Too much gun? What does it mean? Simple. It means shooting a firearm, any firearm, that isn’t enjoyable to shoot because it abuses the body in one way or another. Sadly, I’ve seen it too many times — the guy on the range forcing his lady to fire a lightweight .45 ACP loaded with red hot man stoppers — the grip too thick and big for her to even get her hand around. The guy at the gun range last year telling his young son to “suck it up” and “bust the damn clays.” Did I mention the kid was 4’9, 100 pounds soaking wet, and was shouldering a 12-gauge Berretta over/under with a 28-inch barrel? I didn’t think much of either situation then, but something happened early in August this year that stopped me in my tracks.
A youth hunter I’d mentored a year ago ran into me at the grocery store and said he’d stopped hunting because he missed three bucks last year and didn’t want to shoot his gun anymore.
I dug deeper.
The gun was a dirt cheap (nothing wrong with cheap in some cases) .300 Win. Mag. that was light as a feather and fitted with a hard-plastic recoil pad. He missed because he was scared of the rifle — hated shooting with it — shot it once before the season and lied to his dad about it being on.
If you’re a hunter and a mentor, whether you’re mentoring your kids or someone else, set them up for success by getting them into a gun that fits them, won’t rock their world, and is fun for them to shoot.
Those who’ve read my work know I’m the first person to through myself under the bus if I think it’s going to help someone else. This is one of the few times I will do the opposite and pat myself on the back.
My son, Hunter, now 17, insisted on toting my Kimber .280 Ackley Imp. Mountain Ascent on his first white-tailed deer hunt at age 12. He loved the gun’s camo pattern, the muzzle break, the sleekness, and he’d heard ol’ dad rave about it being a stone-cold killer. He wanted to send dad’s favorite load, Federal’s 168-Grain Berger Hybrid Hunter, which is relatively hot, into the lungs of a buck.
It would have been easier for me. The gun was sighted in, and I had plenty of ammo. However, I knew it was too much gun for my young son. He was a stocky kid at the time but had short arms; I didn’t feel comfortable with it. So, I dropped a whopping $289 bucks on a Savage Youth Model .243 topped with a Nikon scope. The gun fit him like a glove, and he spent weeks before the season burning through ammo. Because the rifle was fun to shoot, he wanted to shoot more and more. He learned about the gun’s maximum range with the Federal Fusion lead he was slinging and understood because his weapon wasn’t going to produce the foot-pound-energy of, say, a .280 Ackley Imp. or a 6.5 PRC, he was going to have to put the bullet right in the boiler room.
On the fourth evening of his hunt, he dropped a 130-inch bruiser buck with a perfect heart shot at 264 yards. The following year, at 271 yards, he hammered an 85-inch pronghorn. Hunter still shoots his .243 to this day; however, for hunting purposes, he has now graduated to the love of his life — Kimber’s Hunter chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.
In October of 2022, I took a pair of first-time pronghorn buck hunters — one young lady was 12 — the other 13. To clarify, when I say “taking,” I mean helping them and their dad with access.
Grafton Singer is one of, if not the best, rifle shot I’ve ever seen. Last year, he dumped a bull elk at over 1,100 yards and regularly kills critters beyond the 700-yard mark. He’s a ballistics professor (not really, but mostly), and his two girls can flat shoot.
He has spent countless hours at the range with them, but he’s also set them up for success with rifles that fit their petite frames.
“Kids have to have a good first-time shooting experience,” Singer said. “If you get them into a gun that doesn’t fit them or isn’t fun to shoot, they will hate it and may never want to shoot again.”
Singer’s 12-year-old daughter, McKayla, hammered her pronghorn at 81 yards with a custom-built chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Singer added a suppressor to reduce noise and recoil and heavied the gun up to reduce recoil further.
I shot the rifle at a 300-yard prairie dog, and when it goes boom, not only is it easy on the ears, but the recoil is ultra-minimal.
“She can kill everything with this rifle,” Singer said. “She will kill elk and deer with it, and she’s learning to control her breathing and execute perfect shots every time because she’s not worried about the kick.”
