My three boys each got their own BB gun at age 4. We treat them as if they’re real guns, even storing them in my gun safe. They each got their own .22 rifle at age 5, and at around age 8 to 9, they were shooting ARs. Finding just the right kid’s .22 rifle for my oldest was a little tricky, because he was small for his age. Most “youth models” are merely adult rifles with shorter stocks, and they didn’t cut it. Add to that he’s right handed but left-eye dominant. One choice I was looking at was a well-known small kids’ model; it was just the right size, but the sights felt cheap and overall not that great. Even worse, despite being a bolt-action, the action must be cocked by pulling on a cocking knob located at the rear—no small feat for a small child. Worse yet was that it had no manual safety lever, which, to me, was a big fail, because one of the main objectives is to teach gun safety.
Once a bullet is inserted into the chamber and the bolt is closed, the child pulls the cocking knob back to cock it, and the gun is ready to fire. No safety lever. Doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. Then, I discovered the Savage Rascal.
Savage set out with a design charter of developing a true youth rifle that was the safest on the market and with the same operation as an adult bolt-action gun. On top of that, it had to be accurate. Savage started out by measuring some of the 4- to 10-year-old children of employees, as well as hundreds more. They got this right, because when I got my boys their rifles, each at age 5, two fell somewhere in the bottom 15 percent percentile for height in their age group, and my middle son was in the top 80 percent for height.
The Rascal fit well for all three boys. The smaller two could shoulder and fire it—just as the average-sized adult handling a standard-sized adult rifle. It might have been a smidge small for my middle son, but not by much, because it still worked perfectly for him. On the other side of the size spectrum, I know adults who use the Rascal as a compact truck/backpack gun.
Operationally, the Rascal is the same as an adult bolt-action. It is a single-shot, that being about the only difference, with the rounds being fed one at a time through the open bolt port. To load it, you open the bolt (it cocks upon opening), insert a round and then close the bolt. The bolt can be operated with the safety engaged—a safety feature I like on this rifle. There is no separate cocking knob the kid has to pull, and the cocking force required for the Rascal’s bolt is very low. This builds muscle memory for the kids, who will someday work an adult rifle bolt.
“At the heart of the Rascal’s accuracy is the AccuTrigger… the same one found on Savage’s adult rifles.”
Another nice feature is the feed ramp. It’s designed to be forgiving of cartridge placement and doesn’t require surgical precision when a youngster inserts a cartridge. It’s spring loaded and looks like a magazine follower, but it only allows for the one cartridge. Just set the .22 LR on the red feed ramp and, as the bolt closes, it drops out of the way, allowing for sure feeding each and every time.
It’s not a precision match rifle, but it allows a new, young shooter to practice sound marksmanship techniques. If you’re going to buy a kid a rifle, he or she deserves to have one they can shoot accurately. At the heart of the Rascal’s accuracy is the AccuTrigger… the same one found on Savage’s adult rifles. It’s adjustable from 2.5 to 6 pounds. Savage can make it this light because of the trigger blade safety, which I’ll discuss later in the “safety” section of this article. A good trigger helps accuracy, as well as preventing poor trigger finger control—no pulling, tugging, mashing, etc.
“Savage set out with a design charter of developing a true youth rifle that was the safest on the market and with the same operation as an adult bolt-action gun. On top of that, it had to be accurate.”
The barrel, itself, is nicely made of good-quality carbon steel and is button rifled. These are the same materials and processes used for all of Savage’s barrels. There was no skimping here. It’s also free floated. If I were to make only one request to Savage, it would be that it makes a model with a threaded barrel for a suppressor. There’s nothing better for new shooters than a can: There’s absolutely no sound or blast coming from a .22 bolt-action.
The final aspect of accuracy—the sights. Rugged sights made of metal … imagine that! These aren’t “kiddie” sights; rather, they are of similar quality and robustness as sights used for adult rifles. The front sight is drift adjustable for windage. The rear sight is a peep aperture that’s adjustable for elevation and windage.
My personal belief is that peep sights are the best sights for new shooters. A peep can attain match-level accuracy yet allows for learning the fundamentals of marksmanship, unlike a scope. But, if you want a scope for your youngster, the Rascal is drilled and tapped for a scope base or Picatinny rail.
