“I call shotgun” takes on all-new meaning when it’s in the context of choosing firearms. And when it comes to kids and shotguns, there seem to be two groups of thought: 410 Bore shotguns are great learning tools for kids, and shotguns don’t have much use for kids. The truth falls somewhere in the middle. Shotguns can be fantastic options for kids. They’re versatile, have relatively simple controls, and come in all shapes and sizes. Here’s our top 5 list of shotguns to consider getting for the kid in your life.
Are shotguns good teaching guns?
Whether or not shotguns are good for teaching kids to shoot is generally a matter of opinion. After all, shotguns are relatively simple platforms, and when they’re chambered in something like 410 Bore, they don’t produce excessive felt recoil. So, could you use a 410 Bore or even a 20 gauge shotgun to teach kids to shoot? Absolutely.
One of the downsides to using any long gun to teach your child to shoot is its size. If the overall length and length of pull of the gun in question is too big for your child, it’s going to be awkward. Even worse, it can be frustrating to the point of making them not want to shoot, or it could be dangerous. It’s a wise idea to use guns suited to the shooter’s size, and that might mean investing in a youth-size shotgun. In fact, that’s true no matter what. Until your kids are big enough to handle a standard shotgun, they’ll need a youth model.
Bottom line is that shotguns are just fine for new shooters, just take the time and be willing to spend the money to get the specific firearm that fits them.
1. Mossberg 500 Youth Bantam
Mossberg has a stellar reputation for making durable, reliable shotguns. The Mossberg 500 Youth Bantam maintains the general design of the standard 500, but with controls sized down for kids. Kid-friendly features include:
- Smaller grip for shorter trigger reach to accommodate small hands.
- EZ-Reach forend so the distance required to reach and cycle the gun is abbreviated.
- Shorter barrel length for a better balance for youth shooters.
- Slightly shortened length of pull.
This shotgun is offered in 410 Bore, 20 gauge, and 12 gauge, making it possible to get the chambering you want in the platform size you need. The 500 Youth Bantam is a good entry-level shotgun for youth shooters that’s built to handle heavy use. Who knows, they might hang onto it for their own kids someday.
2. Winchester SXP Field Compact
This shotgun is made for kids or for shooters who are simply smaller in stature. It’s designed to be lightweight, easy to swing to your shoulder, and versatile. Features of the Winchester SXP Field Compact include:
- Compact 13-inch length of pull to better fit smaller stature shooters.
- Satin-finished stock and forend with traditional checkering provide a sure grip when the hunting action gets hot.
- The back-bored barrel provides optimum shot patterns that are dense and even.
- A 3-inch chamber gives you the added range to knock down game with heavy hunting loads.
- Invector Plus choke tube system offers consistent patterns to match your game and situation.
- Hard chrome plated chamber and bore make surfaces highly resistant to wear and corrosion.
- Black chrome protection on the bolt and other components lasts longer than traditional bluing.
- The brass front sight bead offers a fast, natural sight picture.
- The 3-shot adaptor with speed plug system is easily removed without tools.
- The drop-out trigger group allows easy cleaning.
- Crossbolt safety is easily operated.
- Inflex Technology recoil pad directs felt recoil down and away from your cheek to reduce flinch.
Winchester manufactures the SXP Field Compact in 20 gauge and 12 gauge. This is a pump-action shotgun, which can be a great benefit to youth shooters. Yes, they have to learn to cycle the action smoothly, but it also means there’s not much likelihood of unwanted rapid-fire shooting (not without practice).
3. Remington 11-87 Sportsman Youth
It’s impossible to put together a list of youth shotguns without including the Remington 11-87. This is a classic model that’s been around since 1987 (as its name suggests). A lot of us have some variant of this gun in our collections. The 11-87 Sportsman Youth is a solid choice for kids in search of their first shotgun. Features include:
- A shorter length of pull than standard model 11-87.
- Adjustable length of pull system.
- The gun is designed for lighter felt recoil.
- Overall length shortened for improved balance.
- It’s lightweight at only 6.5 pounds.
- It has a rugged synthetic stock.
- It is semi-automatic, so no need to work the action.
This shotgun is available in 20 gauge. It’s a semi-automatic, which has its pros and cons. From a functional standpoint, running a semi-auto shotgun can be much simpler, not to mention easier when it comes to hunting. It might require an additional layer of training and practice to ensure your child doesn’t rapid-fire unless they’re specifically allowed to do so. The Remington 11-87 Sportsman Youth is a nice little shotgun with decades of use and performance backing it.
4. Beretta A400 Lite Compact
Unlike some youth or compact models, the Beretta A400 Lite Compact is made to fit the shooter as they grow. The gun can be regularly used for a longer stretch of time, if not permanently, and also makes it more useful for other shotgunners in your family. The A400 Lite Compact can be quite compact for small children or it can be adjusted by adding one of the numerous spacers and also by using the choke and barrel extender. Features of the gun include:
- Stock adjustable for length of pull by using one or all of multiple spacers.
- Shorter overall barrel length.
- 20 gauge chambering for less felt recoil.
- Gun Pod 2 to track and record use.
- Compatible with standard aftermarket stock.
- Microcore recoil pad for comfort while shooting.
This gun is available in 20 gauge which is a good option if you want something larger than the diminutive 410 Bore, but smaller than 12 gauge. It’s a semi-automatic design with a reasonably light gas system, so there’s no need to struggle with a pump action. The fact that it grows with your child is a strong selling point because not all youth or compact models are made to do that.
5. Franchi Affinity 3 Compact
Yes, there are shotguns out there made for kids that have camo finishes. The Franchi Affinity 3 Compact is a fantastic example of a well-made youth model that was also created with an eye for hunting performance. It’s offered with two different barrel lengths, so you can choose according to both purpose and the size of the child, and has a youth-size stock. Other features of this shotgun include:
- Evolved ERGONOM-X Designed from the ground up to provide optimal comfort in any shooting position.
- The Inertia Driven system employed in the Franchi Affinity 3 and 3.5, affords these shotguns a lighter, slimmer profile for better handling. With no heavy gas cylinder under the forend, Franchi Inertia Driven shotguns balance and swing like a fine gun should.
- Omni stock adjustable fit stock. Stock drop and cast adjustability for a truly optimized shooting experience.
- TSA recoil pad. A revolutionary design proven to reduce felt recoil by up to 50% and make shooting more enjoyable. It also reduces flinching, which improves accuracy and allows for faster follow-up shots. Rounded edges minimize the chances of snagging on clothing when the gun is raised to shooting position.
- Choke tubes in C, IM, and F.
- 5 stock drop and cast adjustment shims.
- Over-sized controls for simpler operation.
Franchi manufactures the Affinity 3 Compact in 20 gauge which is a capable chambering for going after turkeys and other animals.
What’s your favorite youth shotgun? What was your first one? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.