Before my nephew Bennett was born, I decided to give his older sister Abbey one of my .22s I simply did not need it and every kid should have a .22 to learn on. It's quiet, non-threatening and fun. It teaches a kid to be responsible and the parent knows it is dangerous but it won't take off an arm. It does not have so much noise or recoil that a child will shy away from it, but does have the ability to make a soup can or golf ball dance.
My first "gun" was a Daisy 1894 lever action BB gun. Sort of a deluxe version of a Red Ryder. Modeled after a Winchester 1894 rifle, from cowboy days.
That gun made me realize that Bennett would probably not want a bolt action, even though they are the best for teaching. They fire slowly so kids don't get trapped in the "spray-and-pray" mentality of most people with a semi-auto. .22 bolt actions have open sights, typically. Those are necessary to develop the basics of shooting. For a kid, open sights are not awesome. Scopes are awesome. A scope on a .22 can teach you *very* little about shooting.
No kids want basics. They want awesome. Unfortunately it is the adult's job to cram those basics down the unwilling gullet of the kid.
Awesome requires basics. Therefore, a semi-auto rifle or pistol is not the right thing for Junior. A typical first day of shooting with grandpa involves him removing the magazine, from your bolt action and replacing it with a narrow block of wood. Then he gives you the safety information about not aiming the gun at things you don't want to shoot and whatnot.
Finally, you get your hot, sweaty, sticky hands on the gun and he hands you One Bullet. At. A. Time. All. Day. Long. You get used to the pace and you get good at hitting what you aim at. Against your wishes.
One day, when you are 9 or 10, grandpa asks if you want to go squirrel or rabbit or grouse hunting with him. DUH! OF COURSE YOU DO! so you say "[yawn]... okay." But on the inside you are still thinking in all capital letters. You try to remember the rules of gun safety as you stuff your feet into your boots but your mind is a blank. You don't realize it but all that time he spent teaching you is doing its job. You no longer need to remember the rules, in word form. They are ingrained in your actions. In everything you do and don't do.
There is a magazine in that little .22 now. It holds 7 rounds, plus the one in the chamber, so your gun can hold as much as 8 shots.
Grandpa hands you three bullets.
"???" you ask.
"When you bring me three grouse, you can have more bullets." Grandpa says.
"No fair." you mutter but half of your brain is already rationing bullets and thinking of what you have to do to make the most out of each one.
Another silent, uncontested victory for Grandpa.
It is more than a year before you surprise grandpa, with three rabbits and three empty .22 shells. He takes the rabbits and the shells and smiles. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a new box of 50 .22 long rifle shells.
"Yours" he says. And he shows you how you can fit 50 .22s into your pants pockets and how to distribute them so they don't try to pull your trousers off as you walk around.
Finally, your 13th birthday comes around. Grandpa tells you something you did not know. In this state, a 13 year old is considered an adult, when it comes to hunting. This weekend will be the first time you are allowed to hunt unsupervised and carry a gun alone. More than that, as the "adult" you will be watching over your brother, the 9 year old.
Today he has his .22 slung over his shoulder, exactly the way grandpa taught you as well.
As you leave the door together, your kid brother says "Grandpa did not give me any bullets." So you dig in your pocket.
And hand him 3.
As you grow older, you meet people who did not have the benefits of utilizing your Grandpa to help them learn how to shoot. To them the gun's purpose is to make as much noise as possible, as fast as possible. Hitting the target is not for them. Accuracy and consistency? Not interested. Safety is for other people.
To aid in the shooting process, I put in a bid online, on a .22 rimfire lever action. I bid several days before the end of the auction and no one bid after that. Very unusual on such a unique rifle. Selling price is typically in the neighborhood of $500-1000 and I bid $365. It is a Henry Golden Boy .22. Made by the Henry repeating Arms Corporation of Ithaca New York.
The day I won the auction, Bennett was born.
I think boys like lever action rifles. And so do girls! Annie Oakley shot a Marlin 1891 and did amazing things with it. She put 25 bullets into a hole the size of a dime, at 30 feet, in 27 seconds. Her most famous trick-shot was splitting a playing card (shooting it edge-on) and then shooting it several more times as it fell to the ground. From 90 feet away.
So Abbey will be getting a Marlin 39A (the modern name for the 1891, which has been in continuous production since the year... you guessed it, 1891).
The barrels of their guns will have my name engraved on them, followed by the kid's names.
A guy online, mentioned that engraving our names on them will ruin the resale value of the guns.
I certainly hope so. They will be utterly worthless to anyone else, but will be priceless to the kids in our family. Especially to their kids and grandkids. I intend these guns to stay in our family, teaching children to be responsible gun owners off, into the future. Each generation getting their names engraved on the barrels like the Stanley Cup of our family.