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Moderator
Reply with quote  #1 
Hey guys,

We're working on a NEW (much-asked-for) .223 Rem Cartridge Guide.

One sub-topic we'll cover is AR15s--for both match rifle shooting and varminting.

I've gone squirrel shooting with my AR. I concluded that, while it is fun to use a magazine, the AR would not be my first choice for future varmint expeditions. Didn't like the stock length/height when shooting from the ground, didn't like the way the gun sat on the bags when shooting from the bench. I also hated chasing the brass.

That said, I know a lot of guys love to use ARs for Varminting.

Let's hear both sides of the debate.

If you like the AR as a varmint platform, tell us why.

If you think an AR15 is over-rated as a varminter, explain.


Let the debate begin...


Asa_Yam
Reply with quote  #2 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moderator
I've gone squirrel shooting with my AR. I concluded that, while it is fun to use a magazine, the AR would not be my first choice for future varmint expeditions. Didn't like the stock length/height when shooting from the ground, didn't like the way the gun sat on the bags when shooting from the bench.

If you want it to behave like a benchrest rifle, build it like one. Complaining about the "failures" of a stock AR as a bench rifle is akin to saying an Indy car is useless, since it isn't street legal, and you can't easily haul sheets of plywood with one. The difference is any mechanically gifted individual CAN modify an AR at home, using only off-the-shelf components and tools.

* If the rifle rolls in the bags, modify the foreend. Add a flat plate under the round handguard (i.e., Hart's Accuracy Asset) so the rifle doesn't roll in the bags.
* If you don't like the buttstock, install one that fits better. And/or that rides the rear bag better.
* If the magazine extends too far below the center of the action, use a shorter magazine.

Quote:
I also hated chasing the brass.

Not so subtle hint: BRASS CATCHER.
Or disable the gas system, turning the rifle into a single shot.
Moderator
Reply with quote  #3 
Asa raises some very good points. Here are a few of the mods which can stabilize an AR in the bags.
Photos are from Larry Medler's website, http://mywebpages.comcast.net/larrymedler/asset.htm

Plate on front, bag-riding tube on the rear:



Detail of front plate:



Asa, I have used brass-catchers (even on pistols). Obviously that will keep the brass off the ground. But the fact remains the AR treats the brass more roughly than a bolt action.

When shooting prone the biggest issue I had was with eye relief with the scope (which, along with mount, was a loaner--my AR is a flat-top with detachable carry handle, set up for service rifle comps). I had to crawl so far back (to get proper eye relief) I couldn't touch the buttpad with my shoulder. Again, obviously, this could be solved with A) a buttpad extension or B) an extended scope rail that could carry the scope farther forward (notice the extended rail on Larry's rifle above).

But again this raises the basic question--Is the AR a suitable varmint platform?

If you have to find/fabricate a bunch of stuff to outfit the AR for varminting ... why not just use a bolt action?

Again, I'm interested in hearing both pro and con...

gunamonth
Reply with quote  #4 
I had a Colt Accurized Rifle that I used for groundhogs, called fox and an occasional coyote in Ohio and Maryland when I lived there. The only change made to the rifle was a trigger job and a Harris bi-pod. It wore a Burris 3-12X50 that I don't believe is available any longer. It would put 55 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips into a half inch circle faster than I could point and shoot. Once fired Lake City brass at couple cents a piece that was FL sized, loaded and then left on the ground. I really enjoyed that rifle and what it was capable of at ranges up to 300 yards or so. It was about as accurate as any production rifle I've owned - it wouldn't quite keep up with the Coopers but the second round was a whole lot faster.

Then I moved to Pennsylvania where the State Game Comission has no sense of humor at all. No semi-auto rifles for hunting. In a weak moment I agreed to sell it.... for one thing it took up a lot of room in the safe. I wish I had that one back.
milanuk
Reply with quote  #5 
I've shot my fair share of prairie dogs (aka S.E.R.T's) w/ bolt guns, almost always single-feed just because it was easy enough to keep up w/ the demand and it worked. I didn't really get into gas guns until after I was out of the area of 'convenient' 'dog shooting, so I can't speak to the pluses and minuses in the field, other than I know I managed to keep myself in the poor house w/ a single-loaded bolt gun. Lord only knows how broke I would have been w/ a magazine-fed gas gun!

I have seen some folks (and I'm one of them) move to the gas gun as a *predator* hunting gun, specifically coyotes. Relatively short, compact, and quick handling (though maybe not especially light) the quick second (and third) shot is usually much appreciated... but to be honest the number of folks I've seen connect on shot #2 or #3, after missing #1... is pretty few and far between. I *have* watched people call in multiple dogs and engage them successfully w/ a gas gun... but usually #2 or #3 has the afterburners on full by the time you get to them.

I sometimes wonder about an AR w/ a .204 Ruger upper... and a 100rd Beta-C mag... One of those set up on a good bench in a field full of ground squirrels would be about like Gallagher and his hammer in a watermelon field!
Asa_Yam
Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moderator
If you have to find/fabricate a bunch of stuff to outfit the AR for varminting ... why not just use a bolt action?

