Video: The Savage Rascal .22LR boys rifle is affordable, reliable, and safe.
by Scott Mayer
A brand spanking new .22 Rimfire is a rite of passage for many American kids and getting the right .22 is perhaps the most important decision a parent can make. Of all the variables a parent has to consider, safety is probably at the top of their list. Parents need to think about safe places to shoot, eye and ear protection, how to safely store the gun and more. One thing they shouldn’t have to consider is having a gun that is safe, and safe to shoot—those ought to just be givens.
When we get our kids their first gun, it’s natural to want to get them something like what we had as kids, and a popular feature of “boys” guns “back in the day” was a cocking knob. It seems simple and safe enough to open a bolt, chamber a round, and pull back the cocking piece to shoot. I’ve even heard many parents insist on that type of action because they can easily see if the gun is cocked or not. They see the cocking knob as a safety feature.
Well, I’m not so sure about that anymore after seeing the new Savage Rascal at Media Day. Its action is specifically made without a cocking knob—for safety reasons!
You see, when you have a gun with a manual cocking piece and you cock it, you might want to unload it. On the range, for example, a ceasefire might be called. On guns with the cocking piece, you have only two choices to make it unloaded: fire the shot, or pull the trigger while lowering the cocking piece. It’s that lowering the cocking piece where things can get dicey. In hot weather, your hands may be slippery with sweat. In cold weather, your hands might be sluggish and numb. If the child tries to lower the cocking piece, do they have the finger strength to always do it safely? When you think about it, that cocking piece can just as easily be seen as a “not safe” feature as it can a safety feature.
For that reason, Savage opted to have the Rascal cock on opening with a manual thumb safety on the side. That arrangement eliminates the possibility of a cocking piece slippage causing the gun to unintentionally fire.
Like a normal bolt rifle, you simply open the bolt to unload. After giving it some thought, I’m going to have to agree with Savage. There are still going to be those parents who want the visual status feedback that the cocking piece provided. For them, the universally recognized red dot indicating “fire” on the Rascal’s thumb safety should do the trick, and if not, the Rascal also has a cocking indicator on the tail of the bolt.
With a gun that is safe, and safe to shoot, the next thing a parent has to consider is how it fits. Kids grow so quickly that it’s tempting to get a gun they can “grow into”—believe me, I’ve raised four kids and look for shortcuts everywhere I can. But gun fit isn’t a good shortcut. Kids will get tired holding up a gun that is too heavy, and will never develop good shooting form with a stock that is too long. The Rascal has a positively tiny stock that’s just right for your average 7-ish-year-old. And don’t let that tiny stock fool you, plenty of full-grown adults shot the Rascal just fine at Media Day, though I’m not for one second recommending such a tiny stock for full-size people. I’m just saying that there’s probably a lot more growing room in a Rascal than the stock suggests at first blush.
The final consideration, in my opinion, is quality, even in a first gun. New shooters need to enjoy a gun that is going to last and that isn’t going to give them problems. With a gun like that, they have a better chance of developing into happy and successful shooters, and also to develop an attachment to guns that American shooters are known for. The Savage Rascal gets high marks from me on quality—and particularly traditional quality. Its sights are surprisingly excellent. In fact, I think they’re much better than what you find on a lot of full-size and more expensive guns.
The Rascal’s rear peep is a delightful steel piece reminiscent of quality “boys” guns from the good old days. It’s matched with a simple steel bead on post front sight that’s no less nostalgic and sturdy. The only thing plastic I found on the Rascal is the feed ramp. It’s specially designed so that you simply drop the cartridge into the action and close the bolt to get it to feed properly. There is no need to try and pre-feed the nose into the chamber. If you’ve ever shot a .22 on which you do have to feed the nose into the chamber, you know that .22 cartridges can be quite slippery on warm days as their outside lubrication melts.
The Savage Rascal is going to make a lot of little kids happy, and also start them off right in the shooting sports. There are wood- and synthetic-stocked versions and with either one I think you’re looking at a gun that a couple of generations from now will still be in use.