Squirrel Medicine: Ruger American Rimfire 22 LR in Go Wild Brush Camo and Bronze Cerakote

by Nick Rukavina

photography by Nick Rukavina

November 10th, 2022

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Son, I do believe that you only hit one of those four squirrels in the head, the Deliverance-looking guy in the southern Ohio woods seemed to say in disgust, before launching an amber stream of something against a tree. Deliverance was still ten years in the future, so I wasnt that kind of scared, but his words hit the mark, even if I hadnt. I was fourteen years old at the time and he seemed two years older than God to me. He was probably only forty or so.

Ive always considered myself a rifleman. Even as a kid, I hunted with a 22 while my buddies toted 12 gauge single shots with full chokes because they hit harder. To me, firearms are a connection with our historical past, and if the frontiersmen hunted with rifles, then so would I.

That morning in southern Ohios Appalachian woods, I was carrying a Mossberg Chuckster, a 22 magnum that I had loaded with 22 WRFs, the precursor of the 22 Magnum. It had a longer case than the 22 LR and a flat-nosed bullet, kinda like a semi-wadcutter that really smacked small game with authority. Most 22 mag rifles wouldnt feed them, but my bolt gun did.

I went through my Remington phase, complete with a Fieldmaster pump, Nylon 66 and 582 bolt gun. Then came my Ruger phase, with a half-dozen flavors of 10/22s, many of which would now bring a lot of money, like the original Sporter and a Mannlicher model. 

For the last 10-15 years Ive been hunting squirrels with a pair of heavy-barreled 10/22s that I had Volquartzenized, Leupolded, Hogue-Overmolded and camoed within an inch of their lives. These short, chunky rifles are extraordinarily accurate and a couple squirrels that I dropped with them were so high in the trees that they almost burned up on re-entry. Well, they kinda did...sorta, almost.

Being an inveterate gun guy, I recently had the bug to try something new for squirrels and happened on this cool, American Rimfire on the Ruger website. The Wild Camo (Brush) and Bronze Cerakote meant that I could give the rattle cans a rest. 

I ordered it online, took delivery at my local, friendly, small town FFL and mounted my favorite 22 scope: a light, trim, matte, Leupold 4X, rimfire model with very fine crosshairs.

I loaded the Polaris Ranger with rifle, targets and gear and headed for our range below the dam where we can shoot out to 135 yards. My go-to 22 hunting ammo for years has been Winchester Power Point HPs, which Ive found to be very accurate and effective on small game.

Not this time! At fifty yards I was getting 1.5-2 inch groups from the bench. Heading back to the cabin, I collected a brick of my old standby, Remington, 38 grain, Subsonic HPs. This proved to be the ticket with groups averaging at about 3/4, plenty good enough for head shots on squirrels.

This particular model comes with an integral scope base machined into the receiver, oversized bolt knob and bolt with a 60 degree throw, extended mag release, integral bedding block and Marksman adjustable trigger. Mine was set at about three pounds, so it didnt need further attention.

So, next Sunday when our squirrel season comes in, Ill be moving slowly through our predominantly oak woods with a new Ruger under my arm. Its been over fifty years since my encounter with the gnarled, old squirrel hunter, but it looks like Im the old hunter now, although I can make those head shots just like he could.

Nick Rukavina

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