6 Best Varmint Rifles: Reviews + Buyers Guide

by Dave Chesson

July 5, 2023

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My friend invited me to go varminting because some pests have been wreaking havoc on his farms lately, and I honestly had a great time sneaking around the property trying to track them down. Now, I’ve built a reliable collection of varmint rifles over the years, so I was spoiled for choice when he asked me which rifle I’d be bringing because I felt like I was being asked to choose between my kids. 

Jokes aside, picking the right rifle can be a real head-scratcher, especially if you are new to varminting. Varmints, like rats, coyotes, and groundhogs, are much faster and smaller than any of the big game we usually hunt. So speed and accuracy are essential if you want to land a kill on the first shot. All the varmint rifles I own and have used have stood out in terms of accuracy, price, speed, and range, among other things, so I’ve categorized my favorites according to their best features to help you make the right choice. 

Gun University’s Best Varmint Rifles

Best Rifles for Varmint Hunting

Remington 700 SPS Varmint
  • High accuracy
  • High durability
  • Rapid cooling
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Best close to mid-range

Ruger American Rimfire Compact

Ruger American Rimfire Compact
  • Adjustable
  • Lightweight
  • Ergonomic design
  • Ease of use
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Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint
  • Ergonomic design
  • High accuracy
  • Good eye/scope alignment
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Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle
  • Adjustable
  • Three-position safety
  • High durability
  • Quiet operation
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Tikka T3x Super Varmint
  • Adjustable
  • High accuracy
  • Easy single-loading
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Gamo Varmint Air Rifle
  • Accuracy
  • Adjustable
  • Lightweight
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Best Varmint Rifles Spec Comparison

Below is a table of the specifications for each rifle. Click the name of the item to jump to that review.

RiflesCaliberBarrel Length (in)Magazine CapacityTrigger Type
Remington 700 SPS Varmint.223 Remington264Adjustable
Ruger American Rimfire Compact22 LR189+1Adjustable
Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint.223 Remington265Adjustable
Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle.223 Remington246Adjustable
Tikka T3x Super Varmint.223 Remington206+1Two-Stage Adjustable
Gamo Varmint Air Rifle.17717.8Single ShotTwo-Stage Adjustable

Best Varmint Rifles

Here is our list for the best rifles for hunting varmints

  1. Remington 700 SPS Varmint
  2. Ruger American Rimfire Compact
  3. Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint
  4. Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle
  5. Tikka T3x Super Varmint
  6. Gamo Varmint Air Rifle

Best Varmint Rifles – Reviews

Now, I’m pretty picky when it comes to choosing the best of any rifle. There are so many things to consider, like speed, accuracy, cost and other factors. 

So when you’re reading my recommendations, identify which qualities and features are most important to you and keep your eye out for a rifle that speaks to your needs. 

Best Overall Remington 700 SPS Varmint

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Remington 700 SPS Varmint Feature Image

Remington 700 SPS Varmint

The Remington 700 is one of the most iconic bolt-action rifles ever made. The Varmint model features a heavy barrel and vented forend.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A+

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Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint Specs

  • Caliber .223 Remington
  • Barrel Length (in) 26
  • Magazine Capacity 4+1
  • Trigger Type Adjustable
  • Weight 8lbs 8oz

Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint Review

The Model 700 SPS Varmint takes the cake with its high-performance features and, in my eyes, it’s a pretty solid and dependable rifle for varmint hunting. 

The SPS Varmint is meant to deliver powerful shots at high velocities; its heavy contour barrel is enforced with “three-rings-of-steel” to withstand high impact and the front-end of the stock is cut with cooling slots to help with heat dissipation. These help your rifle last longer, and I’m always looking for features that improve the longevity of my equipment. 

High-powered rifles usually come with the side-effect of heavy recoil, but the SPS Varmint’s SuperCell® technology seriously helped cut down on recoil and didn’t leave me winded after every shot. It’s not just the recoil pad that makes this rifle so easy to handle. I also particularly liked the Monte Carlo cheek rest and its light and comfortable grip. Arm fatigue in the field is no fun, so the ergonomics of this rifle was a big win for me. 

The SPS Varmint is a beauty, but it’s also ideal for stealth attacks because its got a non-reflective matte finish that reduces glare and helps maintain your cover. It has a cylindrical solid-steel receiver that gave me consistently accurate shot placements every single time, and when I attached a scope, I could land even more accurate shots.

