9 Best .22LR Rifles For Hunting Small Game & Survival

best 22lr rifle

HuntingMark is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More

Built in a variety of action types, easy to feed without breaking the bank, and an effective training, hunting, or pest-control system, the best 22 rifle has a solid place in American gun-building tradition.

Today with advanced designs ranging from Chassis rifles to small game shooters, the best .22 lr rifle can duplicate larger center fire models or stay to the scale of the traditional 22 rimfire designs.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

BEST FOR ACCURACY

Ruger Chassis Rifle

Ruger Chassis Rifle

Ruger Chassis Rifle

  • Barrel Length: 18
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Weight: 6.8lbs
BEST FOR DURABILITY

Savage MK II FVT

Savage MK II FVT

  • Barrel Length: 20.75
  • Capacity: 5+1-Round
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs
BEST FOR RELIABILITY

Anschutz 54 Match

Anschutz 54 Match

Anschutz 54 Match

  • Barrel Length: 23
  • Capacity: 5+1-Round
  • Weight: 10 lbs
BEST AFFORDABLE RIFFLE

Ruger American

Ruger American

  • Barrel Length: 22
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Weight: 5.38 lbs
BEST FOR CONSISTANCY

Ruger 10-22 Semi-Auto

Ruger 10-22 Semi-Auto

Ruger 10-22 Semi-Auto

  • Barrel Length: 20
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Weight: 5lbs
BEST FOR DESIGN

Ruger 10-22 Tactical

Ruger 10-22 Tactical

Ruger 10-22 Tactical

  • Barrel Length: 16.12
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Weight: 4.6lbs
BEST FOR VARMINT HUNT

Browning BL-22 Grade II

Browning BL-22 Grade II

Browning BL-22 Grade II

  • Barrel Length: 20
  • Capacity: 14+1-Round
  • Weight: 5 lbs
BEST FOR HUNTERS

Henry 20 Lever Action Carbine

Henry 20 Lever Action Carbine

Henry 20 Lever Action Carbine

  • Barrel Length: 16.125
  • Capacity: 12+1-Round
  • Weight: 5.75 lbs
BEST FOR STRONG BODY

Remington 572 Field Master

Remington 572 Field Master

Remington 572 Field Master

  • Barrel Length: 20mm
  • Capacity: 15-Round
  • Weight: 5.8 lbs

Most, if not all shooters, start out with a 22 rimfire rifle as a training system, and this was true in my case. I used an old Winchester 22 single shot from the 1890's era and a single round of ammunition. I put down meat with that shot, and I got another round from my dad. The old .22 Long Rifle cartridge and my dad s tight fisted style with ammunition taught me how to shoot in a hurry.

How and Why the .22LR Became the Most Popular Round in the World

The .22LR is one of the oldest cartridges still used by modern firearms. The predecessor to the contemporary .22LR, the .22 Short, was initially developed in 1845 by Louis-Nicolas Flobert for the growing sport of indoor shooting.

It was one of the first cartridges that could be safely carried without the risk of detonation because the priming material was folded into the rim of the cartridge.

Over the years, the bullet's size and the amount of powder changed several times to improve accuracy. These tweaks lead to the .22 Short, which is still in use today, the .22 Long, and the defunct .22 Extra Long. 

Finally, in 1887, the Stevens Arms Co. developed the modern .22LR rimfire cartridge.

It took the heavier 40-grain bullet from the .22 Extra Long, crammed it into a .22 Long casing, and added a healthy powder dose. This magic combination improved the accuracy of the bullet, and its popularity exploded. More than 130 years later, the .22LR is one of the most popular cartridges globally and is enjoyed by shooters worldwide.

The .22LR rifle has since become the world's most popular recreational shooting and competitive shooting cartridge. It is ubiquitous.

You can find .22LR caliber single shooters, revolvers, semi-automatic handguns, and even rifles. It's cheap enough that you can shoot a lot of it and mild enough that even young kids and new shooters can handle the recoil before they move onto a centerfire caliber.

It's a great starter caliber for kids and adults new to firearms. Though many people use .22LR for plinking, it's also used in competition with precision rifle events taking the shooting world by storm. Even skiers competing in biathlons use the .22LR for the shooting part of the sport.

How Do You Choose the Best .22LR rimfire Rifle?

You need to consider several things before you buy a .22LR. The type of pistol you want and the gun's reliability are two of the most important criteria when choosing a rimfire pistol.

Reliability & Feeding

.22LR ammunition is known for being dirty to shoot and inconsistent in quality.

