"Hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they're in the game." Paul Rodriguez, and I tend to believe that too.
What hunting is, is practice. Hunting is learning your own heart. It is an education gleaned from experience and knowledge where we can gauge both strengths and limitations, with that of our quarry. The need to hunt is ingrained, hard wired into the minds of all men by eons of survival. It is a complex endurance technique instilled by both hungry woman, children, and your own, and is the place where love and responsibility are born.
Hunting is, and always was, the practice and preparation for a greater war, with men, both defense and offense. Hunting, for a civilized man, a free man of liberty, is the only thing that stands in the way of tyranny. The man who said, "Give me Liberty or give me death." did not intend to die. He knew there was a fair chance he would survive, or he would not have said that out loud. He wanted Liberty, not death, and yet knew that life held little or no meaning without Liberty. It also suggests that Liberty can become reality without violence, if we use our minds. However, without also carrying a big stick, and the know-how and will to use it, there would be no valor, no might for right. And that is the justification for hunting.
There is talk that this Obama administration is proposing a ban on guns in the United States. They had better reconsider.
The AR-15 looks formidable because it is. Dressed in a myriad of bells and whistles on a platform of Picatinny rails, it transforms from a mere rifle to an imaginative and functioning tool. Part of the intimidation of this weapon comes from the knowledge that it is the weapon of choice for both law enforcement and military. But today, however, and no disrespect intended, we will consider it for varmint hunting, i.e., coyotes, feral pigs, bobcats and such, and after it is cleaned, a place in my own home.
An AR by any other name...
There are many manufactures of the .223AR-15 carbine. Colt and Bushmaster are seemingly the most preferred, but Armalite, DPMS, Eagle Arms, Knight’s Mfg. Co., Olympic Arms, Rock River Arms, and more, also make very similar products. They all operate in a comparable manor, but there is more to these weapons than style and option packages. Function is primary, of course, and all of them, including the Bushmaster and Colt have good reputations there. Competition comes from subtle differences, as each of these manufacturers are experts in their own right. All think their aspect of this weapon superior to the rest.
The picture above is the Bushmaster, my choice, and it is used in the multiple theaters of war, extreme long distance hunting and even snipping, but also the confines of urban and home defense as well. It is adjustable for a wide variety of shooters, and women on the range seem to have no problem, as recoil is manageable and length variable. Once you grasp an understanding of this weapon with a proper safety course, and become proficient at the range, the reason's will soon be apparent. There is nothing like it in the world of rifles, and for a varmint hunter it is stellar. Try popping off 30 accurate rounds at a family of pigs with anything else!
Specs in the eye of the beholder...
The .223 caliber AR-15, for the general public, performs by what is termed "select fire." That means it will fire automatically every time you pull the trigger, and not the semi-automatic you will find the military and police using, but it is still very fast for nearly all applications. Though it is complicated as to why, most in the know suggest a barrel length between 13.5 and 16 inches, for maximum velocity, with a 1-in-9-inch barrel twist for accuracy with a 69 grain bullet...
Two popular calibers for the AR-15 platform are the .223 Remington/5.56x45mm, and they are almost indistinguishable, but it should be noted here that one should not use the NATO 5.56x45 into a rifle designated .223 Remington, like mine, due to the increased chamber pressure in the 5.56mm cartridges. Those specifics seem significant to those who know these weapons, and there is a wealth of well-done tutorials on You Tube.
Hunting Louisiana and Mississippi varmints
Dressing an Ar-15 for war, in desert or swamp, or the urban jungle of men, is far different than what is needed for varmint hunting. For instance, Trijicon manufactures superior and very expensive night sights for the AR-15 with tritium inserts that will deliver a picture in very dim light, but I think they are a bit over-dressed for the occasion. Great for the battlefield though. Sure, a night scope, or a night sight, should be considered, even infrared too, to be invisible, but there is another option I'd like to share that seems more suitable for the chore in my neck of the woods, and I think even more appropriate.
I bought a Leupold 1.25 4x20 30MM scope that has relatively good brightness, clarity, and contrast, and extended its mid-range limitations with my green night-vision laser from Laser Genetics. I have three now, two called the ND-3 that has a range of 250 yards, and one other called the ND-40 that reaches out to an amazing 400 yards. I attach it to the top of my scope and direct it into the field of vision. As you bring in distance, you focus the green dot to be smaller, and thus more powerful, and it will light up a coyote or pig with amazing clarity. And remarkably, the green light doesn't scare the animals as a regular flash-light would, and though some will stare and glance in my direction, for the most part they ignore it. I have a green light on my Winchester 30-30 lever action, and the 7mm Browning I use for deer hunting, and as eyes light up I find a good target.
These green lights can be mounted to the carbine in a variety of ways... It can be attached to the barrel with rings, to the front sight assembly, or the front hand guard, but I chose to mount mine right on the scope! They work perfectly in conjunction, and with a little practice adjustments can be done quickly. These lights can also be used as a distress beacon, and can be seen for many miles, even lighting up low lying clouds! There is also a pressure pad that goes from the laser to easy access, for short bursts of light.
Strong iron sights are built into the front sight assembly and carry handle of the AR-15, with protective wings and rails on each side. In rugged use, they will still maintain weapon's zero.
Optics can be mounted easily on what is called a flat-top M1913, like mine, with a Picatinny rail system, and optical aiming sights such as the SPA Simrad, EOTech, C-More and Aimpoint Sights will allow the shooter to acquire a quick sight picture with both eyes open during close-quarters shooting.
Scopes, however, with fixed or variable magnification, is needed for distant targets, some as far as 1000 yards or more, but for green-light varmint hunting you will need what is called a medium scope, between 150 and 300 yards. Sure, dads, Scout Masters, and drill Sergeants told us these devices do not necessarily increase a shooter’s accuracy when compared to standard iron sights, and that with practice the basic fundamentals of marksmanship will still apply. Yes, that seems true enough, for Quigley anyway, but my bifocals can only distinguish a button-buck at 200 yards, and this is during the day. At night time I want to discriminate my neighbor's dog from a coyote, a pig from a possum. I want light, stealth, and dead-on accuracy. I don't want a wounded animal. I want a dead animal.
The varmint reconsidered
What is a varmint? Well, to me it is an animal, more often than not, that is a pest, and even more likely it is not indigenous to the area. We have a lot of these critters in every state of the union. For instance coyotes were never seen here in Louisiana until the Red Wolf was eradicated in the latter part of the 18th century, mostly because of fear and ignorance. The coyote took the Red Wolf niche as its own, and though so far unsuccessful, there are conservationists who want permission to bring them back. I think that is a good idea.
So to, the feral pig. Thought to be a good sport to shoot, it multiplied almost as fast as a rabbit with few enemies as an adult. It tears up crops, and very often here in Louisiana a baby deer is found in its stomach. The nutria is another strong-willed outsider taking space from our Louisiana swamp critters, and all of these have a bounty, can be hunted at night, and at any time of the year. And this is perfect for me. If you ever taste my suckling pig cooked in a Cajun microwave, you would know why. Poo Yie!
Yes, the Red Wolf could develop a taste for pig and nutria as well, and coyotes would scurry for the hills...
"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with a ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion on your walks." Thomas Jefferson. And our founders would have loved a AR-15.
One other thing to consider, however, is weight, and these lasers are powerful in proportion to size. You will be carrying this weapon around for miles in the dark, so weight will become more important as the miles pile on. They also use lithium batteries, and retain their charge longer when not being used.
"Remember, practice makes perfect, and someday, when the chips are down, you will be glad at your efficiency. Freedom is not free." -Ken LaRive