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Sizing Up The Right Gun

Do you remember climbing into your mom or dad’s shoes as a kid? While it was fun to walk around the house, you still needed the right-sized shoes.

The same holds true if you’re thinking about giving your wife or kid a shotgun or deer rifle for Christmas. Too often, smaller framed folks go afield with a gift gun that’s too big or too powerful for them.

I count myself among the guilty. A few years back, I bought my wife a shotgun so she could join me hunting. Because her shotgun’s stock was too long, she had trouble shouldering it and hitting moving targets.

It was a big gun—a 12-gauge magnum pump—and it bruised her shoulder whenever she fired it. Naturally, she got frustrated and her interest waned.

I finally got smart. I adopted the bruiser for myself and bought her a youth-sized 20-gauge shotgun instead. Youth-sized guns have shorter stocks and are easier for smaller people to shoot.

The new gun shoots a smaller shell than the old one, so there’s less recoil. It’s also a semi-automatic, which diverts some of the gun’s recoil to reload. My wife no longer has a bruised shoulder after shooting. In fact, witnesses claim she occasionally outshoots me.

How can you determine the correct shotgun stock length? Start by placing the butt of the unloaded gun into the crook of your elbow. Now reach for the trigger. If the first joint of your trigger finger is even with the trigger, it’s the right length. If you can only touch the trigger with your fingertip, the stock is too long.

You can either buy a youth-sized gun or have a gunsmith cut the stock to the correct length. In the case of youths, you’ll have to buy a new stock when they get bigger. Fortunately, stock length is not as critical in a deer rifle.

The gun’s firepower is another consideration. Big calibers aren’t necessary for white-tailed deer. A .243-caliber bolt action or single shot rifle is an ideal starter gun, and it has light recoil. If you fear a gun’s recoil, you’re more likely to flinch and miss your target.

As for shotguns, a 20-gauge is a good choice for most hunting in Kentucky. A 20-gauge capable of handling 3-inch shells also makes a good turkey gun.

Having the right equipment can make all the difference when you take the family hunting.


Kids 15 and under can hunt free after Christmas. Youths can hunt deer with a rifle from December 29-30, or hunt small game and trap from December 29, 2007, through January 4, 2008. Youths do not need a license or permit to hunt or trap during these special seasons.

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