Best .22LR Rifles For Hunting Small Game in 2024

Most shooters start out with a .22LR rifle. It’s the ideal gun to learn on (even kids can operate) before you move to a bigger caliber like a 30-06 or a 308. It’s light, manageable, and the ammunition is cheap. But the legendary .22 isn’t just a starter caliber, and there are many options to pick from when trying to find the best .22LR rifles for your hunting expeditions.

The .22LR also has a lot of practical uses. If you want a cheap weapon for backyard plinking, it’s unbeatable. Nothing else can match it when it comes to cost and hunting prowess in such a small package. The .22LR is one of the most effective cartridges for hunting small game and is also a favorite of just about every survival expert out there, making it a great value for your money.

There’s plenty you can hunt with a .22LR. It doesn’t have the power to guarantee a humane kill on large game or go duck hunting with man’s best friend, so you can’t legally use one on deer, but it’s ideal for a lot of small critters. Most birds can be cleanly dropped; so can rabbits, squirrels, and possums. Large rats in the barn? A .22 will work just fine.

This rimfire round is a like a 30-06 or a 308 that makes a lot of sense for hunting small game and pests. While there are probably several that would fit the bill as the best .22LR rifles for your next hunting trip, we’ve broken down our favorite rifles to launch it with below.

Contents

Our Top 12 Choices for the Best .22LR Rifles:

1. The Legendary Ruger 10/22:

Best .22LR rifles

This neat semiauto is practically an American icon by now. Ruger has been making it since 1964, and its popularity has never faltered. It’s well made, reliable, and incredibly easy to maintain; a handful of simple tools lets you replace any part, even the barrel.

A stock 10/22 is fed from a ten-round rotary magazine that tucks neatly under the action. Ruger also makes five-round versions for states that restrict magazine capacity, as well as a 25-round box. The Ruger is about as American as hunting with a crossbow, recurve bow, or compound bow out in the wilderness.

Aftermarket box, coffin and drum magazines are available with capacities from 25 to 110 rounds; the larger ones are great for plinking, but for hunting the standard drum is fine and will keep weight down. Some of the 25 round magazines made by Ruger make this rifle exceptionally fun to shoot.

There’s an almost endless range of both factory and aftermarket options for the 10/22, including tactical stocks and an assortment of barrel lengths and styles. You can set the rifle up as anything from a close-quarter rapid-fire rabbit blaster to a precision system that can cleanly drop a squirrel a hundred yards away. This is a truly excellent, flexible light hunting rifle that’s been able to stand the test of time for over 50 years.


2. The A22 Takedown:


The A22 Takedown 22LR Rimfire Rifle with its 18-inch barrel and 10-round magazine capacity is an excellent choice for hunters pursuing small game. Engineered for accuracy and precision, this rifle’s design allows for swift and effective targeting, making it ideal for varmint and small game hunting. Its 22LR caliber provides enough power for humane and precise takedowns without excessive noise, ensuring minimal disturbance in the hunting environment.

The takedown feature of this rifle adds a layer of convenience for hunters on the move. Its easy disassembly and reassembly make it a practical companion in the field, enabling hassle-free transportation and quick setup. The black finish not only gives it a sleek appearance but also contributes to its durability in varying outdoor conditions, ensuring reliable performance when tracking elusive small game.


3. The CZ-457 American:


Designed with a focus on precision and quiet operation, this rifle is an excellent choice for those seeking a stealthy approach to varmint and small game hunting. Its 11mm dovetail ensures easy optic attachment, allowing hunters to enhance their aiming accuracy, while the 5-round capacity provides sufficient shots without compromising maneuverability.

Crafted with a nitride finish and black synthetic stock, the CZ-USA 457 American Suppressor-Ready rifle embodies durability and reliability in various outdoor conditions. The suppressor-ready feature minimizes noise, reducing disturbance in hunting environments and ensuring a more controlled and humane approach to taking down small game. With its American-style design and ergonomic build, this rifle offers comfortable handling for extended hunting trips.


4. The Marlin XT-22:

Boasting a stainless steel construction (which looks super cool), this rifle is built to withstand rugged hunting conditions while maintaining its durability and resistance to corrosion. The 22 WMR caliber offers increased power and range, making it a suitable choice for varmint and small game hunting.

Related Read: Best Bolt Action Rifles

The Marlin XT-22MVSR is equipped with a bolt action mechanism which ensures smooth and precise operation, crucial for accurate targeting during hunting expeditions. Its ergonomic design and comfortable handling make it an excellent option for extended hunting sessions.


5. The Henry Small Game Black Lever Action Rifle:


Its lever action design offers smooth and reliable cycling, allowing for quick follow-up shots when pursuing elusive varmints. The 22 WMR caliber brings increased power and accuracy, making it an excellent option for precision shooting and hunting small game with efficiency and effectiveness.

Crafted with a sleek black finish, this rifle not only exudes a classic charm but also boasts durability in varying hunting conditions. The 20.5-inch barrel strikes a balance between maneuverability and accuracy, enabling hunters to navigate through different terrains while maintaining precision in their shots. The lever action mechanism adds to the rifle’s nostalgic appeal while providing a user-friendly experience, especially for those accustomed to traditional firearms.


