Hogs can be damned tough animals to kill. Yes, a bullet or slug that blasts into and thru the heart-lung area will surely result in a dead pig. But getting a projectile into those vitals? That can be the difficult part.
A wild hog has a thick, resilient skin — frequently covered in dried mud — stretched out over a nice layer of impact-absorbing fat, and heavy muscles on top of rock-hard bones. Boars are further encased in a "shield," a layer of tough scar tissue beneath the skin and covering the shoulder areas. Formed through continuous fighting, shields can be two inches thick or better on a really stout boar, and feel a lot like a Kevlar vest.
Hit that shield with the wrong bullet or at a bad angle? You'll have an angry boar, and a running boar. But you won't have a dead one.
Plus, unlike deer, a high shoulder shot is not going to drop a big hog in his or her tracks. Heart and lungs are tucked down, forward and behind the front leg.
All that means hog hunters need rifle rounds and shotgun slugs that will penetrate and hold together, expanding as they go forward for maximum take down. Check out our list of the best hog hunting cartridges right now — you'll be glad you did.
Remington Hog Hammer
I was hunting hogs with a West Texas outfitter in September 2013, and the discussion at dinner the first night was about how a .30 caliber or larger round (preferably larger) was needed to take down a big hog. A .223, went the general discussion, was fine for smaller 'œmeat hogs.' But Big Daddy? He required Big Lead.
The next morning, I killed my biggest hog to date, a 310-pound boar as he trotted broadside to me at 90 yards. I hit him twice with Remington's
new Hog Hammer
ammunition in .223 Rem. My first shot took him in the right shoulder and, as I was shooting from a tripod stand about 15 feet in the air, the 62-grain Barnes TSX bullet angled down through the lungs. The second shot hit about 6 inches back and veered through his midsection.
He ran 100 yards and toppled over.
The first bullet, the kill shot, penetrated 16 inches of hog. The bullet front peeled back and expanded to .45 caliber; according to my scale, it still weighed 61.5 grains. It had pierced shield, broke bone and kept on trucking. The Barnes TSX is an all-copper bullet, designed to create impressive wound channels, while retaining nearly all of the bullet's weight. Remington also loaded it with low-flash propellants, for low light and night hunting to keep down the 'œbloom,' the blinding muzzle flash that can fill your optic.
Hog Hammer is also offered in .300 Blackout, .30 Rem AR, .30-30 Win., .308 Win, .30-06 and .450 Bushmaster. Me? I'm happy to keep using the .223 version, despite what I once heard at hog hunting camp!
Dynamic Research Technologies
Ammunition made by Dynamic Research Technologies (DRT)
is at the other end of the penetration spectrum, in that it is made to come apart — inside the animal — and in the process create devastating terminal ballistics.
DRT's 79-grain .223 Rem. round fires a frangible, lead-free bullet built around 'œpowder core technology.' Which means the bullet is comprised of a hard jacket encasing a highly compressed core of powdered metal. With that jacket, the DRT bullet punches through shield and bone — and then essentially blows apart several inches into the soft tissue. Imagine a small grenade going off inside a hog, and you have DRT.
I've seen these 79-grain DRTs take out 200-plus-pound hogs and big deer. Most of them dropped right there or with 30 yards. Dressing them out revealed heavily lacerated organs and huge pools of blood inside the body cavity.
True, exit wounds are rare with DRT, so tracking can be somewhat difficult. Although, I must add, the 2 feet to 20 yards I have had to walk to retrieve my DRT killed hogs? It's very do-able'¦.
Remington Premium Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded
Rifles chambered in .243 Win. have earned a good reputation as deer killers. Deservedly so. The round has the punch and the power to take out hogs, too, especially if you use a cartridge like Remington's Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded
PSP in .243 Win with a 100-grain bullet.
Out of the muzzle, the Core-Lokt is moving at 2,960 fps with 1,945 foot pounds of energy. Remington designed this bonded bullet to retain up to 95 percent of its original weight, for maximum penetration and a controlled expansion to nearly twice its original diameter.
