Hunting > Small Game & Predators

Squirrel Rifles for Every Budget

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

I was 5 years old, sitting beside my father with a .410-bore Model 37 Winchester in my lap. We were watching squirrels running amuck for nuts and I was out of shells. I don't remember how many I fired but my shoulder was sore. On the way to camp I asked if I could use the .22 rifle next time. Dad said, "I reckon so."

A squirrel rifle has to be accurate, ideally capable of sub-inch groups at 50 yards and the sights and cartridge you choose should be influenced by the hunting methods you employ. I've tried about every rifle even remotely suited to squirrel hunting; every action design chambered for every rimfire cartridge. Here are seven tried-and-tested rifles ranging in price from less than $500 to $1,300.

Savage 93R17 BVSS .17 HMR
Savage has a reputation of building affordable and accurate rifles. They offer over 30 rimfires priced between $250 and $600. When the .17 Mach II became available, I tried one in a Savage model 93R17 BVSS for an entire season. My only complaint was the heavy trigger pull. The new version-now only available in .17 HMR-comes standard with the great Accu-Trigger, stainless steel finish and a laminated stock. The street price is less than $400. What a bargain! ($411; 413-568-7001; www.savagearms.com)

Remington 597 VTR .22 LR
Go ahead, laugh. I know tactical-looking rimfires don't evoke visions of crisp fall mornings and bushytails scampering across the forest floor. But sometimes we hunt just for fun; every trip to the timber doesn't have to be a nostalgic journey or follow pre-conceived protocol. Any way you look at it, this rifle is cool, and if you like to hunt with an AR it's even cooler.

I'd just customized a 10/22 with a collapsible stock so my 9-year-old son could squirrel hunt with a rifle that fit him. Then the 597 VTR showed up. The best thing about the 597 VTR is the collapsible stock, which fits him and me. I got to thinking I might like a tactical squirrel rifle(!), so I mounted one of Weaver's new Tactical scopes. The big scope made the package too heavy for my son, but I enjoy head-shooting squirrels hiding high in a hickory tree while exercising all the stealth of a spec-ops squirrel sniper. Detachable magazines hold six or 25 rounds. ($445; 800-243-9700; www.remington.com)

CZ 452 American .17 HMR
After one year of squirrel hunting with this rifle, I was convinced it was the "answer" when it came to a stalking rifle for squirrels. No matter the distance, I just held dead on and pulled the trigger. Admittedly, a .17 HMR is a bit much for squirrels if anything other than head shots are taken. The good thing is head shots with the CZ are easy; at 100 yards you can cover every shot with a quarter.

I've tested a half-dozen CZ rimfires and all shot exceptionally well. The safety operates backwards from American-made rifles, and you might feel the trigger a bit creepy. A drop-in, aftermarket kit will fix the trigger, and after a few trips to the range you'll be comfortable with the safety. ($499; 913-321-1811; www.cz-usa.com)

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