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Alaskan Moose with Alexander Arms 6.5 Grendel Pistol on

Who would hunt with an AR-15?!

“Hunting with an AR-15 is just stupid. Use an appropriate hunting rifle.” – An internet expert.

That is a ridiculous statement. That is like saying you don’t see the use in owning a bolt action for shooting elk or a lever action for shooting deer, or a cartridge rifle for shooting bison. 

At what point is particular type of rifle “appropriate” for hunting?

The semi-auto action is the only action that I know of in history that STARTED as a hunting rifle action. 

All other types of rifles started as military technology, and then began to be used for hunting, once their advantages were recognized by sportsmen. 

The semi-auto rifle was in use by hunters for decades before any military really took it seriously. 

Model 8 Remington rifle

Remington Model 8 was introduced as a hunting rifle before WWI, when the armies of the world were still using bolt-action rifles.

The Remington Model 8 and 81 have been killing game in the hands of hunters since just after the beginning of the 20th century, and its parentage can be seen in both the M1 Garand and the AK 47, as well as later designs. 

Just as the military-style single-shot cartridge rifles replaced muzzle-loaders for hunters, and military lever actions and later bolt actions evolved into the hunting rifles that largely eclipsed everything that came before, the semi-auto, originally designed as a hunting rifle over a century ago is now quickly becoming a standard tool for modern hunters. 

Where I live, semi-auto rifles, both civilian and military surplus, have been very popular for as long as they have been available, with Ruger Mini-14s found in great numbers in the bush and used so heavily that they are often worn out and now replaced by AR-15s. 

The AR-15 has been widely recognized by hunters as particularly suitable for hunting. It is part of a natural progression of hunting firearms that has been unchanged since the days of matchlocks. 

People doubted the reliability of musket caps over flint. Old-timers expressed doubt about the reliability of lever actions. Hunters who grew up on single-shot cartridge rifles warned that repeating rifles would lead to poorly aimed shots, yet none of these predictions proved true, and the progression continues. 

Where is the utility in using an AR-15 for hunting? As those pre-World War I hunters fielding the Remington Model 8 discovered, one of the great values of a semi-auto rifle is that you can make a fast follow-up shot. Let the hunting magazines wax eloquent about one-shot kills; any experienced hunter knows that not every animal drops when and where it was shot. A quick follow-up shot can make hunting more humane and reduce the chance of a lost and wasted animal.

Lower recoil leads to better accuracy, faster follow-up shots, and utility for younger or smaller shooters. 

My 46 pound son shoots a .50 Beowulf AR-15 with ease. A ballistically-similar .45-70 is too long, too heavy, and has far to much recoil for him to handle. 

Ease of mounting good optics. An AR-15 is set up for fast optics like reflex sights, which can be a contrivance to try to mount on a lever-action, for example.

Mounting of magnified scopes is easy and straightforward. 

Ease of carry. An AR-15 can be carried at the ready on a tactical sling. You can engage in activities such as fishing, berry picking, or hiking yet still have a rifle ready for instant use. 

Shorter barrels. AR-15s now come chambered in cartridges like 6.5 Grendel, .50 Beowulf, and .300 Blackout that are very efficient from short barrels. A 6.5 Grendel with an 11” barrel can be a 400 meter hunting rifle, and a 1,000 meter target rifle. 

Ease of mounting suppressors. Shorter, threaded barrels make mounting suppressors easier. Save your hearing. 

Modularity and adjustability. ARs are easy to configure for smaller or larger shooters, or changes from summer to winter clothing, without expensive and permanent alterations to the firearm. 

Accuracy. The accuracy potential is amazing. Free-float a match barrel on an otherwise stock AR, and you may find you have a 1/4 or 1/2 MOA rifle. 

Multiple targets. In some areas of my state, we can shoot 6 deer per year; in other areas 5 caribou per day. In these areas people depend on hunting for subsistence, and are often presented with multiple animals together. A bear attack involving a sow with 1-to-3-year-old cubs is not an unusual situation, resulting in defense against three full-grown bears at once.

Familiarity. In 1917, thousands of lever-action and single-shot hunters went to war with bolt action rifles. When they came home, they wanted to hunt with the same. Winchester responded with the Model 52 and then the Model 70. 

Today, thousands of bolt-action hunters have gone to war with the M16 and M4. They returned home with a familiarity with the AR-15, and a knowledge of its advantages for hunting.

If you have an AR in a rimfire caliber, 6.5 Grendel, and .50 Beowulf, you are capable of hunting just about everything in the world.

Hunters around the world now carry ARs for hunting and dangerous game protection because it is practical. It just makes sense. 

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