Re: best starter rifle for a 7yr old,
My Grandsons started shooting with .22lr bolt guns. The best one was a .22 military type trainer with iron sights. They both say that the first rifle that really impressed them though was an AR-15 collapsible stock .223. It was the first centerfire rifle they fired and is still their favorite. The collapsible stock made it easy to fit them, the iron sights work, and later they shot it with a scope before moving on to a Rem 700 7-08.
I like the idea of an Encore or Contender, except I don't know if the rifle barrels have iron sights. You could probably put a set of the pistol barrel sights on them though. I have a Contender carbine in .22 K-Hornet that is a really fun gun to shoot, but it's scoped.
Good luck. This is a big deal for a boy. I'm going to misquote Cotton Cordell, who once said "Teach your children to love God, to love their family, to love their country, and teach them to love to hunt and fish, and when the time comes, no drug dealer can teach them anything".
Texas State Rifle Association Life Member
NRA Endowment Life Member
A big fast bullet will beat a little fast bullet every time