Cheap "sub-caliber" rifle?


February 21, 2013, 02:29 PM
I live on some acreage and I am looking for a rifle that has more power than a 22LR for critter control -- both 4 and 2 legged, out to a max of 100 yards. I don't need tons of stopping power and I am looking for something that is a "sub-caliber" -- or quiet enough that it won't blow out my ear drums if used w/o hearing protection.

Any thoughts? I was thinking of a Mosin M38 or M44 but I think the blast would be deafening. I would go with a 357 lever gun and call it a day but the price is prohibitive. I am hoping to keep the rifle sub $200. I am open to any ideas, e.g. a certain kind of rifle, subsonic ammo, etc.

BTW I do own a SilencerCo SS Sparrow suppressor which is rated for 22LR, 22 Magnum, 5.7, etc.

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February 21, 2013, 02:34 PM
I wouldn't recommend shooting any firearm without hearing protection or a sound suppressor.

Get a .22wmr and use the Sparrow.

February 21, 2013, 02:38 PM
CoRoMo -- I will check out some 22 WMR and see what I find. I don't plan on shooting it without protection but if a yote, raccoon, etc. is out messing with the chickens I may not have time to pop in some ear plugs.

EDIT: Can anyone think of a caliber/rifle other than 22 Magnum?

February 21, 2013, 02:50 PM
Get a .22wmr and use the Sparrow.

Agreed. Since you have the suppressor make use of it. The Savage bolt-guns are affordable, accurate, and have nice features. I believe they have a model with a threaded barrel too.

February 21, 2013, 02:58 PM
A cheap .22Mag bolt gun is really your only option.

February 21, 2013, 03:15 PM
A cheap .22Mag bolt gun is really your only option.

This is sounding more and more like it. For the last few months I have been toying with the idea of M1 carbines, 357 lever actions, etc. and maybe the answer is a simple 22 Magnum.

February 21, 2013, 04:04 PM
For $200, .22wmr is really your only option. 17hmr perhaps... or maybe one of those Rossi single shot .223s.

.22 Hornet is a pretty nice round on critters, about twice as powerful as the .22hmr, half as powerful as the .223. You're looking at probably at least double the $200, though.

February 21, 2013, 04:35 PM
savage bolt action 17 HMR is $250 at Bass Pro Shop;
Ammo is a lot more expensive than the .22 variants, but is available.
If not doing a lot of shooting, this would be a reasonable option.
Good up to at least 100 yards accurately. They say further, but that is just my experience.

February 21, 2013, 04:58 PM
Nothing wrong with a good ole mosin nagant of any variety, but you wouldn't want to chance shooting it w/o your 'ears on'. Any way to hang some cheap ones near the door or near the gun?

Red Tornado
February 21, 2013, 05:25 PM
Love Mosins, that that's about as far as you can get from "quiet" and "sub-caliber." :what:

How about a 9mm carbine? You can probably find a Hi-Point at a reasonable price. Also, a regular 22LR with Yellow Jackets, Stingers, or any hyper-velocity round would give you a little boost, probably halfway to 22WMR.

A Handi-Rifle in .357 should be reasonable, too. However, with the Sparrow it seems like 22 Mag is going to be hard to beat.

February 21, 2013, 06:53 PM
I am in there with pistolpositive and the 17 HMR. My brother has one and is making a convert out of me on that caliber. While the ammunition is more expensive than the 22 WMR the 17 has a lot going for it, including fun to shoot. Also, as mentioned, even now the ammunition is plentiful for it. I am beginning to see one in my near future myself.


February 21, 2013, 06:59 PM
High Point 9mm carbine with a cheap 4x scope, I've put thousands of rounds through mine and IMHO think it'd be perfect for your needs...

Buck Kramer
February 21, 2013, 07:03 PM
You could get 7.62x25 pistol inserts for your mosin, I don't know much about them but they are out there I would bet they are pretty quiet coming out of a long barrel.

February 21, 2013, 07:04 PM
As the poster and some responders have stated, 357/38spl in one of the cheaper single shot rifles.

I use my Marlin 1894 CP with 16" barrel, shooting 38's. It's like shooting a noisy BB gun. Reasonable when I bought it, but much to expensive these days.

