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Two of the Modern Sporting Rifles that we've had at Hoplite Tactical. A Colt Canada IUR AR-15, and a Swiss Arms SIG Carbine.

The debate between "traditional hunting" and "tactical" rifles is one that is used to divide the firearm owning community with each passage of anti-firearm laws.

Enter the modern sporting rifle (MSR), arguably a rifle that every hunter needs. With a semi automatic design, light weight, and soft recoil impulse the modern sporting rifle is a tool that can be used as any "traditional" hunting rifle to put meat on the table. While the modern sporting rifle is looked at as "tactical" it wasn't too long ago that the bolt action rifle was the pinnacle of modern firearms engineering. The fact that the bolt action rifle still has military applications today along with being the "go to" of competition shooting speaks to how well the design has withstood the test of time.

Just like it's bolt action counterparts the modern sporting rifle is making inroads into the hunting communities, and with good reason. While a bolt action rifle is typically only capable of firing the one cartridge that it was chambered in, a modern sporting rifle can typically quickly change out it's cartridge with a simple upper receiver swap. While the more costly "hunting" round that a shooter may only sight their rifle in with 5 rounds per year or less financially hinders the amount of trigger time they get with their rifle, a modern sporting rifle can quickly swap from the expensive ammunition to a more affordable plinking ammunition with the swap of the upper receiver.

Trigger time is important in order for a hunter to reliably know their abilities, and their weaknesses with their chosen rifle. The modern sporting rifle allowing trigger time with faster follow up shots due to the semi automatic design allows the hunter to practice with their rifle more, and train in different positions. Most hunters might not think about the importance of proper form with standing, kneeling, sitting, prone, or improvised supported shooting until they have to adopt that position with a prized animal in their sights. The affordability of the ammunition with a modern sporting rifle allows for hundreds of rounds of trigger time for the cost of a typical box of twenty rounds of the more powerful "hunting" ammunition.

The author kneeling while shooting the FAMAE 542.
The author kneeling while shooting the FAMAE 542 modern sporting rifle.

The modern sporting rifle is also coming along into the world of more powerful cartridges. From .308win to .50bmg and nearly everything in between there are manufacturers that are making rifles in the caliber to suit your needs. For smaller game calibers the modern sporting rifle allows for fast upper receiver changes from a more powerful and expensive caliber such as .458 socom or 6.5 grendel to a more affordable caliber such as .223 or even .22lr. This allows the hunter to have the same weight, feel, and trigger on the same rifle with a different caliber, allowing for more practice. No matter what caliber that you choose the semi automatic design of the MSR also allows for faster follow up shots in case one shot didn't do the job. This is a scenario that all hunters will face in their lives, and the faster follow up shot makes sure that the ethical hunter finishes the job with as little of suffering as possible to the animal.

Modern sporting rifles are typically light weight, which makes carrying the rifle around far easier for the hunter. No matter if it's on spot and stalk hunts, or full out pack hunts that last for days or weeks, weight is a consideration that hunters typically take into account with all of their gear. There are a vast variety of products on the market for the MSR these days, each competing for ruggedness while maintaining the lightest weight possible.

There are of course some people that view the modern sporting rifle as something that it's not, as a "military grade" weapon. With this line of thinking it's important to remember that the Mauser K98, arguably one of the best known and widest spread of bolt action designs, was once "military grade" and in fact used widely in war. The bolt action rifle had to make it's own inroads to the hunting communities before it was ever accepted or seen as a "traditional" hunting rifle. Much like the bolt action rifle had to make it's own inroads to be accepted for hunting, the modern sporting rifle is now following that same path.

Never allow the debate from those that would seek to totally disarm you push you away from the modern sporting rifle. Always remember that a community divided can not stand. With it's light weight, availability of ammunition, and vast array of accessories the MSR is a rifle design that truly needs to be embraced by hunters, and if it hasn't already should find a home in your rifle collection.