I can still remember the days when I longed for my first rifle; the thought of a long shiny blued steel barrel and glossy walnut stock of my very own almost more than I could stand. Now I saw the same look in my little son Josiah’s eyes as he stood, hands shoved deep in his pockets, gazing with earnest shyness into my face as he answered my question. I had asked what he wanted more than anything for his upcoming ninth birthday. His answer? “A gun!”
That was the right answer.
I was in good shape, already having a brand-new Browning BL-22 sequestered away for his birthday. I could hardly wait to see his face when he opened that long, mysterious package. The day finally arrived and his smile lit up the room as his friends Ooo’d and Ahh’d in envy. That night at bedtime he approached me, rifle clutched tightly, and asked if he could take the rifle to bed with him.
“Well yes, son, of course, you can.”
That’s what I wanted to say.
But instead, I advised him to keep the rifle stowed carefully in his room, and to double check that it was empty.
Starting Your Child Right
Most kids love to shoot, and given the right guidance can develop a lifelong interest in the shooting sports and hunting. Who knows, that youngster may turn into your best hunting or shooting buddy. Here are some things to consider when introducing your child to the wonderful world of firearms:
Choosing The Right Firearm For Your Youngster
It’s super important to start your kid off shooting a gun that fits him or her, and is fun for them to shoot. Too often an over-ambitious dad will hand his youngster a 12-gauge shotgun or 30-06 deer rifle for their first shot. “I wanna start him off right! He’s tough, he can take it!” Regardless of how tough a kid is that’s pure stupidity. It’ll install a flinch with an unconditional lifetime warranty right then and there.
The best firearm to start a youngster on is a compact, well-balanced 22 long rifle, in either single-shot or manual repeater configuration. Recoil is minimal, the “bang” isn’t too intimidating, and ammo is cheap.
So why a single-shot or manual action, but not a semiauto? The answer seems obvious, but I’ll elaborate. I can’t count the times I’ve watched a kid with a semiauto .22 make a good shot, then turn to their parent or buddy and excitedly ask “did you see that?” Meanwhile, their gun is pointed at their parent or buddies belly, finger still on the trigger, and a hot round – courtesy of the semiauto action – ready in the chamber. Kids, especially when they are excited, aren’t really good at remembering that their gun gets loaded all by itself.
I start my little ones off at a pretty young age, using little bitty single-shot rifles of various make and model. Josiah passed his hunter’s safety exam last spring with flying colors, outshooting all 18 other students including four adults that were in the class, with his little single-shot rifle. The rifle fits him, he’s been well trained to use proper position and trigger control, and he’s not afraid of it.
My favorite type of 22 to get my children once they are larger, to keep for their own, is a lever-action. Not only are lever actions safe and reliable, they are also fast, easy to work, and ambidextrous. One of the finest available – the Browning BL-22 – is what I got Josiah for his birthday. (I’ll give a full review later, once I climb off this instructional soapbox.)
Safety, Safety, Safety
The bottom line when it comes to safety is instilling the understanding that anything a firearm points its black muzzle at is at risk of being destroyed. It doesn’t matter if the gun is empty, or on safe. I’ve seen empty guns shoot more than once, and safeties fail. Train your youngsters to always maintain good muzzle control.
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Fun Fun Fun!
Next to safety, your most important job as a parent/mentor/teacher is to make every shooting excursion fun. Keep it relaxed, use reactive targets (balloons are great) and have ready snacks. Snacks make everything fun.
It’s a common mistake to let children – or anyone for that matter – shoot a .22 without hearing protection. Yeah, a twenty-two isn’t real loud, but it’s a fact that a 22 report will cause hearing damage. It’s also a fact that the sound of a gunshot – be it a .22 Long Rifle or a .300 Win. Mag. – contributes significantly to the tendency to flinch. So if you want your kid to be able to hear a turkey gobble or an elk bugle, protect his ears. If you want him to be a crack shot, protect his ears.
Two Elements Of Good Shooting
Besides making it fun, two things should be incorporated into your shooting adventures with your little sidekick. First, teach him good shooting positions, so he’s able to hold his gun steady. Second, train him to squeeze the trigger. Do that, and he’ll be outshooting you before you know it.
The BL-22 (Browning Lever-Action .22)
One of the finest lever-action .22 rifles on the market today, Browning’s little lever-guns is well balanced and finely crafted. The BL-22 comes in several iterations including a super-tiny model called the Micro Midas, which features a 16 ¼ -inch barrel, and a 12-inch length of pull – perfect for little-bitty shooters. I purchased the full-sized model for Josiah, knowing that he would grow into it, and it would serve him well for a lifetime of shooting and small-game hunting.
SPECS Browning BL-22 Grade I
- Type: Lever-action rifle
- Cartridge: .22 LR
- Capacity: 15 rds.
- Barrel Length: 20 in.
- Overall Length: 36.75 in.
- Weight: 5 lbs.
- Stock: Walnut
- Receiver: Polished blue
- MSRP: $620
- Manufacturer: Browning
The BL-22 Grade 1 rifle features a 20-inch barrel with a 13 ½ inch length of pull. A short 33-degree lever throw makes the action super fast to cycle. The easy-to-load tubular magazine locks securely shut, with a capacity of fifteen .22 long rifle rounds, and the rifle will accommodate .22 short, .22 long, and .22 long rifle ammunition. The fine front bead and adjustable flip-up rear sight enable a fine bead, while the receiver is dovetailed to accept scope bases. A blued-steel barrel and nicely finished walnut stock round out the package at a handy five pounds.
We took Josiah’s new rifle to the range, testing three different loads and performing several shooting drills without a single malfunction. I used the iron sights for the accuracy tests, my 40-plus eyes still managing respectable grouping at 50 yards. The tightest 5-shot group measured a diminutive .70 inches. They probably all would have looked like that, had I been using a riflescope instead of iron sights.
Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired from a sandbag rest at 50 yards. Velocity is the average of 10 shots measured by a Shooting Chrony chronograph set 10 feet in front of the muzzle.
For more information about the Browning BL-22, click here.
To purchase a Browning BL-22 on GunsAmerica, click here.