It tends to jam, which leads us to one of the features you need to consider when purchasing a .22LR rifle. Does it shoot any brand of .22LR rimfire ammunition? Or is the gun selective and can only handle a specific brand like CCI or Aquila?

Read reviews, especially those who test different types of ammo. Find those .22LR rifles that are not finicky and can fire a wide variety of .22LR rimfire ammunition.

Cost

Most .22LR pistols are affordable, with prices under $600. and some others can also be purchased for less than $400.

Self-Defense

You can't talk about the .22LR without bringing up the controversial topic of self-defense as a survival rifle. Ask any gun enthusiast whether a .22LR gun be used for self-defense, and you'll get a wide range of answers.

There is no getting around it, the .22LR is not a powerful round. It's best use is in target shooting or hunting small game. It may not have the power to penetrate to a lethal depth, which is 12 to 18-inches, according to the FBI standards.

Other people point to the low recoil and affordable ammo, making it easy for people to train with a .22LR survival rifle. The more training a person has, the more likely they are to hit an assailant in a critical area.

Even a .22LR round with survival rifle or survival gun will do significant damage when it hits someone in say, the face. It may not be lethal, but it likely will stop an attack.

You may also want to look into .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum Rimfire) if you're looking for rimfire survival rifle for self-defense.

1. Ruger Chassis Best 22 Rifle

Ruger Chasis Rifle

Designed along the lines of the full-size Ruger Chassis centerfire rifle, the .22 LR variant allows for rifle training at a reduced cost while staying with the Ruger centerfire chassis rifle system in the larger rifle. This is a "big hunting rifle" in a 22 rimfire package with rimfire scope and scope mount.

bolt action 22

Mounting a "Quick- fit" fully adjustable chassis type stock with iron sights, this Ruger 22 LR is a natural for use as a competition target rifle or to shoot from a bench or shooting matt against smaller varmint targets. Featuring an AR basic platform in a turn-bolt rifle, the Ruger 22 LR follows the development associated with early competition bench rest chassis rifle designs, and as such is a winner on paper or in the field.

Along with many unique features, the chassis rifle also incorporates the use of an adjustable throw-length bolt that can duplicate the travel of a big rifle or rimfire cartridge. I always wondered why 22 caliber rifle makers tended to scale down the rifles just because the cartridge was a smaller rimfire round. Ruger is saying goodbye to all that with this new full-size rifle design.

Ruger Chassis Rifle

The price of Ruger Chassis Rifle varies, so check the latest price at

2. Savage MK II FVT - Best Bolt Action 22

savage bolt action

This Savage single shot bolt action rifle is a great starter rifle for a young rifle team working without a heavy bankroll behind them. A single shot with a strong poly stock and adjustable receiver sights make this a best 22LR rifle for team events such as target paper punching.

best 22 rifle

Without question, a great deal of attention is given over to training with small bore rifles. This leads to the advancement of a young shooter's interest and moves them toward larger projects down the line. The Savage MK II meets a very basic need and an important one at that.

Savage MARK II FVT

The price of Savage MARK II FVT varies, so check the latest price at

3. Anschutz 54 Match Best 22 LR Rifle

System Match 54 Bolt action, standard single trigger, blued receiver with a 23" heavy barrel length and classic walnut stock and forged barrel, this German-built 22 LR is a grade well beyond most but sought-after world-wide. I have included this rifle because some would believe that 22 rimfire rifles don't have a place in the game that large centerfire hunting rifles tend to dominate.

most accurate .22 rifle

We have young shooters that come to our local range to practice who carry in rifles like this, and even far more in terms of added stock and action elements. These rifles end up costing double the price of this illustrated turn-bolt caliber rifle.

Anschutz 54 Match Best 22 LR Rifle

The price of Anschutz 54 Match Best 22 LR Rifle varies, so check the latest price at

4. Ruger American 22 LR 10+1RD

22 bolt action rifle

This economy bolt-action 22 LR rifle is a general plinking and field work horse. All American made, the rifle was tested by my Research & Development program and results indicated that indeed this budget-priced rifle can hold up to the tasks at hand.

Mounting a 22" barrel with a front fiberoptic sight blade and receiver rear sight that is fully adjustable, this basic six-pound rifle is easy to store, and fast to get into action around the ranch, farm, or squirrel woods.

With a tough-as-nails polymer stock, the rifle can be subjected to every sort of nasty field condition imaginable. Two elements that are real advantages with this rifle are the trigger system which is one of the best ever set to a basic rimfire rifle, and the stock bedding system which is rock-solid and allows the rifle to retain zero for long periods of use.

In terms of testing individual rifles, I have run across some extractor issues with a few models, but these were minor and easily corrected.

