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Old May 3, 2009, 01:05 PM   #1
justinicus
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Best overall small game firearm

I've been thinking a bit about small-game hunting, and would like to get the input from people a lot more well-versed in taking meat than myself.

I'm starting from scratch here, never having hunted anything but deer, turkey, and goose. If I wanted to supplement my meals with things like rabbit, squirrel and the like, what would be the idea firearm? I'm interested in terminal effectiveness, as well as durability, weight, compactness (packability?), and price. I've always thought the 10/22 was the standard for small game, but I've never really heard anyone gush about how rugged they are.

But what about pistols? Shotguns? Would I be better off with a .410? Or maybe a .223? I guess that might blow away some meat, but it would also be effective for smaller predators, and other... "midsize" (?) game.

Right now, I'm thinking the new Charger might be good. Seems like it would be more accurate than the average .22lr pistol, like the Mk2 or S&W's 22A, and much more totable than a rifle.

I'm wide open though -- what would you pick to bring home small game?
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Old May 3, 2009, 01:07 PM   #2
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Shotgun.
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Old May 3, 2009, 01:09 PM   #3
justinicus
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What gauge and load would you use?
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Old May 3, 2009, 01:11 PM   #4
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12 gauge #6 shot 1 1/8 ounce shot, pretty much standard field loads.
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Old May 3, 2009, 01:12 PM   #5
justinicus
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great, thanks for the input!
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Old May 3, 2009, 01:18 PM   #6
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No prob, good luck.
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Old May 3, 2009, 02:18 PM   #7
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If you want a little lighter package to tote all day, the 20 works fine too. For either gauge I like 7 1/2 or 8 for squirrels and 7 1/2 if rabbits are close 6 if they tend to be a little farther out in that area. If you don't mind recoil, or willing to put a nice pad on, and can get good enough at the shooting, A single shot 20 or 12 really is a sweet gun. I hunted for the first 8 years of my life with only a bolt action .410 and the line... "Beware of a guy with only one gun" rung true for me. Squirrel hunting was fun for spotting the buggers but my buddies bragged up my shooting by truly stating "Brent is the only kid we ever seen that could shoot 28 squirrels with 25 shots."
A .22 is fine for a challenge... I prefer the bolt action for the "Big Boy" rifle feel but love a marlin 60 when feeling lazy. For pistols, I know several guys who love their Ruger MK series with scope or "halo" optics for rabbit. Head shots are a must if for the pot. The additional challenge to plan your shot for back stop is fun. For tree rats you have to set up so the bullet enters tree trunk or thick limb every time to feel comfortable about errant projectiles.
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Old May 3, 2009, 02:24 PM   #8
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I own lots and lots of rimfires but the best small game cartridge out to 100 yards is the .17HM2. I own 3 rifles in Mach 2 (an Anschutz 1702D HB, a Volquartsen Custom and a CZ 452 Varmint) and they are all deadly on little critters. The CZ is the easiest to tote in the woods.
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Old May 3, 2009, 02:33 PM   #9
justinicus
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that's a great point... I've been spending way too much time here in the burbs, where squirrels are always on the ground! Maybe I should save the rifle/handgun aspirations for when I become a better hunter.
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Old May 3, 2009, 02:34 PM   #10
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
I've always thought the 10/22 was the standard for small game, but I've never really heard anyone gush about how rugged they are.
You haven't listened very carefully! The Ruger 10/22 is extremely rugged, especially the older models. Mine is pure workhorse. It doesn't get babied like all my other guns. I've had it for must be 15+ years and I'm not sure it's EVER been cleaned. I've never had a failure of any kind (except some shells that no-bang, but that's not the gun).

Even so, if I was in the market for a similar gun today I'd be getting something in 17HMR. It does everything the 22LR does, everything the 22mag does and some things that neither of them do.
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Old May 3, 2009, 02:34 PM   #11
justinicus
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I've been hearing a lot of good things about CZ lately. Are their rifles as good as their pistols?
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Old May 3, 2009, 02:44 PM   #12
Brian Pfleuger
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Are their rifles as good as their pistols?
Their rifles are quite good and their customer service is excellent. The triggers are fairly typical (heavy and nasty) but there are very inexpensive parts available to improve them. If you want a bolt action then I'd recommend Savage.
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Old May 3, 2009, 03:16 PM   #13
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Peet, the savage has the protruding magazine. My next bolt action will likely be one of the 981 marlins. Just love a high capacity tube mag and bolt action concept.
http://www.marlinfirearms.com/Firear...ion22/981T.asp
But currently I have a Savage tupperware "El Marto del Wal" 99 buck gun...
I have admittedly missed a hand ful of tree rats but not many. Now the freak incident I mention in the scared to death rabbit thread... Dead is dead no matter the route to get there
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Old May 3, 2009, 03:49 PM   #14
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Well,
Just like golf, you can play with one club but better off having choices to fit the requirements. Now that should give you the incentive to buy more than one. Right ??

However, working with your criteria, I'd have to agree with the 20Ga. in 3". You can even take ducks with one although you would have to get lucky on geese. You will never outgrow a 20Ga. and neither will your kids.


