12 reasons I hunt with an AR-15 (and you should too)

Hi, I’m Will and like many Americans I hunt with an AR-15 style rifle.  My current favorite is a camo Remington R-15 in .223 Rem. with a Trijicon scope and couple of mods on it from LaRue Tactical.

I’ve used this gun or one like it to successfully take game for the past 20 seasons and over these two decades of hunting I have come to understand something on its own right: That along with scent eliminating soap and smart wool socks, the AR platform of rifles is the best piece of kit to come to hunters in the past half century. 

And I’m sick and tired of listening to people try to tell me otherwise.


I am sorry to burst these folks bubble but I’m not the guy who is going to show up with my hat in my hands just for doing what I know how to do best.

So for those people in my life who like to question my experience and how I spend my weekends, who don’t see the ‘reasons’ why AR-15s can be the best hunting rifle tool for the job—well how about 13…

1.  Hogs

When I watch hand-wavers like Piers Morgan question the necessity of using a semi-automatic rifle on the hunt, I often have to fight the urge to scream one four-letter word at the screen: hogs.  Wild hogs can weigh over a half a ton, move in groups 30 deep and fear no man, God or machine that gets between them and their food, which historically could just as easily be you as it could your dog or your rose bushes.  They cause $1.5 billion worth of damage to crops and other infrastructure annually, push farther north everyday and not a single one of the estimated 5 million belongs here.

In short, the great American pig hunt looks more like a math equation than a trophy hunt and with no natural predators here in North America, it’s one human beings are duty bound to solve. I suggest using semi-automatic rifles instead of TI-83s.

2.  Prairie dogs

Westerners call these guys P-rats.  Take a look at the list of viruses they carry and you’ll see the resemblance. In places like South Dakota, it’s still illegal to handle these little Typhoid Mary’s before or after you shoot them. Why?  Probably has something to do with the fact prairie dogs have been the chief suspect in just about every documented case of the bubonic plague in this country for the past 100 years (thought the Human society pretends otherwise). Besides evil, history-altering diseases, prairie dogs cause significant injuries to livestock who break legs when they crash through their tunnels and compete for natural food resources.

Ranchers and the state poison prairie dog towns and even use explosives but recent field studies (conducted by me and a couple other scholars) have shown that the most effective, humane, environmentally friendly and enticing method for culling these critters is a shooting bench, a semi-automatic rifle with plenty of ammo and a six-pack of beer.  The second, according the Humane Society?  A project costing untold millions of dollars and that has taken over 30 years to re-introduce the black-footed ferret.

3.  Coyotes

Like many men my age, I popped my AR hunting cherry in college in the early 90s when a buddy of mine took me predator hunting in Texas.  I’ve been using an AR to pop yotes coast to coast ever since and this is mostly because the coyote population has been steadily increasing coast to coast for the past 30 years. Today there is basically no closed season on these mutts, anywhere.

A coyotes’ fur is notorious for playing tricks on hunter’s eyes; first shots often miss the heart and lungs because the dense coat makes the animal appear larger than it actually is.  Combine this with quick feet and a cautious temperament and you’ll come to understand that the need for follow up shots when hunting yotes are about as common as suburban sightings. Heck, coyote hunting even made Zumbo step to the dark side.

Speaking of shots, thinking back on it, it was really the military intermediate round .223 that first sold me on the AR for hunting. At the time, I thought it was the perfect compromise between a small game and large game caliber though could drop even the wiliest of coyotes faster than an Acme anvil.

4.  Whitetails

Yeah, that’s right. Deer.

Hunters, how many times have you come across a deer with an arrow sticking out its ass?  Worse still, how many times have you shot a deer only to find the meats unusable because a hunter put a dart or small round in its guts and ultimately failed to pursue the animal? More than likely, they didn’t pursue because they couldn’t—meaning they couldn’t feasibly get a follow up shot.  So yes, I would rather see more deer hunters using semi-automatic rifles if it meant cleaner kills.  And that bleeds right into…

5.  Ethics

After much coaxing I wasn’t really interested in doing, I got a guy I know, who’s one of the worst when it comes to stepping on AR hunting, to explain to me why he thinks hunting with an AR-15 is unethical.  He told me it was unethical because it “didn’t give the deer a chance.”  I laughed and I told him about how I once went hunting for eight years and never shot a deer.  This seemed to really confuse him.