This rifle is among the best precision varmint rifles at this price point (approx. $700) but it’s clear that, based on the performance of its X–Mark Pro Trigger, you’d have to spend a bit more on a rifle with a high-quality trigger. The X-Mark Pro works fine for a beginner shooter, but I wasn’t happy with the shape and feel of it and am probably going to switch it out for an after-market trigger like the Timney 510 at some point.

Another issue worth mentioning is the stock. The stock isn’t free-floating and touches the barrel, which is an issue several people that I spoke to have with it as well. The stock wasn’t strong enough for free-floating, aluminum supports or better bedding would have improved accuracy.

Trigger and stock issues aside, I highly recommend this for hunters, both beginners and intermediate, in search of an all-in-one varmint rifle.

Here is our full review of the Remington 700

Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint Pros and Cons

  • Accuracy
  • High durability
  • Rapid cooling
  • Trigger – Trigger feels clunky
  • Not Free Floated – The front of the stock contacts the barrel

Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint Deals

Best close- to mid-range Ruger American Rimfire Compact

Ruger-American-Compact-Featured-Image-1200x630

Ruger American Rimfire Compact

Rimfire rifles are an excellent way to safely introduce kids to properly handling firearms.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

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Ruger American Rimfire Compact Specs

  • Caliber 22 LR
  • Barrel Length (in) 18
  • Magazine Capacity 9+1
  • Trigger Type Adjustable
  • Weight 5lbs 4.8oz

Ruger American Rimfire Compact Review

The American Rimfire is hands down one of the best rifles for close-range varmint hunting and if quick and easy pest control is your primary goal, you can’t go wrong with this one. 

The barrel is threaded (has external helical grooves) which makes the rifle easier to disassemble, but the biggest advantage this brings over non-threaded barrels is the improved accuracy. The barrel is probably what makes the American Rimfire such an accurate close-range rifle, and I managed to nail every single shot I attempted from a 15 yard distance.

Now, being able to take a quiet shot is very important to me because I don’t want to give away my position and risk losing my prey. This is why I like that the American Rimfire is compatible with a sound suppressor. Like other Ruger models, this one comes with a removable magazine with a unique rotor that separates the cartridges for a reliable shot every time. Plus, the magazines fit seamlessly with the bottom of the stock, so I wasn’t bugged by any attachments getting in the way.

The American Rimfire also comes with a smooth trigger feel and a bedding system that free-floats the barrel, meaning the barrel doesn’t touch the stock. This gives it an edge over the Remington 700, for me at least, but it comes with a couple of cons. 

First, don’t expect to land a bullseye with the American Rimfire if you’re trying to shoot more than 50 yards. My groupings got quite sloppy the further out I went from 25 yards. Given that I usually hunt from 40 yards, this was a bit of a downer for me. 

Secondly, extracting the used casings was a bit of a struggle and it actually failed a couple of times, but I’m not sure if I mishandled it or just needed some time to adjust to the short pull of the bolt, because it eventually went smoothly as I shot more rounds. 

The Ruger American Rimfire is very affordable for beginner hunters and for $500, it’s got pretty much everything you need for close-range varminting. It’s also super fun to shoot, so try it out if you need an everyday partner for pest-control or just want to get into rifle hunting.

Ruger American Rimfire Compact Pros and Cons

  • Adjustable
  • Lightweight
  • Ergonomic design
  • Ease of use
  • Extraction is tough
  • Accuracy dips beyond mid-range

Ruger American Rimfire Compact Deals

Best speed Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint

Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint Feature Image

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A

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Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint Specs

  • Caliber .223 Remington
  • Barrel Length (in) 26
  • Magazine Capacity 5
  • Trigger Type Adjustable
  • Weight 9lbs 5oz

Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint Review

Browning is usually known for factory rifles of custom-made quality and, sure enough, we have the Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint proving that. Back when I was helping my friend clear out the overpopulated prairie dog town down at his pasture, the X-Bolt landed some clean shots  when we sighted in from 200 yards away. So after my trip to the farms, I can certainly vouch for its killer speed and accuracy combo that can stop varmints dead in their tracks.

The X-Bolt has an impressive muzzle velocity of 3,200 FPS and to put it into perspective, the Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint I picked as the best overall averages around 2,300 FPS. This is pretty much the community standard for an awesome varmint rifle, but the X-Bolt eats most other models for breakfast. 

