For almost 25 years I have been obsessed with educating the public to the uniqueness and excitement generated from shooting AR-15 rifles. That road, though bumpy, has led us to where we are today.
The popularity of AR-15 rifles has exploded through the growth of shooting competitions and as our military troops return from the sandbox wanting rifles similar to the ones they know. This popularity has helped proponents of the AR platform make tremendous progress advancing the cause of the black rifle as a multi-purpose firearm.
The ability to convert the AR-15 for multiple applications has led to my second obsession – promoting the use of AR rifles for hunting. While I know that there are those who don't believe AR's have a place in the hunting realm, I wholeheartedly disagree. I have worked tirelessly to dispel this misconception, and the best way I know to accomplish this is to lead by example.
For years it has been my goal to hunt as many different animals with as many different calibers as possible using a DPMS AR-style rifle. DPMS AR's chambered in .338 Fed., .308 Win., .300 RSAUM, .260 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Win., 6.8mm SPC, 7.62x39mm .204 Ruger and of course .223 Rem. have all been used in this quest. This array of calibers have helped me to harvest big game animals such as elk, mule deer and whitetails; smaller game species such as coyote, fox and hogs, and more elusive species like Dall Sheep, mountain goat and even a mountain lion. All of these animals have been harvested on the North American continent, but I wanted to go further, I wanted to promote the idea of hunting with an AR globally.
A hunt in New Zealand provided my first opportunity to take the AR hunting globally; however, the complexity of New Zealand's firearms laws prevented me from bringing one into the country. Taking an AR to a foreign country was proving to be a challenge, but I wasn't to be deterred. Having founded an AR-15 company, the concept of hunting without one was difficult, but it served to strengthen my resolve to hunt on the global stage with an AR.
With an African Safari for lion, cape buffalo and other plains game in Zimbabwe looming, I struggled with the ban on semi-auto hunting rifles in South Africa and Zimbabwe, especially those that looked like military rifles.
To circumvent this, we developed a DPMS Single Shot AR in .308 Win. We left the magazine well area solid, milled out a second ejection/loading slot on the left side and machined a handle onto the bolt carrier allowing single-round loading from either port hole into a fixed follower groove where the cartridge would normally rest. A modified bolt catch, and a normal buffer and spring assembly completed the new design. Future models will feature a gas porthole to retract and hold the bolt for reloading, as well as a modified carrier slot for a bolt handle with a higher degree of bolt throw. I would soon know if the modifications would be enough.
I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, prepared to clear my rifles with the South African Police. Not knowing if the police would understand that although it looked like an AR, it really was a single shot, I had a speech prepared. We had engraved "Single Shot Only" on the receiver, and I was ready to point out that it was impossible to install a magazine into a solid piece of aluminum.
Gingerly, and sheepishly, I opened the internal soft case that contained the AR-style single-shot .308, revealing it to the South African Police Officer who curiously tilted his head and mumbled, "I never seen one of these before." I explained that it was a new style single-shot design from America, and he nodded his acceptance. Slightly dumbfounded, I quickly zipped up the case! I was halfway through the entry process, but still concerned about performing the same drill with Zimbabwe officials.
I arrived in Harre the next day and was escorted to the customs area for the presentation of my "Non-Semi Single-Shot" rifle that looked like a military style semi-auto rifle. With fingers crossed, I politely greeted the young lady designated as my firearms inspector and unzipped my soft case. I slowly pulled out just enough of the AR from the case to reveal the serial number. She slowly read off the serial number and proceeded to say the words I had been praying to hear, "Thank you, you may go." Again I stood before uniformed officials dumbfounded. One would think that I had either won the lottery or my dog had died. Either way, I was now carrying what was most likely the first legal AR-style rifle to be used on an African Safari.
I arrived in camp with a newfound vote of confidence, since I could just have easily been resigned to my Dakota .375 H&H had the AR been confiscated. The safari with HHK Safaris and my PH friend Roy Ludick turned out to be one of my most memorable. With my African-legal AR-rifle, I took a leopard, impala, warthog, Genet Cat, a Civet Cat and a Klipspringer.
As I write, I reminisce about the beauty of Africa, the excitement of the hunt, and about contributing to the promotion and experience of hunting with AR-style rifles. One country down, so many more to come.