Youth Rifles

February 2004
Jeff Smith

With hunting on the rise, more and more companies are producing factory “youth” guns.  If you’re outfitting a youth with a rifle, it’s very important to get a good fit between the shooter and the firearm.  This will most likely be thier first big-gun shooting experience.  Getting a rifle with to much recoil, could turn a youth against shooting and hunting for life.  Most times it’s better to just bite-the-bullet and buy them a true youth gun instead of trying to make them adapt to a “light” adult gun.  The "length of pull" is the measurement from the trigger to the end of the stock and is very important with a small shooter.  It's critical to get a good fit so the shooter is not reaching for the trigger - this is especially true for a scoped rifle.

It’s important to get kids into the outdoors for many reasons: 

It’s better for them than watching television or playing video games.
It’s a great way to spend time with kids.
It’s  passing on the ways of our forefathers.
It can help in self defense – some bad guy is trying to get them – at least they know how to fire a gun.
It teaches respect for wildlife.
It gives them a sense of accomplishment – hitting the bulls eye, hunting hard and taking a game animal, seeing wildlife, cleaning a firearm, loading shells, …
It teaches them survival skills - compass reading, sun sets in the west - rises in the east, ...
It shows them a little cold weather, mud and water will not hurt them.
It's an adventure for them - something to look forward to.
If they're hunting with mom, dad or the grandparents ... there not off getting into trouble.


There’s several calibers that come to mind for a youth.  I'd like to compare four of the most common youth calibers: 243 Win, 7mm08 Rem, 308 Win and 240 Weatherby Magnum.  That’s right I said 240 Weatherby Magnum, it’s starting to get a foothold as a popular youth caliber.

Weight (Gr)
Hot Load   Light Load  
Velocity (ft/sec) Recoil (ft/lbs) Velocity (ft/sec) Recoil (ft/lbs)
243 Win 85 3300 11.0 2800 7.1
100 3100 12.1 2700 8.9
240 Weatherby Mag 85 3450 14.1 2900 9.4
100 3200 16.6 2750 11.1
7mm08 Rem 120 2900 13.8 2650 11.5
140 2700 15.1 2500 12.7
308 Win 125 2900 16.0 2700 12.9
150 2800 19.3 2500 14.9

Data Source: Accurate Powder Company

As expected, the 243 Win has the least amount of recoil. 

General Information:

The 243 Win, 7mm-08 Rem and 308 Win all have the same shell case.  The case shoulder is necked down to .243 for the 243 Win, .284 for the 7mm-08 Rem and .308 for the 308 Win.  Basically, they all with hold the same amount of powder.  The difference in recoil is felt by the heavier bullets of the 7mm-08 and 308 Win. 

The 243 Win and 240 Weatherby Magnum shoot the same size bullet - .243.

The 7mm-08 Rem shoots a 7mm bullet - .284 - the same as a 7mm Remington Magnum.

The 308 Win shoots a .308 caliber bullet - the same as a 30/30 Winchester, 30-06, 300 Winchester Magnum and the list goes on and on.

Not everyone reloads rifle cartridges.  With factory loads, most are loaded with the Hot Load listed above.

Heavier bullets produce more recoil.

Always have a kid wear hearing and eye protection when shooting!  Make sure they have hearing protection if anyone is shooting.

Breaking down each caliber:

243 Winchester - The 243 Win is a great starter Youth caliber.  It has a small amount of recoil and is offered in a lot of youth and smaller rifles.  A lot of grown men and women use a 243 Win with great results.  A guy who lives half a mile from me has harvested a couple hundred deer with a Sako 243 Win. Personally, I want a little more firepower but it's hard to argue with results.  It think the 243 Win is good on deer sized game and smaller for a shooter who can shoot well.  The problem with a small caliber rifle doesn't come into play with a good shot - it's the marginal shots that the smaller bullet has trouble handling.  A lot of states allow deer hunting with a 22 caliber firearm and the 22 caliber bullet will bring down a deer if shot in the 10-ring.  A 22 and 243 caliber bullet will have problems on those marginal shots that a bigger caliber would handle.  In my opinion, the 243 Win is the perfect caliber for a youth aged 12 and under.

