Should you use your AR for hunting?

I suppose I should quit stalling and finally talk about AR-style rifles and whether I think people ought to take them hunting or not. They’re becoming a lot more popular, both for target shooting and for hunting.

You just about can’t go to the shooting range anymore without seeing someone shooting an AR-style rifle. It’s not that they’re more common than more traditional hunting rifles – only about 20 percent of gun owners have an AR. But it seems the people who own them just might shoot them more often than other types of rifles.

That’s not surprising. They’re a lot of fun to shoot. They also have a whole lot less recoil than traditional rifles. It’s actually a pretty ingenious design. The rifle uses some of the recoil to load the next round, and a spring in the stock absorbs a little more of that kick.

That right there is one reason I’ve started to decide ARs are OK for hunting. I’d rather see a person who practices a lot with an AR take a shot at a deer than watch a guy who hasn’t put a round through his bolt-action Winchester in 10 years try the same shot.

But that lack of recoil is also a source of debate. Since they don’t kick much, they’re much easier to line up for another shot. Does that take the “fair” out of fair chase? Or does it make it easier to dispatch an animal that would have been merely wounded, and might have wandered off to die somewhere the hunter couldn’t retrieve it?

I still keep coming back to the cosmetic issue, though. There’s still a lot of misperception about AR-style rifles. The non-shooting public continues to think they’re fully automatic, even though they’re not. And the non-hunting public shouldn’t be given any reasons to become the anti-hunting public. Unfortunately, until people get a better understanding of these rifles, the sight of a hunter carrying one in the field might give hunting a bad name.

Whatever you use to hunt, be respectful and follow the rules. That, much more than the type of rifle you carry, will determine how non-hunters feel about hunting.

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