Proper gun fit is critical to consistent accuracy. New shooters—particularly young shooters—are often frustrated as they try to learn safe gun handling practices with a firearm to is too big, too long or too heavy. Regardless of your level of experience as a shooter, though, a poor-fitting firearm is a real nuisance, and since most gun companies build production firearms to fit average-sized customers, smaller shooters are often left out in the cold.
At this year’s annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas there were several new firearms introduced with short-statured shooters in mind, and this list examines seven of the most exciting new compact firearms in detail. Smaller shooters no longer have to wrangle oversized guns, which makes shooting and hunting much more enjoyable and successful. Whether you have a teenage son or daughter you’d like to introduce to rimfire target shooting, or you’re an experienced big-game hunter who’s grown weary of shooting guns made to fit someone 6 inches taller than you, there’s a firearm on this list that will meet your needs...and budget.
1. Browning X-Bolt Micro Composite:
The only thing this Browning is short on is length of pull. Like other members of the X-Bolt clan, the Micro Composite utilizes a smooth action with a three-lug bolt (which reduces bolt lift from 90 to 60 degrees) and a crisp, adjustable Feather trigger. The tang-mounted two-position safety is easy to find and manipulate for shooters with any size hands, and the bolt unlock button allows this rifle to be safely cycled with the safety engaged. The black stock comes with Dura Touch Armor coating, palm swells, textured grip surfaces and a reduced 13-inch length of pull. That reduced stock length and a short (20-inch) barrel help whittle the X-Bolt’s weight down to just 6 pounds, 5 ounces, so these rifles are easy to carry and maneuver. The X-Bolt’s light sporter-contour barrel is also threaded and comes with a muzzle brake, which helps mitigate recoil during long sessions at the range (a thread protector is also included). The polymer rotary magazine is best-in-class and the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting. Accuracy potential is superb; the glass-bedded action and free-floated barrel (which receives Browning’s proprietary lapping process) make this a gun that shoots just as well as all of its full-sized counterparts. The X-Bolt Micro Composite is available in .243 Win, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 and .308. MSRP is $939.
2. Mossberg International SA-20/SA-28 Bantam:
I served as a 4-H Shooting Sports shotgun instructor for two years, and I can attest to the fact that finding a lightweight, low-recoil repeating shotgun to fit small-statured shooters can be very difficult. Mossberg has offered a solution to that problem in the form of the SA-20 and SA-28 Bantams. These guns operate using a gas system that helps prolong the recoil curve and reduces the felt recoil produced with target and game loads. The walnut-stocked versions of these guns weigh 6.25 pounds, and the polymer-stocked variants weigh just 5.5 pounds. Combine that with a short length of pull (12.5 inches), a compact 24-inch barrel, and a front-of-receiver balance point and you’ll find that these are firearms that small-statured shooters can effectively manage. This combination of light weight, short overall length, good balance and gas operation make the SA-20 and SA-28 excellent options for short-statured shooters, especially those who aren’t accustomed to dealing with heavy recoil. MSRP: $570-$654
3. Savage 110 Lightweight Storm:
Savage’s new 110 Lightweight Storm comes with an AccuFit stock with length of pull and comb height spacers, so while it isn’t expressly considered a “compact” rifle, this gun can be easily and quickly customized to fit just about any shooter. The Storm weighs just 5.65 pounds, so it’s manageable to carry all day while hunting, and the large, soft recoil pad helps mitigate recoil and prevent flinching. The time-tested Savage 110 action serves as the heart of this rifle, and the Lightweight Storm comes with a spiral-fluted bolt body that eliminates a little weight and adds a nice aesthetic touch to the gun. Of course, the Lightweight Storm comes equipped with an AccuTrigger, which is user-adjustable and safe, and the tang safety is well-positioned for shooters with hands of any size. These rifles feature stainless steel barrels and synthetic stocks so they are easy to maintain, and shrug off even the worst the elements have to offer. A short (20-inch) barrel keeps overall length to a very manageable 39.25 to 40.2 inches, perfect for hunting in thick woods or in the limited confines of a treestand or blind. The Savage 110 line has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy, and these rifles are chambered in a number of mild, manageable and effective hunting rounds suitable for everything from coyotes to elk, including .223 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win, 7mm-08 Rem and .308. MSRP is $749
4. Ruger Precision Rimfire:
A few years ago, Ruger introduced the Precision Rifle, an ultra-accurate centerfire designed for serious long-range shooters. This year, the company offered a rimfire version of that same gun that’s designed to meet the needs of dedicated rimfire target shooters. The Precision Rimfire offers many the same high-end features you’ll find on its centerfire cousin including a lightweight chassis, Picatinny rail, free-floating Magpul M-LOK compatible handguard, a lightweight bladed trigger and a threaded barrel. The buttstock offers seemingly endless comb height and length of pull adjustments, so the gun can be customized to fit just about any shooter quickly and effectively; there’s even a compartment in the stock to store the trigger adjustment wrench. These guns ship with either a 15-round Ruger BX-15 magazine or a 10-round BX-1 mag, and they’ll also accept Ruger 10/22 magazines as well. While these guns offer a myriad of features with serious competition shooters in mind, the Precision Rimfire is chambered for the mild .22 LR so finding ammo is no problem and recoil and muzzle blast are extremely low. The stock can be shortened all the way to a 12-inch length of pull, so even the smallest-statured shooters can enjoy shooting this rig. It’s a whole lot of rimfire with an MSRP of just $529.
