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Hunting rabbits is an enjoyable, challenging, and underrated winter pursuit. Various species of rabbits and hares can be found just about everywhere on the continent, and rabbit hunting is generally feasible for most people. The best hunting methods and best guns for rabbit hunting will vary depending on where you’re hunting, and which rabbit species you’re chasing.
Rabbits aren’t difficult to kill, and selecting the best rabbit guns is partly about capturing nostalgia and tradition, while also choosing a firearm that will be practical and effective. Whether you’re stalking brush piles or running dogs for cottontails, glassing sage flats for jackrabbits, or pounding willow thickets for snowshoe hares, the best rabbit gun is the one that’s handy, easy to carry, quick-pointing, and accurate for the range you’ll be shooting.
Rifles for Rabbit Hunting
If there’s a must-have gun for every hunter, it’s a good rabbit rifle. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is a classic .22 LR. The “ol’ two-two” has no doubt been more hunters’ first firearm than anything else, and options range from dusty antiques to slick tactical guns. Accurate .22s come in just about any action or configuration you could ever want.
Although the .22 LR adequately covers the gamut of small game, it’s also worth considering other cartridges like the .17 HMR, .17 Hornet, and .22 Hornet. Some of these higher-velocity cartridges are only suitable for head-shooting rabbits if you’re eating them, but they are capable of the necessary accuracy. If you’re shooting jackrabbits at long-range, you might consider rifles chambered in even bigger varmint cartridges like the .204 Ruger, .22/250, or 6mm Creedmoor.
The Classic Heirloom: Marlin Golden 39A
The Marlin Golden 39A started out as the Model 1891 (the first lever-action .22 LR), and Annie Oakley even shot one. It was one of the longest-running production .22’s ever—and one of the finest. It’s a tube-fed lever gun that holds 19 rounds of .22 LR, and 26 rounds of .22 Shorts. It has an accurate 24-inch barrel with “micro-groove rifling,” walnut furniture, and the signature “golden” trigger.
The Golden 39A is no longer produced, but it was a well-built, robust .22 rifle. Its most defining characteristic was a large knurled takedown screw on the right side of the receiver, just above the trigger. When loosened, the stock, lever, trigger and hammer firing assembly break apart along with the starboard side plate of the receiver. The bolt is easily removed, and the ejector is then pressed down and held with a set screw to make for easy breech-to-muzzle cleaning. The entire receiver is easily cleaned and maintained unlike many other lever-action .22’s.
The No-Nonsense Workhorse: Ruger Stainless 10/22 Carbine
The Ruger 10/22 is the standard against which all other semi-auto .22’s are measured, and it’s an excellent rabbit gun. The first real rifle I owned was a stainless 10/22 carbine tucked behind the Christmas tree. It’s a rifle I’ve taken on many adventures. I’ve killed rabbits, coyotes, squirrels, and grouse with it. I’ve packed it many miles on snowshoe traplines, and still have it today.
The 10/22 is likely the most successful .22 LR platform ever, and aftermarket parts and mods are plentiful. One can buy or assemble a slicked-up take-down 10/22 with an integrally suppressed barrel and fancy chassis, but for a rabbit gun, it’s hard to beat the simple stainless carbine. It’s a handy 4.4 pounds, has an 18.5-inch barrel, an accurate gold bead front sight, and flip-up adjustable rear sight. It’s simply reliable, accurate, and impervious to weather and the most abuse a teenager can dish out while dragging it through the rabbit brush.
The Quiet and Precise: Savage B22 FV-SR
There’s nothing quite like a handy suppressed bolt-action .22 for some precise rabbit-shooting action, and the Savage B22 FV-SR is a good little rifle. I’ve really liked the Mark II FV-SR for years, but the B22 has some great updates that make it more comfortable and shooter-friendly.
The B22 is partially a descendent of the A17, which is a semi-auto .17HMR fed by a rotary magazine. This bolt-action is fed by a modern rotary magazine (the Mark II rifles use a somewhat clumsy and low-capacity single-stack magazine), and features Savage’s accutrigger. The bolt is similar to the Mark II bolt, but the stock is more rigid and has much better ergonomics and handling characteristics. The FV-SR model comes with a 16.25-inch threaded barrel and a single-piece Picatinny rail optics mount.
