I have always been a fan of bolt action rifles and will remain one until they plant me for good. I have also had a few pump rimfire rifles and couple of lever actions that I had a strong affection for in my past. The only semi auto rifle I was really ever a fan of was the little 10/22 Ruger in .22 long rifle. This handy rifle is one of the top selling rifles of all time and most of you have one or at least have shot one.
In the mid-eighties I really got into shooting varmints, predators and hogs. It almost became a passion and my weapons of choice were bolt action rifles in the .223 cartridge. Many times I would have multiple targets or need a speedy second shot and the bolt action was just not fast enough in my opinion. I began to read about people using the semi auto AR-15 platform rifle for just such situations. Not knowing anything about the AR-15 I bought a military style rifle that had the carry handle-guard sights. Putting a scope on this rifle was not easy and took a special mount. This rifle was not to be one of my favorites. The military style trigger was terrible and had around an eight pound breaking point. Using my super accurate 50 grain .223 reloads it would shoot MOA (Minute of Angle) of paper plate on a good day. Some of the bullets would actually keyhole through the target, if they even hit the target. For someone used to covering target groups with a quarter at a hundred yards this was not acceptable. I took a loss on the rifle and traded it for a bolt action Remington 700 and wrote off the AR-15 rifle for good, or so I thought.
I continued on till the mid-nineties without seeing any need for another AR platform rifle. But then it seemed that the AR-15 rifle was not to let me continue in my ignorance. A friend invited me to go along on a prairie dog shoot on the grasslands in New Mexico. I took my .223 bolt actions along with a .243 and a .22 magnum. I had more fun than should be legal for three days of shooting and learned more about long range shooting in those three days than in a lifetime of hunting in the Texas Hill Country. The eye opener of the trip for me was that several of these experienced long range shooters shot heavy barrel AR-15 type rifles with barrels from sixteen to twenty four inches long in .223/.556, and other custom calibers such as 6mmPPC. The real amazing thing was that they were super accurate sub MOA rifles. The barrels had twists customized for the bullet weights and calibers and some were almost an inch in diameter. The rifles had flat top picatinny rails with heavy scope mounts and could be handled a lot and hold their point of impact. The actions were gas powered and had a recoil buffer and spring so recoil was nonexistent. The terrible two stage military type trigger had been replaced by custom triggers that broke like a glass rod with just a few pounds of pressure. I was sold on this new modern sporting rifle and decided to start saving for just such a rifle.
It was a whole year before I got to go back to New Mexico on a prairie dog hunt but this time along with my other bolt actions I carried a brand new Bushmaster Varmint model AR-15 with a medium heavy barrel in .223/.556. It became my favorite rifle on that trip. With the help of a spotter and range finder I set personal records for long range shooting for the .223 cartridge with that semi auto rifle on that trip. It was just amazing to be able to take several consecutive shots at prairie dogs and never even lift my head from the rifle. If you ever get to go on a prairie dog shoot to help the ranchers control the expansion of the dog towns do not miss it. The long range shooting experience you will gain is unbelievable and it makes deer and hogs seem easy.
I now shoot several AR type rifles with some in calibers such as .300 AAC Blackout and 7.62×39 Russian. They are great for predators, varmints, hogs and even deer. If you need a fast second shot or more you simply pull the trigger again never even taking you eye from the scope or target. I have busted many a running coyote or hog that I would never have been able to get with a bolt action since I started to carry an AR-15 type rifle. You can load them with 5-30 round magazines depending on the purpose. They will shoot right along with or better than your favorite bolt action rifle. My .223 AR rifles are all sub MOA, while my new .300 AAC Blackout with a 120 grain Remington factory load will shoot well under one inch at a hundred yards if I do my part. The .308 bullet is available in loads perfect for the Hill Country size whitetails and hogs. My grandkids like the .223 model because it has no recoil and is not real loud, as do the women in our family. If you just like to shoot for fun the 7.62×39 Russian AR ammo is available at bargain basement prices. These rifles don’t have the classic look of a Remington 700 or Winchester model 70, but then my four door Ford F150 Super Crew 4×4 doesn’t look like granddad’s Ford Pickup with wood side rails either. These rifles are built to be tools and take care of business; I guess they kind of look that way too. Remember these rifles born of jungle and desert firefights have been tested worldwide and will certainly stand their ground if needed for self-defense. I for one have become a convert to the modern sporting rifle and plan on having one around for the rest of my life. I think you might find a use for one also. Wild Ed