Mission Specific Rifles

When it comes to choosing a setup to squirrel hunt with the possibilities are almost endless.  What I think is right for a hunt with dogs, may not be what would suit me best for a "sniper/still" type hunt. There are many things to consider when choosing a rifle/scope combination, along with the type of hunt you are planning to deploy it on.  Let's hop into some of those considerations.

Weight  

This is the biggest consideration to give thought to when choosing a mission specific rifle.  Let's talk lightweight first.  Most likely when I choose to hunt with dogs I will choose an option that is around the six to seven pound mark.  The CZ Scout, although a youth rifle, is the lightest most compact rifle I choose for this type of hunt.  It's accurate enough to handle 50 yard shots, while not making your shoulder ache from having a heavy rifle hang from it.  Another favorite in this category is the Browning T-bolt.  One caveat to this rifle, it's built with lots of polymer.  So if you are a walnut and steel kind of person this option might make you squeamish.  I have patrolled with this rifle over dogs and on stalks through the woods, and it's a delight to carry.  Both of these options should be paired with equally lightweight scopes, such as a 2-7 or 3-9 power.  For the walnut and blued steel folks, the CZ 452/455 American/Trainer/Lux models are certainly a consideration.  Choosing an equivalent scope will put you just inside the seven pound camp.  Keep it as lightweight as possible, as this type of hunting leads to miles of ground covered.

CZ Scout Browning T-bolt

 

For the still/sniper type hunters out there weight isn't as "heavy" of a debate. (pun-tastic!)  Unless you have to hike a ways to get to your hunting spot of choice.  I like the added weight when hunkered into a spot waiting for the squirrels to read the script.  A heavyweight rifle also settles into my shooting stix for a rock solid hold.  You can scope a rifle in the heavyweight category with something larger than 3-9 power.  I think you should, as shots may present themselves from 50 yards or further. More power in this situation gives me more confidence to make the shot connect on the first trigger pull.   All things considered my heavyweight options average around two pounds heavier than there lighter weight stable mates.  The Tennessee Ridgerunner 10/22 may be my heaviest choice at 7.8 pounds.  Also a CZ 452 American with a more powerful scope (4-16 or 6-20) can range up past the 7.5 pound mark.  The CZ 452 Varmint model will certainly make the heavyweight category.  There's nothing wrong with having one squirrel rifle to cover the different styles of squirrel hunting.  A specific squirrel rifle for a specific task seems to give me more satisfaction.  

Feddersen Ridgerunner 10-22 Timber Shadow

Size

This consideration depends on the type of terrain you are hunting.  I'm typically in the compact camp. The maneuverability of a short rifle lends itself well in thicker foliage, and younger timber.  Length is less of a hassle in more mature timber.   Being able to quickly move your rifle could mean the difference in taking a squirrel or it scurrying away.  The ongoing debate seems to be if the added barrel length will produce more velocity.  While true in most instances, supposedly 16.5 inch barrels are some of the most accurate in the rimfire world.  The longest barrel I have ever hunted with is on a CZ Ultra Lux, 28.6 inches of blued steel.  It reminds me of Uncle Jed's rifle at the beginning of The Beverly Hillbilly's.  It is a complete pain to maneuver quickly in the woods.  Most often barrels will range between 16.5 - 22 inches.  If your state allows the use of a suppressor you should factor in what that will add in length to your barrel.  Length of barrel will also play a role in muzzle report.  The shorter the barrel the louder the shot, and vice versa for the longer barrel.

CZ 452 Ultra Lux CZ 452 Ultra Lux & CZ Scout

 

Action

Just a little to discuss here.  The actions I think about when squirrel hunting are bolt, semi-auto, lever, and break action.  The two front runners for me are bolt and semi-auto.  After a little time with my Tennessee Ridgerunner 10/22 I would say it's accuracy rivals any of my CZ 452's.  Accuracy usually tends to be in the camp of the bolt action.  Bolt actions are less likely to jam up while cycling. Semi-auto options give you more fire power, and for me that only plays in when I miss on the first shot or have multiple targets.  The downside is there ability to jam more frequently.  Fun factor is high with the lever action option.  Nothing like feeling like Chuck Connors when engaging a squirrel. Break actions, while slow to reload, can be very accurate.  

Henry Lever Action

 

Satisfaction

The question I ask myself here, and the question you should start asking yourself, "Does this rifle make me smile when I take it on a hunt?"   Do you already have stories that you can recall with these/this rifle(s)?  Where you were?  How long the shot was?  Does it give you a sense of fulfillment when you are able to take game with it?  Does it hold a special place in your heart i.e. sentimental value? Will it be one with a story that you are happy to pass on down the family line?  I picture a few of mine this way. "Yeah, I remember how much Daddy use to love to take this rifle on his squirrel hunts."  "It was the one he reached for just about every hunt."  "He always spoke about how accurate it was."  "He loved the feel of it, and could shoot a squirrel at 50 yards in the noggin' everytime!"  Maybe the tails are getting a little tall here, but you get the point.... These are the exact things i think about with some of my rifles.  What will they say after I'm gone?  That can be portrayed in current times by showing how much you enjoy those rifles in the present, and how much those closest to you see that.  I bet every long time squirrel hunter here owns at least one of these rifles.

