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Youth rifle training

27 Nov 2015
@ 09:42 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Hi guys, I just want to run through training with Riley. I do not want to hash out hard won material from my book in this thread so will keep my points short as I try to get all of todays thoughts relayed. You can refer to the Shooting book and kin for more info.

My sole intention here is to get you thinking about approaches.

This week I wanted to get Riley shooting centerfire. I opted for the .308 as it is such a good training rig and I can slowly build up power. Riley is 9 years old and of a lean build. She is physically sensitive to anything.

Previous training was with 22lr in both an adult length rifle (10/22) and her little Toz with its cut down stock. Ammo was both subs and high velocity.

Moving on to the big rifle:

The stock is too long but the optics (Sightron) have excellent eye relief.

Load- 168gr A-MAX / ELD, 17 grains of Trail Boss compressed (must use drop tube), Federal magnum primer. Velocity around 1600fps. Scope up 4 MOA. Recoil? Yes but very light. Noise? Yes- but not so bad. Must fit ear plugs to child. Bullet drop negligible- a perfect velocity for 100 yard work without subsonic like trajectories.


Lay out ground sheet or blanket.

Lay down kid sized pack.

Ear plugs, hat or shemag over the child and scope if shooting into the sun.

Initial range 50 yards moving to 100 yards.

Explain that this is special ammo "just for kids!" but that it is still very dangerous.

Dad fires first shot. Make sure child is right behind you in a prone position so that no noise comes back.

Utilize crossed arm hold due to stock length. Explain why this method is being used (stock length) versus how a rifle is to be held otherwise (e.g. as a grown up- some irony to this when we consider 'expert' methods these days).

Study the child's body position, angle, leg position etc. Correct as necessary.

Set child up to cycle and dry fire the rifle. Watch for cant and watch for flinching (observe whether the barrel jumps about when dry firing). Keep repeating to the child "slow and steady on the trigger".

Finally, allow the child to shoot and then give plenty of praise.

I tend to reinforce the point that accuracy is about caring for animals and that this is more important than recoil. So if you love animals, then you have to forget about recoil and try to do your best for the animal. Riley responds very positively to this. Her first group was 1" at 50 yards. I then moved this target back to 100 yards. Consecutive shots at 100 yards suffered some wind drift with the second group printing right on the same target. Nevertheless, she settled down and stayed within MOA. Note also that this was new brass and ammo concentricity was poor. Riley can shoot very well. As always, training is the key factor. Talent is no match for time and persistence.

We did not fire a great many rounds and were able to stop while she was still in the zone and not fatigued. A high round count can be problematic in this regard. Anyone into natural horsemanship (childmanship!) will know the golden rule- stop on a high note.

Also consider reactive targets as discussed in the book. These add fun but also display the power of a rifle and therefore the potential danger.

Options moving ahead:

1. Dedicated youth centerfire rifle, stock of the correct length.

2. Steadily build up .308 loads and have her continue to shoot the .308, changing shooting methods as she gets taller.

The .308 is good in that when it is downloaded, it still yields relatively high energy. The load described above can be made to perform on game at very close ranges - but it does have its limits and I need to increase power as soon as she is able / old enough. The further we go down in bore size and bullet weight, the more reliant we are on high velocity. In other words, if using a .243 for training, you can make down loads for the range, but be very cautious about downloading hunting ammo. I would want to stick around 2700fps (87gr V-Max) at the slowest for the most sensitive shooters when hunting. But again, you may have to build up to this with plenty of training. There is no rule that states that your kids have to be successful hunters by age 5. Take it slowly.

Keep in mind that all of what I have mentioned here is relative to non-suppressed rifles. With a bit more time, Riley will be able to select a .223 or .243 rifle from the cabinet, look at the cartridge in comparison to the big .308's she was thumbing down in the M700 mag, and see the others as being small in comparison.

Also understand the importance of a good trigger set light and crisp. Heavy does not mean safe- see my books!!! Barrel direction equals safe, habits equal safe.

Remember that scope eye relief is critical if the rifle stock is too long. You must utilize a long eye relief scope. None of this Zeiss or Swaro rest you eye almost against the rubber and shoot till you bleed bullshit. Also that you cannot step up to full power loads with a stock that is far too long. You must either cut the stock down or wait for the child to grow into the rifle before adopting true high powered chamberings (eg .308 168gr @ 2670fps).

There are many ways to skin this cat. As long as your kids have some time behind a .22, they will soon be able to shoot larger rifles. Note also that air rifles tend to recoil a good deal. If you have a daughter, you may need to start her on a .22 with subs. That or cut the spring down within a cheap air rifle. Note also that you can use spring cutting like load development in reverse (accuracy testing), but its a one way trip.

