Many traditional hunters grew up with a .22 LR rimfire rifle in their hands. Their mothers and fathers released them into the squirrel woods to chase foxtails and grays through stands of hickory, oak, and pecan. Many of the ancient weapons we carried as children are still formidable tools for hunting squirrels. He continues to take several of them into the woods each fall and spring (after a good cur or feist). These old rimfire hammers are available used and new, generally affordable and accurate enough to land a well-placed headshot on a squirrel at 50 yards, so you can save the coins and the mount for the pan.
Remington Model 34
Remington’s Model 34 tube-fed bolt-action pistol was first introduced in 1932, but was only produced until 1935, when it was replaced by the 341. My father bought a 34 in the early 1950s. squirrel for more than half a century. An old ¾-inch Weaver scope still sits atop this rimfire firing pin. It has held its zero for 25 years without adjustment.
I’m not sure how much my dad paid for this gun, but when Remington introduced it, the price was $13.50. This was one of Remington’s first .22 bolt action rifles and it maintained a reputation as a reliable and accurate rimfire rifle. Much of the rifle’s reliability came from a single action: the carrier lifted a fresh round from the magazine and chambered it. This ingenious gun design was the work of Crawford C. Lewis, a veteran Remington engineer whose number of patents rivals that of John Moses Browning.
The Model 34 was made in three variants, the 34-A, with standard open sights, the 34-P, fitted with a Lyman sight, and an NRA target model, which featured the sight and a commemorative brass bolt handle. The Model 34 is 44½ inches long (24-inch barrel) and weighs 5 pounds, 8 ounces. The stock is walnut with finger grooves carved into the front (some early models did not have finger grooves) for better grip. from today price: $200-$500
Model 39A Marlin
Bolt pistol loyalists won’t love this lever-action pick, but I’ve shot the Marlin 39A for years and found it to be a remarkably accurate rifle. Before Remington went bankrupt and Ruger bought the Marlin, the 39A was one of the oldest and longest-made shoulder-mounted firearms in the world. late 19the century became the first lever-action pistol chambered in .22LR, and the Golden 39A is one of the best-selling rimfire pistols in US history.
The 1891 was sniper Annie Oakley’s rifle. The Model 1892 followed, then gave way to the 1897, before the 39 and 39A were introduced in 1921 and 1939 respectively. The Golden Mountie 39A appeared in 1954 and was replaced by the Golden Model 39A in 1983 (this sometimes leads to the two models being confused). All 39 rimshots are takedowns and very accurate, which is not always the case with a platform of this type. To disassemble the rifle, simply insert a coin or flat-head screwdriver into the screw that holds the rifle in place and turn it.
The 39A is a 6½-pounder with an overall length of 40 inches (24-inch barrel). Ammunition can be loaded through the top of the magazine tube and ejected through the side hatch located on the receiver. You can also mount an optic on this rifle. The 39A was discontinued in 2007. Today’s price: $800-$1,000
Winchester Model 69A
In the 1930s, Marlin, Iver Johnson, and Mossberg debuted several moderately priced .22 rifles. At the time, Winchester had the 56 and 57 .22 models, but they could not compete with the prices of their less expensive competitors. The guns also had a 22-inch barrel, which many shooters considered too short. The Model 69 was conceived as a double hunting and plinking weapon. The 69A was introduced in 1939 with a few improvements, namely an external cocking mechanism that worked simply by opening and closing the bolt. A toggle safety switch was also added to the right side of the bolt, and slots for mounting scope rings were machined into the top of the receiver.
Like many older .22 rifles, the 69A’s trigger pull is not very good. I never measured the trigger pull on the 69A I shot, but it was stiff. There is an internal adjustment screw that allows you to lighten the trigger slightly, but there will always be plenty of travel. The five round magazine is not ideal. You can sometimes run into multiple grays and foxtails on a squirrel hunt, and you’ll run out of ammo quickly with the 69A. There is an optional 10-round magazine, which I suggest buying multiples if you can find them. The 69A was discontinued in 1963 with over 355,000 rifles sold. Today’s price: $500-$700
Over 11 million Model 60s were made after the semi-automatic was introduced in 1960. It had a reputation as an introductory .22. Most people who shoot rimfires probably start with or have shot this rifle. Model 60s were inexpensive, amazingly accurate, and tough enough to withstand the abuse inflicted by the youths, farmers, trappers, and squirrel hunters who carried them.
Marlin adapted the Model 60 from his Model 99. A few things made the 60 a hit from the start. The ’99’s hickory stock was downgraded to birch, making the ’60 less expensive. Marlin also opted for a brass magazine tube, not the all-steel tubes of some of his other rifles. This kept rust away and increased the durability of the rifle. Marlin also added its own Micro-Groove rifling to the inside of the barrel for less bullet damage and a crowned muzzle, both of which increased accuracy.
The Model 60 was also known as the Glenfield Model 60 and thousands of variants were built and stamped for Montgomery Ward, Western Auto and JC Penny. Some of those rifles had slight modifications, but were built on the original Model 60 design. The Glenfield name was dropped in 1982, and any 60 made after that is considered a “new style.” The magazine length was reduced from 18 to 15 rounds in the late 1980s to comply with a New Jersey gun law, and in 2000 the barrel was shortened to match the magazine length. Ruger now owns the Marlin, but the Model 60 is not in production, although it is expected to be reintroduced in the future. Today’s price: $300
Read next: How to start hunting squirrels with a dog
winchester model 61
A pump-action .22 rifle may not be for everyone, but I’ve always loved the Winchester 61. When I was a kid, a friend of mine often hunted with one, and the sleek little gun had a smooth action like the butter and killed many squirrels and rabbits.
Winchester introduced John Browning’s .22 pump-action rifle, the Model 1890 (in the same year). It was an immediate success and soon became standard wear (as were later models) in popular shooting galleries at carnivals across the country. They became known as “gallery guns” and were also used by many small game hunters.
The 1890 was the first successful repeating rimfire rifle and was followed by the 1906. Both were top ejection, exposed hammer rifles. In the 1930s, Winchester had a long run of success with pump-action rimfire firing pins. The United States was now in the Great Depression and the competition for market share was fierce. Remington had the Model 12, a slide-action .22, and Marlin had the Model 32. Both pistols were strikerless (the striker was hidden inside the receiver cover). Winchester had to keep up, and in 1932 the 61st was born.
The new streamlined 61 fired short, long and long .22 rifle cartridges. It can be ordered with a round or octagon barrel. The side ejection 61 kept the magazine under the barrel, and the sights were a brass bead front post fitted into the barrel with an open, stepped rear sight..
Seventy-five 61s were designed with trap shooter Fred Routledge’s smoothbore cannon, which could fire .22 shot cartridges. The Routledge hole had 10 ½ inches of smooth surface starting at the chamber with a diameter of 0.217 inches. The hole transitioned to 13½ inches of smooth surface with a diameter of 0.375 inches. This was done to prevent the tiny pellets from colliding and spinning. It also increases the range and pattern of the shot.
Winchester 61s are popular with gun collectors and can cost upwards of $1,000. The rifle was discontinued in 1963 with over 342,000 sold. Today’s price: $500-$1,100