Don MacDonald buys a tiny .22 for his boys...
Teaching a child to hunt and shoot can be a difficult task. It’s not usually a lack of enthusiasm on the child’s part, but rather the dimensions of the equipment. Many adult shooters struggle to find a firearm that fits their shooting style, so how can you possibly teach a youngster the correct fundamentals of shooting with the same equipment?
Six year-old Ben MacDonald found the Rascal comfortable to hold and shoot, unlike full-size .22 rifles.
Compounding the issue is that most of the firearms we use to teach the basics are complicated with magazines, scopes, raised cheek pads, precision triggers, unsuitable safeties etc., and actions such as semi-auto. Small, more suitable firearms such as the Chipmunk, Cub or Cricket are not easy to come by, and even air guns are getting hard to find in very small sizes.
Savage knew that to teach our kids hunting and shooting we’ve been persevering with firearms that were not ideal, like Dad’s .22, and to remedy this they’ve developed the “Rascal” – a simple firearm that allows a youngster to concentrate on aiming and shooting one shot at a time, and be comfortable doing it.
As well as a suitable rifle, good hearing protection for kids is a must, and the nice people at 3M kindly supplied me with a pair of “Peltor Kid” earmuffs for the job. These feature a straightforward constant pressure design that is tight enough for the necessary seal but incredibly soft and comfortable. They have an attenuating rating of 27dB, come in two vibrant colours, and are very lightweight.
The first thing you notice about the rifle is obviously its size, but don’t be fooled by the cute looks, pretty colours, and mild disposition. The rifle is a fully scaled down version of a serious adult .22 and capable of everything any other .22 calibre rifle will do. Weighing in at a meagre 2-2/3lbs and with an 11-1/2” length of pull, the size of the Rascal allows youngsters to carry the (unloaded) rifle slung over their shoulders like mum or dad, without it interfering with their stride, or having the buttstock hitting the ground as it would with a full-sized rifle.
Gary from Dix’s Firearms in Timaru demonstrates the colourful Rascals to potential customers – the shop was soon sold out!
The Rascal is fitted with a plastic stock complete with sling studs and an integrated trigger guard. It is available in several colours, including red, green, yellow, and of course pink for a budding young huntress. A wooded option is available for a more traditional look and a left-handed model is available also, but only in wooded configuration. Secured into this is a simple single-shot bolt action with a manual safety on the right hand side of the receiver. The action has a plastic feed ramp and a simple bolt that cocks on opening.
A soft butt pad finishes off the synthetic stock.
This seems to go against the grain of earlier single-shot actions that usually had a manual-cocking knob that was pulled back in one or two stages. With children in mind Savage has deliberately steered away from this design for two reasons, the first being the physical strength needed to pull a cocking knob back against the spring pressure. I remember that with my first .22 single-shot I had to place the rifle between my knees to do this which is not ideal and took two or three goes.
The plastic feed ramp makes for trouble-free loading every time.
The other reason is a safety issue involving unloading. The only way to do this with a cocking knob is to either fire the rifle or pull the trigger while trying to lower the knob slowly. With slippery hands or lack of finger strength this is a disaster waiting to happen. Dropping the knob at even half cock may inadvertently fire the rifle, which would not only destroy the child’s confidence but is incredibly dangerous.
The action is simple and sturdy with a large, easy to use safety catch.
The bolt on the Rascal has a cocking indicator on the rear and can be worked with the safety in either on or off positions – another great safety feature. With the safety on, the child can reload the rifle without the risk of it firing should they inadvertently still have a finger on the trigger.
The 5.51 inch long receiver (140mm approx) is fitted with a peep sight that’s adjustable for elevation and windage. There is also the option of fitting a scope to the Rascal as the child’s skills develop, because the receiver is drilled and tapped. The Rascal’s 16.125 inch carbon steel barrel is blued, and free-floated for enhanced accuracy. The front sight is dove-tailed into the end of the barrel and is every bit as rugged and simple as the Rascal’s rear sight.
Savage fitted the Rascal with a two-stage Accutrigger, ideal for teaching kids careful trigger control.
One of the biggest surprises is the trigger. Why have Savage put a full size Accutrigger on an inexpensive child’s rifle when even some Savage adult rifles are not fitted with these? The answer is simple. Once again Savage wants to supply the best available learning platform for a child, not only to learn, but to learn well. The Accutrigger’s central blade is a built-in safety feature that teaches good control – you have to depress the blade before applying pressure to the main trigger.
