Rimfires are the workhorses of every hunter’s arsenal, and that statement certainly includes predator and varmint hunters and trappers. Inexpensive ammunition, limited noise, minimal pelt damage, and controlled penetration are all factors that make rimfires an asset for taking varmints and pest animals at reasonable distances. Though we often seek ultra-velocity centerfire cartridges for coyotes, foxes, and bobcats, rimfires are a viable choice under the right circumstances and are often a safer choice on smaller properties. No rural homestead is complete without a rimfire near the kitchen door.
Innovation in the rimfire marketplace came to a screeching halt when ammunition became virtually unobtainable during the Obama era, but now that we can readily buy ammunition with which to feed our rimfires, the industry is responding with new rifles and pistols. We sifted through the marketplace and created this diverse list of products, with a focus on firearms with which we have firsthand experience.
Tikka T1X MTR
Finland’s Tikka has quietly become a favorite among hunters seeking accuracy and value, and the company’s new T1x brings those attributes into the rimfire realm. This magazine-fed bolt action is available in .22 LR and .17 HMR, both with 20-inch cold-hammer-forged barrels. The most unique feature of the T1x is the modular stock that allows the end-user to change the grip angle and width of the forend using interchangeable components.
The T1x’s action uses the same footprint as the company’s T3x centerfire rifles, so the size and handling qualities are similar. Hunters who currently use the T3x will find this rimfire rifle to be a familiar understudy—making the T1x ideal for low-cost practice. The bolt on this rifle is stainless steel, and the magazine holds 10 rounds in either chambering. The matte blue barrel is threaded from the factory, meaning the addition of a suppressor is a paperwork challenge rather than a gunsmithing challenge. The receiver uses a built-in 11mm groove for scope mounting, making the rifle compatible with numerous rimfire rings on the market.
CZ 455 Varmint Precision Trainer
Thanks to the Manners T4 stock, the Precision Trainer handles like a big rifle but weighs a very reasonable and shootable eight pounds. It’s available in three barrel lengths—24, 20.5, and16.5 inches, with the latter two threaded to be suppressor-ready. A great trigger and detachable five-round magazine come standard. If you really want to get fancy, Timney makes a drop-in replacement trigger with an adjustable pull weight that can be dialed-down to as little as two pounds.
This rifle was recommended to me by a top-level shooter in the Precision Rifle Series as a means of low-cost practice. I use it on a weekly basis as a practice rifle as well as to dispatch pests and varmints—it is merciless on invasive armadillos. Mine wears a suppressor and is stunningly accurate. The 11mm receiver groove allows for simple scope mounting, but I chose a Picatinny conversion mount on my personal rifle for maximum flexibility.
Ruger Precision Rimfire
It makes a lot of sense to use rimfire rifles that mimic the attributes of their centerfire counterparts as closely as possible. For hunters and shooters who use the popular Ruger Precision Rifle, that solution comes in the form of the Precision Rimfire. Equipped with a stock that adjusts quickly for both length of pull and comb height, it can be tailor-fit to shooter and optic. The trigger is also adjustable, allowing for a pull weight between 2.25 and five pounds.
The free-floated handguard on this rimfire is M-Lok compatible, so adding accessories such as a bipod is a simple process, and the rifle accommodates standard 10/22 detachable box magazines. The 18-inch barrel is threaded 1/2-28, so it is compatible with most rimfire suppressors, including Ruger’s own Silent-SR. A 30-MOA scope rail ensures you won’t run out of elevation adjustment when taking the long-range shots that this rifle is engineered for. Like its centerfire Ruger counterpart, the Precision Rimfire rifle has quickly built a reputation for excellent accuracy.
SavageB17 F Compact
We picked this model because of its .17 HMR chambering and the ergonomically designed polymer stock. With a 12.5-inch length of pull, it is an ideal light varminter for smaller shooters, and the stock’s high comb is built with scope use in mind. This rifle weighs only five pounds and sports an 18-inch button-rifled barrel. With its dimensions, weight, low recoil, and potent chambering, one would be hard-pressed to find a better starter rifle for a young predator hunter than this one.
