Every rural homeowner knows the annoyance of common varmints, such as rats, opossums, coyotes, groundhogs, or skunks. If you are looking for the best rifles to help you eliminate these varmints, look no further than this article. We will review five of the best varmint rifles in depth to help guide your purchase. All of these weapons have proven their reliability over and over again, and will all meet your needs.
We will go over these five firearms based on their features, fallbacks, and the standard pricing. Keep in mind that this is just the MSRP, so you may find the firearms for sale at different prices.
To start with, we will talk about the most important features about a varmint rifle.
- Ease of use: As we have all seen, these varmints are quick to run away as soon as they notice you. Having a rifle that is easy to use is of the utmost importance. Fumbling around with the rifle may result in a missed opportunity.
- Accurate: Unfortunately for us, we may not see the varmint every day. We want to make the most of what limited opportunities we may have.
- Affordable: As this rifle is only meant for killing varmints, most people will not be looking to spend a fortune on it.
While there are countless available cartridges, .22 Long Rifle continues to be one of the most common ones for varmint hunting. The primary reasons for this are how cheap it is and how easy it is to find ammunition.
The biggest issue with .22LR is that it is a rimfire cartridge, as opposed to a centerfire cartridge, so it is not quite as accurate as some more modern cartridges. However, when higher quality ammunition is used at a reasonable distance, this decrease in accuracy isn’t as noticeable. Given that the one biggest concern is rather easily mitigated, I agree with most people that .22LR is the ideal varmint hunting cartridge. It is easy to shoot, and the price of a box of it makes it hard to complain about.
For all of our best varmint rifles, we will go over some pros and cons, and their best features as it applies to killing varmints.
Top Five Varmint Rifles
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Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Up first is one of the most unique firearms on the market, the Ruger 10/22 Takedown. The 10/22 Takedown is an improvement on Ruger’s 10/22, which has been an extremely popular .22 rifle for decades. The 10/22 Takedown adds a detachable barrel, to allow for maximum portability and ease of storage. Other than the removable barrel, the 10/22 Takedown features all of the same features of the legendary 10/22.
The action of the rifle is a gas blow back system, meaning that it will automatically chamber a new round from the magazine for you. The magazine is Ruger’s patented rotary magazine, and has a 10 round capacity. This high magazine capacity is excellent for a varmint rifle, as you may have to take multiple shots. The blow back action will make it even easier to take a second shot if need be.
The takedown feature of the rifle is extremely easy to use. Once the bolt is locked back, all it takes is pushing one button and twisting the barrel off. Reassembling the firearm is equally easy, and returns the weapon to an accurate zero. The fact that it returns the weapon to zero will provide you ease of mind about leaving a mounted optic on the weapon and taking it apart.
Lastly, you can find some comfort in how successful and popular this rifle has been for so many years. When you buy the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, you can rest assured that you are getting an extremely high quality firearm. The barrel is precision rifle and the internals are built to Ruger’s tough standard, ensuring that your weapon will function each and every time you use it. Overall, this is an extremely reliable firearm that is one of the best varmint rifles. Adding in the takedown feature only makes it better for this purpose. The one con of this specific weapon is that it is a little on the expensive side as far as .22LR weapons go.
Suggested retail price: $439
- Takedown feature: As previously stated, it’s extremely easy to use, and the added portability and ease of storage are huge positives. If varmints aren’t a persistent problem for you, you will be able to take the rifle down to store it away in its nifty carrying case.
- Scope base adapter: This will make it easier for you to add an optic to your rifle, if you prefer.
- Positive safety: All Ruger 10/22s feature a cross bolt manual safety, which will prevent any accidental discharges of the weapon. Any added safety is a good feature on a firearm.
Savage Arms 64 FXP
The Savage Arms 64 FXP is an extremely affordable weapon that would excel as a varmint rifle. It comes from the factory with a scope. Savage Arms has been around for well over a century, and they are one of the United States’ largest firearms manufacturers. Their weapons are extremely commonly found, and are generally well thought of. While I wouldn’t recommend them for a competitive shooter, they are more than acceptable as a general shooting or basic hunting gun. For that reason, I think really highly of their various .22LR models.
