The AR-15 has an interesting history. It was invented in the 1950’s by Eugene Stoner, James Sullivan, and Robert Fremont as a replacement for the M1 Garand. “AR” stands for ArmaLite Rifle (not automatic rifle as many incorrectly assume). ArmaLite (whose Chief Engineer was the retired Marine, Eugene Stoner) is the company that the Army contracted to design the replacement. They eventually had to redesign the larger AR-10 (which spit out the larger 7.62X51mm NATO round) to shoot the smaller, more cost efficient, lighter, and easier recoiling 5.56X45mm NATO round. This redesign was dubbed the AR-15. Part of the history of this magnificently designed weapon is steeped in controversy. It has wrongly been labeled the “evil black rifle” by many in today’s society. It has been the scapegoat of the anti-gun lobby, and has been at the center of the never ending gun debated in this great nation (which is another post for another day). I’ve heard it touted confidently in many anti-gun circles that “nobody hunts with an AR-15.” However, it has become one of the best pieces of equipment for the casual shooter, the expert marksman, the home defender, and my favorite…the Greatoutdoordinary Hunter… In fact, it is a personal belief of mine that the popularity and widespread availability of the AR-15 will spell the death knell for the bolt action rifle for the average sportsman.
This particular post is for the ordinary outdoorsman who already owns a standard AR-15 chambered in .223/5.56 NATO, but wants to have the confidence (and pleasure) of being able to hunt with the AR-15 platform and having a larger cartridge chambering that is better suited to handle deer, hogs, and similar sized game. Don’t get me wrong, I have hunted and successfully taken big game including deer, hogs, and the largest alligator I’ve ever had the pleasure of harvesting with the venerable .233 Remington. The .223/5.56 is a great round for certain applications, but there are much better choices that will get the job done much more efficiently. There are many great options out there for a hunting cartridge that will fit in the AR-15 platform, including but not limited to the .300 AAC (Blackout & Whisper), 6.5 Grendel, 7.62X39, .458 SOCOM, and many others. Whenever I explain just how simple it is to build one of these upper receivers, people always say the same thing…“That’s it?” They’re always surprised to hear just how inexpensive, and simplistic it is to have multiple calibers that can be swapped out of the same lower receiver by simply pushing out two pins by hand. People are also surprised when I explain how easy it is to purchase the parts, and assemble an upper at home. Try any of that with your grandpappy’s hunting rifle!
I’m sure there are more, but I can think of eight distinct benefits of hunting with an AR-15 chambered in a hunting cartridge:
Awesome reason number one to know about hunting with the AR-15 is that it can be built to be more compact than your traditional bolt action rifle. With a collapsible stock, and 16 inch barrel, an AR-15 can be quite easy to carry in the field. This reduced size makes it much easier to transport in and out of vehicles, ATVs, to maneuver in and out of a blind, or climb a tree stand. With the use of modern synthetic materials, it can also be built much lighter than many traditional bolt actions.
Awesome reason number two is that it can be built for much cheaper than purchasing an entirely new rifle of the same quality. In other words, to get the same level of accuracy, and reliability you would have to spend considerably more on a bolt action, or lever action or other type of rifle to equal what you get with building an AR-15 upper that you can hunt with.
Awesome reason number three is that an AR-15 can be worked on by your ordinary outdoorsman at home, in his garage, with simple hand tools. It does not require a gunsmith or expensive equipment to build or maintain. If you want to re-barrel and/or re-chamber pappy’s old Remington 700, you’d better get ready for some serious cash, equipment, and/or gunsmithing hootspa! The AR-15 was ingeniously designed to be worked on in the field with simple tools so that the average Joe 6-pack (the drinking kind, not metro kind) could fix problems in the field.
Awesome reason number four is that the AR-15 has an obvious round count superiority over bolt actions, and other traditional hunting firearms. If it is legal in your state, you can load that baby down with a 30 round mag, and rain down lightning on a sounder of hogs, a band of coyotes, a coterie prairie dogs, etc. Along the same lines, it has the ability to produce a followup shot at a much quicker rate without having to manipulate the rifle. No manual manipulation of the mechanism means that you can maintain constant sight picture on target (or targets, he he he).
Awesome reason number five is that the parts for the AR-15 are pretty much universal. I joke with family and friends that the AR-15 is the gun geek’s LEGO set. As long as the parts are milspec, then you are good to go. Can you imagine if you bought a truck that you could pull any part from any manufacturer on any model, or any year to replace or upgrade parts? I’d buy that truck, and would be able to keep it for decades, because I could easily replace ANY part (and without special tools or having to hire a mechanic). Are you listening auto manufacturers?
Awesome reason number six is that the vast majority of cartridges have very low recoil when compared to a bolt action chambered in many of the traditional hunting rounds anywhere from a .243 Win to the magnums. The gas operation, as well as the buffering system helps in reducing felt recoil, which is beneficial for smaller shooters, and younger hunters. Obviously this is not the case with the .458 SOCOM, but most of the other options are as easy on the shoulder as Mrs. Greatoutdoordinary is on the eyes.
Awesome reason number seven is that once you purchase your lower receiver, which requires you to go to someone with a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to conduct a transfer by filling out a Form 4473, and conducting the NICs check, you can purchase as many upper receivers to be used on that lower receiver as you want without having to go to an FFL holder again. So no FFL required for additional rifle uppers. You can simply order the parts or completed upper online, or by other means, and have it shipped to your front door without having to hassle with a middle man or any extra fees associated with purchasing what the BATFE considers a firearm (the lower receiver).
Finally Awesome reason number eight is the cool kid factor of hunting with a freaking AR-15. This ain’t old Uncle Dingleberry’s busted up 30-30, man! Lets face it…they are a degree of cool that is difficult to obtain with any other rifle.
Let me know if you have any additional reasons that you prefer to hunt with an AR-15, or why you find it to be an effective hunting weapon. In the alternative where you think the AR-15 falls short as a hunting weapon.
In my next post, Building a 6.8 SPC II, I will go into the details of the cartridge, its uses, and conduct a build along to show how simple the process is, as well as how effective it is as a hunting cartridge.