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Do you remember your first gun? There are lots of benefits to introducing a kind to responsible gun ownership with his or her “own” gun. For one, it’s good to develop strong gun safety practices at an early age. Learning to take care of a gun can be a way to cultivate responsibility. Kids take pride in being trusted with an actual firearm as opposed to Nerf and toy guns. And of course, target practice and varmint hunting are both good ways to get kids outdoors and away from all the screens in their lives.

For both safety and usability reasons, we recommend long guns as a kid’s first firearm. Below are seven great guns for kids – five rifles and two shotguns – all reliable and enjoyable enough to remain a part of your kid’s life for years to come.

Rifles for Kids (.22LR)

Ruger 10/22 Compact

Ruger 10/22 Compact: $268 via Brownells

America’s most beloved .22 rifle is a great beginner gun in any of its many configurations. With a 16.5-inch barrel, the compact version is easier for kids to handle. You can’t say too many good things about the 10/22. It’s a great USA-made semi-automatic rifle that looks good, it feels right, and it deserves the loyalty and recognition it’s gained.

Savage Mark I Youth

Savage Mark I Youth: $216 via Brownells

This sweet little bolt action with a 10-round capacity is an excellent scaled-down version of Savage’s full size rifles. The trigger pull is user-adjustable, which is always a great feature for a kid’s first gun. Accurate, reliable, and a pleasure to shoot, this gun will give a kid hours of pleasure and fun. You might even wind up getting one for yourself.

Henry Mini Bolt

Henry Mini Bolt: $238 via 1800GunsAndAmmo

Weighing in at just 3.25 pounds, this bolt gun is a surprise to some, coming from a company that’s known ore for their excellent lever action rifles. It’s a well-made gun, and the single-shot capacity with a simple thumb safety makes it an easy starter gun for kids to learn with.

best guns for kids
CZ 455 Scout

CZ 455 Scout: $319 via 1800GunsAndAmmo

The CZ 455 is a neat piece for a young shooter. It ships with a single-shot adapter, but you can get 5- and 10-round magazines for it, too. The 455 Scout features open iron sights as well as an 11mm dovetail for eventually mounting a scope. This rifle can grow with the shooter and is a solid option for target practice as well as hunting.

Crickett Blue Laminate Stock via Sportsman’s Guide

Crickett Single-Shot Rimfire Rifle: $120 via Cabela’s

The ever-popular Crickett rifle is the choice of a lot of parents for their young shooter’s first gun. This is the lightest rifle on the list, weighing under three pounds, and is certainly a great value for the price. There are a number of colors available (including pink) via Sportsman’s Guide.

Shotguns for Kids (20 gauge)

Mossberg 500 Bantam via Mossberg

Mossberg 500 Bantam: $338 via Brownells

The stocks on Mossberg’s Bantam models are 1″ shorter than the standard Mossberg 500, making the gun more comfortable small people with shorter arms. There are also “E-Z Reach Forends,” which reduce the trigger-to-grip distance. Even though it’s designed for youth, this is truly a “forever shotgun” that kids can enjoy throughout their lives.

Remington 870 Compact

Remington 870 Express Compact: $350 via Cabela’s

The Synthetic Compact and the Synthetic Compact Jr. models of the Remington 870 Express are both good choices for young shooters. At 6lbs and 5.75lbs respectively, they’re a bit lighter than the Mossberg’s 6.5lbs. They’re available with a wood stock, but the synthetic models feature adjustable length of pull, which is ideal for growing kids.

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  1. Please stay away from the semi autos with first shooters. Too much to go wrong.

    You can remove the mag making the semi a single shot, but the big brains at HQ think a mag disconnect is a safety feature. Wrong.

    • You’re an idiot.
      Can you point to the semi-auto on the list with a magazine safety?

      Please stop speaking in public.

      The world is less-dumb without your input in it.

    • “Please stay away from the semi autos with first shooters. Too much to go wrong.”

      I totally agree. A single shot bolt action .22 would be a better choice.

