I wonder how many big-game hunters will be carrying an AR-style rifle into the deer woods this season.
I guess the new proper term for these guns I should be using is Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR), which was coined by the National Shooting Sports Foundation not long ago. Unfortunately, there are still too many who still believe the AR stands for “assault rifle,” when the truth is, it stands for the original maker of the gun, ArmaLite.
The company sold the rights to its AR-10 and AR-15 designs to Colt in 1959, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that the government talk about stricter gun control triggered a rush to buy these guns. From what I’ve witnessed during the intervening time and been told by a dozen or more gun shop owners, I believe they’ve become a hot item and an uplift to the shooting industry. Some companies have had a difficult time in keeping up with the demand.
Having visited gun shops in several different states, I found them all with a wall and racks full of these MSRs in stock. “Can’t keep them on the shelf” is a common response to my questions. It’s not just the hunters who are buying them. During my frequent visits to the Kayaderosseras Fish and Game Club shooting range, there has usually been at least one shooter with a MSR, and often, they’re in their 30s. On a recent visit to Pennsylvania, I stopped in a gun shop in Bangor that I visit annually while hunting there. This year, I was amazed to see one wall just full of MSRs. The proprietor said they were his best sellers, even though Pennsylvania does not allow the use of any semi-automatic rifles to hunt big game.
Until a few years ago, my interest in and actual use of MSRs was limited to those I had years ago in the Army, but with the public’s renewed interest, I thought I should experience it again and pass it on to my readers: Thus entered the Remington R-25 in .308-caliber. I was amazed at its accuracy, and even more amazed at the 200-plus-pound bear I shot in Ontario with it, and then the 10-point buck I downed in Allegany County.
Unfortunately, I returned the R-25 to the company after the test and the hunts. Since then, I’ve been using a 20-gauge pump slug gun for my Albany County deer hunts and my .308 bolt-action for my hunts in rifle counties.
However, while turkey hunting this spring and fall, I had encounters with coyotes that wanted to investigate my decoys. In the spring hunt in Albany County, I had to spook off a sneaking coyote that was after my decoys, and then early in October, the same thing happened again. This time, I greeted him with two ounces (202 pellets) of Federal Cartridge Flite Control lead. Coyote season is only open in the fall (Oct. 1-March 31). With the coyote season open, I thought it would be a good opportunity for an MSR, and definitely the perfect reason for obtaining another gun.
The plan began with a call to Adam Ballard, product manager at DPMS Firearms, the company that just happened to have made the Remington R-25 rifle. At the SHOT Show this year, I spoke with him about a predator gun, and the one that I chose was their Lo-Pro Classic in .223/5.56 caliber. It’s a slick-sided Flat Top, with a 16-inch bull barrel made of 4140 chromemoly and a fixed stock. It’s optic-ready, measures 34.75 inches long and weighs 7.77 pounds (www.dpmsinc.com).
Part of the fun of having and shooting one of these guns, either for hunting, shooting or both, is tricking them out. In this case, I’ll be adding a scope, spotlight for night hunting of coyotes and a Caldwell XLA pivot bipod, which I already have. The scope I ordered is a BSA TW4x30, designed for this type of rifle. It has a 4x magnification with 30mm objective lens, 100 yard-parallax setting, mill dot reticle and comes complete with the scope-mounting rings (www.bsaoptics.com).
On top of my scope will be something every predator hunter will want, the ND 3 Subzero laser light by Laser Genetics. It’s a long-distance laser designator that will light up that coyote out to 250 yards. Made of durable aluminum construction, it’s 0-ring sealed to keep out water and dust, nitrogen charged to prevent lens fogging, and the one-inch tube mounts easily on the tip of the scope on the included Weaver mounts. Activation is with a momentary pressure switch, and best of all, for this area, it’s a cold-weather laser. Check it out at www.lasergenetics.com.
There are other hunts I’ll be doing besides predators, and one that I might be doing. One definite hunt is an Osceola (Florida) turkey. It’s the only one I need to complete my seventh National Wild Turkey Federation Grand Slam, and it would be only the second time I’ve shot a turkey with anything other than a shotgun or bow. The first one was with a .223 Thompson Center handgun. I’ve already booked a hunt in Florida in March for turkeys, and the guide tells me it is legal there. It will definitely be different.
The maybe is a deer hunt, and a .223 is legal in New York state. I’m thinking — and this is by no means definite — that I may use one of my two Wildlife Management Unit 5R Deer Management Permits. I’ve spoken with a good friend who did it last year, and he said he actually hunted with the .223 two years before he got what he considered to be the right shot. I’m going to research the web for more thoughts on this before I make a final decision. But in the meantime, those coyotes are in trouble.