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AR as deer rifle

I always have some gun project going on. Right now, I have my AK build and my 9mm AR-15 project to fiddle with. But I’m always thinking of the next one. I’ve never really been a hunter, though I did dove hunt some in my youth. I’ve been considering taking it up, specifically deer hunting since I likes me some venison. The problem is, I don’t know a damn thing about it. Where to go, what to take, what gizmos do I need, etc. So, any information on that and what I need to know to do it locally would be appreciated.

Also, I’m pondering my deer rifle. Should be no surprise, since I dig the evil black rifles, that I’m leaning toward an AR-15 as a deer rifle. So far, my thoughts are:

Free float barrel
A rail system to mount the optics and maintain appropriate cheek weld
Heavy barrel (lightweight aren’t the most accurate and bull barrels weigh a lot)
Fixed stock
Some sort of 1-4X optic (figure that’s good for around here as shots probably would not exceed 300 yards)

But the final question is, since it’s illegal and ill advised to hunt deer with a 5.56 round, what caliber should I use? I’ve been looking at the 6.8SPC, the 6.5 Grendel, the 7.62X39 and the 300Whisper/Fireball. Notes on each:

6.8SPC – Good stopping power and decent accuracy. Could be hard to get, though.

6.5 Grendel – Very accurate, decent ballistics. Pricey ammo and the upper receivers are expensive.

7.62X39 – Accuracy is OK and stopping power is good. Cheap. Some magazine issues.

300Whisper/Fireball – Not sure much about these.

Thoughts?

21 Responses to “AR as deer rifle”

  1. countertop Says:

    Don’t know about local spots for hunting . . . if you know someone with a farm that has some woods on it, thats about as good a bet as any for a place to go.

    If you want to come to Virginia, I can take you out. Or if I am in Georgia I can show you.

  2. Drake Says:

    I have a friend that won’t shut up about 300 Whisper.

  3. Addison Says:

    What do you _need_? πŸ™‚

    Well, what you need, and what you’ll end up getting are 2 different beasts entirely.

    You’ll want to find someone who’s hunted an area before to give you the rundown. I figure, I’m starting to get the hang of it after hunting for 21 years. πŸ™‚

    Non-gun-equipment wise, all the nifty new marpat camo and allthat are great, but deer don’t really see in the same wavelengths, so get ’em, but they don’t make that big of a difference. If you’re stand-hunting, as most do, smell is the biggest issue.
    Get some Charlie’s Soap http://www.charliesoap.com/ (disclaimer: I went to college with the guy on the right in the photo – it’s damn good soap (Sport Wash, sold in Wal-Mart is a earlier version of the same soap, BTW), I’d use it anyway). Get cover for everything, a good netting facemask is always recommended. Plan on some sort of bug repellant (I like the new “Buzz off” line of Clothing from Ex Officio – expensive, and you can’t wash it often, it’s got the bug repellant built into the fiber – but it’s damn good, and less smelly).

    Get a seat cushion. Get 2. Get good, insulated clothing if it will be coldish. Sitting still when the wind is whipping by you will get you cold, cold, cold fast, fast fast. And without a cushion, when your butt gets cold, trust me, it’s miserable. πŸ™‚ Get a cushion that has a clip (or put one on there).

    Bino – get some good, light, compact binoculars. Looking at movement/”huh, what’s that?” through the scope isn’t recommended, and the binos will be easier to use, anyway.

    Good idea is to carry some cloths, or even some paper towels in case you need to flag blood trails. You’ll want to have one at the start, and then wherever your last blood was…

    Flashlight. I like the good old angle-head “GI” light, especially with the red filter for early-morning stuff without blowing your vision. I’ve gotten more religion about flashlights after batteries went out on me in the woods. I always carry a LED light in with me now. πŸ™‚ I have my streamlight Xeon – and that’s INCREDIBLY handy if you’ve got to track at night. My streamlight versus Dad’s Mag-light when he hit one last year and it took off was staggering.

    (I gave him a rechargeable 1 M candlepower spotlight for Christmas. Told him the alternative was shooting lessons. πŸ™‚ ) But a good flashlight is damn handy.

    And, that’s about it for what you _have_ to have. (if you’re really hiking in, a compass, fer instance, would be a good idea, but if you’re somewhere where there are access roads an the like, less of an issue) You’ll want some sort of a hoist, and cleaning kit, cabelas has a ton of those, and a good saw, and a good knife, and lots of trashbags, and lots of handi-wipes. (do an awesome job of cleaning blood) It’s probably worth it to get one of the “gut skinners” – they’re not expensive, and they come in handy. But you’ll still needa 4″-6″ knife if you’re parting one out.

