with a 12-inch LOP, which means this 6 pound, 40.5-inch pump gun is manageable for even very small-statured shooters. One reason this gun is so light is thanks to the aluminum alloy receiver which comes with a non-glare matte finish that matches the barrel. The Winchester also comes with length of pull spacers so that stock length can be adjusted as the child grows and buyers have a choice of 12 gauge with optional 20, 22, or 24-inch barrels as well as 20-gauge with optional 18, 20, 22, 24-inch barrels. The SXP is a smooth, reliable pump that’s also very affordable.