Shells are cheap and available almost everywhere.
Light recoil even with factory rounds.
Offered in a lot of youth and adult guns.
Can normally find a good used Youth Gun.
Cheap to reload.
The gun is normally short, compact and light.

Great for perfect hits but bad shots can be a problem (as with any gun)

240 Weatherby Magnum - The 240 Weatherby Magnum is gaining a foothold with some of the more ... how should I put this ... people who have more money to spend.  The caliber offers a higher velocity than the 243 Win but with additional recoil.  I would not spend the additional money on a 240 Weatherby Magnum, however it would be a great youth gun.

The Weatherby Super Big Game Master in 240 Weatherby Magnum is a sweet gun, but it should be at $1,500.
You can tell your buddies your 10-year old kid has a Weatherby :)

Shells are expensive and can be hard to find.
Offered from Weatherby with a high price tag.
Probably not going to find a good used Youth Gun.
Expensive to reload - Weatherby Brass is very expensive.
Great for perfect hits but bad shots can be a problem (as with any gun)

7mm-08 Remington - The 7mm-08 Remington is probably the second most popular youth caliber.  Once again, a lot of men and women shot this caliber.  For an adult, it has a very small amount of recoil.  When purchasing Amber a rifle, I debated between the 243 Win and this caliber quite a bit before settling on the 243 Win.  For an older youth, I probably would choose the 7mm-08.  In my opinion, the 7mm-08 Remington is the perfect caliber for a youth aged 12 and 16.  That larger bullet can create a lot of internal damage to the objective.

Shells are getting easier to find.
Moderate recoil even with factory rounds.
Offered in a lot of youth and adult guns.
Can normally find a good used Youth Gun.
Cheap to reload.
The gun is normally short, compact and light.

Hard to get the velocity out of a .284 bullet without moderate recoil.

308 Winchester - The 308 Win has it's place in military history and hunting.  It's hard to say anything negative about the caliber as a whole but I don't think it makes a very good youth caliber.  It's difficult to get the recoil down with the heavier bullets.  I understand if you own a 308 Win and wish to set it up as a youth gun but why buy a rifle in 308 Win for a youth when so many other calibers will be much better suited for the task. In my opinion, the 308 Win should be used by adults.


It's important to get a firearm that fits the shooter.  The length of pull is very important!  Most "Youth" firearms have a length of pull of between 12.5 and 12.75 inches.  Adult guns vary from 13.75 to 14.75 inches.  For Amber, I bought the Remington Model Seven.  They only offer the Youth version in a blued barrel.  I purchased the adult Model Seven with a stainless steel barrel and modified the stock to the Youth specifications.  As they grow, you can purchase a replacement full size stock at a reasonable price.

Model Seven™ Youth Synthetic

The new Model Seven Youth Synthetic rifle is housed in a newly designed, charcoal gray synthetic stock that features unique texturing in the grip and fore-end areas rather than traditional checkering. These textured areas allow for a more comfortable grip and easier handling. The revolutionary Remington R3™ Recoil Pad makes this Model Seven a pleasure to shoot with noticeably less felt recoil. The 20-inch carbon steel barrel with iron sights has a satin blued finish, as does the carbon steel receiver, which is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The hinged floor plate magazine holds four rounds (five in 223 Remington).

Caliber Mag. Cap. Barrel Length Rate of Twist Overall Length Avg. Wt. (lbs.) Order No. MSRP*
223 Remington 5 20" 12" 38 1/4" 6 1/4 29539 $547
243 Win 4 20" 9 1/8" 38 1/4" 6 1/4 29541 $547
7mm-08 Remington 4 20" 9 1/4" 38 1/4" 6 1/4 29547 $547

LOP: 12 3/8"; Drop at Comb: 1 1/8"; Drop at Heel: 1 3/8"
*NOTE: U.S. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price. Actual price may vary.


