I've been shooting a NEF Handy rifle in 30-06 for about 17 years. Great little gun. Over the years I've heard a lot of comments about my little single shot. Those who have hunted with me, know that when I shoot, it's time to go get the truck.
Now these are no where near the cost of a Thompson Center single shot. The wood may not be as pretty, the bluing not as tough, and the trigger might not be as crisp, but over all they have a pretty darn good trigger. If you get one and the trigger pull is too high, you can send it back and they'll fix it. I've sold about 1 dozen of these rifles and only 1 person felt the need to return the gun to get a lighter trigger and to be honest,I talked him into sending it back, but he also had 3 other barrels added. His trigger came in at 6.5 lbs, it came back with 4.5 lbs and it took about 5 weeks to get it back. It was still NEF then, probably still made in the same building what ever name is on it now.
Like the TC you can get a lot of different barrels for the Handy rifle, but unlike the TC, you have to send the gun in to get new barrels and fore ends fitted. A very small inconvenience considering the TC barrels are like $400 compared to under $100 for Handy Rifle barrels and under $200 for the rifle compared to what a TC costs. You get a lot of gun for the money with a Handy Rifle, you pay a lot for the name when you buy a TC. Shop around, find a FFL dealer, I priced one at a local dealer about 1 1/2 years ago, and it was $350 to order. Bad deal. Found the same thing in SS from a local FFL dealer for under $200.
I got my Handy Rifle in about 1991. It's been through hell and back and looks like it. Stock is all scratched up, have some dings and rust spots in the bluing, it's been out in rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail, snow, it's been dropped, kicked, banged around, and yet I set the scope in '91 and have never had to adjust the scope since. It's just as accurate now as it was out of the box.
I think the Handy Rifle is a great gun for beginner or pro. I wish more people would use single shots and start hunting with the 1 shot 1 kill attitude. When I'm ready to get another Handy Rifle I think I'd go with the stainless steel version. My biggest concern with my gun is the bluing. SS has to be tougher than this bluing. You'd know better than I as to what caliber is best for your area and style hunting. I can say it's a heavy enough gun that my 30-06 doesn't kick real bad, but 20 rounds at the range is about enough for me. With all the money you save, you could spend $50 on a Breako mercury kick suppressor and install it in your stock bolt hole to sweeten it up for the kid. My thinking was I had just so much money and wanted an accurate gun. A solid gun with a great scope? or a great gun with a cheap scope? If I remember right, I paid $169 for the gun new, $200 for the(3.5-12x55mm) scope and had enough money left over to get mounts, sling and case. Dollar for dollar, shot for shot, dead deer after dead deer that little gun has never let me down, never froze up, never jambed, and is the most dependable gun I've ever owned, (being a former FFL dealer, I've owned a lot of guns.) Put a real good scope on that gun for your son, teach him to shoot it and take care of it, he'll have a good dependable deer rifle for life.
American by birth, hunter by choice.