8 Great Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles to Trigger Increased Sales

Where legal, semi-auto hunting rifles are hot sellers. Try stocking these options to hit a variety of needs and price points.

8 Great Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles to Trigger Increased Sales

The first rifle my father gave me was a Marlin Model 60 .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle. This rifle was the genesis of my passion for shooting and hunting. In a sense, my passion for firearms was born in the rifle my father gave me. As such, I have always considered semi-automatic rifles to be solid tools for predator control and filling freezers. While it may be a hot button for some, and this feature is not for them, most outdoor enthusiasts consider semi-auto rifles, as I do, to be great options for pursuit of all manner of wildlife. 

With my background in the Marine Corps, I also appreciated the fit and form of AR-style modern sporting rifles like the AR-15, AR-10 and LR-308. Countless enthusiasts must agree, considering the AR-15’s popularity. More than 20 million are in the hands of law-abiding Americans, many of them hunters. Of course, I still swoon at the sight of more traditionally styled hunting rifles of the rich walnut stock and gloss-blued-barrel variety. As such, with some based on personal hunting and shooting experiences, consider these eight great semi-auto hunting rifles to trigger more sales. 

Browning BAR Mark III

Clear back to my early childhood and earliest firearm memories, the Browning BAR has been a household name — my grandfather owned several Type 1 BARs, as well as a Type 2, all chambered in .30-06. The roots of the semi-automatic BAR, launched in 1967, can easily be traced back to the M1918 light machine gun unveiled toward the end of WWI. Today, the BAR continues to be a top seller for Browning and is quite an heirloom-quality hunting rifle. Of course, while very few changes have been made over the past 55 years, the modern Browning BAR Mark III is a rifle well worth your retail shelf space and more than worthy of space in the gun safes of even the most discriminating hunters. 

Browning’s BAR Mark III Rifle boasts a checkered, oil-finished Grade II walnut stock and forend; precision-machined, high-relief engraved alloy receiver with satin-nickel finish; high-polish blued hammer-forged barrel; seven-lug rotating bolt; integral buffering system and an Inflex recoil pad. Browning BAR Mark III rifles are piston-operated, use detachable box magazines, weigh just 7 pounds 2 ounces and come chambered in .243 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .270 WSM, .270 Win., .30-06 Spfld., 7mm Rem. Mag. and 300 Win. Mag. www.browning.com

Benelli R1

Benelli shotgun performance and reliability is world-renowned; however, the company’s semi-automatic centerfire rifles are not nearly as recognized. That said, those same hallmarks of quality craftsmanship, real-world reliability and continuing innovation are well represented in the Benelli R1, and your most demanding hunting customers are sure to agree the rifle is worthy of its branding. 

The Benelli R1 is a different breed of semi-automatic rifle, employing the same auto-regulating gas operated (ARGO) system foundational to the Marine Corps’ M4 Tactical Shotgun. It’s worth saying that if our nation’s most elite fighting force can trust the ARGO system in the world’s most extreme environments, hunters can trust it in the woods. The R1 features a rich AA-grade, checkered walnut or black synthetic stock and forend; steel upper receiver; anodized aluminum lower receiver; Crio-treated steel barrel and premium buttpad. Action and barrel finish offerings are matte-black in black-synthetic-stock models and polish/gloss-blued in walnut-stock models. The Benelli R1 is available in.308 Win., 30-06 Sprfld., .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Win. Mag. www.benelliusa.com

Ruger 10/22

Designed by Bill Ruger and Harry Sefried, the Ruger 10/22 Carbine Rifle was introduced in 1964. To date, more than 7 million Ruger 10/22 rifles have been sold, making it one of the most popular rimfire models in firearm history. Through nearly 60 years, plinkers and varmint hunters alike have flocked to Ruger 10/22 rifles because of ease of use, reliability, accuracy, quality construction and price point — the first Ruger 10/22 Carbine model sold for just $54.50. Even today, Ruger’s suggested MSRP on the iconic rifle is just $389. 

