Best Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated June 14, 2021

Hunting with a semi-automatic rifle is an exciting experience. It's less laborious than using traditional bolt actions and is a less intimidating way to introduce newcomers to the sport. 

Choosing the right rifle requires careful consideration as these weapons have plenty of moving parts. You'll need a user-friendly quality gun. 

This article discusses some of the best semi-auto hunting rifles. It discusses the pros and cons, as well as the unique features of each firearm.

Comparison  of the Best Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Includes an aluminum 30 round magazine
  • 6 adjustment positions for customization
  • Lightweight A2 flash hider, hand guard, gas block
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  • Best 223 Semi Auto Hunting Rifle
  • Lower is precisely machined from robust aluminum
  • Coating easily rejects carbon and makes cleaning easy
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  • Best 300 Win Mag Semi Auto Hunting Rifle
  • Semi-automatic rifle is ideal for big game hunting
  • Bolt locks into barrel for exceptional accuracy and strength
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What to Look for When Buying a Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle

Purchasing a semi-automatic rifle for hunting requires careful consideration. What is suitable for one hunter might not be beneficial for another.

The first aspect you need to take into account is what game you'll be hunting. Once you've established this, you can choose the appropriate caliber weapon. 

Popular calibers are .30-06 and .308, but if you're hunting big targets like the big five, you may be more comfortable with a .375 rifle. The next aspect you need to consider is accuracy. 

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A rifle with a longer barrel is usually more accurate. You also have to work out a balance between accuracy and weight. 

A heavier rifle is usually more accurate and absorbs more recoil but can be tedious on long expeditions. Ensure that your gun is a reasonable weight convenient to carry over long distances but has enough weight to absorb most of the recoil. 

The firearm needs to fit well, so options with adjustable features are advantageous. If your build is petite, you'll need a shorter stock. The rifle also needs to be durable and reliable. 

Review of the Best Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles

This section of the review discusses some of the best semi-auto hunting rifles on the market. The benefits of each weapon and some of the negative aspects are also mentioned.

Best Overall:
PSA 16" 300AAC Blackout

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Magpul carbine stock
  • Chambered in 300 AAC
  • Six position adjustments
  • Chrome lined bolt carrier steel

CONS

  • Expensive 
  • More recoil than competitors

PSA firearms are relatively new compared to competitors, but that doesn't make the products any less reliable. The company's history started in 2008, and it's grown in popularity ever since.

What Recent Buyers Report

Customers were satisfied with their purchases and reported that they ran well even after hundreds of rounds. They liked the port size and the dimensions of the gas block area. They commended PSA's excellent barrel; however, some customers reported that the magazine had a feeding issue.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It's an attractive, rugged-looking rifle with a stunning grill. It's comfortable to hold and has the ideal weight-to-accuracy ratio. The finish is hard coat anodized, and so is the buffer tube and upper. 

The weapon has a chrome-moly steel barrel that measures 16 inches and has a 1:8 twist. It features a full-auto profile bolt carrier group and is accurate. 

Changing the optics on this firearm is also quick and convenient. The handguard is free-floating, and the entire weapon measures 32 inches.

The gun has a 30 round magazine and a low profile .750 gas block type. The hunting rifle weighs 6.75 pounds.

Bottom Line

The PSA is regarded as one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles due to its innovative design and solid construction. It's lightweight and durable enough to endure harsh wilderness conditions.

Best 223 Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle:
Geissele Automatics LLC - Super Duty Rifle 16 5.56MM

PROS

  • Sopmod stock
  • Reliable feeding
  • Suitable for heavy use
  • Cold hammer-forged barrel
  • Ambidextrous super-configurable safety mechanism

CONS

  • Expensive 
  • Weapon colors highlight the imperfections in aluminum

Geissele is reasonably new in the industry. It was founded in 2004 and aimed to produce capable firearms and related components of the finest quality. The company specializes in rifles, pistols, and products for law enforcement. They also supply tools, optics, firearm parts, and other tactical items.

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who purchased this rifle refer to it as a quality item. They comment that the price is worth it for the type of product that they get. 

They claim that the weapon is functional as well as attractive. The only negative aspect is that the rails aren't as rigid as the rest of the gun. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Geissele Automatics LLC- super duty rifle is one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles for multiple reasons. It has the nano weapon coated surefire for extra durability. This coating is a durable, solid lubricant.

The 16-inch barrel, lined with chrome and Mag phosphates, is cold hammer-forged. It also features a 17 twist. The Geissele stress-proof bolt isn’t machined but instead forged.

The bolt carrier group is reliability enhanced, and the safety is ambidextrous. It's also remarkably accurate. 

Bottom Line

If you're willing to invest in a weapon that offers impressive results in every category, this is the firearm for you. The rifle is designed well and coated for added protection.