On arrival, the first thing I checked was how the rifle was presented in the box. Everything was well placed, complete and all that was needed was to remove the safety flag, depress the trigger and slide the bolt into the action. The peep sight was fitted and seemed to be factory set and/or centred, although it was only finger tight. The sight itself was very easy to adjust and is locked into place by a flathead screw for elevation, and a knurled edge for the windage adjustment. I reckon that the windage adjustment would benefit from a drop of Loctite, or perhaps be nipped up gently with a pair of pliers to make the adjustment more long term.
Good hunting accuracy was achieved with the Rascal and its aperture sight. Don tested a variety of .22 ammo, including bird shot at bottom right.
Having not used peep sights for many years I was a little uncertain how I would go with the Rascal, but after the first few shots I was pleasantly surprised. A target was set out at 25 yards and within five shots I had a reasonable zero. I then proceeded to fire five shots each of different ammunition including .22lr, .22 Short and even some bird shot rounds – a good safe option for budding young hunters, and handy for getting rid of pests such as starlings, blackbirds and rats.
The Rascal featuresa free floating barrel.
My last target was set at 50 yards and produced some reasonable results for this kind of rifle and sight combination, with the preferred ammunition being Winchester 36 grain plated hollow-point.
HOW USABLE IS THE RASCAL FOR A CHILD?
The weight and dimensions of the Rascal made it extremely easy for Ben, age six, to not only carry the rifle, but control it in a safe manner (pointed in the right direction when he was not actually shooting). This is a major problem with full size rifles for children, they are too big to manage, and kids find it especially difficult to hold them in one direction for a period of time.
To really get an idea of how versatile the Rascal is size wise, Gary from Dix’s Firearms in Timaru handed the rifle to our three-year old to see if he could manage it – he immediately threw the rifle to his shoulder and was trying to look through the peep sight un-coerced.
The peep sight was very easy to use and Ben was able to shoot with it straight away due to his subconscious centering of the rear sight once the blade was visualised. Once taught, Ben was also able to do this sitting and standing, thanks to the size and weight of the Rascal. Working the bolt and safety mechanism was also effortless and he soon had a good technique worked out – safety on, open bolt, load, close bolt, get ready, safety off, aim and shoot – which he did religiously each time.
Ear protection is a must with youngsters and without this sounding like a paid endorsement, I would really like to mention how impressed I am with the 3M Peltor Kid earmuffs. Keeping earmuffs on a child is a mission in itself but the Peltor Kids are so comfortable that it was hard getting Ben to take them off so I could talk to him. These really improved his shooting, allowing him to get a better stock weld on the butt of the rifle without the hindrance of oversized earmuffs or the worry of plugs that might not be fitted correctly. I slipped them on myself to get an idea of how they compared to my own ear protection and was surprised at their level of noise reduction and how comfortable they were, so much so that I am investigating the Peltor adult range from 3M for myself.
The field test was in the form of setting up some standard targets – old Milo tins and talc filled balloons – at various distances and letting Ben lay into them with the Rascal. It took him around five shots to get the hang of closing one eye and adjusting his aim, but once he worked it out I was able to stand behind him and leave him to it. I was quite surprised at the results with most shots in the “black”. He especially liked the balloons because when they popped the talc gave a nice cloud effect. The good thing here is that I could reduce the size of them each time to make it more challenging. Rabbits were more of a challenge but the Rascal knocked a few of them over and I found the peep sight enjoyable to use myself when I could trick Ben into letting me have a go.
Overall the Savage Rascal is one very well thought-out rifle. The development team has done well to consider every scenario, which has lead to the manufacture of the best training tool possible for the budding young hunter or shooter. I admire the fact that the designers have not been pressured by current styles and modern trends, but instead have used the best type of components for learning the art of shooting, regardless of age or era. The peep sight is a good example, as is Savage’s forward thinking of preparing the rifle for a scope as the youngster develops.
Although the Rascal’s physical size is best suited for around the six to 12 year age group it can still be used by adults comfortably. Many people are purchasing them as a second, compact .22. The Rascal performed really well during the test and other than a couple of misfires that could have been from old, bad ammunition the rifle proved faultless and was incredibly easy to use.
One advantage of this product that goes beyond simply shooting, is that it teaches responsible gun ownership. A child can load, fire, clean, and look after it, all while practicing the fundaments of firearm safety. It must be stressed that all this should be done under strict, licensed, adult supervision as the Rascal is very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This fantastic, candy coloured little rifle is still a .22lr and should treated like any other.
Sportways Distributors are the importers of the Rascal and although currently sold out they have a new shipment on the way which should be here by the time you read this. RRP is $350, making the rifle an excellent buy.