AR-15’s for Deer and Hog Hunting? You Bet!

AR-15’s for Deer and Hog Hunting?  Every fall, the same argument gets churning in the chatrooms and on the hunting websites: is an AR-15 chambered in .223 Rem/5.56 NATO “enough gun” for deer and hog hunting?

The short answer: Hell, yes! Despite the nay sayers–and there are many–thousands of hunters fil their deer tags with their AR-15’s, and put down all sorts of feral hogs. And these animals are just as dead as if they’d been drilled with .300 Win Mags.

But the argument persists, for two main reasons: ignorance about currently available ammunition; and, a real dislike for AR’s among some hunters.

Old Ammo


I hear the counter-arguments with some regularly. The .223 round is too light for big game like deer and hogs. It doesn’t have enough terminal energy, and the small-caliber bullets don’t expand enough. Great for coyotes, bad for deer.

A lot of these people must be thinking about the old Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) .223 loads so popular a couple decades ago. The 55-grain, FMJ .223/5.56mm NATO round was widely used in AR-style rifles for years, killing all sorts of coyotes and varmints. But as people started using their black rifles for hunting bigger game, the defects of this round became apparent. The metal jacket meant very little expansion and the bullet had a habit of tumbling before it hit the animal.

Not good qualities in hunting ammo.

Current .223 Loads


However, ammunition manufacturers today make a number of .223 Rem. cartridges designed for maximum impact and impressive terminal damage. Perfect for hunting.

Rounds like Hornady’s .223 Rem American Whitetail firing a 60 grain Interlock bullet and Winchester’s 64 gr. Power Core in .223 are deer killers. So, too, is the 79-grain Terminal Shock .223 Rem. round made by Dynamic Research Technologies (DRT). The DRT round is lead-free and frangible, manufactured from a highly compressed core of metal powder inserted into a copper jacket.

The bullet punches through hide and bone, and then essentially explodes once it hits soft tissue, as it was designed to do, delivering all the round’s terminal energy and shredding a deer or hog’s vitals.

For hogs, where a tougher bullet is usually required, good .223 Rem. rounds include Winchester’s Razor Boar XT, firing a 64-grain, one-piece bullet; ASYM Precision’s Solid Defense X round with a 70-grain Barnes copper TSX bullet; and Federal’s Fusion ammunition, firing a 62-grain spitzer boattail bullet.

I killed my largest hog to date with an AR-15, an old Texas boar that weighed in at 310 pounds. He dropped thanks to a Remington Hog Hammer round firing a 62-grain Barnes bullet. A bullet, by the way, that drilled through a good 16 inches of slab-sided pig, mushroomed to twice its original diameter and retained nearly all its weight.

Yes, you need very good shot placement when using .223 Rem./5.56mm NATO options for hunting. You don’t have the placement leeway you may get with a big boomer like a .300 Win Mag or a 45-70. But that’s why hunters practice, right?

Assault Rifles?


“Assault rifles don’t belong in the woods! I can’t believe hunters are using them! It gives the anti’s too much ammo to use against us!”

I found this comment last year, posted beneath an article on AR rifles and hunting on the Internet. Posted by a hunter, no doubt, given the use of “us” in that comment. In fact, I hear this complaint often from hunters, especially older hunters.

I don’t know if the anti-AR types realize it, but the folks in the anti-gun side of this world? They don’t like any of our guns. AR’s, bolt actions, levers and pumps, and of course our handguns, too. They want them all gone.

Words Matter

At the very least, the black rifle haters within our own ranks could get the terminology correct. We are not hunting with “assault rifles.”

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an “assault rifle” is a firearm of “intermediate-caliber…chambered for cartridges such as 7.62x39mm, with a selector switch that determines full or semi-automatic fire, such as the M16, and that is the standard infantry weapon of modern armies. The term is purposely and wrongly applied by anti-gun forces to AR-style rifles, which function as semi-automatics only.”

On the other hand, an “AR” is a “carbine based on the AR platform build that was designed by the ArmaLite company in the 1950’s,” notes NSSF. “It is the civilian, semiautomatic version of the military’s M16. The prefix does not stand for ‘automatic rifle’ or ‘assault rifle.’”

One way the Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s of our country attack ownership of AR-style rifles is to claim that they are not against “hunting firearms.” It just those big, bad black “Assault Rifles” they want to get rid of. And, heck, they add, even some hunters are against these rifles.

It would be great if hunters stopped giving these anti-Second Amendment individuals and groups more help. Wouldn’t it?