If you live in the city, unless you hunt far outside the city, there’s not a lot of use for a rifle in your home. Sure, a handgun or shotgun for home defense is logical, but what’s the point of owning a .22lr or .17HMR caliber rifle? If your only goal is owning it, I’m with you on that. But what purpose will it serve? Things are different if you live in a rural area and have any amount of property to manage or care for. Out “in the sticks” a rifle is all but mandatory not only to provide food through hunting, but also to prevent varmints (the pest variety) from becoming a nuisance or threat. What am I talking about?
For those folks who live in rural areas, like to hunt, and use the game meat gathered as a food source, a rifle in .22lr, .22WMR or .17HMR can provide a steady stream of food. While most hunting magazines and television shows focus on hunting large game such as deer, elk, wild boar, etc., just how abundant are those animals in your backyard? Even if your backyard is a few acres, depending on where you live, the best you might see is deer. Even if you do see deer, elk, boar, etc., the squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, groundhogs and more are usually far more prevalent.
Now I’m all in favor of owning a decent .308 bolt gun and/or a nice .30-.30 lever action rifle, and, for that matter, any other assortment of rifles you care to (I’m pretty pro 2nd Amendment). That said, I wouldn’t use either of those specified to shoot rabbits, squirrels or other small game. You’d likely not have much left to eat! For the purpose of hunting small game I think it’s hard to beat a quality rifle in .22lr, .22WMR or .17HMR. My own preference, and that which I own, is a Marlin Glenfield rifle in .22WMR. As a hobby project some years ago, my youngest son built it into a “precision rifle” by mounting a bi-pod, a quality scope, and providing it with a custom finish that makes it fairly ideal for hunting during winter months. Not that squirrels and rabbits know the difference, so it’s easy enough to use year round. One squirrel provides enough meat for a meal, so a family of four needs four squirrels for an adequate meal. Usually a rabbit is enough for two, so that same four-person family only needs two decent sized rabbits.
Of course, you need some “sides” to go with the meat. Carrots, potatoes, beans or other vegetables are common and can be had right out of your own garden. Of course, that’s providing those very same animals don’t eat your vegetables before you can harvest them. This is where the “waste not, want not” philosophy comes into play. When you see a rabbit nibbling at your carrots, rather than just shooing it away, shoot it, clean it and enjoy rabbit with your meal. When squirrels or other varmints try to get into your corn, the same solution applies. Now admittedly, if a deer is getting into your corn, and taking into account your local hunting laws, one deer can provide several weeks’ worth of meat. I definitely recommend using a larger caliber rifle to take down that deer, and I also (because I’m soft-hearted) recommend that you never take more does than you do bucks.
Obviously, you know your property and situation better than the best survivalist or gun-writer in the world. You can select the best caliber of weapon(s) to have at hand. Since hunting varmints is an opportunistic activity, the rifle has to be kept ready to go at a moment’s notice. It is equally imperative that it be kept ready and safe. Gun safety is the priority over the value of the meat you can harvest while you protect your home garden or crops.
Most of the weapons I’m talking about aren’t expensive either. Go to your local gun shop or visit a gun show and you can get a good quality bolt-action or semi-automatic rifle in .22lr or .22WMR usually for under $200. (Yes, a 12g or 20g shotgun loaded with small shot is also great for taking the small game, but it plays hell on your garden/crops). Ammo for these weapons is amazingly cheap as compared to ammo for larger caliber rifles, so you can stock up a fair supply without breaking the bank.
Finally, make no mistake: these weapons can be used for defense. They may not make big holes, but those small caliber rounds tend to bounce and ricochet around inside a bad guy and do a lot of damage.
So, the next time you’re at a gun show or in your local gun shop, give those “small rifles” a little bit more consideration. It’s my belief that no home armory is complete without a decent quality bolt- or semi-auto rifle in .22lr or .22WMR (or one of each?)
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