While misperceptions about tactical rifles remain among the sporting public, and even some division remains among sportsmen in camp (one recent magazine article talked about being the first guy in camp with an AR and how to present yourself as a good ambassador for the tactical gun crowd), studies show that opinions are changing.
One 2011 study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that just over 18 percent of all gun owners now own an AR-style rifle (probably higher since 2013). Of those, nearly 20 percent say they use them for hunting.
This is a sizable number given the relatively recent arrival of ARs on the hunting scene but will likely only continue to trend upwards as more sportsmen become familiar with the platform.
Of course, nobody will ever accuse hunters—at least not most of them—of being on the forefront of cutting edge changes in the way they live or do things. Admittedly, most of us hunt out of a respect for the traditions and simple pleasures the outdoors offers.
But as younger hunters raised in a technologically focused society take to the woods and start to produce their own income, the AR promises to be as continuing a presence in hunting camp as it does in the capable hands of our military forces.
Ninety-four percent of those surveyed said they approve of the use of semi-auto AR-platform rifles for target shooting. That number dropped to a 75 percent approval rating when asked if they thought those same guns should be used for hunting.
While I have found no data measuring those same attitudes, say just four or five years ago, I believe it would be safe to assume, that the percentage of approving hunters and shooters has grown considerably.
More telling of where the field of sporting ARs is likely to go can be found in the responses where approximately 20 percent of those surveyed said they intend to purchase a modern sporting rifle within the next 12 months. Can you say, “Coming to a camp near you!”