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|©Copyright 2003, The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc. • PO Box 759 • Pierre, SD 57501 • 605-224-6665
Taking a Kid Shooting With The
Henry Mini Bolt .22 Rifle
By Tony Dorschner
|My son AJ absolutely loves to spend time shooting. Up until now, he?s been restricted to practicing with his Red Ryder BB gun in the garage. Sure, there have been a few occasions where he was able to shoot rifles that pack a lot more punch. He first shot a centerfire rifle while at the VHA Jamboree at age 5. Member Janet Shotwell let him shoot her custom .223 Ackley Improved. As one might guess, the problem he ran into shooting this rifle was the length of pull. It was difficult for him to view the scope properly and have the rifle securely nestled against his shoulder. Consequently, the first shot got his attention when the scope struck him during recoil. A few tears later he was ready to do it again. I knew then it would be tough to keep him from the range.
After the first "smile" imprinted above his eye, another VHA member, Larry Schwabb, generously volunteered to act as a butt-stop. AJ successfully popped a few balloons at the 100-yard distance. Shooters working to ensure the future of their sport. You gotta love it!
AJ is getting to the right age now where I believe he?s ready to start shooting rimfire rifles with appropriate guidance. Every parent has to make this judgment call based upon their child?s maturity. I?m sure other kids started sooner, some later. In fact, I started much later. Many of my friends were hunters but my family wasn?t. Hunting and shooting can be an expensive sport. We didn?t have a lot of extra time and money growing up. So, I didn?t start shooting an airgun until I was nearly a teenager and hunting big game and pheasants until I was 20. For this reason, I?m trying to provide my children with as much exposure to the sport as soon as I can. Last year was the first year I let my son walk alongside me while hunting pheasants. This year, he tagged along while deer hunting. I hope that he will remember these times and how excited he was when he?s teaching his children.
Safe firearm handling has to be the most important issue. Controlling the muzzle, treating the firearm as if it were loaded at all times, being sure of your target and what is beyond, and keeping your finger off the trigger until youre ready to fire these all are basic safety rules we need to instill into our new shooters. It boils down to respect for the tool you have in your hands. After that, we need to make sure that marksmanship, the ability to accurately place your shots over and over again, is very important. I believe most youth rimfire rifles are constructed in a manner that helps to teach kids these basic rules.
| THE HENRY MINI BOLT .22 |
|In 2001, Henry Repeating Arms introduced their new Mini Bolt 22lr rifle. We were fortunate to receive one in the office for testing and evaluation. I usually frown on the word "cute" whenever it is used to describe any hunting item. In this case, I would almost let it pass. I even may have uttered the word when I slipped the little gun out of the box. The rifle looks like a newborn baby big game rifle, complete with a stainless steel action and barrel. Everything is scaled down to fit young shooters. It weighs in at 3 ¼ pounds and is 30 ¼" long. The length of pull is 11 ½". I think the synthetic stock, which resembles a Weatherby stock, is one of the most pleasing aspects. The fore-end is oversized to allow a steady grip. The cheek is raised for better alignment with the sights. When speaking of the .22 long rifle cartridge, recoil is not much of a consideration. So, this rifle doesn?t have a soft butt pad. It is contoured slightly to aid in properly seating the butt into the shoulder. The sights are open and are adjustable for elevation and windage. They feature Williams FireSights. The inserts (two in the rear ramp and one on the front) gather light, causing them to glow. Simply place the front red dot between the two green dots in the rear. This makes it so much easier to teach a new shooter how to properly align the sights.
The action reminds me of a dwarf Mauser because the one-piece bolt is manipulated by a narrow spoon-shaped bolt handle. It is angled so that when the action is closed, it snugs up quite nicely against the stock. To open the action, the two-position safety (which is located on the lefthand side of the action) needs to be in the "Fire" position. The bottom of the action is not ramped. To load a round into the chamber, the cartridge must be inserted manually. You can feel the extractor snap over the rim of the cartridge as you close the bolt. To engage the firing pin, pull back on the cocking knob. With younger shooters, this may take considerable effort. Definitely do it for them if it appears as though they cannot maintain control of the muzzle or are not able to keep their support hand away from the trigger area. Remember, all these steps of cycling the bolt, inserting the cartridge, closing the bolt, and engaging the firing pin must be done with the safety in ?Fire? position. Especially with new shooters, I suggest going through the steps, minus inserting the cartridge, from start to finish several times to make sure they consistently keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
The trigger was a surprise to me. I found it to be quite adequate for this type rifle. It has a slight amount of take-up. I believe this is appropriate for new shooters. It allows them to feel the trigger before they start squeezing. Little or no creep was detectable. When the sear let loose, it was crisp. Overtravel was extensive but I really dont care; this isnt a benchrest rifle. We have to remember that it was designed with the idea to teach kids how to shoot safely while encouraging their budding interest in hunting and shooting.
