If you want to get odd looks at the hunting camp, show up with a AR 15. For some reason, people really can’t accept the AR 15 as a hunting rifle. It’s not Winchester Model 70, or Mossberg 500, but it is plenty capable of being a successful hunting rifle for small to medium game. I hunt with an AR and have gotten my fair share of odd looks and Commando jokes. I think the AR 15 is an outstanding rifle for a variety of tasks and hunting is one of them.
Why the AR 15?
The AR 15 is a lightweight rifle that’s compact and capable. Even chambered, in the smaller 223 Remington round, the gun is still an excellent deer and hog slayer. It’s perfect for coyotes, bobcats and similar varmints.
The AR 15 is also a very accurate rifle and, out to 500 yards, it’s easy to hit man-sized targets. Two hundred yards is the cut off for most humane hunting, and the AR 15 is plenty capable at that range. It is also a highly customizable gun that be can be outfitted to nearly any shooter.
The AR 15 is light recoiling and the ammunition is easy to find. It’s easy to add accessories like an optic or even a suppressor. It’s a very ergonomic rifle that’s easy to manipulate and very easy to shoot accurately. The semi-automatic action also gives you rapid follow-up shot potential that’s unbeatable when hunting animals that tend to travel in herds, like hogs.
The modularity of the weapon makes it easy to upgrade and morph into a hunting rifle. There is no one option to build a hunting rifle, but there are a few core upgrades I’d suggest for most shooters. The addition of these upgrades will improve performance and almost guarantee a one-shot kill on a deer, hog, coyote or whatever else you decide to hunt.
These same upgrades can be applied to the bigger brother of the AR 15, the AR 10. The AR 10 is a bit more powerful and better suited for dealing with larger animals. When comes to hunting larger game, use with the AR 10. For medium and small game, the AR 15 is the lighter, more comfortable to shoot weapon.
How to Setup an AR15 as a Hunting Rifle
Here are a few upgrades that I think are necessary to make your rifle all it can be when it comes time to go hunting. The AR 15 is a capable rifle, even when it’s just outfitted with a set of iron sights, but a few additional accessories can make this platform go a long way.
A scope is an excellent addition to any rifle. With a hunting rifle, it really enhances how the gun is used. The primary benefit of a scope is the ability to see further and be more precise when shooting. An optic will improve your ability to hit a target at both close and long ranges.
Additionally, an optic will help you see and scout an area. Most of the game I’ve killed were in the early morning or the late evening. An optic helps give you a better view of the world and allows you to see the fine details of the environment. This will enable you to spot an animal with ease, especially once you are in the tree line.
What kind of optic should you use? I like a variable design with a limited magnification. Nothing too big. You don’t need a massive amount of magnification for the range you’ll hunt at with an AR. I like a simple 3-9x on my AR 15, but a 2-7x or 1-6x is also a solid choice.
Red dots can be handy for brush hunting, but limit to you to close range shooting. A variable power optic with a low to moderate range allows you to engage both close and medium ranges.
Most states do not allow you to hunt with a standard capacity magazine. The AR 15’s standard capacity is thirty rounds. Most states limit you to 10, 7 or 5. When purchasing reduced capacity magazines, you need to choose a high-quality option. Companies like Lancer and Magpul produce 10 and 5 round magazines, or limiters you can install in magazines. You want high-quality options because if it fails that semi-automatic action is near useless.
Adding a bipod to a AR 15 is one of the simplest things you can do. With the number of rail systems out there, it’s possible to find a bipod that fits your needs. They make options for Picatinny rails, Keymod handguards and M-LOK options. A bipod is a great device for adding stability to your rifle. A bipod allows you to rest your gun on any surface and gain instant stability.
This added stability takes a lot of the human error out of shooting and makes it easy to engage a target accurately. To humanely take an animal as quickly as possible, you need to hit one of those vital zones. The addition of a bipod allows you to reach out and touch a target with more confidence. A scope and bipod on any gun make the gun devastatingly accurate.
A sling is a must-have for navigating rough terrain or for climbing over and dealing with obstacles. If you have to climb up and down tree stands a sling is a must have to secure your rifle to your body. A sling can also be used to help add stability to your offhand shooting. Slings on rifles should be robust, but maneuverable.
A modern sling like the Blue Force Gear Vicker’s sling is perfect because you can do anything without ever having to unsling the rifle. A sling keeps the gun in your hands regardless of what happens. If you trip or fall, the sling keeps your weapon on your body and secure.
A sling is one of the items on this list I say is a must-have. It’s a cheap and simple upgrade that is well worth both its weight and cost.
When it comes to hunting, your standard FMJ loads just won’t do for hunting. You want a bullet with excellent expansion and penetrative capabilities. Luckily, with ammo as standard as the 223, you have dozens of options. My preferred round is the Hornady Whitetail 60 grain round.
Other exist of course, including rounds like Remington’s Hog hammer and the Federal Premium Vital Shok. These rounds not only expand but also tend to be loaded to be more consistent and accurate. Proper ammo selection is critical to a humane kill, and you should use a purpose-built hunting cartridge. An FMJ will likely zip through an animal and leave you tracking blood for a decent distance. Save yourself the trouble and time and use the right ammo for the job.
This is probably the most controversial item on the list, and the hardest to legally obtain. To get a suppressor first, it needs to be legal in your state, and you should make sure its legal to hunt with. After that, you have to find one, purchase it and file the appropriate forms with the ATF as well as a $200-dollar tax stamp. After that, you have to wait for approval, which could be months.
A suppressor doesn’t make your rifle superbly quiet or anything like that. It does help reduce the noise, which makes it a little less damaging to your ears, which is critical for ear safety and reduces noise pollution overall.
With 5.56 the supersonic crack will still be present, but it makes it much harder for an animal to locate your position. As we covered before, most animals move early in the morning and late in the evening, while the light is often low. Low light makes muzzle flash more prominent, but a suppressor kills muzzle flash, also making it more comfortable to use in a deer blind. Suppressors also help with recoil reduction, which is a nice benefit.
At the end of the day suppressors also make you a politer hunter. You reduce noise pollution and keep the rest of the deer in the woods from getting on edge.
The AR Hunter
The AR is a do it all rifle. Home defense, plinking, competition and hunting are all tasks it can accomplish with ease. You don’t need much to hunt with an AR, but a few accessories and upgrades take an average AR and turn it into a deer slaying machine.