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.
March 7, 2013
I couldn’t help the title. It just sort of slipped out.
But seriously, more or less, I just read an article about how some hog hunters, especially depredation hunters, are turning to the use of suppressors (sometimes erroneously called “silencers”) as a way to kill hogs without running everything else out of the woods. As some states, like Texas, are beginning to allow the use of these tools for hunting game animals, as well as nuisance species, they are becoming more popular.
“What I tell people is that you won’t be able to sit in a blind and pop off round after round at a group of hogs, and they won’t be able to hear you shooting,” said David Dury of Dury’s Gun Shop off Hot Wells Boulevard.
“There is always some sound. They do make the shots quiet enough that you probably won’t spook nearby hogs in the brush or other game coming into a feeder. Plus, the suppressor makes about the best muzzle break in the world, and you don’t have to wear ear plugs when you are shooting.”
I’ve had the opportunity to do some shooting with suppressed weapons (M4, Walther P-22, and H&K MP5) and it was pretty enlightening. While I knew that suppressors didn’t actually “silence” the gun (although on the .22lr, the slide operating was louder than the report), actual field experience did a lot to reshape my opinion about using them for hunting.
As the folks interviewed in the article point out, the suppressor doesn’t mean you can sit and shoot all day at a group of hogs without spooking them. A suppressed, high-powered rifle is still going to generate a significant report. And as many of us know, even shooting a bow is enough to scatter a sounder from under the stand. I expect many of us also know that one or two rifle shots probably isn’t going to stop the next sounder from coming in to the feeder. I’ve shot hogs, and then watched as 15 minutes later another group came out to feed less than 100 yards away.
But the suppressor does bring the noise level down to a point that’s not going to wake the neighbors a half mile away. I think there’s a lot to be said for that… especially if you’re trying to depredate hogs in an area that’s fairly close to homes. Nothing will get the cops called out like the sound of rifle shots after midnight… and even for sport hunters, complaints from the neighbors could well spell the end of an excellent hunting spot. Good suppressors make for good neighbors.
Another benefit of silencers is their ability to disperse the gases from the shot and effectively reduce felt recoil. However, unlike a regular muzzle brake, they don’t amplify the report. I know, I know, “real men don’t mind recoil.”
Except that’s not really true. There are people who don’t seem affected by recoil, and that group includes many youngsters and women, along with the “real men.” But the majority of us are affected, even if we don’t all recognize it. Discharging a powerful firearm results in a significant shock that is often (but not always) accompanied by a painful “kick”. Our body’s natural response is to avoid that shock, usually by moving away from it. So you see people lifting their head from the stock, or pushing the gun forward, away from their shoulder at the shot. Many of us have trained ourselves through mental conditioning and physical repetition to overcome that reaction. But it’s never far away, and I’ve seen some experienced riflemen slip up from time to time.
So enter the muzzle brake. By reducing felt recoil, the brake takes away a significant part of the shock and pain. It allows the shooter to relax into the gun and focus on making good shots, rather than anticipating and reacting to the recoil. But traditional brakes have that other effect. They’re extremely loud… dangerously loud. A shooter with a brake is not generally a popular person at the range. Some hunting guides have claimed that they won’t hunt with anyone who uses a brake.
A suppressor gives you the best of both worlds. It reduces the felt recoil and reduces the audible report. What’s not to like?
Of course, there are downsides to suppressors that will probably keep them from becoming a standard piece of equipment.
First, they’re not legal in every state. In fact, some states prohibit them outright, and most other states restrict or prohibit their use for hunting. There can also be regional restrictions. So check your local regulations before you go down the road of purchasing a suppressor, because here’s another downside… they’re not cheap or particularly easy to get.
The suppressor itself will generally run from around $500 on up into the thousands, depending on the firearm you are using and the quality of device. For example, a suppressor for a .223 (5.56mm) will generally start at the lower end of the spectrum. However, should I wish to put something on my .325wsm, I’m probably looking to start at close to a grand just for entry-level equipment. And once you’ve purchased the suppressor itself, you will need a gunsmith to thread the muzzle of your firearm. This cost is pretty variable, but generally it runs around $200 per gun. You can thread more than one firearm to accept the suppressor, and within certain limits you can use it on several guns. However, as you might imagine, you can’t use a small-bore suppressor on a big-bore gun (but you can get adaptors to use a big-bore suppressor on smaller caliber firearms).
In order to purchase a suppressor, you must complete a thorough background check, and you’ll also have to purchase a $200 federal “transfer tax” stamp. Contrary to some common misperceptions, you do not need to acquire a Class 3 license (the license required to own a machine gun). However, you must purchase the suppressor through a Class 3 licensed dealer. You will also need to register the suppressor with the BATF. This registration process may take up to six months, according to most sources. So you’re not just going to run out and pick up your suppressor on a whim. If you think this is for you, you’ll need to plan for it.
When it comes to registration, I’ve found that there are some considerations involved there as well. Most people who go this route find that it’s a good idea to pay a lawyer to set up a trust, and then to register the suppressor to that trust. This allows anyone named in the trust to use the equipment, and provides for a clean transfer of the suppressor in the event that the primary owner dies or becomes incapacitated. Other options include registering to yourself (which means that no one else can use it, and in order to transfer to someone else, they’ll have to go through the full qualification and registration process), or you can register to a corporation. These are relatively complicated decisions, and I’d recommend discussing them with a lawyer if you’re seriously considering buying one of these things. The bright side is, though, that once you’ve done it (if you did it right), you’re done.
