When a fresh cauldron of squirrel stew is on the menu, hunters look to the gunsmith for any number of options. Rimfires, centerfires, shotguns, and even pistols are easy prey when the target is tree-climbing, branch-jumping, barking prey. Exactly what weapons are best for these cunning and light creatures? Guns.com breaks down the best options, from classic to modern and everything in between.
If we did a survey, it is certain that the humble .22 long rifle rimfire round has taken more small game than any other chambering. There is no more popular or instantly recognizable .22 LR long gun than the semi-automatic Ruger 10/22. Perhaps the best thing about 10/22 is its availability, both new and used. In production since 1964, the number of 10/22 rifles in the hands of hunters today is measured in the millions. Grab the most basic model from the store shelf and you’ll still have furry tails.
Those who prefer to play can also customize that action with heavy barrels, carbon fiber or tactical stocks, and much more for the ultimate small game rifle. Heck, even the takedowns are terribly attractive to those backpacking to more remote hunting country. While the Model 60 Marlin and their offshoots are pretty similar and will work just fine, there is nothing more iconic in the squirrel forest or range than the 10/22.
SHOP RUGER 10/22!
Lever Actions Henry Rimfire
The joy of picking up squirrels from the treetops with a lever action rimfire striker is a purely American pastime that brings great joy to the heart and plenty of game to the table. Depending on your type of game and terrain, either rimfire henry it will do a lot of good. A .22 LR chambering means much cheaper and more readily available ammunition. The .17 HMR will do a lot more damage, but it also allows you to go after other game like vermin and even predators.
We have recently been impressed with the construction and performance of the new Henry magnum express Chambered in .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire. It has an 11-round magazine tube, hickory stock, and the included Picatinny top rail pairs nicely with the Monte Carlo-style stock. If having the option of suppressed hunting sounds appealing, Henry’s Border with the threaded barrel offers a suppressor ready solution.
BUY HENRY 22!
Some guns exude class, and that’s certainly the case with Winchester. model 37 single shot shotgun. While you can’t just run out and buy a new 37, beautiful specimens still grace the used shelves of many gun shops. Winchester began building the 37 after World War I with an exposed abbreviated hammer and ejector. Singles were constructed of steel and hickory and could be had in almost every hole.
Many model 37s, especially “red letter” era guns, are now excellent collector’s value in good condition. However, because they were utility weapons, many were put to good use, but can still be fired perfectly today. Production ended in the early 1960s, though we’d love to see a new version of the 37. Pick up a fully choked Model 37 chambered in small .410 caliber for a real old-school bushy-tailed hunting delight. .
BUY WINCHESTER 37!
All the recent furore has centered on wild introduction of the Impulse Straight pull bolt action hunting rifle. But how many of us have been hitting targets and tree squirrels with the straight pull? gold t-bolt .22 LR for decades? These classic rimfire rifles are fast-cycling, accurate, and simple and elegant.
The 10-round magazines sit flush, and the rimfire firing pins are instantly recognizable with that straight bolt handle. Whether you choose one of the oldest classics with collector value and hunting dynamism or a new version like the compound athlete, the T-Bolt is a small gamer’s dream. Given the choice, a Belgian-made T-Bolt, either T1 or T2, would be a welcome addition both in the woods and in the gun safe.
BUY T-BOLT BROWNING!
cubic zirconia 457
You don’t need a good trigger and a target-quality gun to shoot the squirrels, but it sure adds to the fun. CZ american line of bolt-action rimfire rifles are both stylish and incredibly capable. When that elusive squirrel pokes its head out from behind a heavy branch, the CZ ensures the projectile will be right on target. Pick one up in .17 HMR if you plan on doing more extensive varmint hunting, or you can just go with the old stock .22 family of LR or WMR for hours of fun.
While we appreciate the standard models with Turkish Walnut more, the latest suppressor-ready synthetic has its benefits too. The company also introduced a sweet Varmint Precision Trainer rimfire version of the 457 that would no doubt send the squirrels back to their treetop dens. There’s even a professional vermin with a threaded barrel for suppressors and a scout variant with a shorter draw length for smaller framed hunters.
