Three varmint rifles for hunting pests on a white background
Tikka/Ruger/Gamo

10 Best Varmint Rifles for Pests, Predator Animals, and Plinking


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There's good reason to incorporate a rifle into your collection specifically for varmint or predator control. Fortunately, there are a bunch of great options for rifles that will fit the desires (and budget) of almost any serious varmint hunter. Recent product advancements and trends at the manufacturer level have raised the bar for performance, making the overall experience far smoother whether you're hunting for fun or dealing with a serious animal issue on your land. For the non-hunter, there are plenty of plinking applications at play, too, as these rifles can help sharpen shooting skills in a safe practice environment. To give you a better idea of the options that exist, and there are a decent amount, let's start with an overview of what makes a good varmint hunting firearm before jumping into our picks for the absolute best options on the market for hunting coyotes, bobcats, prairie dogs, feral hogs and other small- to medium-sized predator animals.

What is a Varmint Rifle?

First, we'd all benefit from a "varmint" definition, but even that introduces some ambiguity and variation. As we see it, a varmint is a critter that's causing some sort of damage or posing some sort of threat and is in need of some pest control. Crop or land damage, the spread of disease, danger to farm animals or pets, and other nuisances can qualify a critter as a varmint.

These can include (but will vary depending on the region and circumstances) small- to medium-sized game; or non-game, non-regulated animals like coyotes, foxes, bobcats, feral hogs, groundhogs, gophers, prairie dogs, moles, rats, starlings, and crows. Many times these animals are such an issue that negating their numbers becomes a necessity, and the hunting of them is lightly regulated. There are often no closed seasons, no bag limits, and fewer restrictions on method of take when it comes to varmints.

That being said, the ideal method for most varmint elimination is a bolt action gun that falls in between the typical big game rifles and the far-less powerful rimfire rifles. The best varmint rifles are capable of accurate, repeated medium to long range shots from a fixed position, and are usually found in light, fast calibers that have a flat trajectory. Most fall close to the .22 caliber bullet range, and can dip down to .17 caliber and up to .264 (6.5 mm).

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The characteristics of varmint rifles often follow suit with target guns, focusing on accuracy and follow up shots. Bases for mounting optics and magazines with decent capacities are common.

1. The Popular Choice

Remington 700 Varmint SF

No discussion about the best varmint rifle would be complete without including a version of the ubiquitous Remington Model 700. The Varmint Stainless Fluted (SF) model is specifically designed for predator hunters and is available in a number of popular varmint calibers. It's also chambered in the much heavier hitting .308 Winchester cartridge for hunters needing to deal with larger pests like feral hogs.

Sporting a 26-inch, heavy contour barrel that's conducive to both long-range shooting and rapid cooling, the Varmint SF is a great varmint rifle for hunters who need excellent accuracy during the course of a long day of predator hunting. It also has a synthetic stock and a stainless steel barrel for weather resistance.

  • Available Calibers: .223 Rem, .220 Swift, .22-250 Rem, .308 Win
  • Barrel Length: 26 inches
  • Overall Length: 45.75 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 4 (.220 Swift and .308 Win) or 5 (.22-250 Rem and .223 Rem)

2. The Close- to Mid-Range Pick

Ruger 77/22

Not every varmint or predator hunter needs a long-range varmint rifle. Indeed, for hunters working in more populated areas where noise and bullet ricochets are a bigger concern, high-velocity cartridges like the .220 Swift aren't ideal choices. The Ruger 77/22 is a wonderful varmint rifle for those varmint hunters.

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Firing the venerable .22 Hornet cartridge, this rifle is extremely accurate (capable of sub-MOA accuracy with the right loads), has a relatively flat trajectory out to around 200 yards, and it'll really do a number on small game and predators without making as much noise and without as much danger of a bullet ricochet as higher velocity cartridges.

  • Available Calibers: .22 Hornet
  • Barrel Length: 20 inches or 24 inches
  • Overall Length: 39.25 inches or 43.25 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 6

3. The High Velocity Option

Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint

Chambered in the relatively-new, extremely high velocity .204 Ruger cartridge, the Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint has a solid reputation for accuracy and is specifically built for predator and varmint hunting. For these reasons, it's one of the best centerfire rifles for long-range shooting at very small targets like prairie dogs.

Pair this rifle with a quality scope (like a Leupold or a Maven) and ammunition (like the Hornady 24-grain NTX bullet), and you've got an ideal platform for tack-driving accuracy with a flat trajectory and minimal recoil. If you hunt in an area where long-range shots are necessary, you could do a whole lot worse than the X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint for your varmint rifle.

  • Available Calibers: .204 Ruger
  • Barrel Length: 26 inches
  • Overall Length: 45.625 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 5

4. The Rimfire Pick

Ruger American Rimfire Compact

The Ruger American Rimfire Compact is perfect for a varmint hunter on a budget, as well as any hunter looking for a really lightweight, easy-to-carry rifle on a rimfire platform. It's also in inexpensive and sweet shooting rimfire cartridges like the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (also known as .22 Magnum) and .22 Long Rifle.

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Sporting a short, 18-inch barrel, this is a quality bolt-action rifle, but it's not intended for varmint hunting at long range. Instead, it's an ideal choice for hunters who need to clean pests out of the garden without making a lot of noise, and those who need a rifle to carry around in the truck just in case they have to deal with an unexpected problem critter.

