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Old May 20, 2011, 02:53 PM   #1
Join Date: May 20, 2011
Location: Texas
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Newbie Dad & Son

I am not sure whether or not to post this here or under "Art of the Rifle." I have a couple of questions which I will post separately.

I have never hunted, as my dad did not hunt, and it has always been my dream to educate myself and start the tradition with my sons. This year I am going to buy my first rifle along with my oldest son's first rifle. (We're signed up for a hunter safety course here in Texas.)

My son is 12 but very small for his age, weighing about 80 pounds soaking wet. We are going to be primarily deer hunting (white-tail & mule) and I need to pick the right caliber rifle for him. After tons of reading it seems that .243 is the smallest caliber recommended for deer, but when researching the recoil, I am afraid it will be too much for him and cause him to flinch/not enjoy shooting. I'm looking for general guidance from you experienced hunters on 2 fronts: A) am I correct that .243 is the smallest I should consider? and B) do you think a boy of his size will have a problem with the recoil of that weapon?

Thank you in advance for your feedback.
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Old May 20, 2011, 03:59 PM   #2
Clifford L. Hughes
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This is a hard question to answer without knowing your son. Is he timid or shy or is he outgoing? In other words does he take the bull by the horns? You're right, the .243 is the smallest caliber to use on deer. Your son should be able to handle the 243's recoil. Do you have any friends that have .223s that your son can shoot first to help him develope a tolerance for recoil?

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Old May 20, 2011, 04:06 PM   #3
Buzzard Bait
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in Texas

In Texas the rules are center fire rifle for deer. So as long as it is not a rim fire your good. Yes for a small, young deer hunter the 243 can be too much you can load it with light bullets which will help. Among the group I hunt with most of the young shooters are using 223s. We are in south Texas with some of the larger deer in Texas and from what I have witnessed given a broad side shoot out at about 100 yards the 223 with good bullets gives threw and threw wounds plenty of tissue damage and kills the deer just as dead as the larger rifles. My daughter is extremely recoil sensitive and she started at 10 years old with a 222 and has never lost a deer all one shot kills. She is a 16 year old now and I can't talk her into a larger rifle. It's realy all shot placement and a quality bullet.
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Old May 20, 2011, 04:12 PM   #4
Join Date: May 20, 2011
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Good question. He's right down the middle. Definitely not shy, but he's not an aggressive kid, either. He's mentally tough, but he's all skin and bones (no meat to absorb a kick from a gun)

Unfortunately no one I know hunts so we don't have friends with rifles we can try. We're kind of forging a new path here without a lot of guidance from people we know.

Thanks for your help and more importantly, thank you for your service to our country!
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Old May 20, 2011, 04:13 PM   #5
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I don't think he will have a problem with the .243, if the rifle is of normal weight. If he's not going to be having to carry the rifle for miles of walking, in other words, just going to a blind, a rifle in the 7lb range should not be too bad, recoil-wise. If you use loads that are in the 80-90gr bullet weight, that should help, as well.
The best thing you can do is get him out and shoot the rifle.... a LOT. Let him put at least 5-6 boxes of ammo through it. At LEAST. More is better. For one thing, he's getting the feel of the rifle, and the recoil. Another thing, he's building confidence in himself, and his ability to hit what he aims at.
When first shooting the rifle, let him watch you shoot it a couple of times. Don't just hand it to him cold and let him start blazing away. Good ear protection is MANDATORY. Most fear of firing a rifle is due to muzzle blast. Eliminate that issue, and he can concentrate on realizing that the recoil just doesn't hurt. After you shoot it first, demonstrate to him what it will feel like. Use your hand, and give his shoulder a gentle, sharp push. Tell him, "it feels just like that, that didn't hurt, did it?"
It also helps if the first few times he shoots it, he's standing up. His body can rock backward with the recoil, which will minimize the effect of it. After he gets used to feeling it, then he can sit down with sandbags and learn to squeeze the trigger and shoot small groups.
Personally, I like the .260 Remington for a beginner's cartridge. The recoil will be slightly more, but not enough to be intimidating. It is, in my opinion, a MUCH better deer cartridge than the .243. But, if he learns to put the bullet where he wants, the .243 should work for him, and normal "beginner" ranges... out to 100yds or so. Closer is better with the .243.
Good luck to both of you. This is exciting stuff. Practice, practice, practice. I applaud you for going through the Hunter Safety Course.
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Old May 20, 2011, 04:38 PM   #6
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Invest in a good recoil pad,,,

Eventually he won't need it and can remove it from the gun,,,
The .243 doesn't have a punishing recoil as much as as it has a sharp snap.

