Tuesday, January 4, 2011

AR Rifles for Elk Hunting

At the end of November, Mr Anonymous added the following comment to my post:

I gotta ask, would a .308 not be adequate or ideal in brush country such as in North Idaho. A .308 in such a difficult area to hunt (I.E. brushy, hills, steep, limited visibility, potential to spook bear / wolves, etc.) seems ideal and the obligation for a clean kill at short ranges could easily be met, 150 yards or less seems highly likely with a decent hunter / shooter with such a caliber and a short distance. A semi-auto like an AR would also allow for faster follow up shots in case a second shot is necessary. I am a younger hunter and a combat veteran and feel more comfortable with the AR platform that bolt rifles. Any input would be greatly appreciated as well as suggestions for ammo.

Dear Mr. Anonymous,

Here are my thoughts.

The .308 in an AR-type rifle would do the job, as long as the shooter is a marksman and not simply a bullet-launcher.

1903A3 30-06 and Rem 700 300 Win Mag
However, I do not believe it to be “ideal.”  If I were hunting the same territory, I would use my 30-06, loaded with 220 grain round-nose, soft pointed bullets.  That rifle is a M1903A3 that my grandfather sporterized in the 1960s, and has a 4x scope.  Alternatively, I would use my .300 Winchester Magnum (Remington 700 BDL) loaded with 200 or 220 grain softpoints, with the 3x9 scope set at 3x.

As for the usefulness of a semi-auto and follow-up shots, I find that the first shot is the most important.  If it is bad, then each successive shot is usually just as bad.  In the highpower competition game, bolt guns shoot along side semi-autos and the difference in score is mostly attributable to better sights and triggers on the bolt guns, faster lock times on the bolt guns and “who” is shooting the respective weapons.  It shouldn’t take any time or thought to operating a bolt, and the next shot will usually be taken through a different “hole” in the underbrush.

Shooting an M16A1 in 1987 I Corps Combat Matches (photo from front page of Sports Section, 4 Feb 1987, Tacoma News Tribune).
I’m not a combat veteran, but have fired thousands of rounds through ARs in the Army and as a civilian highpower competitor.  Like you, I feel more comfortable shooting ARs than any other rifle.  Having said that, I should add shooting a variety of rifles can make you a better shooter.  In 1987, I was the first place marksman in the 9th Infantry Division,  the second place marksman in I Corps, and was attached to the 6th Army Marksmanship Training Unit.  Matches before the 6th Army were with M16A1 that only stabilized 55 grain bullets.  Everything at 6th Army was with M14s and 168 grain bullets.  Shooting is shooting, but shooting a rifle that kicks means learning new positions and techniques, which are great for becoming a better shooter.

Shooting M14 at Fort Ord, California, with 6th Army MTU, 1987.
As a civilian, I started with an M1A, but changed to an AR, then to an AR-style “space-gun,” then to a bolt rifle.  Each change caused me to reevaluate my positions and shooting style; and, they all help me progress to being a better shooter—even when I returned to an AR.

Progression of my civilian match rifles, excluding my M1A.
Here is what the text, Competitive Shooting by A.A. Yur’yev, edited by Gary Anderson, says about using various activities to enhance one’s training:

[ . . . ] the shooter must strive in his training to vary his different shooting exercises as much as possible, since this increases his ability to subsequently master new motions faster and to improve on the accomplishment of those already known.  In the final analysis, this ensures the improvement of competition results and their consistency under different shooting conditions (pg 311).

Much of what I have said applies to shooting competitively, and hunting is a competitive sport.  If it were people would spend more time practicing and experimenting to achieve superior results.

Hope this helps.


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