Looking at the unloaded firearms spread neatly in the bed of the pick-up truck that day, I had the shotgun, the .22, two handguns (a 9mm and a .45) and an AR. I immediately discounted the two handguns, they were too much for such small hands and muscles. He had handled the .22 just fine and he had even fired a couple of target loads through the shotgun one previous occasion, but it was still a little much for him. I was going to have him shoot it using a Lead Sled. I didn’t want to risk the recoil beating him up and making him frightened to shoot. It’s important at this stage of teaching a young shooter to keep it fun or you could lose that shooter for life. I looked at the AR. It was lightweight, packs a soft recoil and had an adjustable stock that could be instantly slid in to fit his length of pull. It made perfect sense!

In my book, The Shooter’s Bible Guide to AR-15s, I made the case in 2012 that AR-type rifles are ideal for young shooters and I stand by that original assessment; particularly where target shooting and preparing for hunting is concerned. Here’s why:

  1. While not all tactical rifle models are lightweight, manufacturers have made great strides in overall AR and accessory design that cuts weight. Buy a carbine length system outfitted with a lightweight rail and other furniture and you can tote a naked AR that barely tips the scales at little more than 5 or 6 pounds (that is minus a loaded magazine and optics).
  2. Chambered in .223, 6.8 SPC or even 300 ACC Blackout, these rifles offer varying degrees of sufficient power for various game and excellent accuracy on targets and long distances. Combined with the semi-auto actions, which mitigate recoil due to their use of the fired cartridge’s gases to operate the gun, few guns are so kind to the human shoulder.
  3. Rapid adjustments in length of pull, courtesy of a collapsible buttstockmakes for a gun that shooters of different sizes—from full-size adult male to a petite woman or kid—can share on the range at maximum comfort for each.
  4. Easy operation and loading. Once the controls are understood, an AR is really an easy gun to operate. Stacking rounds in a mag and sliding it into the mag well are easily accomplished and don’t require strength like pulling the slide back on a large semi-auto handgun.
  5. Simple sighting system options. Toss a lightweight red dot sight on the top of the upper receiver, such as the Mepro Tru-Dot RDSmodel, and aiming is as simple as putting the dot on the target. With rapid adjustment mounts, a sighting system can be swapped out for longer range (or closer range open sight) shooting without losing zero when the red dot is put back on.

Lastly, let’s not ignore the simple cool factor behind these guns. Branded in daily newscasts as the platform of choice by our United States military and wielded (albeit often unrealistically) in countless video games, AR-style rifles are the guns most familiar to today’s new crop of shooters, and will be for some time. Might as well get these kids away from the dangerously false world of video game exploits and teach them the proper and safe use of firearms on targets in competition and game when hunting—always, mind you, under the careful supervision of a responsible adult.