The book Use Enough Gun by famous African professional hunter Robert Ruark posed the question about how much gun was enough gun for cleanly taking big game. The same concept also applies to hunting game like wild hogs. When pressured, angered, cornered, or especially wounded, a wild pig can dose out all the thrill any hunter can handle. The choice of an effective pig rifle/cartridge has to be made with serious attention to the natural meanness of this particular tusk laden target.
Tactical hog hunting is often a close quarters one on one deal. Wild hogs are unpredictable. Shots usually come quick. Sometimes foot work or placement is as important as getting the sights on hide in time. Pig hunting demands a weapon that can be quickly wielded on target and packs a wallop to penetrate thick grizzle covering a package that usually cops an attitude. Sort of like your mother-in-law.
Wrapping up the Bacon
On the one side of the debate virtually any rifle, heavy handgun, or a shotgun for that matter could be used to take out a big pig. It is the caliber and the weight of the bullet along with precise bullet placement that gets the job done. For us tactical pork busters, the AR platform is the weapon of choice for sure. This element of the hunt is a growing concern all across the range of the wild hog.
On the flip side most experienced hog hunters will tell you to forget those long barreled elk and moose rifles with 24-inch tubes. They are too cumbersome to move quickly in hog habitat which is usually thick, vine laden cover. You need a rifle that is quick to point, and easy to move around in close, tight situations.
A good 16-18 inch carbine type rifle will do the trick. And if you’re willing to play to play the NFA game, SBRs (short barreled rifles) are readily available, and generally quite effective. There are plenty of good options on the market, including some of the new AR platform rifles in calibers able to dispatch hogs in a hurry. Even the .223 is proving highly effective on pigs. Just see the previous post by Brian McCombie on the SHWAT site.
The popularity of the M4 style upper receiver has opened the door to new optic options for all of us. The old built in carry handle has been replaced with a flat top receiver with a picatinny rail. I have units mounted with traditional 1-inch tube scopes and others with electronic red dot sight technology. My favorite choices for this work are Leupold scopes including the new VX-R Firedot Hog with their new Pig-Plex reticle version (review coming soon), along with EOTechs and Leupold Prismatic Red Dot sights. Trijicon also makes an excellent scope with a naturally “lighted” reticle. I have one on my Rock River LAR-308 and it is the boss.
“I’ve seen scopes on some hog rifles for shots that are long at the end of a big open bean field or something. However, for usual Southeast hog hideouts in swampy, wet and tangled briars, even a good solid open sight will work. If you happen to want a scope on your hog gun, consider a low power model – or better yet – a red-dot electronic sight,” says hog hunter Jason Pope of Madison, MS.
Big Boar Big Bores?
The benchmark used to be “It’s the caliber stupid.” Hogs carry heavy armor plating and a tough hide. Lesser bullets can just bounce off or ricochet. Really? Forget the lightweights like the .223, 300 Whisper, .243, 6mm, 7mm-08, 260 and such cartridges for hogs. These choices simply do not offer the proper types of hunting bullets needed to penetrate and bring down an ornery pig. Really?
Hog hunting guide Bobby Jo at the Caryonah Hunting Lodge in Crossville, Tennessee commented, “At our boar hunting operation we suggest as a bare minimum the .270 Winchester or the 30-30. The 30-06 or the 308 also work well on pigs.” Thirty calibers with heavy, well made bullets in the 150-180 grain range are ideal. As an outfitter, I fully understand Bobby Jo’s concern for a quick, clean kill on his hogs. Maybe he needs some exposure to tactical pig hunting with folks that know how to hunt effectively with an AR?
Caliber sizes like the .44 or .45 can be effective such as the .444 Marlin or say the 450 Bushmaster in a Remington R-15. Another option is the little known Marlin 1895M lever action in .450 Marlin mounted with a Leupold EER (extended eye relief) scope in an X-Sights mount. What they might lack for long range work they more than make up for in the short range, where much of hog hunting takes place.
Today with modern ammo choices like the DRT 79-grain ammunition, the .223 is tough medicine on hogs via an AR platform. I have personally witnessed the killing power of this combination on a hunt in Oklahoma. I saw both big white-tailed deer, coyotes, and big hogs go down with this one. Other ammo manufacturers are quickly getting into this power curve business as well. Winchester has new loads out now, and others will be following suit.
Also of interest to SHWAT tactical hog hunters, the AR platform is constantly transforming itself with new cartridge offerings. Smith and Wesson is now chambering their MP-15-PC (Performance Center) AR rifle in the .300 Whisper. This is a pig whacker if there ever was one. Hornady is making the ammo already. The 6.8 SPC II round from Barnes has an impressive track record, and the .458 SOCOM is gaining traction. The 300 AAC Blackout has created an amazing buzz, and is dropping hogs in a package that uses standard AR magazines and regular sized AR upper and lower units. More to come I am sure.
In the Final Analysis
Regardless of your penchant for a particular pig poker caliber, it should go without saying that shot placement is paramount. Hog hunters need to be darn sure of where their gun is sighted on target regardless of the weapon or load choice they use. Wild pigs can be very unforgiving when it comes to poorly placed shots. And they rarely stand still for very long, thus the need for stealth hunting tactics.
Hence, the Condition One hunting status tactical hog hunters prefer. (Google Condition One and refer to the source about Jeff Cooper and read his definitions of Condition Zero through Condition Four.) That is to keep a round in the chamber, full magazine in the mag sleeve, hammer cocked-ready to fire, but safety ON. With fast hog action on a field full of porkers multiple shots will be a necessity if not the sheer joy of it. Try that with a three-shot bolt action.