The recent revolution over the so-called "black rifles" is an interesting anomaly to me. More than 20 years ago, I peddled an article to several hunting magazines on the idea of using modern military style rifles for hunting. These were not the surplus 98 Mausers, 03 Springfields or British Lee-Enfield 303 type rifles that the post-WWII hunters used for years, but the next generation of AR-type firearms like the AR-15 (not M-16), FN-FALs and HK-91s.

The rejection slips were profuse. One would have thought I had contracted a social disease of some kind.

Then last year, a pseudo-notable so-called hunting expert stuck his big boot in his even larger mouth over his personal disdain for the AR-15 type black rifles because he thought they were useless for hunting. Nearly every outdoor publication and web site came to the rescue of the black-rifle genre and those shooters using them, even for hunting. As if those shooting arms really needed redemption.

A gun is a gun

"Actually, it matters very little about the aesthetic design value of the weaponry platform when it comes to hunting," advises Terry Hodgens, a retired Army M-16 armorer from Jackson. "The more-important aspects are whether or not the caliber being used is an adequate enough choice for the intended job or if the said platform can deliver the bullet accurately enough at reasonable ranges with sufficient knock-down energy to cleanly dispatch the quarry.

"That is, if the shooter can shoot."

Certainly campfire debates everywhere have forever thrashed the topic of the best deer rifle or varmint gun, or whatever firearm for this or that. Some will argue for the bolt action as the single best format for big-game hunting. Others like the fast-paced handling characteristics of a good lever-action rifle. Target shooters often vote for a well-tuned single shot. Some like a semi-auto for quick follow-up shots.

Each to their own choice they say, because any of these types of rifles can be suitable for hunting.

The bottom line with any hunting firearm, whether rifle, shotgun, handgun or muzzleloader, is performance. Most modern manufactured hunting firearms can shoot a whole lot better than the folks holding them.

This goes for all the AR rifle variants as well as the other current configurations of modern military oriented rifles, though the AR-15 formula is garnering the most attention right now. Any of these can be properly tuned to shoot the center out of a bullseye at predator-hunting ranges.

Add a high-quality optical sight, and the set up can be extremely accurate and easy to shoot because of the slight recoil. Thus the result has been the growing upward trend of popularity among shooters and hunters alike. Today's marketplace for such firearms is flooded with choices along with tons of accessories. For many gun dealers, these firearms are among the hottest items in the store.

Fading black to green

Now, as if to slip this one quietly under the "PC" radar screen, even the venerable gun maker Remington is offering a "black rifle" in its 2008 lineup. The rifle models to be sold under the big "R" tent are actually going to be made by Bushmaster. However, the interesting part is that the Remington marketing gurus elected to finish out these rifles in Advantage MAX-1 HD green camouflage.

Rather crafty I say.

Remington has seen the handwriting on the wall. They can sell a black rifle without it actually being black. Not that this really matters to Mississippi shooters and hunters. We just like neat guns that shoot well, hit targets and get us past the long dry spell between turkey hunting and the next deer season.

Remington will offer up three versions of their R-15 VTR rifles in different configurations chambered in the legendary predator round 223 Remington, but also uniquely enough the 204 Ruger. The carbine versions will have 18-inch barrels, and the rifle model will sport a 22-inch tube. All will have integral Picatinny receiver rails for rock-solid optical mounting.

Now, this is not a wholesale plug for Remington, as the list of current manufacturers of AR-15 black rifles is long. They include names like Bushmaster, Smith and Wesson, Olympia Arms, Armalite and, of course, Colt. Many other outfits are doing parts assembled guns or customized AR-15 style rifles. The only trouble for shooters and hunters is picking one.

Up to the task

Almost universally, the AR-15 type rifles are offered in the standard 223 Remington. Custom shops are now starting to break out of this mold to chamber an interesting array of other cartridges in the ARs. Remington picking the new kid on the block Ruger's 204 is interesting. Are these rounds capable of taking predator-type game?

The 223 and like cartridges are highly suitable for predator-type game such as coyotes, foxes, bobcats and other varmints. They are super for plinking in the field at safe targets of opportunity. Their fun quotient is extremely high.

A standard hunting load for a 223 uses a 55-grain soft point bullet or some variant. These have a muzzle velocity of 3,240 fps and a terminal energy at 100 yards of 921 foot pounds.

By contrast, the 204 Ruger uses a 40-grain bullet at 3,900 fps with 1058 foot pounds of energy. Both are fully capable of dispatching a predator when the shooter hits the boiler room.

So after all the dust has settled, I am reminded of an advertisement by the largest gun part and accessory supplier in the world. Brownell's touts having all the add-on neat stuff for AR rifles, but the catchy ad headline reads "Yes, black still goes with everything."

Indeed it does.