5 Best Rifle Calibers for Youth Hunters

5 Best Rifle Calibers for Youth Hunters
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Nothing is more discouraging to a new hunter than a loud and intimidating rifle. If you’re hoping your kid will be confident and accurate from the deer blind, throwing them to the wolves with a .300 Winchester Magnum isn’t the way to go. It might make for a funny story when they’re older, but it’s a terrible way to recruit a future hunting buddy.

Fortunately, there are tons of great cartridges for youth hunters that are pleasant to shoot but still effective. These five are some of the best.

What We Look for in a Youth Rifle Caliber

For youth hunters, user-friendly recoil, minimal shot report, and efficacy are the name of the game.

Experienced hunters are already familiar with the recoil impulse of various cartridges, but if you’re considering a cartridge you’re unfamiliar with, you can find lots of comparative information online. For a general purpose deer rifle, look for something that produces less than 15 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy. Felt recoil is highly dependent on the weight of the gun, and some people have more or less tolerance for heavy recoil. But it’s generally true that more than 20 ft.-lbs. of felt recoil causes discomfort in even experienced hunters. If you’re dealing with a novice, you’ll want to lower those expectations even further.

Of course, you can dampen recoil with a heavier gun, recoil pad, muzzle brake, or a suppressor (see the Pro Tip, below). I’ve found that shooting position also makes a big difference. Awkward shooting positions can hammer a kid’s collarbone or produce the dreaded scope bite. Field positions are tricky, but if at all possible, try to make sure your youth hunter can shoot from a comfortable position with the rifle resting firmly in the shoulder pocket.

Shot report is less of an issue while wearing hearing protection, but the concussion of a cartridge explosion can still cause flinching and discomfort. The good news is that the same cartridges that produce limited recoil also tend to be quieter than their larger counterparts. Nothing larger than a subsonic .22 LR is really hearing-safe, but smaller cartridges won’t be able to penetrate hearing protection as easily.

Lastly, be sure that whatever cartridge you choose has enough juice to get the job done. That might sound obvious, and it’s true for all hunters–not just youth hunters. But depending on the temperament of the kid you’re hunting with, a wounded and/or unrecovered animal can be devastating. The experience might be so bad that the kid decides to abandon hunting altogether. That’s the outcome we’re all trying to avoid.

Jump to: Product Notes

Youth Rifle Calibers We Recommend

Field notes from the MeatEater Crew

Last Shot

The rifle you choose for your youth hunter isn’t the most important part of a successful hunt, but the wrong rifle can ruin a kid’s day. While there are other great youth cartridges out there (the .30-30 Winchester and the .25-06 Rem. come to mind), we think these are five of the best.

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