      • Meh. You can load just one in a semi. Or two, or six, or ten.

        But learning what the proper position feels like instead of losing it to work the bolt, and coaching trigger squeeze with immediate retry, is a value beyond, “value yer 3¢ boolit, whippersnapper”.

        • Lot of silliness here. My first rifle was a Marlin “Gold Crown” single shot .22, and I simply loved it. I could learn positions or whatever operational BS you’re talking about later. Basic as it could possibly be, iron sights, no frills, around 1955. Still the same, a single shot .22 is harder to find now, but will always be a great choice for an 11-year-old.

      • I like single shot bolt action rifles for training kids. They are not only safe, but they also teach kids how to throw a bolt properly. It’s a useful skill for when they’re older and want to hunt, and I think kids enjoy the feel of cycling the action.

      • “Load one round in the magazine”? Sheesh, what a pain in the ass! Why would anyone do that? WAY easier to just load one round in the gun. And cheaper.

    • Can’t use the 10/22, that is a weapon of war assault rifle in several states now! Pretty much a kid with a machine gun! You don’t need more than one bullet and a thirty pound trigger for target practice, we all know that!

      On a serious note though… Get a threaded barrel model so they can try it with and without a supressor.

        • I can see why they do that, mine is pretty heavy, I bet you could beat somebody to death with it! For the children.

      • Rock Island M20P has come standard with a threaded barrel since 2013. And my FLGS managed to order one for only $120. The downside is they come very slimy from the factory so you need to wipe them down pretty well. Overall a good starter rifle. They have a bolt action M14 youth model as well but I don’t know if it comes with a threaded barrel.

  2. Ruger Single Six convertible
    Marlin Model 60
    Savage 110 in .30-06
    My first three firearms. I still have the Marlin M60. Wish I still had that pair of 4″ Pythons (1 blued and the other in nickel) that I had in the 80s.

    • Two thumbs up for the Marlin Model 60. I still have mine as well and it still shoots as well as the first day I owned it. Bonus: mine has the 17 (or is it 18?) round tube magazine!

      • I recently did a refurbishment project on the Glenfield version of the Marlin 60 (the one with the goofy squirrel iconography in the stock, which I find totally cool). The refinishing came out real pretty, and what a fun shooter! I tend to use that gun and my Savage .22 bolt action when working with new shooters. I also found an older version with the original long magazine tube.

      • Mine holds 17 long rifles. I’ve probably got 25K rounds through mine and the only times I’ve ever cleaned it was when it started having stoppages. Then I always detail strip it. The elevator gets all gummed up with carbon and bullet wax to where things can’t move any more.

    • IIRC, that came in 2 versions, one with a longer barrel than the other. I never owned one, but I used to play with one in the gun store when I was around 14, would be around 1960, ultimately bought a Winchester Model 77 semi, with the 10-round box magazine, cost $25, on closeout bought 10 mags for a nickel each. Great gun, also, but that Marlin lever just had such a magical action, I never forgot it.

  3. My first gun was a Flintlock Pennsylvania .50 Rifle. Did yard work in the neighborhood to earn the money for the kit and my dad helped me build it. I was 12 at the time. Good times.

  4. Off topic. Need advice.

    I have a Ruger SR556e. I got one of the last models produced so it has the chrome bcg and firing pin. I love it. It’s a great gun. And I got a bitchin deal on it.

    I work as an SRO in a school. When I left patrol they took my issues rifle away. Now we have the option to buy one. It’s a smith and Wesson MOE edition. I can’t afford to buy it now as I have an 8 week old and a 22 month old and my wife is staying home now, I’m working 50-60 hours of third party overtime a month. I really don’t want to sell my SR-556 to finance the M&P but I feel like I’m almost obligated to in the interest of protecting the students. Any input on what I should do?

    • I’m a little confused on the specifics, but I have several ARs, and I think any name brand with quality brass ammo will be reliable when it counts.

