'Black' rifles in the woods

January 12, 2010
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The history of hunting rifles tends to mirror weapons of war. After the Civil War, hunters snapped up the newfangled lever-action rifle (Chuck Connors, “The Rifleman”) for the convenience of carrying more than one round in the gun. After World War I, the bolt-action rifle, another repeater, became popular.

Now, some hunters are adopting “black” rifles—guns that look jarringly similar to the assault rifles carried by soldiers in Afghanistan.

The main difference between combat and hunting versions is that the hunting models are semi-automatics. In other words, they fire only once each time the trigger is pulled, the same as other semi-autos long considered legal for hunting. Combat models are capable of ratta-tat-tatting more than one round with a single pull of the trigger.

Traditionalists are sticking with their favorite arms and showing little interest in the black rifles, says Doug Houshour, who manages the gun department at The Outdoorsman Shop in Greenwood. However, he says some deer hunters will buy them now that they’re being chambered for the stubby rounds legal in Indiana.

“It will be a very small segment of the hunting crowd that will ever carry them in the woods,” Houshour says, adding that they’re expensive compared to conventional rifles.

Phil Bloom, director of communications for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, says some of his coworkers prefer “modern sporting rifles” for their extreme durability. Otherwise, Bloom says, there’s nothing to be scared of. “It’s purely a cosmetic thing.”

What do you think? If during a hike you came across a hunter carrying a black rifle, would you feel differently than if he or she were carrying a traditional gun?


  • Absurd question
    Just as joggers do not belong on the golf course, hikers and hunters do not belong in the woods at the same time.
    And although I am opposed to neither hunters or gun ownership, seeing a real gun always freaks me out. Seriously, I know that people buy and collect guns, but making a judgment on legal activity?
  • More information
    As a followup to Mr. Heikens' brief blog on this topic, more complete information is available online at http://www.nssf.org/msr/.
    One of the first things you will learn is that "assault rifle" or "black gun" are a misnomers. The AR in the rifle's name actually stands for Armalite Rifle -- the company that developed it in the 1950s.

  • Dumb
    Why in the world would you be afraid of a hunter carrying a rifle in the woods? Take a course on firearms. You'll probably enjoy it. And just because it is black and has letters and numbers in it's name, doesn't mean it is any meaner than a traditional hunting rifle. Would you say a Corvette painted black with tinted windows is faster or meaner than a Convertable Corvette painted White? No difference.
  • With All Due Respect to Hunters
    I would feel the same whether the rifle was black or "traditional." I don't like guns and it would definitely scare the bejeesus out of me if I ran into anyone toting a gun.
  • carry
    i think you'd be surprised to know how many people you pass each day carrying a gun.
  • Carrying
    I'm sure you're right. Even tho it's not for me, I feel there's a time and place for carrying (and NOT carrying). That's more of an issue for me - not the color of the rifle.
  • Rifles for Hunting
    The rifles that resemble M16's and M4's are really no different than any other semi-automatic hunting rifle. At one point such rifles were erroniously classified as "assault rifles"; it took a while to reverse a Clinton era ban. Hence the concern from those of us hunters and collectors that people who don't understand these things react emotionally and try to effect regulations that do nothing but hinder law abiding citizens. As pointed out, most if not all hunting rifles have had a military progenitor, e.g., Mauser, Springfield, even the old muzzle loaders.
  • why?
    Why do some of you respect those who carry a firearm for a profession (soldiers, police) but then get freaked out when you see the firearm? It is nothing more than a tool.

    Look at the statistics, a house with a swimming pool is nine times more likely to result in a child fatality than one with a firearm. How many of you get upset when you see the swimming pool?

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