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Handgun Hunting Small Game

Handgun Hunting Small Game
Honing Your Skills!

The latest statistics show small game hunting is on the decline. Perhaps there are a number of reasons for this, including loss of hunting areas. There are other contributing factors involved though. Have you watched many hunting shows recently? Big whitetail bucks are the craze. I’m sure there are a lot of younger viewers watching these shows and dream about monster whitetail. Heck, who doesn’t?

The younger crowd also has a tremendous variety of entertainment stimulus at their fingertips. Going out in the woods for an early morning squirrel hunt is probably not high on the priority list, and that’s too bad. I consider myself lucky, growing up in an era where a ball glove, fishing rod, and a firearm were the only means of entertainment. Like many country boys, I cherished the opportunity to hunt small game and still do to this day.

As much as I enjoy traveling to remote parts of this planet, hunting big game I dreamed about as a kid, I still look forward to an early morning squirrel hunt with my favorite handgun. You don’t have to worry about malaria, no expensive charter flights, visa, gun permit, language barrier, jet lag, altitude, or the multitude of other unpleasant obstacles frequenting the traveling hunter. Small-game hunting provides some of the best quality time in the outdoors, without the high cost associated with so many other forms of hunting. Being a Good-Old Boy, I also enjoy the table fare.

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This Charger is one fun gun to shoot! It’s anxiously waiting for the beginning of squirrel season.

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The Ruger Charger in its original form works like a charm. It’s just so tempting to accessorize!

Accuracy

When you start tackling small game with a .22 LR handgun, things can really get interesting. Many small game enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of hitting a small target. The challenge involved is also rewarding when you return home with a limit of squirrels or rabbits. Since our target represents a very small area, choosing the right handgun will be important. There are so many quality choices available today its mind-boggling. Like most of you, I have a few favorite guns I enjoy shooting and those are the ones I normally take to the field.

Before we dive into the guns, the choice of ammunition is just as important. I always get as many different brands of .22 ammo as possible for testing. It’s amazing to see the differences, and sometimes similarities, from brand to brand. I like to find the brand my particular gun shoots the most accurately. All of this range time is fun though, and really confirms what brand of .22 LR you should be shooting.

One of my favorite squirrel rigs is a T/C G2 with a .22 LR match barrel. This handgun wears a Burris 2-7X scope. With Winchester ammunition, it will shoot 10 shots at 25 yards inside my thumbnail; plenty good enough for a target the size of a squirrel’s head. Hunting with a single-shot handgun is quite the challenge, but that very challenge is what makes it so much fun!

For a real challenge once in a while I will take Ruger’s Single Ten to the woods. My eyes are not what they used to be but I make myself use open sights occasionally. The fiber optic sights help, but it’s still a humbling experience. I honestly miss more often than I care to admit. The misses or near hits if you are kind, are certainly not the gun’s fault. This Ruger is a reliable and dependable handgun serving more purpose than just squirrel hunting. It’s a great carry-around-the-farm gun for unexpected vermin, and I like the 10-shot capability. The Single Ten is also an ideal rimfire for rabbit hunting. Most of the rabbits I take are from an offhand shooting position and are fairly close. The open sights are fine for this type of opportunity, and even I can see well enough to connect!

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Ruger’s Single Ten is a dependable revolver made for small-game hunting.

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Thompson/Center’s G2 is a great handgun for small-game hunting.
This single shot is extremely accurate and wicked on squirrels.

Ruger Charger

During squirrel season, I’ll be hitting the woods with a new handgun this year. A Ruger Charger will be tested on the local squirrel population and I can’t wait. When I first received the Charger, I told myself the countless accessories available for the gun would not be necessary. I would shoot the gun just as it came from the factory. And I did — for about a week. I couldn’t help it, and soon found myself customizing this rimfire with a Volquartsen TG 2000 trigger assembly. That’s a smart move. The trigger breaks around 2 pounds, clean and crisp and makes a huge difference.

Next I added an Axiom lightweight composite stock from BLACKHAWK!; another smooth move to add comfort and the ever popular cool factor. Then I topped it off with a Burris 3-12X scope and an oversized bolt handle. I gathered several different brands of rimfire ammo, including Winchester, Remington, Armscor and CCI before heading to the range. The Charger performed like a champ. Since I would be mainly hunting the woods, I removed the bi-pod. Now those fury-tailed little tree rats had better watch out!

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Champion’s Dura-Seal reactive targets enhance any shooting session.
This is a great way to practice for any upcoming hunting trip.

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Caldwell’s metal swingers make a trip to the range more fun and
are a great way to practice with your rimfire.

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Accuracy is important with small-game hunting. Testing at the range
confirms point of impact and what brand of ammo your gun prefers.

Mostly Have Fun

There are a bunch of handguns capable of handling small game. Choose your favorite rimfire — and just have some fun. Before hunting season gets here I practice on Caldwell metal swinging targets and Champion’s Dura-Seal reactive swingers. These targets are fun and much more entertaining than shooting paper alone. My wife actually looks forward to shooting these reactive targets and it keeps her interested and wanting to shoot more.

Small-game hunting is also a great way to prepare for the upcoming big game hunts. I find myself shooting from a variety of positions in the woods, sometimes never the same position twice. This is good practice for hunting season. It also provides quality time in the outdoors and allows you to get closer to nature. And that alone time in the woods does everybody good.

If you want to get out of the house and go hunting more often, then enjoy the adventure of small-game hunting. Its fun, challenging, and comes at a cost that won’t leave a big hole in your wallet. Plus, it will make you a better hunter.
By Mark Hampton

AH MK 2013

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