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Best AR-15 caliber for deer hunting?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Fishbed77, Jul 25, 2011.

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  1. Fishbed77

    Fishbed77 Member

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    I know this is a question with a thousand variables, but figured I'd fish for opinions anyway. :)

    What do you guys and girls think the most effective all-around AR-15compatible cartridge is for deer hunting? I'm not thinking about wildcat or exotic cartridges, but instead about readily-available and reasonably-priced ammo that has the right combination of accuracy, range (out to several hundred yards if necessary), energy, and wounding ability (the need to have a good blood trail to follow in many situations).

    Does any AR-15 caliber even meet these requirements? The reason I ask, is that my father loves shooting my 5.56mm AR build, and one day, I'd like to do a build for him, but would like to do it in a caliber that would be more useful for him (he hunts whitetail often, but I don't).
     
  2. mod60rimfire

    mod60rimfire Member

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  3. gotigers

    gotigers Member

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    6.8spc II. It has better energy than the 5.56/.223 and better range than the .300 whisper/AAC. The 6.5 grendal has better range, but is not as common and may be more difficult to find. Even with that said, all special AR rounds will be quite a bit more expensive 5.56/.223. A .223 in a heavier grain will take deer.
     
  4. jad0110

    jad0110 Member

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    Many will disagree with me, but with proper ammo selection, 5.56 / .223 has taken many deer. Feral pigs and wild board too. A friend of mine has taken plenty of deer humanely with a .223. You wouldn't want to use M193, for sure, or anything else that readily fragments and screws up perfectly good meat. But a Nosler Partition, Barnes TSX or the like would be good choices. I've also heard of guys successfully using M855 green tip (light armor piercing), even on hogs. What twist rate does his AR use? That would determine bullet weight.

    My buddy that uses .223 does state that its only drawbacks are that it is easily deflected in environments with heavy brush/branches and the blood trail is sometimes smaller.

    Honestly, anything will work as long as sufficient penetration is achieved.
     
  5. Carolina Kalash

    Carolina Kalash Member

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    well, i dont hunt with an AR or know anybody that does, but... i'd say a Remington R-25 in .308, .243, or 7mm-08... that is assuming you can get one in all those calibers...
     
  6. Fishbed77

    Fishbed77 Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions, but all of those suggestions (AFAIK) require an AR-10 pattern rifle, not an AR-15. I am specifically interested in the best hunting performance that can be gotten out of an AR-15.

    I had assumed the 6.8 SPC might be the best option as well - just curious if there are any other calibers I should be considering. I know the 5.56mm/.223 will take deer, but am concerned about the tiny hole's ability to produce a good blood trail (even with a lethal hit to the heart/lungs, a whitetail can run 100 yards or more before falling, and a good blood trail is critical, especially when hunting in thick woods, like we have here in SC).
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2011
  7. doorman

    doorman Member

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    I use an AR-15 when hunting doe. Shoot them in the head. Either they will either drop in their tracks or you will miss.
     
  8. Fishbed77

    Fishbed77 Member

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    True. But not something you want to do on bucks if you want to keep the rack.
     
  9. NCsmitty

    NCsmitty Member

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  10. NG VI

    NG VI Member

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    .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM, .30 AR, 6.8 SPC II, 6.5 Grendel, .25 WSSM (for a real powerhouse if you want a smaller, flatter shooting bullet than the big bore options), all of them would work fine. .50 Beowulf. .223 with heavy and properly constructed bullets if he is already comfortable using smaller calibers for deer.
     
  11. 68wj

    68wj Member

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    Unfortunately, "best" threads often digress into "mine is better than yours" threads. Fortunately, there are many AR deer getters. No matter the cartridge (AR or not), shot placement is crucial. The differences start to develop when placement is less than ideal. In those instances, more power/better bullets can determine a harvested deer or coyote crap.

    The .223 is fully capable of taking deer. A good bullet, in the right spot, will do wonders. Start playing around with short barrels (M4gery) that lessen velocity and cheaping out on ammo, the result can be less than ideal at range.

