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AR-15 Guns & Gear

Waddell: Why ARs Are a Great Choice For Today’s Hunter

by Ben O'Brien   |  June 3rd, 2011 49

AR-styles rifles have broken out of their role as combat arms and predator rifles, and can be seen in almost any hunting camp in the U.S.

by Michael Waddell

One thing that is getting a lot of attention these days from sportsmen is the use of tactical rifles for hunting. Except where predator hunters are concerned (those boys were quick to recognize some of the advantages the rifles gave them in shooting smaller game), the sight of an AR-15 in camp was more of a novelty than a practice. But in the last few years, all of that seems to be changing. Today, as I travel around the country, I see more and more of these cool guns coming out of gun cases and safes at the different camps I stay in or visit. Hunters are finally embracing this gun for what it is–a darn fun gun to shoot, and one that is very practical for a lot of hunting situations.

I will be the first to admit that, while I’ve never been against them, tactical rifles simply weren’t something that I was exposed to very often growing up hunting in the South. Every once in awhile an old buddy who might have been in the service would bust one out of his truck and we’d go down and shoot targets or something like that. It was always a good time, but in my mind I still associated the rifles with combat and not the hunt. The closest thing I saw hunters use along those lines was an old Remington 742, Browning BAR or some other semiauto rifle that was good for deer. As a result, I never really appreciated what ARs were for outside of combat.

Benefits to Hunters
Obviously, all of this changed after Remington came out with the R-15, soon followed by the R-25, both AR-style tactical hunting rifles. I was asked if I would like to use one on a hunt, and when I did use it, it was like a light went off in my head. I had forgotten how much fun it was to shoot these types of guns, and because they were being offered in calibers beyond the relatively small .223 (an ideal cartridge for smaller game), they were capable of taking large game, which is what I truly like to hunt.

With a good AR, you have many opportunities to make a good follow-up shot if it is needed, because regardless of caliber, the guns have minimal recoil. This makes them easy to handle and even easier to stay on target until you know the job is done. Believe me, if that first shot turns into a warning shot, there is not a better gun to have in your hands to make that follow-up shot than one of today’s top ARs.

The accuracy and dependability of an AR are exactly what a hunter is looking for in a gun. Proven by the military, which has used them in the M16 military version since Vietnam, these guns are used by many long-range competitive shooters in matches at Camp Perry every year. The operating system is extremely simple and has few moving parts, so there is less to jam up or become a problem. They are also easy to break down and clean.

Remington's R-25

As I mentioned, too, today’s ARs offer lots of calibers to choose from beyond the original .223 chamberings. Hunters can get them in .308, .204 Ruger, .30 AR Remington and others that make this a versatile gun for hogs, deer and varmints. Smith & Wesson makes a great tactical-style .22 rimfire that I love for squirrel hunting. In fact, I loved the gun so much when I tried it out, I bought two of them. Adding to the versatility of the AR is a host of slings, optics, lights, bipods and other attachments that you can put on your rifle to customize it to your specific needs.   Great for Kids

A couple of years ago, I enjoyed the opportunity to do a hog hunting show with my son, Mason, where we used a Remington R-15 in .223. I was familiar with the gun by then and thought it would be fun to shoot and show how practical it was to hunt with. We hunted hogs over a couple of days and killed a few on camera. It was Mason’s first chance to hunt with a rifle like that, and watching him use it made me realize what a great gun this can be for kids or other smaller shooters. There was little recoil, and with the collapsible stock, I could adjust the length of pull perfectly for him and then turn right around and adjust it for my arms and use the same gun. Obviously, because it is a semiautomatic, special care needs to be givaen in going over safety when using one, particularly with a new shooter or a kid. You want to be sure they realize that after they pull the trigger once, they are still holding a firearm ready to fire until the safety is put back on, but the same principles of gun safety still apply no matter what rifle or shotgun a hunter is using.

Try One Out
Throughout history, soldiers have returned home from wars and picked up the same type of guns they had become familiar with in battle and taken them into the woods for hunting. The AR is no different, and with so many of our soldiers–many of whom also hunt–valiantly protecting our interests in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, no doubt the AR will remain a visible fixture on our country’s shooting ranges and in hunting camps for many years to come.

Some hunters are still reluctant to embrace these modern rifles and continue to prefer the classic stylings of more traditional arms with bolt actions or levers, wood stocks and checkered fore-ends. That is fine. But don’t be so quick to knock today’s tactical guns. The Second Amendment, after all, isn’t about hunting, it is about our rights as citizens to own guns necessary for our protection. It is not up to us as individuals to define what a hunting rifle is or isn’t any more than we want anti-gunners and anti-hunters making those same decisions.

