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Which .22 rifle should I choose for rabbit shooting?

Talking about .22 rifles for pest control and rabbiting

The wild rabbit

After rabbits with an air rifle?

Q: I am looking for a decent 
.22 rimfire for rabbit shooting and pest control. My local gunsmith 
is selling a second-hand Sako Finnfire for £350 — are they any good?

A: I should say so — I shoot an older Finnfire rimfire and it has never 
let me down. They were introduced in 1996 as the model to succeed the hugely popular Finnscout Model 78 .22 rimfire rifle and were soon snapped up by pest controllers and vermin shooters worldwide. It is available in three versions: Hunter, the standard model, Varmint, with a heavier barrel, and Range. I would assume the rimfire 
in question is the Hunter, which has 
a walnut stock, detachable five-shot magazine and should be screw cut 
for a sound moderator.

They differ from the newer Sako Quad in that they have a fixed barrel, whereas the Quad has interchangeable barrels. There is a new Finnfire version, the Model 2, but people still rate the original as the best rimfire Sako has made. There are things you should be sure to check before you buy, though.

  • Is the five-shot magazine there and are there any spares, as the 10-shot magazines are worth having and are expensive.
  • The bolt should be smooth, and check the bolt face is not gummed up with debris from wax or unburned powder, as this indicates neglect.
  • Also, with the bolt out, check the ejector is there and unbroken. It is a small sprung wire and easily damaged.
  • A lot of people shorten rimfire barrels, which is fine, but check the muzzle and threads for a sound moderator are well cut and corrosion free. Original barrels were 22in on the Hunter model.
  • Finally, do a general check for rust on the blued steel, make sure the stock screws are not damaged and the stock 
is relatively scratch free and has no small cracks around the pistol grip. If 
all is well then for £350 it is a bargain 
— if you don’t buy it, I will.

Q: I am having trouble choosing a .22 rifle, as I have a limited budget. Can you make some suggestions?

A: The answer is simple. As it is your first rifle for rabbit shooting, you should go for a bolt-action design.

That is not to say that a lever, auto, pump-action or single shot is wrong for you, but a good bolt-action will serve you well, and there is a wide choice.

  • If you are just after a rabbit shooting rifle, then a fixed-barrel .22LR would suffice, though there is now a rimfire with barrels that can be switched to a different calibre to deal with foxes.
  • This is the CZ 455, which can switch a barrel to .17 HMR.
  • Also, there is the Sako Quad, which has four barrel options — .17 Mach 2; .17 HMR; .22LR and .22 WMR.
  • If, however, you simply require a good rimfire rifle, a CZ 455 or an older second-hand model (CZ 452) would make a superb rabbit rifle.
  • These rifles are extremely reliable, offer excellent accuracy and are almost impossible to break.
  • Hundreds of thousands have been made, so there is always a good second-hand choice with either walnut or synthetic stock options and heavy or sporter barrels.
  • I would definitely buy one with the barrel threaded so that you can fit a sound moderator.
  • If you are able to spend a little more, then Anschutz rimfires offer excellent quality, match-grade accuracy and superb triggers.