Marlin’s XT-22 Youth rifle

Craig Maylam and daughter Emma out in the field with the Marlin XT...

With an all-up weight of just 5-1/2lbs, Marlin’s “youth” rifle lives up to its name.

My wife and I have two children, and regular readers of my articles will quickly recognise our son James. Emma, our daughter, had not yet been bitten by the hunting bug and that was okay by me, but when I took both kids to the Tahr Show for a look around Emma spotted some .22 rimfire youth rifles and wanted one! I would have bought one on the spot but she runs hot and cold on things and I didn’t want to get stuck with a cute, single-shot .22!

A month after the Tahr Show and after two successful trips into the hills after wallabies, pigs and deer, Emma still wanted a rifle. I called Outdoor Brands in Auckland and put my case to testfire a youth rifle for them. I will do the technical part of the testfire and Emma will do the shooting bits from her point of view.

I described the action thoroughly in a previous testfire (NZG&H issue #129), but for those who have not read it I will go over the main points. The Marlin rimfire action is a cock on opening type with a tubular design, and is both tapped for fitting scope mounting blocks and also machined for tip-off rings. I chose to fit blocks to the top of the rifle as they allow the scope to be sit lower over the action because of the greater choice of ring heights available.

The Marlin’s receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting blocks, and also dovetailed, allowing for a good choice of scope rings and bases.

Marlin bolts are of a two-piece design. The front section carries the extractors and the feed key. The rear section carries the locking lug, the handle, the cocking cam and the cocking piece. There is a red painted band on the rear of the cocking piece that indicates at a glance whether the action is cocked or not, an excellent safety feature.

The safety catch and cocking indicator systems are foolproof and easy to read.

When we received the rifle Emma had a lot of trouble opening the bolt. After an investigation I discovered that there was very little lubrication on the cocking ramp. I added a bit of moly grease with a tooth pick and that cured it! The 16-1/4 inch barrel is fitted with highly functional open sights and is pinned into the receiver. One minor criticism is that the barrel is not threaded for a suppressor, however the action is fitted with the excellent Pro–Fire trigger system which incorporates a side safety catch. As supplied the trigger pull was 6lbs and I chose to leave it at that setting. The trigger unit is easily adjustable by following the instructions in the owner’s manual. A bonus was that the rifle was supplied with two magazines one of which was a single shot tray and the other a 7-shot clip type magazine. The 7-shot magazine had a nice feature – a hole drilled in it that allows you to see the 7th cartridge when the mag is full. The whole rifle including a mag full of cartridges weighs 5-1/2lbs.

he single-shot system involves a dummy magazine with a loading tray on top – at right is the 7-shot magazine.

I had the rifle supplied with two stocks, the regular adult stock and the “youth” stock. The photo shows how much smaller the youth version is – particularly in the pistol grip section, and the length of pull that measured 13–1/2” for the adult and 12 inches for the youth version. What is not evident from the photo is that the comb on the youth version is higher too, which allows the young shooter’s eye to be better aligned with the sights. Marlin worked hard to build a stock that ensured that youngsters are comfortable shooting the rifle, with their smaller hands and physiques. These combined features allow comfortable and accurate shooting for kids.

Two different sized stocks are available, adult (top) and youth, which has a thinner grip as well as being shorter.

I would buy both stocks right from the start anyway. When the child who you bought the rifle for outgrows the youth stock then you can fit the adult version. This will mean you will not have to buy them another rifle later (the old Scots heritage shining through!).

Both stocks are injection-moulded from black polymer with moulded-in sling mounting points. The surfaces of the stocks are covered in a fine photo etch finish and have moulded in chequering on both the fore-end and on the pistol grip.

