Choosing the best gun for your child is about more than models and brand names. It is about setting your child on the path and way of life.
Did you know that it takes a village to raise a responsible gun owner?
In rural areas, guns are part of daily life. The entire community helps teach children gun safety and marksmanship.
Children living in cities do not always have this background or community support. Every child, no matter where they live, should have these skills:
- Age appropriate responses to the presence of a gun
- Learn how to handle a gun without endangering others
- Learn how to shoot with accuracy and competence.
- Situational awareness
Over the years, I have helped teach young children about marksmanship and gun safety. My experiences include working with:
- Boy Scouts of America Marksmanship teams
- JROTC shooting teams
- Junior Rifle Club (As an NRA distinguished expert junior shooter, I used to help younger members of the team)
Today, I would like to share some tips on how to get your children started on the path to responsible and safe gun use.
Choosing the Right Gun
When you are choosing gun models for a child to learn on, never forget that there is no such thing as a “toy” gun.
If a device can deliver a projectile, it must be handled with respect and consideration. With that in mind, here are the guns and ammo caliber choices that I have found work best for youths:
Daisy 1938 Red Ryder BB Gun
This is THE classic BB gun ($40).
It is an ideal first gun for any child interested in hunting and competition shooting.
The Daisy 1938 is a low velocity, lever action rifle that can be used in most cities. It has helped many youths safely practice and perfect their style for years.
Gamo Silent Cat Air Rifle (.177) with 4X32mm Scope
This air rifle ($140) is a break barrel single cocking rifle that doesn’t use CO2.
It has a rifled barrel for greater accuracy and pellet velocity can range from 1,000 FPS to 1,200 FPS depending on the type of pellets used.
The rifle has excellent front and rear sights, or the shooter can use the supplied 4x32mm scope.
This rifle makes for an excellent second gun for children aged 8 to 12 and is an ideal intermediary between the BB gun and a .22LR rifle. Usage in city limits varies by local laws.
Crickett Youth Model
The Crickett ($119) is a single shot .22 LR caliber bolt action rifle.
It has a smaller barrel and scaled down design suitable for children aged 6 to 10. This model also features a safety that must be disengaged for every shot.
Children in city settings might have this as a 3rd gun in a series. Youths in country settings might start off with this model.
Henry Mini-Bolt Youth Rifle
The Henry ($239) is also a .22 caliber, single shot, bolt action rifle. It’s size also makes it ideal for children aged 6 to 10. The Henry is similar to the Crickett in that it can be a first or third firearm.
Marlin XT-22 Rimfire Rifle
The XT-22Y ($189) is a bolt action, 7 shot clip magazine rifle. It is good for target practice and small game.
Children aged 10 and up can use this gun as an upgrade from the Cricket or the Henry. Regardless of locality, it should not be a first gun for a child.
What happens after you get your child their first gun?
Seeking Out a Neutral Instructor
As a boy, my father refused to teach me how to shoot, even though he was more than capable. I was surprised to find that some rural community dwellers shared the reasons that he gave me:
- A parent might forgive or overlook dangerous actions.
- Even minor coddling can lead to injury or death for someone later on.
- An experienced instructor will recognize mistakes in form faster.
- Good quality instructors know how to get students to progress with speed and efficiency.
- Gun ownership and use are not solitary pursuits, and should not be seen as such.
- Good marksmanship is a fundamental of safety. Objective teachers are the best ones.
- Bonds built between adults and contemporaries are critical to long term safety and competence.
Seeking Out a Competent Community Instructor
Most people today don’t live in a town where gun traditions have been handed down for centuries. The following groups will be of help no matter where you live:
This program is for children Pre-K to 3rd grade. It teaches them what to do when they find a firearm.
Every child should know these basics, regardless of whether they will go on to shoot or own guns later in life. Children can also visit the Eddie Eagle Tree House website. This site teaches gun safety via colorful videos, sing alongs, and other activities.
In traditional communities, children start hunting when they are about 6 years old.
Eddie Eagle is an excellent program for city dwellers and others that do not plan to own guns. But much more is needed for those who will be involved with firearms.
The NRA Shooting Program combines resources to meet the needs of all ages and skill levels. Visit the site to see what is available in your area, and most suitable for your children.
4H stands for Head, Heart, Hands and Health. It is sponsored by the local cooperative extension.
They focus on teaching children skills that can be used throughout life. 4H also gives children a chance to be good members of the community. Their gun safety and marksmanship programs are excellent and will be of use to all.
National Junior Shooting Camps
Shooting camps have safe, well designed sites located throughout the country.
Their common mission is to provide highly trained and qualified coaches. They are also an excellent resource for advancing junior marksmanship goals.
Some lodges offer hunter safety classes suitable for youths.
Do some research into their safety record before enrolling your child. Talk to the local police and property owners that have a good bit of land with game animals.
Make sure the lodge is trusted by people that have to deal most often with irresponsible gun users. You will not want your child to learn the wrong customs and practices. Later on, bad habits can be hard to undo.
Keep Your Child Socially Connected
Responsible gun ownership, gun safety, and good marksmanship are all lifelong journeys. Practicing good habits and remaining in contact with suitable peers is necessary. Here are some programs and suggestions that can help your child stay on the right track now and for life:
Today, the rate of women becoming new gun owners continues to increase at an exponential rate. Parents that want daughters to get the best possible training should try this group. This organization is also open to adult women that have an interest in being better gun owners.
Junior membership gives access to media on shooting sports, safety, competitive shooting and hunting. Youths also gain free entry to the NRA annual show. The NRA also has programs for adults featuring issues related to gun ownership.
This program focuses on the use of airguns and their use in marksmanship development. Parents, teachers, and activity leaders can learn how to select BB guns or air guns. You will also learn how to construct both permanent and temporary ranges.
In these days, simply being a safe gun owner and good marksman is not enough. Youths that don’t know their legal responsibilities will have problems later on. USCCA, NAGR, and other legislative action groups may not be for children and youths. As your children mature, you may feel it is appropriate to introduce them to these groups.
Understand Why You Want Your Children to Learn About Guns
When I ask parents why they want their children to have a gun, I am often met with silence. Some may say they want their child to take part in a sport. Others say they want their child to be able to hunt for food.
Most parents will not say they are worried about rising crime rates, yet this is a valid reason to learn how to use a gun. No parent wants to think about a time when their child may have to use a gun for self defense.
Being clear about why you want your child to learn how to use a gun is a vital key to choosing a good instructor.
Each time your child practices firing a gun, they will be developing muscle memory. Bad habits can spell disaster while good ones can lead to many rewards. Expensive guns or accessories won’t take the place of good training and quality practice.
As a police officer I have seen what can happen when children and adults misuse firearms.
Just because someone is “under age” that does not mean a gun is a toy. Nor does it mean that serious injury or death won’t result from careless actions. When choosing the best gun for your children, remember it will change your child’s life. Make sure that you include the following points in your purchasing decision:
- Good instructors
- Age appropriate firearms
- A sound social support structure
- Respect for public safety
- Knowledge of gun laws and how they work
- Clear understanding gun uses
You can also start with our Beginner Guides to Shooting.
All these elements work together to make gun ownership a pleasurable and rewarding experience. Ignoring these elements when making purchasing decision is the fastest way to disaster. It is my hope that your children enjoy the vibrance and beauty of the gun culture and gun ownership as much as I do.