Sporting ARs

Sporting ARs

Stoner's brilliant battle design is following tradition by heading into the woods.

("The following article was prepared for press prior to the current controversy concerning AR rifles used in hunting, and will appear in the May/June issue of Petersen's Hunting.")

Virtually every type of centerfire sporting rifle in existence started off as a military weapon. The classic lever-action deer gun, long the most popular type of hunting rifle in America, began as the Henry Rifle of the Civil War era, designed to bring rapid fire against the enemy. The lever-action was succeeded in universal popularity by the bolt-action--the standard hunting rifle of today--which we owe to Paul Mauser's classic battle-rifle design.


Sporterized military guns have always found their way into the hunting fields--and always with resistance from traditionalists.

Now another rifle of military origin is moving rapidly into prominence in the hunting and sport shooting world: the AR15 .223 and AR10 .308. And, like its predecessors, the AR platform is meeting resistance, even outright opposition, from many hunters who are personally wedded to earlier gun designs. No surprise there; when the lever action was first used for hunting, traditionalists, whose idea of a "real" hunting gun was a single-shot muzzleloader, distained the need for a repeat-fire tool.


First-generation bolt-action military surplus rifles were also disparaged by many sportsmen as "inappropriate" for hunting. But the AR design's proven capability has already made it the rifle of choice for top-level civilian high-power rifle competition. It is also increasingly the rifle of choice for serious long-range varmint and predator shooters, and it's appearing in increasing numbers in the big-game hunting arena, as well.

It should. ARs are not all just .223 caliber. In fact, most people are probably not aware that the AR design originated as a .308 (7.62mm), not as a .223 (5.56mm).


To get your AR to match the accuracy of the best hunting rifles, swap out its barrel for a match-grade version.

Technically speaking, it makes all the sense in the world that proven military rifle designs should be inherently appropriate for hunting use. All successful military rifles are specifically designed for rugged, reliable function and durability under extreme conditions, which translates automatically into use under even the most extreme field-hunting use. They're also designed for reasonable weight, portability and ease of fast handling by people who may be carrying other heavy gear and wearing bulky clothing. They have an inherent capability for follow-up shots, and they must be deadly accurate against targets of the same basic dimensions and at the same distances typically encountered by hunters.


The AR in particular is a superb hunting design, due primarily to its lightweight synthetic and corrosion-resistant alloy construction. And, it's surprisingly accurate, due primarily to the fact it's an "assembled" gun rather than a "fitted" gun. Its major components essentially snap together. Unlike a traditional bolt-action rifle, which generally requires close-tolerance, hand-work receiver/barrel mating and precise bedding into the stock for maximum accuracy and consistency, a hunting-grade (or even competition-grade) AR can readily be assembled from modular components literally on a kitchen table, by anybody with a modicum of ability to use relatively simple hand tools. Likewise, a service-grade "standard" AR15 can readily be brought up to minute-of-angle performance by selective replacement of key modular elements with match-grade parts. And, once tuned, an AR stays that way, due to the fact that its entirely nonorganic components (nonwood) are not susceptible to environmental distortion (warpage or swelling). All an AR really needs is a quality barrel to shoot as well as the best hunting rifle you can buy.

Hunting versions of the AR design, in a wide variety of chamberings, are currently offered by several manufacturers. One of the early leaders in AR hunting rifle and sport configurations has been ArmaLite, which offers both lightweight and heavy-barrel configurations in .223 (M-12A series) for long-range varmint and predator hunting, .308-chambered versions (AR-10 series) for deer hunting and competition and even a super-accurate .300 Remington Short-Action Ultra Mag (AR-10T Ultra), which is as good an elk, moose or general heavy game chambering as you can get.

Other manufacturers offer complete AR rifles and AR upper receivers chambered for such excellent hunting cartridges as the 6.8mm Remington SPC, up to big-bore dangerous-game chamberings such as the .458 SOCOM or .500 Beowulf.

MIX & MATCH
Because of its modular design, an AR is very easy to "sporterize" at your home workbench. The range of available quick-install AR accessories is nearly infinite, including a wide variety of precision-adjustable metallic sights, a diversity of optical sight-mount options, many different designs of adjustable or fixed buttstocks and forends (handguards), and attachments for varied styles of carrying and/or shooting slings and bipods for long-range precision shooting. A growing number of AR users are also taking advantage of the basic design to have different upper receivers in different chamberings and/or barrel lengths/weights made to attach to the same lower receiver (legally the serial-numbered actual "firearm"), making an AR nearly as versatile as a T/C Encore.

ARs are legal for hunting anywhere any other semiauto centerfire hunting rifle (such as a Browning BAR or Remington 742 or 7400) is legal--except in states that may have passed laws banning specific models and configurations of semiautomatics by calling them "assault rifles."

As for the "black rifle" issue...well, I like wood as much as the next guy, but the most popular hunting rifles in America these days, of any type, all have black or gray synthetic stocks, dull matte surface treatments or camo finishes, anyway. Black or camo bolt-action rifles, or black or camo ARs--what's the difference? If hunting with a "black gun" bothers you, don't. If you oppose others using a hunting tool simply because it doesn't "look right," you're standing on the same political platform as the California state legislature. Hunters should not do the antigun, antihunter groups' work for t

hem.

The AR platform is a hunting rifle, and anyone who says differently simply doesn't know history.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

The Glock 21

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Improved bullet ballistic coefficients lead to greater performance and accuracy downrange without upping blast and recoil. Here's why. How-To

Improved Ballistics a Key to Accurate Long-Range Shooting

Rick Jamison

Improved bullet ballistic coefficients lead to greater performance and accuracy downrange...

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day gifts. Accessories

Shooting Times Father's Day 2019 Gift Guide

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 07, 2019

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day...

Is the SIG P320 9mm modular pistol the best polymer-frame high-capacity sidearm ever designed? Let's find out. Handguns

SIG P320 9mm Review

Joseph Von Benedikt - September 13, 2018

Is the SIG P320 9mm modular pistol the best polymer-frame high-capacity sidearm ever designed?...

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm. Optics

Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

Since debuting eight years ago, the Ruger American rifle line has expanded to include 17 different chamberings in six configurations. Now, Ruger has chambered the Ranch Compact for the .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge. Rifles

Ruger American Ranch Compact Rifle in .350 Legend

Lane Pearce - May 14, 2020

Since debuting eight years ago, the Ruger American rifle line has expanded to include 17...

The Browning T-Bolt is a classic 22 LR rifle, and the new Browning T-Bolt Speed version has a lot of cool features, shoots very well, and is loads of fun. Rifles

Browning T-Bolt Speed Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - December 31, 2019

The Browning T-Bolt is a classic 22 LR rifle, and the new Browning T-Bolt Speed version has a...

Classy, powerful, and accurate, this Turnbull Restoration Winchester Model 1886 is one of the finest lever actions ever built. Rifles

Turnbull Restoration Winchester Model 1886

Joseph von Benedikt - April 22, 2020

Classy, powerful, and accurate, this Turnbull Restoration Winchester Model 1886 is one of the...

Roy Weatherby clearly intended his Mark XXII rifles to be heirloom-quality firearms that look wonderful, shoot superbly, and run reliably. There's no doubt it's the best-looking rimfire I've ever owned, and I'll be darned if it doesn't shoot like a bolt-action match rifle. Rifles

Weatherby Mark XXII Rifle Review

Joseph von Benedikt - May 28, 2020

Roy Weatherby clearly intended his Mark XXII rifles to be heirloom-quality firearms that look...

See More Rifles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now