The Contemporary Classic: Henry Classic Lever-Action
Another excellent .22 LR lever-action is Henry’s Classic Lever-Action. It bears a striking resemblance to the Ithaca Model 72 Saddlegun that my dad had when I was a kid, and my earliest hunting memories are stalking sage brush and irrigation ditches for cottontails with that .22.
The Henry Classic is a simple, robust, western-style lever gun that’s built to last. It has an 18.5-inch barrel, tubular magazine, and is comfortable to carry. Like some other lever-action .22’s, the Henry Classic can function with both .22 LR and .22 Short ammunition. It has a capacity of 15 rounds and 21 rounds respectively.
The front sight is protected with a hood and the rear sight is fully adjustable. The side-ejecting receiver is dove-tailed for using tip-off scope rings. It has American walnut furniture, and a blued finish on metal parts. The rifle comes with a lifetime guarantee and is truly one that you would want to pass down.
The Blue-Collar Rabbit Hammer: Ruger American Standard Rimfire
It’s no accident that several Ruger guns have made this list. They build excellent rimfires, and the American model is my favorite affordable bolt-action. Mine chambered in .22 WMR is one of the best all-around small-game rifles I own. Whether it’s snowshoe hares, grouse, or spring beavers, I’m always quick to grab that rifle. There isn’t too much flash, but everyone I know who has one loves it. Recently I heard a story of a seasoned squirrel hunter in Kentucky being asked if he’d every shot Anschutz rifles. “Anschutz? My Ruger American .22 Mag. seems to work just fine,” he said while hoisting a brace of head-shot squirrels.
Ruger’s American line of rifles has seen lots of success, but I believe the rimfire models out-shine the centerfire rifles (which sometimes have magazine issues and possess an action that’s rough as hell). In contrast, the American Rimfire model has a slick action that uses Ruger’s proprietary rotary magazines. The rifle is available in more tricked-out variations, but the basic model comes with a comfortable adult-sized polymer stock. It has two interchangeable butt/cheek-piece inserts for shooting with iron sights or through a scope. It’s excellent for head-shooting smaller rabbits or reaching out for larger jackrabbits in .22 WMR or .17 HMR.
Shotguns for Rabbit Hunting
Shotguns are ideal for rabbit hunters who like to bust brush and shoot rabbits at close range as they flush. Any rabbit hunting shotgun should be fast-handling, easy to carry, durable, and reliable. This is because you’ll be hauling the gun through thickets and cattail sloughs and taking snap shots at bouncing bunnies. There’s also a good amount of nostalgia that goes with rabbit hunting, which means wood-stocked pumps and double guns should get recognition. With No. 6 or No. 4 loads, the 12-gauge, 20-gauge, and 28-gauge are all effective options for rabbits.
The Bobwhite G2 is an ideal gun for capturing the nostalgia of hunting with a side-by-side without paying thousands of dollars for a high-end shotgun. This is a modern gun with a classic vibe. It has double triggers, an english-style straight grip, and a Turkish walnut stock. But it also has a CNCed receiver with a black chrome finish, five choke options, and an 8mm flat rib.
The fun thing about a shotgun with double triggers is that you can decide which barrel you want to fire on the spot. In first barrel (front trigger) you can use an improved choke and a shell with smaller shot size, like No. 6s, and in the other barrel (back trigger) you can run a modified choke and No. 4 loads. Then you can opt for the load/choke combination you want depending on shot distance. This takes some getting used to, but it’s a fun option to have in the field.
It comes in 12, 20, and 28-gauge, but for an ideal rabbit hunting gun, I’d go with the 20-gauge.
The Remington 870 has been killing rabbits for decades, and the latest iteration of the gun, the Fieldmaster, will hopefully be doing the same for decades to come. Remington has gone through a chaotic bankruptcy and its future is still to be determined, but one bright spot has been the introduction of the Fieldmaster by RemArms.
