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AR Guns & Hunting Winter 2015

I stepped from the cab of the hunting rig and stretched as I looked around the Wyoming landscape.The six-hour drive leading up to this point had been somewhat uneventful. I was finally here at the Silver Spur Ranch and was pretty confident that the boredom was entirely behind me for the next two days. Matt Rice, senior account supervisor for Smith & Wesson, emerged from the lodge to greet me.

“Glad you made it, are you ready for this?” he inquired as he led me inside. He opened the solid wood door, finally revealing the subject matter of our rendezvous. Beautiful Smith & Wesson ARs lined the wall like the Rockettes in a kickline. “I think I’ll manage.” I replied with a grin.

Writers from around the country converged on the Silver Spur over the next several hours, all looking forward to the festivities Matt had planned. A little target shootin’, some coyote callin’ and a lot of prairie doggin’ — my idea of a great way to spend a weekend in July. Everyone became acquainted in the rustic lodge as we sat down to a nice meal and spoke about the days to follow. After dinner, I cornered Matt, hoping to get first pick of the S&W litter of ARs. After some convincing, he agreed and I nabbed three ARs from the collection, each designed to serve a different purpose with the same mission objective: the mass destruction of critters.

Small Game

While the Silver Spur Ranch is home to many wild animals, prairie dogs are by far the ranch’s most abundant small-game rodent. Scores of prairie dog towns dot the ranch’s acreage with more targets to engage than a weekend will allow. The Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 is the perfect AR of choice for either the budget-minded shooter or youth shooter. Chambered in .22LR, this compact little AR is well-suited for all small game from rabbits to squirrels. Expect minimal recoil from the blow-back operation, quick follow-up shots with the semi-auto and exceptional accuracy from the carbon steel barrel. The rifle is built with high-strength polymer upper and lower receivers. This creates a reduced-weight rifle that retains the looks and operating features of the standard M&P rifle, making it a breeze to carry and shoot for days on end. I put the M&P15-22 to the test on more than 300 prairie dogs without a single malfunction. It was truly a joy to shoot and I simply couldn’t imagine a finer .22LR AR.

Model M&P15-22
Caliber .22 LR
Action Blow-Back Semi-Automatic
Capacity 25 Rounds
Barrel Length 16.5” / 42 cm
Sight Radius 15.5” / 39.4 cm
Front Sight Adj. A2 Post
Rear Sight Adj. Dual Aperture
Barrel Twist 1:15
Trigger Pull 7 lbs. +/- (3,175.2 g)
Grip Synthetic
Stock 6-Position CAR Stock
Overall Length 33.75” Extended, 32.5” Collapsed
Weight 5.5 lbs.+/- (2,268 g)
Barrel Material Carbon Steel
Upper/Lower Material Polymer
Finish Tan & Black

Medium Game

After I had my fill with the M&P15-22, it was time to take it up a notch. If you really want to see some aerial acrobatics, the .223 WYLDE caliber really makes these pesky little rodents fly. I literally shot a case of .223 ammo out of the S&W M&P15 PC (Performance Center) AR, connecting with more than a hundred prairie dogs. Although I had a blast doing so, I really wanted to use the rifle for its intended quarry. The abundance of prairie dog towns offer an added bonus: predators who prey upon these towns. Fox, badgers and the occasional bobcat frequent the ranch, but the most abundant among these is also the most cunning. Just like the coyote roams wild and free across the U.S., it has a firm foothold at the Hanging Bull as well. With plenty to indulge their ever-present hunger, coyotes prowl through the dog towns at regular intervals. Don’t be fooled, however — he isn’t harvested easily. His cunning keeps him out of sight from the general public most of the time. In order for me to have a sporting chance on a Wyoming song dog, I would have to outwit him. Good thing I brought my calling gear along. With the aid of a Smith & Wesson M&P15 PC, I had a fighting chance at success. It features a 20-inch free-floating heavy barrel from Lothar-Walther with a twist of 1:8 inches. The stainless matte finished barrel delivers outstanding accuracy due in part to the WYLDE chamber and headspace matched to the barrel extension and bolt. The M&P15 PC uses a chromed, skeletonized bolt carrier for added durability. It also features a two-stage match-quality trigger with a 4.5-pound trigger pull. When collectors, competitive shooters and sportsmen want the very best, they reach for a Performance Center.

