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Turning The AR-15 Into A Great Hunting Rifle

feral pig hunting

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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.


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.

How-To Techniques for Making and Enjoying 100 Sausages at Home…


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:

  • 6.5 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 6.5 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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  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.

    • I know this an older thread..however..shot placement is green tip 5.56 dropped a 200 pound hog…head shots will drop anything…one round …side shot between the eye and the ear..

      • I have to agree. I grew up on a pig farm. When it came time to butcher a few pigs the weapon that was used was a regular every day .22 long rifle.

        My uncle (Butchering time was a family affair and Aunts, Uncles, and cousins all came out to take part. Great memories) would put a little pile of corn in front of the pig that was to be butchered and get one good clean shot right between and slightly above the eyes, and it would go down instantly.

        A quality marksman can easily take down a wild hog with a well placed shot from a 5.56 chambered AR.

  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.

    • I was a caliber snob too for decades and up until this past year would have never considered using anything less than .30 caliber for deer sized game. This has all been changed by lucky coincidence.
      While I have numerous “deer” caliber rifles, I happened to have my 18” AR 15 in 223 Wylde shooting 62 grain soft point when I decided to sit on a green field and an 8 point came right in. The deer weighed 155 pounds, live weight and shot placement was just behind the shoulder. Both lungs were liquified!! Deer crashed 40 yards before going down.
      I was astounded by the results decided to continue using this rifle for the season. Next was a spike at 150 yards shot through the shoulder. The bullet halved his heart and he dropped on the spot. Third deer was a big doe on the last day of the season. She was hit just behind the shoulder quartering away and the bullet got both lungs and a piece of the heart. She dropped on the spot too!
      While I don’t believe in head shooting deer, all of these shots were right in the pump house and they all went down as fast as any other deer I’ve shot with my 308 or 30-06.
      The bottom line is that a 62 grain bonded bullet out of a 223 will absolutely drop deer sized game without any difficulty. My days of snobbery have ended and now I’ll be carrying a eight pound rifle instead of a twelve pounder.

  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.

    • So what you are saying is shooting an animal in the heart lung area is more humane…thats right i didnt realize that tracking an animal like deer for a mile give or take some distance is soooo very humane ..thats right a deer bleeding out or maybe even hitting in the guts is even more humane..listen kid.make sure your rifle is sighted in properly…then take your time..exhale and squeeze the trigger..any time you shoot an animal you run the risk of a bad shot…soo by all means go for the head shot

      • I don’t believe in head shots except for the finishing shot. Most of my deer have been taken with a .244 Rem and 70 grain hollowpoints, and they dropped at the shot, from 15 feet or 90 yards, heart or neck shots.I’m switching to 85 grain Barnes TSX to break bone but I NEVER shoot at a running animal.
        . By the way, my neighbor blew the lower jaw out of 3 bucks in 3 years going for a brain shot,but luckily other hunters managed to finish them off after a quartet to half a mile.

  10. There are so many glaring mistakes in this article I won’t even bother. With that said, The AR platform is a fine platform for anything you choose to do with a rifle. You can have one chambered for everything from .17 remington to 300 winchester magnum. YES I SAID 300 WINCHESTER MAGNUM. (I’m looking at you NEMO and you too Miller precision arms) Because of the popularity of the AR plaftorm companies have completely jumped out of the box. Match the correct cartridge to the task and someone makes an AR platform rifle chambered for that round.

    I get what the author is trying to convey. The problem is the author has no clue and never bothered to fact check some these rediculous statements .(like 223 and 5.56 being interchangeable, or refering to the AR15 as a caliber)

    I hope the author actually looks at these comments

  11. I can only urge the author to withdraw this article AND REWRITE OR JUST WITHDRAW IT. jeez, I would not use a .556 in a .223 unless I wanted to take off my head in a suicide attempt. The same said I wouldn’t use a .308 in a 7.62. The reason is pressure author…get a clue…

  12. I love my AR-15. To be honest it’s an all-around gun and literally can do anything you want it to do. I’m always looking for new accessories and stuff to make it that much more fun to shoot. Always at the ranging playing around with it.

  13. Yeah, an ar15 with 50 lbs of attachments makes it a GREAT rifle to hunt with.. though use with moderation.

  14. The AR15 is one of the best rifles I have used. They can be quite expensive but if you shop around on places like Amazon, you can get a pretty good price for it.

  15. I’ve been using the AR 15 for over 5 years and it definitely the best rifle I have ever used. Make sure you use a rilfe scope with it though.

