As much talk as you hear about getting youngsters into hunting, few companies offer firearms that are useable by young shooters. Many so called “youth” models are too heavy and have stocks too long for real kids. They are more suited to small adults or women. If you want to start your kids out hunting when they are very young then you will need a rifle that fits them. Force them to use a rifle that is too heavy or one that does not fit their small stature and you will help them loose interest very quick. My son killed his first deer when he was six so don’t think they need to be teenagers before they start shooting.
Harrington & Richards Sportster model SS1 weighs 5 pounds, 5 ounces and has a length of pull that measures 11 ¾ inches. This is a full pound less than most of the bolt action “youth” sized rifles which will also have a length of pull a full inch longer. The rifle comes with open sights but a scope can easily be attached. Street prices run around $ 200 or less. You can expect to pay at last double that for a “youth” or “compact” sized bolt action rifle.
The Sportster SS1 is an American made break action, single shot rifle made of blued steel with a black synthetic stock and fore end. It is also fitted with sling swivel studs. One of the problems I have found with some of the “youth” guns is that young shooters do not have the requisite arm or hand strength to operate them. My son Bat, who is now eight, has no trouble cocking the hammer or pushing the break-open button positioned directly beside the hammer to open the action.
The forearm of the Sportster is sized for small hands too. This is a thoughtful touch often neglected on other so called “youth” rifles. And, even though the barrel is a full 20 inches long, the overall length of the rifle is under a yard. This is possible because the break open action eliminates the need for a receiver. Like the short length of pull, this makes the rifle much more manageable for a youngster that is just developing shooting skills.
I was very surprised at how well this rifle shot. Because my son likes to shoot with red-dot sights, I mounted one of AimPoint’s new, non-magnifying, T-1 Micro-Sights and tested several different .22 LR loads at 50 yards. Not a single group measured over an inch and most were right at the half-inch mark. I own several twenty-two rifles that cost double or three times as much as the Sportster and shoot no better.
My only complaint with this rifle is the extractor/ejector. When you completely open the action the spring loaded extractor forces the empty or unfired case out of the chamber with enough force to launch it about 10 feet. This of course is not an issue with an experienced shooter who can block the ejection with the palm of their hand or body, or, even only partially open the action so they can extract the empty or loaded round by hand. For a young, inexperienced shooter it can cause a problem. After the rifle bounced several empties off the lenses of my son’s Revision shooting glasses, he is now completely convinced he should always wear them when shooting.
Aside form the forceful ejector I still think this rifle offers great value and performance for a young shooter. And, as they grow older, larger, centerfire break action rifles and shotguns that operate the same as the Sportster are also available from Harrington and Richardson. This greatly simplifies and shortens the train up period as the young shooter progresses to a new firearm.
I expect come October I will be laid up under a hickory tree waiting out a big fox squirrel with my son, a box of .22 shells and this neat little rifle.
Manufacturer: Harrington & Richardson
Model: Sportster Compact SS1-Y22
Caliber: .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle
Action: Single-shot, break-open action with side lever release, automatic ejection and transfer bar system.
Stock: High density polymer, pistol grip, black matte finish, sling swivel studs, recoil pad.
Barrel: 20 inches
Sights: Ramp & post front, leaf windage and elevation adjustable rear
Length: 33 inches
Length of pull: 11.5 inches
Weight: 5 pounds, 5 ounces