For almost 25 years, I have been obsessed with educating shooters and non-shooters alike to the uniqueness of the AR-15 rifle and the excitement that is generated from shooting them. That road, though bumpy and at times riddled with potholes, has led us to where we are today. The popularity of the AR-15 rifles has exploded with the continued growth of shooting competitions and as our military servicemen/women return from the sandbox and want a rifle similar to the one they have trained with and used.
This popularity has helped proponents of the AR platform make tremendous progress over the last five years, to gain acceptance as an integral part of the firearms industry, thereby advancing the cause of the black rifle as a multipurpose firearm. The ability to convert the AR-15 for multiple applications has led to my second obsession in life, that being to promote the use of AR rifles
in the hunting arena. Now I know that there are those out there, hunters and shooters alike, who don’t believe that ARs have a place in the hunting realm. I wholeheartedly disagree, and have tirelessly worked to dispel the misconception that these rifles are strictly for the battlefield.
The easiest way I know to accomplish this is to lead by example. For years it has been my goal to hunt as many different animals, and with as many different calibers, as possible using a DPMS AR-style rifle. DPMS ARs chambered in .338 Fed., .308 Win., .300 RSAUM, .260 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .243 Win., 6.8mm SPC, 7.62x39mm .204 Ruger, and of course .223 Remington have all been used in this quest. This array of calibers has helped me to harvest traditional big game animals like elk, mule deer, whitetail and pronghorn and smaller game species such as coyote, fox and hogs, as well as the other more elusive species like a Dall Sheep, mountain goat, Barbary Sheep, Texas Dall, Axis Deer and even a mountain lion. All of these animals have been harvested on the North American continent, but I wanted to go further, I wanted to promote the idea of hunting with an AR globally.
THE AR GOES GLOBAL
Last year’s scheduled hunt in New Zealand for Stag, Thar, Chamois, and Fallow provided the first opportunity to take the AR hunting globally. However, the complexity of New Zealand’s firearms laws prevented me from bringing one into the country. Therefore I took my trusted Remington 700 chambered in 7mm Rem. Magnum and completed a successful hunt with a bolt gun. Having founded an AR-15 company, I was conflicted about hunting with a bolt gun; but it served to strengthen my resolve to hunt on the global stage with an AR. Taking an AR to a foreign country was proving to be more of a challenge, but I wasn’t to be deterred, it was just going to take more ingenuity.
With my African safari for lion/cape buffalo and other plains game in Zimbabwe looming, I continued to struggle with the ban on semi-auto hunting rifles in South Africa and Zimbabwe, especially those that looked like military rifles. So…we quickly developed a new DPMS Single Shot AR in .308 Win. We left the magazine well area solid, milled out a second ejection slot/loading slot on the left side of the gun, and machined a bolt handle onto the right side of the bolt carrier. I could now load a single round from the left or right portholes.
For those of you wondering, we did install a fixed follower groove where the cartridge would normally rest. A modified bolt catch and normal buffer and spring assembly completed the new design. (Future models will feature a gas porthole to retract and hold back the bolt for reloading as well as a modification to the carrier slot for a new bolt handle with a higher degree of bolt throw.) Would the new design modifications be enough? I would soon know.
THE “EVIL” SINGLE SHOT ONLY
On 8 July, 2009, I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa and prepared to clear my rifles, as required, with the South African Police. It was now that I would use the speech that I had been preparing for two weeks! Not knowing if the police would understand that although it looked like an AR, it was in fact a single-shot rifle, we had engraved “Single Shot Only” on the receiver, and of course I was prepared to point out the fact that it was impossible to install a magazine into a solid piece of aluminum.
After trying to open someone else’s gun case, I nervously located and began opening my gun cases under the watchful eyes of the police officer. I gingerly, and rather sheepishly, opened the internal soft case that contained the “evil” AR-style single shot .308, revealing the rifle to the South African Police officer, who curiously tilted his head and mumbled, “I never seen one of these before.” I quickly explained that it was a new style singe shot design from America, and to my amazement, he nodded his acceptance. Slightly dumbfounded, I quickly zipped up the case, so fast that I almost separated the teeth on zipper!
I was home free, well not quite, as I still had to fly into Zimbabwe the next day to perform the same drill with the officials there. Though I was halfway, I was still concerned about the political situation in Zimbabwe and whether the laws in Harare had tightened since my 2005 safari. I arrived in Harare the next day, promptly paid all my entry fees, and was escorted to the customs area for the presentation of my non-semi, “Single Shot Only” rifle that looked like a military-style semi-automatic rifle. With fingers crossed I politely greeted the young lady designated as my weapons inspector and began to gingerly unzip my soft case. I slowly pulled out just enough of the AR from the case to reveal the serial number. She slowly read off the serial number and proceeded to say the words I had been praying to hear, “Thank you, you may go.” Again I stood before uniformed officials dumbfounded, eyes wide open and mouth agape. One would think that I had either won the lottery or my dog had died; either way I was now carrying what was most likely the first legal AR-style rifle to be used on an African safari!
A LEOPARD, AN IMPALA, A WARTHOG AND MORE
When I arrived in camp, the usual facial expressions greeted me when I uncased the new DPMS Single Shot .308. With a newfound vote of confidence I boastfully explained how clever I was, but inwardly realizing what a goofball I really was/am! I could just have easily been resigned to talking about my Dakota .375 H&H had the new rifle been confiscated. The safari with HHK Safaris and my trusted professional hunter and friend Roy Ludick turned out to be one of my most memorable hunts ever. Most likely this was the first time an AR-style rifle was used (legally) to hunt with in Zimbabwe. I was fortunate enough to shoot a leopard, impala, warthog, Genet Cat, a huge Civet Cat and a Klipspringer.
As I write this story, I reminisce about the beauty of Africa, about the excitement of the hunt and, more importantly, about contributing to the promotion and experience of hunting with AR-style rifles. One country down, so many more to come…
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