The Perfect Squirrel Gun

When people find out I’m a hardcore squirrel hunter, I start getting questions about the “best” rifle or gun for squirrel hunting and then what are my recommendations for the “best” squirrel gun.  It can be a fun discussion, to which the right answer is hunter specific.  It’s the classic “Ford vs. Chevy” debate that’s been going on for years.

Here’s my standard answer: The best squirrel gun is the one that meets 2 criteria:

#1 – You enjoy hunting and shooting that firearm.

#2 – You can take squirrels in an ethical manner.

For me, it’s as simple as that.

Having squirrel hunted for two decades now, I’ve heard of people using everything from a flintlock .30 musket to a $2,000 Cooper .22, to a single shot 12 gauge shotgun, and a few even weirder things. In my humble opinion, there is no “best” choice that will meet everyone’s needs. What I consider the “best”, you might consider the absolute worst. It’s all relative to what you enjoy hunting with.

CZ 452 American

If you are a regular reader of the SHJ blog, then you may already know that I’m a fan of very accurate .22 caliber rifles as my personal favorite (or “best” for me). While I’ve owned, used, or tried a whole slew of different 22’s throughout my life, my current favorite are the line of CZ 452 .22’s.  The 452’s have been phased out of production for the newer 455.  You would be very lucky to find a 452 new on a dealers shelf.  Most likely they will be purchased on the second hand market, if you can pry it out of the owners hands.  I don’t own a 455, and am not sure overall it is a better rifle, however if I were to choose a 455 it would certainly be a wood stocked model.   I own several 452’s in a few different configurations and calibers (.22 and 17 Mach 2). For my purposes, each of my CZ rifles is mission driven, they have there own application, and are geared towards a specific type of hunting.

When I’m hunting over dogs or I’ll be covering lots of ground, I typically go with a lighter weight CZ that has smaller optics. In situations where I’m still hunting, I usually go with a model that has a higher powered scope (4.5-16 or 6-20) with the expectation that I need to be prepared to potentially longer shots. The higher magnification glass also helps out at the range with sight in.

CZ 452 American 16

Effective 10/01/13, my home state of NC will begin allowing suppressors to be used during hunts. Luckily, I’ve got a CZ 452 American with a threaded barrel, and it was a real treat to hunt with it this season. It’s really amazing how quiet one of these suppressors can make your rifle!  If you like to come close to your bag limit for a day the suppressor can help you in that effort.  You’ll sometimes have the opportunity to take more than one squirrel in the same tree with subsonic ammo in combination with the suppressor.  “Hey, Earl, what cha eatin’ over there?”  “Earl?”  “Where’d Earl go?”  That’s how I picture the squirrel conversation in my head.

CZ 452 Ultra Lux Squirrel

Why do I prefer the CZ .22 as my favorite? Well, I prefer a bolt gun over a semi-auto, and I haven’t found an out of the box bolt 22 that shoots as accurately as a CZ (in most cases) given the price point.  Plus, the CZ series of 22’s are relatively easy to work on if you are into some home gunsmithing. Depending on your level of skill, things like a trigger job, new firing pin spring, or bedding job can be done without that much fuss.  I like a number of other .22 brands, but, the CZ 452 is my go to choice right now. Ask me this question 2 years from now, I might have an entirely different answer. (<<This may be coming to fruition.  I’m currently field evaluating a Fred Feddersen 10/22, more to come on that soon.)  I’m also a huge fan of the 22 cartridge.  Given the choice of a .22lr or a .17hm2 knowing the .17hm2 is a superior squirrel cartridge, I’d pick the .22lr.  Strictly preference here.   Brad (squirrel hunting camera man extraordinaire) and I have a few CZ’s at the gunsmith at the moment awaiting a pillar and glass bedding job, in hopes for consistent 5 shot, dime sized groups at 50 yards.  Don’t think for a minute that they weren’t capable of groups that could take a squirrel, plenty of evidence on this website for that.  We just wanted tighter grouping and decided to see if gunsmithing would help them out.

CZ 452 American 16 Nate

Remember the goal is to enjoy the hunt, and equipment you are using.   So hunt with whatever firearm brings you the most pleasure and can get the job done.

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30 thoughts on “The Perfect Squirrel Gun

  1. Moved from southern Missouri where squirrel hunting is more than a sport, it’s a rite. We moved to Arizona and I thought my squirrel hunting was over. Wrong! Different squirrels (Averts) and different tactics. My CZ ultra lux is my go to rifle. Great sights and accuracy. I have always preferred iron sights. In the pines the shots can vary from 25 to 75 yards. Thanks for this web site.