Contributor Joe Genzel reviewed the shotgun earlier this year and wrote that it’s an upgrade over the old Express. He also torture tested the gun (freezing it, packing the action with dirt, and dunking it in water) and the Fieldmaster passed with flying colors. Read the full 870 Fieldmaster review here.
This is an affordable, do-it-all shotgun with modest features including three chokes, rust-resistant coating on all metal parts, and walnut stock. In other words, it is exactly what many small game hunters are really looking for. It comes in 12 and 20 gauge but for the most versatility you’d want to go with the 12-gauge version.
The SX4 has consistently been our pick as the best semi-auto shotgun for the money because it runs reliably and everyone seems to shoot it well. The gun runs on Winchester’s Active Valve gas system, which is one of the cleanest gas systems there is in the shotgun market. It’s also a relatively light-recoiling gun and it can handle light target loads on up to magnum turkey loads.
The SX4 is also light for a gas gun, in the 20-gauge version with a 26-inch barrel, it weighs 6 pounds, 10 ounces. This is key for rabbit hunters who traverse brushy country where shorter barrels and fast-handling guns win the day. In that regard, you can’t do much better than the SX4 for the money.
The 28-gauge is trendy these days for good reason: Bismuth shot has made the petit gauge a fun and cable option for waterfowl hunting. But the 28-gauge has always been useful for hunting small game, and the SBE 3 is one of the best new sub-gauge guns out there.
I tested this gun over the course of several waterfowl hunts (read my full review of the 28 gauge Benelli here), but I also carried it on a few pheasant hunts and it was a joy to carry in the field. This shotgun is super light at 5.5 pounds. But even at that light weight, the gun didn’t feel whippy in hand the way some sub-gauge guns do. If you’re looking at this gun specifically for rabbit hunting, go with the 26-inch barrel (I tested the 28-inch version).
This is a pricer shotgun, but it includes a ton of high-end features including a cryogenically treated barrel, carbon fiber rib, Comfort Tech 3 recoil reduction system, and, of course, the time-tested Benelli inertia-driven action.
Handguns for Rabbit Hunting
Hunting rabbits and hares with a handgun can be a purposefully pursued pleasure, or it can come down to a matter of what you have on-hand. When you’re hunting other game, but want to target rabbits as a bonus, having one of these pistols on your hip is the way to go.
The Rugged Six-Shooter: Ruger Single-Six Convertible
If I had to pick a single handgun to be my favorite for rabbits or any other small-framed fauna, it would be the Stainless Ruger Single-Six Convertible. This rimfire revolver is impervious to the elements and includes both .22 LR and .22 WMR cylinders. I’ve packed mine for years through blowing snow and subzero temps on the trapline and taken countless snowshoe hares and ptarmigan with it—and it’s dispatched more wolves than any other gun I own.
Variations of the “Single” line are available in higher capacities, but the Single-Six Convertible is a six-shot single-action revolver. It has a ramp front sight and adjustable rear. It’s an accurate shooter and features a transfer-bar system to prevent accidental discharge of a live round carried under the hammer. I have the 6-inch-barreled model, but Ruger also has a 7.5-inch model that can host a scope.
If you’re setting out to hunt bunnies with a pistol, the Buck Mark is a hard model to beat. Along with other pillars of the .22 pistol world such as the Ruger Mark series, the Buck Mark is a thoroughly vetted platform with lots of different options. The Camper UFX Suppressor-Ready model is just what a modern handgun rabbit hunter would want.
This pistol is modest in looks, it’s got a matte black finish, but features ambidextrous-contoured Ultragrip FX grip panels (hence the “UFX”). The pistol has a six-inch threaded barrel that’s ½ x 28-inch suppressor ready and features a fiber optic front and fully adjustable rear sight. The gun is topped with a six-slot optic rail for mounting just about any red dot sight. It’s fed with standard 10-round single-stack Buck Mark magazines and would spell the doom of any cottontail brave enough to hop into the open.