June 14, 2013
Cliche? Yeah. But it’s early…
Anyway, headed out today for CA, and later up to Spokane for the next week. I doubt I’ll have any updates unless there’s some news on the hog hunting or lead ammo front. I think CA is drawing closer to that statewide ban, by the way… hunters take notice, and if it’s worth it to you, take action. Is there still time? Never surrender.
In the meantime, here’s another video blast from the past…
June 12, 2013
Not all that long ago, I think it was Neil, one of the elite… a “regular reader”… suggested that I take a run at back-up handguns for hog hunting. So I will, but with a video caveat…
I’m not an expert handgunner.
I’m not even very good (compared to many handgun marksmen I’ve known). But I do like to shoot anything that goes, “bang,” so while I may not know a ton about the latest and greatest in pistols and revolvers, I’ve got enough knowledge to be dangerous.
But first off, let me say this. A “back-up” handgun really isn’t something most hog hunters require. If you need a finishing shot, your rifle is usually perfectly adequate for the job. I know a lot of guys (including me) who started out carrying some sort of small ordnance as “insurance” or to administer that “coup de grace”. After a while, the majority of us stopped. For hunting the back country in places like CA, every extra ounce of weight counts. And truth be told, I can’t think of anyone who has had the need to switch from their primary weapon to a handgun on a hunt. I know we all have theoretical scenarios, but trust me… they just don’t happen very often.
As a guide, on the other hand, I almost always carried a handgun. In fact, while working at Native Hunt we were required to carry. It made no sense not to be prepared for the worst, since guides are responsible for the clients’ safety. Even then, the only time we generally had to use our sidearms was during dog hunts, and then it was usually at powderburn range (exchange your handgun for the hunter’s rifle and let him do the “honors”). Despite the potential and mythical power of a wild boar’s charge, it simply doesn’t happen all that often… and when it does, it is very seldom life threatening.
On the other hand, hogs are tough… even the little ones… and if you want to go handgunning for them, I recommend that you follow the oft-abused-but-generally-faithful aphorism… Use Enough Gun.
What is “enough gun” for hogs? That’s a question guaranteed to spark a lively debate among hog hunters, but I’d also argue that it’s a good way to weed out the guys with experience vs. the guys who have read too many ballistics tables or magazine articles. In almost every circle, there’s going to be some guy who swears you can kill them with something like a .22magnum. “It’s all about shot placement,” this person will say. And I’d say that person has probably never killed a hog with a handgun, unless he was standing in a pen.
Right here, let me make a relatively brief aside and bring up the subject of action types. For the most part, you’ve got semi-automatics and you’ve got revolvers. While I tend to side with old-school thinking and believe that you can’t beat a revolver for reliability and simplicity, I have to concede that there’s really nothing wrong with a quality semi-automatic. A lot of guys are intimately familiar with their semi-autos, and that means they’re going to shoot them better.
For the most part, semi-automatic handguns are not chambered in suitable hunting rounds. To the layman, it may seem like the .45acp, the .40S&W, or the 10mm is a cannon and should be good for anything short of T-Rex. But it’s just not so. They just don’t deliver the penetration and energy to reliably drop a large hog (unless you’re hunting with dogs, and shooting bayed or caught pigs).
“But you get multiple follow-up shots,” you might argue. True, but unless you’re an expert handgunner, the odds of sinking a kill shot in a panicked, running hog are slim. Spray and pray is great in video games, but not so much in real life… especially if you plan to eat what you just shot full of holes. That said, some guys do still choose to hunt with their .40s or even their .45s, and they will probably kill some hogs under the right conditions. Nevertheless, I keep hearing tales from these same guys about having to shoot four or five times to drop a hog. That tells me that there are better options. And most of those better options come in the form of revolvers.
In my limited experience, and in the wider experience of fellow guides and hunters, the .357 magnum is a bare minimum for hog hunting. Truthfully, it lacks much in the way of outright killing power, but it is a round that most people can manage fairly well. There’s a tradeoff there, but it’s worth consideration. A well-placed .357 with a good bullet (e.g. Barnes XPB) will bring down most hogs reasonably quickly. However, a poorly placed shot will likely result in an extended, and often fruitless, trailing job. Not to mention that I’ve seen head shots from the .357 bounce right off.
