What Makes the Perfect Hog Cartridge?
April 03, 2015
Feral swine populations are booming across the nation and pigs are consistently spreading into new areas. In 1982, wild hog populations were present in 16 states. Today, they are found in 36 states from Maine to California, and cause an estimated $1.5 billion dollars in damage to crops annually.
Intelligent and highly adaptable, these feral swine have managed to take up residence in swamps, forests, plains, and even on the fringes of suburbia, leading to huge problems for farmers and wildlife. Hogs carry and transmit a variety of diseases including pseudorabies, toxoplasmosis, tularemia and more, outcompeting and displacing native wildlife populations.
The effects of hog introduction and overpopulation are far-reaching and present a major ecological problem. However, the silver lining is that state wildlife agencies offer liberal seasons and limits on feral swine and each year more and more hunters are taking to the woods in search of outlaw pigs.
There is no game animal in North America that varies as much in size as the feral hog. In many areas the bulk of the pigs you'll encounter weigh less than forty pounds, but there's also the remote possibility that you could run into a boar that weighs ten times that. All pigs are tough, but old males have heavily-armored shoulders that can stop a bullet.
Hogs are hunted by a variety of means and each method requires different equipment; you may be following a pack of hog dogs in the canebrakes of east Texas and in that case shots will be quick and close. Then again, it may be a spot-and-stalk affair where you'll glass for pigs and move into position for a shot once they are spotted, and that means you'll need a flat-shooting cartridge with a magnified optic.
There is no other North American big game animal that is hunted in so many ways — hogs are regularly pursued at night with infrared equipment, shot from moving helicopters, bayed by dogs, baited to stands, and simply taken as a species of opportunity when hunting something else. A hog rifle, then, needs to be versatile.
The current trend toward AR-platform rifles for hogs makes sense. Wild boar are gregarious and are often found in large sounders (groups) numbering dozens of individuals. If the goal is eradication then the objective is to put down as many hogs as possible quickly and efficiently and the AR is a great choice for that type of operation.
Then again, you can hunt hogs with just about any type of rifle you'd like, from pumps and lever guns to semiautos and bolt actions. Caliber selection is obviously very important, but bullet selection is critical as well.
In almost all cases you'll want a tough bullet that's constructed to penetrate through the shoulder of a big hog. For this reason, many hog hunters use full metal jacket bullets, especially in smaller caliber rifles like the 5.56.
But there are also a growing number of ammunition companies that are offering extra-tough expanding bullets in hog-specific ammunition including Hornady's new Full Boar (which uses the brand's GMX bullets) and Winchester's successful Razorback XT line. It takes a lot of bullet to get through that thick mass of scar tissue on a boar's shoulder, and these two bullets will do it.
Some hunters see the growing hog problem as an excuse to go buy a new rifle (as if you needed an excuse). There are a lot of good pig guns on the market now, but chances are that your favorite predator or deer rifle will probably work just fine.
There are a lot of great options for hog hunters, but here are some of the very best choices for today's pig hunter. They cover a wide spectrum of bullet diameters, velocities, and action types, but the good news is that no matter how you hunt your hog, whether that's in dense cover with dogs or out in the open, there's a cartridge that will work for you. The trick is finding out which cartridge has the balance of power, trajectory and energy you need to hunt hogs where you live.
Here's a list of 10 great hog hunting cartridges and a bit about what makes them so effective: