Whether the intended target is as small as ground squirrels or as large as winter coyotes, having the right hunting rifle can make all the difference. From less damaging rimfire rounds on up to flatter shooting centerfires, bolt actions to semi-automatics, the options are plenty on both new and used gun racks. Here is a trio of our favorite varmint rifles all borrowed from the GDC Vault.
Howa 1500 Ranch Land Combo
Howa Model 1500 bolt action rifles from Legacy Sports International are quite underrated hunting guns, with capable accuracy for a reasonable price. These bolt guns are available in a nice range of calibers ideal for varminters. From .223 Rem to .243 Win these calibers are suited for all sorts of furbearing predators. While the 1500 action comes in a variety of specialty models, configurations and stocks, we especially appreciate the bang-for-the-buck that varmint hunters get with the Howa Ranch Land rifle/scope combo.
While any of the Howa 1500 bolt actions will suffice for varmint hunters, this Ranch Land compact package model seems purpose-built for such predator pursuit. The 20-inch lightweight barrel defines its compact size, making it ideal as a truck gun, brush gun and fast-wielding coyote taker. The Howa comes ready right out of the box, easily heading into the field.
Our .243 Win chambering sports a short, light barrel yielding a wieldy hunting companion. Additionally, the barrel sits inside a Hogue green rubberized stock that will take on any inclement weather with its grip. If that’s not enough, the rifle includes a color-matched Nikko Stirling 2.5-10×42 Nighteater scope. When hunters can get into an MOA-guaranteed rig for under $400, that’s a win in our book. Though we didn’t expect a whole lot given the price, the two-stage trigger broke cleanly just over 3-pounds. It was a great aid to shooting cloverleaf groups at 100-yards with premium ammunition.
In our caliber choice of .243 Win, the same rifle can be loaded down with 55-grain bullets for critters as small as prairie dogs and up to 100-grain options for medium sized game like deer, making this the perfect middle ground for game of any kind. If the Ranch Land in .243 Win is not quite to your liking, the GDC Vault is also stocked with the combo in the similarly low-recoiling, deer hunting supreme 7mm-08 chambering.
Savage Arms A17
Rimfire rifles are plenty, but the great ones are few. Savage Arms’ semi-automatic .17 HMR rifle is one of the latter. It’s also among the first and only such actions to reliably cycle the hot .17 HMR round with its delayed-blowback action. Those rapid shot strings from an accurate rimfire knock down prairie dogs, ground squirrels and the like. With good shot placement that same .17 HMR will easily take down fox and even coyote.
When the hunting is good, the A17 makes quick work of fast-moving critters. The A17 rifle ships with a 10-round rotary magazine, more than ample for any kind of varmint hunt. Savage’s fully adjustable AccuTrigger comes standard and is a great aid to accuracy, even on a rimfire, with our test trigger breaking reliably at 3-pounds. With ballistic tip HMR ammunition, the A17 is a legit small game and varmint rifle in a smooth-running semi-auto platform.
While the A-series rimfires come in a variety of calibers and styles, we appreciate the comfort and looks of our Laminate Target Thumbhole. Partnered with the caliber-matched Bushnell A17 scope, long shorts are still right on the money with the custom turrets. Though we fired a mix of ammunition, the rifle particularly loves CCI’s A17 and Norma’s .17 HMR loaded with Hornady V-Max projectiles. The A17 rifle is available both new and used from the GDC Vault in many of the rifle’s model variants, including synthetic furniture, heavy barrels or thumbhole stocks like our test rifle.
Ruger’s vaunted 77 line of bolt action rifles usually centers on the .22 LR chambering; however, the particular rifle we selected from the GDC Vault is rarer—and more potent — .22 WMR. This 77/22 makes use of a 24-inch heavy stainless barrel with matching matte stainless receiver all sitting in a laminate stock. The 77/22 is fitted with a 9-shot rotary magazine very similar to that used with the venerable Ruger 10/22 semi-auto rimfire. Sling swivels come standard so the hefty rimfire, which tips the scales at almost 8-pounds with the optic and loaded magazine, is still easy to tote afield.
The icing on the cake for both looks and accuracy on this used rifle is a Burris 4-12X Compact scope in Ruger’s own rings. The trigger breaks right around 4.5-pounds with just a hint of creep. The three-position safety located at the right tang is a nice feature even on a rimfire rifle, allowing the chamber to be safely cleared without disengaging the safety. Though the .22 WMR chambering is certainly best for smaller critters like prairie dogs, chucks, and smaller furbearers, a good and accurate rifle is hard to beat. Those lovers of the 77 rimfire platform seeking more firepower in a centerfire round zippy .22 Hornet round is the best match.
The 77/22 bolt action rifle are ones that look, feel and hunt like their much larger M77 centerfire counterparts, so they’re an easy acclimation for fans of Ruger’s fine rifles in general.
Whether rimfire or centerfire, bolt or semi-auto, the choices for varmint rifles are many. Each of our selections will shoot MOA or better at 100-yards using premium factory ammunition. Tailor your rifle selection to the game you plan to hunt, and you’ll set yourself up for success every time. Any of the rifles mentioned above are sure to please with a blend of accuracy, reliability and performance with a nice a variety of price points and calibers.