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Thread: Which round for small game?

  1. #1

    Default Which round for small game?

    I am looking to hunt for some snowshoe hares and Ptarmigan. Im unsure on which caliber riffle to get. I would like to get a .17HMR but want a bullet with low damage. But would a 22LR be better? So if someone could tell me a specific brand or type of bullet with a low impact on the animals.

    Any info will be helpful.

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    I use a mix of 22 hollow points and solids.
    Even the hollows do not do much damage out of a 22.
    I just get what ever is the cheapest ammo that works in my rilfes.
    The 17hmr and 22mag do a little to much damage if you want to eat them.

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    Default Other possibilities

    If you go 17 hmr then you have to have headshots, which is still the preference with the .22 anyways. Another idea is to maybe look at getting a shotgun, this would allow you to hunt the small game, and also maybe ducks in the fall. Plus you can get the single shot pardner shotguns for about 130 bucks, I use a 12 gauge because it's my duck gun but a 20 gauge or 410 would be perfect.

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    Member Matt's Avatar
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    .22 LR and aim for the head. Marlin, Savage, Ruger, CZ, etc, all make a fine .22.

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    i really like a ruger 10/22 with cci stinger rounds. cheap and good power for all small game. does more damage than normal rounds so head shots are preferable but still ok for body shots. it's good to about 40 yards with no worries as long as your scope and gun are accurate.

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    I like the plain old .22LR. I do use CCI "Velocitor" ammo as the effect on game is pretty good for a .22 and they shoot extremely well in my gun for a hypervelocity .22. I've taken hares out to about 75yards with it. It's still cheaper and doesn't tear up meat like a .17HMR.

    Other good loads are the "SGB" and if your rifle likes them the Remington "Subsonic". They give up a bit of trajectory but they're quiet, extremely accurate and expand very well at low velocity.

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    Member Matt's Avatar
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    I'll vouch for the CCI Velocitor ammo. That's all I shoot in my stainless Marlin bolt action. Scary accurate and flat-out hammers the rabbits. I've killed so many with that setup.

  8. #8

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    I will want to keep as much meat as possible. So head shots are a must. I will most likely get a 22LR. But is there a 17HMR round that won't do much damage? I would prefer a 17HMR because of its accuracy compared to a 22LR.

    Thanks for the replies
    Keep them coming as any input would be appreciated.

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    I have a ruger 22 and a marlin 17. The 22 doesnt tear up the meat as much but I like using the 17 because I can make head shots at 100 yards and If I happen to come upon a fox, I am confident that I can put him down with one shot. I use hornady 17gr. vmax bullets. I have made a few shots on rabbits and ptarmigan that were rushed this year and blew them apart so when I am in an area where I know there aren't any foxes I take the 22. Hope this helps...

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    Smile GO w/ the .22

    Quote Originally Posted by GUZ808 View Post
    I am looking to hunt for some snowshoe hares and Ptarmigan. Im unsure on which caliber riffle to get. I would like to get a .17HMR but want a bullet with low damage. But would a 22LR be better? So if someone could tell me a specific brand or type of bullet with a low impact on the animals.

    Any info will be helpful.
    Most Snowshoe Hare shooting is 45 yards and in while Ptarmigan will range inside 80 yards. Yes - there are some more challenging engagements at greater distances, yet not typically necessary.

    The .17 HMR is a good choice, but it can be overdosing these small game animals quite a bit when not hit in the head or rear-end. Too much speed and explosive characteristics if hit poorly (& it'll happen!). .17 HMR accuracy is excellent and flat shooter for sure... but not to be overshadowed or nearly as practical as the ol' .22 in a good shooter.

    Several selections out there:

    In .17 I choose the V-Max. Just pick any of the brands. They are all good and not a whole lot to sort out concerning accuracy/performance. In rifles I've had experience w/ they feed more reliably, impact predictably true to point of aim, and are terminally explosive. To reap the real rewards of this little pill you need to learn it.

