Aside from a test-fire at the range, it’s not unusual for many AR15 enthusiasts to want to use a hunting experience to try out their newly purchased or DIY budget-built semi-automatic rifle. Thoroughly testing the rifle’s upper receiver action and specialized trigger system is undoubtedly the end goal even on a hunting trip with a new gun. 

However, hunting any small game under forty pounds with low-grain high-velocity bullets such as .223 or 5.56 caliber may devastate many smaller animals. When hunting rabbits, squirrels, and even the top of the small game range, turkeys, most hunters turn to lower calibers such as .22LR.

One thing to note is that the world of lower caliber ammunition has evolved beyond generic .22LR ammo. These days hunters can find several low-caliber options that will effectively and ethically bring down small game without the possibility of overpenetration or shredding the target. 

Winchester .17HMR

While this caliber may require a different choice of rifles, such as a lever-action Ruger Model 96, the feedback from most hunters is that the Winchester .17HMR round is arguably the best small game caliber ammo on the market. The .17HMR Winchester round produces extremely low recoil and features an incredible velocity of over two thousand feet per second.

Not only is the Winchester .17HMR a perfect caliber for small game, but using it turns your .22 or .22LR caliber rifle into a legitimate two hundred yard plus long gun when paired with a nice optic. Compared to the .22 or .22LR caliber that promotes proper shot placement at around fifty to seventy-five yards, the Winchester .17HMR takes hunting small game to a completely different level.

Winchester .22 Magnum

Another low-caliber addition to the Winchester ammunition family is the .22 Magnum. For hunters and rifle enthusiasts who have a love affair with their Ruger 10/22 rifles, this .22 Magnum ammunition flies fast and hits hard, making it a master in the world of .22 caliber rounds. Sporting an incredible one thousand and fifty feet per second velocity, the Winchester .22 Magnum round will provide terminal stopping power for any small game, from coyotes down to rabbits and squirrels.

Although the Winchester .22 Magnum won’t offer the same long-distance precision shot as the .17MHR, this .22 caliber round from Winchester will make an excellent addition to your small-caliber arsenal. There have been a few reports from hunters and semi-automatic rifle owners that this caliber from Winchester may hang up from time to time in semi-automatic rifles. Still, as technology advances and with Winchester’s record for producing quality ammunition, refinements will ensure that the .22 Magnum round remains a viable hunter’s choice for years to come. 

Winchester Super Magnum

Another .17 caliber from the folks at Winchester is the .17WSM or Super Magnum. Unlike its cousin, the .17MHR, the Super Magnum features an incredible velocity of three thousand feet per second. With a velocity that exceeds the .17MHR round, shooting a Super Magnum round may be far too powerful for tiny targets such as squirrels. Still, the Super Magnum from Winchester is utterly devasting on many fur-bearing non-game creatures such as bobcats and coyote-sized games.  

For small-caliber ammunition that exceeds the performance of the .17MHR or .22 Magnum, the .17WSM from the ammo vaults of Winchester is a perfect choice for small game hunters.

Federal Champion .22LR

Although the Campion .22LR ammunition velocity from Federal doesn’t match some of the Winchester ammunition previously mentioned, it provides more than ample terminal velocity of over fourteen hundred feet per second and over one hundred and thirty foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

With high velocity stopping power and at the cost of fewer than five dollars for a box for fifty rounds, this Federal Champion .22LR is an economically rational choice for range shooting, small game, and most varmints and predators.

CCI Stinger .22LR

Another low caliber round that will far exceed your expectations is the Stinger .22LR from Cascade Cartridges, Inc. or CCI. Featuring a copper-plated hollow point bullet, the Stinger offers an astonishing muzzle velocity of over sixteen hundred feet per second and an even more stunning one hundred and ninety foot-pounds of muzzle energy.  

Suppose you’re in the market for that perfect caliber for small game and you need it to maintain excellent trajectory at longer distances but need it to anchor your intended target where it stands. In that case, this .22LR ammunition from CCI will make a perfect load in your pistol or rifle.

As small caliber high velocity ammunition goes, the .22LR Stinger is a high-velocity leader on the market, even when loaded at industry-standard pressures. With a CCI .22LR round, you can expect consistent and reliable performance with the help of specialized CCI primers and brass.

Although CCI Stinger ammo is a little pricier than most traditional .22LR caliber ammunition at just over ten dollars per box of fifty, you’ll discover that the performance you’ll ultimately realize with each shot is more than worth the few dollars extra you’ll spend.

Remington Lead Game 410 Shells

While most of these recommendations feature lower caliber rifle or pistol ammunition, a shotgun firing a 410 Remington Lead Game shell is a wise choice when hunting small game or bird on the wing. As 410 caliber shotgun cartridges go, the Lead Game shell represents the broadest selections of game-specific loads on the market. Remington Lead Game .410 shotgun ammo offers a muzzle velocity of over one thousand feet per second while the centerfire primers ignite clean and consistently.  

One great feature of these Lead Game shells from Remington is that you’re not limited to the size of a specific pellet. Remington manufactures the Lead Game 410 shotgun shells, packing them with shots from #BB to size #9. Whether you’re hunting anything from small predators to game such as rabbits, squirrels, quail, or dove, this Remington Lead Game shotgun shell is all you’ll need for your 410 shotguns.

Small Caliber Ammunition Accomplishing Big Things

Although you may have guessed that hunting small game may mean losing the effectiveness and stopping power of larger caliber ammunition, by now, you probably realize with these types of ammo; it’s not the case. Today’s ammunition manufacturers have turned their attention to manufacturing small caliber rounds that efficiently and effectively dispatch small game without the damaging effects of higher caliber ammo.

So, whether you’re hunting squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, or even upland birds on the wing, with your favorite pistol, rifle or a shotgun any of these smaller caliber rounds will offer a pleasant and practical experience.