Best 300 Win Mag Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle:
Browning BAR Mark III

PROS

  • Attractive stock
  • Influx recoil pad
  • Crisp trigger pull
  • Multi-lug rotary bolt
  • Detachable magazine

CONS

  • Expensive
  • If you change the gas port to one with a bigger hole, jams are likely to occur

Browning creates weapons of pristine quality and is renowned for products of a high standard.

What Recent Buyers Report

Consumers who own this firearm claim that it still performs well in cold and harsh conditions. They commented that the recoil was manageable and that it handled comfortably. 

It's a historically dependable gun. They also mentioned that it was accurate and user-friendly. Maintaining the weapon is also a simple process.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Browning BAR has a history dating back to 1917 when John Browning patented it. Initially, soldiers used the firearm for military purposes. 

In the late 1960s, people began using it for hunting when the sporting model became available. The firearm is one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles. It has low recoil and a rotary bolt. The magazine is detachable, and it has a Turkish walnut stock.

It has a precision alloy receiver and a hammer-forged barrel. The gun also has an influx butt pad for additional comfort. 

It's great for deer or hog hunting since it's compact and is of an adequate caliber for powerful repeat shots.

Bottom Line

Browning is an efficient weapon backed by a long history in military service. It's a reputable and accurate firearm that earns its spot on the best semi-auto hunting rifles list. 

4. Ruger Mini-14 Tactical 5.56 NATO/.223

PROS

  • Accurate
  • Cold hammer-forged barrel
  • Self-cleaning moving gas cylinder
  • Patented scope mounts on the steel receiver
  • Garand style action (breach bolt locking system)

CONS

  • Reloading isn't straightforward
  • Older models had barrel issues

Ruger is a household name in terms of hunting rifles. The brand produces affordable yet dependable firearms that excel at neutralizing targets.

What Recent Buyers Report

Owners of this firearm are generally impressed and state that there are no jamming issues even after hundreds of rounds. They like the factory-installed flash suppressor and appreciate that it comes with two magazines.

Some consumers mentioned that the dimensions of the weapon were ideal for hog hunting.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This type of firearm has been on the market for many years but was overshadowed by the AR 15. It's easy to customize with a wide range of aftermarket products available. 

The safety feature is simple, and the trigger is crisp. The gun is accurate and compact, with an excellent piston system. Most come standard with a scope mount. 

The weapon is light and dependable with a patented design. The gun is easy to clean and maintain and can endure harsh conditions. It has a magazine capacity of 20 rounds and is calibered in 223 REM. 

Its overall length is 36.75 inches, and it weighs 6.7 pounds. The barrel has a 1/2 inch-28 thread pattern, and the stock is synthetic. 

Bottom Line

This firearm ranks favorably with many and is one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles currently available. It has all the features that a hunting weapon requires and is attractive as well.

5. FN SCAR 20S

PROS

  • Two-stage trigger
  • Chrome lined barrel
  • Adjustable cheek rest
  • Adjustable length of pull
  • Calibrated for long-range shooting

CONS

  • Heavier than competitors
  • Double-hit vibration can damage optics

FN America develops and manufactures firearms on a global scale. The products are high-quality and used by military forces and other law enforcement officials.

What Recent Buyers Report

Consumers were pleased with product performance, and they were particularly fond of the trigger. The crisp break at 3.5 lbs is ideal for those that haven't used semi-automatic rifles before. 

Owners of this weapon stated that they needed a durable scope to withstand the weapon's vibrations. They also say that the appearance is appealing.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The weapon was launched in 2018 as a commercial variant of the tactical Mark 20 SSR, with slight changes. FN tried to maintain the battle-level quality while creating a product that's legal for civilians to own. 

Some of these changes include changes in the muzzle device, and it doesn't have front and rear sights. The internal mechanisms are slightly different. This makes it one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles, as fully automatic firearms aren't legal.

It's a purpose-built, precision gun designed for long-range shooting. The receiver is long, and the bottom of the rail is also lengthy so that you can place your bipod for an optimal and stable prone firing position.

Bottom Line

The FN Scar 20S is a fantastic option for those who want a heavy-duty and rugged weapon based on a military rifle. The gun performs well up to 1,000 yards thanks to its 20-inch barrel, and its adjustable features make it ideal for shooters of different physiques.

Best .308 Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle:
Armalite AR-10

PROS

  • Takes 25 rounds
  • Ambidextrous safety
  • Adjustable cheek piece
  • Adjustable length of pull
  • Purpose-built for competing

CONS

  • Heavy
  • Aftermarket parts aren’t easily available for customizing the weapon

The history of Armalite started in 1954, and the company's mission is to supply innovative products that perform optimally.

