How to Choose Your Child's First Gun

I had the pleasure of joining my brother, two nieces, and one of their friends from school for a training session at gun range recently. The girls were aged 12 to 15 and all of them had at least a little training regarding gun safety in the past. I reviewed some safety rules with the girls and made sure we all understood the same technology before it was time to shoot. One of the girls looked at me once it was her turn to practice with the .22 pistol and asked, "will this hurt?"
I thought about it for a minute then realized her question is no laughing matter. In fact, her question is a perfect summation of the two major issues faced by children when they first learn to handle a gun: The amount of recoil a child new to shooting experiences and the need to find a gun that is a good fit for the child.
In addition to leaving a child both tired and sore, these issues can cause them to believe they are not very good with the gun. The good news is these problems are easily addressed by selecting guns that are more suitable for smaller users.


Many experts believe a handgun is the most difficult type of firearm to learn to shoot accurately. The three Ls should be considered when a handgun is considered for a child for the first time. These key attributes include low recoil, lightweight, and light trigger pressure. The semi-automatic .22 long rifle scores high for all three Ls. There are many manufacture offerings for this type of firearm that include the Browning Buck Mark and Beretta U22 Neo.


You can not go wrong when you use a .22 caliber firearm to introduce a kid to rifles. The guns are fun and easy to shoot and you can purchase an abundance of ammo for a decent price.
A single shot rifle like the Savage Rascal is often recommended for introducing children to firearms. These guns are extremely safe and help the child to concentrate on shot placement.
On the other end of the spectrum, semi-automatic rifles like the Ruger 10/22 will allow for much more flexibility. Another advantage of these guns is that they are likely to last long enough for the child to later pass down to their own children.


Shotguns are a little different from pistols and rifles in that there is no need to facilitate shot placement by remaining as still as possible while shooting. Whether the target is a sporting clay or you and your child are hunting waterfowl, a nice and easy swing will be needed to consistently strike the target.
You will need to find a shotgun that possesses a suitable shoulder stock length and perhaps shorten the barrel so that the front of the gun will not be so heavy when the child you are introducing to the gun has a small frame. Remington, Mossberg, and Winchester are among the companies that produce shotguns that are already trimmed down for smaller shooters.
The gauge of the shotgun will be the next most important consideration when being purchased for a child. The 12-gauge is popular but produces a substantial amount of recoil. The 20-gauge and .410 are the two basic options once the 12-gauge is no longer on the table.
The .410 does not produce much recoil and these shells often fit the most lightweight and easy to handle shotguns on the market. However, these guns are not known for accuracy and kids tend to outgrow them rather quickly.
The 20-gauge shell carries about 20 percent fewer pellets than the 16-gauge but shooters enjoy 50 percent less recoil. It might be important to remember that shotguns are not nearly as popular with young shooters as are pistols and rifles. For this reason, it may be better to borrow a shotgun for the child to use before committing to a purchase.

The Benefits of Positive Practice

Children are not much different from adults in that they would much rather spend their time with activities they enjoy versus activities they dislike. This means you should work to ensure an experience for your young shooter that includes developing their gun handling skills while enjoying successful strikes to the target. You should adapt the shooting range experience for the child in a manner that is common when children train in for a sport like baseball or football.
You can provide your young shooter with instant success as well as positive reinforcement by moving the target close enough to them to greatly improve their odds of hitting it. Another idea is to use interactive targets that allow the young shooter to clearly see the locations of his or her target strikes.
It is also important not to add too much weight to the experience for the child by lecturing too much. You should select a few basic skills like a strong stance and proper grip to discuss. You should also use praise and positive speech to deliver your instructions instead of criticism. Positive energy from you will provide the child with the desire to keep practicing and the confidence to ask questions while they learn the ins and outs of handling and shooting guns. 
Joshua Keaton

Joshua is our senior staff writer for and He is an avid hunter, clay shooter and amateur photographer.