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Turning The AR-15 Into A Great Hunting Rifle

feral pig hunting

image credit NaturalWorldNews.com

The AR-15 is a rifle that needs no introduction; it’s the penultimate American rifle, recognizable by anti-gunners and shooting enthusiasts alike across the globe. Chambered in 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington (basically interchangeable), the AR-15 is essentially a semiautomatic version of the military’s M16 rifle.

While the words “hunting” and “AR-15” don’t always get spoken in the same sentence, there is no reason why they shouldn’t, as the AR is perfectly capable of legitimately taking game – game such as hogs. The lowly hog, sometimes referred to as boars, wild pigs, feral pigs, and so on, is an excellent choice for hunting in general; the USDA reports that there are more than 1.5 million feral pigs in the United States. Not only are the pigs plentiful – they are a nuisance, with wild pigs blamed for the destruction of many crops. Pigs also make great eating, and pork in general is a familiar staple of the American diet.

When hunting pigs with the AR, and more specifically 50 to 62 grain bullets, shot placement is key, as the little .22 caliber round lacks the punch to take conventional style heart shots on really big game animals. On hogs especially, consideration should be made to going for headshots, which will minimize damage to the meat and will result in a quick kill which the .223 round is more than capable of delivering.

THE PROPER SETUP FOR A HUNTING AR

One of the aspects that makes an AR so versatile is its modularity, and seeing as the upper receiver of an AR is readily interchangeable, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t build a dedicated hunting upper. Barrel length is definitely a consideration here, and for adequate sight radius, velocity and accuracy, a 20-inch barrel makes lots of sense. Long enough to deliver tack driving accuracy yet still short enough to remain maneuverable, a 20-inch barrel won’t add much more weight to your rig.

The ideal optic for a hunting AR is definitely a 10 power fixed scope with a good sized objective to aid in light transmission. Avoid variable power scopes for hog hunting inside of 150 yards, and resist the temptation to increase the magnification above 10x for such short-range shooting, as all it will do is narrow your field of view.

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WHEN CALIBER IS A CONSIDERATION

Some localities will not allow .223 for hunting purposes, the rationale being that the caliber is (in their opinion) too small to do the job, and will cause unnecessary suffering to the animal. Wherever such regulations exist, the AR is still capable of being an excellent hunting rifle primarily by purchasing an upper that is chambered in one of the many available up-sized calibers.

There are a slew of hard-hitting calibers that are available in the AR platform with the simple switch of an upper. These calibers use cartridges that are sized to an overall length which makes them fit inside a conventional .223 Remington magazine well, which is critical if you want to be able to use your .223 lower receiver, which obviously has a fixed magazine well size. Calibers that deserve further consideration are:

  • 6.8 Grendel
  • 6.8 Remington SPC
  • .300 AAC (Advanced Armament Company) Blackout
  • .450 Bushmaster
  • .458 SOCOM
  • .50 Beowulf

Each of the above calibers represents an amazing pig hunting caliber for various reasons. On the smaller end, both the 6.8 SPC and 6.8 Grendel both dramatically increase the power available to the AR platform while satisfying the minimum game-hunting caliber in most counties of .243” (these are both .277”). The 6.8s increase effective range and punch of the AR series rifle, allowing the hunter to go for conventional body shots on big animals, as well as reach out further than possible with the .223.

.300 AAC Blackout takes the AR platform to a whole new level, and brings .30 caliber performance to the AR while using conventionally sized magazine wells. If you’ve ever wanted .308 style, short-range performance out of an AR, the .300 AAC Blackout is the round to get.

The .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM, and .50 Beowulf represent the pinnacle of big bore AR shooting, and while these rounds originally developed with a military purpose in mind, they are amazing hog calibers and are able to take the largest tuskers on the planet with ease. Don’t think that you need to get a custom built upper receiver to shoot these rounds; they are available off the shelf by established manufacturers.

The AR-15 is such a versatile rifle in part because of its modularity, and there’s no secret why it remains popular today as a sporting caliber. It’s perception as a hunting rifle is somewhat tarnished by the AR being the target of anti-gun groups and the media, but make no mistake, the AR is just as much a legitimate hunting instrument as it is a defensive instrument.