    For .22 depends on the range, the gun, accessories and so on. In other words there is lots of potentially suitable ammo and firearms to choose from.

    Accuracy is the key when hunting and taking these small game animals. The responsibility to the meat of the game species with whatever else you may find useful is part of the hunting tradition. The .22 lr rimfire is perfect in keeping w/ this tradition.

    I'm pleased you asked the question! You've received some good comments in these threads so far. It makes so much more sense than a few of the guys out there w/ .20 or .22 centerfires displaying explosive carnage with certain waste - then reveling in it for all to see. Sure, many of us have made the misunderstood mistake of overdosing small animals with far too much firepower... but with a bit of luck others (maybe like you) need not witness it first hand from simple lack of experience or by following a bad trend.

  11. #11

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    The big reason I ask this question about the 22LR and 17HMR is the accuracy. I was going to get a 22LR but after I shot a 17HMR it amazed me on how accurate it was compared to a 22LR.
    Then I hear of people shredding small game with a 17HMR so it draws me back to a 22LR. So if anyone out there knows of a low impact 17HMR round please speak up because I would prefer a more accurate round.

    Thanks all for the replies

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    Member rimfirematt's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Well You arent going to find a low impact HMR round. I have used every available .17 hmr round in the field on rabbits. They all pretty much do the same thing. It must be from Hydrostatic shock from the velocity.

    Rabbits and grouse are very fragile and thin skinned. I mean you can skin both with just your fingers.

    For the most part, if you do your part and hit the head area all this damage stuff is a moot point.

    As stated by brian earlier your rabbit shooting is going to be 45 yards and in with 20 yards being the most often encountered distance. There is a myriad of rifles chambered in .22lr and .17hmr that will guarantee a headshot on a rabbit provided you do your part.

    Id guess youd be hard pressed to find a .22 that couldnt put shots inside a 3 inch circle (rabbit head size) at 25 yards. For that matter 50 yards. Now can YOU shoot that good offhand, winded and under pressure?

    So to be blunt, I think your are overthinking this. Just get a gun, practice shooting at said 3 inch circle and go getum!

    Also on a side note, you may not be familiar with the knowledge that each individual gun prefers certain ammo to shoot straight. You may very well have a very accurate .22 already but you dont know it cause all you have been shooting is some ammo that it doesnt like. Try a few different kinds and see what happens.

    Now, here is some proof in pictures

    First pic, Polish military trainer in .22Lr circa 1954 accurate enough for rabbit nunting! Also is a remington model 581, Headshots on 3 of those rabbits. the one rabbit I got I actually hit in the lungs. But I was using a subsonic round, No waste or nasty carnage.


    Next is a headshot rabbit with the .17, I was using the FMJ round. You cant tell except for the little bloddy fur strips dangling down on its head, but It blew half that rabbits face off.


    So as you can tell doesnt matter what you use as long as you can hitem in the the head. Now as the first pic shows, if you do hit in the body, a .22 with a lowpower round will do minimum damage.

    In the end Id go with .22

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    Default Good post Matt -

    ...the pictures are not too gruesome and help illustrate the point.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by GUZ808 View Post
    Any info will be helpful.
    Long as you said that, I'll expand the scope of your search.

    If you're a handloader, there's no reason to stop at rimfires for small game hunting. I've got some really nice rimfires, but I almost never use them for small game. Instead I'm using reduced velocity loads in my big game rifles. You're head shooting anyway, so the size of the bullet doesn't really matter. And centerfires with reduced loads are usually at least as accurate or more accurate than rimfires. Sounds crazy, but two of the most accurate cast bullet rifles I own happen to be Ruger #1 Tropicals in 375 H&H and 458 Win. There's just a little pop, and that big old slug is going so slow you can almost see it.

    You can also use "antique" rounds and arms with handloads for small game. In fact, many were preferred small game rounds in their day. I probably shoot more snowshoes with my 25-20 and my 25-35 than any other centerfires. Only reason 32-20 doesn't make the list is that I foolishly let mine go. All are recent manufacture guns rather than antiques, BTW, so we're not talking risking valuable antiques dragging them out into the field.

