What Caliber is Big Enough?

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‘DON’T DO IT’

Quite often the question of caliber comes up in conversations about tactical hunting, as well as readers from all over the world asking, what caliber, or what gun should they use for hunting wild boar? My answer is quite simple. Use the largest caliber that you can totally control. I know that some readers will take exception to my rule, saying that they drop deer dead in their tracks with a .243 or a .223 etc. That’s all well and good, and I have done the same thing. In fact, the largest wild hog that I ever killed (over 300 lbs.) was a one shot kill with a .22 long rifle cartridge fired out of my wife’s Browning .22 rifle. I was hunting in the swamps of Southern Mississippi, during the mid 1960’s, when the big daddy boar of the pack winded me and just wouldn’t let it go; he had to protect his brood. Either that or he was just showing off for the ladies, either way, it was a terminal decision for him.

Hog Hunting RiflesI didn’t want him. I was after a little 20-30-lb. piglet to bar-b-que whole, but he persisted. I was squatting down behind the roots of a large cypress tree hoping he would forget me and go away. No such luck. He was a persistent critter. Once he got within about 20 ft, I decided it was time – I could wait no longer and as I formed a silent prayer in my racing brain, he raised his huge, ugly, mud encrusted snout to wind me. I took my shot, right where cartilage turned to bone in the bridge of his nose. With a little skill on my part, helped along by a generous dose of divine intervention, the little .22 caliber pellet of lead found its way straight to the base of his brain, very quickly and effectively unplugging his computer. I continued to squat in about 12 inches of water until he ceased to twitch and by that time, my heart rate and breathing had returned to some semblance of normal (well, not quite!) and I proceeded to drag and float him out of the swamp to my waiting car. That was tactical hog hunting before tactical and hunting were allowed to be used in the same sentence.

While I was waiting for my vision to clear, my hearing to return to normal, my adrenaline level to drop and for my knees to quit knocking together, I took stock of what had transpired over the last few minutes. Through sloppy planning and a misplaced sense of my innate ability with the trusty .22 rifle – I had placed myself in a rather awkward and potentially dangerous position – a position where the caliber of my gun did not match the ferocity of my opponent. I was so sadly under gunned!

At this point in my life, I had already spent 4 years in the Air Force Air Police Security. I was a competition shooter, small arms instructor, gunsmith and an avid hunter. On duty, I had been in more than a few ‘serious confrontations’ and fully understood, as well as appreciated, the fact that when hunting ‘dangerous game’ a proper weapon of proper caliber is dictated.

I choose to ignore that concept on this particular hog hunt and it could have cost my kids their father!

My little voice had told me ‘don’t do it’, but I didn’t listen to it!


WHY USE A LARGE CALIBER?

Daniel Defense 6.8 SPCI have many years’ experience as a law enforcement officer; with quite a few devoted to being a sniper, as well as a small arms & officer survival instructor and special team member (drug task force), sniper and patrol officer. I am also a retired working diver, so my exposure to dangerous and potentially lethal situations was an everyday occurrence. I am still an adrenaline junkie (that’s one reason I like hog hunting) and will be until the day I die.

All of these endeavors teach and drive home – sometimes rather painfully – the absolute necessity of being properly trained, prepared and equipped. That is-IF-you want to continue breathing.

As a military policeman in 1960, I was issued a 1911 A1 .45 ACP automatic pistol. I have always carried one since. Why? Because it does the job. I love large calibers simply because I believe they give me the edge in a firefight. One of the phrases I use in instruction is: “Bigger is better and heaviest is best”. This pertains to caliber and bullet weight. The larger the bullet diameter, the better chance you have of hitting something important and the heavier the bullet – the deeper it will penetrate. Temper this with the fact that maximum stopping power is transmitted to the target only IF the bullet remains in said target and does not exit the backside to vent its remaining energy on some poor unsuspecting tree. To me, this spells .45 auto. – big heavy bullet travelling relatively slow – for people targets.


BUT WHAT ABOUT RECOIL?

DRT 308 223For hunting, especially if hunting the thicker-skinned targets such as a European Boar – the hunter might be better off armed with a .44 magnum.

No matter the target, one should never carry a caliber larger than he can control. This breaks down simply; if the recoil is so great that you can’t hit where you are looking, or is so severe that it greatly reduces the speed and accuracy of a second (or more if needed) shot, then the caliber/recoil/bullet weight needs to be reduced to where it is totally controllable. Don’t go any smaller than you absolutely must and climb back up the ‘caliber ladder’ as experience and target score dictates.

