According to a recent study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 27 percent of hunters surveyed have used an AR-15 in pursuit of game. Of those, 48 percent report having used an AR-15 within the past five years, illustrating a growth in the use of the platform among those hunters surveyed. Of those answering yes to the use of an AR-15 for hunting, nearly 60 percent state they have used the platform to hunt large game. (Source: RealTree)
In this article, I give you five reasons and the benefits of hunting with an AR-15—and why you should consider one for your next hunt whether hunting deer, elk, hogs, varmints and beyond.
The popularity of the AR-15 style rifle is at an all-time high. More people are owning and shooting AR style rifles than ever before. I believe this is partly due to the semi-auto nature of the rifle and the affordability of plinking ammo. Beginning around 2000-2005, many serious wildcatters started experimenting with cartridges in the AR-15 beyond the standard 5.56/.223 rounds. Soon after—new commercially available cartridges—began to appear including the 450 Bushmaster, 6.5 Grendel, and 204 Ruger just to name a few. As a result of these new-found cartridges, we are now seeing the AR-15 rifle used for the hunting of all species of North American game in addition to all types of varmints.
The below video by the NSSF outlines the evolution of the American Hunting Rifle.
Compact features of the AR-15 make it an excellent hunting rifle. The vertical grip and magazine make for a much more ergonomic fit of rifle to shooter, especially for younger or smaller hunters. Larger or taller hunters also enjoy the vertical grip as well as the additional advantage of being able to reach further down the free-floating handguard for more comfort if needed. The front carry sling system found on most AR-15’s allows the hunter to walk extended distance without any concern for the rifle as it always hangs ready from the shoulders. The front carry makes for a very quick, maneuverable first move when game is spotted. A hunter can be walking hands-free and immediately have rifle in hand and ready for a shot as game comes into view. A small feature but one I really like is the detachable magazine. The detachable magazine makes loading and unloading safe and simple. Insert the magazine and close the bolt… loaded. Drop the magazine, cycle the bolt… unloaded. It may not sound like such a big deal but where I am from (Michigan) exposure to the cold, rain and snow while fumbling around loading and unloading is something we like to avoid.
Semi-auto features of the AR-15 make it extremely attractive to the serious hunter. Semi-auto reloading means the shooter always keeps the hands in a shooting position and ready between shots. Unlike a bolt gun where the shooter must completely release the rifle, find the bolt, cycle it and return to the grip/trigger area before shooting a second shot. This feature is very valuable when engaging multiple targets such as coyotes or when needing a second shot to quickly anchor game thus avoiding a long or disappointing track job. The gas operating system found on AR-15’s makes for a very smooth, low recoil shooting system. Not only does low recoil make for a more pleasurable shooting experience but it also has the advantage of allowing the shooter to stay tight on the scope and keep the target always in view for those quick follow-up shots.
Familiarity and similarity between home defense rifles and hunting rifles make the AR-15 an obvious choice for the family hunting rifle. Many first time AR-15 buyers are purchasing for home defense. They will spend hard earned money on ammo and accessories. They will spend valuable time with family and friends learning and practicing to be proficient with the rifle. Split second home defense decisions are not unlike split second hunting situations. When that split-second decision presents itself, familiarity of the rifle in your hand is always an advantage. It is a natural transition from a defensive AR-15 to a hunting AR-15 and back again. Differences only being color and caliber. The family of AR-15s can be converted from 5.56/.223 over to a larger hunting caliber in a matter of seconds by pushing out two pins, removing the defensive upper and replacing with the hunting caliber upper. For those who own multiple AR’s the defensive rifle may stay intact and ready at all times while the hunting rifle may consist of one favorite lower which gets paired with various other upper setups in different calibers ready for different game.
In the end, it really boils down to what makes you confident as a hunter. Americans are scrappers, and we like to argue about everything. An example from the archery community; cross-bow shooters don’t like compound shooters, compound shooters don’t like recurve shooters, recurve shooters don’t like stick bow shooters… In the handgun community, we have the revolver people, and we have the pistol people, of course, each thinks the other is crazy. In recent years the hunting community has been divided between the bolt gun hunters, lever gun hunters, and muzzleloader hunters. Now we have AR hunters. Preference—you just have to choose which makes you confident and go with it. What a great time to be born and what a great country to be born in. I can choose to hunt with everything from a stick, to smoke poles, to cowboy rifles, to the most modern AR! Personally, I want them all. Each has a place in my gun safe (except the stick), but the majority of space is taken by AR’s, they are just plain fun. Nobody shoots an AR for the first time without cracking a smile.
My intent for writing this brief blog is to identify some of the primary reasons why we choose to hunt with an AR-15. Please do not use any of my words to divide shooters and hunters across America as we are all one community. We live in the greatest country at a great time in history.
Awaken Your Hunger… and go hunting. When you return tell others about your incredible experience in the wild!
God Bless the United States of America!
By Bartt Brenton, President of Brenton USA
Bartt is an engineer with thirty-plus years of experience from working at the world’s largest superconducting cyclotron laboratory at Michigan State University. He has taken over 200 North American big game animals and as many varmints and predators. Learn more about his story.