I started Riley with open sights then moved to a scope because I would like to see that she is multi disciplined.

Boys tend to be more keen than girls so don't treat all kids as being the same. I started using a .303 at 13 years of age. Ours had a brass but plate and was sporterized (stock cut back for weight). I wore a singlet and could not care less about recoil when I first got my chance to shoot that rifle with full power ammo. I just wanted to shoot and keep shooting till I died of old age. The SMLE's always had a shortish butt so eye relief (scope or open sights) was not a huge issue. Cheek weld was nigh on impossible, just get your eye centered and shoot. My main concern- don't drop the rifle or the old man will put a boot fair up my jacksy.

Girls are different, often much more sensitive. In this regard, you must always keep an eye on fit versus recoil levels.

Last weekend I helped at the school gala. My job was at the paint ball rifle stall. Some poor shmuck ran around out front and got stung to hell. I only got shot once. Lucky me. Of note:

Very few people have genuine natural talent. One girl (guessing 14?) picked up the rifle as if she really was born to shoot even though she had never used a rifle of any sort before. I would never have picked her from a crowd.

It was impossible for me to get kids into good form within the space of a few minutes. I did my best but body conditioning takes time. Kids need weeks and months of training, not minutes or hours. The same goes for adults too. Note- If you have an office job, you run the risk of weakening your body. This can make it hard to shoot full power rifles. We must not neglect our bodies.

The AR style semi (paint ball or .223) is a pig for teaching boys. Boys just want to rip off shots as fast as possible. I often hear guys talk about the AR as being ideal for youths. If you have read my latest book, you will know my thoughts on this.

Hope that helps. Again, I don't want to rehash the book here, these are simply further notes for you to consider.


27 Nov 2015
@ 10:32 pm (GMT)

Wayne Woodard

Re: Youth rifle training
Some good pointers there Nathan. Our daughter too is 9 but we have had to work on the right hander, left eyed so still on the 22 and 22mag. I used the 223 for my son. Haven't yet had a good session since reading the book, so keen to get all the family out soon.
Regarding trailboss, everything seems to say don't compress, but apparently not. Good to know.
Oh, yeh, great book.
28 Nov 2015
@ 02:11 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Youth rifle training
When Riley was 7, I blanked off her left eye during shooting so that she had no choice but to use the right. Riley is right eye dominant but you know how kids can be. During the paint ball day, most right handed kids tried to use their left eye, even though most would have been right eye dominant. This was one of the most persistent newbie errors I saw on the day as a general observation.

It is said that the eyes go through a settling stage at around ages 8-9 so I believe it is important to get onto this early if possible. In either case, kids are very pliable with training. I don't think it is ever too late. Consistency is a major factor and training methods such as patching.

The little kids archery sets with sucker heads can help as a means to get very young children into better hand to eye coordination. I also gave Riley a dud (but clear) scope to use as a monocular or "telescope" when she was 5. I showed her how to hold and use it, then left her to use it as she pleased. Later I put the dud scope on a toy lever action. I simply glued it to the toy. Electrical tape would have been just as good.
28 Nov 2015
@ 05:56 am (GMT)

Peter Bjerregaard

Re: Youth rifle training
Hi Nathan,
What are your thoughts on air rifles? Here in gun-shy Europe (you know, we're not supposed to own guns anyway) you need a gun licence which is kind of expensive. And we get ripped off on prices.
Result is one doesn't necessarily own a .22. Air rifles are cheaper and you can get them in kid sizes. You are of course lacking noise etc, but still.


Oh, by the way. Air riles with a caliber bigger than 4.5 millimetres need a license too. Guns are dangerous, you know....
28 Nov 2015
@ 08:50 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Youth rifle training
I put my thoughts on air rifles above.

You have to take recoil into consideration (test for yourself with as loose a grip as you can muster), consider the trigger, and also the disposition of your children. A keen young boy will take to a high recoiling (caused by the spring) air rifle and heavy trigger. But for a sensitive boy or girl, this can simply set up the worst of habits. Especially the 7-9lb creepy trigger jobs (takes two fingers and huge effort for younger kids). But again, you can cut a spring down and work on triggers (make sure all safety tests are performed as per the accurizing book - also mock bedding as per the book plus bore lapping). Such work can be done on a cheap Norinco as a starter rifle including cutting the butt down to suit. Like I said, use spring cutting like reverse incremental load development. The rifle can then be passed to another family when your kids grow out of the small rifle.

