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Squirrel Rifles for Every Budget Pt II

Here are seven tried-and-tested rifles ranging in price from less than $500 to $1,300.

Thompson/Center R55 .22 LR
For stump sitting or stalking, bolt-action or single-shot rifles are perfect. If you try hunting squirrels with a tree dog you need to be prepared for fast, tree-to-tree action, especially if you miss or are hunting fox squirrels. Then an autoloader is the way to go.

T/C's R55 is a real sleeper in this category. For a while I ignored the R55, thinking T/C's specialty was single-shots. When I finally tested one I was pleasantly surprised. The R55 is capable of sub-inch groups at 50 yards with most loads, comes with fiber-optic sights and even Weaver scope bases. Oh, and just as important, after more than 500 rounds without cleaning, the rifle has yet to jam. ($604; 603-330-5659; www.tcarms.com)

Ruger 77/22 RM .22 Mag.
After years of squirrel hunting with a .22 LR, I felt like I'd traded my .30-30 for a .300 Win. Mag. when I got my first .22 Magnum. I could hold dead on and hit a squirrel beyond 60 yards. After trying several .22 Mags. I finally decided on Ruger's classic 77/22 Magnum.

It has a nine-shot, rotary magazine, dual extractors, a stainless bolt, classic lines, integral scope bases and comes with scope rings. Mine shoots half-inch, 50-yard groups with all ammo I've tried and close to 1 inch at 100 yards with most loads. The factory trigger has a bit of creep and is a tad heavy, but a $50 Timney sear and spring kit will fix that. I imagine I'll give this rifle to my son when he's ready for his first magnum and completely bypass the old 37 Winchester or any shotgun for squirrel hunting. ($754; 928-778-6555; www.ruger.com)

Weatherby XXII .22 LR
Introduced two years ago, the Weatherby XXII exhibits all the flare and quality that made Weatherby famous. Weatherby teamed with famed rimfire rifle manufacturer Anschutz on the XXII, which is actually built on the Anschutz Model 64 action. The fine checkering, grip and fore-end cap and high-gloss finish all scream Weatherby.

I hunted extensively last season with a Weatherby XXII in .22 LR. When I pointed it and pulled the crisp 2.5-pound trigger, squirrels fell from trees. I especially like how the bolt handle protrudes from the stock more than is customary. This makes cycling the action fast and easy. The Weatherby XXII bridges the gap between factory and custom squirrel rifles. ($999; 805-227-2600; www.weatherby.com)

New Ultra Light Arms M20 Rimfire 22LR
New Ultra Light Arms is a custom shop in the hills of West Virginia that set precedence 25 years ago, offering incredibly accurate big-game rifles, some weighing less than 5 pounds. I've used Melvin Rifles-that's what I call them because Melvin Forbes is the guy who makes them-to take my first black bear, my best whitetail and the most squirrels in a single season.

Melvin's rimfire uses the same space-age, synthetic stock his centerfires rely on for strength and barrel-supporting stiffness. Mine is a single-shot, which you might think a handicap but, friend, not when one shoots like this rifle. Single-shots and repeaters are available in right- and left-hand actions and you choose barrel length and stock color. They come standard with a Timney trigger, Talley rings and a hard case. ($1,300, single-shot; $1,350, repeater; 304-292-0600; www.newultralight.com) 

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1 Response to Squirrel Rifles for Every Budget Pt II

Nolan Bailey Sr wrote:
September 04, 2012

I certainly agree with the Ruger 77/22 choice. Several years ago I purchased the Stainless version with synthetic stock in .22 LR caliber. It will do ten shots in 1/2 inch at 50 yards just as you say.