If you follow incrementally, the next caliber to look at would be the .41 Remington Magnum. It’s unfortunate that I just don’t know many people who use this caliber, and those I do know use it on deer. Ballistics suggest that this would be a reasonable caliber for hogs, at an appropriate range and with a good bullet. However, when you look closely, it doesn’t offer a whole lot more than the .357 at close ranges. The real benefit of this round comes at longer ranges, however; it doesn’t carry a lot of energy when it gets out there.
Next up is the .44 Remington Magnum. Now we’re getting somewhere. If someone asked me to recommend a hog hunting handgun, this is probably where I’d point them. A full-powered .44mag has enough oomph to put the hurt on almost any hog at ranges inside 50 yards or so (although you shouldn’t expect dramatic, instant knock-downs). My go-to handgun for hogs has always been my Ruger Super Blackhawk, a sweet, single-action revolver with a 7 1/2″ stainless barrel. While I am personally partial to my choice, there are a variety of quality handcannons chambered for this load, and available in single or double action conformations.
I think it’s critical to mention here, however, that even though the .44mag is a powerful round and well-suited for hogs, it’s still a handgun round. It loses energy quickly at longer ranges, and while a skilled marksman can shoot this thing accurately at 100 yards, it’s not going to do a lot of damage way out there. On something like a hog that doesn’t usually leave a good blood trail, you still need to consider keeping your shots in close.
Once you get past the .44magnum, you’re into the realm of serious hog killing handguns. However, I do want to make a note about the .45 Colt. This round is widely used by antique firearms shooters, and as a result, most factory loads are relatively meek so they don’t blow those old guns to pieces. Modern .45s are much stronger and able to handle much heavier charges. I recommend doing the research and selecting a more powerful factory load (such as those produced by Cor-Bon) for hog hunting. Another good option is handloading. The .45 is a very capable hog gun, but it needs a stout load to realize that capability.
After this, you start to get into the real cannons… the .454 Casull, the .460 S&W, .480 Ruger, and a slew of .50 calibers. Any of these will certainly be “enough gun” for hogs. However, you really need to understand that some of these are simply too much gun for hog hunters. It’s a common mistake, often driven by testosterone and machismo, to get the biggest-baddest thing you can find. The problem is, unless you’re an experienced handgunner, all these monsters are going to do is generate bad habits (flinching, closing your eyes), and possibly hurt you. They’re not for everybody.
Most handgun instructors strongly recommend starting out with something small. A .22lr revolver is an excellent trainer, and you can learn the mechanics of handgun shooting, hone your accuracy, and perfect your form without concern about recoil or muzzle blast. And even after you move up to the bigger guns, you should practice often with lighter loads. For example, the .357mag can be used with .38 Special amm for less expensive, lower recoil practice. The .44mag handles .44 Special ammo perfectly well, or for even lighter loads you can use some of the “Cowboy” loads which have extremely low recoil and muzzle flash. Same goes for the .45 Colt.
In my personal experience with handgunning, I have found that it more closely resembles archery than rifle shooting. You have to practice until you establish muscle memory. You want to work on perfecting your shooting form, and then be conscious of it all the time. A slight lean, a twist, torquing the grips… any of these minor flaws will cause your accuracy to suffer. Even if you decide to put a scope on your handgun, all of these things apply. There’s just much less gun there to forgive your minor mistakes.
So no matter what gun you choose, or whether it’s a primary or a back-up weapon, there’s one word that will mean more than anything else… and that’s practice.
June 11, 2013
Sorry. No hunting for me for a while. And this lead ban thing, it isn’t going anywhere.
(Oh, and if you’re new here, I absolutely reject the idea of the lead ammo ban… in CA or anywhere else. It’s unnecessary legislation that will place a significant burden on hunters without making any appreciable positive difference to the environment, wildlife, or human health. I am strongly against the lead ammo ban.)