    • Tile floor,

      Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

      (1) What is the realistic probability that you would actually be able to access your rifle in an attack?
      I assume that you will not be carrying your rifle around strapped on your back at all times. So, will you honestly run across the building/campus to retrieve your rifle if an attack occurs? Or will you immediately engage the attacker with your handgun? If you would immediately engage with your handgun, your rifle is of no value unless it happens to be along the way to the attacker. Note that the combined odds of an attack occurring (which are exceedingly rare) and the attack occurring such that your rifle is on the way to the attacker is statistically zero.

      (2) What is the school layout?
      Are you in a single large building with short hallways that inherently limit engagements to close range? If so, a rifle is not a whole lot more useful than your handgun (other than “stopping power”). Or, are you on a campus with LONG hallways and multiple buildings, where a long range engagement could be quite likely? In that scenario a rifle might be more useful. But even then, we have to temper that utility with the first question about availability — would you run across campus to retrieve a rifle (leaving the attacker to execute victims) rather than engage immediately with your handgun?

      (3) Do you have a full-size duty handgun with which you can shoot accurately (minute of bad guy) to 50 yards?
      Assuming that you do, as long as you carry four spare magazines at all times, I am thinking that is a fairly formidable platform.

      In my opinion:
      Immediately engaging an attacker with a full-size handgun and four spare magazines is much more likely to result in a lower casualty count than having to disengage for 45 to 60 seconds (or more) to access a rifle before re-engaging. Remember, as soon as you start shooting at an attacker with ANY firearm, he/she is no longer casually executing victims because his/her focus moves to you. Thus, your duty handgun succeeds at promptly stopping the carnage which is the intended outcome.

      And even in the extremely unlikely event that the attacker simply ignores you to continue executing victims, that means your handgun is more than adequate for the task. Why? An attacker who ignores you enables you to promptly run up to him/her and deliver an easy head shot at close range. Thus, in that unlikely scenario, the only advantage of a rifle is the time it takes to close the distance to use your handgun effectively. What are we talking there? Maybe 10 seconds if the attacker is 80 yards away?

      • Tile Floor,

        I just realized that I assume you would be circulating a lot within the school building/campus. If you have an office, would store your rifle in your office, and would be in your office most of the time, then that changes the discussion immensely in favor of keeping a rifle in your office. If that is the case, perhaps you could start a somewhat discreet funding campaign to pay for the rifle. If the rifle costs $1,000, you would only need 20 people to chip in $50 each to fully cover the cost. I am pretty confident that you could quickly find 20 people to throw a $50 bill at you for that reason — especially if you stipulate that the rifle stays in the office even if someone else takes over the school resource officer task and you move on.

        • Contrary to your ID, Mr. uncommone_sense, you have spoken about issues that make the most common sense! Well said.

    • Tile Floor,

      I don’t understand, couldn’t you use your SR-556 at work until you can purchase a dedicated work rifle?

      The crowdfunding campaign is a valid idea. Let me know if you get one started. I will throw in a couple of bucks.

      • Dear TTAG Forum:
        So, one night I was working late at the local high school as an SRO, and suddenly the place was swarmed by a gang of ne’er-do-wells armed with AK-47s, bent upon rapine and pillage; Luckily, I had my trusty Ruger SR-556 Tactical Rifle (you know, the range-model carbine action one with the 200-shot magazine and the compass in the stock, with the thing that tells time) and was able to render all of the miscreants hors-de-combat with one shot, each, thus saving the school. Sadly, the Authorities took my Ruger as evidence right after they picked up all of the bodies.
        Well, as luck would have it, the pulchritudinous 30-something school vice-principal was SO grateful that she insisted on me meeting her in the band closet, where, much to my surprise, the gorgeous redheaded band director and the entire girls’ choir had been hiding from all of the gunfire, and one thing led to another. . .
        Anyway, should I buy an S&W, or maybe something in 6.5mm Creedmoor?
        ‘Needs advice,’ my ass.

  5. Browning BL-22 Micro Midas and T-bolt Micro Midas are high quality rimfire rifles for kids. Not semi-auto! Looks like the T-Bolt is no longer in production though.