Perfect for varmint hunting, the Ruger 10/22 Carbine features Ruger’s timeless design; traditionally styled hardwood stock; 18.5-inch hammer-forged, alloy-steel barrel with satin-black finish; gold-bead front sight and adjustable rear sight; and a detachable 10-round rotary magazine. Whether your customers are diehard small-game hunters or introducing the next generation to our hunting heritage, there is no arguing the price point and renowned reputation of the American-made Ruger 10/22 Carbine. www.ruger.com

Winchester Wildcat .22

Founded in 1866, Winchester grew legs with the Model 1866 “Yellow Boy” Lever-Action Rifle. Just seven years later, Oliver Winchester and company unveiled the Model 1873 Lever Action, often called “the gun that won the West.” The rifle’s popularity galvanized Winchester and resulted in over 700,000 sold. Today, Winchester is owned by Olin Corporation, with manufacturing licensed to the Herstal Group comprised of FN Herstal and Browning Arms Company. Today, Winchester’s production has centered on continuing innovation, reliability and performance. A great example of such focus is found in the Winchester Wildcat .22 Rifle. 

Perhaps the most innovative .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle in decades, the Winchester Wildcat launched in 2019. Winchester suggests the Wildcat “purrs like a kitten.” I’m not suggesting it does; however, it is incredibly reliable, and it’s hard not to get excited about an auto-loading striker-fire .22-caliber rifle that screams dependability and quality at a price point sure to make your customers smile. The Wildcat Sporter boasts a checkered wood stock with satin finish, 18-inch matte-blued steel barrel; 10-round rotary magazine and black composite action and trigger group. The action and trigger group drop out of the receiver in seconds, without tools, for easy cleaning and maintenance. As a further testament to Winchester innovation, the Wildcat is compatible with a variety of other .22LR magazines, including Ruger’s 10/22 rotary model. www.winchesterguns.com

Watchtower Firearms Type 10 .308

Hunting is a high-stakes game, requiring hunters to perform ethically and at the top of their game. This includes tools like a reliable, accurate hunting rifle. To be clear, I can’t possibly think of anybody who understands the importance of high-stakes reliability and performance more than America’s most elite special-forces warfighters. Newly founded Watchtower Firearms is led by American heroes who understand those high stakes. Founder and CEO Jason Colosky is a Recon Marine. Watchtower’s chief communications officer, Ray “Cash” Care, was a Navy SEAL. Chief Growth Officer Will Kerr was a Recon Marine, team leader and scout sniper. The company is chock-full of military veterans who deeply understand the importance of quality, reliability and performance, and the proof can be found in the company’s Type 10 .308 rifle. 

The Watchtower Type 10 Rifle is a direct-impingement AR-platform modern sporting rifle currently available in .308 Win., with plans to expand offerings in 2024. True to the company’s “I identify as an American” mantra, every rifle is built in Spring, Texas, with exclusively American parts and materials and function-tested to meet performance requirements. The Watchtower Type 10 Rifle boasts 7075-T651 billet aluminum receivers; 15-inch S7M free-floating handguard with M-LOK attachment system; 18-inch, match-grade, .308 Win. barrel with 1:8 rifling and black-nitride finish; 7.62x51mm Durabolt, Tru-Black PVD-finish bolt carrier group; B5 Systems Type 23 pistol grip and Bravo stock; ambidextrous charging handle and selector switch; and Hiperfire EDT2 Heavy Gunner trigger. Retailers can order Type 10 rifles in a black Type III anodized finish as well as three Cerakote colors: Flat Dark Earth, Olive-Drab Green and Wolf Grey. www.watchtowerfirearms.com

Phoenix Weaponry Emma .300 WSM AR-10/308

A beast of a rifle, the Phoenix Weaponry Emma semi-auto AR-platform rifle is a top-tier system designed by out-of-this-world, rocket-sciency machinist, Aaron Cayce — yes, out of this world. Cayce’s machined components can be found on the International Space Station, the Mars Rover, in deep space and even in human bodies; however, his fabrication passion is rooted in firearms, suppressors and firearm accessories. Honestly, who machines their own gas rings? Aaron Cayce, that’s who, and every component of his firearms demonstrate his laser focus on defect-free builds — case in point, the Phoenix Weaponry Emma. 

How do I know so much about the Phoenix Weaponry Emma? I own one, and it’s the finest AR-platform in my safe. My experience with Emma is in .300 WSM with a Phoenix Weaponry Precision Buttstock. My best results include numerous ¼-MOA groups at 100 yards, the only AR-platform rifle I have achieved sub-MOA grouping with at 1,800 yards, and a South Texas nilgai bull, taken down at 500 yards at 12:30 at night with a single shot using a thermal riflescope and first-focal-plane reticle. 

