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Best Youth Shotguns for Little Duck Hunters

Helpful Hints and Suggestions to Find Your Little Hunting Buddy Their Perfect Shotgun

Best Youth Shotguns for Little Duck Hunters

(Photo courtesy of Travis Smith)

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We all remember our first time shooting a gun. If you are like me, your mom or dad eagerly went over all the safety protocol, they had you sit right in their lap, and they told the standard “Breath out slowly and just ease on the trigger.” And then, BLAM! Your body was rocked back and the smell of burnt gunpowder packed your nostrils, sparking a flame for that adrenaline rush that comes when you pull the trigger.

For most, this first exposure was with a timid kicking .22 LR that may have tickled your shoulder but certainly didn’t rock your world. While this first time was fun and made you yearn for more, things probably changed when you stepped up to a small-caliber rifle or your first shotgun. For me, my first step up was to a beautiful little H&R 20-gauge single shot that kicked the living tar out of me. Not only did it give me a rude awakening to the power behind the bang, but it also gave me a hard case of the flinches. I would like to say my parents should have done better, but we weren’t sleeping on a mattress of hundred-dollar bills—they were more “swimming in the bathtub of pennies,” and they bought what they could afford. I had wanted to hunt with my dad since the day I realized what hunting was, and despite being scared to death of pulling the trigger, I certainly wasn’t going to let it keep me from going.

Where to start

The thing about picking the perfect gun for a child is that it isn’t always straightforward. For instance, just because the gun is a 20-gauge doesn’t mean that it doesn’t kick like an angry mule. When I was a kid, there weren’t many options. Today, we can’t say the same thing. Multiple manufacturers make small-bore shotguns and make them in configurations specifically for youth that include shorter barrels, shorter length of pull (LOP), and recoil-friendly features to help lessen the blow. By carefully selecting the right firearm that fits the shooter's style and stature, and not just the smallest gauge or lightest option, the recoil will be reduced.

To best determine why picking the right shotgun matters, we went straight to an expert and all-around great dude, Foster Bartholow. Not only is Foster a Browning/Winchester Pro-Shooting Ambassador, but he is also a trap shooting phenom and shooting instructor at the Bartholow Brother Shooting School. “Kids need to get comfortable first and establish confidence,” stated Bartholow. While hitting the target is ultimately important, if a kid is uncomfortable with the gun they are shooting, they will struggle to improve and may eventually get discouraged and want to quit. “Having access to the Browning arsenal at the school is incredible and allows kids to try out different firearms to find the gun that fits them the best.” While Bartholow understands that not everyone can “try out” different firearms, he believes it is important to have kids handle different guns before selecting the right one instead of buying a gun and just forcing them to use it. If the gun fits properly, target acquisition will come easier, success will be quicker to establish, and the experience will be pleasant rather than painful. He has seen first-hand how simply trying a different firearm improved the shooter’s experience by making it more comfortable for them and then more successful.

To get started, always use lower dram shells and only ease into higher velocity ammunition or longer shells as confidence builds. 2 ¾” shells are just as lethal as 3” shells if the target range is kept in check. “When getting a youth started, there is no better place to start than on clay targets,” says Bartholow. At the range, young shooters can work on their swing and lead, and as they start to make contact, you can help them understand if they are hitting high or low or in front or behind the bird. Additionally, you can try out different strategies to manage felt recoil. “The use of a comb raising kit will help soften felt recoil and help fit the gun to the individual,” Bartholow notes. These kits are available in adjustable configurations that can rise up in increments to help ensure that the cheek remains in contact with the stock to minimize the recoil of the stock and keep it from popping them in the face.

To help inform readers of just a few options available to youth hunters, we selected a few different manufacturers to consider for youngsters of all statures and experience levels.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas

Browning Silver Field Micros Midas
Browning Silver Field Micros Midas

Bartholow couldn’t overstate the benefits and value of Browning’s Silver Field Micro Midas. With a shorter length of pull and compact dimensions, the Silver Field is tailor-made for a youth hunter. It includes a silver and matte black bi-tone receiver finish and is a proven gas-operated autoloader. A gas-operated semi-auto will help reduce felt recoil by extending the length of time that recoil is felt, creating a “push” rather than a blunt punch. The Silver Micro Field uses Browning’s Active Valve System that allows it to operate with both light and heavy loads flawlessly, allowing you to go from the range and to the field without fearing a hang-up when the action gets hot. Pretty with a purpose, this is one that can be passed down from young gun to young gun to keep the flame alive for generations to come.

Starting at $1,070 | www.browning.com

Mossberg FLEX 500 Bantam – All Purpose

Mossberg Flex 500 Bantam - All Purpose
Mossberg Flex 500 Bantam - All Purpose

The FLEX Bantam model was designed specifically for youth hunters. Standard, it features a FLEX stock with a 12.5" length of pull and a 22" barrel, but that is where it starts. The FLEX system is unique in allowing the gun to grow with the hunter. It allows for tool-less changeout of the buttstock or recoil pad to help fit a youth hunter when they start and lengthen as they grow. You can even purchase a four-position hunting stock that adjusts both the length of pull and the comb without the need to buy addition components. The Bantam isn’t just a short barreled 500 either, it includes kid-friendly smaller grip for easier trigger pull and an EZ-Reach fore-end for shorter reach while cycling the action.

$564 | www.mossberg.com

Recommended


Benelli SBE 3 Compact

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Compact
Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Compact

Benelli’s new SBE 3 compact is a great choice for investing in a gun for life. Boasting the same mechanical features as the original SBE 3, the compact is shorter and lighter for improved handling, fit, and comfort for those with a shorter length of pull. Designed with a 26” barrel and 13 ⅛” pull, the SBE 3 is perfect for those of a shorter stature creating an improved shooting experience. It is available in 12, 20, and 28-gauge variants, with the 28 tipping the scales a paltry 5.4 pounds. 28-gauges, especially those loaded with modern non-toxic loads, are a great option for a light kicking shotgun with a slightly larger payload than a .410 and slightly less recoil than a 20-gauge.

$1,950 | www.benelliusa.com

Mossberg 500 Bantam .410

Mossberg 500 Bantam .410
Mossberg 500 Bantam .410

Looking for a light-kicking .410 to get your young hunter started? If so, check out Mossberg’s sweet-shooting 500 Bantam .410. Equipped with a 13-inch LOP and weighing 6 pounds, this gun has enough weight to soften the blow of recoil and the correct LOP to fit a smaller-statured hunter. Equipped with TSS shot, the .410 is proving to be a deadly option, sacrificing only payload, not lethality. Plus, you can start out your hunting buddy with some 2 ½” loads that will get them excited about shooting without it knocking them out of the canoe. Sounds like a win-win to me!

$518 | www.mossberg.com




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