Model Seven™ Stainless Synthetic

The Model Seven™ SS delivers bolt-action carbine portability at just 6 1/4 lbs. with a 20" barrel. All-weather performance comes from a stainless-steel barreled action and rugged fiberglass-reinforced synthetic stock. Equally at home in dense cover or open ranges, and a joy to carry all day long - with plenty of power and reach for all medium-sized game.



Barrel Length Rate of Twist Overall Length Avg. Wt. (lbs.) Order No. MSRP*
243 Win. 20" 9 1/8" 39 1/4" 6 1/4 24739 $729
260 Rem. 20" 9" 39 1/4" 6 1/4 24751 $729
7mm-08 Rem. 20" 9 1/4" 39 1/4" 6 1/4 24741 $729
308 Win. 20" 10" 39 1/4" 6 1/4 24743 $729

LOP: 13 3/16"; Drop at Comb: 5/16"; Drop at Heel: 9/16"
*NOTE: U.S. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price. Actual price may vary.

I'm not a big fan of a "hammer" gun or lever action for a youth.  It's tough to let that trigger down with small hands.  I think a bolt action is the safest type of action for a youth. 


If you elect to mount a scope on the firearm, don't go overboard with a large scope.  The scope needs to be small and compact to allow the shooter to place their cheek on the gun stock.  Holding their head off the rifle to shoot is dangerous (scope can come backward and hit eye) and difficult to shoot accurately (head floating around).  I purchased the Leupold Var-X II 2x7x33mm scope for Amber.  It mounts low and has a variable power range. On two power, it has a vast field of view to help her find the animal in the scope.  On seven power, she can pull the target in at long range.  She shot two deer this season on three power at over 150 yards - hit both in the shoulder and they ran less than 40 yards.  She loves this scope!!

VX-II 2-7x33mm     

Product Highlights
The VX-II 2-7x33mm is a versatile, mid-range magnification scope useful for close cover as well as on more open terrain. It is a highly adaptable scope that fits well with a variety of shooting requirements. Multicoat 4 lens system enables it to provide a clear, bright image to the user. Easily mounted close to the rifle due to its 33mm objective bell, it is excellent for those seeking a low profile optical sight.

Special Features
• Outstanding optical quality
• Multicoat 4® lens system
• ¼ MOA click windage and elevation dials
• Leupold Full Lifetime Guarantee

Amber's Hunting Load:

She loads her own hunting and target rounds. We started this summer with six different loads and worked the list down to one that produced the tightest groups and a good feel.  From the beginning, we looked for a good powder and primer combination for the Nosler 85gr Partition and Norma Brass.  We felt the Nosler 85gr Partition and Norma Brass was a good starting foundation.

Hunting Load:

Caliber - 243 Winchester

Case - Norma
Primer - CCI 200 - Large Rifle
Powder - Accurate 2015BR - 30.0 Grains
Bullet - Nosler 85gr Partition

Velocity - 2800 ft/sec

Accuracy - 1" groups at 100 yards

Being a reloader, I looked at the recoil differences between the cartridges.  The light recoil is listed as 7.1 for the 243 Win versus 11.5 for the 7mm-08 Remington.  I wanted to make sure I got a caliber that didn't have so much recoil as to "scare" her away from shooting.  Amber only weights 65 lbs. - the last thing I wanted to do was turn her against shooting.  I choose the 243 Win because I knew I could get the velocity and bullet weight down to make it shoot with very light recoil. 

She can easily shoot 20+ times at the range and normally wants to stay longer.  I bought a box of Federal factory shells loaded with 100 grain bullets.  I shot 5 of them and she shoot the other 15 at one setting.  Even with the hot factory loads - it was not a problem for her.

She loves to reload shells - it was pretty cool for her to harvest six deer this season with the shells she loaded.

I was having a talk with her one day while hunting – she was talking about how much she enjoyed hunting and I told her to consider that when I let her start dating at 30-years old – make sure her husband enjoys the outdoors.  She said, “I want to marry a guy just like you.”  That’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever received!  It can be a lot more trouble to carry kids hunting – you might not shoot that big buck or get that flock of mallards in, but they'll be grown in the blink of an eye … spend as much time with them as you can … I already miss them!

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