What is the best varmint rifle?
You could call a lot of rifles a varmint rifle. But the best varmint rifle will be the one that fits the situation; offers fast deployment of the first shot and accurate delivery on target, with a small, high velocity projectile that doesn't cause "overkill".
That said: there is plenty of diversity in this article which seeks to find the best rifle for varmint hunting on the market. From coyotes, to rabbits, to prairie dogs to squirrels, these are the good varmint rifles you can find, and displayed in a variety of calibers suitable for different sized animals and different terrain, environmental factors and distances.
Finally, they offer a great mix of price points for those who want specific performance or attributes at a specific price point.
Best Varmint Rifles
Browning - X-Bolt White Gold Medallion
Best long range varmint rifle
A gorgeous, traditional bolt action rifle in a perfect coyote caliber for long distance shooting, this is a perfect ideal for the traditional varmint rifle.
The simplicity of the Xbolt (itself an heir to a long running platform) is best described as elegance. The way it offers such a cohesive experience and does so with such good looks proves that it has a presence that few other guns have.
Browning offers a 60 degree bolt to help it clear the scope you will inevitably mount on it. And you'll need some decent glass, because the .22-250 is capable of easily killing 45 pound coyotes at 650 yards or more.
The gun is very traditional in design with a walnut, high gloss Monte Carlo style stock and a button rifled barrel, which is made from stainless steel, to match the receiver. It's a bare top profile; with no mounting options – so you can customize it to your needs with the proper mount and rings.
The inlaid wood accent pieces and some basic embellishments on the bolt and magazine plate help this elegance continue throughout the design, without becoming overwrought.
This rifle has a 22 inch barrel and a 4 round removable magazine with a very nice trigger and the ability to open the bolt for loading, even with the safety on.
- Simple and easy to understand
- Ready for optical mounting without forcing a proprietary system
- No real cons if you can handle the price point
Savage Arms - 93BSEV
A truly great value for those that understand the power of the 22WMR, especially given Savage Arms' recent push to showcase rimfire cartridges in their mid-range line.
The 93 BSEV is a best Savage varmint rifle for small varmint up to probably 200 yards and probably 40 lbs. The laminated stock may seem a bit over the top with the colorful appearance and the aggressive styling. But it does offer a very rigid piece of furniture for the barreled action and fits the aggressiveness of the fluted barrel and the extreme accuracy.
A 21 inch barrel offers some respite to ultra-heavy bull barrel profiles normally associated with target rifles like this, while the fluting dissipates heat and lightens the overall length also. The trigger and bolt are built for precision shooting too, with the low swung bolt handle and the low trigger pull weight – you can be sure you'll be on target.
.22WMR is a significantly higher power cartridge than the .22LR. It can easily be seen as a more intermediate cartridge on the rimfire scale. The potency is enough for animals up to coyote depending on the range; and yet, it is still able to be used on smaller game like rabbit too.
The robust scope mounting holes offer easy mounting options for those who need heavy glass particularly.
- Very accurate
- Premium build quality
- Fluted barrel
- The looks are an acquired taste
Savage Arms - 93R17 FV-SR
Stealthy and subdued, this is a gun that's setup for fast implementation of mainstream optics and ready for suppressor usage. That said, with the screaming fast projectile it's based on, the suppressor usage will be a moot point – the crack of the supersonic bullet speed will make it much less effective to use a silencer/suppressor.
The stock is durable and the platform is proven already though hundreds of thousands of sales of their rimfire portfolio. The 93R17 FV-SR is short (just over 35 inches) and lightweight (about 5 and a half lbs.) and has a super accurate carbon steel barrel that has a threaded muzzle and offers very good accuracy despite being only 16.5" long.
Combine these characteristics with the famous accu-trigger and you have a very reliable, very accurate, long range rimfire for tiny varmint.
Without wind, the ballistics of the 17HMR will easily provide the same type of fun you cannot find with normal rimfire rounds. The projectile is so fast and so accurate and the recoil is nonexistent. It's just a blast to shoot small game with.
- Small, but still accurate out to realistic distances for varmint
- A proven design now
- A fun way to get into a very cool round
- It's not expensive but it's a higher priced gun than many other rimfires
Ruger - 77/22 Varmint/Target
The .22 Hornet was once used as a potent Turkey cartridge; as well as a military survival cartridge. It's not a rimfire, but it does offer some unique characteristics and significant power.
To be considered a military cartridge, there have to be some compelling attributes. The .22 Hornet is fast, reliable (much more so than a rimfire cartridge), accurate, and offers a significantly larger projectile for survival purposes. Luckily for the modern varmint hunter, these same characteristics are important for their needs.
Hence the reason why the .22 Hornet, a fairly old cartridge, is still a viable option for the varmint game.
