Top 4 centrefire rifles for small game

The best guns on the market for hunting varmints

By Ken BaileyKen Bailey

The rifles

For decades, a centrefire varmint rifle was little more than a deer rifle chambered for a popular small-game calibre. But with the emergence of an increasing number of dedicated varmint hunters, or perhaps because of it, manufacturers started specifically designing rifles for long-range accuracy when firing high numbers of rounds.

For the casual varmint hunter, most rifle makers continue to offer small-game chamberings in their standard rifles. But a true varmint rig will feature a heavy, so-called bull barrel that’s 24 to 26 inches long. The added weight enables shooters to hold their rifles steadier, a discernable advantage when taking long shots at small targets.

Heavy barrels are also slower to heat—a hot barrel can result in a rifle’s point of impact shifting slightly. Some gun makers, in fact, flute the barrels of their varmint rifles to enhance cooling without sacrificing rigidity. Another advantage of heavier rifles is that the increased weight reduces felt recoil, a blessing when many shots may be taken on any given day.

Stocks are also altered on dedicated varmint guns, the most prominent difference being the wide forends that accommodate oversized barrels and help create a steady rest when shooting. Iron sights are seldom found on a varmint rig, as long-range precision shooting demands the use of scopes.


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