Ruger No. 1 Light Sporter
There’s a lot to be said for a single-shot, when it comes to youths and safety. They take a shot, and then they must take a considerable moment to break the action and reload another shot—and that kind of a pause can save a lot of grief down the line.
I talked about the single-shot Handi-Rifle from Harrington & Richardson last week, always a sound choice, and economical to boot. Since you may appreciate the single-shot action but not such simplicity, I think Ruger’s No. 1 Light Sporter is the next logical choice (and really, there aren’t a lot of really nice singles out there forming this line that aren’t really high-end and not terribly kid-appropriate).
Weighing somewhere between 7 and 7.25 pounds and bearing a length of pull of 13.5 inches, the dimensions are certainly right for a youth gun. It’s also a very safe gun, not just from the standpoint of its one-shotness, but from the inherent strength of artillery-style breech and under-lever. Speaking of safety, I also love the top-tang-mounted push safety, much like one you’d find on any double-barrel shotgun—it’s easy to see what’s safe and what’s not without rolling the gun around in your hands, and it doesn’t get any easier than this design to use while still allowing the hand to remain shooting ready and in place around the pistol grip.
Thanks to its inherently trim and low-profile design, this gun is really one you can “get up on.” That ability to cradle the gun and get well in line with the bore is one I always rather crave—it helps me better manage recoil and keep my sight picture, whether with rifle sights or a scope. As character applies, in this gun, to youth shooters, I think it encourages those who don’t have a lot of bench time to wrap themselves around this rifle and find a position that’s right for them. This can be especially important in the tight confines of a tree stand or ground blind.
MSRP: This is a pretty gun, no bones about it. With a deep blue finish and nicely figured wood, the Ruger website has this model priced at $1242.
No, these are not inexpensive scopes, but the Ruger No. 1 isn’t a penny-pinching rifle, either. I picked the Z6, though, not because it was an appropriate price match (or at least it's not inappropriate) to this grade rifle, but because of its compact design and functionality. This scope has a zoom feature that takes the user from 1x to 6x, and it wears a 24mm objective. This more diminutive objective and narrower magnification range naturally comes in a smaller overall package—and that’s just what you want on a trimly designed rifle like the Ruger No. 1 Light Sporter. I’ve owned a Ruger No. 1, and I promise, if you throw a standard 3-9x42mm scope on that gun, it will throw off the nice balance that rifle possesses. Plus it’ll just look damn ugly—like you wearing pants that are six inches too long and two sizes too big.
MSRP: Don’t shoot me over this one, this scope is actually more than the rifle at somewhere between $1600 and $1800ish (Swarovski uses authorized dealer, so you’ll need to shop this one). Yeah, that’s a ton of money for a scope, even a top-of-the-line scope, but look at it this way. If you’re spending over a grand on a rifle for your kid, it’s likely that kid is a teenager. So when that same child gets around to asking you to buy them their first car, you can say, “Sorry, can’t, spent it all on the deer rifle you had to have so bad.” See, just like that I saved you some $10,000 to $15,000 dollars!
The Author Recommends: Okay, I admit the Swarovski scope is pretty out there for most price-wise, if you intend to put it on a rifle for a kid of yours who isn't already contributing to a 401K. That being said, there are other options, and our book Old Gunsights and Rifle Scopes is a wonderful reference when it comes to finding and pricing used optics. Tons of photos, and you might even find the book will start a new collector's interest in you. Oh, and did I mention? This book is part of our warehouse sale running through December 23–normally priced at $39.99, this book is marked down to a ridiculously low $9.99. Take advantage!