Youth Hunting Rifle

By Don Mutsch

I live in Wisconsin, where a person must be at least 12 years old and have a hunter's safety permit to hunt. Legally, you cannot even shoot a gun before age 12. We have been working on trying to change that and I could opine for some time on the subject. However, last year I began to search for a deer hunting rifle for my son Greg, who just turned 12. After making a short list of rifles to consider, we went to stores and looked at everything on the list. I believe that the rifle we chose is one of the best big game rifles on the market for a young shooter. Certainly, it was the best choice for Greg.

My criteria were:

  1. Light weight and easy to equip with a sling so that he wouldn't feel like he is carrying a log through the woods.
  2. Comfort and the right fit.
  3. A rifle that he will enjoy target shooting with so he can work on his marksmanship.
  4. The right cartridge. I didn't know how recoil sensitive Greg would be, but I did not want too light of a cartridge for him, either. He is an average sized boy for his age and at 12 years old he is not as small as some of the kids that live in states that allow hunting at a younger age.
  5. Not too expensive. However, I was willing to pay a bit more for a rifle that might serve beyond his youth. I also felt that the right gun would serve as a family "hand me down." I know I wish I'd had a youth sized rifle to use when I first started hunting.
  6. No auto loader, but I didn't need to limit this first time hunter to a single shot rifle. He will need to hunt by my side for a few years, anyway. While I don't limit him to one round in the rifle at a time, if I ever changed my mind, I could easily limit how many rounds he loads.
  7. The right scope. My son has developed good open sight skills with his .22 and a scope is a better (and safer) choice for the variety of conditions in which we hunt.
Model Seven CDL
Remington Model Seven CDL. Illustration courtesy of Remington Arms Co.

We chose a Remington Model Seven CDL in .308 Win. It is lightweight, good quality and the bolt is smooth. It is also a handsome rifle that he can be proud to own. The safety is in a good location and can be operated quietly. The trigger is set a little too heavy for my taste, but it can be adjusted when Greg gets more experience under his belt. For now, having a slightly heavier pull isn't so bad for a young hunter who may be shooting with gloves on to keep warm. I separately bought the youth sized synthetic stock for the Model Seven and that is what he will be using for the next couple of years. The Remington R3 recoil pad on both stocks is superior for reducing felt recoil. This rifle is one I would love to own myself.

Model Seven Youth
Model Seven Youth with synthetic stock. Illustration courtesy of Remington Arms Co.

The .308 Winchester is a cartridge that Greg will never consider inadequate for hunting Wisconsin whitetail deer or black bear. Most youth guns come in .243 caliber, which I do not like for hunting our big Wisconsin whitetails. That is a personal choice and I know it can be hotly debated. The sound argument is that bullet placement is everything. However, consider a young, inexperienced hunter getting ready to squeeze off a shot at a deer with his adrenaline pumping, wearing bulky winter clothes and perhaps not in a perfect shooting position. While I preach only taking ethical shots that you are sure you can make, it might not be a perfect broadside heart shot. While the .243 has excellent ballistics, it is the availability of heavier bullets that I feel makes all the difference in favor of the .308.

What about recoil? The added bonus of the .308 is that Remington makes a .308 Managed Recoil load. This reduces the recoil by about 50%, to (or slightly below) .243 Winchester level. It launches a 125 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2660 fps and retains 1249 ft. lbs. of killing energy at 200 yards. The Maximum point blank range (+/- 3") is 248 yards. (This is an excellent deer load for anyone, not just young shooters. -Ed.) Eventually, Greg will not need to shoot the Managed Recoil rounds unless he chooses to and he'll have a versatile rifle that he could use for hunting CXP2 and CXP3 game for the rest of his life. Because my son can continue to use this rifle throughout his lifetime, I was not worried about paying a bit more than the typical cost of a "youth" rifle.

I happened to get lucky and found an unopened, new in the box, older Redfield 2x7 Widefield scope and mounted that on Greg's rifle in Leupold rings and base. While there are other good scopes on the market, I love the older Redfields for their quality and their wide field of view. I felt that the wider field of view would help Greg find his deer quickly in dense cover. I remember when I was first starting to hunt having to "look around" to find deer moving in thick cover. We also put a set of Butler Creek flip-up scope covers on the Redfield to protect the glass.

To me, it was about getting Greg started out right.

Back to the Rifle Information Page

Copyright 2008, 2016 by Don Mutsch and/or All rights reserved.