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10 comments

  1. Such a vacuous article, it barely deserves a mention at all. However, the use of “penultimate” (“…it’s the penultimate American rifle, …”) as if it meant ultimate, only even more so, is simple ignorance.

    Penultimate means the next-to-last item in a series. (For interested persons, “antepenultimate” is the next previous one in the series, the eighth in ten, for instance.)

    Writers ought to know their tools. Readers should not accept sloppy wordsmithing.

    Mr. Magoo, er, O’bama, will there ever BE any Jobs*?
    * “Jobs” is not a typo.

  2. .223 is an excellent Varmint gun, does real well on ‘yotes and Bobcats. I would not try it on anything larger unless you are really game for pissing off a boar hog. It’s like the idiots that think a .30 Carbine is a deer rifle. I once watched a Youtube video of a guy trying to take down a 250 lb. sow hog with an AR-15, took him 8 shots. Then the writer names all the other rounds that you can modify an AR to take by changing the upper, these are not common off the shelf calibers so unless you reload or are a rich hoarder they will not be readily available, they will not be something that can easily be traded for.

  3. Of course the AR’s are fine rifles, but it’s all in application. If one needs stopping power, go with something that can do the job with one or two shots. The worthless poachers in Africa spray an elephant with a AK47, 20 or 30 rounds, to get it’s tusks. The true hunter stands his ground and takes the game with a single shot. Gentlefolks, have some respect for the critter and yourself….

    • Exactly. Pick the right tool for the job. Boom – flop. One shot. Whether it’s a .22 for rabbit, a 25-06 for deer or 45-70 for bear always use the proper tool.

  4. The author uses an incorrect caliber designation (6.8mm) when describing the 6.5 mm Grendel. This caliber is known for its long range capability. The Grendel’s velocity surpasses even the 7.62x51mm or .308 Caliber at distances greater than 600 yds and is less affected by wind.

  5. Whoever wrote this article is clueless-since others have addressed some of the issues-I’ll start with the first glaring example of cluelessness about firearms-the author states that the .223 and the 5.56 are basically interchangeable-they are NOT-far from it-if you use ammo designated 5.56 in a rifle that has .223 stamped on the barrel-you risk serious injury,and possibly even death.
    The 5.56 round generates much higher chamber pressures than the .223,and can cause a .223 rifle’s chamber and/or barrel to rupture.
    People who make statements like the .223 and 5.56 are basically the same round should not be permitted to write articles about firearms,because people reading the drivel that they write could be hurt or killed by using 5.56 ammo in a rifle that has .223 stamped on it’s barrel.

  6. I keep forgetting that for many of you a three point buck is the size of medium dog. Around here a three point buck will dress out at 90 plus pounds and a .223 simply is not adiquate.

  7. I’m from WV. Where it’s not uncommon for deer there to field dress 175lbs . With that being said, there’s been as many or more deer taken with a 22 lr / 22 mag than any other rifle caliber . I’m saying with one shot and drop hits. The key is SHOT PLACEMENT !!! However if you are not confident with what ever fire arm you choose to use including Pistols, DO NOT TAKE THE SHOT!!!…. Again !, I believe in using whatever FIRE ARM that IS LEGAL that you are CONFIDENT IN MAKING AN ETHICAL SHOT WITH !!!…. Not everyone cares for big bore hard kicking caliber guns. Myself I like the 308 win for anything in North America.

  8. The author says 6.8 Grendel twice, its 6.5 Grendel not 6.8, the writer clearly has a very limited knowledge of firearms

  9. Hunting light big game (porcine/ungulates) with anything less powerful than modern high velocity calibers in the 6mm/.243 range or shotgun 20 gauge or higher does not respect humane hunting practices. Exceptions might be antique calibers over .35 or black powder calibers that cause extreme tissue damage. Although I reluctantly agree that any rifle caliber or shotgun will kill these animals, there is little margin for error when using anything less powerful than what I recommend. Punching a hole without sufficient tissue damage or hydraulic shock is not effective. Regarding head shots, I was taught many years ago by experienced hunters, that taking head shots is an inhumane practice as resulting miss of target might result with the shooting off or damaging the jaw or nose of an animal. If you miss target on paper the paper will not suffer an inhumane death. A neck or body shot is more desirable for clean kills.

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