| OFF TO THE RANGE |
|A day finally arrived when I had plenty of time to show AJ how to work this rifle. He had no idea he was going to be able to shoot something other than an air gun. He loves going to the range with me. He doesn?t even have to shoot. Walking down to check and reset the targets is more than adequate for him. I pulled the little box out of the truck and placed it on the bench next to us. He asked, "What?s that?" I opened the box and he didn?t even say a word. But I could see the expression on his face and could almost see the little wheels turning inside his head. He knew this gun was just his size. Let?s face it ? the little rifle has a lot of the "cool factor." For a kid to be really interested in something, it has to have a certain amount of the "cool factor." This rifle fits the bill. Unlike other hobbies or toys that have a lot of the ?cool factor,? the Henry Rifle has built in plenty of safety as well.
After a thorough and patient overview of all the range rules, we settled into how the rifle functions. As mentioned before, I let him go through the steps several times before I thought he was ready for some live ammo. I didnt feel comfortable allowing him to work the cocking knob. It was a little awkward for him. Thats fine by me. Id rather be the one to do it. That way, I can make sure hes settled into a solid shooting position and focusing on the target downrange. Earlier, we had set up a metal spinning prairie dog target at 20 yards. I gladly showed him how its done. After several shots, I felt a tugging on my shirt. It was his turn. The first few shots fired were off the mark. Fortunately for us, we had the Williams Fire Sights working for us. It was easy to describe how to line up the sights. By the fifth shot, he was hitting the target consistently. You could see his confidence build after every shot. Every once in awhile he would miss a few shots. We would then go back to the basics of proper shouldering of the rifle, sight alignment, and trigger manners. Then he would be back on track.
Our ammunition supply soon was running short and I needed to find out how accurate this little bugger really is. We had two kinds of ammo on hand that day, CCI?s new Velocitor and PMC?s Zapper. Velocitor?s specifications say it pushes a 40-grain Gold Dot hollow-point bullet at 1,435 fps. Zapper features a 38-grain hollow-point copper-coated bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1,280 fps. I set up a couple of Briarbank targets at 25 yards using a target stand from Target Shooting Incorporated. Zapper was first up to the plate. Two five-shot groups were produced. The smallest was a tidy little cloverleaf measuring 0.247". The larger group of 0.427" actually had one flyer. Without the flyer it measured 0.197". Velocitor was up next. Both groups provided at least one flyer. I think this had a lot to do with "pilot error." The smallest group was 0.587". Minus the flyers, the smallest was 0.229" and the largest was 0.313".
Soon, all the ammunition was expended. We spent some time picking up the empties. This was a great time to teach him some range courtesy. I really hate seeing a lot of empty rimfire brass on the ground at the firing line. This is especially true on smooth surfaces like we have at the VHA range. All it would take is one slip on an empty case to cause some serious bodily damage. Besides, my boy loves this part of the shooting experience, too. He kept many of these cases along with the flattened bullets found near the spinning target.
| FINAL THOUGHTS |
|Appearances are always nice although a pretty gun can get real ugly if it doesnt function well. My son and I found this rifle to be full of the "cool factor" (Ive lost count of how many times hes reminded me of his upcoming birthday). It looks great and shoots even better. As I mentioned before, this isnt a benchrest gun. A few of its attributes would be frowned upon if you held it up to those standards. However, when you base your opinion on safety and function, this little firecracker shines. I like the take-up on the trigger, which is very appropriate for young shooters. It allows them to get a feel for it before it goes off. Kids, mine especially, havent learned how to take their time doing things. And they dont have enough knowledge of firearms yet to automatically find the trigger. AJ still fumbles around a little before he locates it. You couldnt allow that with a 2-ounce trigger. I also like that the Mini Bolt is not designed to accept a scope. I believe open sights encourage shooters to be more conscious of holding the rifle properly and squeezing the trigger. The Mini Bolt is an excellent choice for training your new shooters. It will help build their confidence, increase their knowledge of firearms safety, and, therefore, build their love for shooting. Henry Repeating Arms can be located on the Web at www.henryrepeating.com. You also can give them a call at (718) 499-5600.|
| CONTACTS |
P.O. Box 62508
Boulder City, NV 89006
Tel: (702) 294-0025
900 Bob Ehlen Drive
Anoka, MN 55303
Tel: (763) 323-2442
|Target Shooting Incorporated
P.O. Box 773
Watertown, SD 57201
Tel: (605) 882-6955
|The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc.
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PO Box 759 • 436 S. Pierre Street
Pierre, South Dakota 57501
©Copyright 2003, The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc. • PO Box 759 • Pierre, SD 57501 • 605-224-6665