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Beginners’ Guide to Choosing the Right Gun for Small Game Hunting

Posted by John McAdams - Mar 19, 2015

Most hunters have their first hunting experiences pursuing rabbits, squirrels, and grouse. This is a great way to introduce new hunters to the sport and teach them some of the basic tenants of hunting. However, the best small game hunting guns are usually not ideally suited for hunting big game, which often necessitates different firearms for each. Here is a guide to choosing the right gun for small game hunting.

Rimfire Rifle
No collection of hunting guns is complete without some sort of rimfire rifle, which is great for hunting squirrels, grouse, and (under some circumstances) rabbit. Though .22 Long Rifle is probably the most common rimfire cartridge, there are several other popular rounds on the market today, such as the .22 Magnum and .17 HMR.

Rimfire rifles are usually relatively inexpensive, very accurate, and lightweight. Generally speaking, rimfire bullets are cheaper, quieter, have a longer range, and destroy less meat when compared to a shotgun. This makes a rimfire rifle an ideal gun for shooting at small animals that are usually stationary at the time of the shot, like a squirrel in a tree. However, hitting a moving target, such as a rabbit chased by dogs, is a much more difficult proposition.

When hunting in an area where game is plentiful, a skilled hunter with a good rimfire rifle and a pocketful of shells should have no trouble harvesting plenty of small game. Luckily, there are a number of excellent rimfire rifles on the market today, such as the Ruger 10/22 and Marlin Model 60 semi-automatic rifles. Crickett also makes an excellent single shot, bolt action rifle designed for children as a first rifle. Any of these rifles are great choices for hunting small game.

As good as rimfire rifles are for hunting small game, a good shotgun also has its place in the gun collection of a small game hunter. Though 12 gauge shotguns are quite popular, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, and even .410 bore shotguns really come into their own when hunting small game.

Shotguns are especially useful when shooting at moving targets, such as flushing birds or running rabbits and squirrels. Also, a single rimfire round cannot compare to the stopping power of even the smallest shotgun load.
As for choosing a good shotgun, there are also plenty of outstanding choices on the market. For instance, Remington makes the venerable Model 870 shotgun in both 12 and 20 gauge versions. The Mossberg 500 is available in 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, and .410 bore variants. If you don't want a pump action shotgun, Harrington & Richardson also produces some pretty nice (and affordable) single shot shotguns that are available in 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, and .410 bore.

.22 LR Pistol
A pistol chambered in .22 Long Rifle is another good choice for a small game hunter and allows him or her to have some of the best of both worlds. Since a pistol is small, lightweight, and can be carried in a holster, this allows the hunter to carry both the pistol and a high powered rifle or a shotgun for big game or bird hunting at the same time.

This gives the hunter the flexibility to use the pistol on animals where the high powered rifle or shotgun might not be appropriate (such as on a grouse), yet also gives them the flexibility to hunt in situations where a rimfire firearm would not be the best choice (like a running rabbit).
Luckily, there are literally dozens of different choices on the market at a reasonable price for hunters interested in a .22 pistol. A personal favorite of mine is the Ruger Mark III pistol. Though it is on the heavy side, it is extremely accurate and a competent shooter can hit targets 50 yards away with it.

I hope that you’ve found this article on how to choose the right gun for small game hunting useful. Though it does not get nearly as much publicity as big game hunting, hunting small game can still be quite fulfilling and entertaining. With the proper tools, a hunter pursuing small game will have the best chances of success on a hunt.

Comments (1)

James / Apr 10, 2015 07:02 PM

Great Article

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