I have never known a good hunter who did not regularly take to the field in pursuit of small game. Nor have I met many people who don’t like the taste of well-prepared squirrel or rabbit.
In a survival situation, small game could provide fresh meat on a regular basis. But to be able to bring meat home constantly, you will need a good small game rifle and the skill of marksmanship.
I don’t recommend using your AK or your AR to take small game. These rifles should be used mainly for defense and perhaps the occasional dispatching of medium-sized game. To dispatch squirrel, rabbit and even woodchuck, you will need a .22LR, or possibly a .22WMR. I think of the .17 as more of a varmint round, and so I didn’t include that chambering in this article.
Here are my personal favorite freezer-fillers for small game. Some are no longer produced but are available at pawn shops, gun shops, gun shows and good ol’ gunbroker.com.
1. Ruger 10-22
Retail: roughly $259 new
For over 50 years, the Ruger 10-22 has graced gun cabinets and pickup truck gun racks, and can be found slung across the shoulders of hunters from Maine to California as they head into the woods in pursuit of squirrel and rabbit. The 10-22’s reliability and accuracy are legendary, and there are more accessories for the rifle than Carter has liver pills. Offered chamberings include the venerable .22 long rifle, and the .22 WMR. The rifle feeds from a detachable 10-round magazine, and aftermarket large capacity magazines are also available. Millions have been built, and Ruger is still producing this iconic rimfire.
Note: I recommend a classic fixed stock rifle over the take-down variant, as there have been some reliability issues with the 10-22 takedown.