Otherwise like the others, a 22mag with the Can.

Can or ear protection, there really are no other options with firearms. Bows/crossbows or airguns are the only other practical options that come close to accomplishing the mission, within spec.

Go figure.


February 21, 2013, 07:49 PM
Could try to find a decent price on an SKS, but good luck on that. I have a .22 Mag Remington M597 that's quite accurate. The sound level isn't THAT much more than .22LR and it runs velocities up about 700 fps higher on average. I don't think it's enough for big critters like pigs. We have a lot of pigs around here. I'd head shoot one with it if I needed, though, with a solid. I keep a .357 magnum lever gun handy around my house for the odd critter. I keep it loaded with .38, but can slam a magnum in it if I need to, but I'd have to also have time to lower the rear sight. The load I keep in it is a 105 grain cast SWC at 900 fps. It's very quiet. I do have some fairly hot .38s that split the difference. It's a Rossi 92 and they're not 200 bucks anymore, though mine was 25 years ago. Yeah, a little Rossi single shot would be in that price range.

February 21, 2013, 08:58 PM
I'd highly suggest trying a 9MM carbine with subsonic ammo. The retort is in the .22LR neighborhood, and while it's reaching at 100 yards, it's just fine inside it.

February 21, 2013, 09:17 PM
More than $200, but I fell I love with buddy's Win 94 in 22WMR. One of the prettiest functional guns for what you are talking about. If you could can it...worth the money!!!

February 21, 2013, 09:33 PM
22 mag is the way to go. With the propper bullets, a coyote at 100yards, with propper shot placement has had it, as long as the wind holds out. You got the can for it already, it's inexpensive to shoot, and you can always shoot 22 WRF out of it if you want to get something to eat with it. Out of a rifle the 22 mag would do a number on a human also. I'M NOT ADVOCATING THIS, but the 22 mag is a darling of poachers shooting deer. Unethical and with less than ideal results, but in a worst case senario, it can be done.

303 hunter
February 21, 2013, 09:41 PM
I own a 16" 357 lever gun. It's accurate,with plenty of power,but it's LOUD!

February 21, 2013, 10:48 PM
I own a 16" 357 lever gun. It's accurate,with plenty of power,but it's LOUD!

Not with .38s. My load is making about 200 ft lbs at the muzzle, a little more than .22LR makes, but it's subsonic at 900 fps. It's comparable to my .22 mag for noise.

Yeah, the magnums are loud. But, I can load either .357 or .38 brass anywhere in between 200 ft lbs and 1400 ft lbs. Makes for a versatile rifle.

I'm shooting out of a 20" barrel, which makes for more quiet.

February 22, 2013, 12:26 AM
The most versatile round is the 32-20 Winchester as for hand loading'' as it can be loaded from 700-800fps ( 200-300flbs) to 1800 fps (750flbs). but the later is only safe in the T/C Contender because of the high pressure.

32-20 is good for 500 yards..

February 22, 2013, 09:09 AM
I appreciate all of your feedback. If money was no object I would purchase a Rossi 92 16" 357 and then later add a 357 pistol. We are still building up our homestead and every dollar counts.

Interesting about a single shot 357 -- didn't really think about that. I like that I can buy/load (although I don't load yet) 38 special quiet loads and have some hot 357s on hand if ever needed.

The HiPoint carbine is interesting too -- for some reason my wife loves 9mm carbines but has a general dislike for any other gun. Go figure. I will keep my eye out for one.

February 22, 2013, 11:26 AM
When you get your 357 revolver, the convertible Blackhawk is the WTG! 357 & 9 mm out of the same gun!!!
Still think 22 mag or the Savage 17HMR if you save another $200.

February 22, 2013, 12:10 PM
I have a Hi Point carbine in .45 acp, these are handy, reliable and cheap. The company is very responsive, they will honor the no BS guarantee whether you bought it new or used. You should be able to find a 9mm with the old style stock for about $200.

They will shoot +P ammo.

February 22, 2013, 01:55 PM
How about a used .30-30? Might be more than $200, and I have not tracked prices with the current gun ban scare, but there are plenty of nice used examples out there and the .30-30 is a great intermediate round that's probably taken more deer in the US than any other caliber.

