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5 Solid Youth Shotgun Choices for Little Hunters

Choosing a first shotgun for kiddos is often a difficult decision, and the choice is a largely individual one based on many factors; this guide will help you through the process.

5 Solid Youth Shotgun Choices for Little Hunters

(Gun Dog photo)

Choosing a son or daughter’s first shotgun is often a difficult decision, and the choice is a largely individual one based on many factors. A youngster’s arm length, strength, stature, fear of recoil, past shooting experience, and mental maturity all play into the decision, as do the various qualities of different types of shotgun actions.

As a freelance writer who specializes in writing for a variety of firearms magazines, I’m often asked by parents what kind of first gun to get their kids. And as a father of four now-grown children, I’ve been through the selection process repeatedly. In a nutshell, you’ll probably be choosing your child’s first shotgun from one of three action types: single-shot, pump-action and semi-automatic. Double-barrels are a possibility, but few true youth-sized double guns are available on the market at this time.

For gauge, you’ll likely be choosing from 12-, 20- or 28-gauge or .410 bore. While many hunters like the 16 gauge, there are few models inexpensive enough for most parents to look at for a child’s first gun. And while the .410 bore has light recoil and some experts are deadly with them, patterns are typically not sufficient for a young hunter to see much success when shooting one.

Single-Shot Youth Shotguns

Many parents prefer to start their children on a single-shot shotgun for two main reasons—they are quite safe and generally can be found on even a very limited budget. A down side, however, is that when kids get old enough and experienced enough to want multiple shells at their disposal, the single-shot can quickly become obsolete. Also, those made for smaller youngsters can quickly be outgrown in just a year if a teenage growth spurt suddenly occurs.

That said, I consider the Pardner from H&R 1871 to be among the best choices for parents who choose the single-shot platform for their youngsters. Lightweight and quick-pointing, these little guns are simple to operate and have few moving parts to maintain.

While not much to look at, Pardner shotguns have brought a lot of smiles to youngsters’ faces over the past several decades. They feature a walnut-finished, pistol-grip hardwood stock, blued metalwork and fixed choke. They are available in .410 bore, 28, 20 or 12 gauge, with barrels ranging from 26 to 32 inches. Additionally, they can be found for under $200 new.

Pardner Shotgun from H&R 1871 (Photo courtesy of H&R)

Pump-Action Youth Shotguns

The pump-action shotgun is also a favorite of many parents looking for a youngster’s first gun. While many hold five or six shells, they can be carried with only one in the chamber for safety purposes when used by beginners. After each shot, the empty must be manually “pumped” out of the chamber, which causes the next shell to be loaded.

The Remington 870 Express Youth shotgun in 20 gauge is what I started my kids on and is still a favorite of many parents. With a downsized stock to fit smaller-frame shooters and a shorter, 21-inch barrel, it is easy to handle for youngsters. But nearly everything else about it is the same as the full-size 870—one of the most popular, reliable pump shotguns in American history.

With its wood laminated stock and satin finish, it is a fine shotgun that would make any youngster proud.

Remington 870 Express Youth Shotgun (Photo courtesy of Remington Arms)

Another great pump gun for youngsters is the Mossberg 500 Youth Super Bantam. Clad in black synthetic or Muddy Girl Serenity camo, it features 5+1 capacity, a 22-inch vent rib barrel and an adjustable 12- to 13-inch length of pull. That allows the gun to grow with the shooter.

Chambered in 3-inch 20 gauge, this little gun weighs just 5.25 pounds and can do it all. It is a little more expensive than the Remington, though, with an MSRP of $487.

Mossberg 500 Youth Super Bantam Shotgun (Photo courtesy of Mossberg)

Semi-Automatic Youth Shotguns

Some parents choose to start their kids on semi-automatic shotguns since they know they’ll likely gravitate that way eventually. Plus, they can be loaded with just a single shell in the chamber for safety for new, inexperienced shooters.

The Tristar Viper G2 Youth shotgun is available with wood and blued finish, as well as black synthetic and several camo patterns. Chambered in 12, 20 or .410, the Vipers have shorter stocks and shorter length of pull than full-size Tristar shotguns, but still offer many of the same features.

Weighing from about 5.5 to 6 pounds, these guns are easy for youngsters to lug around in the field. MSRP starts at about $650 for the Viper G2 Youth line, depending on finish and other features.

tristar-viper-g2 camo-youth.jpg
TriStar Viper G2 Youth Shotgun (Photo courtesy of TriStar)

The Remington V3 Compact shotgun is a pared down version of the company’s popular V3 gas-operated semi-auto shotgun line. With its 23-inch barrel and shorter length of pull, it’ll fit many youngsters quite well. Plus, the gas system is designed to work properly with light 2 ¾-inch loads all the way up to 3-inch magnums. Offered in 12 and 20 gauge.

Remington V3 Compact Shotgun (Photo courtesy of Remington)

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