In the world of northeast predator hunting, it is hard enough to get a shot on a wary coyote let alone a follow up shot. However, even the most perfectly executed shot can inherently miss its mark. Fast action predator hunting and misses go hand-in-hand, so to appease the need for a quick follow up shot or to handle multiple dogs, a fast shooting gun is just the ticket. After getting the itch to build a custom rifle I decided that rather than building a bolt action rifle, I would add a completely unique semi-auto weapon to my arsenal. This gun, built on the AR-15 (ArmaLite Model 15) platform and chambered for the 223 Remington cartridge, was assembled piece by piece to ensure it had all the features and accuracy expected from a custom gun.
Since this was my first AR-15, I had to do some research to understand the inner workings and parts needed to make this gas operated gun fire with precision and accuracy. Of course, the first place I started was the internet and I was able to find countless resources on the AR-15. Some of the most helpful sites were forums assembled by Sniper’s Hide, Bucking the Odds, New York Predator Hunters Association and Predator Masters. The men and women in these forums have an unlimited amount of knowledge and experience, not only with AR-15’s but with everything to do with shooting and hunting. Therefore, when in doubt, post a question to the forum for answers. Similar to the forums, two sites that have great “how-to” videos and documents (and where I bought most of the parts) are Midway USA and Brownells. Brownells also has a very helpful document called, “Assembling an AR-15 Parts Checklist” that is helpful for keeping track of your parts. By combining all of these resources it is easy to start assembling your AR-15 from the ground up.
Now for the good stuff. This is the list of features I wanted this gun to have.
- Custom Barrel
- Stiff Upper and Lower Receivers
- Jewell Trigger
- 5.5-22x56mm Nightforce Scope
- Adjustable Stock (both cheek height and length-of-pull)
Satisfying the first three items on the list was the key to achieving the accuracy I was looking for.
No surprise here, having a high quality barrel is huge in determining the accuracy of a gun and, in my
opinion, no one does it better then Krieger Barrels. Krieger Barrels manufactures precision single-point cut-rifled barrels that not only shoot well but also look amazing. Because I have grown accustomed to predator hunting with a 22-250, I wanted to try and keep the ballistics of my 223 as close as possible to that of the 22-250, and that meant speeding up my 223 round.
With that in mind, I came to the conclusion that a 26″ stainless steel barrel in a 1-12 twist rate with a .920 muzzle diameter would be perfect for my 50 grain Nosler Combined Technology Ballistic Silvertips. Although this combination will be heavy, weighing in at around 5.25lbs, it gives me the ability to target a small predator, steady the reticle on the target and use the heavy setup to make small calculated adjustments to aim. To polish it all off I added 10 flutes to cool it down in case things get crazy.
Upper and Lower Receiver
Unlike a bolt action rifle that has a solid tough action that can be bedded to a fiberglass stock with a full-length aluminum bedding block for a consistent point of contact of action to stock, an AR-15 relies on an upper receiver mounted to a lower receiver by two pins. Unfortunately, this is the design of the AR-15 and, combined with all the moving parts, creates hurdles when it comes to accuracy. To counteract this downfall I went with the MUR (Modular Upper Receiver) by Vltor. This upper receiver has thicker walls making the MUR a stronger platform while still keeping the MilSpec (Military Standard) requirements. Also, installing an accurizing wedge is an inexpensive upgrade that aids in stiffening up the receiver. This little piece goes underneath the takedown pin on the upper receiver and essentially takes out the “slop” found between the upper and lower receiver. Removal of this slop can result in increased accuracy and more reliable feeding.
Because all AR-15 parts are built to specific specs, finding a lower that is built more solidly is hard to come by. However, the best I could do was a lower by Saber Tactical that has a solid trigger guard, which is unlike most lowers that require a drop in guard. Every bit will help in terms of a rigid platform.
Based on our experiences from hunting the northeast for predators, DWO rarely gets a shot that isn’t a low light situation. So like our cameras, I needed a scope that has great light gathering capabilities to work in both low light and night situations. For big light one needs a big scope which is a Nightforce specialty and is clearly illustrated in their model 5.5-22x56mm NXS. This scope looks and feels bullet proof providing a sense of comfort in the knowledge that, no matter how many times you transfer it from the truck to the shoulder, the reticle will always shoot where it is supposed to.
Along with its durability, Nightforce offers several different styles of reticles depending on a hunters’ need. The NP-1 is a free floating three-plex design that utilizes all the functional elements of a duplex without unnecessary obstructions of your field of view at the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock positions. Along with its illumination feature this reticle will be perfect for any predator situation I throw at it.
As we all know, every hunting situation is different which is even more true in the predator hunting world. It seems you never have the perfect position on a predator stand, whether it is an awkward seat position or your bipod shooting stick just isn’t long enough, which can make for a difficult sight picture and a skewed eye relief. Further, with the 56mm objective of the Nightforce, this calls for a very high mount position. For these reasons, I needed this gun to have both an adjustable cheek piece and length of pull and the Magpul PRS (Precision Rifle/Sniper) stock has those exact traits. This stock allows adjustment on the fly to give you the perfect eye relief no matter what awkward position you are in.
Upper Receiver: Vltor MUR
Lower Reciever: Saber Tactical
Charging Handle: Vltor BCM Gunfighter Mod 3 Large
Barrel: Krieger AR-15 Varmatch 26” with a 1-12 twist
Gas Block: PRI Low Profile .936”
Stock: MagPul PRS
Grip: MagPul MIAD
Scope: Nightforce 5.5-22 x 56mm NX with a NP-1 Reticle
Scope Mount: Nightforce Unimount 1.375”
Handguard: Daniel Defense Lite Rail 14.0”
Bolt Catch: DPMS with MagPul BAD Lever Extender
Magazine Release: DPMS
Magazine: Magpul 20-Round Pmag with 5 round limiter
Bipod Adapter: DoubleStar Picatinny
Overall, this gun was a fun build with the perfect load, and the accuracy characteristics talked about above will surely make this gun a “fur dropping machine.” If you have any questions feel free to contact us and we will be happy to answer them.