A while back, I mentioned that I’d run into a recent meme about how lead free bullets may run afoul of “cop killer bullet” legislation, resulting in a ban on non-lead ammo. At the time, I thought it was the product of some paranoid, under-informed (albeit well-meaning) gun nut who had simply misinterpreted the BATF regulations.
Thus it was only with mild surprise that I learned the source of this “rumor” was none other than those paranoid, over-informed (they know better) gun nuts at the NRA. Since that first exposure to this piece of “information”, I’ve seen it repeated in multiple places around the Interwebz… including a prominent place on the NRA/NSSF shill site, HuntForTruth.Org. The other day I saw it in an “Action Alert” from the USSF (US Sportsmens Foundation). Today, I saw it repeated again in a letter from the NSSF to the CA Senate Natural Resources Committee as part of an appeal to reject AB711 (the expansion of the CA lead ammo ban).
Before I dump on a little more derision to this blatant fear-mongering and misdirection, here’s what’s going on.
In 1986, Public Law 99-408, the so-called “Cop Killer Bullet law” was passed. The key section, Section B states:
The term ‘armor piercing ammunition’ means a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances)from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron,brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium. Such term does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Secretary finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Secretary finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.
Note, first of all, that the regulation applies ONLY to ammunition which may be used in a handgun. The reason for this specific language is that pretty much any center-fire rifle bullet will penetrate soft body-armor… the criteria by which “armor piercing” is defined in the context of this law.
You’re probably thinking the same thing I thought, back in 1998 or ’99 when I took this question to the SHOT Show with me. Under the terms of this law, wouldn’t a copper handgun bullet be banned? I talked to an engineer and a marketing guy at Barnes, and then I went and asked an ATF agent (they always have a huge booth at the SHOT Show). Their answers matched perfectly, and in fact, you may have already seen the answer right there in the language of the law. “Such term does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmentalor game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Secretary finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes…”
So Barnes was able to get their all-copper, handgun bullets through the BATF process because the Secretary found that it was intended for sporting purposes. However, it did take a lot of work from both the Barnes engineers and their legal team to make it happen.
According to the letter from the NSSF (and co-signed by several hunting and conservation organizations), there are at least 19 companies who have submitted requests to have their lead-free bullet approved. Now I understand how bureaucracy works, so I can see that there are likely delays. But I did some research to see what bullets they might be talking about. Only one case came up, and it was from 2011. It involved an ammo maker who had developed a line of brass bullets for the 5.7x28mm cartridge. Because the manufacturer had apparently failed to submit the design, BATF raided his business and seized the ammunition. He argued that his design was the same as the Barnes banded solids and met the “sporting use” requirement.
As a layman, I could see where this thing walked a fine line. The manufacturer’s original argument was that the bullet was designed for a rifle, so it should be exempt from the bill in the first place. However, it does not appear to have been originally designed for hunting or sporting purposes. Again, it’s a fine line to my untrained eye. But if this is a similar case with all of the 19 alleged applicants, I can certainly see why there’s an extended delay.
The rest of the argument relies on the fact that there are many handguns designed to shoot rifle cartridges. These include the Thompson Contender, Remington XP-100, Weatherby Mark V CFP, and a few others. Should one choose to twist logic a bit, one could argue that under the letter of P.L. 99-408, any ammunition that could be used in one of these “handguns” would be subject to the BATF review process. This is the twisted technicality upon which the NRA/NSSF rest their argument. And technically, I suppose it’s true enough. But the suggestion that this review is actually underway, or even being considered is nothing more than propaganda for the paranoid.
The ATF is not planning to recategorize all lead-free rifle ammunition as “armor piercing”. They’re not going to make the manufacturers pull all of their ETips, Barnes bullets, Lapua Naturalis, Winchester PowerCore, Remington Copper Solids, and Federal Trophy Copper off of the shelf and send it in for review. A lead ban in California is not going to be a de facto hunting ban because of the Cop Killer legislation.
So there ya go! If you can’t dazzle ‘em with brilliance, baffle ‘em with bullshit.
June 10, 2013
In the dusty recesses of my desk, I uncovered a veritable treasure trove of stuff that I need to review. OK, there were only a couple of things that had been stowed away while I’m remodeling my office, but I was glad to find them. Because I spent the better part of this past weekend in the air between NC and TX, the first item I chose to review was a book… Nature Wars by Jim Sterba.
