Raise ’Em Right

Kids And The Shooting Sports

By Will Dabbs, MD

In our last installment we discussed the history of toy guns in America. We talked about the realistic martial playthings of old and waxed nostalgic for the salad days before school shootings and emotional safe spaces. Now let’s delve into the many-splendored aspects of introducing young folks to the shooting sports.

Guns are innately dangerous and it is the allure of power under control that makes them so appealing on a visceral level. Whether we acknowledge it or not, most everybody is naturally drawn to weapons. As a result, breaking in a young shooter properly is an art. To do so safely and well requires the right tools.

I still find my heart flutters a bit in the presence of a proper airsoft gun. For a kid just developing an interest in the shooting sports, they strike a great balance between excitement and safety. There is just so much damage a kid can do with an airsoft gun. You need to enforce the eye protection rule mercilessly, but airsoft guns can do a fine job of introducing a child to the responsibility accompanying all dangerous things. By safely wielding dangerous things man ultimately conquered the American wilderness, spawned NASCAR and the NFL, and will someday leave human footprints on Mars.

Spring-action airsoft guns look real, yet remain remarkably inexpensive. The handguns typically require you to jack the slide manually with each shot, but these simple guns will still easily punch through a paper target. They also leave a mighty welt when unleashed upon exposed skin.

We invested in some inexpensive full-auto electric airsoft machineguns when my own kids were young. Rechargeable batteries and reusable BB’s kept it cheap. We closed off the hallway, drew terrorists on butcher paper and plastered them over cardboard boxes, donned our safety goggles and regularly practiced saving the world without leaving the confines of our home. A youngster thusly equipped can in his or her mind’s eye embark upon imaginary missions of action and intrigue with no meaningful risks or incremental costs.

Umarex gas-powered airsoft guns are ridiculously realistic and simply great fun. My MP7 feeds from a detachable magazine in the grip and sports controls exactly the same as the real steel. The bolt cycles with each shot fired, and the selector chooses either semi or full auto. The gun even smokes a bit when run aggressively.

Nothing beats a proper sound suppressor like this Gemtech Outback for improving communication and safety on the range, particularly when young shooters are involved. Coaching is easier and feedback is a breeze. Photo: Jason Bouldin

Each magazine carries its own gas reservoir lasting about 2 cycles before demanding a recharge. The gun shoots plenty hard to blow through a heavy cardboard box or mutilate an empty aluminum beverage can. Be forewarned, however. These high-end Umarex guns are more addictive than crack for kids of all ages. Thankfully they cost but a fraction of the real thing.

When a kid has demonstrated the capacity to manage moderately dangerous items responsibly, it is time to graduate to something more serious. Pellet guns are good options, and that’s how I started out. However, if you have the right sort of range space at hand, nothing beats the real thing.

The Keystone Arms Crickett Rifle is a Lilliputian single-shot target rifle purpose-built to introduce young people to the shooting sports. The gun is crafted around a familiar bolt-action design and readily accepts a rimfire scope. It can also be had with a threaded barrel for a sound suppressor. There are finish and furniture options aplenty and the workmanship is top-flight throughout. This nifty little rifle is appropriately inexpensive and the stock is perfectly proportioned for your typical grade-schooler.

There is just no better starter gun out there. If your new shooter fancies him or herself a big game hunter, champion target shooter, or Navy SEAL sniper, the little Crickett will reliably feed his fantasy. It is also the perfect way to teach real-world responsibility with a firearm.

Open the bolt manually and insert a single .22 round. The Crickett eats .22 LR, .22 L, and .22 Shorts with comparable alacrity. Close the bolt in the conventional manner and then manually retract the striker knob at the rear of the bolt. Take careful aim and squeeze. There is obviously no recoil. The striker knob is the mechanical safety.

This is also the absolute perfect application for a sound suppressor. I threaded my trusty Gemtech Outback onto the muzzle and we left the hearing protection aside. Run subsonic ammo and the gun is just stupid quiet.

Rimfire sound suppressors are inexpensive these days and they make the trip to the range much safer and friendlier. The Hearing Protection Act to deregulate sound suppressors in America is being championed by the Right and vilified by the Left in the sullied halls of Congress as I type these words. These delightful devices really should be sold out of vending machines. Rimfire suppressors are even available over the counter in France. As an American I find this embarrassing.

