Sagebrush crunched under my boots, its pungent odor wafted up and into my nostrils. My eyes scanned the mildly rolling landscape for my quarry. Back and forth, close and far, I squinted looking for an outline or tell-tale movement, as well as the odd prairie rattler. Suddenly, a blur of fur scooted from a sagebrush just 5 yards away. I drew my Kimber Rimfire Super from the El Paso Saddlery Allegiance holster and into a Weaver stance, tracking the critter by the dust it kicked up as it ran. The prairie dog bolted through an opening perhaps 10-feet long. I led it a foot or so and pressed the trigger…behind it! Pushing the pistol ahead of the varmint another couple of feet, I slapped the trigger again…over it! And then the dastardly pest made good its escape.
It was of little consequence because another ’dog popped up nearly 60 yards away. This one was not as frenetic and held tight. I again locked up in the Weaver stance; the first shot went just over it, and my second shot center-punched it.
Over the years, I have shot thousands of ground squirrels, prairie dogs and rockchucks. Most of the time, I have used a small-bore, center-fire, scope-sighted rifle. Shooting varmints has taught me more about becoming a competent field shot than any other shooting activity. So it’s only logical to transcend from rifles to handguns. The neat part is: You probably already have the guns you’ll need to take to the field.
Whether your penchant is practicing your draw from the leather under field conditions or long-range sniping with a powerful, flat-shooting, scope-sighted single shot, handgunning varmints will add a new dimension to your shooting repertoire. Strap on your favorite rimfire and take a walk. Engage every target that presents itself from the leather. You will have an awakening. On the square range perhaps you are a hotshot who can draw from beneath your tac vest and perform a Mozambique drill in 1.25 seconds. Believe me, you won’t do that well under field conditions. The targets are smaller, often partially obscured and moving and ranges vary greatly. Most likely your first few forays into varminting with a handgun will be quite humbling. But just as when you began training, ongoing, regular practice will result in improvement, and this improvement will broaden your skill base.
I really like using rimfires for this kind of shooting. Ammo is cheap and relatively quiet. Depending upon my mood, I might choose my Colt New Frontier, a Smith & Wesson K-22 or one of several semi-autos. If it’s just a casual afternoon walk-and-shoot and I am not seeking speed and high body counts, the Colt will get the nod. It is the first handgun I used for this kind of foray, and it’s just as effective and fun now as it was nearly 40 years ago. If I feel the need for some double-action trigger time, the S&W K-22 comes out of the safe.
About every other year I get real enthusiastic and make a multi-day trip to southeast Wyoming for varmints. Then the trailer gets stocked with darn near anything I might want to use for varmint shooting—rifle and handgun. When my desire is to snipe at pests from a distance with a handgun, I’ll often go to my T/C G2 Contender with either a .17HMR barrel or .22 K-Hornet barrel. With a good rest, any ’dog within 150 yards is in big trouble.
So if your square range is beginning to bore you, give handgunning varmints a whirl. One caveat, though: It can get addicting.