  2. Nate,
    I have been a real die hard Squirrel hunter more years than I would like to admit. I’ve hunted them in several states with my favorite being Northern Indiana. Those big ol’ Fox Squirrels they grow up there are something else.
    I honestly don’t know how many Squirrels I’ve harvested through the years, but a bunch would cover it. LOL!!
    Squirrel rifles are still a passion of mine and the 22lr. is my all time favorite. I agree that the CZ is really hard to beat for the money, but for me, my ol’ standby I’ve used since the late 70’s a Kleinguenther I bought new back then and I still own. This one sports double set triggers, Leupold rimfire rings, and a Burris Compact 6X AO scope with fine duplex crosshairs. That rifle loves the RWS Subsonics. I’ve spent a lot of cash trying to build a sporter rimfire that shoots as well as that old KDF does and haven’t really been all that successful.
    Thanks Nate for taking the time to setup a website dedicated to Squirrel hunting.


    1. Hi Nate. I have enjoyed several of your topics. I hunt in southern IN where the trees are tall and the valleys are steep. In well over 30 years of squirrel hunting, I have had the opportunity to audition at least 20 potential ultimate squirrel rifles and scopes. I agree with you that there is no magic answer. Much depends on one’s personal preferences and budget. My ultimate squirrel rifle would actually be a mix of several different rifle’s features all rolled into one perfect rifle that unfortunately is not current offered and will most likely never be made. For the past several years, I have settled on the Anschutz 1712 in a McMillan FWT stock. I like the single stage triggers and change the trigger spring so I can easily and safely get down to a 1 pound pull with zero creep. I like the Leupold 6.5-20 EFR Fine Duplex reticle scope the best. My sling is a Vero Vellini Wide Top neoprene. Federal Gold Metal Ultra Match is hollow-pointed with a Neal Waltz Die. It all seems to work well for me.

      1. Personal preference and budget are the two biggest contributors to choosing a squirrel rifle for myself. Having had the opportunity to shoot a couple Anschutz rifles I’ll have to say they are very nice. The Waltz Die is great for taking target ammo that groups so well, and making it a viable hunting round. I’m so happy that Mr. Waltz created a die that can do such a job. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. Good luck this season!

  3. Nate I’m glad I bought the CZ 452 (LH) man does that gun shoot sweet!!! With Winchester sub sonic ammo at 50 yards easy dime size groups and the trigger is so sweet I’m ready to buy another one lol… Bro thanks for the great info

    1. That’s great to hear. I’m glad you are having luck with that round. I can’t seem to make it work for me without having a flyer every 5th round. A CZ has the tendency to make you want another once you’ve acquired your first. I’m pleased that you were able to find my information helpful, now put that CZ 452 to good use!

  4. Currently using my 12 gauge with #6 and carrying a Ruger Charger with a red dot on my hip. Great combo. I also sometimes use my Savage model 42. It sounds like a pellet gun with subsonics 🙂

  5. I have certainly enjoyed reading your blog and watching the videos of your hunts. After a very long absence from squirrel hunting (years), I will be back in the woods this season. Ironically, I recently purchased a CZ 455 American and topped it with a Nikon 3×9 Target EFR. This before accidently finding your website. Great minds I guess. This will be my first experience with the CZ but I have been extremely impressed with it at the range. I’ve settled on the CCI SV due to how well it groups from my rifle. Perhaps a Yo Dave trigger kit is in my future also.

    I took your advice on the binos. Even bought the one you recommend. Looking forward to giving them a try.

    Thanks again for sharing your experience and what you’ve learned chasing the wiley ole bushy tail.

    1. Glad you are motivated to get back at squirrel hunting. I’m glad that 455/Nikon combo is working out. If she’s on at the range I wouldn’t fret about the woods. CCI SV is a good load especially for the price. Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. Hope to hear back from you on the binos.

  6. Well times almost here, feddersens are ready, CZ’s and me are ready. I was coming back from Kure yesterday, took the girls down before it turns cold. Caught very little, a few whiting and spots, to hot , we’ll get’em at hatteras next month between the squirrel hunts. RR……U.S.M.C…….71-72……..loved the videos………

  7. I sure enjoy your videos, Nate.
    I use my tricked out Savage 93 HMR and my stock skinny barrel Savage .17 WSM BMAG. Yes, the WSM may seem a bit over-kill to some folks and head shots are a must for squirrels.

    Later squirrel season here in Iowa presents much longer shots, so longer shooting .17 rifles are nice to hunt with. 100 yard and longer shots are common when our leaves drop.

    Being able to hunt with .17 rifles after being limited for so many years hunting with .22 rifles is a blessing, as for my hunting. Occasional varmints ( coyotes and feral cats) are also shot while squirrel hunting and my .17 WSM has proven itself better than my HMR.