    I am a 6.8 fan, and studied around quite a bit before making the decision. With a handy carbine length barrel pushing a 110 gr Accubond, I look forward to filling the freezer this season. It is more than capable of taking game beyond my potential distances with any of the various factory loads or my handloads.

    I will not preach that a 6.8 is the greatest thing to happen to a rifle since Stoner himself. I would rather have a 20" AR in .223 with a Barnes TSX than a 6.8 with only FMJs. Bullet construction matters. There are also several other AR15 capable cartridges with various strengths and weaknesses.
     
  12. Abel

    Abel Member

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    I agree. If you know that your shots are gonna be 200 yards and in, a 223 is fine. But if you're gonna set up a bonafide 300 yard deer rifle out of a AR15, the little .270 caliber SPC is a better choice.
     
  13. mshootnit

    mshootnit Member

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    If it hasn't been already suggested, Olympic was offering a 25WSSM. That would get my vote.
     
  14. kemper

    kemper Member

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    That's easy. 6.8 SPC

    That's easy. 6.8 SPC all the way in my opinion
     
  15. mdThanatos

    mdThanatos Member

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    I can't remember who the member was but he used to have a link in his signature about an AR15 in 7.62x39 that should be adequate for deer, and cheaper than some of the other calibers listed here.
     
  16. Lakedaemonian

    Lakedaemonian Member

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    Phased Plasma Rifle in the 40 Kilowatt range?
     
  17. Sebastian the Ibis
    • Contributing Member

    Sebastian the Ibis Member

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    Where is Krochus when you need him?

    I'd think 7.62x39 with soft-points would be perfect.
     
  18. hja4941

    hja4941 Member

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    In an Ar 15 rifle my first choice would be the 6.5 Grendel with 140gr soft points. It offers all the range and accuracy you need with exceptional penetration.
     
  19. mod60rimfire

    mod60rimfire Member

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  20. Get R Done Guns

    Get R Done Guns Member

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    +1 for the Remington R-25 in any of their major hunting calibers. They are a great choice. If you already have a rifle then .308 would get the nod.
     
  21. madcratebuilder

    madcratebuilder Member

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    The 6.5 Grendel is an excellent deer/hog caliber. Commercial hunting loads are available and affordable. I know many a smaller deer have been taken with a 22lr, so a .223/5.56 well do as well or better. I personally would not use that small of caliber. I don't have to worry about as it is not legal here to use a .223 for deer.
     
  22. Lloyd Smale

    Lloyd Smale Member

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    well ive used mine in .223, 762x39, 308 and 5o beowulf and they all kill deer if i do my part.
     
  23. Tirod

    Tirod Member

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    It's really a matter of balancing strengths and weaknesses. Each of the calibers listed has strengths, and each had to trade away a certain amount to be more optimum in one category more than another.

    In terms of ballistics, it's a simple fact that the overall length creates a window of performance, and it can't be escaped. There's only so much room to stuff a cartridge full of powder and leave enough room for a bullet to properly seat. After that, you get into modifications that mean having non-GI parts - usually barrel, bolt, and magazine. Lately "new" cartridges have been introduced that only change the barrel - what offsets that is only the vendor is a source of ammo. In most regards, it won't be on the Boxmart shelf at all, internet ordering of ammo will be required.

    Cost of ammo is no worse than any other commercial round, and comparing commercial to milsurp or NATO reject is ludicrous. Military surplus is the EXCEPTION to normal ammo pricing - not the standard to compare to. Those who make that mistake like to shoot a lot of dirt or paper, and won't reload. Since only the 5.56 will enjoy cheaper pricing, don't let that get out of focus - FMJ import ammo isn't your best choice in hunting rounds, and that means we're right back to conventional soft point or hollow point costs.

