Old habits may die hard, but it’s time to allow semi-autos

By Randy Santucci

Fellow hunters, we must get our heads out of the sand in Pennsylvania! We need to catch up with the times and become aware of what is being done safely nationally, that has had no adverse consequences for our sport

Pennsylvania stands as the only state in the country not permitting semi-auto rifle use for hunting. Before the cynics visualize AR platform rifles with 30-round magazines mowing down our woods – and are now running for a pen to write a rebuttal to this article – take a breath and hear the truth.

Today, semi-auto rifles are the top selling and most popular rifles sold in the nation and are the preferred choice of many of our youth. The longer we continue forcing old-fashioned thinking that is long outdated in all other states, the longer we inhibit progress and interest of bringing new hunters (youth) into our fold. 

Our great-grandfathers gravitated toward lever action rifles away from single-shot rifles in much the same way for the same reasons … follow-up shots. They recognized the advantages of that era’s progress and it fast became the norm. 

Semi-auto-loading use within the current Pennsylvania legislation is limited to five rounds in the magazine, much like we are restricted to three rounds for small game today. 

For the past 40 years, semi- auto-loading shotguns have been used in special regulation areas of the state for deer. 

Sabot-type projectiles with much more effective down-range ballistics, increased their effective distance, not like a rifle of course, but semi-auto shooting at deer in the most populated special regulation areas of the state has yielded no safety or ethical problems. 

Hunters in those areas shoot one shot if needed, or have the advantage of a quicker smoother follow-up shot incident free.

Semi-auto rifles are nothing new and have  been in existence for over 130 years. Top sporting hunters across the country use them responsibly, they are extremely accurate, allow for better follow-up shots with minimal recoil, which allows tracking a moving or running animal easier in a scope. 

Personally, I doubt if I will use a semi. I’m set in my ways and have that special sentiment as many of us have for a particular rifle in our collection. I can crank out four shots plenty fast from my pump- action rifle when needed, but my preference should not restrict others. 

Follow-up shots are completely ethical when needed and safe when done properly, manually or semi-auto-loading initiated. 

Like most Pennsylvania  hunters, I pride myself on a one-shot kill, but let’s be honest, if the first shot does not bring down game for whatever reason, we all put three or four rounds in the gun and do our best to get good follow-up shots. 

The excitement of wanting to bring down that animal, which now is possibly wounded, and  the fun of shooting all come into play. 

As the legislation to allow semi-auto rifles for hunting moves forward, rest assured it has been scrutinized using all available indicators.

As I mentioned, all other  states allow semi-autos for hunting, and Pennsylvania not allowing semi-auto-loading rifle use plays into the anti-gun crowd’s agenda. 

You know what they’ll say, “if they are illegal for hunting then there must be something wrong.”

We are perceived as not on the same team as the rest of our nation’s pro-gun brethren.

(Randy Santucci is board chairman of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania and recently was invited to testify on this subject before both the House and Senate Game and Fisheries committees.)

Categories: Firearms, Hunting News

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