If you are in the market to buy a youth shotgun this guide will help you find the right price and model.
I remember like it was yesterday when my grandfather took me to the local gun shop at the age of ten to look for a youth model 20-gauge shotgun. My godfather had given me a single shot .410 bore a few years prior with which I’d learned both safe firearm handling and the basics of wingshooting but it was time to take the next step.
“You’re ready for a shotgun you can shoot a quail with, kid.” With that order I marched beside him into the gun shop and eventually walked out one step closer to being a quail hunter, “just like grandpa.” I remember the shorter stock fit perfectly into my young arms and the 21-inch barrel swung smoothly on the taxidermied Canada goose hanging behind the gun counter. I thought I was really something with my first “big boy” shotgun.
Working at that same gun shop during my college years provided me many opportunities to help outfit young hunters with their first shotgun. (READ: A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Used Shotgun) When a parent, grandparent, or mentor walked up to the gun counter alone asking about a youth shotgun one of the first questions I asked was, “Is the youngster here with you today?”
Matching the right youth shotgun to a young hunter was much easier when they were present and could effectively “try on” the shotgun to determine the best fit and feel. If the shotgun was to be a birthday or Christmas surprise I would encourage the adult to find a creative way to engage the youth in shouldering several makes and models. Yes, sometimes that required a tiny white lie but a positive end result justified the means.
Characteristics of Youth Shotgun
A few common characteristics of youth model shotguns include:
- Shorter buttstocks
- Shorter barrel lengths
- Less overall weight
Shorter barrels accommodate the shorter arms of younger shooters and ensure the shotgun fits their structure well. Youth model barrel lengths in the 21-inch to 26-inch range—as compared to the 28-inch to 30-inch range more common to full-size shotguns—provide a more balanced platform for smaller hunters to achieve a smooth, fluid swing. Combining shorter buttstocks and barrels also, by default, reduces the overall weight of the shotgun which, again, caters to youth who are learning the art of wingshooting. Additionally, many manufacturers of youth or compact shotguns offer full-size stocks or even a combo package that contains both a shortened stock and full-size stock to accommodate the growth of your young shooter.
Gauges available in youth model shotguns range from .410 bore to 12-gauge. There are more 20-gauge models offered in youth and/or compact models and it is much easier to find 20-gauge upland loads in retail stores than, say, the more niche .410 bore and 28-gauge shells. A 20-gauge is a great choice to get a youth started as it offers less recoil while giving young shooters a solid option for anything from clays on the range to late-season rooster pheasants and even wild turkey.
Here is a table that lists many of the manufacturers, models, gauges, and more that are available in youth/compact shotgun models. A few may have been inadvertently omitted but this list is a great starting point for a search. The prices came from online searches and research at my local gun shop. I’m sure one could find better or special pricing on both new and used youth shotguns either locally or on one of the many online auction or classifieds sites.
|Manufacturer||Youth Model(s)||Action Type||Gauge(s) or Caliber(s)||Prices Start at (New)||Prices Start at (Used)|
|Benelli||M2 Field Compact||semi-auto||12, 20||$1299||$1099|
|Benelli||828 U Compact||over/under||12||$2799||$2399|
|Beretta||A400 Lite Compact||semi-auto||20||$1348||$1049|
|Browning||Citori CXS Micro||over/under||12, 20||$1766||$1495|
|Browning||Citori Cynergy Micro Midas||over/under||20||$1629||$1395|
|Browning||Silver Field Micro Midas||semi-auto||12, 20||$942||$849|
|CZ-USA||Redhead Primier||over/under||12, 16, 20||$988||$649|
|Harrington & Richardson||Pardner Compact||single shot||.410, 20||$199||$95|
|Henry||Single Shot Youth||single shot||20||$439||$335|
|Iver Johnson||Single Shot-Youth||single shot||.410, 20||$180||$85|
|Mossberg||500 Youth Bantam||pump||.410, 20, 12||$299||$150|
|Mossberg||SA-28 Youth Bantam||semi-auto||28||$476||$379|
|Mossberg||SA-20 Youth Bantam||semi-auto||20||$464||$349|
|Mossberg||505 Youth||pump||.410, 20||$299||$175|
|Remington||11-87 Sportsman Black Synthetic||semi-auto||20||$599||$369|
|Remington||870 Compact and Jr.||pump||20||$329||$289|
|Remington||V3 Field Sport Compact||semi-auto||12||$731||$599|
|Stevens||301 Compact||single shot||.410, 20, 12||$161||$75|
|Stoeger||Condor Youth||over/under||.410, 20||$379||$249|
|Stoeger||Uplander Youth||side by side||.410||$386||$299|
|TriStar||Viper G2||semi-auto||.410, 20, 12||$502||$399|
|TriStar||Cobra III Field||pump||20||$200||$149|
|Weatherby||SA-08 Synthetic Compact||semi-auto||20||$460||$255|
|Winchester||SX4 Compact||semi-auto||20, 12||$667||$599|
|Winchester||SXP Field Compact||pump||20, 12||$358||$249|
|Winchester||SXP Youth Field||pump||20, 12||$379||$254|
I get it: the table above contains a ton of information to process. If you’re like me, you want a cheat-sheet on where to start, so here are a few tips to get you off neutral:
- Start with your budget to begin narrowing down options.
- Next, chat with your young shooter to decide which action type best suits them. A few things to consider:
- Semi-autos usually mean less recoil but they will cost more.
- Pumps cost less but sometimes working the pump-action can be challenging for young shooters.
- Single shots only provide one chance but they are inexpensive and excellent for reinforcing safe gun-handling skills.
- Break action shotguns like over/under are sometimes preferred for the safety of being able to see a shotgun is open and safe while walking. In fact many guiding operations require even adults to do this.
- Next, consider gauge preference. Remember, 12 and 20-gauges will provide the most flexibility and choice of loads. Although a .410 will have less recoil, it can be very difficult for even an adult to hunt with.
- New or used? Do you purchase a new shotgun to get your youngster started or try to find a killer deal on a quality used shotgun? Budget will come into play here, too, obviously.
- Does the manufacturer matter to you? My family has a long history with Browning shotguns but to some folks the manufacturer doesn’t matter. Fit and feel for a young shooter should probably be prioritized over manufacturer, anyway.
Buying the right shotgun for a young hunter is an important step toward ensuring they are successful and they learn to enjoy the experience of shooting. A positive experience leads to recruiting and retaining youth in the shooting sports and the upland fields. Getting the future shooter involved in the selection process is rewarding in many ways especially to secure the best fit between shotgun and youngster. It’s always fun to make this a memorable surprise on a birthday or holiday but getting that right fit must be the primary goal. So, use this guide as a starting point and get to shopping for a youth shotgun that will create smiles and memories for years to come!
Brad Stefanoni grew up hunting quail and waterfowl in southeast Kansas, where for the past 20 years he’s been passing on what he learned to his wife and their two sons. His diverse background includes work as a biologist, a science education center director, an outdoor writer and a developer of public/private partnerships. With a degree in wildlife biology, Brad’s current work-in-progress is transforming his family’s 80-acre farm into a living laboratory of upland and wetland habitat. His passions include spending time with his family and black Labrador retriever pursuing waterfowl and upland birds, and fly fishing.