If the gun doesn’t fit the shooter, learning to use it will be difficult and even dangerous.

Traditionally, both rifles and shotguns are made to suit an “average” sized person, but sadly that person is male and is larger than the average woman or youth.

A gun that is too long for the shooter cannot be held properly. In some cases, to reach the trigger of a gun that’s too long, the gun is held under the armpit, instead of against the shoulder.

This can be extremely dangerous because during recoil the gun or scope will come straight back into the face or eye of the shooter. Even against the shoulder, the recoil will be much more severe if the gun cannot be held properly.

Accurate shooting does not happen with an ill-fitting gun. Between the pain of recoil and the inability to hit the target, new shooters often lose interest.

Over the years, I have seen a number of guns shortened to fit properly by cutting an inch or two off the rear of the stock. This works well for reaching the trigger, but the gun usually becomes unbalanced without removing some length from the barrel as well.

The stock can be shortened at home, but a gunsmith is needed to shorten the barrel properly. Shortening both ends of a gun can be less expensive, but if money is available, a new “youth model” gun provides the satisfaction of a firearm that looks good and fits well.

These days, almost all major firearm companies make smaller guns for youth and women. They come in standard colours, as well as camouflage and pink.

There are blued barrels with wooden stocks and stainless steel, synthetic stocks that deal better with severe weather and require minimal maintenance.

Centre-fire (big game) hunting rifles cost about $400.00 and up. Shotguns are priced in about the same range, and rim-fire .22s are often less, depending on your choice.

A lighter gun will always kick more than a heavier one, so cartridge selection is important to minimize recoil for the new or inexperienced shooter.

Moderate-recoil, legal-for-big-game cartridges include .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 6.5 x 55, 7mm 08 and .308 Winchester. There are others, but something commonly used is the best ammunition choice.

Shorter barrels will very slightly decrease the velocity and energy level of the bullets fired, but the moose, caribou or sheep will never notice this decrease when hit with a well-placed bullet.

Google “guns for youths and women” and you’ll be impressed at how many choices there are, and how keen firearm companies are to sell you a new gun.

Larry Leigh is an avid angler, hunter and all-round outdoors person who prefers to cook what he harvests himself. He is a past president of the Canadian Wildlife Federation and retired hunter education coordinator for the Government of Yukon.