Hunting v. Military Rifles by R. Ann Parris
Periodically, debates come up between which is better for preppers, a hunting rifle or a “military” or “tactical” rifle. While legalities, budgets, expectations, and our current situations (skills, living conditions, other capabilities) are always important, there are a few repeating arguments on the theme.
First, let’s go ahead and define things.
Those terms are all pretty loose, after all.
I’ll call a “military” rifle something that is or has been general issue, in this case the semi-auto variants available to the civilian population.
Modern military examples would be AK’s, AR’s, Galils, M1s, CZ-58’s, and Type 95’s. We can include the surplus SKS’s, older Garands, 1903’s, M1 Carbines, Lee Enfields, and Mosin-Nagants. Or, we can limit that “military” designation to mil-surp and lookalikes that are available with detachable magazines (or reliable conversions).
Heaven help us, “tactical” … let’s just say pretty much anything nestled into a poly stock with a detachable mag holding some currently fielded military-police caliber (Desert Tech SRS line, Ruger Ranch Rifles/Mini-14s, Hi-Points).
Hunting rifles are even harder to nutshell.
They’re available with all kinds of stocks in all kinds of patterns, every action type, and the full range of tube, contained-well, and detachable magazines. Barrel length isn’t always significantly different from standard civilian variants of military and tactical firearms, especially for those of us who hunt a lot of brush and relatively small crop fields.
For ease, let’s call it something with a 20-22” or longer barrel and 5 or 5+1 capacity.
So what’re the most common arguments?
#1: You need a tactical/mil-surp rifle for property defense.
No, you don’t. Millions upon millions have survived nations and cities where violent riots and war did erupt on their doorsteps and streets, and where the economy/government did collapse and lead to increased crime and violence without any weapon, let alone a dedicated weapon or a firearm.
Many who do have home-defense guns don’t have a rifle or carbine, but go with a shotgun or handgun.
Others still have a user-friendly caliber that has never been in competition for general military-police issue, or a platform that hasn’t been common since the Indian Wars.
#2: Hunting is more likely than combat, so you might as well just get a hunting rifle.
First, I will grant the combat point, but hunting requires access (location).
Second, most of us have more access to small game than game big enough to need a centerfire rifle caliber, but I don’t really want to introduce the idea of rimfire and pellet guns into this particular conversation.
Third, I don’t need a “hunting” rifle to hunt.
Hunting large and medium game on military surplus guns is multi-generation tradition in the U.S. You can also responsibly and effectively take whitetail with an 18.5”-barrel S&W M&P15, and elk or bear at distance with a SOCOM Scout. Numerous others – to include non-military “tactical” options – have the accuracy and lethality for shorter ranges and smaller large-game animals.
On the flip side, many “hunting” rifles lack the ability to top load and switch loads – something firearms with detachable and some contained-well magazines can claim, which increases those firearms’ uses.
With the detachable mag conversion (which military snipers instigated for us), the Model 700 is even faster to reload and higher-capacity than my go-to brush gun – a $150-$200 shortened, sporterized K98 (stripper-clip fed). Not too many other hunting rifles can make that claim, either.
*I would happily buy another Model 700, but … do be aware: https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2014/12/robert-farago/breaking-remington-agrees-to-replace-triggers-in-all-model-700-rifles/, http://remingtonfirearmsclassactionsettlement.com/.
(That’s not why the Marines are moving to the SEAL’s platform – Thank you, M40, for the many lives you helped warfighters save during your many years of service.)
#3: Hunting rifles are less likely to end up on prohibited and mandatory turn-in/confiscation lists than modern military, mil-surp, or tactical types.
We do see repeating trends in attempted and successful registration requirements and restrictions. We even have nice roadmaps to follow courtesy of Australia and England, Canada, California, and Chicago. (Sorry, guys.)
The fewer highly targeted areas our firearm hits – capacity, action, magazine type, caliber, concealability, length/size, scary/military appearance – the better the chance we hold onto it (or hold onto it longer) in prohibitive climates, right now and “if”.
Just saying “hunting” over “military/mil-surp/tactical” is too broad, but there’s some merit to the theory.
#4: Wooden stocks are less scary to the general population and-or law enforcement if and when they see them, versus Scary Black Guns and mil-surp.
I’ve seen it at work. I’ve seen it even with a standard wooden stock and standard poly stock 10/22 – exact same gun, one change in materials, and even with the shiny barrel, the black poly gets called military or tactical, or is viewed as intimidating.
On the other hand, I’ve seen wood-stock Ranch Rifles (Mini-14s) and 10/22s with the 25-round mags get second looks and be reported as full-auto AKs to the range RSO, and Deep South semi-rural neighbors jerk around for a variable-pump air rifle and break-action shotgun.
At best, that one’s a maybe-maybe not claim. Personally, I wouldn’t rely on it.
#5: Hunting rifles are more reliable.
Way too broad of a statement. It does periodically get specified for extreme cold and targets semiautos, but that’s debunked by the Alaskan and Canadian military and police forces who successfully use them near the Arctic circle, daily, year-round.
There are finicky and robust guns in both categories. You can drop an AK or hacked-down K98 in the mud, wet grass or woods, puddle, or sand, pick it up, fire, change mags/feed a stripper clip, and fire some more. I have a Henry hunting rifle that needs pliers to get the removable mag tube out so you can reload it in freezing weather.
So which is better?
Whichever one fits the apartment flat, deep woods, or Big Sky acreage best while also fitting our household budget, needs, and capabilities.
Don’t forget to account for ammo, magazines and range time in the budget. And remember: Rifles are not the only option.