29 Nov 2015
@ 05:36 am (GMT)

Thomas Kitchen

Re: Youth rifle training
im enjoying this post.
i brought a cheap lee enfield for my nephew.
we work on it together when we can and im teaching him how to handload for it.
he only 13 so it stays with me and only ever use it under strict supervision by myself, when he turns 16 and gets his licence it'll be his.
after seeing him struggle with the recoil i purchased some cast projectiles and just been having a play with them.
i haven't chrono them yet but using 15.5 gr of trail boss recoil is minimum and the noise isn't much more then a 22 these will be fine for shooting a gong and targets but if we take it hunting we'll have to either step up the speed or go to jacketed projectile at normal velocity.
the trigger needs some work when we get a chance.
i think the 7.62x39 i have got since is a far better option for training as the trigger is better, its lighter and scoped but i also want him to be able to use open sights and i think every kiwi should have some experience with a 3 oh.
i discover that there's similar laws here peter once you get to energy/caliber i think, i only discovered that when i went into a dedicated airgun shop. those precharged pneumatic air rifles might be a good trainer??
29 Nov 2015
@ 08:21 am (GMT)

Ben Law

Re: Youth rifle training
I look forward to introducing my young fella to the basics in the next few years.

I will start him with the .177 air rifle as my father did with me and progress from there.
29 Nov 2015
@ 09:02 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Youth rifle training
With my boys using the 22lr with Subsonics to learn l found stock fit to be by far the most important factor in building confidence, developing skills and above all enjoyment, followed very closely by reactive targets.

With my old JW15A I shortened the pull, raised check height (scoped) and reshaped the palm swell & fore stock to suit small hands. The results were amazing, parallax error was a huge problem for little eyes which was causing lots of frustration. I also found bench shooting over bags easier for them until the basics are mastered, then moving to field positions.

Once they started gaining skills & getting bigger l used youth loads of 2206H in a Varmint 243 and stepped up in power levels/calibre from there to the point that my eldest boy now carries a mildly loaded 30-06 deer hunting and wields it very well!

01 Dec 2015
@ 04:45 am (GMT)

Gerry Moriarty

Re: Youth rifle training
I had done something very similar with my 9 yr old son. I used a 168 SMK in the 30-06 with trail boss. The report and recoil are very mild. The report was so mild that I started carrying the load in the field while caribou and moose hunting. In the past I always worried that the report would alert a big game animals when shooting spruce hens or ptarmigan with full power loads. Not to mention that when thinking about shooting the head and missing or take the given and go for the body shot and the sure thing. The sure thing ending up as a bloody feather ball with reduced portions of edible meat. The trail boss load punches a clean .30 cal hole with very little meat loss. There are not too many ferril goat here in Alaska so with with this load and ptarmigan I partake in my own long range type of hunting.
01 Dec 2015
@ 08:34 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Youth rifle training
I did similar with my son Gerry when we had his 308 Tikka Lite & 125 TNT's loaded over a %65 youth load of 2206h before we had his 06. He trained with this load in all styles, l used a 14"round hardwood log ripped in half as a back stop one day at 70 yards, damn thing punched straight through it........... raised a few eyebrows l'll tell you.
We started using it to cull vermin, foxes, possums & rabbits etc with excellent and at time graphic results. We then worked out a load with the 150gn Interlock and it performed very well on heavy bodied deer with a slightly heavier charge of powder and he is still using that pill in his 06 now along with the 168 Amax.
He accurised his 06 and worked through loads with my guidance which was great to watch him develop an appreciation for his gear and what makes it tick.

These are the little tricks that people who don't reload can miss, well worth the time invested as it makes the more powerful cartridges even more versatile with the correct combinations.
01 Dec 2015
@ 09:33 pm (GMT)

Ben Law

Re: Youth rifle training
Marty, how has the 168 amax performed rmed on the sambar?
what sort of impact velocities have u had?
01 Dec 2015
@ 10:14 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Youth rifle training
We don't use them on Sambar Ben but only because the old fellas we hound hunt with have asked us not too! They don't like what they call "explosive pills" when hound hunting due to damage if the shot hits solid bone at close quarters, they are my sons training pills.

In the right conditions I wouldn't hesitate to use them out to say 500 or so on Sambar given time for shot placement as Bob has shown many times.
I haven't been doing any LR hunting of late due to some health Issues l have going on atm. In my 300 I still prefer the 208 but we do train a lot with these as they have been bloody accurate in every 30 l've tried them in. They are all l feed my 308 and l was very Impressed in NZ with their performance.
01 Dec 2015
@ 11:08 pm (GMT)

Ben Law

Re: Youth rifle training
Thanks marty.
i might try some of the cheap zmaxs in my 06.

They might come in handy down the track.


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