The XT series of rimfire rifles are budget models with kid-worthy features.
It took a long time for gun makers to come around to the notion they needed to build rifles for kids. Maybe this is because when the generation that is now in charge was growing up, there were few youth guns. They learned to shoot dad’s rifle, even though it did not fit them. Stocks were occasionally cut down to better fit a kid, but stock length is not the only thing that matters. Youngsters also need a rifle light enough to hold steady.
My first new rifle was a Marlin 782, a magazine-fed, bolt-action .22 magnum. I shot thousands of rounds through that gun and used it to take many squirrels and groundhogs. A good friend had the Model 783 with a tubular magazine. We roamed the woods like Crockett and Boone with those rifles throughout our teens. Our only compliant: Their triggers were awful.
Learning to shoot with a poor trigger is like trying to drive a nail with a screwdriver. You can do it, but it’s very frustrating.
One solution is to replace the factory trigger with an aftermarket model. Expect to pay $100 or more for a good replacement.
The XT .22 rifle, new this year from Marlin, comes with a superb trigger. The XT Pro-Fire can be adjusted by the user to break from 3 to 6 pounds. The pull is clean and crisp, and there’s no detectable creep. An integral lever in the center of the trigger shoe must be depressed to fire the gun.
Four youth-sized XT rimfires are in the line. Considering these guns come with the equivalent of a $100 trigger, they are real bargains.
Another kid-worthy feature is the stock. Marlin spent extensive time researching how compact stocks impact youngsters’ sight picture and shooting form. The XT Youth’s 12-inch length of pull, smaller pistol grip and raised comb are just right for little people.
Holding up a heavy rifle is not an option for kids with limited arm strength. Merely shortening a stock but leaving a long barrel can make a rifle muzzle-heavy. The Marlin XT 16-inch barrel is easy for a youngster to hold on target.
To further cater to youths, Marlin made it easier to lift the bolt. Only 8 pounds of pressure was needed to lift the bolt of my test gun. I’ve pulled triggers that were heavier than that!
All Marlin XT Youth rifles come with open sights and a grooved receiver for mounting a scope. The receiver is also drilled and tapped.
The model I received for testing was the XT22YSR. With an MSRP of $247.31, it is the most expensive of the four guns in the series. ( The barrel and action are stainless steel, and the stock is a black synthetic material with molded-in sling attachments.
This gun’s trigger is as smooth and creep-free as Marlin advertises, and it breaks at a consistent 2.75 pounds, a bit less than advertised.
I way overscoped the little Marlin with a Leupold 4-14x, VX 3. I wanted to see how well the little rifle would shoot, and all that magnification along with a parallax-adjustable objective would help show the .22’s accuracy potential.
I tested six loads at 50 yards. The 18 five-shot groups averaged 1.39 inches. With Remington target loads, the rifle was a tack driver, shooting half-inch clusters. Most .22 rifles shoot some loads very well, most fairly well and some not well at all.
The real test of a youth gun, of course, is how well a kid can handle it and shoot it. By kid, I don’t mean a teenager, but youngsters weighing less than 100 pounds.
For this test, I mounted a Bushnell Zoom Dot onto the gun. I did this for several reasons. New shooters find it easy to use a red dot sight. There are no eye relief issues, and aiming is simplified with the dot. Also, these sights are not heavy, and they don’t change the rifle’s balance.
After zeroing the Bushnell Zoom Dot, I fired a box of ammo at steel and paper targets. Next, I turned the rifle over to my 11-year-old son, Bat. He’s 5 feet tall, and the rifle’s length of pull was about a half-inch short for him. However, a short length of pull is much easier to work with than one that’s too long.
Bat was able to get hits regularly, operate the bolt easily and support the rifle to shoot from the offhand position.
Up next was my 6-year-old daughter, Montana. She loves to shoot, but is small for her age. Even though she is not yet 4 feet tall, the length of pull worked for her, especially with the red dot’s unlimited eye relief of the red dot scope. She also had enough arm strength to shoot offhand. She was not strong enough to shoot offhand with precision, so she did most of her shooting from the seated position.
The little Marlin XT Youth rifle worked fine. The only hiccup was a few misfeeds with the blunt-nosed CBee22 loads. They occasionally nudged into the chamber a bit high, hanging on the top edge. A little bolt jiggling sorted this out, allowing the rounds to drop in. Out of the 200 rounds of CBee22 fired, this happened seven times.
For a kid who is eager to learn to shoot, the Marlin XT is a good choice. In fact, I’m sending a check to Remington for the test gun. Montana is calling it “my rifle.”
Editor’s Note: Current price range for the XT-22 series at Cabela’s is $199 to $269.99.
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This article first appeared in the August 2011 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.