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Assaulting the Deer Woods

Your 'fun guns' are more than up to the task of taking deer

Assaulting the Deer Woods
AR-15 rifles are excellent deer guns in the right hands. (David Hunter Jones photo)

Despite what the major news outlets may tell you, your AR-15 is not an assault weapon and “AR” darn sure doesn’t stand for “Assault Rifle.”

It stands for Armalite, the company that, through Eugene Stoner, developed the platform. Also, for a weapon to be considered an assault weapon, it needs to be fully automatic, in that a single squeeze of the trigger will send lead downrange until you let go.

The media will have you believe that because a weapon has a pistol grip, adjustable stock or one or more of any features the press has deemed “evil,” you’ve got an assault weapon. Not so.

A parallel would be a Toyota Camry. Just because drivers pilot “Camrys” in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series doesn’t mean the one in your driveway will go 200-plus mph. Now that that’s out of the way, how can these guns be used for hunting? Easily.

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Assaulting the Deer Woods with AR-15

AR Platform

If you’re not familiar with “black guns” then you’ve not been paying any attention whatsoever to the gun world for the last few years. Ever since Obama has been at the helm, ARs and their components have been hot commodities.

More recently, they’ve been dubbed MSRs, an acronym for modern sporting rifle because of their application in hunting, three-gun competitions and just general fun plinking.

In many states, the .223 Remington round is the smallest caliber permissible to use on big game, i.e. deer. Most every hunter in the woods packs something with a little more oomph, but with good shot placement, a .223 will tip over a deer very quickly.

Consider this: would you rather shoot a deer in the paunch with a .30-06 or have a heart shot with a .223? Shot placement in hunting, like self-defense, is paramount.

The AR platform is inherently accurate. The closed-bolt design places an emphasis on accuracy and reliability, and most barrels are crowned and built past military specifications.

You can get good velocities out of the standard 16” barrel (often 14 1/2 inches with a 1 1/2-inch flash hider to make the legal 16-inch minimum), but a 20-incher (rifle configuration, rather than carbine) will get you better ballistics and downrange power.

If you can’t stand the thought of going after a deer with a .22 (although it’s a hot rod .22), you’re in luck. With the groundswell of popularity the AR platform has seen in the past five years, more calibers are available.


The second-most common is the 7.62x51, more commonly known as .308. (The metric cartridge is the military’s chambering and sees slightly higher pressure than a commercial .308, much like the 5.56x45 and the .223 Remington. Do not mix the two.)

The designation AR-10 denotes a rifle chambered in .308. No one in any deer camp will argue the .308’s merit as a deer slayer. Sure, it doesn’t have the range of a .30-06 or the massive performance of a .300 Win Mag, but that .30-caliber bullet is going to mash some meat when it makes contact.

An oddball caliber is the 6.8 SPC, which was designed for the military as a round that would fit in 5.56/.223 rifles, but packed a bigger wallop than the 5.56 round. Ammo can be expensive and the range is somewhat lacking, but for a short-range brush gun, it’s a solid choice.

The biggest commotion of late is the .330 Blackout and .300 Whisper rounds. Take a .223 case, widen it to .30 caliber and shove a 200-something grain projectile in there. That’s the idea behind these calibers.

They’re made to be subsonic, so when coupled with a suppressor, all you hear is the pin dropping on the primer, the action of the gun cycling and then the thud of your bullet impacting the target. It’s truly impressive, but be prepared to shell out some big bucks for ammo unless you’re into reloading.

If you’ve got a .223 AR, all you need to swap is the barrel. Your magazines and internals will work fine.

If you choose to take an AR-platform rifle into the woods, be sure you’ve got a magazine that is legal for hunting. Just because you can have 30-rounders in your state doesn’t mean you can hunt with them. Five rounds is usually the legal maximum.


For those of you with a jihad against deer, this may be the route to go. The AK-47 is most commonly chambered for the 7.62x39 cartridge. Before you balk, consider that this round’s performance is almost identical to the venerable .30-30.

How many deer have fallen to the old levergun special? There’s no telling, but it’s piles and piles. The AK is more than up to the task of tipping deer over.

The fact that most AKs are relatively short guns lends them to thick woods better, and unless you’ve got a scope or red dot, you’d better keep your shots inside of 50 yards with those iron sights.

I feel totally comfortable taking a crack at a deer at 100 yards with my Yugoslavian M70B2 with a Bushnell red dot. I can ring a 10-inch plate at 100 yards with it for an entire 30-round magazine — offhand. On a bench, it’s a 4-inch gun all day, with a blazing hot 16-inch barrel. Granted, these Yugos are some of the nicer AKs made.

Again, check into the magazine capacity laws for hunting before toting a banana magazine into the woods.

Odds and Ends

OK, so you don’t want to shoot a deer with a .223 and think the AK is too “terroristy” for your deer camp. What else is out there? How about a Mosin-Nagant rifle?

There are many variants of this Soviet bolt gun, but the most common is the M91/30. They can still be had for less than $150. And, they’re chambered for the 7.62x51 round, which is ballistically equivalent to the .30-06 (as is the German 8mm Mauser and Japanese 7.7x58 Arisaka — all WWII cartridges). Another choice is the English Lee-Enfield in .303 British or the famous German Mauser.

Want to go tactical on them in bow season? TenPoint Crossbows has developed the Tactical XLT, an all-black homage to the AR-platform rifle. The author whacked a hog at 40 yards in Alabama earlier this year with the Tactical XLT. It’s strong medicine when paired with a 125-grain NAP Spitfire expandable broadhead.

The options for mixing it up in your firearm selection abound. Why not try something new and challenging? Plus, who doesn’t need an excuse to buy another gun?

Go to 2013 Deer Camp

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