    Gun Wise….. Well, if you’re going to stick to the AR platform… I’d say, go with the 7.62×39. It’s a fine round (forget 300 yard shots). I’d limit myself to > 150 with it. But also – make sure you go to the range, and PRACTICE to whatever your limit is. Not off sand bags.

    This year, I took one at about 130 yards, and that was close to the longest shot I’ve made. (Clout shot, I had a resting rail, the Howa in .270 (sub-MOA gun), and a Nikon scope. So 150 isn’t a really outrageous limit. Most of mine have been under 70 yards, in actuality. I’ve had to pass on 2 at one point (they were getting closer, but they were at 200, and there I was with a .30-30, until some damn dog showed up and barked at them)

    The 6.8 looks outstanding, but finding ammo is a pain. 6.5 I’ve never seen ammo for. the 7.62×39, you can get _very_ good ammo at Wal-mart. Remington or Winchester. Good expanding SP. (Don’t plan on hunting with Wolf, their “Hollow point” isn’t big on expanding. I see they’ve added a “soft point” load… but… c’mon. get 3 boxes of 20 and you’ll be good for _years_.). It’s good, cheap ammo that will be in the vicinity of .30-30, which is a very good stopper.

    Scope – you’ll want a 4x, if that’s your limit. Nothing wrong with that. A Nikon 4x rides on my .30-30 right now, and for the 150 yard shot, it’s fine. Probably good out to 200. But make sure you know where the bullet’s going to go if you’re planning on shooting that far. I’ve hunted with a red-dot, but the MOA on the dot itself means that > 100 yards is the limit. Otherwise, it covers the whole deer. :). Right now, my SAR-1 deer hunting rig has an ultimak, with a 2x weaver pistol scope (no batteries, ma!). Didn’t get a chance to take it this year.

  4. SayUncle Says:

    Addison, thanks! That’s a ton of info. Will have to look into it more. 7.62 sounds decent. Mags are problematic though.

  5. Addison Says:

    Uncle:
    NP.
    Mags might be problematic.
    But, let me also extend this as question: Why stick to the AR? Asked alternatively, how much will you sink into an upper/mags/optic that could be used to get something else?
    I mean, fer instance, the Wal-Mart Savage deer rifles are (in my mind) what, $330 or so, with scope? I’d prefer to change a few things on them, but they’re very good guns, out of the box. Or a Marlin .30-30 is under $200.

    I mean, I have an AK set up for hunting, well, Just Cause. πŸ™‚ But it might be more useful to think of getting something else for the actual hunting.

  6. Josh Says:

    I’d say go with the .300 Fireball/Whisper. If you’re going to self-limit your range to ~150 yards, then it will work fine at those distances. You can push a heavier bullet, and you can use standard AR mags.

    I’ve been intrigued by the 6.8 and 6.5. From everything I’ve heard and read, the 6.5 is actually the better round at longer distances, with the 6.8 packing a bit more umph at close range. Again, if ~150y is your maximum, than the 6.8SPC will do the trick. Mags are available from PRI and a couple of other places, Remington makes it in a Core-Lokt and BTHP that would be suitable for hunting, but from everything I’ve read these rounds deliver about the same ballistics as a .30-30.

    With any of them, buying 100rds and storing them will last you 20 seasons, and you can always reload. If you want to shoot it more often than any deer rifle gets shot, the 7.62×39 is the way to go.

  7. SayUncle Says:

    Why stick to the AR?

    Because I can’t help myself πŸ˜‰

    Josh, yeah but I’ll go through 100 rounds just plinking with it πŸ˜‰

  8. Captain Holly Says:

    Dude, why not get an AR-10 upper? .308 would be all the rifle you’d need for deer.

    Otherwise, I’d get the 7.62X39 largely because it’s the cheapest option.

  9. drstrangegun Says:

    IIRC, WSSM cartridges fit, and I *know* that there’s already a .223 WSSM chambering…

  10. drstrangegun Says:

    Yup, there they are…. Olympic Arms K8-MAG uppers, MSRP $672, available in .223, .243, and .25 WSSM calibers.