Ruger American 22 LR 10+1RD

The price of Ruger American 22 LR 10+1RD varies, so check the latest price at

5. Ruger 10-22 Semi Automatic Rifle

22 semi auto rifle

The Ruger 10-22 takedown rifle is without question one of the most popular 22 rimfires offered to the American shooter today. Built tough and in a wide variety of stock styles, this rifle is a do-everything rimfire system. Making use of a rotary 10 round magazine, it is a great rifle for situations where fast reloading is necessary.

I have used this rifle on everything from gators taken by hook and line to dusting off barn rats in western South Dakota. The 10-22 is a get-it-done general purpose ranch rifle that comes with very high marks.

The Ruger 10-22 is available in 43 different variations depending on different distributers.

Ruger 10-22 Semi Auto Rifle

The price of Ruger 10-22 Semi Auto Rifle varies, so check the latest price at

6. Ruger 10-22 Tactical & SR 22

22 caliber rifle

The Ruger SR 22 (old style) or 10-22 Tactical (latest style) is a AR still-stocked rifle that carries the receiver of the basic Ruger 10 -22 caliber rifle. As the old story goes, "if it ain't broke don't fix it", and Ruger has seen fit to stay with the dependable 10-22 operating system even as applied to these different stock-styled rifles.

I currently shoot the early rifle in the SR 22 carbine with rifle scope, equipped with a Gemtech mil spec suppressor and 3X9 optics. This little rifle has returned some outstanding field performance results than some air rifle.

single shot 22 rifle

Ruger 10-22 Tactical & SR 22

The price of Ruger 10-22 Tactical & SR 22 varies, so check the latest price at

7. Browning BL-22 Grade II Lever Action Rifle

Without question, this is one of the most refined lever guns offered on the market today. Browning put detail into these rifles, and for the most part, they are too nice looking to shoot. However, that is what they are built to do, and to be sure, they will do the deed down range.

Browning BL-22

The price of Browning BL-22 varies, so check the latest price at

8. Henry 20 Lever Action Carbine

rimfire rifle

The Henry rifles in lever guns are all American made down to the last screw and piece of wood and will give the buyer a lifetime of trouble-free service. Henry rifles can be obtained in standard blue or bright brass receivers. The brand is known for its special limited-edition rifles and for the extensive line of working field rifles.

Henry rifles are among some of the best built 22 rimfire rifles in America today.

Henry 20 Lever Action Carbine

The price of Henry 20 Lever Action Carbine varies, so check the latest price at

9. Remington 572 BDL Field Master Pump Gun

remington bolt action 22

The Remington 572 rimfire pump gun is among the best-selling rimfire "sliders" built today besides marlin model 22 rifle. This rifle is a classic and goes back well into the 1950's. Smooth fast handling and a reputation as a squirrel hunters friend, this rifle is a top choice among dedicated rimfire hunters and shooters. To my knowledge this rife was resurrected by Remington only two years ago as a move to bring back solid classic rifle designs into the current market place.

Remington 572 BDL

The price of Remington 572 BDL varies, so check the latest price at

Final Thoughts

Squirrel hunting with 22lr rifle is fast, fun and the end result can put meat on the table and some jingle in your pocket. Harvest those tails for Mepps!

Squirrel hunting does not take a lot time, preparation or money. A simple .22 rifle, a good rifle scope with bdc reticle, a solid mount (I recommend rifle scope mounts specifically designed for rimfire cartridges, like Weaver Suregrips), and brick of .22 long rifle shells is all you need.

The list above represents some of the best 22lr squirrel hunting rifles regardless of your budget, so don't feel like you need to drop hundreds of dollars on a rifle with iron sights just to bag some varmints.

500 rounds of 22 LR is less than the cost of 20 rounds of premium deer rifle ammo. You can sight in your firearm, get many hunting trips from the box of ammo, and still have plenty left over for target shooting or plinking.

If you live in a place with tree nut farms, you might find the property owner very happy about having someone come and shoot squirrels to help save his crop. If you are up to it, you might even get to hunt other nut-eating varmints including the ones that come out at night, like raccoons.

Here in Southwest Georgia, the pecan capital of the world, I have unlimited opportunities to hunt squirrel and have several property owners who want me to come harvest raccoons.

Just be sure to check your local game laws before you head out to hunt.

If you don't see your rifle on this list of possible rimfire options, please don't feel offended. The number of good solid .22 caliber rifles is endless like so many other firearms available to the buyer today.

If you feel strongly about a specific rifle, let us know what it is and why you believe it should be recognized. In the future, I will do my best to include your ideas in my reviews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *