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My eight year-old daughter had never fired a (non-Nerf, non-water) gun before today.  She’s expressed interest in shooting before, but she’s so petite that any standard or ‘youth model’ rifle was far too long for her to shoot even from a bench.  I recently picked up an ATI VK-22, a mil-spec AR lower mated to a .22lr flattop upper, and we discovered that it fits her arms perfectly when the stock is fully collapsed.  This morning I gave her the gun safety lecture for the umpteenth time and then hovered behind her as she diligently blasted tin cans at ten yards.  And then the rifle’s bolt carrier tore itself to pieces.

My daughter was wearing hearing protection and a brand-new pair of safety goggles, but there was no explosion or hot gasses or (thank God) anything else to hurt her or frighten her away from the sport forever.  The rifle simply stopped firing, and when I pulled the bolt my wife noticed that a big piece of it had fallen out of the receiver.

I’d taken a picture of it just yesterday, so I’ve got some pretty stark ‘before and after’ pictures to compare.

This is what the bolt assembly is supposed to look like.

Even though my daughter walked away from this merely puzzled and frustrated instead of injured or terrified, I still feel bad for her.  She’d been shooting amazingly well for a first-timer (gotta love red dot sights) but the VK-22 was the only rifle I’ve got that even remotely fits her; her shooting day was over.

And aside from that, what are the odds of a brand-new rifle, and a .22 at that, tearing itself apart after only 250 rounds?  I’ve already contacted the manufacturer, so watch this space for more details and (eventually) a full review of the VK-22.

It was running great while it was running.

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    Check out the Crickett rifles. Built especially for young kids. Bolt action, single shot, peep sights. Excellent for teaching iron sights, trigger control, and safe shooting. It fit my son at 6 years old. It’s so small I can’t even shoulder it, I have to shoot it like a pistol. You can generally find a used model for under $100.

    • Where I work, we sell NEW ones for 100 bucks. More if you want the laminated stock. And a big +1 to an excellent young kids first gun.

  2. it looks like ATI (or whatever Turkish company actually builds these) took the Atchison bolt design and screwed it up by adding that rear portion. Perhaps to serve as a shroud?? This boggles my mind as to why they would mess with a proven bolt design.

  3. I don’t own one of these, but my first guess is that ‘shroud’ is supposed to offer some functionality to the Forward Assist. Although, I’m not sure what that would be without the notches that FA would engage. The product manual is vague…

    The Chiappa (they actually make that upper) manual says the part is called the “Bolt Spring Balancing Guide”. Some of their bolts have this, others do not.

    Please keep us informed as to your progress with a complaint/warranty claim.

  4. @Severe: the forward assist is purely cosmetic, so I think the ‘bolt spring balancing guide’ is just a block of metal to give the bolt more mass and keep the mainspring lined up. I wish they had just made it a solid part of the bolt.

  5. Great Story! (aside from the gun breaking of course!)
    If you have a 10 22, BLACKHAWK! makes an AR style stock that is short enough for my 6 year old daughter and extends long enough for me to use. Its about $90 but worth every penny. I put it on the Compact that I got her for Xmas and it fits her perfectly. Also running a timney trigger, tasco red dot, oversized controls, and butler creek mag. She really kicks butt with it!

  6. I am so very happy to hear she wasn’t hurt, Chris. Hurry up and find a replacement while she’s of the mind to shoot. Especially enjoy the pre-teenage years! I won’t scare you with tales about that…

  7. Here’s a late update: I’ve contacted both ATI, who sells the rifle, and Chiappa, who makes the upper. I hope they can send me replacement parts this week, since I was planning to use the VK-22 for some gopher hunting at my family’s farm in Montana next week.

    Whether their customer service is good, bad or nonexistent, we’ll call ’em like we see ’em. Stay tuned.

  8. I thought this line was pretty funny: “but there was no explosion or hot gasses or (thank God) anything else to hurt her or frighten her away from the sport forever. ”

    “Frightening her away from the sport forever” is right up there with “hurting her” in gravity. I know you didn’t mean it like that.

    I’m glad she wasn’t hurt, but no thanks to you, man. It was just dumb luck, and I mean “dumb.” Eight’s too young for that, especially a petite eight, regardless of gender.

    I’d call it child abuse, but it’s none of my business what you do to your kids.

    • That’s funny, I started shooting when I was 7 or 8, I guess I was the “victim” of child abuse.

      I recommend the Cricket single-shot as well, I started with a Winchester 1904 single-shot .22 and I think a single-shot is a better first gun for a child anyway. Nab a Cricket and give it to her for her b-day. or Christmas or whatever. It’s far less likely to break than an autoloader.

    • Cars can make all types of different noises and explosions. Are people who take their children in cars to go places just as guilty of child abuse since that danger is present there, too? How about being in a house with a gas powered stove?

      The notion that we are supposed to keep our children wrapped in foam and kevlar until the “right age” is ridiculous and borderline child abuse in and of itself. Pretending the real world doesn’t exist doesn’t make a child safer…it makes a naive adult.

    • Eight’s too young?

      By the time I was eight, I’d been shooting for three years and was ready to try a .45ACP, which, admittedly was a little TOO much gun to really enjoy at that time, but not something I couldn’t handle.