What Recent Buyers Report

Owners of the Armalite AR 10 report that the firearm is accurate and handles well; however, it's quite loud. Many like the durability and functionality of the weapon. Some consumers stated that removing the standard sights for a better optic is tedious, but the rifle itself is great.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The firearm is designed for competitions such as three-gun and therefore exceptionally accurate. This is a vital feature for hunting. It has a muzzle brake, which positively affects the felt-recoil and features a 20-inch heavy profile barrel and swivel sling mount.

The front sight post is the standard A2 and standard handguards. The bolt-carrier groupies a heavy-duty design, and the magazine is a straight magazine that has a capacity of 25 rounds.

It has a single-stage trigger, and the total weight is 12.3 lbs. The trigger guard is removable, the stock is firm for recoil absorption, and it has an adjustable gas block.

Bottom Line

The Armalite AR 10 is one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles because it's accurate, durable, and functions well. The adjustable features are an added benefit, and the recoil is minimal compared to other weapons in this category.

Best 30-06 Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle:
Winchester ~ U.S. Rifle M1 Garand ~ .30-06 Cal

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • 24-inch barrel
  • Blade front sight
  • Hardwood Pistol grip
  • Considered collectible

CONS

  • Not easily available online
  • Lacks modern features like adjustable stocks

Winchester Repeating Arms is a well-established firearm brand that manufactures quality weapons. The company has many years of experience in the industry and offers consumers quality products and services.

What Recent Buyers Report

Owners of this firearm regard it as one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles. Most purchased it secondhand and state that it handles well and is easy to use. Some buyers claim that the firearm is the reason behind America's success in World War II, but that's a debatable topic. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The M1 Garand has a remarkable history, and many regards it as one of the best battle rifles ever made. It was used in several wars and earned its reputation as a reliable and efficient gun. Some countries still use this weapon for military officials. 

The Garand is a collector's item, but the value is in the eye of the beholder. The weapon is classed as a World War II weapon, but its reliability and sturdiness make it ideal for hunting.

It functions flawlessly in harsh conditions and doesn't display any mechanical defects or issues when exposed to dust or fluctuating temperatures.

Bottom Line

The Winchester M1 Garand is a classic weapon that's suitable for a variety of applications. Its solid structure and accuracy make it one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles.

Best 556 Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle:
Smith and Wesson M&P 15 Sport II

PROS

  • Affordable 
  • Lightweight 
  • 30-round capacity
  • Six-position CAR stock
  • Suitable for multiple applications

CONS

  • Handguard plastic can get hot after excessive use
  • Trigger pin isn't as high-quality as competing weapons

In 1852, Horace Smith and Daniel B Wesson partnered up to create firearms with self-contained cartridges. At the time, the company was considered an industry leader. The innovative approach laid the foundations for the renowned company that Smith & Wesson is today.

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who bought this weapon are generally positive about the weapon's capabilities. They report that it's suitable for a variety of users including youth and those who are smaller in stature. 

They were satisfied with the gun's accuracy, appearance, and ruggedness. The only negative that a few consumers mentioned is that it was sometimes a challenge to find ammunition.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This weapon comes with an adjustable A2 front sight and has a Mil-Spec grip. It's lightweight and adjustable, making it suitable for all hunters, be it men, women, or youth. 

The main drawback of this gun is that there are no heat shields in the handguards, but this is a minor issue. The firearm is affordable and durable, with a broad magazine that makes reloading simple. 

It has clear brand markings on it, and the functionality of the weapon can't be faulted. What makes this one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles is that it's ready to go right out of the box. 

Bottom Line

This firearm is a smooth running semi-automatic and an asset in any hunter's arsenal. It's adjustable, easy to customize, and sturdy enough to endure harsh conditions. 

There are multiple configurations in this product line with minor differences. This makes it easy for you to find your ideal weapon.

What is a Semi-Automatic Rifle?

Semi-automatic firearms release a single bullet each time you squeeze the trigger. Unlike bolt-actions, there's no need to cycle the bolt after each round. 

A typical mechanism for a semi-automatic remains cocked with the trigger held to the rear. It fires when the trigger is released and then squeezed again. 

The way the firearm operates is completely different from bolt actions, lever actions, and fully automatic weapons. You have the benefit of automatic firearms where you don't have to cycle each round, but you have more control over the gun's aim.

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What is a Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle Best for?

Different firearms are suited to different applications. The main three applications that the best semi-auto hunting rifles are designed for include sports shooting, hunting, and military use. Some gun enthusiasts also use this firearm for home defense.

The semi-automatic was primarily used in the military and law enforcement as they’re lightweight and easy to operate. They’re also hard-wearing pieces of equipment that can neutralize targets efficiently.

It also benefited officers to dispatch multiple targets thanks to the rifle's repeating capabilities. Some military firearms had the option to switch between fully automatic and semi-automatic.

The sports events with a semi-automatic range from rapid-fire and target shooting competitions to accuracy-based and long-distance contests. The versatility and precision capabilities of these guns make them a popular choice for these applications.

