Not every rimfire rifle has the bull's-eye chops to knock a squirrel from the top of a tall oak at 75 yards. These guns do. Some rely on time-tested mechanisms that have smacked squirrels silly for half a decade. Others are fresh out of the design room. What they have in common is accuracy and ease of carry. After all, no one wants to lug a 9-pound shooting iron in the squirrel woods. Most of these guns are bolt-action rifles, for a solid bolt lockup leads naturally to tight groups. But there are semi-autos on the list, as well. They all have triggers designed for people who know how to shoot a rifle, and a few have forward-looking features—such as threaded muzzles or tension barrels—that take squirrel shooting to an entirely different level. Whether you like to spot-and-stalk or ease down at the base of a granddaddy oak, here are 10 squirrel snipers for every budget.
For some, this iconic semi-automatic is just right, right out of the store: an off-the-shelf squirrel plinker with an easily swallowed price tag. For others, it’s a blank canvas—the foundation on which to build a semi-custom .22 thanks to an entire galaxy of available after-market barrels, stocks, triggers, and other goodies. Either way, it has played hell in the hardwoods for half a century.
Remington 597 Kryptek Threaded
The 597 family of semi-autos will win few beauty contests, but they will fill a Brunswick stew pot like nobody’s business. Remington touts its proprietary bolt-guidance system with twin rails as the fastest around, and the bolt, sears, and hammer are Teflon-coated for slick trigger pull and effortless feeding. The Kryptek-clad mode also comes with a treaded muzzle ready for a suppressor, so it’s as quiet as it is deadly.
There’s no reason to wait till your kids can shoot a full-size rifle to introduce them to a serious bolt-action rimfire. Weighing just 2.6 pounds, this scaled-down tack driver is built with a 16-inch heavy target barrel with a threaded muzzle and an adjustable trigger for kid-to-kid customization. It’s a dedicated, single-shot, which is perfect not only for safety but for teaching the oft-forgotten basic that the first shot counts.
This bolt-action beauty puts the top-shelf Ruger goodies (Marksman Adjustable trigger, flush-mounted 10/22 10-round rotary magazine) in a package stuffed with next-level accuracy upgrades like a free-floating barrel, laminate stock, and 0.860-inch target barrel with a knurled thread protector. If you’ve been thinking about revisited your glory days in the squirrel woods, this is the rifle that should knock you off the fence.
You might consider the XT-22 for the price, which is paltry for an accurate rimfire. Or the wood stock might give you the nod, if you just want to wrap your hands around something warmer than a polymer born in a chemical vat. But after a few walks in the woods, it might be the sheer accuracy that wins your heart. The adjustable trigger puts you in control of the snap, and if you want to go old school with open sights, it’s one of the few bolt-action rimfires with adjustable sights.
A CDC-machined anodized aluminum receiver and THM tension barrel with a carbon-fiber sleeve account for much of the weight savings in the 5-pound Superlite, and a hefty portion of its significant price tag. The rifle sports an integrated Picatinny rail and a threaded 32-hole compensator, and a competition-ready trigger that breaks at 2.25 pounds. It ain’t cheap, but the biggest drawback to a rifle like this is it takes away any excuse you might dream up for a miss.
Like a walnut-and-steel phoenix, this Euro-classic rimfire rises from the legend of its predecessor, the original Steyr Zephyr, which was discontinued in 1971. The new iteration is a looker, as well, with its Bavarian cheekpiece, schnabel forehead, and scale checkering. The gun makes a statement in a rimfire world overly saturated with plastic and aluminum, but what it says to the gray-furred tribe is that it’s time to look for a deep knot-hole. The short-throw bolt action makes it quick to cycle for follow-up shots, although a very fine trigger makes it unlikely you’ll need it.
The straight-pull bolt action is similar to those found on competition biathlon guns. It’s very fast to cycle but still allows for a super-accurate bolt lock for long-range shooting. This rifle is drilled and tapped for Weaver-style bases instead of the not-as-solid dovetail mounts on many rimfires, and carries an externally adjustable trigger. The rotary magazine is what Browning calls a “double helix” setup, which puts 10 rounds in an hour-glass-shape configuration that allows the magazine to sit flush with the bottom of the receiver.
Considered the apex predator of the rimfire world, the Anschutz platform is more than a pretty face. The famed Anschutz 54-action is a bit heavier than the 64-action platform, so this model weighs 7 pounds, 3 ounces sans glass, which is definitely beefy for a rimfire. But if putting your back to an oak tree and dialing down on every tree rat you can find in 10X glass is your thing, then this is your rifle. The gorgeous walnut Monte Carlo stock with schnabel fore end ensures a firm cheek weld, and the 2-stage trigger helps cut bullet groups down to squirrel-noggin size at long range.
CZ455 American in .17 HMR
You don’t need the speed of a .17 to shoot squirrels, and you sure don’t need the extra report. But we’re not talking need. We’re talking about a rifle that can thread lead through twigs and branches the next county over, and still carry the oomph to separate a squirrel from that white-oak knot where he’s stretched himself flat as a bumper sticker. It’s a stylish bolt action with a Turkish walnut stock and skull-splitting—and I mean that literally—accuracy that lets you dabble in the .17 HMR cult without cashing in a kidney.