6. The Mossberg 715t Tactical:

No list of modern .22 rifles is complete without at least one or two AR15 replicas, and the Mossberg 715 is a very nice one. Selling for around $300, it’s a reliable and accurate weapon that will serve well for both fun shooting and varmint control while being easy on your wallet.

Externally the 715t looks very like an M16-series assault rifle, but inside it’s a fairly conventional blowback-operated semiauto. There’s a dummy AR15 cocking handle but the actual one is on the right of the receiver, so don’t buy this for practicing your drills. However, do buy it if you want a military-style rifle that’s ideal for small-game hunting.

The 715 Tactical has a built-in carry handle and iron sights; there’s also a short M1913 rail on the handle and four long ones on the RIS fore-end. This can be tooled up with all the usual military accessories, and some of them make a lot of sense for pest control. Its layout makes this a very intuitive- quick-handling gun, so if you want to clear out rats or pigeons the 715 is an excellent choice. Below is a great video from Gear-Report.com on the inner workings of the Mossberg 715 Tactical.


7. The Ruger American Rimfire Target:

The Ruger American Rimfire Target Rifle embodies precision and versatility for small game hunting pursuits. Designed with a threaded barrel to accommodate suppressors or muzzle devices, this rifle ensures reduced noise and minimal disturbance in hunting environments, allowing for a stealthy approach to varmint hunting. Its .22LR caliber strikes a balance between manageable recoil and ample power, delivering the necessary punch for precise takedowns.

Featuring an adjustable length of pull and comb height, the rifle offers customizable ergonomics, empowering hunters to find their optimal shooting position. This adaptability enhances comfort and accuracy, crucial elements for successful small game hunting. Furthermore, the rifle’s compatibility with various optics allows for personalized aiming setups, ensuring hunters can achieve the pinpoint accuracy needed to take down elusive targets.


8. The AR-7 Henry Survival Rifle:

AR- 7 Henry Best .22LR rifles

Originally an ArmaLite design produced for the US Air Force, this is now made by Henry Rifles. It’s one of the most unusual rifles out there, but works very well if you spend a lot of time outdoors and want a rifle that’s easy to carry when you’re doing other things.

The AR-7 was designed to be as compact as possible when stowed, so it’s a takedown design that breaks into four components – the stock, receiver, barrel, and two eight-round magazines.

When broken down all the other parts fit inside the stock, which forms a sealed waterproof case. Overall it weighs just 3.5 pounds – and amazingly, considering the barrel is 16 inches long, the whole package is only 16.5 inches when stowed.

Despite its tiny size this is an effective little semi-auto. Ten and 15-round magazines are available (although they won’t stow in the stock). Various models are available, from ArmaLite, Charter Arms and Henry; the Henry is the one to go for. It’s made from updated materials, the stock has been slightly modified so the receiver can be stowed with a magazine fitted, and as well as the slightly crude iron sights it has an M1913 rail for a scope.


9. The Savage Mark II:

Another long-running American design, the Savage Mark II has been around for decades but still has a strong following. For a sub-$250 price it gives you a solidly made bolt action, with a reasonable magazine capacity and all the accuracy you need to keep the pot full of squirrels and rabbits.

The Mark II has a conventional bolt action fed from a ten-round detachable box magazine, and the trigger is surprisingly good for the price – not a match for the Anschütz or Brno, but perfectly adequate for hunting. It also comes with a wide range of stocks in both wood and synthetic. If you want a no-frills but serviceable .22LR hunting gun (it’s also available in .17) this will do just fine.


10. The Smith & Wesson MP 15-22

10. The Smith & Wesson MP 15-22 Best .22LR rifles

The Smith & Wesson MP 15-22 packs a host of features that are similar to the Mossberg 715 yet bear the reputable brand name of Smith & Wesson. The MP 15-22 is a tactical looking 22 LR rifle and the rifle designers did a great job making this rifle look the part of an edgy more high-powered piece of weaponry.

The MP 15-22 does a good job of offering a tactical style model rifle that’s in the same wheelhouse as an AR-15 stylistically allowing it to serve as a viable practice rifle for anyone that has an AR-15 and likes to shoot it but doesn’t like to spend the money that it requires when buying 223/556 ammunition.

You can’t go wrong with the MP 15-22 for any hunting scenario as it will stand up to all the abuse you can put it through while still being as compact and almost as reliable as the Ruger 10/22. It’s our favorite choice for the best 22 rifles in the tactical category and the fact that it’s American made certainly doesn’t damage the credibility. Below is a great breakdown from Guns & Accessories that shows just how much fun the MP 15-22 is to shoot.


11. The Bergara B-14 R

Crafted with a threaded barrel, this rifle allows for the attachment of suppressors or muzzle devices, reducing noise and minimizing disturbance in hunting environments. The rifle’s adjustable features provide hunters with comfortable handling and enhanced control, optimizing their shooting experience. Additionally, its compatibility with various optics further enhances precision, enabling hunters to customize their aiming setup for maximum accuracy.


