Hunting with AR-15’s continue to rise in popularity throughout the United States. Despite the latest anti-gun attempts to ban them, hunters continue to look toward the AR as a platform for hunting game because of its versatility and familiarity.
I hunt several times a year with ARs and wish I was able to do more! I have made hunting with ARs a family affair; my brother, niece, and son have all hunted and taken game animals and varmints with AR platforms in three different states.
In this article, I’ll give you a few points on what to look for in your State when considering hunting with an AR-15.
Model, Caliber, and Capacity
If you’re thinking about taking your AR into the field, there are typically three regulation areas to look at.
In general, most States allow big game hunting with semi-auto rifles (which is what an AR is). In States that do allow hunting with semi-autos, they don’t restrict models – only capacity (some may allow 2rd, 4rd or 5rd mags only). The biggest thing you’ll want to pay attention to is caliber restrictions. Some States have restrictions on the size or weight of calibers that can be used. Also, some states with shotgun zones like Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan will allow AR’s chambered in straight walled cartridges like the popular 450 BM for use in the shotgun zone.
To hunt big game in Colorado, you must use a caliber .240 or larger. That means the common AR caliber .223/5.56 is NOT a legal big game hunting caliber, but 6.5 Grendel, 243 WSSM, etc. would be a legal caliber to hunt big game. There are similar restrictions in other states like Connecticut, Iowa, Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, and West Virginia, etc.
ARs are now Legal for some Hunting in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is the most recent newcomer to the AR hunting rifle community. Up until just last year, semi-auto firearms were prohibited for hunting in Pennsylvania. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Game Commission agreed to allow the use of semi-autos for hunting non-big game animals in the state. It is expected that big game will be added after a season or two.
What about California?
Yes, you can hunt with an AR in California, but you must follow their highly restrictive State regulations specific to ARs. They are too numerous to list, but if you do follow and play by the rules, you can hunt with your trusted AR in the State of California.
How about Internationally?
Hunting with AR platforms internationally can be much more challenging. Therefore, I recommend heavily researching the country if you plan to attempt an international hunt with your AR platform rifle. I have seen several videos of hunters detailing the modifications they had to make to take their AR Rifle to New Zealand for a goat hunt. Other countries may require fixed stocks, restrict magazine capacity or even require single shot functions. So make sure you do your research before shipping your rifle off to another country.
The AR’s Versatility is One Reason it’s so Popular
The cool thing about hunting with AR’s is that you can keep multiple uppers, in multiple calibers for different purposes zeroed and ready to go. All you need do is pop the pins and swap one upper for another.
I personally have multiple uppers dedicated for hunting different animals. Meaning the scopes are mounted, zeroed and ready. The bolt carriers and charging handles stay with their upper and by simply pushing two pins out any of them can be paired with my favorite lower receiver.
There is a great deal of information out there to help you choose calibers, barrels, ammunition, etc. for the game you intend to hunt. I truly believe there isn’t an animal in North America that cannot be taken with an AR hunting rifle.
So, check with your State’s Wildlife Agency for model, caliber or magazine capacity restrictions—if any, then plan your hunt and have a great time!
By JJ Sutton, C.P.S., C.M.A.S.
JJ served seven years in the US Army and has hunted all his life. His skills and interests include firearms training, manufacturing and consulting for custom design and builds of AR15s and AR10s. JJ is a Colorado native and resident. Visit his website at arhunters.com