The AR platform rifle has been part of the landscape for decades, ever since Eugene Stoner first started making prototypes back in the mid-1950s. The rifle, manufactured under the ArmaLite company banner, was eventually adopted by the military, and in recent years it has come to be one of the best and most adaptable rifle platforms for hunters. (FYI: Even though mainstream media would like you to believe otherwise, AR doesn’t stand for the so-called “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle”; it stands for ArmaLite, the original makers of this rifle platform.)
So what makes the AR such a great hunting rifle? First is adaptability; it is very easy to customize the rifle with accessories to fit an individual shooter’s needs in the field. Second is accuracy; the platform has been refined, and as with most hunting rifles today, accuracy is outstanding. Third is comfort; anyone can pick up an AR featuring an adjustable butt stock and it will fit them.
There’s a few other reasons why you should consider an AR for hunting. Caliber choice is one for sure. The original Stoner design was the AR-10 in .308 caliber, an amazing hunting round. As we all know, the military wanted a smaller caliber, and the AR-15, as we know it today, was produced using the 5.56, or .223 caliber. The .308 is a great choice for hunting most of North America’s big-game species, and the .223 makes for a wonderful predator/varmint round, and matched with the right bullet, the .223 is deadly on deer, too. The beauty of an AR platform is that the upper receiver can be swapped out fairly easy, making for multiple caliber choices using the same base (lower) rifle.
The AR truly is a great choice for hunters. If you’re in the market for one, but not sure where to begin your search, check out our top five picks below.
There are few names more steeped in the history of hunting rifles than Remington, so you know that an AR with the iconic brand stamped into the metal is going to be one terrific hunting rifle.
The Remington Model R-15 VTR Predator Magpul MOE Carbine Semiautomatic Rifle ($869.99-$999.99) shown above is a fantastic value. The base AR platform VTR is a great rifle, and then Remington added some killer accessories to finish the product. Magpul is one of the top accessory brands, and they provide the stock, grip and trigger guard for this AR. But at the core, it’s still a Remington, with a receiver machined from a block of aerospace-grade 17-4 stainless steel alloy. The receivers are coated in corrosion-resistant SCARmor finish, and then the whole firearm is dipped in Mossy Oak Brush camo. But all of that wouldn’t be worth much unless the rifle was accurate. The rifle delivers match-grade accuracy with either the 22- or 18-inch barrels, with an assist going to the two-stage trigger. Both barrels have a 1:9 twist rate.
Another option from the company is the Remington R-15 VTR Predator Rifle ($1,029.99). The R-15 (above) has a 22-inch fluted chromoly steel barrel that gives you the additional accuracy of a heavy barrel, without the weight. The barrel has a recessed hunting crown for even gas release at the shot, further making this rifle deadly accurate on game. It has a single-stage trigger, and the rifle is decked out in Realtree MAX-1 camo. Other notable features include a full aluminum forearm, and a picatinny rail for optics mounting. The R-15 has a 1:9 barrel twist rate.
Daniel Defense started as a way for engineer Marty Daniels to relieve stress from his normal workday. He spent most of his free time at the range, and when he took a look at the AR platform, he saw several options for improving the design. After literally betting the farm by using it as collateral for a business loan, Daniel Defense was born, and many years later, they now make some of the very best rifles available.
The Daniel Defense Ambush .308 Semiautomatic Rifle ($2,799.99) shown above is worth every penny if you want a highly maneuverable, precision hunting rifle. It starts with an 1:11 twist, 18-inch free-floating, cold hammer forged barrel, that is mated with a patent-pending forearm. The whole thing is connected with a 4-bolt connection system. The internals have a low-friction coating to ensure slick movement, and the 2-Stage Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Trigger breaks cleanly at only 2 pounds. The attention to detail is what sets Daniel Defense firearms apart from others, and it really shows on the Ambush.
Windham Weaponry grew from the ashes of the original Bushmaster company as a collection of Maine rifle manufacturers who were looking to bring back high-quality rifles to the market. What you get is an extremely well-built firearm with legendary heritage. They operate under the principle that the “quality goes in before the rifle goes out.”
For those hunting in the frigid conditions of winter, the Windham Weaponry Snow Camo VEX-SS Semiautomatic Tactical Rifle ($1,199.99) shown above is the tool of choice. At the core is a matte-finished, 416R stainless-steel fluted barrel. The barrel also has a 1:8 twist, which is ideal for heavier bullets, making this a long-range hunter’s dream when it comes time to pursuing predators in the snow. Better still, the folks at Windham are so confident in their rifles that they provide a transferable lifetime warranty.
Another of the brands with a long history for producing high-quality firearms is DPMS Panther Arms. The company is getting a lot of attention for the new GII platform (above). The DPMS GII Light Hunter Rifle ($1,399.99) takes the forged, level III anodized, Teflon-coated 7075 receiver that is the start of every GII model, and sets it up for any adventure you can imagine. The .308 caliber GII Hunter has a 20-inch target-crown, Teflon-coated 416 stainless-steel barrel. It also has an enhanced carbon fiber free-float tube forearm, a Hogue grip, and a Magpul MOE stock. The barrel has a 1:10 twist rate that works with a range of bullet weights, letting you find the right bullet for whatever game you desire.
There are many good reasons to hunt with an AR, and with the expanded popularity of the platform, there are many good choices, too. From varmints and predators to larger game such as whitetails, you can find something to hunt with an AR every month of the year. Check one out today!
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.
Hunting image courtesy of Daniel Defense; product images courtesy of Cabela's