Savage Arms has somewhere near 40 different .22LR models available. While they are generally built off of two very similar frames, there are a few differences between the two. Generally speaking, they are all pretty affordable and pretty similar. For our purposes, the 64 FXP was selected for this list because it comes with a scope. If you prefer to pick out your own scope, check out some of their other .22s, especially those that come with their AccuTrigger system.
This rifle is another semiautomatic rifle that has a gas blow back system. Once again, for a varmint rifle, this is a nice feature. Especially when considering that you are firing .22LR, there will be almost no recoil, meaning it will be extremely easy to reengage your target if need be. It comes with a removable 10 round magazine.
The firearm is 40 inches long, weighs just over 5 pounds, and has a 21 inch barrel. This is a near perfect size for killing varmints. It has one of the longer barrels on our list, while still being generally portable and small in size. Overall, this is an extremely affordably priced weapon that functions admirably. It is one of the best varmint rifles on the market, especially if you need to shoot at a greater distance without adding any cost.
Suggested retail price: $188
- Scope: As previously mentioned, the Savage Arms 64 FXP comes from the factory with a scope. While this is not the highest quality scope, it serves its purpose. Once you shoot the weapon once or twice, you will have no issue continuing to use it. While it isn’t the highest quality scope available, the fact that the weapon comes with it takes one headache away, as you won’t have to worry about finding a scope for your new weapon.
- Price: The pricetag of this Savage Arms rifle is very friendly. There are higher quality rifles available, but for killing varmints, you don’t need the highest quality rifles on the market. For a general varmint rifle, this is an awesome price.
- 10 round magazine: Just like the Ruger 10/22 Takedown, this weapon comes with a 10 round magazine. However, this weapon has a box style magazine, while the Ruger had a rotary magazine. But, this high magazine capacity is an awesome feature on a varmint rifle.
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22
The M&P15-22 is a .22 rifle hidden in an AR-15 frame. The AR-15 is one of the most popular, easy to use rifle frames currently available. Most gun owners are extremely familiar with the AR-15, and most people love it as a weapon system. Smith & Wesson took this extremely popular frame of a firearm, and shrunk it down to a weapon that fires .22LR.
This weapon has all of the features of larger AR-15 style weapons, and it functions in the exact same way. It has a charging handle, just like a larger AR-15, and is fully semiautomatic. You will be able to shoot at a higher rate, while maintaining accuracy.
Another awesome feature of this firearm is that it is made by Smith & Wesson, who have a lifetime service policy. Their quality goes without saying, and this weapon is no different. Overall, the AR-15 style of this weapon separates it from the crowd. It is extremely unique, but is another great option for varmint hunting. It is slightly more expensive than some of the others on the list, but the numerous features and AR-15 styling make it worth it. It has a huge magazine capacity, a physical safety, comes with folding sights, and a collapsible stock. The one con of this weapon is that at the end of the day, despite all the cosmetics, it is nothing more than a fancy .22LR, and your expectations should reflect that.
Suggested retail price: $449
- AR-15 frame: There’s a reason the AR-15 is one of the most popular weapon frames of all time. It is extremely easy to load, shoot accurately, disassemble, and clean. The AR-15 style will make this .22 extremely easy for you to use.
- Magpul accessories: This .22 from Smith & Wesson comes with Magpul sights and handguard. Magpul is extremely high quality, and these add-ons are nice to see on a .22.
- Collapsible stock: The six position stock allows you to adjust it to the exact position where you are able to shoot comfortably and accurately.
- Accessory rail system: This .22 comes with the standard AR-15 rail system, meaning it is easy to mount almost any AR-15 style accessory on it. This allows for endless customization options. For varmint hunting, this could be lasers, flashlights, upgraded sights, or many other options.