    Caliber IS important when choosing what elements you pick: In diminishing order of available supply, 5.56, 6.8SPC, 6.5G/.264LBC, then The Others fall into place. These all enjoy the biggest share of the AR15 market. If 5.56 isn't legal or desired, moving up to the 6's will improve power 40%. 6.8SPC was designed and optimized by the SF to shoot full power from a 14.5" issue length barrel, and does great from a BATF legal 16". MOST 6.8SPC shooters do exactly that. 6.5G has a slower powder burn and enjoys a longer barrel in it's optimum form, many use it in shorter ones and are successful - but give up the advantage of the better BC and longer range by the 4" or more shorter barrel. When you're limiting the range to 250m or less, it won't make a substantial difference, and the trajectory on equally loaded rounds is less than a candy wrapper at the longer ranges anyway. It will take a good optic and experience calling bullet drop to notice it.

    Once caliber is sorted, then the features fall into place. The barrel length dictates gas length, mid length or rifle are the most available choices. An A3 flattop for optics, fixed length stock (half the price and has worked for decades,) grip in your size, and then what fore end? Lots attempt to justify a free float, unless you have deliberately bought a high precision 1MOA or less barrel, it's not needed. The extra $150 could easily go into ammo and more practice shooting offhand, a better barrel, optic, or another least needed item, a match trigger. Keep the pull above 4 pounds, in field use they are safer when dragged through underbrush or when they casually fall over when leaning against a tree while you fertilize another. A trigger travel adjustment screw is far cheaper and nets 60-80% of the improvement in reduced creep and grit anyway - exactly why so many hunting and target triggers on bolt guns have them.

    Since 6.8SPC offers a lot of off the shelf availability, even ammo at Cabela's, Academy, and others, it leads the pack as the #1 alternate. If reloading or fireforming brass is appealing, the 6.5G is habit forming, especially in long range recreational use where the BC makes a difference. And if 5.56 is legal, it can be used, keeping in mind that hunting loads are what get used in it during the season, and they are priced normally right along with any other NATO caliber in a soft point.

    I built a 6.8SPC with AGP lower, LAR A3 upper, A1 stock, TD grip, rifle length handguards on a midlength gas 16" barrel. Just ordered an Armalite clamp on FSB to finish it, and plan shooting it soon. It will do ok for hunting, ARP barrels are reputed to be 1MOA, which is a 4" group at 400m. Plenty accurate enough, most alternate calibers will do the same. A 5.56, not necessarily, if it's a run of the milspec barrel. That will cost more, making the build nearly equal in cost to get equal accuracy. Don't make the mistake that 5.56 is necessarily cheaper - you fall into the same trap that surplus ammo shooters claim.

    Choose one, check out the availability. It's nearly too late to get a barrel on order and have it shipped for this years deer season, be flexible in how that works out.
     
  24. fragout

    fragout Member

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    It might just depend on what you mean by "readily available and reasonably priced".

    7.62x39mm with a decent soft point bullet should fit the bill rather well here.

    Nothing wrong with 6.8SPC, but this caliber might not be as easy to find, or as reasonably priced in comparison to 7.62x39mm. A 7.62x39mm chambered AR sporting a 20in bbl should get you the muzzle velocity needed for longer distance shooting I should think.

    I would not consider 5.56mm/223 to be the optimum caliber for your application, due to the distances you indicated that he might be taking deer at, as well as the thick woods you mentioned. From my experience with 5.56mm/223, it can deflect rather easily in comparison with 7.62x39mm

    The true optimum for your application would be an AR chambered for 7.62x51mm/308, but you stated that this idea is not gonna work for the person your building it for.
    Just curious, but any reasons as to why?

    11B
     
  25. sarduy

    sarduy Member

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    Build your father a 1/7 twist AR15 and tell him to use heavy bullets. (75gr & 77gr BTHP)

    http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=3&f=16&t=519091

    ETA: some people claim that 223 is not good for deer hunting... well (55gr .223) may not be the best choice, but (69gr and up) is a whole new history. just shoot them in the killzone and not on their tail ;)
     
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