5. Franchi Affinity Catalyst 20 Gauge:
Franchi’s Affinity shotguns borrow the Inertia-Driven system popularized by their parent company Benelli, so as you might imagine, Affinity guns have earned an enviable reputation for reliability. A few years ago, Franchi decided to use the Affinity as the basis for a semiauto shotgun designed specifically to fit woman shooters, and the resulting gun became known as the Affinity Catalyst. There had been semiauto shotguns designed for “women” shooters in the days before the launch of the Catalyst line, but these guns were primarily short-stocked versions of existing models. Franchi took a different route. The company set out to rethink stock geometry and build guns that were engineered from the ground up to fit women shooters. Length of pull, cast, pitch and drop were all optimized to fit ladies, and the resulting guns allowed for a more natural gun mount and improved consistency. This year, Franchi is offering the Affinity Catalyst in 20-gauge with a 26-inch barrel and a 13 7/8-inch length of pull. Inertia guns tend to be lighter than gas guns because of their limited number of moving parts, and the Affinity Catalyst weighs in at just 5.7 pounds. It’s outfitted with Franchi’s TSA recoil pad to help reduce the effects of recoil, so the Affinity Catalyst 20 Gauge is manageable to shoot for all-day competition or high-volume bird hunting. The stock is made from A-grade satin walnut and there’s a red fiber optic front bead. Three chokes (IC, M and F) come standard with the gun, which has an MSRP of $969. Coupling improved stock fit with Inertia-Driven reliability makes the Affinity Catalyst 20 Gauge a great shotgun for a variety of tasks, everything from upland hunting to trap, skeet and sporting clays competitions.
6. Savage B Series Compact:
Last year, Savage launched their B-Series rimfire rifles, and this year the brand is offering a compact version in three different calibers (.22 LR, .17 HMR, .22 WMR). All of these rifles come equipped with Savage’s AccuTrigger, which is user-adjustable down to 2.5 pounds and very crisp, which helps with accuracy. The synthetic stocks feature a very steep grip angle that relieves stress on the wrist, a high comb that naturally aligns the eye with an optic, and sling studs. The tang-mounted sliding safety is easy to access, even from a prone position. All three calibers options come standard with Savage’s 10-round rotary magazine, and every B Series Compact has a short (18-inch) blued button-rifled barrel and an overall length of just 35 inches. At 5.5 pounds, this rifle is manageable for even the smallest shooters, and accuracy potential is excellent—I tested the full-size B Series rifles in .22 LR out to 100 yards and performance was superb, so I’d imagine the compact version shoots just as well. All three versions of the B Series Compact come drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and the .22 LR version is equipped with iron sights. MSRPs are $299 for the .22 WMR and .17 HMR models, and $279 for the .22 LR version.
7. Weatherby Mark V Camilla Subalpine:
Weatherby’s Mark V Camilla rifle (named in honor of company founder Roy Weatherby’s wife) was designed specifically to meet the needs of female hunters. The grip, length of pull, comb, and most every other detail of these rifles was designed “by women, for women” to improve comfort, handling, and accuracy potential. The newest member of the Camilla family is the Subalpine, which features a composite stock that is dipped in Gore Optifade Subalpine camo and a Flat Dark Earth Cerakote finish on all the exterior metalwork. This rifle, then, is virtually impervious to the elements, so there’s no need to turn back for home when the weather turns bad. Weatherby was one of the first companies to pioneer a short bolt lift (54-degrees instead of the 90-degrees of lift required to cycle most two-lug bolt-action rifles) which allows for fast cycling and reduces the risk of bashing your knuckles on a low-mounted optic. The Camilla uses the Mark V’s light six lug action, so overall weight of this rifle is just 5 ¾ pounds. Each Mark V Camilla Subalpine comes equipped with a crisp, adjustable LXX trigger and a two-position rocker-type safety, and Weatherby promises MOA accuracy. Available in .240 Weatherby Magnum, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, .308 Win and .30-06, the Camilla Subalpine is suitable for hunting just about any game anywhere. With an MSRP of $3,000 it certainly isn’t cheap, but this is a very high-quality rifle that shoots accurately and will survive a lifetime of abuse.