The best rifles and cartridges for small game


There’s a wannabe sharpshooter in all of us who hunt. The rifleman’s rifleman. The guy who can hit the spot on the spot, every time. Unfortunately, most of us can be lumped together as average shooters, and keeping the dream alive is the motivation needed to get out to the range more to work on our shooting skills. For another segment of the hunting fraternity, however, expert marksmanship is as much reality as it is fantasy for the rest of us. Enter the dedicated varmint and small-game hunters, who shoot more ammunition every year than all other rifle hunters combined.

At one time, varmint hunters were the second-class citizens of the hunting world. I mean, eliminating old Mr. Chuck from your garden was little more than routine yard maintenance for most, and any old .22 would do the trick if you got enough pokes in. Times have changed, however, and in an era of specialists, small-game hunting has evolved into a precision-oriented affair. Dedicated varmint hunters, thanks to manufacturers committed to the task, are now equipped with the most finely tuned of rigs, all designed with one objective—extreme accuracy, sometimes at mind-boggling ranges.


All of this means the choices have never been greater when it comes to selecting cartridges and rifles. If you’re new to varmint or small-game hunting, let the following overview of the various rimfire and centrefire options help point you in the right direction.