    Looks like a bull barrel though, unfortunately. I’m sure an enterprising lathe owner can help with that πŸ™‚

  11. markm Says:

    What kind of country will you be hunting in? You’ve got to be sure of what you are shooting and you need a clear shot that is unlikely to be deflected by brush or tree limbs, so unless the country is pretty open you won’t have to worry about long range shooting. With the brush around here (Michigan, northern lower peninsula), 150 yards is a very long shot. My father in law swears by his .35 Remington with open sights, and he has brought back more deer than ten average hunters, but no doubt he’d do as well with any of the calibers you mentioned. Mainly, he finds out what trails the deer like to travel along and sets up a stand 20-50 yards away.

    Whatever the caliber, you’ll want hollowpoint, and you’ll need some tracking skills. If the impact doesn’t knock him off his feet, and you cannot count on that with any round, a deer doesn’t need his heart or lungs to run 100 yards. A deer can run with half his central nervous system blown away.

  12. Blackwing1 Says:

    Sir:

    Here’s an entry of mine from a CZ rifle forum, discussing the CZ 527 carbine in 7.62×39:

    ——————–
    I purchased a Ruger Mini-30 about a year ago, and mounted a Bushnell “Dusk/Dawn” 1.5x-4.5x scope on it. Firing from bench, it would group about 3″ at 100 yards with almost any kind of ammo, using both Russian (Wolf – 123gr HP) and Federal (123gr SP).

    I used it this fall (2004) for hunting in northern Minnesota, thinking that in my friend’s 40 acres that I wasn’t going to get a shot long enough to justify using the .30-06. But a nice big doe popped up on the FAR side of a clearing, and I had a clear, standing broadside shot at her. I took the shot, but she whirled just as I pulled the trigger. She flinched, hunched up, and took a dozen bounds into the swamp behind the clearing. I waited 10 minutes, and paced the 125 yards across the clearing to where she’d been when I fired. Found a big blood splash about 2-1/2 feet up on a tree trunk, and followed the blood trail into the swamp. I found her lying down about 20 yards into the swamp, still breathing but not able to move. After I put a round into the neck, I started to drag her out to some high ground…the front leg almost came off. I had hit her high and towards the front, and the bullet had impacted directly on the big ball joint in the shoulder.

    Later, when I got her skinned (skun?), I found that the ball joint had basically exploded…there was nothing left but shards of bone. The bullet continued on down the inside of the rib cage, nicking one of the ribs as it entered, and exited out through the abdomen, with pretty fair-sized hole indicating (at least, to me) that the hollow-point Russian round had done a pretty good job of expanding. I didn’t recover the slug, since it had been left in the swamp.

    I’m pretty confident with this round now, and I’m sure that if I’d hit where I was aiming (heart/lung broadside) that she wouldn’t have gone more than a few steps before dropping. Even with the poor shot placement, she didn’t travel more than about 40 yards total before falling.

    Here’s an interesting problem. I purchased another Ruger for my wife, she having tried it at the range, and wanting something a little nicer than the SKS she regularly shoots. This second one won’t group for spit. Even using the Federal ammo, it won’t do better than a 4″ group at 100 yards, and with the Russian (or even some of the old Chinese stuff) they open up into 8″ or 9″ “groups”…more like “patterns”. This is when I started hitting some web sites, and learned that this is considered “normal” for a Mini-30. Even calling Ruger didn’t help. I guess I just got lucky with the first one.

    So I’m going to trade the second Mini-30 (plus a little cash, I’m sure) for a CZ 527 in this caliber. I’m happy to see that people have fairly good accuracy with a wide variety of ammo in this firearm.
    ——————–

    Here’s another entry from a later date:

    ——————–
    I’ve had a 527 in 7.62×39 for a little over a year now, and it is my favorite rifle to shoot. Even using the extremely inexpensive Wolf 122-grain HP (laquered steel case) rounds, the rifle will easily print a sub-1″ group at 100 yards if I do my part. With a cold barrel, my wife shot a cloverleaf dead centered on the bullseye. Don’t EVER let anyone tell you the 7.62×39 is inherently inaccurate, it’s just that everybody’s been shooting them through the wrong rifle.

    When I bought the rifle I put a relatively cheap Bushnell scope on it, but I soon realized that such an accurate rifle deserved better. I ended up with a Leupold 3-9x50mm scope mounted on high rings (the bolt handle just BARELY misses the bell of the scope).

    There are only two improvements that they could make, in my opinion.
    – Create a flush-to-the-stock magazine, even if it’s only got a 3-round capacity. The bottom of the magazine makes it a little harder to grip the forend exactly where I’d like, and it’s not visually appealing.
    – The striker spring is a little weak. I’ve had one brand of ammo (PMC) experience a 1/3 failure-to-ignite rate through this rifle (although I’ll admit that when I put those failed rounds through either an SKS or a Mini-30, about 1/3 of them still fail to go “bang”).

