Sooner or later it will happen to you. One of these seasons you’ll be sharing camp with a fellow NAHC member who’ll carry an AR-style rifle into the field on opening day. What will your reaction be?
North American Hunter Editor Gordy Krahn undertook that experiment a few seasons ago. Without telling any of the other camp regulars, he showed up at his lifelong northern Minnesota stomping grounds to hunt deer with a Remington Model R-25 chambered for .308 Win. and topped-off with a red-dot scope. As you might predict, he faced an array of responses.
Youngsters thought it was “way cool!” Some oldsters asked why he brought a “machine gun” to hunt deer. Everyone was interested, wanted to learn more and definitely wanted to shoot it, but you might not guess some of the questions he heard:
“How far does it shoot?” Well, it’s the same .308 Win. as in bolt guns, pump guns, lever guns and other semiautos, so it’s effective to the same ranges as all of them.
“Where’s the switch to make it full auto?” Civilian sporting rifles built on the AR platform are semiautomatic-only firearms, just like your beloved Benelli Super Black Eagle shotgun or Remington Woodsmaster .30-06.
“Aren’t those ‘assault rifles’? That’s what ‘AR’ stands for you know.” No, “AR” is not an abbreviation for “assault rifle.” It stands for “Armalite Rifle,” which was the military predecessor to what’s more properly called today the “modern sporting rifle.”
“Isn’t that thing a machine gun?” Certainly not. Automatic firearms have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934 and remain so today. The modern sporting rifle is a semiautomatic, meaning that it fires once each time you pull the trigger—just like the semiautos you probably already own.
“Those only come in .223 Rem. You gonna shoot deer with a .223 Rem.?” Manufacturers have geared up in a big way to produce AR-platform rifles in superb traditional big game hunting calibers such as the .308 Win., 7mm-08 Rem. and others. On top of that, they’ve created new hunting cartridges best suited to these rifles such as the .30 Rem. AR and the .450 Bushmaster.
“Can it hit anything?” The accuracy and reliability of today’s topnotch semiautomatic AR-type guns rank with the best of any other action. The Colt AR-15 and the M1A—both often mislabeled “assault weapons”—are the rifles most often used in marksmanship competitions in the United States.
Finally, “Don’t you know those aren’t meant for hunters … just for war?” Fact is, more of these types of guns have been purchased during the past few years for legitimate sporting use than most other types of rifles and shotguns combined!
This last one really gets under my skin because it sometimes comes from older vets who brought home their Mauser-style bolt actions, “sporterized” them and turned them into the treasured hunting rifles of generations past. Why should the vets coming home from the wars they are fighting today not be allowed to hunt with rifles with which they’re familiar and most comfortable?
It’s almost guaranteed you’ll see an AR-style rifle in camp soon if you haven’t already. I might even be the guy hunting with it!