It's not going to offer the same types of performance that you can get with more modern rounds, but it does provide ignition reliability and is a very inter-sting round that is still in popular use despite being outperformed by several new cartridges. For the stalwarts who know how good the round still is, and enjoy the reloadability of the cartridge, the .22 Hornet just makes sense.
This rifle utilizes a 24-inch barrel that is cold hammer forged and has a unique pattern on the outside surface. The finish is a unique stealthy grey called "Target Grey Stainless" that is actually quite pretty and seems to be very durable.
The magazine is exceptional (loosely based on the rotary Ruger 10-22 magazine); the laminated stock is durable and rigid and offers a no-nonsense (though not particularly pretty) solution for the furniture.
- Great finish
- Strong, durable build
- Great niche cartridge that is reloadable (centerfire)
- Is somewhat expensive because selling volume isn't particularly high
Bergara - HMR Pro Premier
Best varmint rifle for the money
The Spain-based Bergara is producing top tier barrels and long guns that focus on traditional accuracy builds and incorporate some novel technology concepts as well. This rifle, the HMR Pro Premier is a .223 Remington varmint rifle that puts a popular, low cost cartridge into a field ready, highly accurate moderate range varmint hunting platform.
The polymer composite stock and the all black finish gives it a subtle overall look; and a slightly tactical feel. It helps keep the robust rifle at under ten lbs. (9.4 lbs.), despite heavy barrel profile and a reinforced stock and bedding material.
The Trigger Tech trigger claims a non-wearing set of trigger surfaces which promises your barrel will wear out before your trigger pull suffers. This is actually a concern for guns chambered in .223 because the round is cheap and the projectile is higher velocity which can lead to barrel wear over time. Knowing that you have built in safeguards like the trigger design, and the durable 416 stainless material for the (20 inch) barrel, means you can rest assured this is a long lasting rifle.
There are numerous adjustability factors in the stock design and the recoil is minimal, especially because of a large recoil pad. A 5 round removable magazine makes for easy reloading and fast varmint hunting.
- Great stock design
- Top tier barrel manufacture
- Good value for the money relative to many peers
- Unknown by many shooters
Remington - 700 SPS Tactical
Best .223 varmint rifle
A historically relevant gun in the tactical bolt action space, the SPS tactical 20 inch rifle is a perfect starting point for the varmint hunter that prefers the mainstream. Its .223 Remington chambering and low cost paired with high quality builds and heavy shorter barrel (20 inches long), makes it an ideal way to get into higher precision varmint hunting jumping from, say, an AR15.
There is nothing spectacular about the looks aside from that that are noticeably unspectacular. The subdued aesthetic and clean lines make this a great rifle for those who want something stealthy and plain.
It is all about functionality, and for some reason it makes this rifle beautiful. Well designed scope mounting layouts and existing sling swivel connection points help functionality and a very good trigger and barrel bore exit treatment makes this a match grade rifle by any specification.
The gun resembles the original "Sendaro" made by Remington in decades past and offers the best out of the box experience for those who already have trusted optics, on this list.
- Obvious mainstream caliber
- Super durable
- Match grade buildout
- Accommodates all but the largest optics
- No real CONS, unless you feel .223 is not a relevant varmint cartridge with other options gaining steam
Daniel Defense - DDM4A1
Best varmint AR-15 rifle
The Daniel Defense DDM4A1 was included on this list not only because it is a quality build for an AR a style rifle, but also because the caliber base for the rifle has made the entire population of the AR clones into nearly ideal varmint rifles for the casual explorer or those who aren't sure they like varmint hunting yet.
Are we saying you could use ANY AR style rifle to shoot varmints? Yes, and No. Sure, the .223/5.56 is a great option for anything under 375-550 yards depending on the load you are using, and this specific model happens to be a standout rifle in the spectrum too.
With the caveat that the .223 is not an ideal varminting caliber, and the recognition that it is an adequate caliber for many shooters' varminting needs, this is an ideal option to have on this list.
So, we can advise that you explore varmint hunting with your AR style rifle, and if you need an AR style rifle, we advocate for guns built to the standard that this Daniel Defense rifle is built to. That said, we wholeheartedly feel that once you get serious about varminting, that you pick a caliber or a platform that is best suited to your needs for the sporting purpose, which we admit, might still be your AR 15 rifle.
This one is a short barrel option which doesn’t allow you to reach beyond, say, 275 yards with the type of precision most varmints will require, but it does mean you have a very mufti-purpose rifle that can be used in a lot more scenarios and for a lot more than varmint hunting.
Cerakoting and top tier other metal treatments make this gun basically bulletproof to normal wear and tear. The furniture is well thought out and the gun is balanced like some of the best option on the market (including some of the favorites like the Noveske line).
This is a lightweight, capable varmint gun for short and moderate distances on medium sized varmint targets and while we warn readers not to get our recommendation twisted, we can say it's a great way to explore the sport casually. It is because the risk is ultimately low if you explore with this type of rifle because it can be used for so much more if you decide varmint hunting is not for you.
