Question From A Reader, Help Us Answer

AR15 for hunting

I got an email today from a SHWAT.com reader, something I always appreciate. He’s asking about moving to the AR-15 platform for hunting. I’m going to give my input below, but perhaps you have something to add or a completely different take. By all means, jump in and share your thoughts in the comment section below. Here’s summary of the email I got today: I subscribed recently to your website and find it very helpful…..at the same time I am overwhelmed at the amount of information and products that are out there. I have been a hunter for most of my 69 years and now want to get into the AR world. I am not looking to break the bank but dont want to sacrifice quality for savings. Thru the articles you provide, I have learned the importance of triggers, floating barrels, and a number of other specific items, and mostly that the sky is the limit for options, if one knows what they want, but, you see, therein lies my problem…I am becoming more knowledgeable quickly but I still have a way to go on many things to include Day/night vision scopes that are mid range and illuminators. So, I am a bit frustrated and overwhelmed and could use  some suggestions.” – Paul

Paul, let me see if I can specifically address your questions, but with some generalizations. What I don’t know is what kind of hunting you’d like to do. Your interest in a day/night optic leads me to think you might be after hogs and varmints, so I’ll go from that vantage point.

Picking an AR-15 from the herd

For hunting purposes, there are lots of good AR-15 makers. You may have a local company in your back yard doing good work. The big boys on the block like Daniel Defense, Smith and Wesson, Remington, etc. are all making rifles nicely suited for hunting. If I’m lugging a rifle across fields or through woods I prefer something light weight. I’m currently testing a Bushmaster Minimalist that weighs about six pounds. A few years ago, that was the holy grail. Today, Bushmaster is mass producing this. Other variables you’ll want to consider center on ergonomics, though these are easily changed. For example, I prefer a small diameter hand guard with only a top rail (unless I’m trying to fit a suppressor inside it). I prefer a full length top rail to allow mounting optics, lasers, illuminators, etc.

Bushmaster minimalist
Bushmaster Minimalist in 300 Blackout

Of course the gun needs to be accurate, so as you narrow your search you’ll want to read reviews or check the manufacturer’s accuracy guarantee. Most ARs will easily shoot 1.5” groups at 100 yards, which is fine for hog hunting. I prefer guns that will shoot tighter groups than that and there are plenty of those available. As you pointed out, a free floating barrel is preferable for mechanical accuracy. To reduce accuracy errors caused by a loose nut behind the trigger (me), for years I’ve been dropping Timney Triggers into guns. I’ve documented the accuracy increase previously.

The elephant in the room here is caliber choice. I’ve killed many hogs in West Texas with .223 rounds, but with the multiplication of ammo options for 300 Blackout I’d lean towards it in your case. At normal ranges you can hunt antelopeelk, deer, hogs, coyotes, bear, etc. Others will take a different point of view on caliber selection.

Day/Night Optic

You’re looking for the one optic to rule them all at a price point that makes you smile. To me, that’s kind of a tall order. My current preference is a dedicated optic for day, and a dedicated optic for night.

At night I prefer thermal, though in reality since all it sees is heat it can be just as good during the day. The challenge is that when ambient temperatures are similar to animal body temperatures contrast and details suffer.

For day, I like prefer optics in the 1-6x range though the traditional 3-9x is still quite useful. Generally, I skew towards more expensive optics from brands like Trijicon and Nightforce, but if budget is the first priority I’ve been surprised by what TruGlo is delivering these days. I’m currently testing a 1-6x tactical scope from them that runs around $200. A few years ago I’d tell you to stay away from optics in that price point, but I’m pretty shocked at what TruGlo is selling at that price. It’s not the equivalent of a $1000 optic, but for $200 there’s a lot more right with it than wrong.

All that aside, for hunting under 120 yards a friend of mine really likes the day/night Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S Digital Night Vision scope. You can find it for under $500 if you shop around online. I haven’t used it myself. As for an illuminator, Ultimate Night Vision sells a number of them for less than $200. Personally, I am a huge fan of their rental program. Unless you intend to hunt a lot at night, this is a great way to get current technology when you want it at a fraction of the purchase price.