At closer ranges, 80 yards and under, it is a through-and-through hog killer. At longer distances, it dumps all of its energy into an animal. It's accurate, too. It punches paper like a champ, and I've taken deer out to 300 yards with this round with one shot.
Weatherby .240 Weatherby Mag
Put simply, the .240 Weatherby Magnum
round is a screamer. Firing a 100-grain Hornady spire point, the bullet leaves the barrel at 3,400 fps, with 2,576 foot pounds of knock down energy. It's still hauling tail at distance. At 300 yards, for example, it's clipping along at 2,634 fps and delivering 1,544 foot pounds of killing energy (with a 26-inch barrel).
The bullet's Secant ogive profile penetrates the tough stuff, then flattens and expands nicely. At the same time, the base holds together so the bullet can drive on through shield and gristle.
Essentially employing a necked-down .30-06 Springfield cartridge, it's no surprise the .240 Weatherby Mag makes a good deal of noise. So much so, you may fire it a few times before you realize: despite the resounding blast, the round has almost no recoil.
The .270 Win. has been killing deer, elk, bear and, yes, hogs for decades now, and new bullet technology has made it an even more efficient hog whacker. Case in point: Federal Fusion
.270 Win with a 130 grain Fusion bullet.
Fusion bullets feature a copper jacket electro-chemically bonded to the lead core, all-but eliminating the possibility of a core/jacket separation. The boat tail rifle bullets feature a slight dimple in the nose that helps deliver an impact that radiates a killing shock throughout a hog. The 130-grain, spritzer boat-tailed .270 round has a muzzle velocity of 3,050 fps and muzzle energy of 2,685 ft. lbs. At 300 yards, the bullet is still zipping along at 2,368 fps with 1,618 ft. lbs. of killing energy.
If you prefer a slightly heavier round, the .270 Fusion also comes with a 150 grain bullet.
Lehigh Defense .300 Blackout
I first used this cartridge from Lehigh Defense
on a hog hunt in West Texas last year. My first impression: a Stars Wars kind of look, what with the open tip and the cuts down the outside of the bullet jacket.
At the range, the rounds fed fine. Spent brass ejected with ease, and I hit everything I aimed it at, from paper to metal targets. I also noticed that the 140-grain bullet, which moves out of the muzzle at 2,000 fps, actually knocked over the heavier metal hog-shaped targets that our .223 rounds only made wobble.
My chance at a hog came that first night, with a 110-yard shot that actually stuck the smallish, 80-pound hog a little higher in the shoulder area than I wanted. No matter. The controlled fracturing bullet did just that, went into the hog on his right side, peeled back into a number of petals, and then blew through and out the left ribcage with a hole nearly twice the size of a quarter. By my tape measure, the bullet traveled through some eight inches of solid hog — and kept on going.
Given the bullet speed and weight, you are probably looking at no more than 200-yard shots with this round. But within that range, you are going to hurt some pig...bad.
Winchester Razorback XT Hog Reaper
In 2012, Winchester Ammunition
introduced its Razorback XT
rounds in .223 Rem. and .308 Win. made specifically for hog hunting. If you are looking for a 30 caliber hog killer, the Razorback XT in .308 Win. is a great choice. The 150-grain bullet is one-piece and solid ('œmonolithic,' in ammo engineer jargon), is made of lead-free gilding metal. The Razorback bullet has a beveled profile and a deep hollow point. The beveling helps to 'œsqueeze' the bullet a bit on the sides when it first hits, aiding in penetration by delaying the expansion.
Flash suppressed powders make Razorback XT a fine choice for hunting in low light or after dark with night vision technology.
I've killed several hogs with XT in .308 Win., and all except one were one-shot and done. (The one that needed two rounds? I pulled the initial shot too far back.) I have been trying to dig out a Razorback bullet from a hog to measure and weigh it. Problem: they keep going all the way through! I'll keep trying.
