Can an AR-15 5.56 Kill a deer?

The AR-15 is a great multipurpose tool. Its modular design allows it to be suitable for really any situation with minimal customization, and therefore little cost to the user. When it comes to self defense, competition shooting, and practical use, the AR15 excels. That is because its system relies on only a few moving parts, and is not very well used in harsh environments that stronger materials and tighter systems would be more suitable for.

The AR-15 excels in controlled environments, that much is true, but what about during hunting? Is it a viable option for hunting in general? Will the AR-15 standard cartridge, the .223 remington/ 5.56 NATO be an effective cartridge to shoot the average deer?

Is the AR-15 good for hunting?

As stated before, the AR-15 is a great rifle for its modular design. It really is capable of being suitable for any situation, even hunting. As the AR-15 was originally designed for the .223 remington cartridge, it was already made for a cartridge designed for hunting. The .223 rem is a common varmint round used throughout American history for killing foxes and other rodents of similar or smaller stature. So the AR-15 platform standard already has an advantage when it comes to hunting generally.

When it comes to the AR-15s modular attributes, people can outfit them with plenty of attachments that are easy to connect and disconnect. Not only does this make the AR-15 suitable for hunting, but it also means that you can swap out several attachments with ease to make it suitable for something else. Note that changing the optics on a build will require you to sight it in again when you want it back on, however this does not take a long time. Because hunting does not require the shooter to constantly be shooting, this modular capability of the AR-15 makes it more convenient to make it good for something else. 

Is the AR platform good for hunting?

The AR-15 is not simply a 5.56 gas system operated semi-automatic rifle. In fact, there are variations to the platform which may even make the platform more suitable for hunting big game. Namely, the AR-10, which has a standard cartridge of .308 Winchester is a great option for hunting. The .308 Winchester is a peak cartridge for hunting, and is probably one of America’s favorite hunting cartridges. However, if the .308 does not peak your fancy, the modular capability of the AR platform  can be taken advantage of to simply rebarrel the AR-10 for another suitable cartridge like the popular .270 or 6.5 series of cartridges. 

The AR10 is much like the AR-15 in that they are based on the same platform while the AR-10 is much bigger and bulkier, making it strong enough to withstand the higher power cartridges associated with big game hunting. However, the AR-15 platform does have the .300 Blackout AAC cartridge which is a very popular hunting round, especially when hogs are considered

Is the 5.56 A Good caliber?

The 5.56 NATO cartridge is by all rights a military cartridge. That means, that while it is very similar to the .223 remington, it has been tweaked a little bit to make it better for combat situations. Usually the 5.56 nato cartridge is color-coded for the type of ammo it is. This is also a polymer coating which does make it better when in contact with a fluid medium. The expanding polymer will create sufficient stopping force on the projectile that has a muzzle velocity between 2,700 and 3,000 fps. This is pretty fast , even for varmints, so when it comes to hunting bigger game, this will only inflict damage and create a possible exit wound. The real damage of a bullet comes from what it does in the body without exiting. The 5.56 has around 600 yards of range, perfect for most hunting ranges. 

The 5.56 is a relatively cheap round to buy and equally prevalent in the market.

Also Read: What is an AR-15 Scope mount?

5.56 vs .223?

The 5.56 is a great caliber. It has high speed and a decent range which make it a great short to medium cartridge. It excels in situations where self defense is necessary, especially out of the AR-15. The .223 Remington is the predecessor to the 5.56 NATO cartridge.

The .223 Remington began as a commercial cartridge released by Remington for a number of Remington models. This was designed as a varmint cartridge in that it was meant to be a suitable option for bigger rodents, foxes, coyotes, and other animals that might cause harm to cattle, especially out in the west. The ballistic capabilities of the .223 remington are slightly less than that of the 5.56 NATO cartridge, as the NATO cartridge is meant to maximize the ballistics of the .223 for combat situations primarily.

The .223 remington does not have as much gunpowder stored in its casing, therefore, it will not have as high of a muzzle velocity or force of impact. The .223 remington is not as high powered as its NATO counterpart, but they are the exact same caliber. So there is not much sacrifice to either range or ballistic capability for both. One is made for the commercial market, and the other is made for the military, however, they can both be bought and  shot with almost the exact same results. 

Common hunting calibers

Common hunting calibers include the .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester, and the  6.5 creedmoor. These calibers all have a lot of the same things going on with them. The .308 Winchester is bigger than the .270 Winchester, but they were both made by Winchester Repeating Arms for the same reason. Hunting. The 6.5 Creedmoor is a very good hunting round as well, having slightly higher ballistic capabilities than the .308 Winchester, although through a smaller projectile. The .300 caliber is closer in relation to the 7.62 mm caliber, so the .308 Winchester is almost 1mm thicker than the 6.5 creedmoor. This increased mass does increase the amount of stopping power the 6.5 creedmoor has though, while the decreased mass and higher powder charge makes the 6.5 creedmoor much faster. 

Semi Auto vs Bolt action

Semi automatic function is described by the ability of a gun to fire every time the trigger is pulled. That is because some energy from the firing of the bullet is placed into cycling the action. Thus making it a semi automatic action. Fully automatic actions function with an auto sear which allows the gun to be fired so long as the trigger is in the pulled position.  Bolt actions are a series of actions in which the cycling must be manually done. In these actions, the bolt is equipped with a handle that can be manipulated after one shot is fired. 

Bolt actions are typically more sound and robustly built than semi automatic actions which rely on more than a simple set of parts to function, even in comparison to the AR-15 which has a very simple design anyway. Bolt actions are typically suited for bigger caliber bores, while the semi automatic weapons can be as well, especially now with advancements to gun manufacturing and metallurgy. 


The AR-15 is a suitable gun for any situation. With only a little bit of work, the gun can be made into an expert hunting rifle. Especially with the amount and availability of parts that it can be equipped with, the AR-15 is a great rifle for hunting, and can be made even more efficient for hunting various kinds of game. The AR-15 can definitely take down most deer, as most deer are not considered big game. A well placed shot can see almost any animal downed without suffering, but the AR-15 can also be made more efficient to reduce the margin of error when hunting on the field. 

Also Read: What is better than an AR-15?

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