  16. I agree, theres is no better rifle than the AR 15 for nuisance hogs. I know the guys in Texas have made great used of this tactic, even some hanging out of helicopter on game drives. Having a nice compact scope allows you to be able to quickly react and eliminate the target. One way to stop from your fields being rooted up….

  17. my grandfather is a hunter and always says ar 15 is the best but don’t forget that you will need a good scope so u can make one shoot one kill.

  18. I have owned an AR15 for many years, but only recently started using it for hunting. Needless to say that it works like a treat!

  19. Combination of good rifle with a great scope completely changes the shooting experience, scope is like the eye of rifle. there’s no better fun than hunting with good scope.

  20. I like hunting with gun.I have a good gun,sometimes when I get time and go hunting.

  21. I liked your current update because it helped me in my assignment. Thanks for sharing

  22. I have one rifle, that’s perfect!. I really like this

  23. ” recognizable by anti-gunners and shooting enthusiasts alike” – you got that right!
    As you say, the AR15 ain’t a normal hunting gun, and I never tried it for whitetail. But never say never!

  24. I used them alot m1 carbine, kills deer rather nicely out to 150 yds, the colt ar h-bar tactical does nicely also. Here in montana we use as we wish ( no caliber restriction) only must be center fire. I find it odd i see hunters coming here using 300 magnums on antelope being folks from back east guess they think antelope are 300 lbs. While i shoot them rather dead at 300 plus yards with a 22-250. Its not the size of the bore, its putting lead in the kill zone.

  25. As to the m- 16, ar 15 for hunting , yes the rifle does fine. The weapon is very user friendly and with a adjustable stock fits men and women nicely. If in 5.56/223 i suggest using barnes tsx bullets 53 to 62 grains, and keep shots to 250 yds for at 200 yds a 55 grain bullet only delivers 843 foot pounds of energy. Will it kill a deer ? Yes, remember in handgun hunting most states says a handgun must deliver 500lbs of energy at 50 yards to be legal to hunt with. I have killed deer with 45 acp,45 colt, 40 s&w, so will an ar 15 kill a deer hunting? Again yes, but dont shoot further than 250 yds at one.

  26. hunting with the AR-15 is a pleasure! in General I’m a fan of crossbows, but these rifles are all same I like, and sometimes I don’t mind prostrelyat of them

  27. I keep forgetting that for many of you a three point buck is the size of medium dog.

  28. Seems like a clueless freelancer wrote that article. Well, that is what website do often right now…

  29. Sorry, but objective lens size does not affect light transmission. That fall on the shoulders of the quality of your lenses, and the associated coatings. Objective lens size will increase field of view, but will not affect the ability of the glass to allow light to pass through it.

  30. I once read an article by a blogger on the AR-15, I feel this is a great gun

  31. Not sure if anyone else said this, but it’s 6.5 Grendel, not 6.8. ThE 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC are very different, the 6.5 in my opinion being the best long range cartridge you can get in an AR platform. .308 ballistics and at 600 yards it still has the force of a .45 at point blank. Can’t beat it.

  32. I think Ar 15 is the best powerful and dangerous gun with suitable scope . First 2 years I use it only my gun but now I am using a good scope for it . You should have it and feel the differences .

  33. I knew The AR-15 but I’ve never known to turn this to a hunting rifle, thanks for the article

  34. Very useful and informative article. Thank you so much. I will save this article for future when I want to turn a AR-15 to a hunting rifle. I am beginner in the gun and rifles topic so I will start with basic things. But I really like your post, hope to see more post from you in this topic.

  35. All of these articles I see about the AR-15 as a hunting or sport rifle only serve to confirm its unsuitability for either of these purposes. It is in fact a military application weapon scientifically engineered for combat. It has now become a toy that allows people to blast away large amounts of ammunition while not subjecting the shooter to punishing recoil. How many of the eight million sold are really used for hunting or target shooting? Your handy hint regarding hunting pigs reveals that the man killing ballistics tend to greatly damage the meat. But hey, you don’t want to threaten an entire industry with the truth, so just keep up the bull****.

  36. The writer doesn’t know what ‘penultimate’ means. Why is the AR15 a good “hog” rifle? I don’t understand why the emphasis on hogs rather than deer. Deer are much easier to kill than a big pig.

    I don’t think this guy does much hunting though, the last thing you want on a hunting rifle is a 10 x scope! It sounds like he’s just making it up as he goes, imagining what he thinks it might be.

    As for the other comments….there is no reason why an AR15 cannot be considered as a sporting hunting rifle. Most sporting rifles started as military weapons. The great Mauser and the Lee Enfield for example.