- Short OAL
- Still decent ballistics despite an underwhelming long-range profile in the hardware and the cartridge
- Fast follow-up, accurate delivery within reason
- An expensive AR style rifle to many shooters who would be casually exploring JUST varmint hunting
Howa - 6.5 Creedmoor USA Flag
Already in another article because of uncommonly good value, this is an obvious inclusion into the best varmint rifle article. That's because the overall build quality, rigidity, and ultimately the plug-and-play nature of this type of rifle kit, makes this an easy inclusion. However, the core chambering is the unique value proposition here, because it offers both intermediate game capacity as well as extreme long-range moderate and large varmint capacity.
Yes, the 6.5 Creedmoor is overkill for small varmints in moderate range or closer. But in wind at greater than 500 yards, this is something quite special. Aided of course by the way the Howa is configured and built.
Starting with the ultra-rigid chassis and ability to plug-in accessories from a wide variety of market options, to the exceptional trigger and muzzle brake, to the unique and patriotic Cerakote pattern ("USA Flag").
Good for coyote and other predators at more than 650 yards, this is a potent varmint gun. With ten rounds of capacity and excellent optics, which are included in the price of the rifle, this is among the best options for those who want larger game performance in a varmint capable gun.
The optic is a Nikko Sterling 4-16x50mm which is an impressive set of glass considering the price point for the entire kit.
- High quality glass
- Great color scheme for the Cerakoting
- Easily accessorized
- Great price point considering the value offered
- Could be slightly overpowered for most varmint targets
Ruger - American Predator
Best all around varmint rifle
An amazing cartridge with a very good rifle built around it, from the company that pioneered the cartridge, specifically for varmint hunting.
The 204 is potent enough to kill medium varmint animals (many even claim they have successfully hunted deer with the cartridge, though it may not be legal where you are), but it is also small enough to minimize pelt damage on animals so you can use them for different things you might not be able to with a larger caliber.
It is also very fast; minimally recoiling and fun to shoot. This gun, despite its paltry price point, will shoot about ½ MOA. The cartridge is nicknamed the LASER.
The Ruger American Predator is a fairly straightforward bolt action rifle without a ton of frivolous add-ons or design implementations. But it is well made and a solid choice when put against peers. This is especially true if you choose this caliber, which happens to push nearly 4000 feet per second velocities out of normal cartridges.
Because the cost of this rifle is so minimal and you get performance like the Ruger .204 can offer, it doesn't hurt as much when the barrel gets shot out after thousands of rounds.
What about the wear characteristics of the barrels though? Very few users have expressed concerns with high volume shooting on this rifle unless they were custom handloading a lot of ultra fast loads.
The accuracy is excellent out of the 22 inch barrel and the overall weight is a relatively low 6.6 lbs. You are getting a highly mobile (42 inches overall) rifle and laser like precision.
- Great overall size and barrel length
- Amazing accuracy
- Super fun to shoot
- No barrel/bore issues seem likely
- No CONS
Ruger 10/22 Takedown LITE Rifle
Best semi auto varmint rifle
Ordinarily we wouldn't put a shorter barrel .22LR on this list, but when you consider the model and the history it has, as well as the newest innovations that exist on this variant, it's almost impossible to leave the Ruger 10-22 out.
This is more a multi-purpose rifle for this list as there are clearly better cartridge options on this list and in the Varmint world. However, with the low cost of the .22LR and the volume of low weight small game varmints that can be taken with a simple .22LR this is a good option, especially for those who are just casually getting into some aspects of varmint shooting.
OK, we'll admit it, it is mostly an excuse to get an excellent gun on this list because it can have some varmint hunting carryover, and everyone who has ever fired a .22LR rifle should have a look at this Ruger variant.
Firstly, it is a takedown rifle, so even though it's not ideal for long range precision with a build style like that, it is convenient for travel and can be used for a lot of different situations. The barrel is ported (for cooling) in a sense because it's got cooling ports in an aluminum sleeve which surrounds a thinner profile tensioned cold hammer forged barrel. The barrel is also threaded on the end, to accept a suppressor.
The magazine is among the best in the world with the rotary design being proven in millions of guns. The stock is modular and offers additional options for space saving when disassembled. With the configuration, this is a gun that can be scoped easily, and it makes a more than adequate varmint rifle for small varmint game.
- A small package in disassembled form
- Still quite accurate despite being a takedown rifle
- Legendary history and amazing performance
- Not classically a varmint rifle in this configuration
- Not made for larger varmint
This is a wide-ranging list of the best varmint rifles on the market, but that's because in all of its niche glory, the varmint hunting sport isn't all that focused on a niche game animal. From the .22LR to the 6.5 Creedmoor, the above list has a great set of candidates for this title of the best varmint rifle and we feel quite confident that there is one or maybe even more than one rifle in this list that will make sense for your varmint application.