Nature Wars is an attempt to describe how our efforts to manage wildlife turned out to be too successful. It’s an excellent illustration of the rule of unintended consequences… or how the road to hell is actually paved.
In the book, Sterba lays out his case in three key parts. First, there is the foundation of all wildlife… the forests. We read the tale of how the great forests were initially decimated as the country was settled. Most of us are familiar with this part of the story, but Sterba takes us a little deeper with facts (and factoids) so that, instead of reading like an indictment of evil, it’s easy to understand how it happened. For example, he explains how critical wood was to the early settlers as a building material and a source of power and heat. Then he shows us how the eastern forests have been in a fairly continuous state of regrowth. It is no longer “recovery”, but expansion. In some places the eastern forests cover even more ground than they did when the settlers first arrived.
Later, he goes into the history of wildlife and how close we came to completely wiping out entire species through uncontrolled hunting (especially market hunting), habitat loss, and disease. The way west was paved by the beaver, as the rodent’s skin practically drove the entire economy. As beavers were wiped out of one area, the trappers continued to push them further and further west. Their current comeback has created multiple conflicts as they must now share their habitat with humans. Beavers don’t really differentiate between landscape and wild trees. And once they begin to dam a watercourse, that water has to go somewhere… which often means it backs up over roadways, fields, and even homes.
Likewise, Sterba tells the story of the decimation and recovery of whitetail deer and turkeys… both of which have become nuisances, or even menaces to farmers, homeowners, and drivers. As with the other sections, Sterba uses a combination of historical data, statistics, and anecdotal information to make his case.
Throughout the book, Sterba manages to maintain something of a netural-but-interested perspective. While you can certainly sense occasional narrative bias, he leaves most of the judgment to the reader. “But,” he seems to say. “Before you judge, consider the whole story through the perspective of the people who were there.”
Did I “like” the book?
I found it very interesting, and it made me consider some things I hadn’t thought about before. It was sort of strange that, after reading the first half on the way into Wilmington, NC., I noticed how much bigger the trees in and around town seemed to be. The old highway corridor from the airport to my mom’s house was practically walled by enormous trees (liberally hung with kudzu). I don’t recall it ever looking that way. I think this is part of what he was talking about when he described the “reforestation” that’s happening before our eyes.
I also really appreciated his discussion of the complicated web of “solutions” for the current issues caused by the return of so many wildlife species. I know how some of those conversations can turn, and how logic is often overwhelmed by emotion. California is one perfect example of wildlife management through the ballot box, but as Sterba points out in the book, CA is hardly unique there.
Sterba’s writing is very good. The writing itself is clean, and he builds each paragraph carefully. I found little to complain about, except that much of the book is very dry. At times I did have to labor a bit to keep reading because even though the story was very interesting, the storytelling was sort of flat. I’ve certainly seen it done better… but I’ve also seen much, much worse.
You can find Nature Wars on Amazon or most other online booksellers.
June 5, 2013
Just got this press release yesterday.
I know a few of you out there enjoy hunting as a couple, or as a family. The Brunsons’ show is pretty good, by outdoors/hunting television standards. It’s got a nice, amateur feel with good production values and a generally good set of hunting and outdoors ethics.
There’s nothing in this for me, but if one of you readers should happen to make the cut, please let us all know here at the Hog Blog. We can say, “we knew you when…”
Who Will Be Television’s Next Superstar Outdoor Hunting Couple? Could It Be You?
Addicted to the Outdoors TV Show Open Casting Call
Gina and Jon Brunson want to make you and your honey TV stars. Jon and Gina Brunson, hosts of the award winning Addicted to the Outdoors (ATTO) television show, are expanding their Addicted brand. They’re searching for a select few Addicted to the Outdoors Couples.
Addicted Couples is focused on shining a spotlight on family participation in the outdoors and on couples who make the outdoors more than a hobby – who make it a lifestyle.
