Comfort is the key for successfully starting a new shooter into the world of waterfowling. And being comfortable in the field all begins with choosing the right youth shotgun.
The comfort factor starts with the youth shotgun itself, but recoil and being comfortable with the overall situation are just as important. Even though most shotguns are designed for the dimensions of a grown man, this doesn’t mean that all guns are perfect for everyone.
Here are some things you should look for in order to choose the right youth shotgun for your son or daughter just getting into waterfowling.
1) Why fit is so important
Most factory shotguns come with about 14-inches of stock just behind the trigger. This is perfect for a man of average height, but can present a challenge to young hunters. Taller and lankier men can just install a recoil pad to lengthen the stock, but shorter hunters and youth don’t have that option.
These factors are important to consider before purchasing a youth shotgun. Women and young hunters tend to have less upper body strength, and trying to shoot a gun with too long of a stock is a real exercise. The gun is hard to mount and the balance makes it difficult to get on target.
Starting youth hunters off with the wrong fit leads to bad form and poor overall shooting development later on. Typically, shooters with too long of a stock tend to rest the butt of the shotgun on their arm instead of their shoulder. This leads to missed shots and increased recoil.
Most shotgun manufacturers offer both youth and ladies model shotguns that are specially designed with them in mind. These shotguns have stocks that are 1-2 inches shorter than standard guns and are a good starting point for introducing new shooters to the sport.
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2) Pick the right gauge
Most youth model shotguns are 20 gauges, but still remain capable of harvesting waterfowl cleanly at reasonable distances. Ammo manufacturers offer non-toxic shells like Hevi-shot, Bismuth, and Kent Impact that can increase the range even more.
The 20 gauge is rather restricted in range with steel shot, but for a new hunter that’s probably a good thing. There are lighter loads for the 12 gauge as well that will help reduce overall recoil. The right shotgun gauge combined the a good waterfowl choke can be a great youth starter setup.
The .410 shotgun is another option for reducing recoil even further, although ducks will have to be even closer for them to be successful with it. Picking the right gauge will ensure that the recoil is tolerable, the gun is lightweight, and the dimensions are correct.
3) Pick a youth shotgun that you can upgrade
Kids are constantly growing and the starter shotgun they might have used last year could be too small already. Take this into consideration when looking for youth model shotguns. Picking a model that the stocks can be easily upgraded to full size will allow them to keep shooting the same gun as they grow older.
The Remington 870 and other popular youth shotguns are highly customizable and interchangeable. These make great starter guns since the receiver stays the same, but the stock and barrel combinations can be modified for just about any hunter.
Avoid purchasing small autoloaders that may be difficult to upgrade later on. Single shot H&R shotguns are an inexpensive way to introduce youth to waterfowling on a budget.
4) Check the balance and reduce recoil
As mentioned earlier, gun fit is very important in regards to felt recoil. Weight also plays a factor as heavier guns tend to absorb more of the shock. A perfect fitting and mounted gun will help distribute recoil over a wider area and thus reduce the over effects.
Light guns firing light loads also tend to produce manageable recoil and are perfect for first time waterfowl hunters. Recoil reducing devices are also an option if recoil is still an issue. These devices can be installed in the stock of the gun or mounted in the magazine to help balance and help with shock displacement.
Magazine recoil reducers can also help out by putting more weight out front making it easier to swing the shotgun and follow through with shots. Whichever shotgun setup you decide to use, check the balance and take steps to reduce recoil. Young hunters will stick with waterfowl hunting longer if they enjoy what they are doing.
5) Practice is key
Practicing shoulder placement and correct shooting techniques is the key for reducing recoil and developing a proper follow through. Proper gun mounting and a good shooting stance will put young hunters in the best position to be successful.
While you can’t teach them everything they need to know, it’s important that they have a good foundation to start from and the basics will be ingrained by practice. Practice-shooting clay targets helps build confidence and it’s an important aspect for all waterfowlers, not just those starting out.
If youth hunters can build confidence with their shotgun prior to their first hunt, it’s a great start. Choosing a good hi-viz shotgun sight can help them increase their initial point and see the end of the barrel in order to put it on target. Start them off successful and they will be less likely to get discouraged.
Introducing young hunters to waterfowling for the first time isn’t difficult, but there are a few steps you should take to make sure they have a comfortable experience and keep coming back for more.
Choosing a youth shotgun that fits them well is the foundation for developing proper shooting techniques going forward. Teaching them the proper way to shoulder a shotgun and follow through is one of the basic building blocks of what being a successful waterfowl hunter is all about.
A smaller bore youth shotgun like a 20 gauge or .410 is a good starting point to help reduce recoil. These youth shotguns are also lighter and easier to shoulder and swing. Shooting light loads, such as 1 ounce steel shot, will reduce the recoil even more.
Recoil reduction with the use of dampeners or magazine weights can be easier on the shoulder and provide a better balancing gun. Sticking with a youth model shotgun that can be refitted for a larger stock will help ensure they don’t outgrow the gun as they get older.
As with any sport, practice is the key to success. Take youth hunters out to the skeet range to practice their techniques before you take them out to the field. They will be more successful and have a better experience overall.
Interested in filming your hunts with an action camera to see you shots? Check out our top picks here!