    • The Marlin 60 is still a great rifle at a great price! The only thing I don’t like about them is the tube mag. I like the 10/22 mag better, easier to unload than the M60.

    • I have a 795 (Mag fed 60). It’s a fun gun and an M4 mag pouch fits the stock well and you can load it with 2-3 30 rounders or a bunch of 10 rounders. It’s a also fairly light with a 3-9x scope. A great little plinking gun. Not as many options as a 10/22 though.

  6. Technically, my first gun was a S&W Model 19. It was not, of course, the first gun I shot – not by a long shot – but was the first gun I bought with my own earnings.

    • Internet rumors about Remington quality problems are greatly exaggerated. The 870 is still one of the best engineered and most reliable firearms on the market.

    • Seriously?
      So, the sum total of your knowledge about guns comes from the Comments sections on TTAG?

      Cool life you got there, bro.

        • You really DON’T know anything that someone else didn’t tell you to “think”, do you?
          Cerberus no longer owns Remington.

  7. I have too many kids for them to all have their own “first gun”. We’ll be doing one Ruger 10/22 I think. The dedicated AR22 is too heavy though otherwise a fantastic weapon. The CZ scout would be great, but I didn’t think they were made any longer? Needs a good receiver sight and get rid of that awful barrel mounted sight.

    • There’s the 15-22. Not really an AR-15, but same ergonomics in a lighter package. Also has an adjustable stock that’s effectively a youth length of pull.

  8. My first gun was a 700 in 30-06, given to me by my mom at 12. She said I needed to learn on a real gun and not some sissy toy. Her exact words. I think it did me good. Since then I’ve always been partial to the more powerful end of the spectrum on guns. I do own some small caliber guns, but she doesn’t know. Couldn’t live it down if my own mom out caliber war’d me.

  9. Savage Rascal. Single shot bolt action 22lr comes with the accutrigger and after some light polishing the bolt throws like butter. I only suggest keeping an eye on that target rear sight as your youngin learns to run with some speed. It can come loose and fall off.

  10. 10/22 loaded with CCI quiets, not enough velocity to cylce. Turns it into a mini(ish) bolt gun, great for training kids/newbies at 25yds. Spend some time teaching the basics, saftey, clearing, shouldering etc etc. Then in time when they’ve shown there ready up it to standard velocity (semi mode) it dose both. I’ve taught kids and adults this way, they have alot of fun and it works everytime. I honestly don’t know how many new shooters my 10/22 has recruited.

    • I was at the range and a dad and his 7 year old son were trying to shoot a 10/22 in the next lane. Dad said that the gun didn’t cycle, so I looked at the ammo and it was CCI Quiets. Given the very low muzzle vel. printed on the box, I told him he should be shooting Standard Vel. at least.

      I didn’t occur to me ’till your comment, that some LGS salesman might have suggested that combo on purpose. Too bad Dad didn’t get the message.

      • Alot of people don’t realize it’s a different gun when using different ammo, IMO Ruger definitely hit it out the park with the 10/22. Factor in the market for upgrades and accessories, you get alot of bang for the buck. I’d say 95% of the people i’ve got into shooting went and bought one, now they’re teaching their kids with it.

  11. I would have thought a sawed off 10 gauge double barrel with hammers and the triggers wired together would have been on the list?

  12. A friend of mine who is into rim fire competition is not a fan of the CZ455s. They use the same bolt face for the standard rim fire rounds and the magnums so the bolt face is opened too much for the standard rim fire rounds and they don’t feed as well.

    He recommended the Tikka T1X instead. I will look into one to supplant my Lee-Enfield No8 trainer which is longer and much heavier than my Ruger Scout in 5.56.

    • I have bought CZ455 EVO for my wife. (Yes, it’s pink. Not the Pepto-Bismol pink it was, as I stripped the varnish and stained the laminate to be darker.)
      I love that rifle. My kids love to shoot it too. We don’t compete, but in all years of use we didn’t have one single feeding problem with 5 or 10 round magazines.