Ammo is usually affordable and it's also not a miliary cartridge, so ammo might not be as hard to find. Might be a little more than what you are looking for, but it's bette stopping power for the larger critters might be what you are looking for.

SKS in 7.62x39 would be another good choice in a similar power range, but snything military is nots right now.

February 22, 2013, 02:00 PM
Having been around a few .22WMR rifles I don't see you shooting those without hearing protection. They've got a heckuva CRACK to the discharge from a rifle.

The quieter options I've heard have all been handgun rounds from carbine style guns.

Well... and some of the old style black powder rifle rounds that shoot the big and heavy bullets using smokeless powder to achieve the same low chamber pressures. But if you're prioritizing the money towards building up the homestead you won't be getting any of THOSE type of rifles any time soon.

If your wife enjoys the semi auto carbines then it sounds like you have your answer. A 9mm or .40 would be dandy. The 9mm being a trifle cheaper to feed for practice. .40 isn't TOO much more to buy ammo but .45acp would likely be the sort of thing to wait a while until you get into reloading.

But good luck finding such a gun within your $200 budget. Even a new Hi Point is up over $300 once the dust settles. Same with a single shot NEF bought new. So that leaves you with the used market unless you can direct some more cash towards your firearm choice.

One thing is that if you were to get into reloading now instead of later it opens up a HUGE number of options for buying any old cheap rifle you can find. You can then reload quiet subsonic or near subsonic rounds for cheap. Suddenly something like a ratty looking old Savage 99 chambered in the somewhat obscure .308Savage becomes useable since you can get some brass and load up soft and quiet pest control rounds or full power hunting loads.

The thing to do if you were to go this direction of lower velocity pest control loads to allow unprotected ears is to stick to the guns that use 120 or heavier bullets. That way the bullet still has good hitting power out at 100 yards when moving at a leasurely subsonic speed. To make your life easy something with a .308 size bore would be nice as there's LOTS of options with that bullet size.

You'd have to divert a bit of money to buying the equipment needed. But if you're willing to live with reloading around 100 rnds per hour you can do this with the cheapest of the cheap and keep the reloading gear cost down to around $100. The savings in ammo costs will pay for the equipment in short order even if you only shoot around 50 rnds a month.

February 22, 2013, 02:02 PM
clang -- I have thought of an old Marlin 30-30 but have been told it would be pretty loud. I agree it could do everything I am looking for and more -- but maybe too much more. Old Marlins were selling for cheap around here after deer season. Good food for thought.

Furncliff -- If I found a Hipoint carbine for $200 I would be all over it. They are going for $350+ on local forums, which is absurd.

February 22, 2013, 02:05 PM
BCRider -- would it just make sense for me to pick up a beat up 308 and use/load subsonic ammo? If I ever got a 357 I planned on getting a simple Lee Classic Loader to handload a few rounds at a time.

Sav .250
February 22, 2013, 02:05 PM
No rush. Save your money till you can get by the "cheap" isle and get yourself something nice. Cheap falls under , you get what you pay for.

February 22, 2013, 02:16 PM
BCRider -- would it just make sense for me to pick up a beat up 308 and use/load subsonic ammo? If I ever got a 357 I planned on getting a simple Lee Classic Loader to handload a few rounds at a time.

That's exactly what I was suggesting. And that same simple Lee setup would load rifle rounds as easily as it could load .357Mag rounds.

I've seen quite a number of discussion threads about shooting lower powered rifle rounds. Some even that load up buckshot balls instead of bullets to use for closer in rat or other small pest/predator control out to around 50 yards. The way I understood those threads such loads are quiet enough from a rifle that it's not a big deal using them indoors in a barn if needed. I wouldn't want to shoot a LOT of such things without some muffs or plugs but if you need to pop off a round or two it's not the end of the world to your hearing. Yet the writeups suggest that they are still easily lethal to anything up to the size of a coyote.

I think that the whole point here is that it opens up another option for you to get something that uses less of your cash flow yet that is potentially a more flexible tool compared to a handgun caliber carbine or lever rifle. It's enough of an attractive option that it at least is worth considering from all angles.