    My only problem is that my wife also loves to shoot this rifle, and I can’t afford two of them. We’ve learned to take turns at the range, but the barrel heats up pretty quickly, and we have to switch over to shooting something else for a while to let it cool down (the groups open up to around 2″ with a hot barrel).
    ——————–

    So you can see that not only does the cheap Wolf 112-grain HP round work well on whitetails, I’m also extremely enamoured with my CZ rifle, probably the most accurate 7.62×39 firearm on the market. If you can get an accurate (chambered for the 0.311″ diameter Soviet-size projectile) black-plastic-rifle to work that well, congratulations.

    Regards,

    Blackwing1

  13. Addison Says:

    Blackwing:
    I’d heard really nice things about the CZs, I didn’t know they were that accurate. Which I didn’t need to know, cause before that, there wasn’t a particular reason I would want one. πŸ™‚
    I still warn, be careful of the Wolf “HP”s. From what I’ve seen, thy’re not hollow-points in the sense that most hunting ammo is – they have a HP, sure, but so does my match 7.62×51, and it’s certainly not opening up. If you hit a bone, that’s going to smash anything – might not be the best “Test” of whether it will open up. (Full confessional, I shot a deer with wolf HP a couple of years ago – but my shot took out the jugulars, not much to go on).
    On the range, the HP wolf and the FMJ wolf are pretty much identical as far as I can tell. (the HP gets the “hollow” smashed together, and stays intact)
    If I get industrious, I might do a “Box of truth” sort of thing and put some 2-liters at 100, and see what differences I see. But the bullet’s I’ve recovered have been pretty much identical to the FMJ’s, wheras the Winchester and Remingtons have a lot more peeling back.
    Might want to check out the new SP, that’s supposedly designed for hunting (which makes me think the HP really isn’t).
    (having said all of that, a FMJ will still kill a deer dead, but a good expander will be more likely to kill it faster. My SHTF bag currently has a 500 pack of Wolf HP 7.62×39, cause, hey, if I need to, it’ll work. I’ve also seen plenty of deer killed dead by super-handloaded Magnums (.300 and 7mm) – where the bullet never had a chance to open in the microsecond it was passing through the deer in a quantum state. (actual, real, conversation, slightly modified for humor): “I jist doan understand eeet. Mah tree-hunned winmagh, it make dese itty bitty holes. You got a big-ole hole with a thirty-thirty? Somepint ain’t raight!” “Uh, mine’s got time to *open*, and actually, damage?” “Yew handloading dose?” “Uh, no” “Sompint ain’t raight!”))

    Interesting chart:
    http://img267.imageshack.us/img267/9052/russianwp14qr.jpg

  14. ben Says:

    Hey, I just started deer hunting last year, which means I just started wandering around in the woods with a rifle. Didn’t see a darn thing.

    Anyway, go get yourself a proper deer rifle. I just got a nice Savage with a scope all in one package in .300 win mag (= sore shoulder, get a limbsaver recoil pad) for $389. I’m new to rifle shooting, but I can manage one inch groups at 100 yards with it. Try .30-06 or .308 or whatever.

    Note, I know you’re into crunchy military AR triggers and all that, but the Savage comes with the new AccuTrigger, which is the most amazing thing. If you go to a gun store anytime soon, ask to try a Savage bolt action with the accutrigger, it is amazin. No creep, no slop, no overtravel, and user adjustable from 8 pounds down to 1.5 pounds. Sweet.

    Get that, and you can too can wander around in the woods with pride. πŸ™‚

  15. Les Jones Says:

    In Tennessee you’re required to hunt with non-hardball ammo. JSP is definitely kosher, and I think hollowpoints may be OK, but you’ll want to check. Unless you handload, getting hunting-legal ammo might be an issue with some of those exotic calibers.

  16. robert Says:

    Taking you at your word on AR platform: I’d go with the 6.8 or 6.5 and learn to reload. You aren’t going to shoot a deer rifle 1000 rounds a year. Plus it’s time for you to reload anyway. Putting a decent trigger and a 308 upper on an AR sounds more like what you really want to do, IMHO.