The Crickett Rifle from Keystone Sporting Arms is optimized for young small-statured shooters of both genders. Well-built, safe, and fun, the Crickett is a hoot to shoot. The Crickett Rifle is about as simple as can be. The triggerguard is pressed steel and the striker must be manually cocked for each shot.

Dr. Dabbs turned in his article without providing details for the chart. Since he had given the Crickett to his friend William, Dr. Dabbs asked him to provide the vital statistics, which he graciously provided. The weight includes the scope. We’ll only add the retail is $199.96. Thanks William!

The Crickett rifle is plenty accurate for its intended purpose. With an inexpensive scope the little gun will reliably ventilate a Coke can out to the limits of the rimfire cartridge. If your area of operations sports squirrels or similar small game, the Crickett makes a fine first hunting rifle as well. Small enough to fit growing shooters yet long enough to be easily and safely controlled on the range, the Crickett rifle is indeed the optimized introductory firearm. My three kids all cut their teeth on one, and I subsequently gifted my gun to a friend whose wife became pregnant after my own kids had graduated to more serious iron. If you want to be the coolest dude at the shower I have found a Crickett rifle to be the ideal baby present.

I tried to take the Crickett out for a spin, but I was really too big for it. The Crickett is not scaled for grownups. To get a kid’s-eye view on how the Crickett really runs I looked to my pal William.

William’s dad is my best friend. He and I have had some remarkable adventures together. We built potato cannons, fabricated trebuchets and dug bunkers when we were young. Our largest treb sported a 12-foot throwing arm. In concert with a 300-pound counterweight, the thing would launch a softball or bag of flour into low earth orbit. As adults we have crewed a live Sherman tank and handcrafted his dad’s coffin. Limitations of the language prevent me from adequately describing the satisfaction it brought me to introduce my buddy William to the storied art of shooting.

High-end gas-powered airsoft guns like this Umarex HK MP7 are better viewed as firearm simulators than toys in the pure sense. They are literally addictive for shooters of all ages. Safety glasses are mandatory!

Trigger Time

My pal William is in 3rd Grade and he is of the perfect size and inclination for the Crickett rifle. It took maybe three rounds for him to get the hang of the little gun’s manual of arms. After this he burned bullets until we lost the light.
William made some great shots with the little gun. We are blessed to have access to one of the very few places on earth wherein it is safe to shoot into the water. As a result, we put a few empty cartridge cases into our sundry empty ammo boxes and threw them into the lake along with half-a-dozen empty 12-gauge hulls. In short order the boxes became hostile landing craft and the shotgun shells were the periscopes of enemy submarines. Suffice it to say, William ably defended the homeland from these vile invaders.

William was making first-shot kills on both the landing craft and the periscopes with remarkable efficiency. With a little practice he could run the gun quickly, safely, and well. The suppressor allowed us to communicate freely. William’s grandfather was a Law Enforcement sniper and it was clear William inherited some of those same genes.

I asked William to give me an honest assessment of the Crickett. He told me operating the gun was fairly straightforward. You had to remember to cock the striker or the gun wouldn’t shoot. Operating the bolt quickly produced the most reliable ejection and tilting the gun a bit to the right while working the bolt was a handy trick to get rid of empties. William found he shot better when he rested the rifle on a beanbag than when he just shot it unsupported.

We worked on breathing and trigger control until William was running the little rifle like a pro. The Crickett rifle didn’t fit me anyway so at the end of the day I just told William he could keep it. Suffice it to say he was one satisfied 3rd Grader as he headed back to his parents’ minivan cradling his spanking new smokepole. The Crickett rifle is the perfect tool for building a safe and productive young American.

Keystone Sporting Arms
155 Sodom Rd., Milton, PA 17847
(800) 742-0455
www.keystonesportingarmsllc.com

Gemtech
P.O. Box 140618, Boise, ID 83714
(208) 939-7222
www.gem-tech.com

Umarex USA
7700 Chad Colley Blvd., Fort Smith, AR 72916
(479) 646-4210
www.umarexusa.com

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