Ruger Mark IV Hunter
If you hunt small game with a pistol, there are plenty of solid options in both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. That includes the Browning dollar markRuger’s individual actions and Ruger’s decades of age mark series semi-automatic rimfire pistols. But when Ruger introduced the Hunter Mark IVthe game changed.
While any of the Mark IV models will do the job, the Mark IV Hunter is hands down the best option. With a 6.88-inch heavy rifled bull barrel, fully adjustable fiber optic sights, and finger grooves on the lens grips, this thing is one small gaming machine. There is a 10-round magazine capacity, and it features a simple one-button detachment that outperforms previous Ruger Mark pistols. We will still be giving bonus points to those who continue to hunt and hoard their previous builds.
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Savage A-series rimfire firing pins
Wild makes affordable and accurate rifles, and even the rimfire family is no exception. While its B-series bolt-action rimfire is fantastic, we love the reliability and accuracy of the A-series for quick shots on moving targets like squirrels. These rifles can be had in .22 LR, .22 WMR, .17 HMR, or even the rarer .17 HM2. The delayed blowback action ensures the gun reliably cycles hot rounds like .17 HMR, while features like Savage’s adjustable AccuTrigger help you punch holes in targets.
Rifles can be had in synthetics, laminates, camouflage, heavy barrels, sporting, and even a precision version. Our favorite has long been the A17 Target thumb hole, which has carried off countless squirrels, prairie dogs, and other vermin. That said, any of the dozens of model variants will fill your pot with squirrels. Choose your caliber and options, and Savage will do the rest.
BUY SERIES TO WILD!
Research Magnum Magnum Lite
Raise your hand if you like firearms made in America. Keep it high if you’re looking for quality custom rifles, carbon fiber, and some of the most accurate semi-automatic rimfire firing pins on the market. Are you still waving? You will have to shoot Magnum Research Semi-automatic Magnum Lite in the range. It’s almost cheating in the squirrel forest.
Magnum Research builds the big lite in both .22 LR and .22 WMR. With a threaded barrel, they are certainly not the cheapest, but they are certainly competing for the most accurate and flashy rifle. They offer an integral optical rail and skeletonized thumbhole stock in a variety of materials and finishes. Plus, they’re a joy to carry with some models weighing in at just over 4 pounds. Not only is the bolt handle ambidextrous, but so is the stock.
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Keystone Sporting Arms is one of the leading producers of firearms for beginning shooters. All Keystone Sporting Arms guns are made in the USA. Although they do produce other models, it is their small size cricket bolt action, marketed as “My First Rifle”, which has gotten many youngsters hooked on safe shooting and small game hunting. The Crickett is available in dozens of synthetic colors and hydro-dipped designs. They also offer laminate and thumbhole materials, with options in blued metal or stainless.
The Crickett is manually cocked using the mechanism at the rear of the bolt. The rifle has a LOP of 11.5 inches. With a 16.125-inch barrel, it even weighs 3 pounds empty. There is an adjustable rear sight and a fixed front sight, though the Crickett is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
BUY CRICKETT KEYSTONE!
Harrington & Richardson and New England Firearms
For many of us, including the author, a single-shot shotgun was our first “real” firearm. Two durable and affordable brands were Harrington and RichardsonH&R, and New England firearms, NEF. Mine was a .410 caliber NEF with a fading case color finish and a fixed full choke. That gun took a lot of squirrels and other small animals. Over the years these plain singles could be had on almost every gauge of shotgun, with most using fixed chokes.
There were numerous models, including the Top-hat, co-workerand 88. There were compact youth models along with wood and synthetic options. For squirrels, just about any barrel length chambered in .410 is the best option with a full choke to keep patterns tight. Although these brands have been yet another casualty of the Remington family’s recent scattering, we can only hope for a future return.