Here’s How To Choose The Perfect Gun For Small Game Hunting

Continue reading to find out how to choose the perfect gun for small game hunting.

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.

Once you get a pretty good idea of what gun you might want to purchase for small game hunting, check out this excellent gun buying guide Ryan Lisson at Zero To Hunt put together. It’s a great primer on how to go about buying a gun for people who don’t know where to begin. He goes over what accessories you should consider buying at the same time, what sort of questions you should ask before making a purchase (he even provides detailed scripts), and what sort of things you should keep in mind when making a purchase.

Rimfire Pistol

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. The Ruger Mark IV and Browning Buck Mark semi-automatic pistols are both great choices. If you want a revolver, Smith & Wesson makes several high quality revolvers chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Ruger also produces a rimfire revolver that is available in either .22 Long Rifle or .22 Winchester Magnum.


The Browning Buck Mark Pistol made cut for my holiday gift recommendations. To see what other stuff is on the list, check out the following article:

Awesome Holiday Gifts For Hunters

best hunting caliber e book 1

Rimfire Rifle

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, very accurate, and are 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 another 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.


Read the article below for some good .22 Long Rifle hunting ammo recommendations that will work very well in handguns as well as rifles.

Best 22LR Ammo For Hunting, Plinking, Target Shooting, & More

Though rimfire cartridges are not nearly as loud as most centerfire rifle cartridges or shotguns, they are still loud enough to damage hearing. So, don’t neglect to wear proper ear protection at the range and while afield.


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. 12 gauge is probably the most popular choice among shotguns in the United States. 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. Perhaps 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, CVA also produces very affordable 20 gauge and .410 bore single-shot shotguns that are also great choices for small game hunting.

For a more detailed discussion on the different shotgun gauges, read the article below:

Shotgun Gauges Explained: 10 vs 12 vs 16 vs 20 vs 28 vs 410


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 very 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!

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia.

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4 thoughts on “Here’s How To Choose The Perfect Gun For Small Game Hunting”

  1. Finding the right gun for the job is key to success. Everyone has their preference but this is a good list. Thanks for sharing.

  2. My husband is an avid hunter, and is wanting a new gun for Father’s day. But I need to know what I need to look for when it comes to picking out the right gun for him to be able to go rabbit hunting. I like how you said that shotguns are the most useful when it comes to shooting small, moving game. That will be something that he will really enjoy, if he is able to hit his target.

  3. My 1970 Remington 20 ga. 870…..has taken more squirrels, rabbits, and crows and doves….than I can count….never given me a lick of trouble, and has been my favorite small game gun for almost forty years. Can’t beat an 870.


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