How to choose a gun for small-game hunting
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Most hunters have their first hunting experiences pursuing small game such as rabbits, squirrels or grouse. In addition to being lots of fun, it is also a great way to introduce new hunters to the sport and teach them some of the basic tenants of hunting.
That being said, 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 on how to choose a gun for small-game hunting.
A pistol chambered in a rimfire cartridge, such as .22 Long Rifle, is a good choice for a small-game hunter. Since a rimfire pistol is small, lightweight and can be carried in a holster, the hunter may carry the pistol in addition to a high-powered rifle or a shotgun for big game or bird hunting.
By being able to carry both a revolver and a high-powered rifle or shotgun, a hunter has the flexibility to use the pistol on animals where the high-powered rifle or shotgun might not be the best choice (such as on a grouse). At the same time, the hunter may also use the shotgun or rifle in a situation where a rimfire firearm would not be the best choice (like a running rabbit or a big-game animal).
Luckily, there are many different choices out there for hunters interested in a rimfire pistol. One good choice is the Ruger Mark III semiautomatic pistol. If you want a revolver, Smith & Wesson makes several high-quality revolvers chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Ruger also produces a version of the LCR revolver that is available in either .22 Long Rifle or .22 Winchester Magnum.
No hunter's gun collection is complete without a rimfire rifle. A rimfire rifle is great for hunting squirrels, grouse and rabbit. Though .22 Long Rifle is probably the most common rimfire cartridge in the United States (and probably even the entire world), there are several other popular rounds on the market today, such as the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) or .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR).
Rimfire rifles have several advantages. They are usually relatively inexpensive, accurate, lightweight and easy to carry. Rimfires are generally cheaper to shoot, quieter, have a longer range and destroy less meat when compared to a shotgun. These characteristics also make a rimfire rifle great choices for small-framed hunters, such as children.
They are also an ideal gun for shooting at small, stationary animals, such as a squirrel in a tree. However, hitting a moving target, like a running rabbit, is a much more difficult (though not impossible) proposition when using a rimfire rifle. For these situations, a shotgun is probably a better choice.
Where game is plentiful, a hunter with a good rimfire rifle should have no trouble filling the pot with small game and expend less than a dollar's worth of ammunition in doing so.
There are a number of great rimfire rifles on the market today. One of the most popular is the Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rifle, though the Marlin Model 60 rifle is also a popular choice. Crickett also makes an excellent single-shot, bolt-action rifle designed for children as a first rifle. All three of these rifles, plus many of the others not discussed here, are great choices for hunting small game.
Even though rimfire rifles and pistols are great choices for hunting small game, a good shotgun also has its place in a small-game hunter's gun collection. In the U.S., 12-gauge is probably the most popular choice among shotguns. However, 16-gauge, 20-gauge and even .410-bore may actually be better choices for hunting small game.
Shotguns are the most useful when shooting at small, moving targets at close range, such as flushing birds or running rabbits. Under such circumstances, hitting the animal may be virtually impossible or even unsafe when using a rimfire rifle or pistol. Additionally, a single rimfire bullet cannot compare to the stopping power of even the smallest shotgun load.
There are also plenty of outstanding shogun choices on the market. The most popular choice is the pump-action Remington Model 870, which is available in both 12- and 20-gauge versions. Mossberg also produces their Model 500 shotgun in 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge and .410-bore variants.
However, if you don't want a pump-action shotgun, Harrington & Richardson also produces some affordable 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge and .410-bore single-shot shotguns that are also great choices for small-game hunting.
Even though it does not get nearly as much publicity as big-game hunting, small-game hunting can still be extremely fulfilling and entertaining. With just a few additional firearms — which fortunately aren't typically expensive — a hunter may obtain the proper guns for hunting small game.
So get yourself one (or all) of the guns on this list, and hit the woods for some small-game hunting this year!
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