Rabbit hunting is one of the best of the fall and winter outdoor sports; it is a great combination of hiding and stalking that makes it ideal for all hunters. There is the thrill of moving through the forest and tracking down the game, something one does not get while sitting and waiting for deer or other large game. Having the correct gun for the hunt is crucial, as it will increase the chances of hitting the rabbit and will give the hunter a much higher level of success. That said, some of what makes a good gun is simply preference. Most people prefer to use small-gauge shotguns like 4-10s or 20-gauges. Others prefer to use a .22 rifle. Still others prefer a small caliber hand weapon, like a .22 pistol or revolver. All have their disadvantages and advantages, and picking the one that is right for the task and right for the hunter is an important process.
A 4-10 shotgun is a very good gun for someone just starting out in the hunting world, or for young hunters who have just gotten their first permit. The 4-10 is a small gauge shotgun, and has very low amount of recoil or kick. Since recoil can be intimidating to someone unused to firing weapons, this gun will work very well to break someone into the sport in a more gentle manner. For its part, the 4-10 is an effective weapon. It doesn’t have the raw power that the bigger weapons boast, but it has plenty to shoot squirrels and partridge and rabbits. The range is fine for small game such as rabbits, seeing as how one will usually be crouching down and very close when firing on a rabbit. Trying to take longer, running shots will be a challenge, but the odds of this happening with rabbits are very small, since a good hunter can usually stalk them down. The rabbit’s main weakness is its desire to run and hide under trees where it can be spotted without being flushed.
A 20-gauge shotgun is ideal for rabbit hunting. It has a bit more power than the 4-10, meaning the shots will carry a bit farther. There is more kick to the gun, so that must be factored in. It is also heavier, so going on long trips may cause the carrier to become fatigued from holding the weapon; however, it is not nearly so heavy that this should ever happen except on the most extensive of journeys. A 20-gauge shotgun can come in a whole array of styles, from breech-loading to pump action. While breech-loaders have a more classic feel that is quite appealing, pump action weapons are more practical, as one can get a second shot off much faster if the rabbit does break cover and run.
Bigger shotguns than a 20-gauge tend to be a bit impractical. A 16-gauge is not bad, but some of the rabbits will end up mangled if hit at close range. A 12-gauge is much too big. Yes, the rabbit will be killed. It may, however, be killed so violently that one will not want to take it home for dinner. A 12-gauge is, quite simply, a very big gun for such a small animal. A side-by-side 20-gauge may have this same effect, if firing both barrels at once. It should be noted that the side-by-side is great if firing one at a time, though, because of the rapidity of the shooting.
The .22 rifle also has a bit of a classic feel to it, like woodsmen have been using it for years. It is a light weapon with little kick, similar in that respect to the 4-10, and it is attractive because it will not fill the game with spread shot. The problem is the accuracy. Some .22 rifles are reported to be quite good, but many of them miss the target all too often, which can be very frustrating. This problem is perpetuated with the .22 revolver, which is very easy to carry and quick to fire, but sometimes shoots all around the rabbit.
All in all, one must choose the gun that fits the best for the person and the hunt. However, the shotguns, especially the 20-gauge, have a decided advantage when hunting rabbits.