What are the Best Squirrel Guns for Beginners?

The best squirrel guns for beginners are easy to use and sight in, affordable, quiet, safe, and readily available. Using these metrics, break-barrel and Pre-Charged Pneumatics (PCP) air rifles are better squirrel guns for beginners than rim fire or shotguns.

Related: Squirrel hunting tips and tricks.

Best squirrel guns

The best break-barrel squirrel guns.

Break barrel air rifles are widely available in .177 and .22 calibers. Breaking the barrel (basically folding the rifle in on itself) compresses the air with enough force to produce a minimum of 1,000 FPS for a .177 pellet or 800FPS for a .22 pellet to kill a squirrel.

Break barrel air rifles have two minor drawbacks. The first is the action of completely breaking the barrel can require a great deal of force. After breaking the barrel, a pellet is inserted into the rifle, and the barrel is locked back into place. Most smaller adults will have to find a way to work around this issue.

Secondly, there can be minor differences in shot placement between each firing. This is because the barrel (cocking lever) and the breech don’t always come back together in the same exact position. However, the loss of accuracy is negligible at the suggested ranges for hunting squirrels.

Squirrel guns, red squirrel.

Maximum ranges for break-barrel squirrel guns.

Using the suggested minimum FPS for .177 and .22 pellets listed above, new squirrel hunters should sight their rifles in for 30 yards. Squirrel hunting at this range will produce clean kills and consistent shot placement.

Higher FPS velocities and greater experience will eventually lead to some shooters reaching 75 yards. However, limits are imposed on ranges over 50 yards, such as pellet types, shooting stances, and vegetation that make such shots unusual with a break-barrel squirrel gun.

The best place to shoot a squirrel with a break-barrel or PCP air rifle squirrel gun is center mass.

The best squirrel guns
Authors favorite break-barrel air rifle squirrel guns.

The two best break-barrel squirrel guns.

I have spent a lot of money on air rifles and now only keep two ready to deploy for a quick round of squirrel hunting. These air rifles are both new and, with their rust-proof exteriors, are unlikely to be replaced during my lifetime.

For the record, I own the Gamo Swarm Maxxim G2 .177 Cal Multi-Shot Pellet Rifle and the Rugеr Impact Max Elite .22  seen in the photo above. Both come with scopes, but I love using iron sites and left the Ruger bare.

Using an air rifle reduces the noise you make taking a squirrel, which often leads to a deadly surprise for the next squirrel you encounter. However, using the Gamo or Ruger I own, with their built-in noise dampers, I can hunt squirrels, even while hunting deer.

Shooting squirrels while deer hunting? Yes, and for a couple of reasons. 

First, there’s nothing more relaxing than permanently silencing an alarm sounding red squirrel. I’m 90% sure no deer will come into my stand with a red squirrel hollering at the top of its lungs. So, that quick, muffled pop is worth it— for the blessed silence that follows.

Second, I get bored stand hunting deer. Adding squirrel hunting to the mix ratchets things up, keeps me scanning, and helps me stay awake.

Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) squirrel guns.

I confess you do not need to spend the money to buy a PCP squirrel gun. Unless you have a fox killing your chickens or want to hunt gophers, rabbits, or other small game—PCP air rifles are unnecessarily expensive. No, they are worthless for someone who will only be hunting squirrels.

PCP air rifles for squirrel hunting.

A pre-charged pneumatic air rifle is just that, a rifle with an air tank pre-filled with highly compressed air. And boy, do I mean highly compressed! I recommend the Benjamin Armada Air Rifle—that baby takes 3,000 psi (if you buy one, get the pump for it). This rifle fires .22 caliber pellets at 1,110 FPS and can fire 30 pellets on a single air tank charge. It is deadly accurate and will kill a fox (with a headshot—using an included scope) at 25 yards.

PCP air rifles are even more expensive than a Ruger 10/22. But they are much quieter, and there are fewer fliers (errant rounds). Filling the tank is a chore—but less work than breaking a barrel 30 times for the same number of rounds fired.

Using squirrel guns for other critters.

Any of the above-mentioned air rifles can be used to hunt squirrels, rock pigeons, porcupines (I kill porcupines with mine all the time), chipmunks, foxes, rabbits, skunks, and a variety of rodents. Yes, some skill is involved, but your neighbors (even the next-door kind) will never hear your shot.

Not that your neighbors need to worry—if you follow all the state and local laws and every one of the firearm safety rules. A .22 pellet will deliver about 25-foot pounds of energy. Compare that to a .22 rimfire’s 100-foot pounds. Properly handled, a PCP air rifle, especially if fired at night, won’t even produce a noticeable report. If it does, it will often be instantly dismissed by the hearer.

Using a squirrel gun in the dark.

See them in the dark and catch them in the act! No, not the squirrels; they are not nocturnal. I’m talking about all the other pests, chicken and duck killers, and property-destroying animals listed above. Many of these pests can legally be taken at night; all you need is some night vision gear.

Probably the cheapest, most reliable, and easiest to use night vision equipment I have ever bought are these night vision binoculars. If you want to see fox in the dark and shoot them, you can buy an infrared scope or thermal scope (pricey!)—and put it on a .22 or larger. I own, use, and recommend all three of these products and bought them from Amazon.

Air rifles are perfect for hunting squirrels.

Sure, I have only recommended three, but those are the three air rifles that do the job and meet the requirement of my article’s introduction. These are high-quality air rifles, unlikely to be replaced if used and maintained per the manufacturer’s instructions.

They kill squirrels all day. They kill other pests at other hours. Therefore, they have a dual purpose when you need them; hunting for sport and protecting your poultry.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for ThePredatorHunter.com.

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