10 Best ARs for Hunting
The AR platform is endlessly versatile ready to tag anything from a bull elk to prairie dogs at long range. Here are some of the best on the market.
THE AR PLATFORM IS EXCEPTIONALLY versatile; my favorite analogy is that it’s basically like LEGOs for adults. The combinations (and calibers) are virtually endless, making them ideal guns for hunting. Going after a bull elk? There’s an AR for that. Eradicating hogs? There’s an AR for that. Taking out prairie dogs at long distance? There’s an AR for that. Opening day of whitetail deer season? There’s … well, you get the idea.
So, without further ado, here’s a list of ten great AR platform options for your various hunting endeavors.
The .22LR is a cartridge that really needs to introduction. Pairing that caliber with this gun makes it perfect for all kinds of small game hunts – squirrel, rabbit, etc.
The M&P15 line of ARs has been wildly successful for Smith & Wesson, so it should come as no surprise that their M&P15-22 is just as popular for people looking to add an AR in .22LR to their safe.
Dipped in a Kryptek Highlander camo pattern, this particular setup has its Magpul MBUS sites, pistol grip, and magazine in a complimentary-colored FDE. Equipped with M-LOK and picatinny rail, it’s ready to receive your choice of optics, bipods, etc.
The MSRP is $505.
While we’re talking about small calibers, let’s take a look at the .17 HMR and what it’s capable of doing. With the ability to place accurate hits on target at distances of 200 yards all while travelling at average speeds of 2,400fps, the .17 HMR far outpaces the .22LR in so many ways.
Alexander Arms is known for their ARs in less-conventional calibers, so it makes sense that they’d offer their VP rifle in this caliber. The rifle features an oversized extractor, fully-chromed interior parts, a monolithic magazine block, and a fluted 18″ barrel.
The MSRP on this rifle is $1,420.
The .204 Ruger cartridge is known for its fast and flat performance. Just how fast, you ask? I’m talking 4,000fps fast. That speed, combined with its flat trajectory, makes it an ideal cartridge for long range shots on prairie dogs or other vermin at “reach out and touch ‘em” distance.
With a 1:12 twist 24″ fluted stainless barrel and a free-floating aluminum handguard, the DPMS LR-204 rifle is ready to provide the accuracy you need at long range. The upper receiver and gas block are railed for sights/optics and it sports a fixed AR buttstock. Coming in at 42.5″ in overall length and weighing 9.75 pounds, this is a sturdy gun that’ll be sure to get the job done.
The MSRP is $1,059.
Big Horn Armory made a name for themselves with their SpikeDriver lever gun chambered in .500 S&W Magnum, but they didn’t stop there. Instead, they looked to the semi-auto market and created the AR500.
BHA’s AR500 shoots .500 Auto Max rounds. Built on the same .500 Magnum cartridge, the it’s basically just a rimless version of the powerful handgun cartridge that has been popular with hunters for more than a decade.
The gun has a completely-railed upper for you to outfit with the optic of your choice. Load up the five-round magazine and you’re ready to take on anything “from prairie dogs to pachyderms to Peterbilts.”
If it can stop a semi truck, it can stop any big game animal you’ve got in mind. The MSRP is $1,999.
The .350 Legend cartridge is brand new for 2019, having made its debut at SHOT Show. Designed with hunters in mind, it is a straight-wall cartridge that has proven to be accurate, quiet, and gentle, while still being quite powerful.
Designed for hunting out to 250 yards, the .350 Legend produces 1,800 ft/lbs of energy out of a 20-inch barrel. That’s more than the .300 Blackout, and with less recoil than the .450 Bushmaster. It also has 20% less recoil than .243 Winchester while providing 20% better penetration than the .243 cartridge.
The biggest benefit to hunters, though, comes for those who live in straight-wall states. This gives them another option despite their state restrictions.
CMMG’s Resolute 300 in .350 Legend also debuted at the 2019 SHOT Show. It has a 16-inch barrel in a free float MLOK handguard that is complimented by a streamlined, complete top rail and railed upper receiver. The gun comes with a proprietary 10-round magazine and is available in 10 different Cerakote finishes at no extra charge.
The MSRP is $1,549.95.
Wilson Combat is known for their high quality personal protection, competition, and tactical firearms. That attention to detail carries over to their line of hunting rifles as well.
Both the cartridge and the gun were completely designed in-house by Bill Wilson and his design team. With 3,000 ft/lbs of muzzle energy out of an 18-inch fluted barrel, Wilson Combat boasts that their .458 HAM’R is more powerful than the .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM, and .50 Beowulf.
Their Ultimate Hunter carbine is equipped with one of their match grade fluted barrels housed in a 13.8-inch free float handguard with rail on the top and MLOK slots on the rest of it.