    The .222 and the .223 have killed tens of thousands of deer, maybe more. There is no great mystery about it and nothing special about pointing it out.

  37. Regardless of the few technical errors from the writer, the AR15 remains a pretty good rifle.

  38. If the writer do some research before writing. It would be a nice article. anyway good try.

  39. Well to be honest, there are just as many know it all couch potatoes posting incorrect comments as the authors article. As far as 5.56 being too dangerous to shoot in a .223 bolt action, thats mostly hogwash. Lot of modern bolt action .223 (like Savage and Ruger) run a deeper throat in the barrel of their bolt guns, which handle 5.56 perfectly fine. Even the older ones that dont have a deep throat have fired thousands of 5.56 rounds through them without any problem. Only time you would have any issue with this would be on slow twist (1in12+) short throat barrel. CZ rifles is one manufacturer that comes to my mind that does run a short throats in their .223 barrels. Even with this, the chances of standard Nato 5.56 blowing up in modern .223 bolt gun would be about like getting struck by lighting. Only time a 5.56 would pose serious risk is if it were loaded extremely hot and heavy in short throated barrel. So the author is not totally wrong. Now, as far as a 10 power scope (lowest setting) minimum for hogs? Yea, the author goofed big time on this! Irons, red dots and lower power 1x4s or 1.5x5s (set on lowest power for the most part) are the only way to go, unless ur stand hunting a field. Trying to hit a 300# charging pissed off hog on 10 power is like playing Russian roulette with several rounds in the cylinder. Id rather have a spear or big pointed stick, than 10 power fixed scope in hog swamps/woods. Also, bigger objectives do actually offer more light gathering abilities. The wider the field of view, the more open light it is pulling in.The problem with this however, is a lot of peoples eyeball construction can only gather a certain amount of light. So therefore bigger objectives wont make a big difference to some people. But technically, larger objectives are better. Thats why your seeing a lot of Hog scopes (Vortex as example) with these huge 56mm objectives. 30mm tubes (instead of 1 inch) also help out the average persons light gathering ability more than objective size. That’s why most of the top name brand scopes all run 30mm tubes nowdays. Most are even going to etched cross hairs in the glass instead of traditional wire. They are more heavy and hit your wallet twice as hard, but they are less likely to fail when you really need them to preform. Not trying to be an @$$ to all the people that commented on this article or to the author. But, lot of newbies on here looking for accurate information to get started. Just saying, if your not 100% sure in what your saying, keep the lips zipped and let those of us who do know what were talking about help steer the newbies in the right direction!. We all got to take care of eachother in this day and time. If you think the government is going to help you, just look at what they did to Native Americans!….:)

    • Very well said, informative and accurate. All of us were newbies once and it is our responsibility to help those coming up behind us. I doubt most newbies are starting with an AR platform but rather are moving up to this model. So they have experience and are looking for a better, more reliable or more versitiler weapon. Least we can do is give them accurate information to work with.

  40. Just awesome! everyone should need to know the impotent fact before the buying a rifle scope. You wrote the awesome impotent fact in this article.
    Thanks for sharing

  41. With a great rifle scope, our shooting performance can be better. I have a AR 15 rifle, hope that in the next week you can write a blog post about how to choose the best scope for ar 15.

  42. Great, excellent … My dad is a professional hunter. dad have a in ar15 – along with the time I followed my dad to hunt deer in winter .. feeling great … Thanks for sharing the impressive article <3 …

  43. I bought ar 15 rifle previous month. The most amazing part about it, this rifle feels light weight in my hand. I went out with my cosine for a hunt and got about 3 tarki shot by this ar 15 rifle. I’m just so pleased with it’s performance.

  44. Thanks for the amazing guide. I was a fool hunting without a scope. DAMN What I have been doing all this time. I literally have no explanation. Scopes make such a massive difference. Anyways, it was a learning experience am going with Nikon scope now. My first scope Bushnell BTR wasnt a bad choice either But I have read good reviews about Nikon P -223. Lets see how it goes. Thanks for the guidance.

  45. The Nosler Model 48 Liberty comes in 18 distinctive bore choices, however the better and brighter one is 30 Nosler, with a 26-inch barrel. At 7.65 pounds, it has a manufactured stock, column bedding, a tuned trigger and a push-catch lightweight floorplate. Thanks for the amazing guide

  46. Very nice article. I keep Guns at home just for safety. For hunting I always prefer crossbows. They are cool and again arrows are reusable.

  47. Wow. Really great hunting 😮

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