June 16, 2022 5 min read

Hunters, typically, don’t start hunting with elk, deer, pronghorn, or moose, but with rabbits, red squirrels, grouse, doves, or even quail. The adventure usually begins with a .22 long rifle, a 20-gauge, single-shot shotgun, or something similar. Small game is a great option to train a novice hunter with respect to ethical hunting, and picking the right gun for small game hunting is a critical aspect of the whole process.

A likely option for a newbie could be a .22, a .17, or maybe a 20-gauge or .410 shotgun. Pistols or revolvers in .22 long rifle are perfect for experienced small game hunters, but young people should begin hunting with a long gun.


Which Type of Gun is best for Small Game?

In case of big game, there are specific regulations, specific to the calibers that can be used to hunt a moose, deer, pronghorn, or elk. Ethically, the general rule requires to deliver energy of 1000 foot-pounds when the bullet hits the animal. However, there are no such regulations pertaining to calibers or any specific ethical considerations on the energy to be delivered when it is about small game, except that the hunter should be close enough to take a shot which could deliver fatal force.

For small game, the idealguns to considerincludehandguns, shotguns, and small-caliber rifles. In the history of hunting small game by humans, it was onlylatelythatgunsreplaced the slingshot, sling,orthebowandarrow as the primary tool forsmall gamehunting.

Discussed below are the types of gun that are known to have worked in harvesting small animals and birds.



When it comes to small game hunting, a shotgun can prove remarkably advantageous. Small game with heavy cover is generally tough to hit. A shotgun with the right pack of shots will take down quickly moving squirrels on high branches, cottontails moving in a zigzag manner in brush, and raccoons traced in the flickering light during the night.

A shotgun is dependable, perfect for distances of up to 40 yards, and is capable of delivering the firepower to hunt down small game of any size. While a 12-gauge shotgun may deliver more than the required firepower for small game, a .410 or 20-gauge is usually perfect.

The only downside of using a shotgun is that at times, the small game gets peppered with bullets. Modern steel shot can break your tooth while you enjoy having a harvested goose or wild duck in dinner & Lead in the bullet if ingested can cause Poisoning.


Small-Caliber Handguns

When it is about small game hunting, a handgun is not the weapon of choice for every hunter out there. However, a .22 pistol or revolver can help you a lot when you are out in the wood. It is harder to take down a squirrel using a .22 handgun. Plus, it requires some patience, a very steady hand, and a good rest to take down one. Semi-automatic guns are a great match for small game hunting, & it would be difficult for you to find a better .22 caliber handgun than a bull-nosed, heavy-barreled Ruger target pistol. It is precise and easy to aim, with a near perfect action.


Small Caliber Rifles

The .22 rifle, the .17 HMR, and the .204 centerfire are perfect options for greater shooting distances usually found on foothills, the prairie, the Rockies, and mountains of the Midwest. Let's have a closer look at each of these options since this is one platform that the majority of small game hunters pick while hunting squirrels, rabbits, or raccoons. These are also a popular choice for small game that you usually don’t consume, such as coyote or fox.

  • The .22 Caliber Rimfire Rifle: If your first hunting gun is a .22 rifle, you’re surely out of the norm. Virtually every hunter starts their lifelong hunting journey with this gun. The venerated .22 rifle was rolled out in the year 1857 with the .22 short cartridge. This was the very first all-metal cartridge during that time, which became an instant hit. Initially offered in the form of a revolver, it immediately moved to rifles, which is still in trend. These days, it can be tough to find .22 shorts, as the .22 long rifle has taken the spot of being the most fired shot in the U.S. that is produced in millions every year. The rifle is made by many American manufacturers and a popular foreign version of this rifle is also produced for the U.S. market. Besides being cheap – costing only a few cents per round – it is pretty efficient at ranges up to 200 yards for small game. The.22 magnum is a popular version of the .22 rifle with a little more efficiency in terms of delivery.


  • The .17 HMR: Having moved pretty fast in the .22 rifle market, .17 HMR is quite a favorite of many hunters of small game. It can be used to shot flat at 100 yards with a speed which is almost unbeatable in rimfire cartridges. The .17 HMR rimfire rifles remained available at various sporting goods outlets as well as ammunition e-stores when there were shortages in the supply of.22 long rifles. A .17 HMR has virtually zero recoil and the potential to take down any small game. It is a pretty accurate and fast round for a rimfire cartridge.


  • The .204 Centerfire: After the centerfire version of the .17 HMR rifle, this is perhaps the smallest, but widely used, centerfire cartridge available on the market. The .204 is an excellent round for prairie dogs, rabbits, coyotes, fox, and squirrels. Offering a muzzle velocity – surpassing 4,000 FPS on several cartridges – the .204 centerfire is incredibly fast. Pull the trigger, and your target at a distance of around a quarter-mile may appear to blow to bits in no time. The .204 rifle is costlier to shoot, in comparison to the .22 rifle or .17 HMR. However, the range and velocity of the former are incomparable. The .204 centerfire is the preferred cartridge of many fur hunters. With virtually zero recoil, there is no room for the shooter to flinch, allowing them to easily take down small game at a distance of 400 yards or more, provided that they have an excellent scope and a firm hand.


Final Words

Depending on your hunting experience level and personal preferences, you can pick either a shot gun, a small-caliber rifle, or a small-caliber handgun for rabbit hunting. We hope the discussion above will help you choose the right type of gun to make your next small game hunting expedition a roaring success.


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