It’s never too early to start preparing for hunting season — be that big game or small — especially when shopping for a young shooter’s first rifle. Practice makes perfect and buying that rifle now will allow ample range time. While younger shooters do not necessarily need a compact rifle, no doubt shooting a gun that fits well makes every shooter more comfortable and confident. Here are five fine choices in both center and rimfire from the GDC Vault.
Savage Axis Compact
While the plain old Savage Axis line is a fine introductory or otherwise budget rifle, stepping up to the newer Axis II or Axis II XP Compact models offer even greater bang for the proverbial buck. The upgraded Axis family members feature the greatly improved Savage Accu-Trigger, which is user-adjustable for a superior trigger pull and ultimately, improved accuracy.
Axis Compact models are available in excellent lower-recoiling calibers like .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, .25-06 Rem, .308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win, 7mm-08 Rem and even .350 Legend. The detachable box magazine is easy to use and offers easy loading and unloading for new shooters. Best of all, the Savage Axis line of bolt actions represents one of the most affordable rifles on the market today. Opt for a factory scoped and bore-sighted combo, and your young shooter will be ready to hit the range right out of the box at a very appealing value.
Building on the success of the Savage Axis and its adjustable trigger, the Mossberg Patriot line of bolt-action offers a similar LBA trigger system. Mossberg doubled down on features with the inclusion of both a spiral-fluted bolt and a fluted barrel on the Patriot. The Patriot Super Bantam represents a solid option for youth shooters, as the LOP can be adjusted from 12- to 13-inches with the included shim. Like the Axis, there’s also a dropbox magazine.
The most popular calibers are available in the Bantam models, including .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, and .350 Legend. While the bare rifle is available, the best buy is the Patriot Super Bantam Scoped Combo with its mounted and bore-sighted 3-9×40 optic. Stock options include black synthetic, Muddy Girl Serenity, and Strata camouflages.
Few adults and even fewer young shooters can resist the allure of the shiny brass of Henry’s Golden Boy rifles. These lever-action rimfires wear American Walnut stocks, a brass buttplate and barrel band, an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight, steel octagon barrel, and tubular magazine. The receiver is drilled and tapped for easy scope mounting, though the iron sights are surprisingly nice.
This Youth iteration of the beloved Golden Boy features a shorter 13-inch length of pull along with a 16.25-inch barrel. The .22 caliber rimfire will fire.22LR but also Shorts and Longs with a capacity of 12 rounds of LR and 16 of .22 Shorts. Like all Henry rifles, they are 100% Made in the USA. Those desiring that Henry quality but wanting to save some cash should check out the Lever Action .22 Youth with its black receiver finish and more affordable price.
Savage Arms makes exceptional rimfire rifles. Though the Mark II family of rimfires has largely been replaced by the A and B series of semi-autos and bolt-actions, respectively, the Mark II Youth is still one of the best buys in smaller-framed bolt-action .22LR rifles.
The bolt action Mark II is fed by a 10-round magazine, dressed in either wood or synthetic stocks. It is drilled and tapped for easy scope mounting in addition to offering adjustable iron sights. Savage’s user-adjustable Accu-Trigger makes accuracy easy. The Youth version wears a shorter stock and barrel than its full-size counterpart. There’s no doubt Savage rimfire rifles have taken down countless tin cans as youngsters learn the ropes of rifle shooting.
Ruger’s USA-made line of American Rifles includes both rimfire and centerfire options for the youth shooter via their American Compact Rifle models. The Ruger American Compact centerfires are available in four calibers: .243 Win, .308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 7mm-08 Rem. They feature not only a shorter LOP but also a shorter barrel at 18-inches. There’s a Ruger Marksman adjustable trigger, Power Bedding system with a free-floated barrel, and an MOA guarantee.
Like the big brother, Ruger’s American Rimfire Compact model is also magazine-fed, this time with a capacity of 10-rounds of .22LR. The stock includes two interchangeable modules for customizing comb height, while the compact LOP remains a short 12.5-inches.