Monday, August 2, 2010

Sunday Afternoon At The Range, And Shotgun Advice Wanted

Yesterday afternoon my son Jack and I drove about 85 miles south to the Hollister Shooting Range, a public range run by the Old Fort Sharpshooters near Fort Scott, Kansas.  Yes, there are plenty of ranges closer to my house than that, but I'm pretty particular about where I shoot.

It seems to me that at most ranges, the clientele and management fits into one of two categories.  The first is run by those elitist, uptight, Perazzi-toting bluebloods that travel the clays course in tricked-out golf carts that won't give you the time of day.  The second kind of range is the one inhabited by testosterone-laden, sleeveless-shirt wearing, menacing guys that are a little bit unstable.  I don't feel comfortable at either place, and I don't want my son thinking that that's how he needs to behave around guns.

So about a year ago, I found this range.  The only two rangemasters I ever see there are two normal looking, friendly, and knowledgeable (but not know-it-all) grandad types.  They immediately took to Jack, and one of them, being a hunter safety instructor, gave all sorts of great shooting and safety advice to my son.  And that advice sticks -- there's something about being told something by a non-parent that makes it more credible, I guess.

Anyhow, we started out on the rifle range, and put my little AK-22 through its paces at 25 yards (it's no tack driver).  Even so, Jack hit in the red on virtually every shot, making his dad proud. 

Next up was the AR.  This was only the second time we've shot it, but man is it ever fun!  Since buying it, we've done some minor customization, including a new pistol grip, an ambidextrous safety, a Trijicon scope, a laser sight, and a poor man's trigger job.  It's delightful to shoot -- and the recoil isn't really much more than a .22.

Next we hit the trap range (for a measly $4 per round!).  A couple weeks' back, Jack netted a 15/25 on his first round of trap ever, using the same Stevens 16 gauge that I grew up with, and the same gun my dad grew up with.  The barrel was shortened to about 24 inches, so it's easy for him to carry and swing.  But it kicks like a chorus line of Rockettes, and I fear that at ten years old and 75 pounds soaking wet, he's going to grow tired of the recoil (who wouldn't?).

So this week, I let him have a round on my father-in-law's old 20 gauge Stevens 311 -- a rock-solid gun with a nice, short length of pull.  Unfortunately, those two barrels make fatigue set in pretty quickly, and his swing isn't what it needs to be.

So my question: what do we do?  There's one more gun that I've already got that might fit him -- a little Spanish 28 gauge guild gun that I think we'll try next week.  Problem is, it's a little nicer grade than I want my ten-year-old with, and shells are pretty spendy.

Any other dads out there faced with similar issues?  I've not been fond of the pump/auto guns with youth stocks -- they're still pretty heavy and I much prefer the safety and simplicity of a breech gun for a kid starting out.

Thanks in advance for your advice.  The kid's got his first dove hunt in just 30 days!


  1. As I was reading through your dilemma about your son I was thinking he needs a 28 ga. It's a relief to learn that's an option. The 28 is the perfect shotgun, youth or otherwise. From a ballistic perspective it's a great load that continues to amaze me. It hits like a hammer and carries like a feather. In fact, in the early bird seasons, it the only gun I carry. We have altitude and mountains where I live though so I'm always looking to shave weight wherever I can.

    The shells are expensive if you buy them over the counter. Use that to your advantage and start reloading. Believe me, you'll pay for a new gun in one dove season if you start reloading 28 ga shells.

    My kids have shot the same 28 ga Browning Citori over/under that I cut down so they could use it. It was a painful exercise because I know I'll never be able to sell it, but it's allowed me to hunt with two kids with one more left to go. It's safe to say I've gotten value out of the investment. Who knows, when all is said and done and they all grow into new adult guns, I may restock it to fit me!

    Good luck! You're dealing with a great problem. It's awesome that your kids want to shoot and hunt!

  2. SLRH, thanks. I agree with your comments that the 28 is a very underrated gauge. Shortly after I acquired it, I hunted prairie chickens with it in the Nebraska Sandhills on one very arduous 22-mile hunt. I noticed everthing except the weight of that litttle flyrod gun.

    And note, my sweet wife... 'twas not me that raised the subject of reloading!

  3. 20ga Beretta 391. Soft shooting, easy-to-find (and cheaper) ammo, and if you cut it down, getting a second, replacement stock for when he gets tall will be both straightforward and relatively inexpensive.


  4. Big ol' kick-eze recoil pad on the 311 (get a Boyd's replacement buttstock if you don't want to cut the original) and I'll bet he'll grow into swinging it pretty quickly. That, or try some of the B&P 2 1/2 inch 16 gauge shells- the lighter loads might produce a good bit less recoil.