Outdoor Brands supplied a Back Country 4x32 scope for the testfire. We set the scope up for Emma’s eyes and when I went to look through it I realised how bad my eyes had got! I zeroed the rifle without a hitch and got to and shot some groups with the ammunition kindly supplied by NZG&H’s advertisers. The optics are clear enough for the job and the scope was easily zeroed. The rifle received a couple of reasonable knocks and jolts (the kind of treatment that kids meter out) but there was no movement in the point of impact. While it is not the highest quality scope on the market, it’s not the highest priced either, and its performance during the testfire could not be faulted.

The budget-priced Back Country 4x32 scope was easy to zero and performed reliably.

As indicated above, I called around some of the advertisers of NZG&H in a search for some rimfire ammunition. I don’t know if you realise this or not but some brands of the humble .22 ammo are getting downright hard to obtain, so I concentrated on ammunition for this test that is easily found and available. The secret with a .22lr rifle is that when you buy one, test as many different kinds of ammo as you can find, then buy a good quantity of whatever shoots best.

The rifle was testfired with Remington, Lapua and Fiocchi .22lr ammunition.

I shot ammo supplied by Target Products in Timaru, Belmont Ammunition in Wanganui and Remington from Outdoor Brands. All of the accuracy trials were conducted on our private 50 metre range on a good day with little wind. The little rifle showed a few real preferences and performed best with anything with “subsonic” or “target” written on the packet.

Some of the tightest groups were shot with standard and/or subsonic ammo, but Craig advised Emma to use high-velocity for rabbit hunting.

All the ammunition I tested was good enough for a shoulder shot on a bunny at 50 metres. Emma got to choose which ammo to use for her field test. Rather than reviewing the targets and making any kind of scientific choice, the Golden Bullet by Remington was her choice. Emma’s reason – she liked the “Golden Bullet” logo. Who says that advertising doesn’t work!

First we had to put the rifle together. We put the bases on and screwed them down, then placed the scope in the bottom rings and screwed down the tops of the rings. Next we put the bolt into the action and Dad greased it to made sure that it ran smoothly.

Then we cleaned the inside of the barrel of the .22. The rifle has a black stock and a black barrel. It also has two magazines – a single shot and a seven shot. The rifle is easier to manage and fits me very comfortably because it is lighter and smaller than most of the other rifles I have tried to use.

Emma began her shooting from a bench, but quickly switched to off-hand shooting.

Dad took my brother and I down to the lake near where we live and out into our paddock behind the house where we set up some targets. We used plastic bottles, bowling pins and a cardboard box which had pictures of rabbits on it. I practiced shooting off bench rests at first until I got used to the rifle, and opening and shutting the bolt. At first I was shooting the targets from about 25 metres away, then we set the targets up at 50 metres and I was hitting the targets with the first shot every time. When I was hitting all the targets most of the time, Dad told me to try free-hand shooting so I did. When I was free-hand shooting I hit the paper rabbit on the red dot, if it was a real rabbit it would have been dead.

Later we went hunting at Tarras shooting bunnies in the school holidays. We went for an afternoon shoot and climbed up a big hill and at the end of the walk I had shot 13 rabbits. We stayed for two more days and I shot 33 rabbits, and a goat with my brother’s .223. I would love it if dad bought this rifle for me because I would be able to shoot more bunnies with it and get better at shooting.

The combination of the Marlin youth rifle and Remington Golden Bullet .22 ammo made Emma’s rabbit hunting trip to Tarras a success.

Another great product from Marlin! I particularly like the way the stock has been changed to fit smaller shooters. The changes to the pistol grip alone mean small hands can easily and safely reach the trigger and safety catch. Another nice feature is that an adult stock can be added later thereby allowing the rifle to serve the owner from childhood to adulthood.

The addition of functional open sights is another bonus feature. I honestly believe all shooters should understand how to use open sights. Training with open sights while your eyes are young and your vision is sharp is the best time.

And last but not least the single-shot loading tray teaches young shooters to make the first shot count. Thanks Outdoor Brands for an excellent little rifle and thanks to all the contributors for the ammunition.

Safe shooting, Craig

PS: If you have kids I suggest you hide this magazine from them because they will all want one of these little rifles...!

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