America is funny that way. As an adult I have not weapons beyond a steak knife. But as a child everyone handed me lethal weapons for me to use an learn about while having a few of my own.
I really think it was to make me understand that such things were not toys. It worked. As an adult I could have any number of weapons. But I feel safe in knowing I COULD have them and choose not too as it is not a part of my life style. I still like the outdoors and completely respect people who take having weapons seriously(albeit not crazy people lol).
Having at least 1 bow for a young person is always cool. More stuff = more options. Small crossbows would be use-able by kids already imo. Cannot however remember if we have a crossbow pistol as one referenced?
Recoil; Perhaps not gimping the weapon as much the character using the weapon. Large weapons not easy to use for a child could have the skills scaled with slower gain. This way it wouldn’t effect anything else except for the child or NPC child. So instead of gaining normal rate for the adult. Gain at 35-50% slower.
This is tricky because at 8-9, the frame of a small child can still use a rifle with a relative low recoil. So I would make the limiter in skill gain and maybe dex in regard to handling such weapons.
As for reference of such. I found a lot even in controlled conditions by going to Youtube and typing in “kids at firing range”. Pretty sure that sums up any other search for easy reference. I didn’t want to bog down the thread with more than 1-2 examples and I found many. try also 12g kid or other cross wording. =D
Almost forgot. Danger is moot in the apocalypse. Even if it is dangerous. Consider this. You do not have to use a weapon. But that won’t matter to those who do. Kids can get hurt by NOT using a weapon in the apocalypse.