Because ya never know when a horde of angry varmints will turn and charge instead of running?

Seriously, one could make a similar arguement with many a bolt action rifle as well. The rounded foreends on many varmint rifles also tend to roll in the bags. Why buy a factory varmint rifle, only to toss the stock?

Quote:
When shooting prone the biggest issue I had was with eye relief with the scope ... I had to crawl so far back (to get proper eye relief) I couldn't touch the buttpad with my shoulder. Again, obviously, this could be solved with A) a buttpad extension or B) an extended scope rail that could carry the scope farther forward...

Again, a similar issue exists with bolt action rifles. Too many shooters optimize their rifles for shooting from the bench - only to get "bitten" when firing the rifle from field positions. Amazing how many cases of "scope eye" appear just before hunting season....

As for a stock to address the issues you raised, take a gander at http://www.magpul.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=70_88_90&products_id=193

Quote:
Asa, I have used brass-catchers (even on pistols). Obviously that will keep the brass off the ground. But the fact remains the AR treats the brass more roughly than a bolt action.

Ejection force is controlled by both bolt velocity and ejector spring strength. Removing 1-2 coils from the ejector spring reduces the tendency for brass to get thrown as hard.

Benchrest rifles often reduce/eliminate the brass damage issue by either weakening/eliminating the ejector mechanism entirely.

Quote:
But again this raises the basic question--Is the AR a suitable varmint platform?

YES
- An AR is less affected by changes in humidity or temperature. This is because there usually is no wooden stock shifting around with changes in the weather.
- The bedding job on an AR rarely fails. This is because there usually isn't any bedding in an AR - or if it exists, it is exceedingly minimal.
- Zeroes rarely shift if the rifle get wet. This is a secondary effect of having little or no bedding.
- ARs with 16" long barrels exist - good for lightweight or close range applications. Pull 2 pins, and you can install an upper with a 24" long (or longer) barrel. Or change calibers entirely. On how many other rifles can you do this in less than 30 seconds? And on how many rifles can you go from shooting .223 Remington to .50 BMG in that amount of time?
- When upper and lower receivers are seperated, an AR can be packed into a shorter rifle case. Transporting one lower receiver and multiple uppers is far easier than moving multiple rifles.
Moderator
Reply with quote  #7 
Asa--nice find on that adjustable buttstock:



That would have been great on my squirrel hunting expedition. A while back I found a company that made something similar, but in wood. It didn't have the adjustments, but it had the straight lower section and a longer length of pull. I'm surprised more folks don't use something like this. The standard AR buttstock (with sling swivel) is not-so-hot in a rear bag.

Quote:
- An AR is less affected by changes in humidity or temperature. This is because there usually is no wooden stock shifting around with changes in the weather.


Good point.

Quote:
ARs with 16" long barrels exist - good for lightweight or close range applications. Pull 2 pins, and you can install an upper with a 24" long (or longer) barrel. Or change calibers entirely. On how many other rifles can you do this in less than 30 seconds? And on how many rifles can you go from shooting .223 Remington to .50 BMG in that amount of time?


Asa makes a very good point here. Plus I'd add that, when a barrel gets real hot (often the case on all-day varmint hunts), you can just pop on a different upper. That probably will represent less of an investment than a second gun. I have a 16" A1 (non-forward-assist) ultra-light upper for my AR that is a delight to shoot off-hand. I didn't use that upper in my latest trip, but we did take some shots off-hand (standing) when the critters were close but you needed to shoot over tall grass or a fence, rock-pile etc.

PS: I found a photo of that wood AR stock. They were (at one time) made by Mike Turner for JP Enterprises, but I don't see them for sale any more (I guess they're not TactiCOOL enough):

milanuk
Reply with quote  #8 
The Magpul PRS stock is kind of heavy... at least compared to a standard A2. Not a huge amount, but it is noticeable. Of course, w/ a 20"+ HBAR tube up front... it comes closer to balancing out. I've seen people use one w/ 16-18" uppers, and I guess that just falls into 'different strokes for different folks'

Another plus for the AR is the pistol grip... with an allen wrench you can change it out to whatever you want with relative ease. From the factory A2 grip, to contoured slimline grips, to the large Sierra Precision grip, and even some wood ones that come over-sized so you can carve them to fit your hand. Add in some things like the Rite-Pull Slip-Grip (available from Sinclair Int'l, among others) and you can extend the 'length of pull' for the trigger finger 3/4" and more (the standard dimensions are kind of cramped for those of us w/ big hands).

The two big downsides to the AR, IMO, are where it's gas system dumps at (inside the receiver, messy to clean up) and the glacial slowness of the trigger systems. Eve the Geisselle triggers that are supposed to be the cat's meow are incredibly slow compared to a Remington 700. Still, people seem to be able to shoot w/ them pretty well regardless, but it is a weak area.
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