The detachable rotary magazine has a capacity of 10 rounds of .17 HMR, and the rifle is equipped with Savage’s excellent AccuTrigger. The B17 is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and the barrel and receiver are finished in a matte blue. My experience with semiauto rifles chambered in .17 HMR is that they can be finicky when it comes to feeding different brands of ammunition; this is a non-issue with a bolt-action rifle such as this one.
Winchester’s newest entry into the rimfire market shares the name of its classic Wildcat ammunition. This striker-fired autoloader comes with a button-rifled 18-inch barrel fit with a post front and fully adjustable rear peep sight. The rear sight is mounted at the extreme rear of the receiver, which makes for a long sight radius. An integral Picatinny rail on top of the receiver makes scope mounting easy.
The entire lower receiver assembly can be removed with the push of a button and the bore can be cleaned from the breech end, and both are conducive to easy cleaning. The lightweight polymer stock has integral sling eyelets as well as a Picatinny rail section on the forend to allow for the mounting of a bipod. The safety on the Wildcat is reversible for left- and right-handed operation, and there is both a bolt stop and bolt release on the receiver. This rifle accepts any magazine compatible with a 10/22, and mag removal is spring-assisted. The Wildcat is new for 2019 at an unbelievable price point and, at least for now, is available only in .22 LR.
S&W Model 17
there are few things more useful in the woods than a good rimfire revolver on the hip—you’ll rarely find me without one. Whether you need summertime snake protection while out hanging tree stands or a reliable sidearm while checking the trapline, this classic sixgun has you covered.
Weighing 40 ounces with a six-inch barrel, this revolver combines Smith & Wesson’s excellent Micro Adjustable rear sight with a Patridge front blade. The blued carbon-steel construction and checkered stocks give this gun a very traditional appearance, but it gives nothing up to newer designs in terms of performance. These guns are both accurate and reliable and strike a great balance of portability and shootablity. If you’re looking for a bit more speed, the nearly identical Model 48 provides the added lethality of the .22 Magnum cartridge to this handy package.
Thompson Center T/CR22
A reasonably priced rimfire that you’re not afraid to put some scratches on plays a key role for anyone who lives the outdoor lifestyle. The 10/22 has owned the utility rimfire market for many years, but this new rifle from T/C gives it a run for its money. The T/CR22 comes with an integral scope rail, a rear peep sight with a green fiber-optic front bead, and an M-LOK-compatible Magpul olive green synthetic stock. Accuracy on our test model was excellent with numerous brands of ammunition.
This rifle weighs only 4.4 pounds with a threaded 17-inch barrel with a matte blue finish, making it handy to carry and shoot. I’ve put several hundred rounds through a T/CR22 in recent months and haven’t been able to make it malfunction despite my reluctance to clean or lubricate it. This gun is suitable for everything from dispatching varmints to training new shooters and is available at most retailers for far less than its suggested retail price tag. This is a great “everyman” rifle.
Taurus Tracker 17
Taurus has become one of the go-to brands for serviceable but affordable revolvers, and the Tracker is one of the company’s more popular models for use in the field. Chambered in .17 HMR, this stainless-steel revolver has a seven-round capacity. I have quite a bit of experience in the woods with this particular handgun and can attest to its accuracy and utility as well as its durable reliability.
The .17 HMR chambering is ideal for dispatching furbearing creatures since, with most ammunition types, its explosive bullet expansion does not create hide-damaging exit wounds. The Tracker is built from stainless steel and wears a 6.5-inch barrel with a fully adjustable rear sight. Thanks to the barrel length and good sights, hits can be made at surprising distances in single-action mode. The rubber grips are comfortable and work well in wet conditions and recoil is non-existent.