I settled on a stand location overlooking a popular coyote haunt. A small marsh was situated on a remote area of the ranch where coyotes had been spotted just a few days prior. I hid the ride and crested a small ridge, making my way along a weathered old cedar-post fence. As I traveled slowly along the fence, I caught movement to my left and took a knee. A coyote had already spotted me and somehow knew my hostile intent. He made a beeline for the ridge and was gone before I could even chamber a round. I quickly set up anyway, and before I could start the FOXPRO e-call, I spotted another coyote 250 yards or so out just moussing along. As I selected the “coyote pup distress” on the e-call, the coyote began to circle downwind and left the moment he entered my scent cone. Two coyotes gone without firing a single shot. I started to wonder if my luck would ever change, and just as the thought entered my mind, there he was: A third coyote charging hard, right at the e-call. Although he was still 300 yards out, I knew by his gait he was committed and wouldn’t stop until he was either in my lap, or dead. I situated myself on the target and began to lower the volume to coax him closer. Just as planned, he rolled in hot just 50 yards in front of me. I switched the toggle style safety to fire, and within seconds the coyote was lifeless just a few yards from the FOXPRO. The Performance Center AR had found its mark.

Model M&P15 PC
Caliber 5.56 mm NATO / .223
Capacity 10 Rounds – Detachable Mag
Barrel Length 20”
Action Semi-Auto
Barrel Twist 1:8
Barrel MOA
Trigger 2-Stage Match 4 1/2 lb. Pull
Pistol Grip Hogue Green
Material Alloy Receiver/Stainless Steel Barrel
Overall Length 38 1⁄2”
Stock A2 Buttstock Camouflage
Handguard Full Float Yankee Hill
Weight 8 lbs. 2 oz.
Finish Camouflage

Big Game

Although no big-game seasons are open in Wyoming in July, I still wanted a chance to play with the M&P15 .300 Whisper. After all, who wouldn’t want free range with a suppressed S&W AR, shooting someone else’s ammo? Besides, I hoped to return to the Silver Spur in the near future to participate in a pronghorn hunt, so I figured this would be great practice.

I grabbed a case of 208-grain Hornady A-max loaded at subsonic velocities and headed out for some “quiet time.” There are several benefits to a suppressed AR shooting subsonic rounds. The first benefit is that no hearing protection is required. Wyoming temps in July can reach triple digits, so no ear muffs equates to comfort.

Another benefit is that prairie dogs don’t scatter after each shot. The report of the rifle is barely audible, giving you more targets to engage because they aren’t spooked by the noise. Granted, the heavy .30-caliber projectile traveling at a snail’s pace doesn’t make for the “wow” factor upon impact, but it dispatches them nonetheless. In fact, I enjoyed sniping several of the little vermin in complete comfort. The 16-inch barrel is designed for both light and heavy projectiles at close ranges. Any target within a 200-yard radius was attainable, but I rarely found myself needing to shoot past 100 yards. I can’t wait to return for a chance to take a trophy pronghorn with a suppressed M&P15 300.

No matter what your four-legged quarry might be, the Smith & Wesson M&P line of AR rifles has you covered. From small game to big game, you won’t have to look very far to find an AR suited to your needs or wants. At the onset of my weekend at the Silver Spur, I predicted these three ARs to be the best choice for me for the task at hand. After all I had accomplished, the three guns I selected were indeed the trifecta.

Model M&P15 300 Whisper
Caliber .300 Whisper, .300 AAC Blackout
Capacity 10 Rounds – Metal Magazine
Action Semi-Auto
Barrel Length 16” / 40.6 cm
Barrel Twist 1:7.5” 5R Rifling
Overall Length 35” Extended / 32” Collapsed
Stock 6-Position CAR
Weight 6.38 lbs. (2,889.4 g)
Barrel Material 4140 Steel
Barrel Finish Durable, Corrosion Resistant Barrel Finish
Receiver Material 7075 T6 Aluminum
Receiver Finish Black

 


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