Be Safe !!!
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Old May 3, 2009, 04:56 PM   #15
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for small game you can do pretty well with .410 caliber in a compact and light package. There are many options out there, you can even find a M6 from springfield it's a over under combo 410/22LR.
I've a good friend who use a winchester 94 chambered in 410 with great results. Slugs in 410 do pretty well and there are some good choices in shotshells
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Old May 3, 2009, 08:04 PM   #16
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Other than the .17hmr recommendation all are good. And i say no .17 because in va its illegal
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Old May 3, 2009, 08:07 PM   #17
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For small game your talkin .22LR or Shotty. Don't get me wrong, I see many advantages to the .22 mag and the two 17's. But if you're gonna use them you had better be dang sure you brain em. Any shots to the body can lead to less than desirable results for table fare. Plus, we are talking small game. You don't need a howitzer to kill em.

The 10/22 is great for small game. Reliable as the sun and accurate enough. I just went 4 for 4 on some starlings.

For shotty's I'll second the 12 and the 20. Ammo is too expensive and rare for the .410. It's not that you can't get ammo for it, it's that your choices are EXTREMLY limited. That and .410's just plain suck.

The big advantage the .22LR has over all the others, especially the shotguns, is that it is the quietest.
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Old May 3, 2009, 09:36 PM   #18
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
And i say no .17 because in va its illegal
Illegal to hunt with you mean? I've never heard of restrictions on small game. That's odd.
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Old May 4, 2009, 03:21 AM   #19
phil mcwilliam
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Small game for the pot usually means head shots, so I would recommend a quality bolt action 22. I was testing my new CZ 452 Delux fitted with Leupold 2-7x 32 scope on the weekend. I was amazed at the accuracy of this rifle & shot several 5 shot groups under 1 inch at 100 yards using CCI Minimags. It is extremely important to try different ammunition in a rimfire to determine what your rifle prefers, as most other same priced ammo shot groups of up to 3 inches at 100 yards. I owned a Ruger 10/22 for many years & would consider this rifle a rugged & dependable semi-auto. The Ruger 10/22 can be customized with after market barrels/triggers ,but out of the box they don't compare to the CZ for accuracy, nor were they designed to. I found the fast handling Ruger carbine ideal for taking shots on running rabbits, but if I was looking at sniping for head shots the CZ(or other quality bolt action) would be my choice.
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Old May 4, 2009, 06:15 AM   #20
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I'm actually surprised at how many folks here don't mind picking lead shot out of their meat. I haven't used a shotgun on rabbits and such in many years.

They're fine for feathered game, and are oft-times the only legal way to hunt them, but not on furred animals.

.22 LR ammo is inexpensive to shoot, lightweight, and very effective on small game. Head shots cause no meat loss on small critters.

There are so many makes and models of rifles chambered for it that it's hard to single one out to recommend. The newest firearm I have that's chambered in .22 LR is 29 years old, but that old Marlin/Glenfield model 60 with the ugly squirrel on the stock has accounted for more than it's share of small game. It's still in fine working shape, and still hits where I aim it.

One .22 pistol I have was made in 1941, and one old Winchester rifle in the late 1930's. Both still function perfectly, and still shoot accurately.

Which goes to show just how hard it is to wear out a decent made rimfire rifle or pistol. With a bit of care, they seem to last forever.

It's jus hard to beat a good .22 LR for small game.

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Old May 4, 2009, 07:33 AM   #21
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Better check your game laws...

Quote:
Or maybe a .223? I guess that might blow away some meat, but it would also be effective for smaller predators, and other... "midsize" (?) game.
Here in GA, only .22-cal rim-fire or smaller is legal for small game hunting, along with shotguns. I would purchase both, but if I had to choose one, I would go with a 12ga shotgun because it is the most versatile.


I just looked up VA hunting laws - Wow! What a confusing mess. Looks like in some counties, your .223 would be legal for small game, in some you can't fire a rifle at all except at an approved range.
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Old May 4, 2009, 01:31 PM   #22
bigthrills
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yeah va has some hunting laws that are crazy in the county i live in 1 side of the east and west has two different bag limits and 2 different seasons we need to do some major politicking to get 1 set of rules
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Old May 4, 2009, 03:16 PM   #23
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If your small game includes coyotes or bobcat sized animals you might want to think of the smaller centerfire cartridges, such as the .204, .222, or .223.

Any .22lr will do for bunnies and squirrels. There are a bunch of used ones to choose from. My brother and I shared a Remington Field master as our first rifle. I recommend them highly. But any rust free used .22 that feels good to you will be fine.

I've used a 20 guage shotgun on rabbits. They work great with bird shot, but I pretty much decided that a .22 would do just as well.

http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/Vie...Item=128261489
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Old May 4, 2009, 03:23 PM   #24
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12 0r 20 ga shotgun

Quote:
If your small game includes coyotes or bobcat sized animals
buckshot will work dandy. I think the shotgun is the most versatile, just tailor the loads/choke combo to the situation.
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Old May 4, 2009, 03:32 PM   #25
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oh, plus

with the shotgun you can bring a few slugs along just in case there is some threat from a bear (black in the o.p.'s case) or bad guy.
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