12. The Tikka T1x MTR

The Tikka T1x MTR 0.22 LR

The Tikka T1x MTR (Multi-Task Rimfire) shines bright in the quality and accuracy sector, just like Tikka have accustomed us with their tremendously popular Tikka T3x centerfire line. Tikka T1x MTR is the Finnish gun maker’s first rimfire .22 LR, but due to a happy mix of Tikka centerfires’ best features and a good dose of versatility and user-friendliness, the Tikka T1x was an instant hit.

Tikka has placed a heavy emphasis on accuracy with this hunting rimfire rifle and it has borrowed heavily from its T3x line when it designed this beauty. The T1x MTR and most T3x centerfires share the high-performance bedding footing, the single-stage trigger mechanism, the synthetic stock, and trigger plates.

If you get to test the T1x MTR, you will be surprised by how lightweight and yet accurate this modular rimfire rifle is. Even though a 0.22LR does not have the recoil or heat output of a classic centerfire, Tikka T1x’s semi-heavy barrel was designed to keep everything cooler and steadier than a thin barrel, which can only add bonus points to the accuracy department.

Another well-thought element of design that contributes to the T1x MTR’s outstanding accuracy is its bedding footprint, which was also borrowed from Tikka’s centerfires and which can withstand nearly the same recoil forces of a centerfire. What’s more, the T1x MTR’s synthetic stock (with around one-third being made of fiberglass) shows increased resistance to temperature variations, which also adds to the rifle’s accuracy.

Everything about the Tikka T1x MTR screams quality and attention to detail. That’s why believe this rimfire can easily rival many American classics in its league.


Bonus Rifle: The GSG StG-44

The GSG StG-44 is an exact replica of the original assault rifle, the Sturmgewehr 44, a popular firearm with the Nazi troops during World War II. At the time, this state-of-the-art chambered 22 long rifle replaced both the submachine gun, by offering German soldiers a longer range when firing, and the K98 bolt-action rifle, by packing more firepower.

Sturmgewehr’s word for word translation is “storm rifle,” which later became the well-known “assault rifle.” The GSGStG-44 22 LR Semi-Auto is a great looking gun but also a nice piece of German technology and history that every WW2 buff should add to their collection.

The replica is so exact that it is as heavy as the original (around 10 lbs.), comes with real wooden furnishings, and is shipped in a WW2 period style box to mimic the real feel of the original. The only real difference between the two is that this carabine is now much cheaper to use than it was for its original users.

Also, the Sturmgewehr 44 look-alike has a magazine capacity of 25 rounds but there’s also a 10-round model for those unfortunate souls living in areas with soul-crushingly tight gun restrictions. All in all, this can be a beautiful plinker for many gun enthusiasts with a knack for modern history.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can a .22 stop an attacker?

Yes, .22 rifles are some of the best options that you can get for practical home defense. Out of all of the most popular calibers, the .22 requires the least amount of shots to stop an attacker. More specifically, statistically speaking, around 60% of attackers are stopped after a single shot with a .22 rifle.

How far can a 22 rifle shoot accurately?

A .22 rifle can be effective up to 150 yards or 140 meters, though smaller distances are much more preferable. As you might expect, after the set limit of 150 yards, the bullet will still travel a little but it will be greatly affected by the phenomenon known as “the drop” so it will lose a ton of accuracy.

Why is a .22 so dangerous?

The most dangerous aspect about a .22 rifle is that its bullets have enough velocity to enter the skull but not enough to exit. As such, the bullet bounces around in your skull, leaving your brain a mush, whereas calibers with a great kinetic energy can pass right through the skull and thus increasing a person’ chances of survival. In short, you really don’t want to play around with this thing unless your goal is to kill the thing that you’re pointing at.

Why are .22LR rifles so dirty?

The main reason why the interior of a .22LR can get so dirty is that these are usually blowback operated, meaning that a lot of the powder residue (both burned and unburned) will get blown into the bowels of the gun and will continue to build up until the gun is finally cleaned. Moreover, the use of lead bullets also accounts for a part of this problem. All in all, it’s just something that you’ll have to get used to sooner or later down the line.

Which is better: 22lr or 22mag?

A 22mag has more power, but a 22lr has a lower cost per round as well as more available ammo.. In terms of small game, a 22mag can take our larger small game than a 22lr can (raccoon, possum, etc).


Wrapping Up & Parting Thoughts:

Finding the best .22 rifle for your next hunting trip doesn’t have to be difficult. Nine times out of 10 the Ruger 10/22 will get the job done and will do so on even the tightest budget, leaving you with extra funds to pick up a rangefinder, a pair of hunting binoculars or two-way radios to go right along with it.

Any of the 12 rifles on our hunting list will make your next hunting trip more enjoyable depending on your price point. If you are looking for the absolute best 22LR rifle for your money, then the Ruger 10/22 is hard to beat in just about every category.

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