I hope that helps you narrow your search for a good AR-15 hunting kit. My last suggestion is to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up as we dive deeper into your questions and more.

3 thoughts on “Question From A Reader, Help Us Answer

  1. Paul,

    I can relate. When I first started hunting, I was doing it with an old school Remington 700 30-06. But the more and more I’ve hunted, I’ve really enjoyed hunting with an AR type weapon. The good thing about the AR platform is that it’s basically Legos for Men. You can mix and match and add and subtract whatever you like. Things I would take into consideration are what will you be hunting and the distance you think you will be shooting. I think 223/556 is a great way to start but you can easily swap uppers with a 300 blackout.

  2. Hey Paul,

    It’s very easy to get caught up with all the noise. In the end it all depends on what you “need” and your specific hunting style. Start simple and adjust as you go.
    Please reply to this comment with any questions you may have.
    E

  3. Hi Paul,

    Let me start off by saying… welcome to hunting with a modern sporting rifle. There are several online forums that contain an overwhelming amount of information and if you read them and listen to every keyboard ninja out there… you might walk away thinking that the only AR15 hunting platform costs well over $3,000.00. Now let me start off by saying… by in large… you get what you pay for. Now, that doesn’t mean that an inexpensive AR15 is going to be less reliable for your hunting needs than a $3,000 one will be… but it does mean that you can spend either a ton of $$$ or a minimal amount of $$$ and have a reliable hunting platform. It just depends on what you want.

    Caliber Caliber Caliber.

    This is one of the most debated topics on the web. My suggestion is this: know your prey, know your rifle, know your projectile and know your limits. Don’t think that a .223/5.56 is going to drop a black bear at 800yds. Shot placement is everything. If you are just starting out with a black rifle for hunting, a 5.56/.223 can be a great platform if you stay within your limits. I prefer the 6.5 Grendel caliber myself. Think of it as a .243 but in a semi automatic. Another great caliber is the 6.8SPC. This and the 6.5G are very similar out to 400yds but after that point the 6.5 G. really starts shining.

    Optics. Optics. Optics.

    This goes back to caliber. have you decided that you want a 5.56 and are going to keep your shots under 100yds? If so, then look at a low power variable zoom scope similar to the Atibal 1-8. This will allow you to use your rifle for more than hunting. Home Defense… where you don’t want a 3x zoom for engaging bad guys in your living room, but it will also allow you to make shots out to 200yds with ease. Or, is this going to be a longer range rig? IF so, you might look at a 3-10 or a 4-12 power scope. One mistake that is often made when selecting optics is going for too high of a base power. For instance, I had a setup that was intended for long range and my zoom was 6-24. Well, this was great for 200yd plus shots… but if I had a shot under 100yds… it was just hell. Again, know your rifle, prey, projectile and yourself.

    Trigger Trigger Trigger

    The market is flooded with high quality triggers. Buy one that works for your budget. You don’t need a $275 Geissele for deer hunting. That being said….. I use a $275 Geissele for deer hunting. It is all personal preference. I used a Milspec trigger for several years… and then shot a buddy’s rifle that had a quality trigger… and then I proceeded to almost go broke by switching all of my rifles over. I have one trigger that set me back $500 and I have another that cost $200. Is there a difference? Sure, but it goes back to what I have set the rifle up for. It goes back to the purpose of the build.

    If you do decide to go with a 5.56 caliber, look at Delton rifles. Currently their base model is selling for $399… which is a stupid low price. This is the perfect rifle to start building off of. It comes fully functional and from this point you can upgrade it to be the perfect rifle for you. Do you want a 6.5 G? just change the barrel. Do you want a free float handguard? Just swap it out. These rifles are like barbidolls for men. The best part about it is that youtube.com has videos showing you how to make each modification you want.

    I sure hope I have given you a little bit to think about, please feel free to ask any questions you might have. I’m more than happy to help you out.

    A few websites you might check out for parts:

    slickguns.com
    grabagun.com
    ammoseek.net
    gunmagwarehouse.com
    primaryarms.com
    palmettostatearmory.com

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