He was (and still very much is) among the most respected writers of hunting and firearms in the country, three decades worth of it. He also has the in-the-field resume to back it all up, with extensive hunting across all the major continents and hands-on experience with every sporting firearm worth mention. So when we first met a couple years ago, I listened carefully, hoping to pick up any info I could.
Then he asked me my rifle preference. AR-style rifles, I said.
“They are extremely functional,” he admitted, but then shook his head and gave me a sad, half smile. “But they have no soul. How could you compare one to a beautifully walnut stocked bolt action hunting rifle? You simply can’t.”
So…the bolt with the wood stock has a soul, while my favorite, the AR, is a functional but soulless hunk of metal and composite?
I have no problem with someone preferring one type of firearms over another. Free country, after all. But I am a bothered by the anti-AR attitudes still in circulation among hunters and shooters, attitudes that range from outright haters to a general sort of condescending contempt.
And most of the people with these attitudes, I have to admit, are found in a certain age group. Mine, and I’m 55 years old.
These attitudes get in the way and make life harder for those of us who are hunters, shooters, and advocates of the Second Amendment.
“Assault rifles don’t belong in the woods! I can’t believe hunters are using them! It gives the anti’s too much ammo to use against us!”
This was posted a month ago in the comments section of an article on AR rifles and hunting. I’d bet my house, and my favorite AR. the writer was my age or better.
I don’t know if the anti-AR types like the person above realize it, but the folks in the anti-gun side of this world? They don’t like any of our guns. They want them all gone. And I don’t feel it’s my job to mollify or otherwise tip-toe around people who are actively working to take away this very important civil right of mine.
Put another way, that pot of water’s already boiling. It’s not going to boil more or less if I take a Remington R-25 AR-style rifle out deer and elk hunting. I can kill a dozen wild hogs with a Rock River Arms LAR-Beast in 458 SOCOM or use a lever action 30-30–either way, Sarah Brady wants all my guns.
If you are a black rifle hater, at the very least, get the terminology right. Gun owners often complain about the mainstream media’s ignorance of basic firearms nomenclature. But I’ve met so many hunters and shooters who, like the commenter above, refer to AR’s as “assault rifles.”
So, for those of us into definitions? According to the National Shooting Sports foundation (NSSF), an “assault rifle” is a firearm of “intermediate-caliber…chambered for cartridges such as 7.62x39mm, with a selector switch that determines full or semi-automatic fire, such as the M16, and that is the standard infantry weapon of modern armies. The term is purposely and wrongly applied by anti-gun forces to AR-style rifles, which function as semi-automatics only.”
What, then, does the “AR” refer to? “A carbine based on the AR platform that was designed by the ArmaLite company in the 1950’s,” says NSSF. “It is the civilian, semiautomatic version of the military’s M16. The prefix does not stand for ‘automatic rifle’ or ‘assault rifle.’”
What really and truly gives the anti-gunners some very effective ammunition is when people in the pro-Second A camp start hating on the firearms choices of other gun owners. One way the Sarah Brady’s and Barack Obama’s of the world go after AR-style rifles it to claim that they are not against “hunting firearms.” It just those big, bad black Assault Rifles they want to get rid of. And, heck, they say, even some hunters are against these rifles….
I like guns with wood stocks. They remind me of my earliest hunting and shooting, with a single shot, bolt action 22LR.
But the rifle that really caught my teenaged eye was the Remington Nylon 66, among the first mass-produced sporting firearms that used man-made stock and forearm materials instead of wood.
In this case, the semi-automatic .22LR rifle employed a nylon compound designed by Dupont. The tubular 14-round magazine slid in through the back of the butt plate. It was light and rugged, and could fire off rounds as fast as you could pull the trigger. I was 15 when I got mine, and one of my big regrets as a gun owner is giving away that rifle many years ago.
Ever since then, I loved composite and similar materials, and, yes, they look cool. Cool with a certain military look? True.
But this split between “hunting” and “military” is artificial at best. The arms used by the American military have always influenced the guns sportsmen took afield, and innovations and changes in civilian and sporting guns have frequently factored into the military’s combat weapons.
One attitude I’ve detected from many older bolt gunners is that many of us prefer the black rifles because, well…we can’t shoot. We need the ability to “spray and pray,” and an AR with a 30-round mag provides that capability.
The bolt gunner, by comparison, sits atop Mt. Marksmanship, taking his single, precise shots.
The attitude is so full of holes—very widely spaced and not even close to the bullseye—that I almost don’t know where to begin.
Marksmanship is mostly about the person, not the firearm. Are you willing and able to practice and learn and try? You can become a pretty good shot. If not, a $10,000 bolt action isn’t going to make you the next Top Shot winner.
The other side of that attitude is the often-suggested corollary that the AR is a less-than-accurate firearm compared to the bolt action. Please. Bench rest shooters may be able to make the argument that bolt actions can put together tighter groups at distance than AR’s. And maybe so. But if you are a hunter, the reality is a bolt or AR, with good optics and training, will allow you kill deer-sized game out to 400 yards without a problem.
For the record, my last several hunting kills with AR’s have included:
–A 250-pound hog at 125 yards, one shot
–A 150-pound hogs at 100 yards, two shots
–A 150 class whitetail buck, 80 yards and quartering away, one shot.
–A 140 class mule deer, 150 yards away and firing down at a very steep angle, one shot.
More rounds were available, and I would’ve popped off as many as needed, if needed. But I’m a hunter and whether I am using the most assault rifle-looking bad boy or a bolt rifle–its polished walnut stock brimming with soul–I want to take down that animal as quickly and as ethically as possible.
So I practice and try new guns and optics and ammunition, and try to keep my mind open to the possibilities. I wish more hunters and shooters of my generation would do the same.