From Travis Pike
Contrary to what many talking heads say the AR 15 makes an outstanding hunting rifle. It’s been my go to choice for a few years now and I’ve never been happier. Oddly enough, even among other AR 15 owners and pro gun hunters it’s seen as odd. As if I’m Rambo and the deer are a small town police force led by Brian Dennehy. The same folks don’t seem to have an issue with semi-autos like the Browning BAR or the older Remington 7400s. I’m not sure why so many folks see the AR as an odd hunting rifle. When you pause to think about it the AR 15 makes a lot of sense as a hunting rifle.
The AR 15 is quite light, and even compared to svelte bolt actions the AR is often lighter than a more traditional hunting rifle. For examples the Remington SPS weighs 7.5 pounds without an optic. A plain jane AR carbine can weigh 7 pounds and lighter if you want to dump money into lightweight accessories. Even the larger 20 inch barreled ARs are about the same weight as the Remington 700.
It points and aims easily, and as any shooter knows the smaller package the easier it is to maneuver. It’s great for sliding through thickets, climbing a tree stand, or navigating a swamp. With a collapsed stock and a sling it doesn’t exceed your body’s own profile.
The Right 223 Works Just Fine
Obviously the 223 is on the lower end of the power spectrum for hunting rifles and isn’t a round made for hunting large game. However, when loaded correctly it’s a great round for deer, coyotes, and even smaller feral hogs. Specialized rounds like the Hornady Whitetail, and the Remington Hog Buster are designed to maximize penetration and expansion inside an animal.
200 yards is where I draw my ethical kill line, and where most hunters I know do the same. Inside 200 yards the standard 223 load is plenty powerful. That being said the AR 15 platform doesn’t limit you to 5.56/.223. With a standard AR 15 lower you can get larger calibers like the 6.8 SPC or the 6.5 Grendel. If you want more power at short range you can go with the 300 Blackout or 7.62 x 39. Heck if you want to go smaller and hunt varmint you can just toss something like the Garrow Arms 17 HMR upper on your gun and go.
With that in mind ammo selection and shot placement are still the most effective means of killing any game.
AR’s are endlessly customizable. You can build the exact AR 15 you want or need. Personally I go lightweight and simple. I keep the collapsing stock in place regardless of barrel length so I can compensate for several layers of cold weather clothes.
Lets not forget how easy it is to mount optics to the weapon. You can fit anything from red dots to thermal units without worry about bolt clearance, ejection issues, and a lack of rail space. Also more and more states are allowing the use of suppressors while hunting. This allows you to better protect your hearing without compromising one of the precious senses you need for hunting.
The AR 15 is a natural suppressor host. I’d gamble that most suppressors made for rifles are made with the AR 15 in mind. The shear amount of QD muzzle devices is proof enough of that. (To me anyway.)
Follow shots can be difficult, but aren’t impossible when hunting herd animals. I’ve seen hogs get shot and two to three seconds pass before the herd panics and disperses. That’s plenty of time to take a second shot. Well, it’s plenty of time with an AR 15. It’s a lightweight rifle that’s easy to maneuver with minimal recoil, so secondary shots are easy.
Let’s not forget the ability to take a second shot on a wounded animal before it leaves your line of sight. Or should I stumble across an angry hog I’d rather have the ability to put more than one round out before he reaches me.
Now the biggest reason I hunt with an AR is because I already have one, I have a five round mag, a good optic, and I know how to shoot the rifle. I just don’t have a reason not to use the AR as a hunting rifle. Sure, it’s not the best for every animal ever, but it works for deer, hog, coyote, and even turkey. So the biggest reason isn’t a reason, it’s the lack of a reason not to.