Entering is easy. Just shoot a short video of four minutes or less with your mobile device or video camera. Introduce yourselves and show your on-camera personality and passion for hunting. Shoot indoors or out. The key is to let Jon and Gina get to know you. Post the unedited video to YouTube.com and share a link to the video with Jon and Gina no later than June 30, 2013.
The ATTO crew will review all submissions. Ten couples will be selected to interview with Jon and Gina via Skype.
One of Your Hunts Filmed for TV
That’s right, it’s lights, camera, action – and you’ll be the stars! Several couples’ hunts will be filmed with the intent of becoming a full-length episode of Addicted to the Outdoors for the 2014 television season. If you have what it takes to be an Addicted Couple, ATTO will send its award-winning professional production film crew to you. The crew will film one of the hunts you already have planned for the 2013 summer/fall hunting season.
From this launch deck, Jon and Gina believe they can build a national ATTO movement and potentially develop our next television series, Addicted to the Outdoors Couples.
Who Will Be Television’s Next Superstar Outdoor Hunting Couple? It Could It Be You?
June 2, 2013
Sometimes, I think it’s good to stop for a minute, and remember why I’m here.
No, not the deeper, personal existential questions about god and self and the universe, but why I’m here on this blog. What is the Hog Blog all about? Why do I take the time to write this stuff, and what do I hope to accomplish?
The Hog Blog is the love child of two of my biggest passions… hunting and writing. And I love teaching, not in the strictly pedantic way, but simply by sharing information and knowledge… and sometimes, by sharing my own mistakes and foibles.
I’ve spent the better part of my life hunting and shooting, but I’m no expert. I’ve learned a lot from my time in the field, but I keep learning every time I go out there. I’ve been privileged to spend time with real experts, and I’ve done a lot of research to flesh out my life learning with book learning. I recognize that my scope of knowledge is tempered by my personal bias, but I make an effort to push past that to get a wider perspective.
What you see on these “pages” is a sort of electronic potlatch… assembled here is a table laden with all I have, and you are free to take away what you will. Or put in something of your own.
When I write on the Hog Blog, part of what I try to do is offer that bigger picture, along with my own take on it. But even as I type the words, I’m aware that my own take is imperfect. It may be flawed or incomplete, but it is always honest. I am willing to stand corrected. I intend this blog to be a learning experience for me, as well as for you readers. I want to challenge, but I also want to be challenged.
And sometimes, I simply want to entertain. A hunting story here, a shared experience there, a video or an interesting photo… and maybe some of the stuff I always wish we could see in magazines these days, instead of the constant hype about the latest gear and gizmos and how to shoot animals from two zip codes away. I know I’m no Jim Carmichel, any more than I’m Robert Ruark. I guess if I were, I wouldn’t have time to be sitting here, blogging for free. But I generally enjoy what I do, and I hope that at least from time to time, you folks enjoy it too.
May 31, 2013
I can’t believe it’s already Friday, and I haven’t posted since Monday! Easy to tell I’m not on vacation anymore.
Anyway, I’ll get it back on track. In the meantime, my friend Jeff, from the Cedar Knoll Hunting Lodge down in the SC low country, was kind enough to share the following photo with me.
Sorry, it’s a bit graphic. But what you see here is the result of folks attempting head shots on game. In this particular case, it looks like the hog’s lower jaw actually started to grow over, which is a testament to how tough these animals are. According to Jeff, this guy was managing to lick up enough food to keep himself alive.
But the key point is that this is a fairly common result of taking head shots. Let the crosshairs (or sights) drift a little at the shot, and you’ve horribly maimed the animal. It makes for a nearly impossible tracking job, especially without dogs, and the animal can live for a long time with such a wound. Considering the alternatives, including the neck shot or the standard “boiler room” shot, there’s simply no need to risk this outcome.
I’ve had the discussion before on my old blog site, and I still stand by my position here. Sure, the head shot is a quick kill. It’s not too hard for an experienced and skilled rifleman. But it just isn’t something I’m going to recommend or advocate… especially for newer hunters. There are better options with less risk.
Enough for now. Have a great weekend, folks!
May 27, 2013
As we start off this holday Monday, I want to offer my humble salute to all the men and women who have served our country, past and present, in times of war and in times of peace, in harm’s way and on the home front.
