Why You Should Hunt with an AR Style Rifle

Updated on February 1, 2018
LJ Bonham profile image

LJ Bonham is an author, historian, hunter, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.

Source

AR platform rifles (the M-16’s civilian version) are now the most popular rifle in America, like it or not. Well over five million are owned nationwide, and they comprise the fastest selling, and fastest growing, segment in the firearms market today.

Soldier Turned Hunter

Although first envisioned by its creator, Eugene Stoner, as a military weapon, AR rifles are well suited to hunting. Their modular construction allows either the manufacturer or the end user to configure them for sporting purposes. In fact, Armalite chambered the first AR rifle, the AR-10, for the 7.62mm NATO round which is the popular .308 Winchester. All AR type rifles are almost identical mechanically regardless who produces them. Here’s a closer look at what makes the AR so good for hunting.

The Original Armalite AR-10
The Original Armalite AR-10 | Source

Roll Out the Barrel

The M-16 service rifle, and its sibling the M-4 carbine, have twenty and fourteen inch long barrels, respectively, and are chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, which is the civilian .223 Remington. Modern sporting AR’s come with various barrel lengths but the most typical are 16.5, 20, and 22 inches.

Go Chrome or Go Home

Mil-spec barrels have chrome lined chambers and bores for corrosion resistance, a feature which helped address the early M-16’s poor reliability in jungle combat. Some sporting AR’s have this as well, but many do not; their barrels are either bare carbon steel, Melonite™ coated, or stainless steel. The unlined barrels are best suited to target shooting competition since these guns are well maintained, fed match-grade ammunition, and seldom see adverse weather conditions.

Either the chrome lined or stainless barrels are preferable for field use. Hunting guns are used in rain, snow, heat, and cold. It’s not unusual for a hunting gun to go for days or weeks without a thorough cleaning, and it must fire when needed or the hunter goes hungry.

Source

Float It

Hunter’s should also select an AR which has a full floating barrel so pressure on the forward hand guard does not alter the gun’s point of aim, although standard barrel fitment is satisfactory for most hunting situations.

This AR-10 has a floating stainless steel barrel
This AR-10 has a floating stainless steel barrel | Source

Upper Receiver

Hunters should select what is known as a “flat top” upper receiver on their AR. A flat top eliminates the integral carry handle/rear sight mount inherited from the M-16 and allows the user to install whatever optical sight they prefer. Also, a flat gas block is best since it deletes the high-profile front sight which interferes with a hunter’s view through the scope.

The M-16's carry handle also houses the rear sight and is forged in one piece with the upper receiver.
The M-16's carry handle also houses the rear sight and is forged in one piece with the upper receiver. | Source
This AR has a flat top receiver and gas block.  The front and rear sights are easily removed to allow optical sight installation.
This AR has a flat top receiver and gas block. The front and rear sights are easily removed to allow optical sight installation. | Source

Piston or No Piston?

The AR’s semi-automatic action is known as a “gas impingement” system. It bleeds off small amounts from the hot gas which propels the bullet down the barrel and redirects it via a tube back to the bolt carrier housed in the upper receiver. The gas pushes directly on the bolt carrier to move it out of battery and cycle the action for the next shot. It is simple, effective, and eliminates several moving parts, but the down side is it introduces hot, soot laden gas into the receiver which can, if not cleaned out periodically, contribute to malfunctions.

To solve this problem, some AR makers have redesigned the action into what is known as “piston driven.” The original gas tube is replaced with a larger diameter unit which contains a small piston and actuating rod. The hot gases push on the piston which moves the actuating rod back into contact with the bolt carrier and cycles the action. This results in a gun which runs much cooler and doesn’t suffer from excessive carbon buildup, but it adds parts and weight.

Piston AR’s, while nice to have, are not necessary for most hunting since hunters seldom need to fire round after round with little cool-down between shots. Hunters are better off without the extra weight and expense.

Cutaway diagram depicting the AR's gas impingement system
Cutaway diagram depicting the AR's gas impingement system | Source
A piston driven AR's gas piston disassembled.   This one is from a Ruger 556.
A piston driven AR's gas piston disassembled. This one is from a Ruger 556. | Source

Stock Exchange

The original M-16 had a fixed length stock made from fiber reinforced polymer, a simple, rugged design. The subsequent M-4 carbine had a telescoping stock adjustable for length of pull which debuted on the CAR-15 in the late 1960’s, and allows soldiers to tailor the length to compensate for body armor or heavy clothes. While versatile, the telescoping stocks are not well suited for precision shooting. They tend to wobble and have little surface area for a solid cheek weld.

Hunters once again benefit from AR components designed for the military. In this case, there are numerous replacement stocks which feature adjustable comb height as well as pull. They are also stable so they don’t affect the shooter’s aim.

AR with after-market fixed stock (top) and M-4 type adjustable stock (bottom).
AR with after-market fixed stock (top) and M-4 type adjustable stock (bottom). | Source

Legal Magazines

The M-16 used 20 and 30 round detachable magazines. This limited the AR’s hunting usefulness in jurisdictions which regulated magazine capacity for hunting rifles. This problem has been solved with reduced capacity after-market magazines. Thanks to the fact an AR can use any compatible magazine, hunters can take their modern sporting rifles into the field and remain legal by just inserting a five round magazine into the weapon.

After-market polymer magazines have revolutionized the AR.  They are made in both low and high capacity versions.
After-market polymer magazines have revolutionized the AR. They are made in both low and high capacity versions. | Source

Accessorize Until You Drop

The current gun market is awash in AR accessories; some useful, some dubious, and some just plain cool. Hunter’s benefit from this rifle’s popularity. They can select numerous grips, hand guards, rail mount systems, trigger assemblies, and many others to improve their gun’s hunting effectiveness. Among the most useful are flared trigger guards, which allow room for thick gloves; wide charging handles, again for gloved hands; improved pistol grips; illuminated scope reticles; improved triggers; suppressors to reduce shooter’s hearing damage; and bipods.

A decked out AR, ready for defense or hunting
A decked out AR, ready for defense or hunting | Source

Conclusion

AR platform rifles are here to stay. They are to this century what the Mauser bolt-action was to the last. They are fantastic hunting guns: accurate, reliable, lightweight, easy to use, easy to customize, and effective on game. Hunters who use them know how good they are. It is time hunters, and anyone else, who scoffs at these modern sporting rifles joined the 21st century.

Gas Impingement vs. Piston Driven Systems

A Few Accessories Turn the AR into a Great Deer Rifle

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Ken Burgess profile image

        Ken Burgess 

        16 months ago from Florida

        Nice write up, the AR-15 is my favorite as well, for one of the reasons you noted, after working with M16 and M4 for my military career, I will always have one in my possession.

      • LJ Bonham profile imageAUTHOR

        LJ Bonham 

        16 months ago

        They are quite good. Matching caliber to game is important though.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://skyaboveus.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)