When most folks think of youth rifles, what often comes to mind are the majority of compact or bantam models that are essentially adult rifles with shortened stocks and barrels. As the legal ages for young hunters continue to drop in many states, responsible parents are opting to teach their kids gun safety and marksmanship from earlier ages.
If the goal is to make youngsters feel comfortable, confident, and hooked on hunting and target shooting, start pint-sized shooters with one of these three single-shot .22 caliber rifles — tiny framed rimfires built from the ground up for your mini-me.
Keystone Sporting Arms is one of the leading producers of firearms for beginning shooters. All Keystone Sporting Arms are made in the USA. Though they produce other models, it is their baby Crickett bolt-action, marketed as “My First Rifle” that has gotten many youngsters addicted to safe shooting. The Crickett is available in dozens of synthetic colors, hydro dipped patterns, both laminate, and thumbhole stocks, as well as options in either blued or stainless metalwork.
The Crickett is manually cocked using the mechanism at the rear of the bolt, meaning the shooter must pull the lever rearward to cock. The rifle has an 11.5-inch length-of-pull with a 16.12-inch barrel. It weighs an even 3-pounds empty. There is an adjustable rear peep sight and fixed front sight, though the Crickett is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
One big knock on the Crickett is the lack of a mechanical safety, though it must be cocked with the aforementioned rearward pull. The EZ-Load feed ramp, however, is a very nice feature that makes feeding that single round even easier for small hands. The Crickett can be had not only in .22 LR but also .22 WMR.
MSRP on the Crickett starts at $163 for synthetic and $199 for laminate.
Henry Repeating Arms Mini Bolt
The company known for lever actions produces a pint-sized bolt-action for the littlest shooters. Henry’s diminutive Mini Bolt single-shot .22 rimfire rifle is completely American-made with a synthetic stock available in standard black, Instant Orange, or Muddy Girl finishes.
Both the receiver and barrel wear a matte stainless finish. Williams Fire Sights ship standard, with the fiber-optic front and rear sights being fully adjustable. The Mini Bolt also comes drilled and tapped for scope mounting. With an 11.5-inch LOP and 16.25-inch barrel, the Mini Bolt weighs only 3.25-pounds.
Like the Crickett, Henry’s Mini Bolt must be cocked by pulling back on the mechanism at the rear of the bolt. Unlike the Crickett, however, Henry has added a thumb safety at the left side of the receiver for additional security and practice. The Henry Repeating Arms Mini Bolt is the “Official Youth Rifle of the USA Shooting Team,” so that’s a solid gauge of the quality and features that the Mini Bolt for grooming the next generation.
MSRP on the Henry Mini Bolt is set at $295.
Savage Arms makes some of the most cost-effective and accurate bolt-action rifles for adults, so it comes as no surprise that their Rascal rimfire for smaller shooters is a solid seller. Available in a rainbow of eye-catching synthetic-stocked color choices, the Rascal uses a 16.125-inch carbon steel barrel and 11.25-length of pull to fit and attract youth shooters. Weight on the Rascal is the lightest of the trio at 2.71-pounds.
The Rascal has several very appealing features that the Henry Mini Bolt and Keystone Crickett do not. First, it wears Savage’s successful AccuTrigger, which is user-adjustable. Second, the Rascal cocks by cycling the bolt, rather than by pulling back on the rear plunger of the others, which also means it can be unloaded/de-cocked without pulling the trigger. Further, the Rascal has a manual safety and a feed ramp which aids in smoothly feeding that single round.
Adjustable peep sights and sling swivels come standard. There are even threaded, left-handed, camouflaged, and Target models.
The Rascal starts with an attractive retail price of $183.