Lots of other people are offering up the somber and the serious, and it’s right and well to do so. But there’s nothing wrong with a smile or two. So here goes, if you’ve got a couple of minutes… enjoy!
May 24, 2013
A US District Court judge in Washington, D.C. has, once again, ruled that the EPA does not have the authority to regulate ammunition components. This derails efforts by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to pursue a lawsuit which would force the EPA to consider a nationwide ban on lead bullets and shot.
Due to provisions in the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA is specifically prohibited from passing regulations to restrict ammunition manufacture or sale because ammunition falls into a category of products subject to special taxation. It’s fairly technical, at least to my layman’s mind, but it does appear to be pretty clear. Apparently the DC District Court agrees. The “how-and-why” of this prohibition is spelled out in the Act itself, if you’re interested in reading through. You can find it HERE. Specific language is in Section 3, under Definitions (2)(B)(v).
While I am occasionally at odds with statements from the NSSF, I have to agree completely with the NSSF Senior V.P., Larry Keane’s comments:
“There is quite simply no sound science that shows the use of traditional ammunition has harmed wildlife populations or that it presents a health risk to humans who consume game taken with such ammunition,” said Keane. “Banning traditional ammunition would cost tens of thousands of jobs in America and destroy wildlife conservation that is funded in part by an 11 percent excise tax on the sale of ammunition. The protection and management of wildlife is properly handled by the professional biologists in the state fish and game agencies, as it has been for over a hundred years.”
Of course we all know this isn’t the end of the issue. The CBD leadership is primarily composed of lawyers, and you can bet they’ll continue to beat against this door until it gives. They’ve got nothing but time, and apparently no shortage of funding. Even so, the NRA and NSSF are working through channels to get legislation passed that will clearly exempt ammunition components from regulation by the EPA in hopes of heading this thing off, once and for all.
Meanwhile, in California the statewide lead ammo ban is one step closer to passage. AB711, which expands the current lead ban to cover the entire Golden State passed the Assembly and is now before the Senate. Given the makeup of the CA government right now, it seems likely that the bill will pass through to Governor Brown’s desk. I’m sure Mr. Brown has better things on which to focus his attention, and I have little doubt that he will quickly sign the bill into law… if for no better reason than to move on to other issues.
The only thing that might possibly stall this thing would be a significant show of political force from the state’s sportsmen and women. Flood the Senate with mail, email, and phone calls. Fill the State Capitol with hunters and gun owners, and focus on factual talking points at every opportunity. Send letters to newspapers and television stations across the state. Contest this thing tooth and nail.
Or start shopping for lead-free ammo and hope for the best.
May 22, 2013
I just got the latest from my friends at Impressum Media, the producers of The Firearms Guide DVDs.
Every year, I kind of wonder what in the world they can do to improve this incredible firearms reference guide. It already has tens of thousands of firearms, conversion charts to help international hunters match up European calibers with US equivalents, printable targets, and so much more. But they’ve done it. Not only have they continued to expand the listings of conventional guns, including printable schematics, but they’ve now added an extensive listing of military firearms, historic and modern. As a minor war history buff, I found the listings of military firearms to be pretty danged cool.
As I clicked through the DVD, I was quickly overwhelmed with the amount of information it provides. Simple browsing can be fun, but sometimes you want to be very specific. No problem. Because the whole guide is built on a database engine, you can search based on a wide variety of keywords, from action type, to manufacturer, to available calibers, and much more. There is even a FFL dealer reference.
Powder-burning firearms are not the only guns included, as the Guide covers a variety of air rifles and pistols. And, not only does the reference cover firearms, but there is also an extensive listing of ammunition, from antique through 21st Century high-tech.
There’s simply an insane amount of information packed into this single DVD, which is available for both Mac and PC platforms.
Who would use something like this? Let’s see. There would be:
- Gun enthusiasts
- Gun dealers
- Gun writers
- Journalists (this should be a required reference for every news desk)
- Authors who want authenticity and accuracy
The DVD is available now at: http://www.firearmsguide.com Retail price is $39.95.