- High magazine capacity: As this is an AR-15 style weapon, it comes with a large AR-15 style magazine. It has a 25 round capacity, which is by far the largest on the list. This is a good feature for varmint hunting.
Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II
This full-sized AR-15 is on this list for a few reasons. For starters, I’m sure there are people who feel like .22LR isn’t enough for varmint hunting. I already talked about why I like .22LR for varmint hunting, but I also realize there are plenty of people who won’t agree with me. Well, this firearm was picked specifically for you. I also realize that there are some people who will value much more accurate shots at a greater distance, and therefore, an AR-15 may be better suited.
This weapon shoots 5.56 or .223. While the projectiles of the .22LR and .223 cartridges are fairly similar in size, .223 is a centerfire cartridge that is practically a century newer than the rimfire .22LR. As a result of years and years of technology, the projectile exits the barrel much faster, and creates much deeper penetration. Therefore, .223 is a much deadlier cartridge than .22LR.
This is a pretty simple AR-15. It has some pretty standard features, and there isn’t much flashy about it. But, it will provide more accurate shots at a greater muzzle velocity than any rifle that fires .22LR. This weapon will be able to effectively kill varmints at a much greater distance, and will nearly guarantee they are dead if struck. This makes it one of the best varmint rifles for coyotes and other similarly large critters. Out of our list, this is also the best varmint rifle for long range. There are much better AR-15s available, but if this weapon is only for varmint hunting, you will certainly be able to get by with an entry level weapon.
It has all of the classic AR-15 features: collapsible stock, front and rear sights, integral safety, forward assist, and a dust cover.
Suggested retail price: $739
- Deadlier projectile: Slightly larger size and faster muzzle velocity increase the effectiveness of this cartridge.
- Magpul rear sight: High quality, easily adjustable sight.
- Fully customizable: Between the picatinny rail system and the countless AR-15 accessories out there, you can do any number of things to this weapon.
Last on our list is the XT-22VR from Marlin. Marlin is another extremely old firearms manufacturer. Their .22s are known as being extremely reliable, and are extremely common. They are pretty high quality, and are more well-regarded than other brands, such as Savage Arms. While the XT-22VR has nothing special about it, it would function well as a varmint rifle.
The pros of this weapon are the quality, reliability, thumb safety, and the trigger. There is nothing flashy about this rifle. It is an extremely simple, bolt-action weapon. It has a thumb safety, which is a nice feature for some added comfort. The Pro-Fire adjustable trigger is another nice feature.
The cons of this firearm are that it is slightly larger, heavier, more expensive, and has a smaller magazine capacity. This rifle is 41 inches long, weighs in at around 7 pounds, and costs around $50 more than some comparable firearms. The magazine is a small box style magazine with a seven round capacity. As previously mentioned, this is a higher quality firearm than the cheaper ones, but for a varmint rifle, that isn’t necessarily that important. It is also bolt-action, which means that it will shoot slower than comparable semiautomatic weapons, but will also be more reliable.
Overall, this is nothing more than an extremely reliable and simple weapon. There are fancier options available, some of which are cheaper, but none will be as high quality as this firearm from Marlin.
Suggested retail price: $239
- Pro-Fire Adjustible trigger: This is the only thing remotely flashy about this firearm. The adjustable trigger is a very nice feature, and allows you to customize your shot.
- Reliability: Bolt-action rifles are notoriously reliable, as there are less things that can go wrong with them. Buying this weapon is an investment; it will last for decades.
- Quality: High quality comes with the Marlin name.
- Ready for a scope: The weapon is pre-drilled and tapped for scope bases.
This concludes our list of the best varmint rifles. While there are countless weapons that could serve this purpose, we have put together this list as a starting point when you are shopping for the best varmint rifle.
There are multiple affordably priced and reliable weapons presented here that would meet your needs in a varmint rifle. Whether you want a barebones .22LR, a customizable .22LR, or an even larger full-size AR-15, all are present on this list. Hopefully this review has been helpful to you in your purchase of a varmint rifle.