Perhaps one of these would help until he gets a bit of bulk on him.

Just a suggestion

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Old May 20, 2011, 05:20 PM   #7
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Congratulations. Some of my fondest memories are hunting with my sons, teaching them to shoot and stalk.

Find a gun club near you. This link has a list of clubs in Texas. Give them a call, you might find more resources than you're able to use. Us hunters and gunnies are extremely helpful folks. You're not alone in your quest, there are plenty of folks ready to help.

One thing to consider is perhaps taking your son regardless of whether he wants to shoot. I've had my grandson in the deer stand with me and we had a heck of a time. We munched beef jerky and trail mix. I sipped coffee and I had an extra thermos of cocoa. At the end of the hunt we went to the lease's camp house and traded lies with the other hunters.

Don't worry so much about the rifle, as in getting out with your boy. Those years will be over before you know it.
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Old May 20, 2011, 05:36 PM   #8
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Right on, right on 100% get the young ones out with you even if they just shoot a bb gun take them with you, girls too teach them to hunt take them with you it's very rewarding this gun that gun not so important make it happen pay close attention to making it an enjoyable and comfortable hunt teach them proper ethics and respect for the out doors. I promise you will be rewarded many times over.
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Old May 20, 2011, 07:23 PM   #9
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Also remember that it is just May. By October, the boy could have put on an additional 5 to 10 lbs. They grow fast at this age.
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Old May 21, 2011, 10:28 AM   #10
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I am not a deer hunter, but I have seen some small boys (8-10) handle recoil from a 12 gauge well, Like the others have said, You may have friends willing to let you try out their rifles..... Many shooters enjoy introducing children and beginners to shooting activities even if they arent hunters...

Offering to buy ammo may not hurt your chances.

I noticed that you live in TX so, you should have plenty of friends who shoot.

unless you are nearing geezerdom like me, you need a hunter education course also.
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Old May 22, 2011, 02:10 AM   #11
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You need to buy a .22, a bunch of ammo, get some coaching or knowledgeable instruction and learn to shoot first. Sights and trigger from the bench first, plenty, then work on field rests and finally field shooting and maybe some off hand. You should start this right away if you have not already. In Texas you will likely be in a shoothouse and have an expedient rest from the window, yes? I'd do a lot of that. Shooting sticks from sitting are very useful fieldrests as well.

Ignore much of above if you are shooting, training, presently. I also believe that SEEING deer is important. If the youngster has never seen a deer in the wild, in rifle range, its a lot to ask to expect them to place a bullet well on their first instance of observing same. Get'em in the woods, on the country roads, etc. Some time with the .22 on squirrels or groundhogs would be very good training also. A deer is a lot of animal to throw down on for your first shot for blood. Lots of adults will attest to that.

Bamaboy shot a .22, plenty before we went for his deer at age 11. I did not want to spoil all that work with sights and trigger by over gunning him and leading to a flinch. And........he was slim too. One problem was that the .243 available to me was a Sav 110 and the rifle was just to heavy, overall. Plus, for some reason that Sav 110 seemed to kick more than it should. I'd have to believe that from something as light as the Handi-Rifles, the .243 might pack a surpise recoil wise. I did not want to spoil a lot of positive practice.

I bought a Mini-Mauser .223, intended more of an upgraded trainer on way to the .243, but the kid shot the .223 WELL. Clay birds, off a rest at 100, were duck soup. I read, and kept hearing about positive results with proper .223 loads and small deer, at reasonable distances.

Obtained some Federal .55 and 62 grain BONDED bullets and we went hunting. Boy did fine on his first 3, although one was not thru and thru and did not leave much trail, it was plenty dead in short dx. None went further than any other I've seen similarly hit with larger cals. Ranges were 80, 55 and 35 yds, all from shooting houses. The fail to exit was the close shot, and expansion was great, bullet expanded plenty and was found under hide on off side. Deer went 40-50 yds. All hits were ribcage/double lung.

We began at age 13, to hunt (and still do) a bit w/ 7.62x39mm bolt rifle next. It seemed a bit better killer, we had several DRT, and always a pass through, but most run 40-50 yds before going down. I still hunt the x39 cartridge a good bit every year. Its a bit limited in range when compared to bigger cals, but plenty of rifle for deer under 150- yds. I'd avoid an SKS for a beginner like the plague.