I don't know what the hunting is like around your area but if you're far enough out that you can walk or drive a short ways to some decent hunting you might be able to make the gun pay for itself pretty quickly with a full freezer.

I'm not a hunter myself. At least not YET! But I've had enough bear and venison to know that I like the taste. A more "proper" rifle chambering opens up the option for you to go that route as well. Yet you can still load up the soft and quiet pest control loads for around the farm/homestead.

February 22, 2013, 02:51 PM
I would suggest a 22 Hornet. Evan though it is quiet you would still want hearing protection. As others have said you can always down load any center fire rifle.

February 22, 2013, 03:12 PM
Hunting around here is a big deal. We live on 20 acres in the middle of a national forest and there are critters everywhere. The deer usually stay away from the house and I have never seen a bear but know they are around. If I got a 22 magnum I planned on using my single shot 12 gauge with slugs if I ever needed to scrap with a bear on the premises.

I need to research 308 ammo. A Savage Axis in 308 @$250 would be a hard combo to beat with subsonic ammo.

February 22, 2013, 03:19 PM
2nd hand Marlin 30-30 would be my choice. Good for you close in critter controll and should you decide to do a bit of deer hunting, great for that too.

February 22, 2013, 05:05 PM
CoRoMo -- I will check out some 22 WMR and see what I find. I don't plan on shooting it without protection but if a yote, raccoon, etc. is out messing with the chickens I may not have time to pop in some ear plugs.

EDIT: Can anyone think of a caliber/rifle other than 22 Magnum?
Any easy solution for this problem is to keep a pair of over the ear style muffs with the rifle. I keep them (electronic ones actually) with my home defense weapon in case it doesn't evolve as fast as I worry about.

February 22, 2013, 05:30 PM
PorkChops, try a google search for ".308 gallery load" and ".308 light load" and you'll find that the first dozen replies to each search are loaded with examples of this sort of light power information that can be used for both target practice and pest control.

And yes, an Axis and scope combo for that sort of money would be a heck of a solution. I'd make up or buy a cartridge sleeve for it to carry the alternative ammo to whatever you put into the magazine.

I just checked to see if it has a removable magazine. And yes it does.

There's also a magazine disconnect control which allows you to load the mag and close the bolt without chambering a round.

THis could be handy for choosing between selecting to feed from the mag for a round or to block the mag feed so you can load the alternative ammo from the cartridge sleeve.

My thinking is that you can use such a feature or simply leave the magazine one round shy of fully loaded. If you need to load the alternative ammo from the sleeve you have the option of opening the bolt and loading one round of the alternative ammo from the sleeve into the top of hte mag. Or you could use the disconnect to prevent the round feeding up and simply single load the alternative from the sleeve directly.

I may be missing something in thinking this way but it seems from here that it would work well and give you the options that it sounds like you would like and need.

The .30-30 lever gun isn't a bad idea either. The cases use a .308 size bullet but you simply need to use bullets designed to work with the tubular magazine. That means flat point or broad curved round nose soft point options similar to those found on commercial .30-30 ammo. Again, if you leave the magazine one round low you can then select your alternative ammo choice from the cartridge sleeve and upload it through the gate so that when you rack the lever you get the alternative load. This option is almost as easy to use as the bolt with box magazine other than limiting you to specific bullet nose profiles.

One thing about a lever rifle is that they tend to be comfortably light and carry like a dream in a nicely balanced way. And if slung over the shoulder there's no bolt handle to dig in. So it's worth considering. The limits on the tubular magazine bullet choice is worth thinking on though. And it means that any custom loads will need to be crimped firmly enough to avoid slipping when you jam them against the last round in the tube. So perhaps for YOU a box magazine bolt is a little more appropriate.

The other thought is an NEF or H&R Handi Rifle chambered in something that takes .308 size bullets and load the cartridge sleeve up with light pest control loads head up and bear or other serious power loads head down. That way you can reach for a load without selecting the wrong thing.