Despite the rifle being powerful with its muzzle velocity and also considerably heavy, I didn’t have to worry too much about the recoil. The muzzle brake at the end of the barrel blocks any noticeable recoil or muzzle jump. Plus, even the slight recoil that it has got absorbed into the Browning’s Inflex Technology recoil pad, which is also made to be super comfortable if you’re stand-shooting without a mount.  

Speaking of ergonomics, the X-Bolt has an interesting bolt handle with a flat knob that I thought was a great addition. Plus, it’s easy to handle and doesn’t get in the way when I pull the trigger. Bolt-action rifles should always have a bolt handle with a good, functional grip, and the Browning added their own flair to make a smooth-functioning bolt. 

I ran into some trigger issues with the X-Bolt though, just like I did with the SPS Varmint. According to Browning themselves, the trigger is supposed to be adjustable from 3 to 5 lbs, but I wasn’t able to get mine below 4 lbs. Now luckily I didn’t run into any major issues with this while I was on pest control duty at the farm, but you should still keep an eye out for this especially if you’re looking out for a varmint rifle with an adjustable trigger.

The bottom line is though, this is a great varmint rifle. Considering how easy the X-Bolt is to handle, how well it fits in your shooting hand, and its deadly speed and accuracy, you can trust the rifle to help clear your pest infestations with some smooth bolt-action work. 

Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint Pros and Cons

  • Ergonomic design
  • High accuracy
  • High speed
  • Heavy
  • Trigger isn’t adjustable

Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint Deals

Best for coyote Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle

Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle Feature Image

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

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Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle Specs

  • Caliber .223 Remington
  • Barrel Length (in) 24
  • Magazine Capacity 6
  • Trigger Type Adjustable
  • Weight 7lbs 8oz

Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle Review

Coyotes are a huge annoyance and they’d been paying unwelcome visits to prey on the prairie dog town in my friend’s pasture, so naturally we had to take up arms against coyotes too. They’re more predatory than other types of varmints, so stealth, accuracy, and speed are pretty important when taking the hunt to them. That’s exactly why the quiet, accurate, and extremely fast Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle is my pick for getting coyotes under control.

When you’re trying to shoot with speed and power, you need a mechanism that helps to maintain balance, and with the Coyote Light, it’s the long and heavy barrel that gives me the stability to stand my ground after each shot. The Coyote Light’s barrel bends less than a standard barrel so there’s less chance of recoil or muzzle jump, and it also takes longer to heat up, meaning I could shoot more rounds before it needed to cool down. 

The Coyote Light also has a few safety features that are rare for varminting rifles. It’s got safeties on at three different points of action; at rest, opening the bolt, and ready to fire. The best part is these safeties don’t reset every time you fire, so these won’t become a hassle in the field. This makes the Coyote Light a pretty solid choice if you’re just starting out with varminting or just want to play it safe overall.

The rifle fires at a muzzle velocity of around 2,800 FPS, which is way above the average for varminting rifles. This is the kind of speed that leaves a mark, so coupled with the accuracy and the heavy barrel, you’ve got yourself a pretty sweet rifle that gets the job done. 

On the flip side, the weight of the rifle was a pain in my side, and that was just from stand-shooting. I can’t imagine the inconvenience of stalking a target while carrying this around, even for a couple of hours. 

The other drawback about this rifle is the heavy 5 lbs trigger pull that caused my groupings to end up larger and further to the right of where I aimed. Since all it takes is a bit of tinkering to adjust the trigger pull, I decided to overlook this hiccup. A slightly larger grouping is not going to hurt my overall accuracy that much when I’m hunting larger varmints anyway. 

All in all, the Coyote Light is a durable, powerful and accurate rifle that’s designed to do some serious damage to varmints, especially the predator-type like coyotes.  

Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle Pros and Cons

  • Adjustable
  • Three-position safety
  • High durability
  • Quiet operation
  • Heavy trigger
  • Not suitable for stalking

Winchester Model 70 Coyote Light Rifle Deals

Best premium Tikka T3x Super Varmint

Tikka T3x Super Varmint Feature Image

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

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Tikka T3x Super Varmint Specs

  • Caliber .223 Remington
  • Barrel Length (in) 20
  • Magazine Capacity 6+1
  • Trigger Type Adjustable
  • Weight 8lbs 4.8oz

Tikka T3x Super Varmint Review

Tikka T3x Super Varmint is an excellent varminting rifle. It’s a pricey pick, but it’s sleek, durable, incredibly accurate and totally worth it. I shot a few rounds at the range and got groupings that were so small I could cover them with a dime.  

