Firearms development these days comes fast and furious. Hunters and shooters in general are on the lookout for weapons that will improve their potential in the field and on the range.

We’ll touch on three topics in this wide and complex issue, which is separate from the hot potato of gun control.

The changes in the broad category of AR-15 rifles are hard to keep up with these days. These are the military firearms that began in .223 caliber. Today we also have it made in .308 caliber and in 12-gauge shotgun editions. If you have ever shot a .223-caliber rifle, AR-15 style or other types, imagine banging away with a bunch of 12-gauge loads in it.

The AR-15s are fun to shoot. They are lightweight and short barreled compared to most hunting rifles, Ammunition is lower in cost than the bigger cartridges. More and more deer are being killed with .223s in Arkansas in spite of some criticisms of its light bullet weight.

Where the current concern and debate arises with these firearms is with their clones and varied configurations. A whole industry has evolved around kits — do-it-yourself construction of an AR-15-type rifle. You buy a bunch of parts, assuming your bank account is healthy, and assemble them. You buy an upper, a lower, a trigger group, a barrel, a forearm, a stock, a rail, a sight, and you put it all together.

There are potential pitfalls in the broad AR-15 scene. Higher end guns and assemblies have machined steel or aluminum components to go with the plastic stocks and forearms. Cheaper ones have stamped metal parts. There is a significant difference.

Narrowing our focus a bit, a number of Arkansas deer hunters are finding favor with the .308 version of the AR-15. The .308 is an excellent cartridge for deer. Its origin is also military, developed a half century or so back to reduce weight from the venerable .30-06 rifle and ammunition. The .308’s ballistics are not far behind the well-liked .30-06 and .270 cartridges.

Another and newer topic is the Duck Commander line of guns. Yes, Duck Commander, the Duck Dynasty operation. Those bearded fellows haven’t started making shotguns and rifles. But the venerable Mossberg company is using Duck Commander in a major marketing effort.

The main firearm in the new Duck commander line is the Mossberg 930 autoloader. It has a Duck Commander logo on the stock and is finished in a camouflage pattern with flying ducks.

Also carrying the brand are the Mossberg 702 Plinkster and the AR-styled 715 pistol and rifle.

All the Mossberg Duck Commander guns come with an American flag bandana, familiar to Duck Dynasty enthusiasts.

A new handgun draws some attention. The Heizer Defense PS1 Pocket Shotgun Pistol is a single shot .410 and .45 Long Colt firearm, and it is being produced by a new company not far north of Arkansas. Heizer Defense is part of Heizer Aerospace at Pevely, Mo., south of St. Louis.

The pistol is a compact, break-open type, and its handle has a slot that holds two more shells or cartridges.

It is built entirely of machined stainless steel, with matte black the standard finish. But it can be ordered in a variety of other colors – green, bronze, pink, tan and white.

Both the Mossberg Duck Commander and the Heizer shotgun pistol are brand new and may not have reached retail outlets yet.


Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at