The first question we are asked time and time again when someone is looking to buy their child a shotgun is “which calibre do I buy?”. It’s a question many of us have asked over the years and it’s one that can make all the difference to your young ones experience of shooting. Traditionally a young shooter would be started on a .410 side by side
Whichever shotgun you choose for your protégé, nothing is more important than first giving ‘proper instruction’. When we talk about ‘proper shotgun instruction’, we don’t solely refer to safe gun handling but also a variety of other factors such as general shotgun handling, swing and so forth.
An ideal shotgun for a young shot is one that fits them and one that is not too heavy or powerful enough to give them a recoil experience they will never forget. The idea is to encourage confidence in them as so they become accustomed to the shotgun, its handling and so forth as only this way will you find that their interest in the sport progresses. Whether or not you should start them off with a .410, 28-bore or a 20-bore depends on their stature, currently abilities and the amount of time they intend to use it.
A .410 was traditionally as we mentioned above the starting platform for many young shooters. It benefits from being largely lightweight with limited recoil but it does have some negative aspects that you should at least consider. The .410 shotgun provides somewhat of a limited shot pattern which in turn increases the chances of missing the target time and time again. As we talked about earlier, the idea is to create confidence in your protégé and as you may know, missing targets is often a frustrating experience. In our opinion, the 4.10 shotgun would ideally suit a young shooter with an average build who already displays good shooting skills or has the intention of shooting often.
28 Bore & 20 Bore Shotgun
More so now than ever before, the 28 Bore and 20 Bore shotgun is becoming more popular with young shooters and there is good reason for it. Although these shotguns are typically heavier than a .410 shotgun, they do provide more firepower which in turn enables the youngster to increase his/her chances of hitting the target. The one slight drawback to 28 bore and 20 bore shotguns other than their increased weight over the .410 is recoil. The recoil in these shotguns will be more pronounced but it is possible to reduce recoil to almost nothing with the right shotgun cartridge. In our opinion, we feel that a 28 bore or 20 bore shotgun would typically suit a young shooter with an average to above average build with little or limited shooting experience. The benefits of the increased firepower and possibility for limited recoil, they make for a great all round starter shotgun.
Just like clothes, children will grow out of their shotgun fairly quickly. So whilst it is important to ensure that whatever shotgun you buy fits your child in the first place, do also expect to take a fairly regular trip down to the gunsmiths for a regular fitting. It’s important to note whilst we are on this point is that you can buy the best shotgun with a suitable gauge for your child but if it doesn’t fit them, you’re fighting a loosing battle from the start.
Over-Under Vs. Side-by-Side
Whether you should pick an over-under or a side-by-side is more of a personal choice. Over-under shotguns for youngsters tend to suffer from less recoil and they can also be slightly easier to teach with but there is a negative and that’s weight. If you think the weight of the shotgun for your youngster is going to be an issue, then a side-by-side may be most suitable. There are those of course like us here at Guns and Country who prefer the side-by-side simply because of tradition. Overall, it really comes down to personal preference and what they’re most likely going to be shooting and how often.
In our opinion, we feel that for the average youngster who is showing an interest in shooting would best be suited with either a 28 bore or 20 bore shotgun provided you a good shotgun cartridge. Choosing either one of these shotguns will more than likely encourage further confidence growth in your child through them hitting the target thanks to the increase in fire power over the .410. As for whether we think you should choose an over-under or side-by-side is a tricky one. If you are a traditional game shooter who rarely visits a clay ground, then we would suggest a side-by-side. If your child is more than likely to be given tuition at a clay ground and participate in the odd drive, then an over-under would be our recommendation.
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