In the end, ARs are fun to shoot, they are accurate and dependable, and they are versatile in the field–everything a sportsman could hope for and expect in a gun he will use for hunting.

  • jim parkins

    If you want a tactical rifle fine, but stop trying to push them up my ass and call them hunting rifles.

    • Chris

      If you can afford one rifle, the AR is an excellent choice. Much like the Winchester 101, the caliber can be changed very easily. On the 101, barrels of differing gauges are put on the gun. On an AR, a new receiver and barrel can be put on the gun and POW (pun intended) different caliber!

    • Coltauto

      You have it right, but they are going to keep yelling at you anyway. I shoot AR's and build them. They are interesting, high performance gear. Huting deer or bear has nothing to do with offensive weapons designed for a totally different mission.

    • Richard Yoakum

      Jim Parkins "lighten up Francis"

    • TrophyHunterii

      Buddy, you gatta chill Willis, a gun is a gun, and why not hunt with the AR15/M16, shit the Indians/Eskimo love using this weapon, so do GI's

    • Dwight Sanders

      I'm sorta with you. I've several AR's. If I have plenty of time and a very good rest, I shoot'em very well. Running shots? Hell, I might just as well have slingshot in my hand. They have their place. But as for me give me a good remington or browning auto. You can keep your AR.

  • Albert Wesker

    Good Lord, calm down, Jim. I hardly think that was in any way the purpose of this article.

    • joe


  • Trey Foos

    Shut your pie hole Jim Parkins!

  • Chris

    I personally have no issue with AR rifles… Jim Parkins is being a troll, thats all

  • Coltauto

    Yes, returning soldiers did hunt with rifles they used in the war, after sporterizing them with cut down barrels, light weight stocks and starting a whole custom gun industry based on these conversions. Soldiers did not come home and begin hunting with M1's or M14's. AR15's are too heavy, too under powered and too ugly to be sporting rifles for hunting.

    • Glenn

      Actually, post-WWI and WWII, hunters came home and started hunting with the guns of the same caliber they'd used in the wars. The .30-06 craze of the baby boomer days and the popularity of the .308 can both be traced back to people using them during their days in the service. The fact is that the M1 isn't a very good hunting rifle (and due to its 8-round stripper clip is illegal in some places) but the M14 is a good hunting rifle. The AR-15s are actually lightweight and good hunting rifles, their biggest limitations have been their small caliber and the cost. Now that the same design is in larger calibers, now all we need to do is bring the cost down…

  • BFolks

    I've never hunted with an AR, but one one problem I hear about is the noise made closing the bolt. If you keep your chamber empty while walking and you happen upon a deer it is difficult to close silently (like with a bolt action). Would love to hear comments on this.

    • Jeff

      AR-15 thumb safety. Stop being scared of your own firearms. If you cannot confidently walk through the woods with a round in the chamber you need to re-think owning firearms in the first place.

    • Glenn

      Agree with Jeff. Chamber a round, put it on safe. There's no reason why you shouldn't be ready to shoot the moment a target presents itself. When you get back to the truck or wherever, drop the magazine, unload the rifle, put the round back the magazine, reload the magazine into the rifle.

    • spc smith

      They can be closed silently if you ride the bolt forward manually instead of hitting the release I used one for four years in the us army and am very familiar with it very simple weapons accurate I plan on using one this season

  • R. Slovak

    If you walked into Elk camp carrying one of those AR's up here in Idaho you would not be welcome..never have cared for Waddell and this just put the nail in the coffin! AR's will never be a "great choice" for a real hunter. +1 with Jim Parkins

    • Jeff

      I would hate to even be associated with hunters that will not welcome a fellow hunter because of his choice of weapon. Sounds like a sour bunch you roll with.

      • joe


    • Joe

      I'm with Jeff on this one, and I guess my dream of leaving Alaska to hunt elk in Idaho is over. I am resigned to be a not so real hunter carrying a not so great choice of rifle to remote moose/bear/caribou/goat/sheep hunting camps where the closest "real hunters" and their "great choices" are no where to be found.

    • Sean

      This is about as stupid of an argument as refusing to go to a super bowl party at someones house because they have a Panasonic tv instead of Sony…Refusing gas from someone when you ran out because it's from Conoco and not from Exxon. You get the idea…

    • tyler j

      you better hunt with a long bow buddy, as that is the only true way to hunt. anything else is just too damn black and scary if you ask me, and if you hunt with us and bring a bolt action to camp, you had better belive we will laugh your ass right out of there. not because of your choice of shooting machine but due to your complete and blatant ignorance. people like you are why there are fewer hunters today than ever before.