The accuracy came in handy when my friend and I had to drive around in the night to spot some coyotes and had to take aim from the bed of his truck. On top of being very precise, the Super Varmint was pretty stable when I shot and it wasn’t hard maneuvering it inside the vehicle either.

The Super Varmint’s ergonomics are pretty cool as well; it has an adjustable cheek piece on the stock that doesn’t bruise you when aiming and waiting, and its bolt handle has a comfortable grip. It also comes with a built-in Picatinny rail—my favorite mounting platform—so I could mount the scope and tripod without a hitch.  

The only downside for me is its weight. Tikka’s Super Varmint is just too heavy to carry about. If you think you’d have to stalk the critters all day, or even for a few hours at a stretch, you are better off with something lighter or more portable, like the Ruger American Rimfire Compact we talked about. The weight wasn’t an issue when I was mounting it on the tripod, but I know it’s going to take the fun out of varminting if I have to lug it around.   

The $1,600 price tag might seem hefty, but it’s totally worth it for the Super Varmint’s unmatched performance.

Tikka T3x Super Varmint Pros and Cons

  • Adjustable
  • High accuracy
  • Easy single-loading
  • Heavy
  • Difficulty in maneuvering

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Best budget Gamo Varmint Air Rifle

Gamo Varmint Air Rifle Feature Image

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

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Gamo Varmint Air Rifle Specs

  • Caliber .177
  • Barrel Length (in) 17.8
  • Magazine Capacity Single Shot
  • Trigger Type Adjustable
  • Weight 5lbs 7.5oz

Gamo Varmint Air Rifle Review

The Gamo Varmint is a steal if you’re a budget hunter, because this gun shoots and handles like a high-quality rifle with a price tag of just $100. 

The rifle is lightweight, easy to disassemble, and has good shot power, which makes it great for varminting. It also has a synthetic stock that can stand up to rough weather, and has a manual safety that doesn’t reset every time you fire. Though the rifle’s a budget option, Gamo hasn’t skimped on the recoil control.

The Gamo Varmint’s accuracy was a pleasant surprise to me, considering it’s a varmint rifle in budget range. I shot a tight grouping at 25 yards the first time I used it at the range, and managed to wipe out a couple of prairie dogs at the farm. I was using a night vision attachment on my Vortex scope as well, and it gave me great low light accuracy with the Gamo Varmint.

Speaking of scopes, that’s where the Gamo Varmint could use some improvement. The factory scope might work out for you if you’re hunting a larger animal like a coyote, but it doesn’t come with magnification. So it’s going to be tough with small and fast varmints. My recommendation is to switch out the factory scope like I did, but the fact that you have to do it at all is not ideal.  

I didn’t particularly like the trigger either. It gets the job done, but is it smooth to hold? No, but I did notice it gets smoother with use, but this could be because of wear and tear. If you can live with that or just don’t want to splurge, you may not need a trigger screw update to fix this, like I was planning.  Overall, the Gamo Varmint’s performance is pretty decent even with its shortcomings and a price point of around $100 is pretty tough to beat for what this rifle gives you. The price might change a bit depending on who you’re buying it from, but this is a great budget rifle for varminting. 

Gamo Varmint Air Rifle Pros and Cons

  • Accuracy
  • Adjustable
  • Lightweight
  • Poor scope
  • Difficulty pulling the trigger

Gamo Varmint Air Rifle Deals

Buyers guide

The reviews should be able to point you in the right direction, but your rifle choice depends on the kind of varmint you need to get rid of and your hunting conditions. There are a ton of factors to keep in mind, so I’ve compiled a list of things you should consider when choosing a varmint rifle. 