  • Available Calibers: .17 HMR, .22 WMR, .22 LR
  • Barrel Length: 18 inches
  • Overall Length: 35.75 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 9 (.17 HMR and .22 WMR) or 10 (.22 LR)

5. The Adjustable Option

Savage 110 Varmint

What if you're on a budget but still want a nice coyote gun for medium-to-long-range shots? The Savage Arms 110 Varmint will fit the bill. Though more expensive than the Ruger American Compact Varmint, it's still very reasonably priced and has some capabilities and features the Ruger American lacks.

Savage's "AccuTrigger" and "AccuStock," let the shooter adjust the trigger-pull weight as well as the stock comb height and length of pull. These features help users customize the rifle for a personalized fit right out of the box. Available in .204 Ruger, .223 Remington and the .22-250 Remington, the Savage 110 is also well-suited for coyote hunters who like using cartridges with a really high muzzle velocity and the flat trajectory possible.

  • Available Calibers: .204 Ruger, .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington
  • Barrel Length: 26 inches
  • Overall Length: 45 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 4

6. The Lever Action Varmint Gun

Henry Varmint Express

Built with varmint hunters who love lever-action cowboy rifles in mind, the Henry Varmint Express is a compact and lightweight rifle chambered in .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire. It's not a long-range varmint rifle by stretch of the imagination, but similar to the .22 Hornet, the .17 HMR is a relatively quiet- and flat-shooting cartridge that's ideal for prairie dogs, foxes, and other small varmints at short-to-moderate ranges with less chance of a ricochet than higher-velocity cartridges.

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Similar to the Henry Small Game Rifle in many respects, the Henry Varmint Express is also fast-pointing and really easy to carry, regardless of whether you're on foot, on horseback, or in a hunting blind.

  • Available Calibers: .17 HMR
  • Barrel Length: 19.25 inches
  • Overall Length: 37.5 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 11

7. The Coyote Hunting Choice

Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light

Similar to the Remington Model 700, no list of the best varmint rifles would be complete without a Winchester Model 70. Chambered in the high octane .22-250 Remington cartridge, this rifle is designed for taking long-range shots on coyotes. Incorporating a fluted, 26-inch barrel and a high-end composite stock, the Model 70 Coyote Light will deliver high-end performance under a wide array of demanding conditions when using the right varmint ammo.

  • Available Calibers: .22-250 Remington
  • Barrel Length: 26 inches
  • Overall Length: 45 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 4

8. The All-American Option

Ruger American Predator

Ruger made a few modifications to their proven bolt-action Ruger American line of rifles to develop the Ruger American Predator. These rifles feature a heavier taper barrel, a one-piece scope rail, and a moss green synthetic stock. Chambered in a wide variety of extremely popular varmint cartridges, the new Ruger American Predator is highly regarded for great accuracy, which helps hunters get the job done at longer range.

While it's a little bit more expensive than the base model Ruger American, this rifle is still pretty affordable. It's a great choice for hunters wanting a very capable heavy barrel varmint rifle without having to spend a bunch of money.

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  • Available Calibers: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Winchester, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Winchester, 350 Legend
  • Barrel Length: 16.38 inches (350 Legend), 18 inches (.308 Winchester), 20 inches (350 Legend), 22 inches (.204 Ruger, .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Winchester, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem, 350 Legend)
  • Magazine Capacity: 3 (6mm Creedmoor) 4 (.22-250 Rem, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Winchester), 5 (350 Legend), 10 (.204 Ruger, .223 Remington, 6.5 Grendel)

9. The High-Class Pick

Tikka T3x Super Varmint rifle on white background

Tikka

Tikka T3x Super Varmint

For when you're ready to take things up a notch, the Tikka T3x Super Varmint is well worth your consideration. Upgraded in 2021, the Super Varmint has several great varmint-centric characteristics that make it worth the slightly higher MSRP. The heavy barrel has a Tungsten Cerakote finish, the stock is upgraded to a grippy Roughtech material, and a two-stage trigger comes standard.

A fluted bolt cuts down on weight, and the oversized bolt knob will be welcomed by varmint hunters looking for accurate follow up shots. The cheek piece on this hunting rifle is adjustable for optimal optics alignment, and it's executed with just the twist of a knob, as opposed to using required tools to take the whole stock apart.

  • Available Calibers: .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5x55 SE, .270 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, 7mm Rem Mag, .308 Win, .30-06, .300 Win Mag, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5 PRC
  • Barrel Length: 23.7 inches (6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .22-250 Rem, .223 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5x55 SE, .270 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, 7mm Rem Mag, .308 Win, .30-06, .300 Win Mag), 20 inches (.223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5x55 SE, .270 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Win, .30-06, 6.5 Creedmoor)
  • Magazine Capacity: 4 (6.5 PRC), 6 (.223 Rem), 5 (all remaining calibers)

10. The Air-Powered Budget Choice

Gamo Varmint

This .177 caliber, lightweight air gun from Gamo is not just included as an air-powered afterthought, but instead because it's actually a heck of an option for several specific kinds of varmint hunting. You'll make less noise and experience less recoil with an air gun, and it's still perfectly capable of putting down pests.

The .177 caliber pellets can reach 1,250 feet per second when fired from the Gamo Varmint, and it comes with a 4x32 scope for instant hunt-ready characteristics. It comes with an all weather synthetic stock for durability, which includes non-slip texturing on the pistol grip and forearm. The gun's Monte Carlo cheek pad promotes great alignment with the scope and a rubber recoil pad adds more comfort and fit. The break barrel, spring-powered cocking system only allows for single shots, but it's easily the least expensive firearm on this list.

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  • Available Calibers: .177
  • Barrel Length: 17.8 inches
  • Capacity: 1 (single shot)

READ MORE: 17 HORNET: THE FAST, CENTERFIRE VARMINT HUNTING ALTERNATIVE TO 17 HMR

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