  • Terry

    Sounds like this Jim guy already has something up there and couldnt fit one anyhow.

  • Jamie

    I kill deer,antelope,yotes and prairie dogs with my AR's and bolt guns on a yearly basis here in North Dakota. I prefer to hunt with AR's, any jackwagon fudd who doesn't like it can kiss my a$$! Why the hell would anyone care what another person hunts with? The only reason I can think of is they're a complete a$$hole…

  • bob meluskey sr

    i guess these guns have a niche where i don't know , i'm not a found fan of paramilitary toys , whether they are used for hunting or not , just rather use an old reliable Remington Model 700 besides i only need one shot most times never saw need for a semi even in a shotgun

    • Jamie

      I hunt with AR's and only "need" one shot to kill game as well and it's damn sure not a toy, ignorant people like you really piss me off. If you only "need" one shot then get rid of your bolt action that holds 4-5 rounds and get a single shot. After all, you only "need" one shot. In fact, you don't "need" a rifle to hunt with, buy yourself a bow and hunt only with that. Bow hunting is much more of a challenge and it gives the animals a sporting chance. See that, you don't really "need" a gun for anything at all.

      You see Bob, I can minimize and ridicule what kind of gun you choose to hunt with as well and say you don't "need" it. It's called the Bill of Rights not the bill of needs.

      • Sean

        Take it a step further…Don't need a bow…Why not trying to stalk a deer and kill it with your bare hands? Now THAT'S giving the animal a sporting chance.

  • Joe

    I love my R25 in .308. I have taken two moose and a caribou with it and I am not afraid to carry it anywhere in Alaska. Yes it is a little heavy, but it has light recoil, shoots less than MOA groups, and the recoil is very light for a .30 cal rifle. The ability to carry 10 rounds in a magazine saves on having to reload or carry more while you are field dressing in bear country.

  • charles

    I have a 22 that looks like a m16.I was in the army and did not like the m16. Hunt with any gun that is legal. The gun you hunt with is always the best.

  • Ted

    While not my first choice as a hunting rifle, I love my AR, and would not hesitate to hunt with it. Noone has mentioned that Remington has introduced the .450 bushmaster chambering for this platform. The .450 is more than capable of downing any game species on this continent. I'm neither for or against hunting with the AR rifle, but if you choose a chambering adequate to your intended quarry, and put your time in at the range, do your thing, because really, a .308 bullet out of an AR is not any different than a .308 bullet out of a bolt action or lever action.

  • Richard Yoakum

    Is this really something outdoor enthusiasts should debate about? If you want to use an AR or your Grandads 30-30 we are all under enough pressure every day from the Obama loving,tree hugging, bunny loving liberals that are trying to take or constitutional rights away from us!! Let's focus on the bigger issues.

  • Terry

    I agree with the fello who said why does anyone care what someone else hunts with as long as they are safe an think of fello hunters ! Be safe out there an rember there are other ppl out there in thouse woods !

  • Gersh

    I'm sure lots of people were complaining when Remington flooded the woods with the 742 semi-auto or Browning with the BAR. You rarely hear those complaints anymore. What's the difference here? I can appreciate that people who arbitrarily empty their gun's magazine every time they fire at a game animal might not be practicing good and safe conduct; I can also appreciate the fact that one person may not choose or prefer to hunt with an AR but to say that a person should not be ALLOWED to hunt with one because of this is absurd. It's like saying it should be illegal to own a sportscar or eat fast-food.

    • Jamie


  • Jason

    who cares what you hunt with as long as you are hunting. We have too many people who are against us already to be bickering amongst ourselves. My wife and I only bowhunt. We dont even own a centerfire rifle because we dont use them, however we open our arms to other hunters irregardless of their weapon of choice at our campfire.

  • T.C.

    This is America, you can hunt with whatever is legal in your state, AR's are fun to shoot, easy to maintain, (if you know how to clean a gun), and just as well adaptable to the hunt as they are for combat. A successful hunt always ends up in a humane kill shot, how you do it is your business. Never have seen anyone humanely harvest an animal with bare hands, I'd like to shake the hand of the man (or woman) that can accomplish that feat. Happy hunting everyone, let's keep our right to bear arms alive and well! Support your military and they will always support you.

  • john

    yep AR's are the shiz, they are hunting rifles its called coyote hunting and you know its the same thing as any other firearm that shoots a .223 or 308 the platfor is different and besides max 5 round clip for hunting no different than a shot gun only rife form. not to mention shot guns shoot sabot rounds which shoot 200 and are full auto. only thing diff. is size of round and yet again the plat form of the weapon.

