After considering the many variables parents must think about when acquiring the right gun for a young Shot, Vic Harker identifies two suitable and affordable off-the-rack options.
For most shooting parents, finding suitable guns for young people has always represented something of a problem. With sufficient funds it is a little easier, but for the majority, something safe and suitable can be hard to identify.
Choice in part is dependent upon age and physical development; in my view, any kind of gun is best kept out of the hands of children under the age of 12 – even after that the strictest supervision should be maintained.
As to the type of gun best suited to the young Shot, most importantly it should be one that approximates a good fit. With growing children this is something that will constantly change, but within bounds must be accommodated; attempting to learn the rudiments of shooting with a gun that does not fit will not only impede progress, but instil bad habits that can persist a lifetime, too. Once again this all sounds expensive, however, old yet reliable guns can be found with a stock that can be altered relatively cheaply without having to sacrifice something new and expensive. Crucially, it should also be the type of gun the young shooter will continue to use into his or her maturity. To first learn to shoot with a side-by-side and then graduate to an over-under is again not a good idea and will ultimately retard progress.
As to the relative merits of the side-by-side versus the over-under, this has been endlessly debated, as are many other issues relating to shooting with a shotgun for which there is no definitive answer. Nevertheless, as it is a question that taxes the newcomer, I shall make some brief observations.
The side-by-side shotgun, even in its most sophisticated form, predates the over-under if we judge it by the same criteria. However, this does not mean we must consider the side-by-side inferior to its superposed contemporary. In its most modern form – hammerless sidelock or boxlock – so far as the game Shot is concerned, it will provide everything an over-under offers, albeit rather differently, and it certainly can be so made to shoot as accurately as an over-under. All that said and having endeavoured to be fair and objective as to both types of shotgun, with an absence of any hand-me-down guns available from within the family, it is very likely the young entry’s first gun will be an over-under.
As to the question of bore size, the most popular choice and certainly the most practical is the 20 bore. In this, I am making the assumption the young Shot will be in their early teens. There are those children who will begin shooting earlier – it comes down to a combination of both physical strength and a genuine sense of responsibility, both of which are essential qualities in the young Shot. As to the best type of shotgun for the young Shot, which I have already touched on in terms of cost and availability, I am obliged to come down in favour of the over-under.
On this basis, having trawled through endless catalogues and consulted the market in general as to what conforms to my own ideas, I have come up with two new suitable over-unders, both of which are made in Turkey. First up is the Yildiz, a 26"-barrelled 20 bore non-ejector that weighs 5lb 14oz. Of conservative design, the barrels pivot on stubs behind the action’s knuckles which can be replaced, but that would only be necessary after many years. The jointing of the gun, which is to describe how the barrels are secured to the action, is by way of the monobloc into which the barrels are sleeved – a form of barrel manufacture common to the majority of modern gunmakers. In the case of the Yildiz, the monobloc also incorporates a bearing surface to the rear that meets with a reciprocating locking bolt emerging below the breech-face to locate in the bite or slot. It is a simple form of under-bolting that can be found on many over-unders, most famously the Browning. Like most modern over-unders, the Yildiz features a single-trigger mechanism which can be selected to fire the top or bottom barrel first. This is a useful option and is made more so with the inclusion of a set of hand-detachable chokes. As befits a 20 bore game gun, the barrels are suitably light, in part due to a narrow file-cut rib. The stock incorporates a full pistol grip and a slim flat-backed recoil pad. The fore-end is a slim, Schnabel shape which provides a comfortable and very pointable hold.
My second selection for the young entry, although not based on any particular suitability for the young, is the ATA Sporter F99/99. It’s a man-sized gun and built for men, but many 15–16-year-olds are man-sized, and at the asking price a young man could save up and buy one for himself.
Manufactured in Turkey, the ATA is a shameless replica of the Beretta 680 series of guns. My sample gun was in ‘Sporter’ mode and weighed 7lb 10oz. There is, however, a ‘Game’ version that is a little lighter. The Beretta action requires little introduction and ATA have cut very few corners in copying it. All the familiar cues are on display, including the trapezoidal jointing of the barrels to the action, reinforced with the locking bolt in the form of a U, coming forward from the breech-face. Suitable dimensions are incorporated into the stock, and with an oil finish, any alterations can be easily accommodated.
Two very different off-the-rack guns then, but the price/quality equation for both of them is hard to beat – which is why they were chosen.
As for second-hand guns of finer pedigree, ‘caveat emptor’ should be your motto. Choose your dealer carefully – there are some very reliable ones out there. In the meantime, the summer months will soon be upon us with time to ensure the young entry is well equipped for next season.
Yildiz – Junior Non-ejector
Bore size: 20 bore
Barrel length: 26"
Chokes: 5 hand-detachable
Rib width: ¼"
Stock: Pistol grip
Weight: 5lb 9oz
RRP: £625 inc. VAT
UK Distributor: Entwistle Guns, Preston. Phone: 01772 718048
ATA Arms – F99/99 Sporter
Bore size: 12 bore
Barrel length: 29"
Chokes: 5 hand-detachable
Rib width: 3/8"
Stock: Pistol grip
Weight: 7lb 9oz
RRP: £599.99 inc. VAT
UK Distributor: Sportsman Gun Centre, Exeter, Devon. Phone: 01392 354854