In praise of the “boy’s rifle”.

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When I was a kid (which was not all that long ago – at least I don’t remember it being all that long ago) we had “boy’s rifles.” Today they’re known by a more politically correct term, but as Juliet said “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The boy’s rifle was chambered in .22 LR, and was most often a single-shot bolt action – though repeaters were not unheard of. Their wood stocks were sized slightly smaller to fit a teenager’s frame (before the days when teenagers were routinely 6′ tall and weighed in over 180 lbs), and were slim from butt to forearm. The grip area was smaller in circumference to fit shorter fingers, and the receivers and barrels were similarly proportioned.

Though not normally fitted as nicely as the adult-oriented rifles in their respective lines, they usually shot pretty well. Some, in fact, were downright amazing, especially considering the very simple sights they carried.

People used to larger guns are often astonished when they pick up an old boy’s rifle; light weight, quick handling, and superb pointing characteristics are almost foreign concepts today. Unfortunately, those attributes usually lead to snide comments about feeling “like a toy.” Were they to actually shoot one – or, better yet, pack one into the field – perhaps their opinions would change. I know mine did!

Like many people, I have a number of “adult” .22 rifles, none of them weighing under 7 lbs. I recently acquired an old Stevens Model 66, which is a bolt action tube fed repeater. At barely 5 lbs, it’s definitely a lightweight – but this 70-year-old gun, well worn on the outside but pristine on the inside, is an absolute joy to shoot.

The best word I can use is “handy”. It’s the kind of gun that carries unobtrusively on the shoulder, yet springs immediately to eye level when needed. It makes my “grown up” .22 rifles seem ungainly by comparison.

Give one a try. You may just get hooked – and wasn’t that the whole idea behind the boy’s rifle to begin with?

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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