Most shooters start out with a .22LR rifle. It’s the ideal gun to learn on 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 .22 rifle 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 highly versatile caliber 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 22 rifle for your next hunting trip, we’ve broken down our favorite rifles to launch it with below.
- Our Top 10 Choices for the Best 22 Rifle:
- Wrapping Up & Parting Thoughts:
Our Top 10 Choices for the Best 22 Rifle:
1. The Legendary Ruger 10/22:
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 Marlin Model 60:
Marlin has been making their Model 60 for over 50 years, and it’s still one of the most popular in its class. Inexpensive, but simple, robust and accurate, it’s an ideal weapon for taking small game or clearing out troublesome critters.
The semiautomatic Model 60 is fed from a 15-round tubular magazine under the barrel (older models have an 18-round capacity). This system is slow to reload but holds more than enough ammo for hunting purposes anyway. The magazine tube is brass, giving it excellent corrosion resistance.
One real strong point of the Model 60 is the excellent barrel, which has 16-groove micro rifling and a very high quality crown. This makes it inherently very accurate; the receiver is grooved for scope mounts, so you can exploit that to the full. Typically available for well under $200, this is a very affordable and practical hunting rifle for any small game expedition.
3. The CZ-455 American:
An update of the classic design from legendary Czech firm Brno, this variant of their long-running bolt gun has been tailored for US tastes. It incorporates Brno’s new common receiver design and quick change barrel system, and is also available in a combo package with bot .22LR and .17 barrels. Selling at around $400 for the basic rifle it’s an excellent light hunting choice.
The CZ-455 (featured in a detailed write up here by thetruthaboutguns.com) American has a high quality 22.5-inch barrel mounted to a completely machined receiver. The adjustable trigger is crisp, and the weapon feeds from a five-round detachable magazine.
There are a lot of CZ models on the market but this one is designed for an optical sight; the beautiful walnut stock has a high comb, there are no iron sights fitted as standard, and the receiver is both grooved and tapped for scope mounts.
4. The Marlin XT-22:
This is a relatively new .22 bolt action, which went on sale in 2011. The basic design is available in several .22 calibers and with a choice of removable or tubular magazine, but the one to go for is the .22LR with seven-round box magazine. The XT-22 is a conventional bolt gun, but a nicely made one.
It comes with a choice of stock options including the standard walnut; which we think is the best looking, but the synthetic ones are more durable and can be had in camo. It’s fitted with effective open sights, and while many shooters neglect these, they’re ideal at short range or against fast-moving critters.
If you prefer a scope the receiver is grooved for tip-off mounts and tapped for fixed ones. Marlin’s 16-groove micro rifling makes this a very accurate gun, and with prices starting at around $200 it’s also reasonably priced. It’s not quite as precise as the Anschütz which we cover below, but it’s easily good enough for hunting and well under half the price.
5. The Marlin Golden 39-A:
This rifle’s claim to fame is that it’s the oldest continuously-produced long gun in the world. In fact it first came out as the Model 1891, and you can probably guess what year that was. It’s stayed popular ever since, mostly because of its distinctive Western style, but it’s also a practical hunting rifle – and one of the few you can take down with just a coin.
The 39 is a lever action, loosely styled on the iconic Winchester Model 1873. Its tubular magazine will hold 19 rounds of .22LR, and while reloading is fiddly there’s plenty capacity for hunting. The high quality 24-inch barrel gives good accuracy, and the solid receiver is tapped for a scope mount if the iron sights aren’t precise enough for you.
Picking the Marlin Model 39 gives you a rifle that’s ideal for pest control and bagging small game, but also awesome for plinking. With its classic American looks and heritage – Annie Oakley used one for many of her shooting feats – this is a gun that’s great in every way. At under $600 it’s also reasonably priced.
6. The Mossberg 715 Tactical:
No list of modern .22 rifles is complete without at least one or two AR15 replica, 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 715 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 Anschütz 1416 HB:
German gunmaker Anschütz are famous for their high precision target rifles, but they make a range of excellent hunting guns as well. Their 1416 HB is a real contender for anyone who wants an outstandingly accurate weapon for small game hunting or pest control.
Built around a classic bolt action and taking a four-round magazine, this is a rifle for skilled hunters who only plan to need a single shot. As you’d expect from Anschütz the barrel is first class – in this case it’s a heavy 18-inch model. The receiver is immensely strong and houses a miniature Mauser bolt.
There are no iron sights as standard; Anschütz can supply them, but this little beauty is just begging to have a good scope fitted. It can also take a bipod, making for a real tack-driving weapon system.
German quality doesn’t come cheap and a new 1416 retails for around $1,250, but in return you get unbeatable build quality and unrivalled precision.
8. The AR-7 Henry Survival Rifle:
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 weights 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 semiauto. 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
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 rifle 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.
Wrapping Up & Parting Thoughts:
Finding the Best 22 Rifle for your next hunting trip doesn’t have to be difficult. 9 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 pickup a rangefinder, a pair of hunting binoculars or two way radios to go right along with it.
Any one of the 10 rifles on our hunting list will make your next hunting excursion 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.