    Our Iowa squirrel season runs to about the end of August until the last of January. Your Mach2 would work good here for hunting.

    Do you have a problem finding ammo for your Mach2 rifle, Nate? I never see it in the stores here.

    1. We sure enjoy filming our hunts to share with other squirrel hunters as well as those new to the hunting lifestyle. I use to hunt with the 17 HMR but found it overkill in my situation, plus the report of the rifle is a little much for me. I bet after head shooting a squirrel with the WSM there is only neck left. My buddies hound me for wanting to sell my HM2, and it hardly sees the woods because of the ability to suppress my 22’s. I haven’t been searching for Mach II ammo so I’m not sure of the availability, but I have some Eley to cover my rifle if I find the need to bring it back out. Thanks for stopping by and checking the blog out. Glad to have you.

  8. you want be a real squirrel hunter, get you a thompson center contender with a 10” match barrel, just like a short version of the ridgerunner…………………one hole…………………..

  9. My son and I are hunting squirrels with our Black Mouth Cur and Shotguns. He uses a .410 lever action by Rossi and I use a .410 Encore with 10″ barrel. I would really like to use a .22 handgun or my dad’s old Marlin lever action .22 with octagon barrel, but I am concerned about using a .22 and missing the squirrel and the backstop while the bullet just keeps going. I’m not sure where the bullet would end up and what damage it could do. Do you have any thoughts on the matter?

  10. you ever tried one of those Koonts skinners they have over at Tree-Luke kennels in Thomasville,N.C. AMAZING………………

  11. now that deer seasons over, it’s time for me to pick up one of my 452’s . I also have one with a suppressor, in my world the CZ’s and Contender 10 in. match barreled pistols rule the squirrel kingdom…I purchased a scout, 16in. barrel CZ, put a leupold 2.7×28 on it, you don’t even know you’re carrying it, just as accurate as the rest of them. Been told by cz that they do still make the 452’s, just not on a regular basis………..Killem an Grillem …………………in GOD i trust…………….

  12. I love squirrel hunting and I really like your website. I also deer and turkey hunt. I have always used a shotgun in the squirrel woods, but have decided to try it with a .22 rifle and I also plan to use the .22 for practice during the deer off-season. I read your reviews about scopes and I got the ProStaff Target EFR. I had originally intended to mount it on a semi-auto Marlin .22 that I already have, but I have decided to get a bolt rifle. I read your advice about the perfect squirrel rifle, talked to a friend about CZ’s, and I read some reviews about the 452 and the 455. The reviews I read about the 455 were very positive and said it compared well with the 452. Have you gotten any additional information since you wrote your review? I am trying to decide if it is worth the time and effort to track down a 452 or will I be okay just going with the 455, which seems to be more readily available. You noted in your article that if you got a 455 you would go with a wood stock. Is that preference based on effectiveness or appearance? The only suppressor ready model that I saw at the CZ-USA website was a synthetic stock 455. Also, my deer rifles are not the Lux (“hogback”) stocks, they’re just regular stocks, so I am not familiar with the Lux. Is there any advantage to the Lux stock? Thanks for your help with this!!

  13. I am so glad i stumbled upon this site :0 This is great. I also have a similar background and love for squirrel hunting , I was raised on the Remington 541-T , it is the best rifle i have ever shot . One hole groups at 25 yards and not much more than that at 50. I just purchased that same cz 452 threaded barrel , and i am going for the suppressor real soon. I can not wait for that. I will take the time to share some of my hunts and pics on here real soon. 🙂

    1. Since I couldn’t find a place for squirrel hunting addicts, I had to create one. I’ve heard great things about the 541-T. A squirrel rifle, equipped with suppressor, will be the first rifle you reach for after you hunt with it once. Thanks for stopping by.

      1. well Nate as you will see I replied twice and was just trying to share some images , you can delete them if you want as i am sure you moderate the site. Is there a section for linking images that i am not seeing ?

  14. That’s awesome. Just bought my first bolt 22, a 452 FS, which I can’t wait to shoot. Would you have any reservations about mounting a fixed power Nikon prostaff 4×32? I’m a ‘keep it simple stupid’ kind of guy, and don’t anticipate needing variable power inside 100 yards.

    1. I’d say for the FS model that a fixed 4 power scope may be the most popular choice when glassing that rifle. A close second would go to a scope in the 2-7 power range, as it meets about the same size requirements, but gives you added magnification if needed. Fixed power is about the best “KISS” scopes there are. There are less moving parts and more light gathering capabilities. Also with the European style “hogback” stock, the lower the scope the better for you to use the comb properly to line up your eye with the scope. I think you’ll get plenty of enjoyment out of this scope/rifle combo.

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