The AR-15 is one of the most popular platforms in the world and for good reason. Most AR owners like to use their firearms for range and target shooting or self defense. But there’s another use for the platform that has been gaining steam lately, hunting.
Hunting with an AR-15 or AR-10 can safely and ethically be done when using the right caliber for the size of game you are hunting. There are also some consideration to make on your rifles setup if you plan on hunting vs target shooting.
Let’s start with the right caliber to use and then move into some upgrades or alterations you can make to your rifle to help with a successful hunt. Lastly we’ll quickly cover some legal aspects, some states don’t allow you to hunt with the AR platform.
What Caliber AR-15 Is Best To Hunt With?
The most popular calibers to hunt with an an AR-15 are .223 REM for small game and coyotes, .300 BLK for feral hogs, and 6.5 Grendel for deer and deer sized animals. Also the .308 WIN is a popular hunting caliber for deer, bear, or elk sized game.
The .308WIN however is on the AR-10 platform, not the AR-15 which just means it’s a little bigger. The AR-10 is considered a larger version for larger calibers of the AR-15 but parts and availability are not at the level of the AR-15 platform.
If you plan on hunting a variety of game, the 308 is probably gonna work for most scenarios. It’s been a popular hunting round for a very long time, and although there are some new cartridges becoming popular, it’s going to be a while before the 308 is knocked off the top of the hill.
If you plan on solely hunting deer or deer sized animals, the 6.5 Grendel is one the best options to go with. I’ve still yet to hear someone who doesn’t like hunting deer with that caliber.
Cartridge for ideal game hunting chart:
|.223 REM||Rabbits, Foxes, Varmints, Coyotes|
|.300 Blackout||Feral Hogs, Deer, Varmints|
|.308 WIN||Deer, Hogs, Bear, Elk, Moose|
Hunting Considerations For an AR-15 Rifle
The first and most important consideration for a hunting style AR-15 rifle is the barrel length. Of course you need a barrel in the correct caliber, but how far away from the game do you plan on hunting from? Also camouflaging the rifle isn’t a bad idea.
Aside from barrel, handguard, and camo, picking the right optics is the only other consideration that sets an AR-15 hunting rifle apart from an other target shooting type rifle.
AR-15 Barrel Length for Hunting
In general, a longer barrel will be better for farther distance shots and shorter barrels will offer more maneuverability when hunting closely. Most hunting AR-15s will have a longer barrel rather than shorter however.
For 223/5.56 the barrel should be 16″ to make the most of that caliber when hunting varmints, yet a 308 hunting rifle should have an 18″ or 20″ barrel.
The only time hunters choose a shorter barrel is when they’re hunting hog close up and using the 300 Blackout cartridge. The shorter 10″ barrels can proved quicker follow up shots, much needed when all the hogs bolt after the first round is fired.
AR-15 Handguard for Hunting
Most any handguard is going to work for varmint, hog, or close range hunting. But if you’re going to be hunting at any sort of distance past a couple hundred yards, you’ll want to have a free floating handguard.
The handguards that are attached to the barrel can mess with the harmonics when the rifle is fired. Add on a any attachments that are on the handguard and it just gets worse. You’re shots won’t be on target.
A free floating handguard is attached to the upper receiver not the barrel so the handguard and any attachments on it will not affect your accuracy.
AR-15 Camo for Hunting
Having an all black rifle is usually going to be just fine for whatever type of hunting you plan on doing. However, blending in a little bit better isn’t going to hurt your chances.
The rule of thumb is to pick a rifle color that is not going to stand out on your backdrop. For example, skip all the flashy red and white furniture on your hunting AR build. Going with and olive drab or FDE depending on your environment isn’t a bad idea.
AR-15 Optic for Hunting
Getting a quality optic will really go a long way for hunting. It usually tends to be worth it to spend the extra cash to get something higher quality. Buy once cry once they say.
For up close hunting like hog and some varmints you’ll probably do just fine with a red dot or even iron sights. If you can get good with iron sights you’ll never actually need to use a red dot, they are nice though.
For any thing past 100 yards, some sort of magnification can be useful. Most hunters opt for the traditional 3x-9x magnification LPVO. The only advice I want to give is to not cheap out on your optics.
You can find the best optics brands like Leupold and Vortex online at OpticsPlanet.
Can I Hunt With an AR-15?
Yes, you can legally and effectively hunt with an AR-15 in most states. However, some states have restrictions to hunting with an AR-15 and some states don’t allow hunting with an AR-15 at all. Check the local laws where you intend to hunt.
Here’s a quick list of states that allow hunting, allow hunting with restrictions, and states that do not allow hunting with an AR-15 rifle.
This list is from 2021 and may be outdated. Check the most up to date laws where you intend to hunt.
States That Don’t Allow Hunting With an AR-15
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
A little surprised that NH doesn’t allow, but the rest make sense.
States That Have Restrictions When Hunting With an AR-15
- West Virginia
Most restrictions relate to magazine size. Some states limit which rounds you can hunt which type of game with though.
States That Allow Hunting With an AR-15
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Most states do allow hunting with an AR-15 because why wouldn’t you, but seriously check with your local laws as this info may be outdated.
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 In Florida
Yes, you can hunt with an AR-15 and other semi-automatic firearms in Florida as long as the magazine capacity is limited to 5 rounds. This includes .223/5.56 for deer hunting.
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 In NY
No, you can not hunt with an AR-15 rifle in Ney York because there is currently a ban on AR-15 rifles in NY state. If you owned one before the ban you may be able to as long as it meets the requirements for compliance.
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 In Ohio
No, you can not hunt with an AR-15 in Ohio because of the restriction on cartridges with a shoulder. That rules out most AR style rifles. You may be able to if you have only three rounds between the chamber and magazine and use a straight walled cartridge like the 350 Legend, 450 Bushmaster, or .50 Beowulf.
Can You Hunt With an AR-15 In Michigan
Yes, you can hunt with an AR-15 in Michigan as long as you use straight walled cartridges .35 caliber or larger. The ammunition must have a minimum case length of 1.16 inches and maximum of 1.8 inches. These restrictions only allow cartridges like the 350 Legend or 450 Bushmaster.