If there is a true phenomenon in recent firearms development, the nod would have to go to the AR platform, commonly referred to as black guns. These units have taken the shooting world by storm and are emerging as extremely popular rifles. Maligned by some and embraced by others, black guns have made tremendous inroads into the shooting fraternity.
I admit to only a passing familiarity with black guns until recently. Oh, I had fired a few and enjoyed the exercise very much, but had possessed little desire to fully acquaint myself with them. Then I began talking to other shooters and looking over the incredible options now offered in this area of firearms. At that time I knew I must have one.
Since I am a hunter and not just a shooter, I wanted for a rifle that would be suitable for big game as well as the target range. A bit or research showed that a long list of calibers was available, many more than adequate for North American game of any persuasion. With that discovery I settled on the venerable .308 Winchester round. It is a dandy deer cartridge and has made its mark as a highly accurate round as well. Now to the rifles.
There are tons of them. Finding the brand and configuration you want is a simple matter of research—they are out there. I elected the DPMS Panther Arms version and went for the Sporter model. Mine has a fixed stock, a round carbon fore-end, an ambidextrous safety, and a flat top for scope mounting. Using a set of high rings from DuraSight Sighting Systems, I attached a Leupold 2.5-8×36 VX-III scope and gathered a good supply of Federal Fusion and Gold Metal Match ammo. The former was 150 grains, the latter 168. It was off to the range.
After getting on paper at 25 yards, cleaning and burnishing the barrel after every shot, I moved the target out to 100. The cleaning between every shot was continued for the first 20 rounds, all the while adjusting the scope to get the group more closely settled on the center dot of the target. At that point some more serious testing commenced. Since each group test began with a clean barrel, I loaded the magazine and cycled a round into the chamber. This round was fired, the magazine removed and reloaded, and five-shot groups, all loaded automatically from the magazine, were fired. The match ammo produced groups of 1-3/4 inches, some smaller, and the Fusion, a super hunting load, didn’t open up much from that. This rig holds some grand potential.
One thing that pleased me a great deal was the recoil. The .308 is not a particularly hard kicker, but a long session from the bench with this round can be bothersome. Not so with the DPMS. Recoil was in no way problematic, and after an afternoon of burning .308s through the rig I was not fatigued or bruised. It was all a pleasant experience.
And functioning was smooth and reliable. Every round jumped from the magazine into the chamber and the bolt shut with authority. Empty cases ejected to the right rear and all were recovered, even with a thick carpet of leaves beside the bench.
The popularity of black guns has already been addressed, but the question of why these are so popular still surfaces. One thing must be that reliability and accuracy just mentioned. Another is that there is an incredible list of accessories that fit these rigs. Suppliers such as Midway USA and many others offer an array of goodies for customizing the AR frame. Even different calibers can be accomplished with a separate upper for the ARs.
And speaking of calibers, the AR is no longer limited to the .223 Remington. Among the big game rounds offered in the DPMS is the .338 Federal, a relatively new cartridge that should be suitable for most North American game. One is of particular interest to me – the .300 Remington Short Action Ultra Mag (SAUM). This is the round I chose for my African plains-game hunt, so it is dear to my heart. The round made nine one-shot stops on game from the diminutive steenbuck to the big and tough gemsbok and kudu.
All these elements and many more add up to give the AR the popularity it now enjoys. But the one that stands out most in my mind after acquiring an AR is that these rifles are fun. And that could be all the justification needed for owning one.
Federal Ammunition: www.federalpremium.com