Providing some comfort for the hard-hitting round, the rifle has a carbon fiber buttstock outfitted with a Limbsaver recoil pad. Magazines designed to hold the .458 HAM’R rounds are available in 7 or 9-round capacities.
The Ultimate Hunter comes with a base MSRP of $3,055 – which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Wilson Combat products and quality.
An AR in 7.62x39mm is a caliber-platform combo that makes for a good hunting rifle – especially if you’re after whitetail deer or similarly-sized game.
Winchester, Federal, and Hornady all offer great cartridges in this caliber that are geared toward hunting. The 7.62x39mm is best known as the cartridge used by Soviet AK-47 platform rifles and is produced in many countries around the world.
When using a 123-grain bullet, you can expect to get approximately 1,500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, which is not too much less than the .30-30 Winchester cartridge that is, hands down, the most popular deer cartridge of all time.
What it lacks in muzzle energy, it makes up for in downrange velocity and energy over the .30-30 because of its pointed, Spitzer-type bullets that are more aerodynamic than traditional flat-nosed .30-30 rounds.
Windham Weaponry’s R16M4 in 7.62x39mm rifle looks very similar to a traditional M4 in .223/5.56 in every way except the magazine, which is noticeably more curved to accommodate the cartridges, much like the distinctive magazines used by the AK. Other than that, expect a solid AR platform rifle that is ready for you to make it your own and make some solid hunting memories.
MSRP for the Windham Weaponry R16M4 is $1,096.
The straight-walled .45-70 Government cartridge, first designed in 1873, served the U.S. military well in the late 19th century; it was also very popular with big game hunters. Indeed, there’s not a big game animal anywhere in North America that cannot be successfully harvested with this cartridge.
Of course, the .45-70 is a rimmed cartridge, so it had to be adapted for use in a semi-auto AR platform firearm. Phoenix Weaponry did just that and created the .45-70 Auto, along with the rifle, named “Christine,” to handle it in 2017.
Built on their AR-10 upper and lower receiver, Christine is up to the task of delivering 4,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy from an 18” barrel with a 1:14 twist. Combined with an appropriate optic or red dot, this thumper makes an ideal moderate range hunter and brush gun more than capable of handling any quarry.
Bring the Phoenix Weaponry Christine rifle with you to deer camp, but leave the 1958 Plymouth Fury at home.
MSRP is $4,800 and includes two proprietary magazines and 60 rounds of ammo.
Unfortunately, at the moment, you have to roll your own ammo to run this gun beyond those 60 rounds. If you have a lathe and are capable of modifying .45-70 Govt’ brass cases, Phoenix Weaponry will sell you the necessary form cutter—or you can buy .45-70 Auto brass from them and load them up. For a quick guide on getting started reloading, go here.
There’s no denying the popularity of the .300 Blackout cartridge. It’s popular with AR enthusiasts of all kinds—including hunters, who have come to favor it as a go-to deer cartridge. While the bullet weights are definitely lighter than most discussed in this article, don’t let the numbers fool you. A 115-grain bullet clocks in at 2,295 fps with 1,344 ft/lbs of muzzle energy.
The Ambush from Daniel Defense was made for big game hunters. It’s hydro-dipped in Kryptek Highlander camo, comes with a threaded barrel, a Geissele Super two-stage trigger, and an ambidextrous safety.
The 16-inch barrel is surrounded by a 15-inch free float handguard that has a full top rail and MLOK attachment points on the sides and bottom.
A word of caution: .300 Blackout rounds fit in standard .223/5.56 AR magazines in double-stack formation. They’ll even chamber in a .223/5.56 AR-15, but DO NOT attempt to shoot this round through a .223/5.56 rifle. It WILL likely explode!
As long as you keep your ammo and mags separate, the Daniel Defense Ambush in .300 Blackout is a great big game hunting rifle with an MSRP of $1,946.
This list wouldn’t be complete without covering the fact that a plain-jane AR-15 in 5.56/.223 is more than adequate for hunting. In fact, there are more people using them to hunt that you might think.
It makes perfect sense, really, given how many people own an AR to begin with. If you’ve already got the gun and the ammo, why spend more of your hard-earned money on something else if you don’t have to?
This list has proven that a hunting rifle doesn’t have to be expensive, or camo-clad, or a wood-and-steel beauty to be perfectly suited for hunting.
That’s why the PA-15 is on this list. With a very traditional/retro A2 profile – including the fixed buttstock, carry handle, handguard, and front sight – this rifle would be just as at home in a deer blind as it would next to your bed for home defense.
MSRP for the Palmetto State Armory PA-15 is $519.99.
So there you have it. From squirrels to sasquatch and everything in between, there’s at least one AR on this list that’ll fit your needs.