A new .22 rimfire is a rite of passage for many American boys and girls, and the right .22 can smooth the path to learning skilled marksmanship, good sportsmanship and above all, responsible firearms ownership. At a minimum, a good first rifle must be comfortable to hold and shoot as well as easy to control safely. Ideally it should also be something a kid can be proud of, with good sights and trigger, rather than something that will be discarded as soon as Mom and Dad are convinced you are responsible and skilled enough to handle a gun that really shoots.
One look at the Rascal shows that Savage set its sights high. Even though the Rascal shares a lot in common with classic youth rifles, such as a single-shot rimfire bolt-action operation and small dimensions appropriate for a child, it has a number of refinements.Apart from quality, the biggest difference between the Rascal and classic youth rifles lies in its safety features, namely that it has a safety lever rather than a cocking knob. In the old days, a cocking knob was one of the hallmark features of a youth gun. Decocking a gun without a safety lever was a risk gun enthusiasts had to live with and a skill every shooter had to learn.
But truth be told, de-cocking a hammer or striker of a gun with a separate cocking knob requires pressing the trigger while simultaneously holding on to the hammer or cocking knob. It can be tricky operation for a young shooter; if their fingers slip, there could be an accidental discharge. More than that, even, cocking knobs lock the bolt closed, so there is no way to unload the gun without pressing the trigger, and pressing the trigger of a loaded gun when you don't intend to shoot it seems an unnecessary risk when better options are available.
Sensibly, Savage gave the Rascal a bolt that cocks automatically when it opens and a manual thumb safety lever conveniently located on the side of the receiver just behind the bolt handle. Like a normal bolt rifle for adults, unloading it is simple. All the young shooter has to do is activate the safety by drawing back on the lever and open the bolt to extract the unfired round. Visual reference of the gun's condition is still provided by the tail end of the striker, which sticks out from the bolt shroud when the gun is cocked. The position of the trigger safety is another visual cue. If it protrudes from the face of the trigger blade, the trigger has been reset so the striker is probably cocked.
The thumb safety lever is easy to understand and use. It is topped by a large grooved cylindrical button that sticks out from the side of the gun. Drawing the safety lever to the rear exposes an “S" stamped in the receiver wall, showing the safety mechanism has been engaged. A red dot on the receiver is revealed when the safety lever is pushed forward. This disengages the safety mechanism and makes the gun ready to fire. The lever is a little stiff when disengaging the safety; otherwise it slides freely. This is a good thing because it makes disengaging the safety a deliberate and conscious act.
The Rascal is safe to handle and shoot, and its contours and dimensions are ideal for young 6-8 year old shooters. It weighs just 3 pounds, so even the youngest kids should be able to hold it in an offhand shooting position for long time before fatigue sets in. The hardwood stock has a slim wrist and a trim fore-end with deep finger grooves suitable for the smallest of hands. Additionally, the belled bolt handle is trim enough that small fingers should have no trouble wrapping around it, but it is still long enough for solid control, and it has a positive feel, so a young shooter can definitely tell whether it is in or out of battery.
The Rascal's iron sights include a peep sight with a deep hood and a very tall fixed front post topped by a steel bead that is easy to pick up. It is an ideal combination for good marksmanship both in the field and on the range. The top of the tubular receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. This provides another teaching opportunity and increases its usefulness. Learning to shoot with a scope can be a steep learning curve for some shooters. Having a gun that fits will make it much easier to learn the art of centering your eye in the scope and maintaining sufficient and consistent eye relief.
Described mechanically, the Savage Rascal is a single-shot, bolt-action rifle with slim profile barrel that measures just over 16 inches long. The tubular steel receiver houses a cylindrical bolt with a smooth face. The firing pin is on the left side of the bolt and the extractor is on the right. There is no ejector. The root of the bolt handle serves as a locking lug and a cam behind the bolt handle guides bolt travel as it rides in a slot in the right hand side of the receiver.
The QD sling swivel studs are a nice touch. They are a detail frequently overlooked on many adult rifles.
The only plastic part on the Rascal is the orange feed tray. Its gently rounded contours and slick plastic material allow you load the gun by simply placing the cartridge on the tray and closing the bolt, so there is no need to push the nose of the bullet into the chamber. This can be a challenge even for those with small fingers.
Borrowed from the center-fire Accu-Trigger design, the Rascal's trigger has a separate trigger safety that projects from the face of the trigger blade. The transition from pressing the trigger safety to pressing the trigger blade itself was very smooth. There was no stacking or creep. The factory setting on the trigger of my test gun was very light. The trigger is user-adjustable, and a heavier trigger pull setting may be appropriate for some beginners who have yet to master the discipline of keeping their fingers well away from the trigger until they are ready to shoot. At the range, the Rascal proved to be very accurate, but more than that, it was easy to shoot well.
Savage offers both wood- and synthetic-stocked Rascals and with either one is sure to big hit with a lot of young shooters and help get them off to a good start in the shooting sports. It is a gun that kids can be proud to own and shoot, which will encourage them to take care of it properly and use it responsibly. With its excellent iron sights and smooth trigger the Savage Rascal has a lot of qualities that are sadly absent on many adult guns. In sum, I cannot imagine a better introduction to the shooting sports than the Savage Rascal.
MANUFACTURER: Savage, (413) 642-4262
CALIBER: .22 LR
ACTION TYPE: single-shot, bolt-action, rimfire rifle
RECEIVER: blued steel
BARREL: 16.1 inches, blued carbon steel
RIFLING: five-groove, 1:16 RH twist
MAGAZINE: none, single-shot action.
SIGHTS: fixed front post with steel bead, hooded rear aperture-adjustable for elevation.
TRIGGER: single-stage; 2 pounds, 14 ounces pull
STOCK: length of pull, 11 ½ inches; drop at heel, 1½ inches; drop at comb, 1¾ inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 31½ inches
WEIGHT: 2 pounds, 15 ounces
ACCESSORIES: owner's manual, trigger adjustment tool.
SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $213