By Jack Ammerman

“Hunters don’t need an AR-15 to shoot a deer.”

Hearing this, an extremely intelligent relative of mine rocked me back on my heels. I calmly asked, “What do they need?” I was prepared for the answer but was still recovering from the uneducated statement. “I don’t know, but they sure as hell don’t need to storm the woods with assault rifles.”

I will be the first to admit that I have not hunted with an AR-15. I own a few and enjoy target shooting with them, but I have not had the inclination to use one while hunting. The reason has nothing to do with the caliber, the style of the gun or the social stigma. My guns were built during the early days of ARs and are too heavy to lug around. I have other firearms that get the job done. If the AR-15 were the only rifle I owned, I would have no problem using it during my whitetail adventures or shooting groundhogs in a farmer’s field.

To combat the ignorance of labeling AR-15s “assault rifles,” many in the firearms, hunting and shooting industry have started to refer to the firearm type as modern sporting rifles (MSR). MSR are light, can be configured for women and youth shooters, and are available in hunting calibers with low recoil.

A friend of mine hunts deer with an AR-15. He opts to use it instead of a traditional rifle such as a .30-06 or a .30-.30 although I know he owns both. His rifle shoots a round that is actually less powerful than the aforementioned rounds. “I hunt with an MSR chambered in .300 Blackout. The round is 30 caliber, just like my .30-06 or my .30-30, but I have the advantage of using a suppressor on my MSR.”

Hearing this, I can only imagine how my earlier “anti-assault rifle” conversation would have gone. The scary-looking AR-15 only gets scarier when you add a suppressor to the end of the barrel. Regarding AR-15s, emotion usually leads the way of the public’s thought process.

Suppressor use ensures happy ears and that you can hear uninhibited in the future. Suppressors do not silence a gunshot; they reduce the noise to a level that is not harmful to ears. To learn more about suppressors and hunting with them, click here.

Even without a suppressor, why is the AR-15 getting a bad rap when it comes to hunting? It’s often associated with the deadliest mass shootings in terms of body count and has been used in high-profile shootings of kids at schools  — not because of the caliber of the bullet — but because the standard magazine will hold thirty rounds.

It’s easy to ask “Who needs thirty rounds to hunt deer?” The answer is nobody. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has limited the magazine capacity of all rifles used for hunting. This law was imposed long before the AR-15s started appearing in deer blinds.

In Michigan, a firearm capable of firing more than 1 shot without manual reloading shall not be used to take deer unless it is equipped with a magazine that is limited to a capacity of not more than 5 shells — Michigan Wildlife Conservation Order, Chapter 2 (2.1)

In side-by-side comparisons with my traditional .30-06, the AR-15 looks different but fires the same. Each has a magazine capacity of 5 rounds. Each is equipped with a scope in order to make an accurate shot. Each has a safety mechanism that must be clicked to the off position in order to fire it. Both guns fire exactly one round when the trigger is pulled. They both cycle a new round into the chamber to prepare a follow-up shot for a clean dispatch if needed. Other than the looks and the weight, there is absolutely no difference in the functionality of the two hunting rifles.

Custom-made AR-15s are now available in various colors, which as stupid as it may sound, may tend to ease the uninformed public opinion. Unlike a traditional deer rifle, most AR-15s are matte black which has the advantage in that it won’t reflect a ray of sunlight like my shiny .30-30 barrel does.

Unlike Grandpa’s deer rifle, AR-15s have an adjustable stock that a hunter can set to their liking. Most AR-15 barrels are threaded at the end to accommodate a suppressor if one desires. The rifles that do not employ a suppressor usually have a flash suppressor screwed onto the threads instead. This inch-long device doesn’t do a thing to make the firearm more dangerous or lethal. Technically, it’s supposed to direct the burning gas sideways instead of straight out the end of the barrel. Proponents say this option reduces felt recoil and helps with vision after the shot in the early dusk and late dawn periods when deer are most active.

All in all, the components on an AR-15 look scary to some because they do not understand the functionality of the individual items. An AR-15, or modern sporting rifle, is not my choice to hunt with as I am old and resistant to change. My mind isn’t resistant, and I’m always open to new and better ideas. If you opt to hunt deer with an AR-15, I wish you luck and look forward to seeing a picture of your joy.

Jack Ammerman has written articles, short stories and instructional columns professionally for over two decades. First published in Gun Dog Magazine in 1994, he is an ardent supporter of MUCC and chairs the MUCC Firearm, Sport Shooting and Range Policy Board Committee.