Finally since this would be a gun that likely will be carried around a lot and used only moderately often or seldom I'd consider the weight and size in this equation and how it sits on your shoulder with a carry sling. As the old story goes the gun that's 10 yards away isn't much good if the bear shows up in between you and the gun. You'd want to be able to carry it easily and comfortably so you tend to have it with you when working around the edges of your property.

In the end the final options are yours of course. Hopefully all this discussion is making you think about the "how's" and "why's" of what you would be best off getting and what will serve you best for your needs. If you finally decide that a .22Mag is the ticket then great. But crunch all the options and scenarios out first so you make the best decision over this one gun solution which sounds like it'll need to keep you going for a while.

February 22, 2013, 05:37 PM

February 22, 2013, 09:03 PM
BCRider -- thank you for the commentary. I have enjoyed day dreaming for the last year about what "ranch rifle" I should get for around the homestead. I have always wanted the lever action because it would, as you say, balance so well and be easy to carry in the hand. Good points on the 308. I actually have toyed with the idea of buying an Axis 308 and cutting the barrel down to 17" or so myself. I think it would make for a very light and handy bolt gun.

I have good news that makes this thread kind of moot -- I got a surprise bonus at work today and now have the funds to purchase the 357 lever action and the 357 revolver. Now the question comes up whether I should get a Ruger 357 Blackhawk or go with some sort of 357 double action.

February 23, 2013, 01:20 PM
Well, again it all depends on what your primary use will be.

If it'll be the sort of thing where you draw fast and shoot close in I'd have to say that a double action would be the way to go. They are simply faster to bring into play.

Oh sure, if you look at cowboy action videos on You Tube you'll see fast draws and fast shooting with single actions. But are you willing to spend the practice time to get that good?

If the gun would be mostly used at longer range for pest control then single or double becomes more of a a feel thing for which fits your hands the best. But either way for this style I'd suggest a 6 inch or longer barrel just to get a longer sights baseline. The longer sight baseline lets you aim to a finer degree for the longer distance shots.

Longer barrels are a PITA to draw from a high mount holster. But if you set up a high mount cross draw belt and holster it's not an issue. You'll want a high mount instead of a low mount holster as the low mounts will limit your ability to kneel down and would likely result in the end of the holster dragging on the ground. A high mount on your pants belt will keep the gun up out of the dirt and not limit your movement by much at all. You'll want a safety strap on it as well to avoid it falling out. Yet one which you can sweep off with the hand doing the draw. To get a feel for this and possibly a holster you'll be fine with using I can happily suggest a basic Uncle Mikes soft fabric holster. They provide a secure enough way to carry my guns during range matches where I'm moving around yet are easy enough to draw from that for the less than $20 they cost it's worth trying one. And the securing strap and snap button are easy to sweep away.

For a ranch rifle the lever gun will be superb. Having handled my own 20 inch barrel and some longer 24's I'd have to say it would be nice to keep things short. Even to the point of getting the 16 inch version. Lighter and more compact are going to be nice things on a gun which you'll carry around a lot and stick in and out of any vehicles frequently as you move around the ranch. A couple of cheapie scabbards in your truck/car or on a quad if you have one would be a nice place to park the rifle when moving around so you minimise the handling damage that would otherwise occur in a short time. This, after all, being truly a working rifle.

By the way, part of the reason for my longer posts is that it's fun considering alternatives like this and trying to put myself into your position where I'd be using my firearms in such a way. It's like doing a crossword puzzle but far more fun and rewarding. Especially when it involved spending someone ELSES money.... :D

March 1, 2013, 01:03 PM
BCRider -- thanks for the reply and my slow response. I didn't see it until today.

I'm picking up a 6" Dan Wesson 357 15-2 tomorrow morning. Well used, but looks good. See here...

And I just ordered one of the last 16" Rossi 92's I could find -- GunsAmerica. 357 and blued. I hope to see it in a week or so.

Thanks for the suggestion on the holster. I have a suppressed Ruger MarkIII 22/45 and it is too long for normal carry in a regular hip holster. I think I will do a high mount in cross draw on my weak side -- I am right handed and always bumping any gun I have on my strong side.

EDIT: I bought one of the Uncle Mike's "Sidekick" hip holsters off of Amazon. Let's see how it works -- thanks again for the help.

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