    Same applies for handguns in a wide range of centerfire calibers, something I used to do a lot when my eyes were younger and I was doing all my big game hunting with handguns.

    If you're a muzzleloader, you can also use small calibers or reduced loads in large calibers for small game. I've got 32 and 36 calibers that I use for snowshoes, but it's a race between them and my 50, 54, and 58 calibers for which has taken the most snowshoes.

    The point of that long-winded stuff (sorry) is that small game hunting presents and excellent opportunity to get field time and shots at game with your bigger guns. In my experience, that pays huge dividends when the big game season rolls around.

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    I have used my 22mag marlin for bunnies and ptarmigan w/o tearing up the meat. It is extremely accurate and head shots are the way to go. I was hesitant about shooting it at first, but my buddy let me try his and I sold my 10/22 the next week and bought a marlin. It is also capable of taking out a fox if need be. If your going for close range shots then a shotgun with 6 shot for ptarmigan and a modified choke work pretty good.

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    Member sharksinthesalsa's Avatar
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    Default waiting waiting waiting

    my 16 guage should be arriving anyday now in the mail....it was my go-to gun back in michigan....and i had my dad mail it up......hopefully its here today so i can take it out this weekend
    "early to bed, early to rise, fish like hell, and make up lies"

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    I've used my 17hmr on bunnies and ptarmi alike. Head shots are better, but I have body shot them even with vmax bullets and yes it looks like a tennis ball exploded inside of them...but you can get fmj 20 grain bullets or 20gr xtp bullets for the 17hmr that are not explosive, they mushroom out like a typical hunting round. Stay away from tnt or vmax if you're worried about meat damage...trick is whether or not your 17 likes the 20gr bullets or not.

    i stay with the hornady vmax cause I know at 100yards I can shoot a ptarmi head off as long as the wind isn't blowing that bad.

    wind is the great enemy of the 17 but if you know how to compensate have time to wait it out you're good to go. under 100yards the wind isn't really a factor for small game unless it's over 10mph. once you're out at 100 and beyond the wind will take the 17 for a decent ride.

    I like my 17, accurate and deadly.

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    Here's a concept that hasnt been listed: A .17 hmr pistol. When i hike to my remote property i usually carry a protection rifle and my scoped single six for small game. I've shot quite a few birds and rabbits with that little set up. When I'm hunting small game specifcally, I use a 20 gauge winchester upland special, it has a very short barrel and has been great for busting brush. It's got the straight pull english style stock and comes up like a 30-30 winchester carbine and puts second and third shots out the barrel fast. Whenever I've had a long shot i pull out my little scoped 17 and have connected out to around 80 yards on rabbits and birds. I use the 20 gr. gamepoints and aim slightly high (where the neck meets the body) and dont get any meat damage out ot the pistol barrel. Short barreled 20 gauges purposely built to be brush busters are great for upland birds and rabbits. Use an open choke, and 3inch 6 shot 20 gauge and you will connect on every bird that flies with complete penentration of the shot. There have been many times when I've seen rabbits out of shotgun range and they know im there, ready to haul ***** if i take one more step. That's when I slowly set down the shotgun and rest that pistol over a tree branch and get em every time. Ruger makes many different types of single six rimfires. And browning makes an upland pump with a 22 in. barrel. That would be a perfect combo, purpose built for any small game scenario.

  19. #19

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    Hey guys thanks for the different ideas and thoughs but I just got a 22LR Savage MarkII. Seem to be fairly cheap and was told it is pretty accurate. So again thanks for all the replies. Now I just need to go out shoot it and sight in my scope.

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    Member rimfirematt's Avatar
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    Excellent choice Guz! Make sure and get a box of at least 3 different kinds of bullets to see what that gun really likes. Also most of my 22's really like the standard type ammo. Not the hypervelocity stuff. Ive had real good luck with CCI standard velocity in most of my guns.

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