Singer’s older daughter, McKenzie, is a sniper. I watched her dump a 437-yard doe pronghorn last season with her Savage UltraLight 6.5 PRC topped with a Huskemaw scope. Later that season, she killed a cow elk at 1,120 yards and distant buck deer.
The curmudgeon amongst us will note 1,100 yards is too far for a young shooter — that these types of shots develop lousy form and a lack of respect for game animals. I’d argue the opposite. Young McKenzie Singer has a rifle that fits her perfectly and produces minimal recoil because of the suppressor and the rifle’s overall weight. The caliber is ideal for long-range shooting, and she has a father who didn’t force her into a gun she was not ready for and trained her to love shooting. By the way, she also smoked her first buck pronghorn this past October.
“I’ve had more than a few people chastise me for letting the girls shoot long-range,” Singer said. “I just smile and laugh. What’s better, a young lady that begs her dad to go hunting or to the range every single day and can drop dimes at 1,000 yards, or a kid who’s enamored with the idea of his first-ever big-game hunt but is terrified to squeeze the trigger on his rifle because it’s a man-eater? Plus, kids get nervous, and when you can set up off the animal and give them time to get into a good shooting position, they can take their time and make an ethical shot.”
If you tailor the gun, regardless of what it is — a shotgun for waterfowl, a big-game rifle, or a plinker- youth shooters will enjoy shooting and will be more likely to stick with it and make it hunting a part of their life as they grow.
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Most big game animals in north America can be taken with the 250 Savage.
The ” Magnum craze” started back in the 1950′ to 1960’s, when gun writers wrote in gun magazines that hunters needed a belted 300 Magnum rifle just to hunt whitetail deer.
You wonder why small cartridges are popular examples, , 17 Hornet, 22 Hornet, 223 Rem., 25-20, 30 Carbine, 300 Blackout, 32-20, 9 mm Luger, 357 magnum in rifles, because of low recoil.
No one wants to go out and shoot a 300 magnum all afternoon and get hit with 30 to 40 pounds of recoil!
The military found out that 15 pounds of recoil was all about the average soldier could handle.
The 17 HMR, 22 LR and 22 Magnum rimfires are all popular because of light recoil.
Would like to see Heritage and Ruger chamber their revolvers in 25 Stevens. Hornady could make new ammo for it. A 65 grain at 1250 fps.
Ruger could chamber their 10/22 rifle for the 25 Stevens and call it the 10/25 !
As a former Firearms instructor, nothing galled me more than the issues of training someone who had been exposed to too much gun, especially with little or no training, and often by the idiot B.F. or Husband who though it was funny to hand a petite woman a 12 gauge with heavy loads, or a .44 mag with the same.
How about their insistence on an auto handgun that they couldn’t even rack the slide?
And I ended up dealing with the fright and now built in flinch.
Look at YouTube, it’s chock full of examples.
Ladies, if your S.O. pulled this stunt, slap him.
Shooting big game animals at long ranges is NOT hunting it’s shooting. You don’t have respect for the game your hunting or lack the skills for stalking. Teaching young hunters to shot long range is cool but not on game animals they are missing the most important part of a hunt. I’m 66 years young I was taught my my father the closer the better. How many animals are wounded shooting at the ranges you shoot?
I agree. Being able to shoot that far is great, but what stalking skills are they learning.
This is a good article; with good advice. When I shoot my 30-06, at the range,I use a lead-sled to absorb the recoil but when I hunt with it I never notice any recoil. The lead-sled makes shooting it fun and not painful, so I am always eager to use the 06, when hunting.
Take the Shot?
Interesting article. Reminds me of my first Centerfire rifle, which at 82 I still have, a Winchester model 88 in 308, and not much later, when we could buy firearms through mail order, a J.C. Higgens model 50 30-06. I was 13 and working in a blacksmith shop and regularly knocking down Jack Rabbits and coyotes. My wife, at 20 years was handling my S&W model 29, 44 mag. better than I could shoot it and that really pissed me off.
Shotguns? At 13, I was shooting a Winchester Long Tom pump in 12 ga. going duck hunting. Don’t remember how much I weighed at 13+ years but in the Navy at 19, I was only 125 lbs. bucking a BAR in 30-06. Young and so-called adults are made a little different today.