Hunters have recently started using semi-automatics. The main reason for this is that the weapon is compact, has low recoil, and follow-up shots are fluid. Many semi-automatics have adjustable features making them even more appealing.

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Benefits of Investing in a Quality Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle

These firearms are self-loading, and by investing in a reliable semi-automatic, you increase your chances of a successful hunt. You reduce the time between follow-up shots, allowing you to neutralize several targets on a single expedition.

This is a great feature when hog hunting. Another advantage of investing in one of the best semi-auto hunting rifles is that they perform well at both short and long distances. 

Semi-automatic rifles have multiple moving parts. While this is convenient for rapid-fire, it also means that the likelihood of jams is higher than on other actions. To reduce your chances of having an unreliable weapon, it's essential to maintain it properly. 

You need to keep your weapon clean and store it in an environment that's cool and dry. Purchasing a cheap semi-automatic could also lead to such issues as some of the parts may be inferior.

The best option would be to invest in a quality firearm that will deliver excellent results over a long period. 

Types of Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles

Although semi-automatic firearms have the same functionality, there are differences in the way they work. Some semi-automatics use blowback or recoil energy for ejecting the used cartridge, although most modern semi-autos use gas.

There are also differences in the feeding of these weapons. Some utilize an external magazine, en-bloc clip, or stripper clip. 

Blowback Semi-automatics

These firearms were introduced around 1905 by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and by the late 1900s, other weapon manufacturers began producing similar products. 

This system of operation obtains energy from the movement of the cartridge when it's pushed to the rear. The movement is created when the propellant charge is ignited and causes expanding gas. Although it can be considered as a gas operation, it's technically different. 

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Gas Operation

A gas-operated semi-automatic uses a portion of high-pressure gas from the cartridge that's fired for powering the mechanism. This disposes of the used ammunition case and inserts the new one in the chamber. Most of these firearms use a piston. 

How Do Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles Compare?

We can distinguish between various types of hunting rifles by the action. Different weapons are built for different purposes, although some can be quite versatile. This section of the review highlights the key functions of some well-known firearms.

Assault Rifles vs Semi-Auto Hunting Rifles

In terms of appearance, weapons that are classified as assault rifles have a more rugged look and a synthetic or metal stock. Semi-automatic hunting rifles typically have wooden stock, but some budget-options feature a synthetic stock. 

It must be noted that these weapons have the same functionality. Some of the qualities they share are the action type, with both being semi-automatic, the caliber of ammunition, and the detachable magazine.

In recent years, there have been debates about banning assault rifles to curb violence. Gun enthusiasts claim that this won't change anything as the capabilities of other rifles can do the same damage.

Auto vs Semi-Auto

Both automatics and semi-automatics are combat weapons used by the military and other law enforcement officials. Civilians aren’t permitted to have automatic weapons. 

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Semi-automatic weapons are available to the public. The main difference between these guns is that one fires multiple rounds with a single trigger squeeze and the other fires single shots. By firing single shots, the semi-automatic allows for precision with every round. 

Semi-Automatic vs Bolt Action

 When comparing these two weapons, there are three main aspects. These are recoil,  gas release, and moving components. The recoil on a bolt action rifle can be quite heavy, but it features only a single stage. 

The semi-auto, on the other hand, has three stages of recoil. Regarding the gas release, the force of the burning charge in a bolt-action rifle propels the bullet, and some of this energy is felt in the form of recoil. In a semi-auto, some of the energy cycles the action. 

Regarding moving parts, the bolt action is simple and therefore easy to maintain. The semi-automatic is more complex with many moving parts and is more likely to experience jamming issues.

The bolt action might be simpler, but follow-up shots are slower with this weapon than with the semi-auto. 

Semi-Auto Hunting Rifle vs AR-15

The only difference between a semi-automatic hunting rifle and an AR-15 is application. AR-15s are used for target shooting, competition, and defense but can also be used for hunting. 

Conclusion

There are plenty of excellent options to choose from. The most important part of making this decision is ensuring that you’re comfortable with the weapon and that it can take down a target with ease.

People Also Ask

This section of the article will answer some common questions that arise regarding semi-automatic rifles. 

Is it Legal to Hunt Deer With a Semi-Automatic Rifle?

Yes, it's legal in most states, however, certain States place restrictions on the size, weight, and caliber used.

Can an AR-15 Take Down a Bear?

Yes, but you'll have to use powerful ammunition.

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What States Allow Hunting With Semi-auto Rifles?

Most states permit it, however, states such as Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, and Connecticut have strict laws regarding hunting. 

Why Use a Semi-Auto Rifle Hunting?

A semi-automatic is easy to use, typically has low recoil, and is excellent for follow-up shots.

Is an AR-15 Semi-Automatic?

Yes, it is.



My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.