The AR platform is growing in popularity for hunters. One reason to choose an AR-15 for hunting is that it is very lightweight, packs a tremendous punch, and hunters can easily customize the rifle to fit their body style, hunting methods, different targets, and differing hunting environments.
Why an AR-15?
The AR-15 is already a popular rifle for competitive shooters and those who love to target practice. It is not such a great leap to see that hunters are looking at the AR-15 guns and wondering if there is a way to apply the power and versatility they offer to hunting.
The simple draw of AR-15’s to hunting goes beyond the power the rifle offers and sits more squarely in the fact that an AR-15 offers multiple benefits for hunting. It is:
- Lightweight – On average about seven (7) pounds with a 10-30-round magazine. Bolt-action rifles weigh eight to nine (8-9) pounds.
- Compact – An Ar-15 is around 39 inches in length, whereas a hunting rifle is around 42 inches long. The shorter length of the AR-15 means it is slightly more maneuverable in brush and outback conditions.
- Easy to maintain – Because the AR-15 platform is designed to disassemble, the process of cleaning and maintaining the gun is easier, especially when cleaning smaller parts.
- Highly customizable – The aftermarket options for AR-15 rifles are massive and, with careful shopping and quality gunsmithing available, many AR-15 owners opt to customize their rifles. A standard rifle is 42 inches long. You have to fit that gun into all body types. With the AR-15 platform, you can customize the rifle to fit your body and that improves many attributes important to hunters.
- Versatile – The customizable options means that a hunter can set up the rifle to perform well in many situations and across different big game platforms. The versatility of the rifle allows for hunting during the day, at dawn and dusk, and night.
1. Base it on the Prey
The options for customizing an AR-15 mean you can set up the rifle so that its capabilities fit the size of your targeted animals. Hunting encompasses different approaches in how we find our target and whether we can get close enough to successfully kill it.
These challenges include the differences between stand hunting, still hunting, and tracking. The semi-automatic feature means that you no longer have only a single shot to bring down the game. That also means that when you have a situation where you have to choose between two or more targets with a single shot rifle, you don’t necessarily have to choose only one with an AR-15. The rapid-fire option, even when controlled, can permit a hunter to kill two targets within seconds and often before the second target begins to bolt.
A customized lower receiver or upper receiver can improve accuracy especially when the AR-15 receiver beds precisely, so there is no movement between the upper receiver and the lower receiver.
2. Customize the Ammo
Another feature of the AR platform is the ability to customize the rifle to different calibers of ammo. Most AR-15s are chambered to accept NATO rounds or 5.56 rounds. However, other options are available through the customization of the rifle.
You can change ammo size to target:
- Big Game – Bear, Moose, Elk 6.5 Grendel, 6m ARC, or 6.8 SPC)
- Deer and mid-size grazers such as goats and sheep (6.5 Grendel or .223 caliber)
- Smaller predators such as wolves, coyotes, and wild pigs (.223 caliber or .300 Blackout.)
The importance of ammo based on what you’re hunting
When you take the time to choose the correct round for hunting, you are improving the performance of the rifle. Not all rounds are created equal and not all rounds should be used for hunting. Considerations include the differences between sustenance hunting and pest control – the difference between taking down a big buck and shooting wild pigs.
Considerations when choosing rounds
Choosing the right round improves the capabilities of both hunter and gun. A few things to think about when choosing rounds for hunting include:
- Game Size – Big, Medium, Small
- Recoil – How that impacts your second shot
- Distance – How close do you expect to get to your target and how accurate the round is within different distances to your target.
Not only do you have the choice of different calibers and the option to match those to different families of game, but also is the myriad of options within rounds – casing, bullet-style, propellant, and even primer can all play a role (and do) in cartridge performance, accuracy, and recoil.
3. Use the Correct Barrel
Should you go with a longer barrel or a shorter one? Barrel length affects the accuracy of the shot, but there is not a universal answer to which length is best. Much of how we determine accuracy changes from one shooter to the next.
What that means is that issues such as recoil, vibration, etc., appear differently from one shooter to the next.
Hunting is not only a physical sport but a mental one too. If you can accept the recoil and focus instead on controlling how it impacts your ability to quickly and accurately fire a second round, then you are ahead of the “game.” Customizing the AR to minimize bounce and wobble of the barrel also improves your ability to successfully take down your target.
If you expect that distance shooting is key to what you hunt, then a longer barrel may be better. The longer the barrel the faster the bullet travels. When paired with the right round, that means a fast, true, and powerful shot-trajectory. The wrong barrel length with the right round may also produce a trajectory that sinks causing damage to the game in the wrong part of the body (inaccuracy).
Ideally, you want to pair the barrel length to the round and then pair both to the type of game you are hunting and the hunting environment.
Customizable options for barrels are not just about barrel length. You have the option to use add-ons such as suppressors that decrease the noise level from each round and muzzle brakes to control recoil.
Get AR-15 Accessories
The AR platform is so highly customizable that the options you can choose for hunting are long.
- Rails are one of the most important considerations as they allow you to quickly add or remove components such as scopes.
- Barrel length is a critical consideration because it impacts round accuracy on several levels.
- Trigger style – easily pairs to the hunter’s methodology for shooting and the physical aspects of the hunter’s hands – finger length, hand size, etc.
- Tactical options including opticals.
- Finish options that help protect the rifle and also reduce visibility. Those options include different Cerakote camo patterns, Cerakote or anodize matte finishes, DuraCoat, Hydro-Dip, and others.
- Muzzle brakes and recoil suppressors
- Complete AR-15 Receivers including the lower receiver, upper receiver, or both.
The beautiful thing about the AR-15 platform and its popularity are that the rifle can be fitted to the hunter. That means you, as a hunter, no longer have to settle for a rifle that is too long, wide, or heavy. With smart and accurate customization, you can create an AR-15 that fits your body like a glove.
5. Check Compliancy
The ability to use an AR-15 for hunting is highly regulated. Not all states permit the use of AR-15s for hunting. Further regulations may also include barrel length, caliber size, and game selection.
If you are considering using an AR-15 for hunting, there are many good reasons why you should start with the list of regulations for your state. From there you can determine if the AR platform is a good fit for you.
You may find that an AR-15 is not approved for hunting in your state, or you may find that while you can hunt with an AR-15 in your state, that other restrictions apply.
Be sure to check the regulations for:
- Barrel length – some states regulate the length of the barrel for hunting. Some states define what the minimum barrel length is for a rifle and handgun.
- Cartridge regulations – Some states prohibit hunting with certain calibers of rounds, cartridge size, and other features.
You can often find the hunting and gun regulations in your state’s fish and game departments. If the regulations are confusing, and they can be, give the responsible agency a call. Many will make an appointment with you or answer your questions. These are also good sources of information about where to hunt, and special programs that may exist in your area for hunting under special circumstances.
The AR-15 platform is remarkable for hunting. One of its greatest features is the fact that it is so easily customizable. That fact changes how we hunt. Hunters are no longer required to fit themselves to a gun because the AR-15 can be customized to the hunter. The benefits help to increase accuracy, safety, and quality of hunting.
At U.S. Arms Company, we understand the AR platform and the many options to customize the gun to fit your hunting needs. We offer custom parts, OEM parts, and beautiful finishes that help make your AR your own. If you are considering using an AR-15 or equivalent for hunting be sure to shop the huge selection of ammo and parts that we offer. If you need custom manufacturing for your rifle we handle that too.