DIGITAL CAMERARecently, a relative of mine posed the question, “Should hunters use an AR-15 for hunting?” There is a lot of back story to that question with the bottom line being that although a hunter, this relative is also a ‘ban the assault rifles’ kinda guy. At first, after the wave of anger and disbelief passed, I began to think rationally. Is a gun typically known as an “assault rifle” practical for hunting? My gut said, “Yes!” and after some time looking, so did my research.

First, common misconceptions are the ‘AR’ in AR-15 stand for “assault rifle,” but this is not true. The gun was named after its manufacturer, ArmaLite. Its similarity to the M-16 used by the military is what has given this versatile and useful rifle its bad rap. Yet regardless of its self-defense and home defense capabilities, the rifle can still make a fine addition to your hunting arsenal.

At its .223 or 5.56mm sizes, it’s perfect for the deer hunter (where .223 is allowed) on down through all kinds of varmint hunting. I personally used a .223 for years deer hunting, but it’s my favorite caliber for coyotes as well. There are a variety of load and bullets. 

The next counterpoint my relative threw at me was that the AR-15 is an automatic weapon and shouldn’t be used for hunting. After I informed my relative that you cannot buy an automatic weapon, he came back with do you need a semi-automatic weapon for hunting? My answer: Why not? I can think of several instances where a semi-automatic weapon would have saved some headaches along the way. Anyone who has hunted wild pigs or coyotes can think of a time that having that quicker shot with your eye still on the prize has made the difference. 

Pigs are notorious for bolting when they are spooked. They don’t pause and look around, they don’t get peer reassurance like a deer; they just run. Pigs are hard to shoot anyway because of their natural armor, and if you can get a quick second shot, it may make the difference between startling it and killing it. Coyotes are similar. They are hard to see, quick and smart. If you had to draw back your bolt to chamber a new round, you may never see that dog again.

So, to my relative—who shall not be named: should hunters use an assault rifle to hunt? A resounding, “Yes,” if that rifle is an AR-15.