  13. What about a Ruger Bearcat? It was my first handgun at 10.

    I trained my kids with a Winchester 67 youth model (single shot) for rifle.

    I bought a Walther P22 to teach them semi auto. First polymer pistol for me. I got it because it fits a 5-6 year old’s hand pretty well.

    Shotgun was a cut-down model 12 in 20 gauge.

  14. You forgot the Marlin XT-22YR. That’s what I got my son for his first firearm.

    It’s a nice little .22. I think he still prefers it slightly over the S&W 15-22 I got him a couple years later.

  15. Great piece. TTAG should do one on adult 22LR bolt rifles, precision and affordable.

    The sight radius on the CZ looks to be much worse than the 10/22. Why would they do that?

    That Cricket is amazingly light.

  16. I own both the CZ-455 Scout and Ruger 10/22. I got the CZ for the kids when they were young (because holding my Remington 510X up wore them out), and it’s a lovely piece of equipment. Chipmunk size but very high quality. I expect I’ll dig it out when the grandkids get a little older.


  17. First gun was a Daisy BB lever action, then the more powerful pump action, once I could pump it at about 5 yrs old. My first firearm came not long after that, it was a single shot, don’t know what kind but I had to cock it manually by pulling the knob at the end of the bolt. I really liked that single shot, even after I acquired other .22’s in bolt and a lever and auto Remington Nylon’s (great guns in their own right). By the time I was 12 I also had a Single shot .410 and 16 gauge (ouch!), 6 mm rem Sako and a Rem 700 in 7 MM REM and a few others. BUT I still loved that old used single shot for it’s simplicity and accuracy. I would go with a single shot or the CZ bolt gun .22 for a new youth shooter based off of my experience.

  18. When my children were trying different kids sized 20 ga shotguns, they quickly found out that semi autos kick much less than pumps.
    That said, it looks like it is possible for light framed kid to “limp wrist” a shotgun. When my 9 y. o. son shoots his Tri Star G2, it fails to feed or even fails to eject about every second shot, using cheap 7/8 oz. target loads. When I try the gun, it works every time with the same ammo.
    My daughter’s CZ720 doesn’t have this problem, but is harder to charge, which is compounded by smaller, sharp edged charging handle. But both recoil softly.

  19. I’ve looked a little more closely at specs and at my kids. Being twins, they’re all still small. The Savage Rascal has the shortest length of pull with the best sights. It also cocks on opening the bolt, which I regard is much better than having to pull a manual cocking button. This is especially true for unloading a “hit” rifle.

  20. Really helpful post, as I’m considering what to get the grandkids for Christmas. The five year old boy isn’t ready, but the 8 year old girl has proven to be pretty solid safety-wise with the Daisy BB gun and I’m considering a .22 or .410. Does Savage still make a .410/22?
    I remember my first firearm at 8, a Savage single-shot 20 ga., a rabbit slayer! “Wish I still had it…,” he muses.

  21. Great list! I wonder why not include AR style chambered in .22LR?

    My 10-year-old boy started just 6 months ago. I got him SW M&P15-22. And he loved it. He quickly mastered it, hitting 3 inch target 25 yards out (indoor range) with ease. He learned all the basics — discipline, safety, field stripping and cleaning. (yes he cleans his own gun after each shooting, with me by his side of course.) He then asked for a bolt action. So I got him a Savage Mark ii. He loved it too, and became more patient and strives to hit bull eye with each shot. He even started to control his breathing… I can’t believe it — I never taught him that.

    Funny to see all those adults blasting away their big AR-15s indoor at 10-15 yards. With the LOUD noises and hits/misses all over man-size targets. When my boy asks me why they don’t use the entire range lane (25 yard) or smaller targets, I literally have no answer. “They practice defensive shooting” is my reply.

    I think everyone should start from one of these guns (or something similar) from this list.

  22. for my son I bought the single shot rossi 22 with the second barrel for 20 gauge shotgun single shot. It is like getting two started guns in one.


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