Tactical to Practical: Hog Hunting With an AR-15

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posted on June 6, 2018
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Like many American gun owners, I bought an AR-15 in 2008 because I was concerned that due to the shifting political climate, I wouldn’t be able to buy one in the future. The gun I bought in 2008 was my first AR, and since then, I’ve purchased other AR-15s to shoot in 3-gun matches, to use as a defensive rifle and to just go out and shoot and have fun.

Up until now, though, one thing I hadn’t done with any of my AR-15s is hunt with them. It’s not because the AR-15 isn’t a good hunting gun—it’s a very good hunting gun—but rather, I hadn’t hunted with one because I haven’t done any hunting at all. While I grew up in a gun-friendly household, I didn’t grow up in a family that hunted, so the closest I’ve come to an actual hunt is plinking gophers in my youth on my uncle’s farm.

There are surprisingly few on-ramps into hunting for someone like myself—a middle-aged white-collar worker who likes guns and shoots them regularly, but didn’t grow up hunting. Fueled with desire, I began the process that would eventually turn me into a hunter, and found out that the firearms I already own are ideally suited for the job. Two of the more popular ways to get into hunting are predator hunting for animals such as coyotes, and hunting feral hogs in the southeastern United States. The AR-15 is ideally suited to both types of hunting.

I live in a southwest Florida, therefore opportunities for hog hunting abound. However, I lacked the basic knowledge of hunting that others have, so I reached out to Will at Florida Firearms Training for his two-day hog hunting school, culminating in a guided hog hunt outside Okeechobee, Fla. The first day of class covered topics such as hog behavior and habitat, how to hunt them and the best firearms to use.

Your Current AR Chambering Makes a Great Hunting Load
As I mentioned before, one of the reasons I own an AR-15 is to shoot 3-gun, and it shines in that competition. The same qualities that make it great for 3-gun competitions—light, accurate and easy to swing from target to target—make it a great gun for hog hunting. In fact, the AR-15 pistol I used on my hunt was the exact same pistol I built to use as a home defense gun, just with a different optic.

The pistol is built on an Anderson Manufacturing lower, and has a Shockwave stabilizing brace on it. On top of that is a 10.5 .300 Blackout upper from Hardened Arms. I added a Leupold 1.5-4x25 Mark AR scope and loaded the gun with SIG Sauer 120 grain Elite solid copper hunting ammo and placed a SIG Sauer 762QRD suppressor on the barrel—a sweet set-up indeed. My backup gun, in case I ran into issues with a mob of angry porkers, was 16-inch barreled CavArms build in .223 with a Vortex red dot sight.

I wound up using the .300 AAC Blackout pistol on the hunt, and although that gun is a bit specialized, it highlights one of the great features of the AR-15: They are almost infinitely adjustable and adaptable to nearly any type of activity. I had my choice of a .30-caliber cartridge that also makes a good deer round—the .300 AAC Blackout—or a .223 that zips along and has dropped many-a-hog in its tracks. Also, because I was hunting on private land, I could use a standard capacity 30-round magazine with my AR instead of the five-round magazine required to hunt on public lands in Florida. My AR would have ran just fine with either of them.

The AR-15 Design Lends Itself to the Hunt
Another great feature of the AR-15 when it comes to hunting is in the design itself, both in fit and function. Most AR-15s nowadays come with adjustable stocks, ideal for varied hunting situations and young shooters. The gas-operated design also absorbs recoil, also great for young shooters, but more importantly, it makes taking accurate follow-up shots that much easier. When it came time for me to stalk an animal for the very first time, like so many hunters before me, I missed the first shot I took. My target, a big black sow weighing at least 150 pounds, was 60 yards away and started running (literally) for her life away from me, angling off to my right. The light recoil allowed me to quickly recover from that first shot and track the hog as she ran. After she cleared some underbrush, I fired again, putting a round through both lungs, and she ran another 10 yards before dropping.

This was my first hunt, but it won’t be my last. The success I had on the hunt was due to a number of factors, including great training, an excellent guide and my familiarity with the AR-15 and what I can do with it. If you have an AR-15 in your gun safe and are looking for a new experience, give hog hunting a try. You’ll soon find out how much fun it is to go out with your gun and bring home the bacon, along with some hams and a pork shoulder or two.

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