Remember, there is no substitute for range time and powder burned. To attain any degree of proficiency, time must be spent shooting your gun of choice, no matter the caliber or recoil.

For me with 40 plus years of “45 experience”, recoil means a muzzle climb of about 2 inches or less, with a second shot headed for the bulls eye in less than a second. This comes from decades of practice and many gallons of expended adrenaline. .44 Magnum and .45 Long Colt handguns are not quite as controllable, but I can still get off second and third shots that stay in the black. Until you can do this consistently at the range, DON’T carry the larger caliber handguns on a hunt for dangerous game. However, large caliber rifles are not quite as hard to control.

As for long guns, I favor a .308 or larger caliber for most long-range hunting. For close up and personal – like we have in the swamps of South Alabama – a smaller caliber lever action or semi-automatic rifle is preferred for the increased speed of following shots. These multiple shots are sometimes required when one finds oneself surrounded by a whole gaggle of squealing piglets, sows and boars.

Considering the vast improvements made in bullet design in the last few years, a whole new field has been opened up pertaining to choice of caliber and bullet design as well as weight, for use on dangerous game.


“BUT, I CAN PLACE MY SHOT.”

.338 Lapua Magnum Weatherby‘But Chuck, I can place my shot’. Yep, I hear that quite often and I don’t argue. SOME men can ‘place or call’ their shots– but not many. It is a proven fact that when engaged in a gunfight, a person’s marksmanship ability suddenly drops to considerably less than half that of his average range scores. Okay, you contend that you aren’t in a gunfight. I’ll grant that and add a prayer that you never are, they are NOT fun! But what you are engaged in is a fight to the death of an animal that is – by now – highly pissed, and on top of that he possesses the weaponry (big buck toothed TUSKS), as well as the highly skilled ability to use them, to seriously unzip you. This can be just as high speed as a defensive shooting situation.

Place yourself in that situation and then tell me about placing your shot! Not likely! It may be all you can do to remember to pull the trigger – instead of messing up your pants – much less ‘sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze’.

Granted, it is possible to place your shot with the precision of a highly experienced sniper. I took two hogs this year, both with head shots. But I was totally calm at the time, not dumping and pumping a bucket full of adrenaline. Had the situation been different and I had been in a small room facing a big Boar with a mouth full of sharp tusks, then my shots might not have been placed with such surgical precision!

If you are one of the few who can truly ‘place your shot’ under stressful conditions, then I would be proud to know you; you are one of an elite group.

One thing that all hunters – no matter their level of expertise – need to remember is that when hunting wild hogs, you are hunting something potentially dangerous and it has the tools to kill you. Go prepared and that way ‘you will live to come home at the end of the hunt’.


EQUIPMENT

Wilson Combat .458 SOCOMI live by the old Boy Scout rule – “Be Prepared”. I learned it long ago, have never forgotten it, have lived by applying it to many different walks of life and guess what – I’m still alive!

As a police officer, I learned that if it’s not on your duty belt, it won’t help you. Equipment left behind is totally useless.

As a salvage diver working in zero visibility, I learned to be self-reliant – I was on my own – my life depended on my knowledge and experience.

As a commercial pilot, flying under all conditions in varied airplanes, I learned to rely on my equipment and use it to its limits. That way the passengers got home in one piece!

In all instances, as well as in hunting and shooting, I NEVER skimp on my equipment, or caliber. I carry the best that I can obtain. Example – my back-up hunting handgun (also my self-defense) is a Kimber Tactical Ultra II .45 Auto, which cost over $1,000.00, or a Ruger New Vaquero in .45 L.C. Not bragging, just stating the fact for a reason. That reason in the form of a question is – “What’s your life worth?”

TERMINAL THOUGHTS

What this all boils down to is quite simple. You should suit your equipment to the task at hand and in so doing, be sure to consider all aspects of the equation. When you are 30 yards from two boars that are already angry and fighting before you pull the trigger, things can get dicey, making my point all the more important. Temper this with the advice of more learned persons and above all, spend lots of time becoming absolutely proficient with the tools of your trade.

Keep an eye on www.SHWAT.com to learn more about defensive firearms training that will up your hunting game.

 

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