People who don’t hunt seem to have this image that when hunters walk out in the woods, the animals are all standing in a line waiting for us “to pick the best one” like grocery store produce. They can’t fathom anything else because they’ve never experienced anything else. Oh, they’ll tell you they appreciate where their food comes from because it’s hip or something to say so, but when it comes to how they think food is actually found, obtained and processed, 70 years of drill about Bambi makes them think they know how best to hunt. That’s what pisses me off the most: These folks know they are ignorant but still think their opinion should be valued, no matter how counter constructive others inform them it is.

The truth is, after the learning, the practicing, the re-learning, the planning, the trials, the errors, the calling, the planting, the hiking and the tracking, the actual shooting part doesn’t do what it means to hunt justice.  There have been many seasons that I didn’t even fire my gun.

My understanding of ethical hunting is about respect for the animals, which means only taking the right animal (or animals) at the right time and doing it with the least chance of the animal suffering.  One of the tools that can do this most ethically is a semi-automatic rifle.

6.  The elderly

One of the reasons I like the ARs modular design so much is because I feel it can handle recoil like no other readily available long gun and so does my Uncle, who has had several shoulder surgeries.  He likes to shoot a .22 caliber AR because the recoil is low and he doesn’t have to work a bolt or a pump, which aggravates his injury.  He even recently purchased a suppressor to lighten both the decibel and recoil levels even further.

My uncle uses his AR to keep rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels and other varmints out of his tomatoes.  He also served in the Vietnam war, which brings me to another reason AR-15s are destined to become the modern sporting rifles:

7.  Veterans

With video games vying with youths’ attention for hunting and outdoor recreation, there has been a real hope among older sportsmen that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan would swell our ranks and help to keep this essential tradition alive in these United States.  Thing is, for a lot of these vets, the only rifle they have any experience with is an AR-15.

When they picture a rifle the image isn’t a Winchester 94, it’s a M4, which, like it or not, will very likely be the future that our…

8.  Kids

…live in.  Our children are growing up in a world where they’re exposure to guns is going to be tinged by modern weapons despite any efforts on our part to steer away, because of video games and the media.  I’m sorry if that offends any parents out there but I’m a realist: It’s pretty hard to get Johnny excited about learning self-reliance when Call of Duty is already giving him his latent gun fix.

This is something I think we shouldn’t be afraid, because if you look back at…

9.  History

…you’d see that since the 1800s, civilian sporting rifles have evolved from their military predecessors (and most were met with same ham-fisted resistance from an ignorant public as the AR-15 is experiencing today). Heck, at one time the crossbow was so feared it was considered a war crime to use it.

The lever action, the bolt action, even the pump shotgun: all military innovations that found favor with our fighting troops and were brought back home to hunt with. Why would hunters look to military arms for innovation? Because that’s where the firearm industry spends it’s Research and Development money. AR-15s simply follow that tradition like when…

11.  Remington

…took Colt’s 1963 civilian, semi-automatic rifle (a version of the M16) and marketed it successfully as arguably the first dedicated hunting AR-15 style rifle in production, the R-15.  Remington also put out the R-25, patterned off the AR-10, which is a great gun to use to kill…

12.  Hogs

A reason so concise, it had to be mentioned twice.  This was the game animal that sold me on the fact that an AR-15 was not an option, but rather a necessity, when considering how to effectively combat our feral pig problem.  Just consider this: even if porcine populations are reduced by 70 percent in an area, these numbers will return to full strength within two or three years.

All you have to do is watch the movie Snatch to realize what a problem a whole bunch of hungry little piggies could be.

A couple of months ago I wrote a letter to Guns.com about how even though I’ve got no respect for loudmouth gun owners who say stupid things without thinking of the consequences, I can at least understand feeling angry. This round I feel like it’s just the opposite: I’ve got no respect for non-gun owners who form opinions without any real insight or experience, because I don’t understand the motivation.

And if I do, it scares me, because I don’t think I’m going to make many AR-haters see the light. If my reasons meant anything to them, they wouldn’t have bothered bringing up the point in the first place because they’ve already chosen their side.  I’ve found that using logic to combat emotion is a lot like using water to fight a grease fire. It seems like it would make sense but in reality it’s only going to make things worse.

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