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    In the Swing

    Shopping for a Youth Model Shotgun

    For young people, several manufacturers produce “starter” shotguns like this one, the Youth Single Shot Shotgun from Henry. (Photo/courtesy of Henry Repeating Arms)
    For young people, several manufacturers produce “starter” shotguns like this one, the Youth Single Shot Shotgun from Henry. (Photo/courtesy of Henry Repeating Arms)
    Do you remember when you left hints all around the house suggesting that all you really wanted for your 16th birthday was a new shotgun? Can you also recall the feelings you experienced while finally opening that pleasantly heavy, rectangular, gift-wrapped box on your special day? Interestingly, times have changed. Now parents or grandparents are likely to search for that perfect shotgun for Johnny or Mary at a much earlier age.
    Bryan Bilinski owns Fieldsport, purveyors of fine guns and renowned wing shooting instruction, based in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the country’s leading shotgun fitters and shooting instructors, Bryan is credited with introducing sporting clays to the United States.
    Bryan Bilinski owns Fieldsport, purveyors of fine guns and renowned wing shooting instruction, based in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the country’s leading shotgun fitters and shooting instructors, Bryan is credited with introducing sporting clays to the United States.

    Enter the era of the Youth Gun.

    I thought the pickings for youth model shotguns might be thin. Brother, was I wrong! A number of low- and reasonably priced shotguns are now made for young shooters. And many gun manufacturers offer shotguns specifically designed with smaller youngsters in mind. The type of shotgun you fit to and acquire for a 90-pound 12-year-old will be totally different from one that is ideal for a 15-year-old weighing 140.

    So what is available? Paging through one of my wholesaler’s newspaper-sized publications, I found two pages of shotguns and rifles advertised as “Youth and Ladies Guns,” with over 50 models in various gauges and calibers. Listed below are some youth shotguns for you to consider, categorized by action style.

    Single Shot: The traditional single shot shotgun is simple to operate. It can be carried quite safely, action open, while walking and only closed when a shot is expected. It’s also comforting to know that after a young hunter takes one shot, follow-up shots take a very conscious effort. The simplicity of the design makes the single shot one of the most inexpensive shotguns. At a gun show, you might be able to buy a nice, old H&R Topper for around $150. Other gun-makers currently offer single shots. These include Henry Repeating Arms, ATI, Charles Daly and CVA. The secondary market may also turn up a nice old Savage or a gem of a Winchester Model 37.

    For wing shooting, a shortcoming of the single shot can be the choke selection. Many come with a fixed choked, either modified or full, originally intended for shooting sitting rabbits or squirrels at 30 to 40 yards. Others offer variable choke systems.

    Pump Actions: If sliding the action of a pump gun is difficult for your youngster, use the gun as a single shot until a growth spurt gives Johnny or Mary enough strength and arm length to easily work the action. Learning to use the manual safety button adds to a youngster’s foundation as a safe shooter. As the youngster becomes a more diligent gun handler, a shell or two can be added to the magazine.

    Among gun-makers, Benelli, Browning, Mossberg, Remington and Winchester lead out with nice lineups of pump guns for youngsters.

    Most modern pump action barrels are fitted with removable choke tubes, adding to their versatility. A 20-gauge, chambered for 3-inch shells and plugged for waterfowl hunting, makes a great choice as youngster’s first duck gun. Shooting clay targets with a pump gun can be pure fun.

    Semi-automatics: This action design can also be used as a single shot if desired. Because the energy created by the discharging shell works the action mechanisms on semi-autos, they are among the softest recoiling youth guns you can purchase. Benelli, Beretta, Browning, Franchi, Remington, Stoeger and TriStar all offer youth model semi-autos.

    Side-by-Side and Over-Under: These types of shotguns have never been traditionally made for the entry-level market. Today, however, there are some fine options. Turkish gun-makers, like Condor, Pointer, Savage, Stoeger and Tristar, all offer youth model double guns in sub-gauges. Stevens and Dickinson each offers reasonably priced 20- or 28- gauge over-and-unders that can be customized to fit a youngster.

    If your budget can stand $1,000 or more, the sky is the limit. Even though you might need to shorten the length of pull, the Dickinson Estate and Plantation models and the SKB 200 E Field are also great values.

    The secondary market is wide open with choices like the small-bore models Beretta 426 and 686, Browning BSS and Citori, SKB 100 and 200 or the Winchester Models 23 and 101. All of these can be converted to youth models with some help from your gunsmith.

    Ultimately, the first shotgun you purchase for Johnny or Mary depends on how you would like their journey as a wing shooter to begin. The future can be bright and is up to you!

    Wolfe Publishing Group