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5 Reasons You Should be Hunting with an AR

5 reasons you should be hunting with an AR

So-called “black guns” are ideal for competition and personal defense, but they’re also a fantastic option for hunting large and small game


Brad Fitzpatrick


In the 1950’s, Eugene Stoner designed a semiautomatic rifle for ArmaLite that would, over the course of the following decades, become one of the most popular sporting and military weapons every developed. The civilian version of these rifles became known as the AR-15 and AR-10, with the AR-10 being the larger of the two. The “AR” does not (and never did) stand for assault rifle, and while these guns have become the subject of much controversy, they remain popular with civilian shooters, and that includes hunters. The AR in "AR-15" rifle stands for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s.

But why should you consider purchasing an AR for your next hunting rifle? Here are five good reasons.

ARs are Reliable: Semiautomatic hunting rifles must function under harsh field conditions, and the AR—a cousin of the selective fire weapon carried by the U.S. military—has a lengthy track record for dependability in terrible conditions. Most AR rifles have a direct impingement gas system, wherein gas escaping from the fired cartridge serves to cycle the action, and modern gas systems function very well with a wide range of loads. Few people are more familiar with AR reliability than Kyle Lange, a helicopter pilot who assists with aerial hog eradication efforts. Lange sees ARs go through thousands of rounds each week without failure, and on a hog eradication flight with Kyle I fired several hundred rounds through my Mossberg AR without a single incident.

ARs are Configurable: That’s right—you can have your AR any way to like it, and you don’t have to be a gunsmith to make many of the upgrades. The AR’s modular design means that you can dress it with any “furniture” that you would like. With so many options, it can be hard to figure out what you want, but one thing is for sure—no matter which component of your AR you are looking to change, there’s probably a different model available to you. Want to add a handguard with light rails for hog hunting in complete darkness? That’s no problem. Fall in love with a new six-position telescoping buttstock? Switch it out. Want your gun Cerakoted? Want to add an optic? A new trigger? A different muzzle device? Sure, go ahead. These rifles can truly be built to your exact specifications—by you.

ARs are Accurate: Lying prone in the sandy soil of the Utah plains, I looked through my Trijicon scope at a steel target perched 600 yards away. That’s a long shot for any rifle, but the DPMS Hunter rifle I was using was purpose-built for long-range shots like this, and when the rifle clapped I heard the echo of ringing steel a few seconds later. The shot was dead-center.

I’m not advocating long shots. You should stay within your maximum effective range when hunting game, but the maximum range of an AR with a good optic in the hands of an experienced shooter is pretty far. With a properly-sighted AR, I’ve never had trouble making clean killing shots on game like hogs and deer at 250 yards, and the beauty of the semiautomatic AR design is that you’ve always got a fast follow-up shot available if you need it.

ARs Are Available in a Wide Selection of Calibers: Many people believe that ARs are available in only one caliber, and nothing could be farther from the truth. The most common chambering is 5.56/.223 Remington, and that’s an ideal caliber choice for hunting coyotes and varmints. But ARs are available in a host of other calibers too, including .204 Ruger, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 AAC Blackout, .308 Winchester and .450 Bushmaster just to name a few. With an available list of calibers like that, there are very few big game animals that you can’t hunt with a quality AR rifle. In addition, the AR’s design allows you to swap out uppers, so you don’t have to buy a new gun just because you want to shoot a different caliber. You could have a 5.56 upper with a high-magnification scope for varmint and predator hunting and, in a few seconds, you could switch the upper to another caliber like .300 Blackout for hunting deer and hogs. There are a number of great AR hunting rounds too, like Hornady’s Black ammo with V-MAX, SST and FTX bullets—all great options for various types of hunting.

ARs Are Safe: There’s a notion that ARs are dangerous, but like most any other firearm, it is the individual that is handling them that makes a firearm either safe or dangerous. The AR’s robust design makes them sturdy and effective when using proper ammo, and the safety is easy to find and manipulate. Contrary to what some people believe, civilian ARs are not automatic weapons, but rather operate in a semiautomatic manner, meaning you’ll have to allow the trigger to reset between shots. When handled properly, AR rifles are perfectly safe, but it’s always essential with any firearm regardless of the design to learn how to properly handle the gun and always abide by the basic rules of firearms safety.