The AR platform is one of the most versatile and customizable rifles for hunting. Whether you are targeting hogs, deer, coyotes, or other game, you can easily set up your AR to suit your needs and preferences.
In this article, we will show you the 7 must-have components for a successful AR build hunting setup.
AR Build Hunting Setup Basic Components
These are the top seven most important components of AR Build Hunting setups.
The upper receiver is part of the AR that houses the barrel, bolt carrier group, gas system, handguard, and sights.
You can buy a complete upper receiver that is ready to attach to your lower receiver, or you can build your own by choosing the individual parts.
The main factors to consider when choosing an upper receiver are:
- Caliber: Choose a caliber based on your intended game. .223/5.56 is suitable for varmint and predator hunting, while larger animals require calibers like 6.8 SPC, .450 Bushmaster, or .50 Beowulf. For big game hunting, consider the AR-10 platform with .308 or similar calibers.
- Barrel length: Longer barrels offer better velocity and accuracy but are heavier and less maneuverable. Shorter barrels are lighter and more compact but sacrifice performance at longer ranges. Common AR-15 lengths are 16″, 18″, and 20″. Match your barrel length to your desired range and terrain.
- Gas system: Choose between direct impingement (gas tube) or piston operation. Piston systems are cleaner, cooler, and more reliable, but costlier and heavier than direct impingement.
The lower receiver is part of the AR that houses the trigger, magazine, grip, and stock. It is also the serialized part that is considered a firearm by law.
You can buy a complete lower receiver that is ready to mate with your upper receiver, or you can build your own by choosing the individual parts.
The main factors to consider when choosing a lower receiver are:
- Trigger: Look for a trigger with a crisp break, short reset, and consistent pull weight. Opt for a moderate pull weight (around 4-6 lbs) and consider single-stage or two-stage designs.
- Magazine: Choose a magazine with a reasonable capacity (10-20 rounds), durable material (steel or polymer), and reliable design (e.g., PMAG or Lancer) for hunting purposes.
- Grip: Select a comfortable, ergonomic grip with a textured surface, finger groove, and palm swell to ensure a secure hold on your rifle.
- Stock: Prioritize an adjustable, lightweight, and sturdy stock for stability and recoil control. Look for features like the adjustable length of pull (LOP), cheek rest, and a rubber butt pad.
The handguard is the part that covers the barrel and provides a mounting platform for accessories. Handguards come in two types: free-floating and non-free-floating.
Free-floating handguards do not touch the barrel at all, while non-free-floating handguards are attached to the barrel.
Free-floating handguards are generally better for accuracy, as they do not affect the barrel harmonics. Non-free-floating handguards are usually cheaper and simpler to install, but they may reduce accuracy.
The main factors to consider when choosing a handguard are:
- Length: Choose a handguard that matches or exceeds the length of your gas system to protect the gas block. Longer handguards offer more accessory space and better grip, while shorter ones are lighter and more compact.
- Profile: Consider round handguards for a lighter and more comfortable grip, triangular handguards for ergonomic and streamlined design (though limited accessory compatibility), or quad rail handguards for maximum mounting options (but heavier and bulkier).
- Material: Opt for aluminum handguards for strength, lightweight, and heat resistance (maybe pricier), polymer handguards for affordability, easy installation, and comfort (but less durability and heat resistance), or carbon fiber handguards for extreme lightness and strength (at a higher cost and potential brittleness)
The optic is the part that helps you aim at your target. Optics come in different types, such as red dot sights, holographic sights, magnified scopes, and night vision devices.
Optics can enhance your accuracy, speed, and range, but they can also add weight, complexity, and cost to your rifle.
The main factors to consider when choosing an optic are:
- Magnification: The magnification of your optic determines how much you can zoom in on your target. It can be fixed (with a single power level) or variable (with a range of power levels). Choose a magnification that matches your intended range and game size for hunting purposes.
- Reticle: The reticle of your optic is the pattern or shape in the center of your sight picture. It can be simple (single dot or crosshair) or complex (multiple dots or lines for holdovers, windage, and range estimation). It can also be illuminated (with a battery-powered light source) or non-illuminated (relying on ambient light or contrast). Consider whether you need calibrated markings for specific ballistics data or non-calibrated markings that require manual adjustment.
The sling is the part that helps you carry and control your rifle. Slings come in different types, such as single-point, two-point, and three-point slings.
Slings can improve your mobility, stability, and safety, but they can also add clutter, noise, and snagging hazards to your rifle.
The main factors to consider when choosing a sling are:
- Single-point slings have one attachment point, allowing easy switching of shoulders, transitioning to a sidearm, and dropping the rifle to the front or side. However, they offer less stability and control, resulting in the rifle bouncing and swinging when moving.
- Two-point slings have two attachment points, enabling length and tension adjustment, various carrying positions, and using the sling as a shooting aid. However, they require more time and skill to switch shoulders, transition to a sidearm, and detach the rifle.
- Three-point slings have three attachment points, combining quick transitions, stability, and control. However, they are more complex, and bulkier, and may pose potential snagging hazards
The light is the part that helps you see and identify your target in low-light conditions. Lights come in different types, such as handheld flashlights, weapon-mounted lights, and headlamps.
Lights can improve your visibility, accuracy, and safety, but they can also add weight, battery consumption, and unwanted attention to your rifle.
The main factors to consider when choosing a light are:
- Brightness: The brightness of your light is measured in lumens, indicating the amount of emitted light. Brighter lights reach farther distances but consume more battery and cause glare. For hunting, consider lights with variable brightness settings.
- Beam pattern: The beam pattern is determined by the reflector or lens. Focused beams have a bright center and dim spill, while diffuse beams distribute light evenly. Narrow beams reach longer distances, and wide beams cover larger areas. Smooth beams are uniform, and textured beams have a granular appearance.
- Mounting system: Mounting systems attach lights to rifles. Integrated systems are built-in, and separate systems are additional parts. Fixed mounts are permanent, detachable mounts can be easily removed without losing zero. Offset mounts place the light on the side, and inline mounts place it on top or bottom.
The bipod is the part that helps you stabilize your rifle on a flat surface. Bipods come in different types, such as fixed or adjustable, spring-loaded or manual, swivel or non-swivel bipods.
Bipods can improve your accuracy, consistency and comfort, but they can also add weight, bulkiness and noise to your rifle.
The main factors to consider when choosing a bipod are:
- Height: The height of your bipod determines the elevation of your rifle from the ground. Adjustable bipods offer different lengths for adapting to various terrains and shooting positions, while fixed bipods have a single height.
- Leg mechanism: Bipods have spring-loaded or manual leg mechanisms. Spring-loaded mechanisms automatically release or lock the legs with a button or lever, while manual mechanisms require twisting or turning to release or lock the legs. Spring-loaded mechanisms provide quick and easy leg deployment for hunting purposes.
- Swivel feature: The feature allows tilting or rotating the rifle on the bipod. Present swivel features have a joint or hinge, while absent swivel features lack such movement. Locked swivel features prevent tilting or rotating, while unlocked ones allow adjustment on uneven surfaces. Opt for a bipod with a present and unlocked swivel feature for hunting to adjust rifle level and direction.
An AR build hunting setup can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and pursue your favorite game. However, to make the most of your rifle, you need to equip it with the right components that suit your needs and preferences.
This article shows you the 7 must-have components for a successful AR build hunting setup: upper receiver, lower receiver, handguard, optic, sling, light, and bipod.
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