The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

What first gun should I get my teenager with a new shotgun licence?

A parent is debating between a 12-bore or a 20. Bill Harriman helps with the decision.

Gun recoil

Young Guns should have their shotgun fitted regularly

Have shotgun licence, in search of a shotgun

Q: I want to buy a first gun for my 15-year-old son to use now that he has got his licence. He is not really big enough for a 12-bore and he shoots well with a 20. I am wary of buying one for him, because I don’t want the possibility of cartridges being mixed up. Do you have any ideas for a suitable gun that is not a 20?

A:  There are some lightweight 12-bores on the market that are designed for women and others of smaller stature. One of those with light loads would probably be suitable. Alternatively, get him a single-barrel gun, such as a Webley 100. That would impress upon him that he has to be certain of his target before firing because there is no immediate second chance if he misses. I find that concentrates the mind wonderfully.

However, the best solution is to buy him a 20 and only load your 12-bore from cartridges in a belt rather than from a bag. That way you will never get a superimposed load because the 20s will fall out of the loops on a 12-bore belt. Also, as you have to pre-load the belt before any shooting excursion, you can be absolutely certain that cartridges have not been mixed up.

cartridge belt

Using a cartridge belt is a good way to prevent different types of ammunition being mixed up

What’s the law on a first gun and teenagers?

The Home Office Guidance states: ” A person aged under eighteen may however acquire other than by purchase or hire, air weapons (and air weapon ammunition), shot guns or shot gun cartridges to which section 2 of the 1968 Act applies, and firearms or ammunition to which section 1 of the 1968 Act applies according to the provisions laid out in this chapter. An example of acquisition would be using a firearm under the supervision of a parent or guardian (provided they are of the correct age). (Read the full guidance here.)

Things to consider when buying a first gun

  • A lightweight 12-bore
  • Single barrel gun
  • Buy a 20-bore and load cartridges from  a belt to avoid mix-ups

This article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated.