AR-15, The Ultimate Hunting Platform

Hunting with an AR can raise eyebrows and start debates, but why? I am hoping by the end of this story, you understand why this usually more traditional hunter took an AR into the woods this year.

Many traditional hunters oppose the idea, and many people get caught up in the stigma surrounding the black rifle. I began hunting at age 12, and I've never hunted, until now, with an AR.lannyrange

I’ve hunted down many, many targets over the years with one, including bringing home an individual bronze and a team gold at the 2019 IPSC Rifle World Championships in Sweden. This was one of the biggest reasons why I decided to take an AR into the woods this year in search of a mule deer buck. I knew by doing so, I would get some good and bad reviews, but my thinking was if I can shoot with the best in the world with an AR, why not use those same means to be as accurate and confident as I possibly can when out in the woods hunting?

My confidence level with a rifle is extremely high. I grew up hunting with a bolt action rifle, competed in 3 Olympics in biathlon with a specialized bolt action rifle. Still, the last five years have been almost exclusively shooting a JP Enterprises AR. Because of the endless customization possibilities to make the AR fit you perfectly, it can be even more effective than a standard bolt action rifle. Throughout my biathlon career, it was my goal to make my rifle and extension of my body, so it felt as natural and comfortable as possible. With a customized AR, now my AR is feeling like that, as well. This instills confidence in me, a shooter, and a hunter.

I’ve spent more time in the woods than most, especially during hunting season. I’ve seen countless hunters miss or wound animals simply for the fact that they don't spend enough time practicing before the season. Their firearm doesn't fit them well, and they lack confidence because of this. I think regardless of what rifle you use, it should be your personal preference and what fits you the best. It should be whatever is going to allow you to take the most accurate shot to bring down your game quickly and humanely. Right now, my confidence in my ability to do just that is best with an AR and was my reason lannyrestfor going afield with that platform this season. An AR may not be the best for everyone, but it is an extremely easy platform to use. These days, with advances in technology and years and years of R&D behind them, they are just as accurate as any type of bolt action rifle.

I used a JP Enterprise LRP-07 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. This is a gun that has been excelling in long-range rifle precision matches. It is definitely a little on the heavy side for hauling around for any extended periods in the woods, but for this deer hunt I had planned, I knew it would be perfect as I wasn’t wandering too far. I paired it with a Trijicon AccuPoint® 4-16x50 Riflescope and the new extremely accurate Fioccchi 129GR Interlock FB. With a set up similar to what I used at the Rifle World Championships and a platform I was able to customize perfectly to my 5’3” small frame, I had the confidence to take just about any shot.

I know that this gun is capable of shooting out to 1000 yards, but as someone who has spent the last 15 years archery hunting, I still appreciate getting in as close as I can to an animal. I settled for somewhere in between the two just for the opportunity to test the rifle.  I had a Southwest Colorado buck tag for 3rd rifle season, and although I knew the rut wouldn’t start for at least a few more weeks, my goal was to get some meat for the freezer. I headed out opening morning into the pinion and juniper with a thin layer of frost touching just about everything and set up where I’d be glassing and waited for it to get light. Southwest Colorado is notorious for a lot of mule deer. Over the next hour and a half, I had about 18 does come out and feed amongst the fields of native grasses and sage and wander through the lannydeerpinion and juniper all around me. Finally, at about 8:30am, a buck walked out about 375 yards away. Definitely not an incredibly challenging shot for this rifle, but enough distance to test out my accuracy as a shooter.

Having my hands wrapped around a familiar platform and tucked tight into my shoulder, I didn't even question whether or not I could make the shot. I knew I could. I was set up in reverse kneeling with a solid rest on a log and aimed for the base of the skull, as to not ruin any meat, and pressed the trigger. The buck went down immediately, and that was that. I had some great meat for the freezer, and I was successful in trying something new. That rifle gave me confidence well beyond my bolt action rifle, and it worked out just the way I hoped.

My recommendation to hunters is to use what you’re most comfortable with and what you practice with the most. If you don’t have the confidence you need, try out an AR, they can be incredibly customizable, which can help build your confidence and get the “one shot, one kill” you need when hunting. Will I take an AR out again for another hunt? Absolutely! I will still play with my bow, but I definitely will plan some hunts with my AR as well, especially if I know if it requires some challenging shooting. Bringing home a bronze and a gold medal for the Rifle World Championships and a deer for the freezer with an AR was a win/win for me. ~ Lanny

Lanny Barnes
Lanny grew up shooting small bore competitions as well as hunting and fishing in Colorado. She claims that biathlon has made her a better hunter, and hunting has made her a better biathlete and shooter as she can accurately shoot a rifle with a heart rate of 180 beats per minute and effortlessly pursue elk above 10,000ft.

Lanny is now competing in 3-gun competitions where she made the 3GN Pro Series and has won 4 major High Lady match titles (2016). Lanny has the goal of becoming the best female shooter in the country. Lanny is also teaching courses to military, law enforcement and competitive shooters on how to shoot with an elevated heart rate and under stress and is a Babes with Bullets Instructor. The firearms training institute that Lanny and her sister started together is called TOP Shooting Institute, otherwise known as "The Olympian Project." After developing the skills necessary to shoot while under extreme physical and mental stress for the past 15 years, they wanted to share these unique skills and what they have learned with others.