I went through the same question when my now sixteen year old daughter was eleven. My first strategy was to call old gun shop owners who have been ask the same question hundreds of times over the years. I figured they would be as good a reference as anyone. After talking with three owners they all said the same thing, a .243 or a 7mm08.
Anyone who knows me knows it couldn’t be that easy. I ended up contemplating, doing recoil research and talking to a bunch of other “so called” gun experts over that summer. The end result was the same, .243 or 7mm08.
When comparing the two calibers there are only a couple of differences. The Pros for the .243 are low recoil and the bullets and gun are common in most gun shops. The only Con is the kinetic energy. This is not a big caliber and the bullet energy is lower. That being said, millions of big game animals have been killed with a .243 over the years. The key is shot placement. Considering taking a good shot, when you hunt big game in Minnesota, adults have to hunt with kids until they are thirteen years old. I found that being right next to my kids in the stand has helped me control the shot. I have made sure when the trigger is pulled, it was on a broadside deer within 125 yards. My kids have taken four deer with a .243 and not one traveled more than fifteen steps after the shot.
A second decision you need to make, is a youth stock or a full stock. I bought the youth stock for my daughter when she was eleven and my friend bought the adult stock for his daughter who was the same age. His daughter had no problem shooting the slightly bigger gun and I ended up selling my youth gun three years later, because my daughter outgrew it. For that reason, my recommendation is to buy the full stock and let the kids grow into it.
Here are the Pros and Cons of the 7mm08. The Pros: more kinetic energy, flatter trajectory and more bullet choices. The Cons: not as common in gun shops, and slightly more recoil.
In conclusion, you can’t go wrong with either one of these great calibers. If your kids are only going to hunt medium sized animals, like whitetail deer, the .243 is very adequate. If you know for sure that your kids will be hunting larger game animals, like elk, you might want to go with the 7mm08 and have them put up with a little more recoil and grow into the gun.
I would recommend starting your youngsters off with a lead sled or something similar to reduce the recoil with those first shots. I have found this to be fantastic for kids and greatly minimized the flinch that can happen when shooting high powered rifles. I sure wish I had one when I first started shooting.
The most important thing about your reading this blog is that you are considering introducing another kid to the outdoors and that’s fantastic. Way to go!
Lucky Luke’s Hunting Adventures