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Starting Early, Starting Right

Starting Early,  Starting Right
Mossberg’s Unique Youth Shotguns.

Insuring the future of shooting sports by actively recruiting youth into the sport is a national goal of the utmost importance. We are reminded as individuals and organizations that mentoring young men and women and introducing them to the shooting sports is the future, and while it’s often hard to pry them away from their computers and iPhones, I think we’re doing a pretty good job of getting them out to the ranges and in the field.

mpanies that have been coming up with new models of rifles and shotguns every year proportioned to youths or smaller stature adults.

The crafting of firearms proportioned to youths is as old as the art of gunmaking itself. Over the last 500 years, there have been exquisite, scaled-downed wheellocks, flintlocks and percussion arms crafted for the youth of the day by the very best gunmakers. Yes, they were arms commissioned by the hunting aristocracy for their children, but it shows how concerned they were that their children were suitably outfitted and hopefully would uphold their sporting heritage as they grew into adulthood.

Fortunately, now housed in museums and private collections, many examples of historical youth arms have survived in surprisingly good condition. They serve as an inspiration and a reminder for our generation and our arms companies that our young men and women need firearms that fit them, and their introductory experiences with suitably scaled arms will insure the shooting sports become a lifelong passion.

Using the model designations of “Bantam” and “Super Bantam” across the entirety of its rimfire, centerfire and shotgun lines, Mossberg is the industry champ when it comes to offering youth and petite models in a smorgasbord of calibers, finishes and features. In fact, at last count, Mossberg offered 21 models of shotguns alone in their 500 Youth Series which covers the entire waterfront of scattergun hunting and target shooting.

Focused primarily on .410 bore and 20-gauge chambering, Mossberg’s 500 and 510 Mini Youth Series shotguns include all-purpose field models with removable chokes. A specially engraved, 20-gauge, 510 Mini Super Bantam, Mossy Oak “Turkey Thug” model dressed in Mossy Oak Obsession camo with an adjustable synthetic stock and padded sling. There’s a 500 Super Bantam “Slugster” in 20-gauge dressed in Realtree camo with a 24-inch rifled and ported barrel, adjustable synthetic stock and cantilever scope mount. There are even several 20-gauge combination models with adjustable synthetic or fixed wood stocks with two barrels: a 22-inch general purpose, adjustable choke barrel for upland game and a rifled, ported slug barrel for big game.

In short, the 500 Youth Series includes 12-, 20-gauge and .410-bore chamberings in field, turkey, and multibarrel variations with 18.5- 20-, 22-, 24- smoothbore and 24-inch slug barrel options, stocked in either synthetic with adjustable length-of-pull or solid synthetic and wood stocks in a variety of camouflage or standard finishes.

Youth Styles
But there’s more than just an infinite choice of options defining the Mossberg Youth Series. The secrets are in the design details.
Not long ago, when a manufacturer offered a “youth” model shotgun, the only change carried out on an existing adult model was to shorten the existing stock from the butt end. Mossberg’s 500 Youth Series is a much more refined product.
Recognizing that small hands need to be placed closer to the trigger, Mossberg both shortened and tightened the pistol grip-to-trigger distance and added the option of using quick replaceable spacers and recoil pads of varying thicknesses to adjust the overall length-of-pull to the shooter’s smaller physique.

Even subtler is what Mossberg did to the forearm of the Youth pump series. They brought the forearm back toward the shooter’s operating hand to accommodate the shorter arms of a young shooter. They also coined a neat name for their new design—the E-Z Reach forearm.

There are two additional features I like about the whole Youth series as an introductory repeating shotgun. Mossberg’s sliding safety, placed right on top of the rear receiver, is immediately obvious, intuitive in operation and convenient.

Why more manufacturers don’t place it there is beyond me. Anyway, it’s the ideal placement of a safety for a beginning or seasoned shooter.

The second touch, and my hat’s off to Mossberg for thinking about it, is that the Youth pump guns come factory-fitted with an extended magazine plug that prevents shells from being loaded into the magazine. As delivered, it’s a single-shot pump, and it’s the ideal teaching platform until the student becomes totally familiar with the gun, its operation and its safe handling.

Putting theory into practice, I ordered a 510 Mini Super Bantam Field model from Mossberg to test on a true youth and a friend of the family. Zack Bristow is 13. He’s a fine young man and was born into a sporting family. His father, Kirby, is a research biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and his grandfather, Bud Bristow, is the past-director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department as well as the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Department.

Having said that, Zack never shot a shotgun that was really fitted to him so on Easter morning Zack, his father, grandfather and I took the Mossberg 20-gauge Mini Super Bantam to the field.

The Mini Super Bantam is a marvel of miniaturization. With an 18.5-inch ventilated rib barrel and a synthetic stock with an adjustable LOP from 10-1/2 to 11-1/2 inches, it weighs only 5 pounds. It’s a wand of a shotgun, but overall, it’s well balanced.

Taking the gun and Zack in hand, Grandfather Bristow measured the stock against Zack’s reach and added the supplied 1-inch spacer and recoil pad. He replaced the factory installed “modified” choke tube with the IC tube supplied, and then both Dad and Grandfather Bristow did a little coaching before the shooting began. What they both noticed was that Zack was mounting the shotgun like a rifle, holding his body very vertical and not leaning into the gun to facilitate a fluid swing.

The nice thing about coaching youths and women is they don’t come supplied with ingrained faults and respond quickly to a coach’s advice. Zack did and, with that custom fitted Mossberg Mini Super Bantam, smoked clay-after-clay. In 6 months from now, teenage Zack will need a longer stock, but that’s what’s neat about the Mossberg lines. Their shotguns are modular, and the factory and Mossberg dealers offer a variety of options in alternative stocks and barrels.

If you really want to improve the shooting performance and enjoyment of youths and smaller stature adults and hopefully insure that they will carry our shooting sports on into the future, consider fitting the gun to them and not them to the gun. It will make all the difference in the world to them and to our future sport.
By Holt Bodinson

500 Super Bantam Combo
Maker: O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.
7 Grasso Ave.
North Haven, CT 06473
(203) 230-5300
www.gunsmagazine.com/mossberg
Action: Pump-action repeater
Gauge: 20 (3″)
Choke: Accu-Set
Capacity: 6
Barrel Length: 22″ vent rib, 24″ fully rifled slug
Length-Of-Pull: 12″ – 13″
Overall Length: 39-3/4″
Weight: 5.25 pounds
Finish: Blue, Mossy Oak or Realtree camo,
Sights: Dual bead
Stock: Synthetic
Price: $518
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