A little bit of a disclaimer, this project got started several years ago. At that point in time there were few, if any, companies building AR pattern rifles for hunting. A few folks, mostly hog hunters, were doing it but it was definitely the exception rather than the rule. Today, everyone from Ruger to Savage to traditional AR manufacturers like DPMS are building and marketing AR pattern rifles for hunting. From starting off ahead of the curve, I ended up way behind it. Nevertheless I have finally completed this effort and wanted to share my journey.
Like all good projects this one started out around the campfire…
I spend a fair amount of time (although not as much as I should) practicing with my home defense rifle. I spend another good chunk of time (although not as much as I should) practicing with my hunting rifle. My home defense rifle of choice is an AR. I could do an entire post (and probably should) on why I chose this platform but for hunting I have always used a lever-action. The campfire discussion posed the question, wouldn’t if be cool if I could use the same rifle for both hunting and self-defense? By combining them, it would effectively double the amount of practice for hunting and home defense without spending any more time money at the range.
The idea was amazingly simple, a single rifle that could serve as a hunting rifle and home defense gun. That way all the practice at the range for deer and hog hunting would translate directly into more proficiency for home defense. It would mean one caliber for both functions, simplifying ammunition supply. Plus, military-style rifles are built tough and can take being knocked around in the woods and you don’t have to worry about marring the fine wood or pretty finish.
From a hunting perspective, the rifle would need to be able to quickly and easily to transition between a brush gun and scoped rifle for 100-150 yard shots. It needed to be relatively light weight. It would need to have enough “stopping power” for humane kills on deer-sized game and the ammo needed to be readily available.
For a home defense perspective, it would still need to be light weight. It should be able to hold a reasonable amount of ammunition. While “stopping power” was still a requirement, I live in a suburban area and over-penetration is a major concern. Ammunition availability was still a concern as was cost. If I were to be able to stock a reasonable number of rounds on hand it would need to be relatively inexpensive.
As much as I love my leverguns, an AR pattern rifle seemed like the best choice for this project.
I like the ergonomics. It’s a breeze to add accessories like lights (pretty much a necessity when hunting hogs at night) and optics can be customized and swapped as easily as can be. The only concern was the caliber.
Yes, I know many people hunt both hogs and deer with 5.56/.223. And yes, it is legal to hunt with around here (although it isn’t in many states). Plus the whitetails in this part of Texas are rather small compared with some other parts of the country. However, I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to a clean humane kill and I don’t feel comfortable with a borderline round. Not a problem, the AR can come in many different calibers including the (dun, dun, duh!) 300 Blackout.
It seems like every gun rag and website has been busy selling this round as the ammo equivalent of Marilyn Monroe. It’s generally pitched as a semi-auto .30-30 and an excellent hunting round, within certain distance limits. Based on my research, I have a few issues with this round. It’s not a distance thing. If you’re taking a shot of more than 150 or 200 yards in the pine forests around where I live you’re probably doing something wrong.
Here’s the deal, numbers don’t lie. While the .30-30 and the 300 blackout are both .30 caliber rounds that’s about where the comparison ends. The 300 blackout delivers significantly less energy at shorter distances than the .30-30 (1377 vs. 1902). It is also expensive and hard to find (this was especially true two years ago when I started this project). Before the 300 Blackout fanboys get all worked up and send me hate mail I think it is a very good round for what it was designed for. It just didn’t match up to the criteria I had.
Other popular rounds for the AR had similar chanllenges (for my needs). The 6.5 Grendel is equally scarce around here. The 6.8 SPC seems to be relatively easy to find and not too expensive but it still isn’t a round I could stock in quantity and use for both defense and hunting.
The AR-10 would be fantastic for hunting but not so much for home-defense. Both the price and weight penalties are pretty high as well.
Then I hit me like a bad shot of vodka…how about the 7.62×39?
Ballistics-wise the 7.62×39 slots in between the .300 Blackout and the 6.8 rounds, not quite as potent as I would like but within the ranges I would be shooting, not bad. Ammo is dirt cheap and plentiful although quality hunting ammo isn’t quite that cheap nor easy to find. From a self-defense perspective, over penetration could be an issue but with hollow point ammo that would be less of an issue than with many full blown rifle rounds.
With that decision made I set about building a 7.62×39 AR.
I’ll share more on that in (Part 2).