The Phoenix Weaponry Emma boasts matched billet 7075-T7 billet aluminum upper and lower receivers; integral 20-MOA Picatinny top rail; proprietary ambidextrous charging handle, billet dust cover and selector switch; precision-machined, chrome-moly steel, phosphate coated, match-grade barrel; proprietary barrel nut for enhance durability and improved handguard mounting; proprietary, tube-shaped, 6061-T6 aluminum, 15-inch handguard; Grade 2 titanium P-APX compensator; PW-designed and -manufactured stainless-steel adjustable gas block; nickel-boron (NiB) bolt carrier group; Magpul MOE grip and an A3 stock with adjustable cheek rest — a Phoenix Weaponry Precision Buttstock also is available for the Emma model. If you’ve ever heard the term “too much to list,” this is it. It’s off the charts in quality, performance and reliability and built with your most discriminating hunters and long-range shooters in mind. The Emma is available in .308 Win., 6.5x47 Lapua, .338 Federal, .243 Win., .260 Rem., 7mm-08, .300 WSM and 6.5 CM. Retailers may also order custom finishes. www.phoenixweaponry.com

Brenton USA Pursuit Series Scout Fixed Rifle

Brenton USA rose out of frustration during Michigan’s 2014 deer hunting season. Founder and owner Bartt Brenton, an engineer with more than 30 years of experience, simply had enough of trying to find a reliable AR-platform rifle chambered in the straight-wall .450 Bushmaster cartridge. In fact, Brenton was frustrated enough that he poured his blood, sweat and tears into designing his own. Brenton USA is the best (and only that I know of) manufacturer of specifically hunting-focused AR rifles. Forget “mil-spec.” Brenton USA rifles are “hunt-spec.” With his engineering background, lifelong love of the pursuit, and over 200 North American big game kills under his belt, Bartt Brenton and his team of diehard hunters are devoted wholly to producing the best semi-automatic AR hunting rifle available. Brenton’s Pursuit Series Scout Fixed Rifle is not only a great example, but also a model with which I have personal experience. 

The Scout Fixed Rifle features 7075-T6 aluminum receivers; 18-inch, 416R stainless-steel, hunter profile barrel with BN protective coating; 8620 bolt carrier and 9310 bolt with NiB coating; Brenton RealFeel G10 PolyCore handguard; Magpul MOE fixed stock; Brenton BT1 adjustable trigger (3.5 to 6.5 pounds) and a Hogue all-weather pistol grip. The Scout is offered in .223 Wylde, 6mm ARC, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC II, 300 Blackout, 300 HAM’R, 350 Legend and 450 Bushmaster. All rifles include a Brenton USA soft carrying case. www.brentonusa.com

51Fifty Apex Series Evolve-15

While 51Fifty Rifles’ Evolve-15 was the most innovative semi-auto, direct-impingement modern sporting rifle I ran across at the 2022 SHOT Show and showcases the most innovation I have seen from the AR segment of the industry in years, I became a fan after sending several thousand rounds downrange. Bottom line, the 51Fifty Apex Series Evolve-15 rifle ranks among the most reliable rifles I have tested over several years. One of the most notable, obvious innovations is a jaw-dropper — separating the upper and lower receivers without takedown- or pivot-pins. 51Fifty Rifles founder and owner, Keith Berry, walked me through his patent-pending Rapid Action Cam (R.A.C.) System to break down the rifle, and after a single 30-second lesson, I was an expert. Breaking down the Evolve-15 takes just a few seconds, perfect for clearing, cleaning or maintenance on the fly. 

The 51Fifty Evolve-15 is not just machined in America, but all raw materials and components also are sourced from and exclusively produced right here in the good ol’ USA. Originally purposed for more tactical-inspired activities, 51Fifty migrated to the hunting crowd quickly and is becoming quite a reputable producer of multiple-caliber ARs perfectly suited for everything from small game and predators to deer and big boars. Caliber options include .223 Wylde, 6mm ARC, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC II, .300 Blk, 7.62x39 and, for the straight-wall hunters, 350 Legend. The Evolve-15 features a billet aluminum 7075 receiver set and 6061 handguard; fluted, match-grade barrel options from 16 to 20 inches; Hiperfire PDL GL Trigger set at 2 pounds; full-auto-rated bolt carrier group; adjustable silent-capture buffering system; suppressor-optimized ambidextrous charging handle and adjustable gas block; Luth-AR MBA5 stock; integral ARCA rail, QD sling cups and 45-degree optic mount; and a Dead Air Silencers KeyMo Muzzle Brake. The Evolve-15 is available in eight great color finishes and includes a soft case as well as a bottle of RadcoLube, a premium CLP growing increasingly popular among competitive shooters. www.51fiftyrifles.com 


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