    Deer hunting is a pretty complex skillset. I’m just getting it down after 30 years and a lot of deer. Coached my nephew through shooting two does last Sunday. He used my Ruger #1 in 7X57. One deer dropped in place, the other ran 60 yards. I killed three other deer this year, a buck I rattled up out of five, a doe, and a spike. All with the Ruger and handloads except for the doe which I Garanded at 125 yards and LC69. Neck shot.

    4X scope isn’t going to be enough. I’d have a scope that had a little more power on the upper end than my binocs. Good binos are a must. (Swarvorski 8X56) Scentless soap is a great help. Buck scent in a pump has gotten me lots of kills. I’ve rattled up every BIG buck I have ever killed and shot from less than 10 yards.

    Shot one with an Argentine 1891 Mauser Cav Carbine in 7.65. Lefthanded. Open sights. The HUNTING skill set is more important than the firearm.

    You are getting lots of good advice it looks like to me.

    Mostly I hunt good places and try to learn what’s going on.

    Starting from scratch now I would try a Remington PLTR in .308 with a Leupold scope that topped out around 12 power. You could always use it when the revolution comes.

  17. Ken Summers Says:

    Good comments above, I can’t add too much but here are some additional thoughts. Your mileage may vary.

    First hunt: I would highly recommend private property if you can. In any case, have someone who knows what s/he is doing take you. The type of hunting is very different in different places and I know from personal experience (a LOT of personal experience) that seeing absolutely nothing can be disappointing, especially for novices.

    Cartridge: I don’t know anything about the others listed but the 7.62×39 is barely adequate at 150 yds. If anyone has actually used it on deer I would listen to their opinion but on paper it looks less impressive than the .30-30, which I also consider marginal at 150yds. From what I can see on the Remington website, the 6.8SPC looks a lot better. Still, I’d recommend something a little beefier.

    Bullets: I’d stick with soft-point, preferably pointed. Under no circumstances use hardball for deer (ever ever ever! Should be illegal in every state if it’s not already). I don’t like hollowpoints but my experience with them has been limited (and uniformly negative, FWIW).

    Accuracy: Overrated at the distances we’re talking about. The deer can’t tell the difference between a 1/2 MOA rifle and a 2 MOA rifle at 150 yds. Almost all deer rifles these days are plenty accurate for that and the best thing you can do to improve them is to tighten up the nut in back of the gun.

    Scope: If you want a single power, 4X is normally plenty for shooting even out to 200 yds (sorry to disagree, Robert). Higher power is nice for dim light, poor conditions, or for scoping a buck (binocs are better anyway) but hurts at very short distances. I like a variable but that’s just personal preference – the area I hunt has both open country and brush so I like being able to change power, but most people I know using variables just set to 4 or 6 and leave it. Mine is a 2×7 and unless I ever need to shoot over 300yds (not bloody likely) it’s perfect. I’m partial to a duplex reticle but that might be because that’s what I’ve almost always used. Addison’s comment about the MOA dot sounds right; I haven’t used one but I’ve looked through them and find it hard to imagine anyone using one successfully. Does anyone actually like them?

    General comment: Good luck and HAVE FUN! There ain’t nuthin’ better.

  18. SayUncle Says:

    Ken, thanks for the tips!

  19. Addison Says:

    Of course, if you got a .50 BMG upper…….

    1) Evil Black Rifle
    2) .50 !!!!!!!! AAIIEEEEE!!!!!! WMD!!!! HYBRID HATER!!!!! NEOCON!!!!
    3) Killing Bambi.

    It’s the anti-Liberal trifecta!!!

    Ken:
    The Red Dot I like *a lot* for closer stuff/SHTF scenarios. It’s VERY fast. My GF also likes it a lot more than the peep on the M1 or the AR. But I’m not as worried about being quite so accurate. I’d love to be able to afford a really nice one – which I think is more adjustable. But for hunting, it’s a > 100 yard optic. Which isn’t huge problem with the 7.62×39, it’s a 150 yard cartridge. And actually, until you hunt some, limiting yourself to under 100 yards (which isn’t that hard, really), isn’t a _bad_ idea, IMO.

    Having said all of that – if the 6.8 gets available, it will whomp up on the 7.62×39, I think, and if I *did* get an AR, I really think I’d go for one in 6.8.

    Unc: Just give it up, and join the EBSR (EBSovietR),a nd get a $350 AK! πŸ™‚

  20. SayUncle Says:

    You mean you’ve not read about my AK?

  21. Addison Says:

    Hey, no, missed that.
    Well, then, there ya go!
    (I suggest 10 round mags for balance and weight reduction while hunting).