The AR-15 needs no introduction. It is an iconic weapon recognized by both gun enthusiasts and gun-haters alike. It is essentially a civilian copy of the equally iconic M16 rifle that was first developed during Vietnam, and the reliability and accuracy of the weapon has made it a favorite ever since.
Though the AR-15 is a great weapon, it is no often regarded as a hunting rifle. This is strange, because the weapon is more than capable of taking game, including hogs and deer.
If you are already using your AR-15 for sport shooting, it makes sense to use the weapon you are most familiar with to hunt. And even if you are looking for your first deer-hunting rifle, getting an AR-15 is a good choice.
One reason why the AR is not often regarded as a true hunting rifle is that, as standard, it is not set up like this. However, one of the joys of the AR-15 is adaptability – almost everything on the weapon can be changed and modified, and this allows you to build a great deer hunting rifle from almost any AR-15.
If you want to set up your AR as a deer-hunting rifle, you are going to need a few accessories. Today, I’ll take you through some of these key items. But before we start, you first need o make sure you …
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Before you start thinking about using an AR-15 for deer hunting, you should make sure you have a good AR-15. Almost every major gun manufacturer now makes a version of the AR-15s, and whilst they are superficially similar your choice of base gun can make a big difference.
The core of any rifle, the AR-15 included, is the lower receiver, and when choosing an AR-15 you should make sure that your chosen rifle is adaptable enough for your requirements. The best lower receivers will take a whole range of uppers, so you can essentially choose your own caliber.
When setting up an AR-15 for deer hunting, you are going to want a hefty round that delivers a lot of power. Many states have minimum requirements on the caliber you need to use to hunt deer, so check your local laws before you begin to plan.
To my mind, the minimum caliber you should go for in a deer hunting rifle is a .300 – this is large enough to kill deer in one head shot, limiting both pain to the animal and damage to the meat.
Once you’ve got a good weapon platform, one of the first accessories you need to buy is a decent scope. Choosing the right scope for your needs is almost as complicated as buying a gun, and you are going to need to do some research. However, there are a few key considerations when buying a scope.
The first is to consider your hunting style, and what kind of environment you are going to be hunting in. If you are going to be taking a lot of long-range shots, you need to make sure that the scope you choose offers enough magnification, and is zeroed accurately enough, to hit targets out to the desired range.
A second consideration is eye relief. This is essentially the distance between your eye and the scope when you are using it, and is an often-overlooked factor when choosing scopes. When trying out a scope in the shop, it might not feel like eye relief is a huge problem, but after a few hours of squinting through a scope you will wish you went for the scope that was more comfortable!
Bipods are also one of those items that are often overlooked by people setting up their AR-15 for deer hunting. Perhaps this is because most AR owners use their weapon for self- or home-defense, where a bipod is essentially useless, so you just don’t see them around that often.
A bipod can make all the difference, though, when hunting deer. The most obvious way in which this is true is that a bipod will improve your accuracy at the kind of ranges you are going to be taking shots at deer.
However, the utility of a decent bipod goes beyond this – if you are expecting to spend a significant period lying prone in the undergrowth, waiting for a clean shot on a deer, you sure as hell don’t want to be holding your AR up all that time. A bipod will ensure that when the time comes you are alert and fresh.
For hunting purposes, make sure you get a bipod which is light enough to carry easily, and can be collapsed down to a reasonable size. Carrying a heavy bipod, in addition to all the rest of your kit, will quickly get tiring.
The same goes for how you carry your AR-15. While it may feel cool to stalk through the woods with your gun in hand, in reality if you have to hike any distance it is best to get a decent sling for your weapon.
Again, slings for AR-15s are not commonly seen, because most people simply leave their AR locked up at home. But trust me, if you are going out hunting for even a few hours you want a comfortable way of carrying your weapon.
Ultimately, no guide can tell you exactly how to set up your AR-15 for deer hunting. The gun you choose, and the accessories you fit to it, will depend on your style of hunting and what works for you. If you can, try out a range of scopes, bipods, calibers, and slings before settling on a solution that you are comfortable with.
Thankfully, with an AR-15, this shouldn’t be too difficult, because almost every gun store will carry a range of accessories. As I’ve said, this is one of the primary reasons why an AR-15 is actually a great hunting rifle – with a little bit of creativity, you can modify your rifle into a deadly deer-hunting weapon. Here is an article where you can find out what is the absolute best elk hunting rifle.