TAKING A KID waterfowling? First, good for you. Second, hand that kid a 20-gauge pump. Inherently safer than a semiauto and easier to handle than most 12s, it can be loaded to suit a young hunter’s experience and recoil tolerance. With superpremium tungsten loads, a 20 will drop ducks and geese as far away as any 12 loaded with steel. Here are four great pump guns to consider:
Benelli Nova Pump Short Stock starts at $420; 301-283-6981; benelliusa.com
The Specs: 6.4 lb. • 24″ barrel • 13″ length of pull • 3″ chamber
The Skinny: Great for the growing hunter, the Short Stock’s 13-inch length of pull is easily changed to 12½; or 13¾; inches with optional pads. Its forearm extends all the way back to the receiver–a real plus for short-armed shooters–and a rotary bolt gives it one of the smoothest strokes going. The many Novas I’ve shot have had heavy trigger pulls, but that’s the only shortcoming of an otherwise wonderful waterfowl gun.
Browning BPS Micro $529; 801-876-2711; browning.com
The Specs: 6¾; lb. • 22″ barrel • 13¼;″ length of pull • 3″ chamber
The Skinny: A top safety and bottom eject make Browning’s Micro a fine choice for young lefties, as well as for those who may later do their upland hunting with a double and want to master the thumb safety. The pistol grip is extra-curved to accommodate smaller hands. In my experience, BPS models point nicely and are easy to shoot well, which can help boost a kid’s confidence and increase the fun factor.
Mossberg 500 Super Bantam $338; 203-230-5300; mossberg.com
The Specs: 5¼; lb. • 22″ barrel • 12-13″ length of pull • 3″ chamber
The Skinny: With its extra-long “EZ-reach” forearm and short barrel, the featherweight Super Bantam is small enough for very young kids to handle (keep the loads light). Even better, it can grow with them, because an included stock spacer lets you change the length of pull from 12 to 13 inches. Like all Mossbergs, the Super Bantam has a top safety. And like all 500s, it is not a thing of beauty. It is, however, reliable, smartly designed, and very nicely priced.
Remington 870 Express Jr. $445; 800-243-9700; remington.com
The Specs: 6 lb. • 18¾;″ barrel • 12″ length of pull • 3″ chamber
The Skinny: Ideally suited for the young (or small) shooter, the Jr. is the shortest and second lightest model here. A scaled-down version of Remington’s iconic pump, it is every bit as reliable as the full-size firearm. My younger son took ducks, pheasants, and a turkey with an Express Jr. when he started hunting. (He then moved up to an Express Youth–6¼; pounds, 21-inch barrel, 13-inch length of pull–without missing a beat.)