What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys? Well, plinking, of course! And what are the tools required for plinking? Typically, but not always, the firearms of choice — whether pistol or rifle — tend to be chambered in a rimfire cartridge.
That’s a special cartridge and a great one for children, especially youngsters new to shooting. More on that in a moment. But, if you haven’t already, make sure you’re up to speed on this “Kids And Guns” series.
- The Basics
- Competitive Shooting
- Older kids
- Tactical Kids
What is Rimfire?
Rimfire is one name for a .22. Twenty-twos used to be the only thing that was rimfire, but today there are a few other options in rimfire.
For clarification, what separates a rimfire round from a centerfire round is that for a rimfire, the primer material is in the rim, and it is ignited by the firing pin striking the base or rim of the cartridge, whereas a centerfire cartridge is ignited when the firing pin hits the primer in the center of the cartridge.
The most popular rimfire round is .22 Long Rifle. That is the round we’re going to consider as the focal point of this article and what’s generally thought of when you use the term “rimfire.”
Twenty-twos come in a plethora of forms. There are single-shot Crickett Rifles made by Keystone Sporting Arms, .22 conversions for an AR platform, Ruger 10/22s, Ruger Mark I, II, III, IV, Bearcat .22 revolvers, and .22s pistols in semi auto.
You can shop for an array of firearms chambered in .22 LR on GunsAmerica:
What does rimfire have to do with kids?
Rimfire guns are small, relatively quiet, and they don’t pack a lot of punch, meaning the average recoil felt is much softer than a large caliber round, which makes them ideal for small frames and small hands.
Rimfire is a great way to introduce a child to shooting in a very controlled environment; free from things that can startle or scare them. You want them to have the physical ability and confidence to hold up the gun, fire it, and not be pushed off balance or intimidated by the recoil impulse.
If you look at the measurements of kinetic energy in a .22 LR versus other popular rifles, you find that a .22LR (168 j) cartridge only packs a fraction of the power found in a .223 cartridge (1,854 j), and much less than a hunting round, like .308 Win (3,217 j). For your reference, these measurements are from a table found here and kinetic energy is measured in Joules.
To put the power in a .22LR into perspective for your kids, you can share that Tiger Woods’ drive carries about 180 joules, and a hockey player’s slap shot about 240 joules. This might help convince the timid shooter that a golf ball is more menacing (at least from a physics standpoint) than your tiny .22, and it definitely explains why rimfire .22s are so great for teaching new shooters, as little to no recoil can really help one focus on the fundamentals of shooting: breathing, stance, grip, target acquisition, trigger control, etc. When a new shooter can focus on the fundamentals instead of controlling recoil, they can really begin to learn how to shoot.
Using a light, small gun and what historically has been cheap ammo is also a great way to teach the fundamentals of marksmanship. Kids can shoot a .22 in preparation for hunting and learn how to aim, align the sights, squeeze the trigger, and follow through without having to use more expensive rounds. To build the muscle memory and familiarity with handling firearms safely, .22s make a great training tool.
But what’s fun about tiny guns? You can’t blow stuff into pieces like you can with a shotgun or larger caliber rifle. And kids love the idea of blowing stuff into pieces. It’s in their nature, right? Well, let’s take a look at a few ideas of fun things to shoot with your .22.
Things to shoot with your rimfire:
Quarters: Forget about party favors at your next birthday bash, let the kids each shoot a quarter with a .22 and make a bracelet or keychain out of it. This fun task requires good sight alignment and trigger control. Quick tip, paint the quarter orange so if it falls off the target once it’s been shot, you can find it rather easily. This will prevent tears, I speak from experience.
The best way to shoot quarters is to tape them to a paper target, and take aim from a safe distance while using a rest. Take the time to do this because there’s no use hitting just the edge and wasting the quarter. Once the shooter has shot his quarter, all that’s left is to flatten them, and every kid loves hitting things with a hammer. If a hammer isn’t available, a vice will work nicely to flatten the artwork. But be careful and on the lookout for any sharp edges.
Soda Cans: Every kid on earth should have the enjoyment of shooting soda cans. It’s cheap and provides instant feedback and gratification. You can make a tower, stack them in a row, or use them in a shoot-off to see which shooter can hit five or ten cans first. Then, when you’re finished, you can recycle the cans and add in a lesson about being good stewards of the environment.
Plastic Toy Animals: You know the Cowboys and Indians you played with as a kid that were the size of toy army guys? The farm animals in that shape make a challenging target too. As a kid, my six siblings and I spent days shooting these with a BB gun from across the basement and running to reset them and shoot again. A .22 is going to damage them, but for a cheap, fun target you can’t beat these tiny chickens and pigs — it’s almost like mini silhouette targets.
Tannerite: Yes, they make a .22 version. This is actually a good way to teach kids that guns hold power, and that using them is not a game. Always wear eye protection and strictly adhere to the directions for any explosive target. Take this very seriously and your kids will learn valuable lessons: safety is paramount when shooting, especially when it comes to shooting binary targets.
Self-Resetting Targets: The rubber type that you shoot and roll come in various shapes. Gunfighter Targets makes self-resetting steel that will move when hit, and then spring right back to where it stood. And you can buy tiny steel plates that you reset by shooting the top target – endless fun!
Balloons and Playing Cards: Balloons provide obvious instant feedback when you hit one. Plus, they are inexpensive compared to reactive targets like Tannerite. Playing cards are another cheap option with a huge upside in that you’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to dreaming up fun games.
For additional Ideas: Trick shooters have a huge following on social media. Check out trick shooter .22 plinkster and some of the fun videos he has made. Be inspired and take your kids out this weekend and make some noise and have some fun.
Where can you take your rimfire gun?
Once your kids are done plinking, you can take them to shoot Steel Challenge, you can take them small game hunting (of course, they’ll also need their Hunter Safety Certification), you can search out a local smallbore league, or just keep plinking on your own. Here’s a great link to youth programs through USA shooting.
However you decide to start teaching your children about firearms, whether it’s with a .22 or another popular caliber, remember that the best approach is to be present and engaged throughout the learning process. Don’t just go through the motions of teaching gun safety. Do more! Make shooting entertaining! Take a creative approach to teaching them about firearms because the more fun it is the more likely the lessons will stick and what was a budding interest in firearms will, before you know it, turn into a lifelong passion that they will carry on into future generations.