Being safe is paramount, especially when teaching young shooters. The Rascal can be put on “safe” whenever a round is in the chamber, which is to say, when it is cocked. Opening the bolt cocks the gun, and at that point (with the bolt open), it can be put on “safe.” The adult can ensure safety by handing young kids one round at a time, because the Rascal is a single-shot rifle.
Once the round is inserted, with the safety already engaged, the bolt is closed. Once the rifle is fired, it’s now uncocked, and the safety cannot be engaged; but once the bolt is opened, it’s cocked, and it can be put on “safe” again.
When the rifle is cocked, the bolt has a rear cocking indicator pin that’s exposed through the rear of the bolt. Another safety is the trigger blade safety that’s part of the AccuTrigger. It’s the same principle as those found on most polymer striker-fired pistols, and it means the trigger cannot be pulled without the blade being engaged first.
As impressive as all of this sounds, Savage also nailed it with the details. First off, the stock—in particular, the wood. It’s really nice wood. It lends a feeling of quality and pride-of-ownership for a kid. The stock is also available in synthetic that is offered in a multitude of colors (the most recent addition is purple).
The geometry of the stock is just right as well, from the length of the stock to the fit of the grip and forend. The butt is textured polymer and stays in the shoulder when shooting. The Rascal also includes sling swivel mounts fore and aft. Savage also thought enough to make a left-handed model (in wood stock only). This allows for left-hand-shooting kids to learn proper shooting technique as well. This is the model I got for my son, who’s right handed but left-eye dominant.
Disassembly for cleaning is also a cinch and is the same as many adult bolt guns. Open the bolt and make sure the chamber is empty. Take the gun off “safe” and then pull the trigger to release the bolt so it can be pulled out from the rear.
I recently went on a hunt in Texas, along with Chris Bezzina, VP of operations for Savage Arms. He’s a great guy, and we hit it off well. At one point during the week, I happened to mention that my boys all had Rascals. It turns out that he had a little to do with planting the seed from which the Rascal grew. He was in the same boat as me, looking for a rifle for his kid and not being happy with what was on the market. Most of all, he did not feel the offerings on the market were safe for kids; nor did they provide the performance that kids deserve.
And because he’s the VP of Savage, he was able to have his problem rectified … and kids such as mine get to enjoy the fruits of those labors.
“This is a gun that is designed and built for kids, but it’s not a “kiddie” gun. By that, I mean that it’s not cheaply made. Savage didn’t skimp on it. It’s made with the same quality as all Savage guns.”
KUDOS TO SAVAGE
In sum, this is an outstanding choice for kid shooters—not just small kid shooters aged 4 to 12, but for “kid-at-heart” shooters. Heck, I enjoy shooting it. It’s a well-made gun, and if I had to sum it up in once sentence it would be: This is a gun that is designed and built for kids, but it’s not a “kiddie” gun. By that, I mean that it’s not cheaply made. Savage didn’t skimp on it. It’s made with the same quality as all Savage guns. And, with a street price of between $150 and $200, it’s affordable.
As a testament to the Rascal, after buying one for my first son when he turned 5, I was so impressed that I bought another when my middle son turned 5. And when my youngest turned 5, I bought one for him.
They are now 9, 10 and 12 years old, and although they’re lured by the “coolness” of ARs and other such rifles, if given a choice, they will each shoot their little Rascal that is theirs.
CALIBER: .22 LR
ACTION: Bolt-action, single-shot; RH and LH models
BARREL/RECEIVER COMPOSITION: High-quality carbon steel, blued (bbl/receiver only; polished bolt face)
RIFLING: Button-rifled barrel, RH twist, 16:1-inch rate (offered in .22 LR only)
TRIGGER: User-adjustable Savage AccuTrigger that is adjustable from 2.5–6 pounds
AMMO CAPACITY: Single shot with self-aligning pivoting cartridge feed ramp
SIGHTS: Savage-designed and adjustable; driftable metal front sight (windage); rear peep aperture adjustable for windage and elevation. Drilled and tapped for two-piece scope mounts or Picatinny rail
BARREL LENGTH: 16.125 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 31.5 inches
LENGTH OF PULL: 11.25 inches
WEIGHT: 2.66 pounds
MSRP: $189 (synthetic); $239 (wood); $234 (synthetic in Gator Camo)
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.