Even though the AR platform is over 50 years old, you don’t have to be a market analyst to realize there’s been a major uptick in sales and manufacturing for these rifles in the civilian market over the last decade.
To say that ARs have risen in popularity would be a serious understatement. That popularity has prompted manufacturers to build an AR to suit the needs of just about every shooter, including law enforcement professionals, long-range shooters, 3 gun competitors and hunters.
Today, ARs and the various accessories that can be clipped, hung, snapped or screwed to them make up a major chunk of the shooting market. But the AR platform also owns a sizable—and growing—portion of the hunting market.
Until the rise in popularity of sporting ARs, the undisputed champion of American hunting rifles was the bolt-action—a simple, reliable and highly accurate platform which dominated hunting gun sales. Bolt guns are relatively cheap, easy to use and widely available, so their popularity makes a lot of sense.
Bolt-actions are still the most common hunting rifle platform today, though it remains to be seen if the rise in popularity of ARs will also dominate more of the hunting market. Each platform has tremendous upside, so it’s not always easy to determine which one best suits your needs.
If you’re in the market for a new deer rifle, it’s worth looking at both types of rifles before you make your next purchase. Here’s a quick rundown of how bolt guns and ARs compare in a side-by-side matchup.
- Advantage: ARs There’s no question as to which of these guns is easier to accessorize. Sure, you can put a new scope on your bolt gun or slap on a new stock, but that pales in comparison to the many ways you can trick out an AR. Depending on how many rails you have, ARs can be outfitted with a wide assortment of add-ons, like flashlights, lasers, vertical grips, sling mounts, and a host of other items. If you want you can make your AR look like you’ve emptied the contents of your tool box and slapped all the pieces onto your deer hunting rifle. But these accessories aren’t all for looks; a well-designed AR will have everything you need on hand, and ready to use at the touch of a button. On a night hog hunt in Texas with Crimson Trace and Smith and Wesson my M&P10 rifle carried everything I needed. I had a Leupold scope for daytime hunting, and when darkness fell the Crimson Trace vertical foregrip produced an infrared beam that worked with our night vision goggles. In addition, the rifle had a set of auxiliary flip-up sights and a flashlight that I could turn on with the touch of a button. You won’t need all of that for deer hunting, but it’s nice to know you have options.