We'd be very amiss to not include an offering in the venerable .30-06 Springfield. Venerable because, well, it can and has killed damn near every big game animal on the planet, and will certainly do the job on hogs large and small. Among the top hog selections in this chambering is this Hornady
30-06 Springfield 165 grain GMX Superformance International load.
This cartridge fires a solid, monolithic, copper-alloy GMX bullet, which is rated to retain 95 percent or more of its original weight for deep penetration and quick, humane kills. Superformace rounds also improve on velocities by 100 to 200 fps, for even more driving force, without adding noticeably to the recoil. The high quality brass functions fine in semi-autos, lever actions, pumps and bolt actions.
Wilson Combat .458 SOCOM
Bill Wilson is best known as the driving force behind rifle and handgun manufacturer Wilson Combat.
He's also a dedicated hog hunter, with several hundred hogs to his credit. His favorite hog cartridge? The .458 SOCOM round produced by his own Wilson Combat, firing a 300-grain Barnes TTSX bullet. From no less than a Wilson Combat LW .458 SOCOM rifle, of course.
Wilson calls the .458 round the AR-equivalent of the .45-70 Government. The ballistics bear this out, with a muzzle velocity of 1,800 fps from a 16-inch barrel, and 2,158 foot pounds of boar-smashing energy. Wilson calls this cartridge and rifle combo, 'œThe Hammer of Death' for wild hogs.
This is not a long-range sniper round. But within 150 yards, a solid hit means you will be bringing home the bacon.
Winchester Razorback XT
In 2013, Winchester Ammunition
added 2 ¾-inch shotgun slugs (as well as 00 Buckshot) to the Razorback XT line, to let slug hunters get in on the hog hunting fun. The 1-ounce slug has an engineered hollow point with a six-position beveled profile. The slug is made the peel back as it slams through hog, cutting s huge wound channel.
I used this slug to drop 230 pounds of West Texas boar early in 2013. I shot it at night (like their centerfire counterparts, Razorback XT slugs employ flash-suppressed propellants) at 110 yards, in the mid-shoulder area, and his only movement was to fall over dead.
The XT slugs were just as impressive at the range, where, using a Mossberg 500 Tactical shotgun topped with a Leupold VX-R Hog Scope, I was able to get three slug hole touching at 100 yards.
Hornady Custom Lite
One potential downside to slug gun hunting is the pounding your shoulder can take, especially from the newer high-powered slugs made to reach out and touch big game farther than ever. Hornady
is among those ammunition makers that has designed lower-recoiling slugs, in this case the Custom Lite 12 gauge launching a 300 grain FTX Slug from a 2 ¾-inch shell.
Hornady rates the Custom Lite as delivering 40 percent less felt recoil than standard slug shells. Yet the sabotted slug still leaves the barrel at an impressive 1,575 fps, and Hornday rates it as an effective deer killer out to 150 yards. On impact, the Flex Tip on the slug compresses back into the slug for maximum expansion. Meanwhile, the slug's heavy jacket over the shank of the bullet keeps core and jacket physically locked together for deep penetration and devastating impact.
Federal Speer Gold Dot
Early in 2013, gun maker Land Warfare Resources Corporation (LWRC) debuted the LWRC Six8 Carbine, a new rifle built around the 6.8SPC round. Specifically for this rifle, ammo giant Federal/ATK re-designed the 6.8 SPC round into the SPCII XM68GD, firing a 90-grain Federal/ATK Gold Dot bullet
This bonded soft point bullet is among the top factory-loaded hog killers on the market today, says Dr. Chris Lucci, owner of Wild River Ranch LLC in Goliad, Texas. Lucci helped test out the LWRC Six8 and the ammo at his ranch on dozens of wild hogs.
'œThe ATK/Federal 90 grain Gold Dot is truly bonded, as the lead core adhered to the copper jacket even when the petals peeled all the way back, and at higher speeds,' says Lucci. 'œIt's a breakthrough in bonded cup/core designs, in my opinion. We shot 35 hogs from the helo using the LWRC and XM68GD, and I saw a lots of one-shot knock downs.'
The round is a little tough to find, but more is being produced, so keep your eyes open for it.