Rabbits with a .22
Written by Brownbear
Having been killing an awfullot of bunnies with the .22 lately, I thought I'd pass on what I've
learned recently. There is a great controversy concerning the .17HMR
vs. .22 choice - but as far as I'm concerned, the .22 still comes out
Why .22? Bolt or semi?
The .22 is the only truly silent rifle. With relatively inexpensive
sound moderator and subsonic ammunition, the only sound you hear is the
firing pin falling, apart from the impact of the bullet on whatever it
hits. This is another reason to go for head shots, as the sound of a
bullet going through a rabbit's lungs makes an almighty slap, but the
sound of an impact on the head is relatively silent.
After experimentation, I have gone for the CZ (or BRNO as some call
it) bolt-action rifle. The Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic is popular with
many, but has severe drawbacks. Firstly, it shares with other semis the
problem of reduced accuracy - it's useful in theory to be able to take
a fast second shot, but it's unlikely that it will be a lot quicker
than a bolt gun, given that you need to bring the reticle of the sight
to bear on your target rather than just blaze away as with a shotgun.
Thus, your quick reload is more than cancelled out with the reduced
accuracy of the semi. Common to other semis is the problem of reduced
power (15-20% of the propellent power is used to operate the mechanism)
and increased noise (of the action slamming away and discharging gas).
They are also prone to jam every 300-400 shots or so, as the .22LR is a
very 'dirty' round, so a full strip and rezero is necessary at regular
intervals. In addition, the Ruger has a very heavy trigger - about
10lbs of pressure is necessary to discharge it, which can easily take
your aim off.
The Sako Finnfire is another very fine rifle, but is no longer made,
Sako having changed to the expensive and - to my mind - rather flimsy
After experimentation, I find that the best round for rabbiting is
the Eley Subsonic hollow-point. .22 hi-velocity ammunition in theory
extends range, but makes a hell of a racket. Winchester subs are OK but
not of very high quality of bullet manufacture, leading to inherent
inaccuracy. Eley subsonics are, to use up spare capacity, manufactured
on the same machines as the higher grades of match bullets used in
target competitions. They are more accurate and reliable for only a few
Most subsonics are 40-grain - CCI make a 60-grain, and although
these have more stopping power at short ranges, the added weight
reduces range and causes an irritating amount of bullet drop to
compensate for. If you're going for head shots (necessary to drop the
little buggers), consistency and accuracy matters a lot.
The .22 is perfectly accurate out to 100 yards if the bullet drop
is properly compensated for. My method is to use a Bushnell Yardage Pro
rangefinder (I got it for deer stalking but it's had much more use in
rabbit shooting, where twenty yards can cause a 2-inch drop at the
100-yard range) to get the range accurate to a couple of yards, and use
it with a Bushnell E3200 10x40 scope with target turrets. Having zeroed
the scope in on the range for distances from fifty to a hundred yards,
in ten-yard stages, I can use this with the rangefinder to alter the
'scope with the precise number of clicks required to be on zero for any
Many people go in for camo and hides etc, which can be useful if
lying up, but my preferred method is to walk up on the quarry to within
reasonable range - I find that about 75 yards gives the ideal
combination of accuracy and stealth. What is necessary is a rifle rest.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to take prone shots (ie not too
uneven ground, not full of nettles, thistles and cowshit etc), then the
trusty Harris bipod is your best bet. If you're taking a lot of
standing shots, then a Stoney Point or x3m1 tall bipod is your best
bet. One note about the x3m1 - it's best to replace the crappy,
self-unscrewing joint at the top with a bolt going into one of those
locking nuts with the plastic around the edge to hold them firm. And
remove the stupid strap from across the top of the bipod, it achieves
nothing but to get in the way.
Anyway, this method works very well for me, and I hope it's of some
use to others. Given the smallness of the target (below the rabbit's
ear) and the shorter ranges, rabbit shooting calls for more accuracy
than deer-stalking - the DSC1 requires 3 shots in a four-inch circle at
100 metres. Try 2" accuracy at 50 yards in rabbit shooting and see how
far it gets you.