It’s true: there’s one chance to make a good first impression. Choosing your child’s first rifle wisely goes a long way toward ensuring their lifelong interest.
by Drema Mann, NRA Family
Have your kids ever asked to hunt or shoot with you? If so, you’re like a lot of other folks, and might be wondering where to start. To really feel involved, kids need their own gear — everything from hearing and eye protection to their own rifle. Choosing safety gear is straightforward enough, but when it comes to the rifle, you’ll want to make the best choice to ensure their success and enjoyment.
One: Size it Correctly
The rifle should not be too big or heavy, and the key to that is to make sure to involve your child in the selection process. Many parents purchase a rifle as a birthday present, and that is a wonderful idea. Years down the road it will be a special heirloom. But remember that predicting the arm length of a seven or eight year old is pretty difficult to do, and when the time comes, that rifle might not fit.
When my daughter, Montana, was about seven, she decided she would like to try her hand at shooting. We quickly found most youth guns were too long, and too heavy for her. Her first shots had to be taken from the bench, which was fine, but soon she wanted to shoot standing up like an adult. It took some searching before we found the right rifle. I suggest you visit a well-stocked gun store with your child to try rifles on for size. Much like their jeans, the gun must fit the child, or you could have a problem on your hands.
Two: Get a Good Trigger
Trigger pull weight is crucial too. A good starting point is to try a trigger with about half the pull weight of the gun. Take into consideration the size of the child, and remember, what works for one 10-year-old might not work for another. Some youth rifles have heavy, gritty triggers, and will only lead to frustration for you and your child. Avoid them. A crisp trigger with a light-to-moderate pull weight simplifies the complexities of learning to shoot.
Three: Match Their Personality
Probably the most important part to Montana was that the gun fit her personality. It was by no means one of the most important things to her daddy or me. No flat black or green camo for this girly-girl. She chose, you guessed it, a pink rifle. Maybe she gets that spark of personality from me but, for whatever reason, pink fits her perfectly.
Four: Invest Some Money
And finally, don’t be afraid to invest some money into this new-found interest. The Xbox you bought your child for their birthday cost just as much as a good rifle. The rifle will probably last longer and mean more in the end than any electronic gadget that could be obsolete in a month or two. If the gun doesn’t fit and they don’t like it, they won’t stay interested for long. Involve your child in choosing their rifle. Use it as an excuse to spend some quality time together, and you just might have a hunting and shooting buddy for a long time to come.
For Montana’s first rifle we settled on a Pink Platinum Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22. It weighs only 5.5 pounds and the stock has 1.25 inches of adjustability. She’s proud of her pink first rifle and proud to hunt and shoot. She’s since graduated to bigger guns, but still treasures her first rifle. On crisp fall mornings, you can now find her in the woods with her daddy or me. I can only hope I’m the one lucky enough to be in the stand with her when she takes her first West Virginia whitetail!