At age 14 we got to the .243, and now the boy is 155 lbs and is grim death with it. Family long range record holder, his first buck, at a lasered 260. This year, another at 175. Both were well hit, and ran 40-50 yds.

The .223 is enough if junior is prepared. The 7.62x39 is an option in a quality bolt rifle. If recoil is a very real concern, I might hold off on the .243 for a bit. Avoid an SKS or any semi for a newbie. And I like levers, but the complex manual of arms, tube mag, half-cock safety, etc, rules them our for newbies in my book too.

FINALLY, good for you on this decision. I have never, ever, met a Dad who regretted starting their children on shooting/hunting. But I've met quite a few who wish they had.
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Old May 22, 2011, 04:07 AM   #12
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I have been using a .243 off and on for 35+ years. The .243 has a rather light recoil. I have a .243 Ruger #1 that doesn't kick much at all. But it weighs almost 10 lbs. I also have a custom built Sako that weighs 8 lbs and kicks just a hair more but still has very light recoil. So keep in mind the lighter the rifle the more recoil it will produce.

The .243 is a good choice for a deer rifle in my opinion as long as you know its limitations. Generally, I try to keep the desired range within 250 yards for deer. Bullet placement is everything as is the proper choice of bullet for the game you are hunting.

Good luck on your hunting adventures!

There are no better memories of going hunting with your father. I lost my father five years ago at 87. When I think of him the thoughts of the good times we had hunting always come to mind.
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Old May 22, 2011, 12:48 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by bamaranger
get some coaching or knowledgeable instruction and learn to shoot first
I agree and we plan to practice a lot. One thing I have going for me is that I was in the Army so I have a lot of experience with military firearms. I just have never hunted or owned a hunting rifle.

Originally Posted by bamaranger
Get'em in the woods, on the country roads, etc.
My sons and I have spent a lot of time camping so we've seen deer and spent a great deal of time in the woods.

Originally Posted by bamaranger
The .223 is enough if junior is prepared.
Is a .223 really enough gun to take down a deer?

Thanks again for the feedback. Really great wisdom! I appreciate the benefit of your experience!
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Old May 22, 2011, 01:08 PM   #14
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.223 with the proper bullet is OK for deer with proper shot placement. I'm of the opinion that the .243 may be the perfect TX deer rifle so either should serve your son well.
I'd highly recommend hunter education for BOTH of you, even if you're entitled to the "near geezer" exemption.
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Old May 22, 2011, 03:29 PM   #15
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In glancing through the replies, if this advice is already posted you have my apologies.

I would urge you to have your son get formal instruction in the art of rifle shooting. Using the proper stance and hold will go a long way to minimizing the effects of recoil, and good instruction will offset years of trial and error. I wish I had the opportunity of good instruction when I was first starting out. That would've prevented a lot of wasted effort on my part.

After he gets comforstable with shooting, and knows what he is doing to a degree, let him shoot various rifles and make the choice for himself. Ask around at a Gunshop or range, and I'll bet most folks will let him try a shot out three out of their rifles. Bear in mind however that an adult size rifle will not be optimal for him, but it can be an indicator as to what may work for him.

As to caliber, I am of the opinion that .243 is as small as I would go for deer, but the caliber has even taken elk. It is a good caliber for the newbie, and not a shabby one for more advanced among us either.

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Old May 22, 2011, 07:10 PM   #16
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Since you were in the army, the fundamentals you learned are universal, just teach your son the same thing. You can purchase an AR in a variety of calibers, since u already know the rifle. And since you are going to wind up hunting pigs also, the AR style rifle will fit right in.
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Old May 22, 2011, 07:21 PM   #17
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My 2 cents

I would recommend a .223 with a heavy barrel or a .243 if that is the smallest allowed by law. The .223/5.56 is a great round with good bullets and good shot placement. The .243 will give a bit more recoil and a slightly larger margin of error for placement. You may want to look at the Rossi/TC/NEF single shot break-open's as a first firearm. Also the Single shot break-opens can grow bigger with with your young man as he grows! You can actually buy a matched set for about $300 if you look carefully with .22LR/, 20g, .223/.243 and such. A youth model will be the next gun I buy for my wife. She is about 120 pounds and a little gun shy not much but a bit. It will allow her to grow cartridges as she desires.

Hope this Helps!
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.243 , first rifle , newbie , youth

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