The Versatile AR
September 23, 2010
Greg says the AR's ability to go from a compact fighting carbine to a powerful
big-game rifle and a super-accurate varmint rig gives it unparalleled versatility.
Remington R-15 in .204 Ruger
The AR platform is available in more calibers and configurations than any other firearm. No wonder it has become known as "America's Rifle."
Last year, a prominent hunting writer committed career hara-kiri by calling AR-15s "terrorist rifles" and suggesting state game departments, "...Ban them from the prairies and woods." His comments took him out of print and off the air for quite some time. He was wrong on many levels, but his biggest mistake was underestimating the popularity of the modular, ergonomic wonder that has become a best-seller.
The AR platform's modular design is what makes it so popular. With a push of a pair of pins, it can quickly morph from a tricked-out fighting gun to a hunting rifle. Easily changeable barrels, triggers, sights, and calibers suitable for everything from plinking to hunting have made the AR the favorite choice of shooters of every stripe.
As much as we like to trick out our ARs with all the latest cool-guy gear, the fact is none of us is likely to use our blaster to clear a house or take down a room full of bad guys. However, we can all agree that all the cool features we bolt onto our guns make them even more fun to plink with.
Like most shooters, I like to shoot my ARs fast. Whether it's cans, rocks, or cow patties, dusting targets in rapid succession with my trusty carbine is a blast. And until recently, the low cost of .223 Rem. ammunition made it a cheap activity, too. But .223 ammo has become expensive and scarce, so I've recently acquired a .22 LR upper from Tactical Solutions for more cost-effective plinking.
I use my .22 LR upper for plinking and training. To make my training more realistic, I mounted it on the lower of one of my fighting guns so that it has the same stock and trigger. Muzzle blast and recoil are a bit less than with my .223, but other than that, it is exactly the same as my fighting gun--and that makes it one efficient training tool. And thanks to the collapsible stock on one of my other lowers, my kids get a lot of use out of my .22 LR upper, too. I've long since passed the break-even point; the money I've saved on .223 ammunition has already paid for the .22 LR upper.
Studies have proven that the fast-expanding .223 ammunition that works so well on fleshy targets is safer indoors than buckshot, slugs, and a large number of pistol rounds. Combined with the ease of mounting lights and lasers on ARs and the .223's minimal recoil, this has caused the AR platform's popularity as a home-defense tool to soar. In fact, many shooters I know keep an AR handy for home defense.
The AR has several things going for it as a defensive tool. Chief among them are its light weight--provided you don't go crazy bolting on accessories--and compact length. An AR with a 16-inch barrel and collapsible stock isn't any longer than a pistol at the end of an extended arm. It is easy to maneuver in tight spaces, and with the buttstock locked under the shoulder, the AR is a lot easier to hang onto in a struggle than a pistol.
Rock River AR in .458 SOCOM.
Custom AR-10 in .308 Win.
The ease of mounting accessories--such as lights, optics, and lasers--on ARs is another reason they are so popular for defensive use. For many, lasers are a luxury, and optics are a take-it-or-leave-it option for me on defensive guns, but a weapon-mounted flashlight is a must. After all, most defensive situations happen in low light. A bright light will allow you to positively identify your target to prevent a case of mistaken identity, and it can temporarily blind the bad guy at indoor distances. That one- or two-second advantage can turn the tables in a life-or-death situation.
ARs have long been used for plinking and defense, but the last few years have seen a dramatic increase in AR use in the hunting fields. That popularity can be directly attributed to two factors: the improved accuracy of modern rifles and an increase in the number of AR-based guns chambered for hunting-appropriate cartridges.
Today's ARs are very accurate. Custom rigs can be expected to deliver match-grade accuracy, but lots of companies offer factory guns that shoot frighteningly good groups, too. That has led many hunters to go with ARs for such diverse pursuits as blasting prairie dogs at long range and calling predators in the thick stuff.
My Rock River Arms A4 Varmint and my DPMS LR-204 are two of my favorite prairie dog guns. They are very accurate, and their semiauto actions allow me to stay on the guns without moving a muscle to reload. For predator hunting, a collapsible-stocked carbine is tops. A 20-round magazine holds enough ammo to last through even an exceptional day without fishing around in my pocket. The collapsible stock allows me to make the gun fit perfectly regardless of how many layers of clothing I happen to be wearing.
Chambering ARs for more effective big-game cartridges like the 6.8mm SPC, .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .300 RSAUM, and .458 SOCOM, to name a few, have made hunters who like the AR platform look at the platform in a new light. While I haven't shot them all, I have taken quite a bit of game with ARs chambered for the .260 Rem., .308 Win., and .458 SOCOM. All three performed as I expected cartridges with their ballistics to perform, which is to say they've handily dropped every deer, hog, and coyote I've shot with them. On those rare occasions that I needed a second shot, my trusty AR delivered it as fast as I could get back on target and squeeze the trigger.
With its ability to go from a compact fighting gun to a heavy-barreled precision rig and everything in-between, the AR platform's versatility is unparalleled. That versatility will ensure the AR platform's continued popularity with American hunters and shooters for many years to come.
Greg really enjoys his Tactical Solutions .22 LR upper. He often trains with the M4 version to reduce ammunition costs.