12-06-14 Trip CZ's Trip Head Shots

Fox squirrel #2 2013

Does this article resonate with you?  If so feel free to leave your comments below.  I'd love to hear how you evaluate your rifles.  If you have stories of rifles passed down or that have a history, I'd love to hear them.  I'm sure others here on the blog would get enjoyment from those stories also. Your rifle of choice can be one that serves many missions, or multiple rifles that are mission specific.   

 12-19-14 Nate 55 yard first kill

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Cottrell May 7, 2015 at 12:56 am

I tend to favor CZ bolts. I have a 452 American with Nikon 3×9, and a 513 Basic with a 4x Nikon. Also, a Marlin 39a with a old 4x weaver, and a Marlin 99 M-1 with a 6x Leapers. I like to mix up what i use but also the places and terrain play in selection also.

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John Andrews May 9, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Really great article, Nate! And some really fine rifles selected, too.
We like to buy the latest and best, often times replacing our “best” rifle. I have some good .22 guns that now reside in the dark because of the .17 caliber super accurate options.
As a kid many years ago, I had lots of .22 rifles and they were great squirrel and rabbit rifles. But there was always a nagging desire for something to reach out farther and be accurate. Of course, .22 rifles have come a long ways as far as ammo and guns.
The first improvement I was able to obtain was an old Winchester pump action .22 WRF, the parent of the .22 magnum. The old rifle shot great but the high cost of ammo was a staggering $1.60 per box, much more than a kid my age could afford. Of course, it was traded for another .22 LR.
A hot .22 round hit the market, the CCI Stinger. I was quick to buy some and for many years, it was what I used for most of my hunting.
Then, the great invention of the .17 HMR rimfire and I had to own one. At least to me, it was the most a fella could ask for. An off the shelf rifle shooting match grade groups at 100 meters was finally attained. In fact, my Savage 93 stacks them, one hole groups, at 100 meters and witnessed by a gunsmith at our local range.
So, this old rabid squirrel hunter has finally found the perfect rifle, yes? Well, almost, until some smart Winchester folks invented the .17 Winchester Super Magnum.
Yep, I bought one as soon as they hit the market and am completely satisfied until the next great invention comes along. 😉

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Nate May 11, 2015 at 11:03 am

I appreciate the feedback. Sometimes the marketing is so good, they convince you your life will be forever lacking if you don’t have one. I’m glad the .17’s are working out for you. The accuracy and range are huge in the .17, but I can get past that loud “crack” the rifle makes. I usually won’t shoot a deer without hearing protection on anymore, and that’s why the .22 is still atop my list. Especially with a suppressor attached.

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John Andrews February 26, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for the reply, Nate.

I agree some game is disturbed with a loud rifle report but some are not and the ones that get shot don’t hear the shot. 😉
Here in Iowa suppressors are not legal yet but is up for the second vote to approve. I envy you folks where they are legal.
As you well know, hunting is give and take. Increased accuracy of .17 rifles do have a considerable report but the increased accuracy and range pretty well makes up for it, my two cents worth.
Do you have a FaceBook account?

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Nate February 26, 2016 at 2:49 pm

I do agree that the .17 is a laser when it comes to accuracy. Suppressor hunting and legislation seems to be taking our country by storm, which is a good thing. Now if they’d only remove them from the NFA list so we could drop that ridiculous $200 tax stamp. I like the HM2 but Eley ammo shoots best and it’s scarce. No Facebook for me, only Twitter and Instagram @natebonebusta.

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richard roberts September 11, 2015 at 12:32 am

Speaking for myself, I think the .22LR was made just for squirrel. Theres nothing like the sound of a forty grain slug slapping a limb chicken upside the head coming out of a suppressed barrel. Later in the season I might break out the .17HM2 CZ 452 with the beautiful wood and rich deep blue, but if I did I could’nt hear that wonderful sound THUMP then hear it hit the ground. Oh well, still got a month to go before season opens. The CZ’S are a little more quiet than the Feddersens with the suppressor, the action is completely closed in the bolt action, almost all you hear is whatever the bullet hits. Love that sound…………………………RR………..U.S.M.C. 71-72……….

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Rob shaw October 17, 2015 at 12:45 am

Hi Nate, Love reading the journal.Used to own a sears 22 with a weaver scope.Whole thing cost about 30-35:00,back in the sixties.Enjoyed many a fun time with a friend squirrel hunting.I am returning to the sport after many years of big game hunting and own a feist,one of many over the years,and am looking forward to this year.I like to still hunt as you do and have gotten one of the ruger rim fires.Plan to use it both dog and still hunting.After deer season,most people will let you hunt their places for small game,if you just ask.Some of my happiest memories are hunting squirrels on my own or wit h a close friend.Many things make up a good day of hunting,and not just how many I got,but in everything you see or get to experience.Hope you have a great year and thanks again. Rob

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