  • Scott

    I never thought I'd have much use for one myself, but ever since Jim Zumbo made his comments a few years ago (later retracted) and today's political climate, I ordered my first AR. It hasn't gotten here yet but I'm already planning additional uppers for it for hunting big game as well as predators. I'm excited to try it.

  • sstonemo

    The most comical comments I'm reading are those "Why are we arguing about what we shoot?" Lord have mercy, we've been arguing over that since I first picked up a .22 at 8 years old…that's 56 years now. We've argued semi's over bolts, bolts over singles, singles over everything. Snobbery is NOT limited to fly fisherman, politicians, or the neighbor. Argue away! Have a good time.

  • Pete MacMahon

    Sounds like a fine idea, hunting with my AR or even my AK clone. But, would someone please tell the Pennsyvania Game Commission that? They don't even allow semi-auto 22s for small game!

    • john johnson

      Ar s come in different calibers

  • Jack

    Funny… It looks like The Bone Collector is more of a collector of other people's wives- his friend and producer's wife that is. Check out his twitter and his Bone Collector 4 video. This guy is a scumbag. Dont get caught up in that "good ole boy" BS he puts out there. Remember his wife and 3 kids

  • chris

    I use my Kimber 300wsm when i hunt out in the mountains, for elk or bear, because it is a light hard hitting rifle. But back here in Wisconsin woods stalking whitetails my DPMS 308 carbine is the ticket. Short, quick handling, very accurate, almost no recoil for a quick follow up shot when you are more surprised than the big buck that jumps out the deadfall next to you. AR's and bolts both have a purpose in my hunting. But .223's should not be used for anything bigger than a yote!

  • John Angioli

    Here in Canada we could care less if you use a single shot, bolt, semi-auto, pump, bow, crossbow, or shotgun to shoot your game, as long as it's legal and logical(no .22 rimfires for hunting moose, for example). We can't be bothered with pissing matches over whether an AR is a "proper" hunting rifle, the only thing we care about is that the hunter is handling his firearm safely. We're just concluding a long battle to get the Conservatives a majority in Ottawa, and have the long gun registry eliminated. It should be gone by early next year, and our registration leading to confiscation worries are over. Firearms owners and hunters have plenty of enemies trying to bring us down, indulging in petty bickering amongst ourselves is stupid and only helps the antis.


    Its about having a good time and being outdoors. To me its like this, if its legal use whatever you want. Im strictly a bowhunter, but have no problem with anyone using a AR!

  • Alan B.

    My 480 pistol will kill anything that moves on this Planet… I still enjoy My MP-15 and My old SKS is the most accurate rifle I own. I LOVE not worrying about beating up My Beautiful Browning wood while knocking around the Mountainside chasing Critters. There is Nothing wrong with using Tactical weapons in a Hunting environment… why shouldn't Your gun be as rugged as the Terrain? Everybody Loves a Beautiful, Handcrafted, Work of art Weapon but We can't all afford to take them out of their nice secure spot in the safe and Hunt with them. God Bless You if You can and More power to Ya!

  • joe h

    why in the world would anyone reject a rifle for its apppearance , i own use and hunt with all types semi autos, bolts lever guns and single shots, even got two blackpowder guns too use in those seasons, got bows and a crossbow recently legal in texas . as long as the rifle is legal in your state, is a good caliber for game , and you have the skills to shot why would anyone care, i just purchase a old remington 740 in 30/06 made in the 50,s other than the wood and blueing its a semi auto like the ar,s a lot out there would not say a word over this very common deer rifle at camp, but would go nuts if a ar,10 came into camp, let all stick togatheir if it ant your cup of tea great if you love a ar or ak, or want to take a fereal hog out with a m 14 or m1-a1 les take them down, in my hunting camp in texas all rifles bows and crossbows welcome come on in and throw ur shoes off and stay a while

  • jim

    In the right hands an Ar can be an efective hunting rifle, but i know several people that should not be allowed to hunt with one. my reasoning, young hunters need to learn shot placement as do alot of older hunters! A good old bolt action gun still cant be beat!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rubenoff

    a true marksman can down a Moose or other game animal with a 30.06 308. 303. with a scope in one easy clean shot, a hunting rifle with a scope and a keen eye is all it takes to get game animals, bu there is some skill required to sneak up and not being seen by the animal ensuring the wind is blowing from the animal to the hunter is the key, we know some hunters who use Bow and Arrow and that takes even greater skills,
    using an AR 15 assault rifle is overkill if you had a 100 bullet capacity bullet magazine there would nto be enough good meat left to make a roast Maybe a pipe organ full of holes

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