      That was the great thing about my dad. He never treated us like “kids” (disabled by age). He always treated us like “short adults”. If we had an interest in something, or wanted to try something, his decision wasn’t based on stupidity like “Eight’s too young.” That might be part of why none of us ever backed off from a challenge – and are successful today. We didn’t have some dumb schmuck telling us, “You’re too little, too young, too small, too…”

      Chris’ kids may run into something “scary” and learn from it.

      Your kids are more likely to be swathed in cotton and packed in a nice, safe box until any sense of adventure, challenge and accomplishment is thoroughly drained from them and they develop into adults afraid of their own shadows (terrified of the sound of a gun) and lacking any of the self-confidence that comes from doing “grown up” things well at an early age. In short, your kids are more likely to join the swelling ranks of helpless, hapless adult liberal morons who can’t do anything for themselves.

      Talk about child abuse!

  9. @mIkeb – In the interest of civility, exactly what age is appropriate for youth to begin using firearms under adult supervision, in your opinion? Because in stating your opinion that the author is guilty of child abuse, you do not have case law on your side.

    Or do you feel that the government has the responsibility to legislate the exact terms for all form of recreation?

    If you are really trying to make a point regarding your view, it has been poorly done and will sway no one, either here at TTAG or elsewhere. I have far more respect for Magoo than for you, at least he makes an honest effort to explain his views in a rational manner.

    • All right Todd you really hurt my feelings with that comparison to Magoo.

      My use of the inflammatory “child abuse” was for emphasis. But when something goes wrong like in the Bizilj case, or if Chris’s little girl had been badly injured, the term would probably fit.

      What age is right, I think maybe 18 or 21 even.

      • So using inflammatory language for emphasis is OK? Once again, we see that gun control advocates lack self-control, even while suggesting that gun rights advocates are OOC. Worse, they believe the ends justifies the means. Scary stuff.

        • I8 or 21? Child abuse? I first fired a weapon, 410 shotgun at 5 years old, the same year I also got a mini bike. Maybe we Southerners mature faster here than over there in Mussolini land.

  10. It is difficult not to take offense when I am publicly accused of child abuse, but I should not be surprised that one specific person lacks the self-restraint to abstain from ad hominem attacks.

    In the hope that he will sleep better at night for having done The Right Thing, I will give my vociferous critic a few more facts to include in his report to CPS: we also take our daughters swimming (with adult supervision), and boating (with an adult skipper and PFDs). In fact, we even let them ride bicycles (with helmets).

    • Chris, I hope you noticed the part where I said I’m glad she wan’t hurt. Ralph is the one who made the really stupid remark that I’d wished otherwise.

      Also, please note that I said what you do as a parent is none of my business.

      That’s a good one, Ralph, about reading my blog.

  11. Glad your daughter is fine. I’ll second the motion on the 10/22. I had one and taught my son to shoot with it when he was 5 or 6. Hard to remember that far back sometimes. He had to bench it at first but was very accurate with the scope on it. That was back before all the replacement stocks and add-ons became readily available. He also learned to shoot a pistol at 7 so I guess the child abuser name would be applied to me. The response I always had to folks claiming abuse for something they didn’t agree with was “come on over here and I’ll show you abuse”. Keep her shooting.

  12. My wife is a United Methodist minister. She accompanied me when we bought our 8-year-old daughter a Ruger 10/22. She will use it to learn the fundamentals and have fun shooting targets. Unfortunately for her, she will have to share the rifle with her younger brother.

    Other than being her father, I hold a Bachelor’s of Science in Child Development, a Master’s of Science in Family Studies (Early Childhood Administation emphasis) and am a doctoral candidate in Human Ecology. I am also a veteran light infantryman and military police officer.

    Mike, tone down the rhetoric. You look like a tool.

  13. My first weapon (firearm) was a 20 gauge single shot, break open. I was 14. Not that I was not taught about weapons before that age. But, we did not go to ranges in those days, you had to be able to keep up in the field. Old men could walk a kid to death.

    And, people, firearms are weapons, but then, so is anything else I can get my hands on.

    • My first gun was a 6-lb Harrington & Richardson ‘Topper’ with no recoil pad: a twelve gauge. I was 14 years old and weighed about a buck thirty, and I always fired 3″ BB shot through it when I was duck hunting. My shoulder hurts just remembering it!

      It was only another six months before I got a .22, which I still have today. I probably should have gotten the .22 first.

  14. The latest news: Chiappa and ATI are all over this, and Chiappa’s guy promises that the replacement parts have already been mailed. Customer service is good so far, although it probably doesn’t hurt that I’m a writer and that I’ve talked to Chiappa’s president several times before.

    I’ll follow up again when the parts arrive.

    • “although it probably doesn’t hurt that I’m a writer…”

      And, the “Understatement of the Day” award goes to…. Chris Dumm!

  15. Chris, child abuse my butt. My first firearm was a 10/22 at the tender age of four. I didn’t keep it in my room but it was mine and I loved it. I put a 5.56 upper on the ATI and it works flawlessly. Since I have an MP-15/22 I may never use my Chiappa upper. Anybody who believes that teaching children firearm safety at an early age is child abuse is an uninformed ass. It is the the kids that aren’t familiar with firearms that end up shooting a playmate because they don’t understand the gravity and power of what they may have stumbled upon.

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