  • Weight – Heavier rifles work well if you’re using a tripod, but if you plan on stalking your prey and being on your feet for a while, you’ll want to choose a lighter rifle that makes it easier to move around.
  • Barrel – Most varminting rifles come with either a sporter barrel or bull barrel. A sporter barrel is bigger near the trigger and tapers off closer to the muzzle, but a bull barrel is uniform all the way through. Sporter barrels are lighter and easier to handle because the muzzle end isn’t heavy, and are recommended for beginners and for range shooting. That said, bull barrels have good accuracy and can endure heat much better than sporter barrels. 
  • Accuracy – It can be pretty tough to land a shot on smaller varmints because of how fast they are, but using an accurate cartridge type can make all the difference. Factory-loaded cartridges are the most practical for hunting but the slightest inconsistency, like casing thickness, can affect your performance ever so slightly. That said, cartridges like 17 Hornet, 223 Remington, and 204 Ruger are favorites among varmint hunters, but you should consider the model of your rifle before choosing ammo. 
  • Speed – Varminting rifles have a muzzle velocity around 2,300 FPS and that works pretty well for most varmints. If you want to shoot long range above 200 yards though, you might want to choose a rifle that shoots with a higher velocity, for example, the Ruger American Rimfire Compact at 2,700 FPS or Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint at 3,200 FPS. 
  • Trigger – Many varminting rifles have an adjustable trigger, and this is my preferred choice. An adjustable trigger helps customize the trigger pull weight to be convenient for you, and it usually has a range of 3-7 lbs. Some triggers can give you a bit of trouble even when they’re supposed to be adjustable, so you might want to test out the trigger before purchasing a rifle. 
  • Ergonomics – Varminting rifles come with many features to improve the overall fit and comfort while shooting. Cheek pieces let the rifle rest against your face, a good butt stock helps it sit comfortably against your body, and improved bolt handles help smooth bolt-action. Try to get a feel for how comfortable and natural it is for you to hold your rifle and while staying in your shooting stance for a long period of time. 
  • Attachments – You can improve the performance of your rifle with a few add-ons or replacements. A good scope can help you improve your accuracy, so consider switching out the factory-built one with a scope that has a night vision attachment as well. Some varmint rifles have good mounting rails, but you can upgrade with a light, functional rail if you prefer. Silencers are also worth considering if you value stealth, and can help keep you hidden after taking a shot.
  • Location – Varmint hunting usually has less legal restrictions than game hunting, but you should look up your state’s regulation before you start. As a general rule of thumb, you should not use firearms with live ammunition in residential and suburban areas. 

Conclusion

Varmints are a real headache, but choosing a rifle to hunt varmints doesn’t have to be. What matters most is how effective your selection is in eliminating the pests and if it feels right to shoot in your hands. So keep an eye out for accuracy, speed, and ease of handling. Happy hunting.

Best Varmint Rifle FAQs

What is a varmint rifle good for?

When it comes to small game hunting and controlling vermin, varmint rifles are made for the job. They are effective for quickly getting rid of small pests and vermin like squirrels, rats, groundhogs that damage crops and property and just cause a lot of ruckus in general. Some varmint rifles can also take down coyotes and foxes, which are on the larger end of the varmint spectrum, but they may be underpowered for any larger quarry. 

What is the best hunting caliber?

The 22-250 Remington is significantly popular among hunters, although there are faster options available. This cartridge is essentially a necked-down version of the 250-3000 case, designed for 224-diameter bullets, and delivers exceptional accuracy and velocity. If you’re looking at larger critters or planning some long-range shooting, you may want to step up your game with .30-06 cartridges. These offer higher bullet speed and velocity, even with a larger bullet diameter and weight.
When choosing the caliber, consider what you’re hunting, your shooting distance, personal preferences, and the hunting scenario. 

Why do varmint rifles have heavy barrels?

Heavy barrels are all about accuracy and keeping things cool. When you shoot, vibrations can mess up your aim, but a heavy barrel reduces those vibrations and gives you better precision for quick follow-up shots. Weighty barrels also take time to heat up, so your shots can stay accurate for longer during long hunting sessions. 

What is a varmint rifle silencer?

Silencers reduce the noise when a rifle is fired, and most varmint hunters add a silencer or a suppressor to their rifles to reduce the chances of being detected during hunting. Take the Browning X-Bolt Eclipse Varmint for instance: with a silencer, you can reduce its noise in operation and get the best out of your hunting session.

What is the most durable rifle barrel material?

If you’re looking for a durable rifle barrel, stainless steel is the way to go. These barrels have been around since the 1930s and are highly popular for their exceptional resistance to heat erosion. They’re also resistant to rust, which makes them ideal for humid environments.

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About Dave Chesson

Dave Chesson is prior Navy with a specialty in international arms dealing for the US government across multiple countries. Having traveled the world and abided by ATF and ITAR, Roy has a unique background in legal as well as practical capabilities of weapons deployment and use.

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