Suppressors do have their very vocal detractors. The most common thread is that the “silencers” will become a common tool for poachers and scofflaws. The folks making this allegation generally share a couple of key attributes. First, they know nothing about suppressors and think of them as silencers, like they see in the movies. Second, they know nothing about poachers.
As mentioned above, suppressors do not “silence” the firearm. They only suppress the sound. When I shot the M4 (5.56x45mm),the report was something in the neighborhood of my .17hmr. I haven’t fired a suppressed big-bore, so I can’t say from experience how much louder something like a suppressed 30-06 might be. But the point is, unlike the spy movies, a suppressed rifle doesn’t discharge with a whisper of air like a pellet gun. But it’s true, the reduced noise could potentially be an enticement to poachers.
But then we need to take a closer look at poachers.
In the place where I grew up, I was pretty much surrounded by folks who never met a fish and game law they couldn’t break. I am not too ashamed to say that I probably ate more than my share of poached venison during those years. While I was never swayed to join the ranks, I did learn a lot of interesting stuff which may not apply to every poacher everywhere, but; it certainly does seem to hold a level of commonality when compared to other cases from one coast to another.
So where to start? First, let’s consider a couple of categories of poachers. This is not an all-inclusive list.
One is the subsistence poacher. This is the truly impoverished person who will take the occasional deer, squirrel, or rabbit out of season in order to feed himself and his family. The weapon of choice is generally the heirloom shotgun or maybe a battered .22magnum or 30-30. As likely as not, the majority of this person’s activities will take place right out his own back door. This guy can barely afford ammunition, much less the expense of a suppressor.
Then there’s the occasional opportunist. Driving down the road. Gun in the car. Deer by the road. Bang. As often as not, these guys are caught because the next car down the road is law enforcement. Otherwise, they generally get away with it. Suppressor or no suppressor, it really isn’t going to make a difference to this fellow.
Then there are the habitual and “sport” poachers who simply consider any day and any time to be open season. These guys could probably benefit from suppressed firearms, but in my experience they don’t much care. The truth is that, in rural areas, the sound of gunfire isn’t an unusual occurrence at almost any time of year. Shots fired after dark tend to get some attention, but not much. Have you ever driven through a rural area late at night? Where are the residents? In their homes, either in front of a television or in bed. They’re not outside listening for gunshots (unless they’ve been having poaching problems… and then you’ve got a different story).
Regardless, though, my personal and somewhat limited experience showed that most of these guys aren’t coming from the upper echelon of the socio-economic structure. They’re highly unlikely to take on the expense and legal engtanglements of purchasing suppressors… especially when pretty much every one I ever knew had his own variation on the homemade suppressor if they wanted to use it. This ranged from the apple stuck on the muzzle of a .22mag, to plastic soda bottles filled with cotton, and on to all sorts of fairly inventive (and often unlikely) contraptions. My recommendation, by the way? Don’t try any of this at home.
And then there’s the small collection of folks who are professional poachers. These are the guys who are out shooting big, trophy specimens in order to sell the horns or antlers. Or they’re hunting other animals, like bears, in order to sell parts to the black market. Now these folks might go in for suppressors, and I expect some of them can afford it. But honestly, I don’t think gunfire is the reason most of them get caught anyway. You can suppress the sound of your rifle, but you’re not going to suppress the shine of a spotlight or headlights. You’re not going to suppress the tire tracks and footprints on private property, or the carcasses that other folks tend to stumble over in your wake. And you’re not going to suppress the rumors that inevitably spread about the illegal activities. Someone always talks, and that’s what usually gets law enforcement involved.
And for all of these guys, there’s another consideration. Folks who have little regard for fish and wildlife laws generally don’t have much regard for the other laws of the land. A fair number of the poachers I have known, and many others I’ve read about in other places have criminal histories that would often preclude their ability to pass the background check required to buy a legal suppressor.
So are poachers going to utilize suppressors if they become more widely available? Some might. But there’s not going to be a wave of new poaching activity coinciding with the legalization of suppressors. It just doesn’t make sense.
But for the sport or depredation hunter who can afford it, they are a good option and I’m happy to see them gaining more acceptance. Even if it doesn’t make you a more successful hunter, your ears will thank you and your neighbors will too.
By the way, a couple of good resources for those interested in purchasing suppressors are:
- The Silencer Shop (Click on the Support link for some real good info on buying a suppressor)
- Silencer Research (He provides a pretty thorough write-up on the process for selecting, buying, and registering your suppressor)
February 22, 2012
I only know two people who actually shoot one of these cannons, but I know there are probably a couple of hardcore, big bore pistol buffs who also hunt hogs. This is good info, so please pass it around.
Hornady® Recalls 7 Lots of 500 S&W 300 grain FTX® Custom™ Pistol Ammo
Grand Island, NE – Hornady® Manufacturing announced the recall of seven lots of 500 S&W 300 gr. FTX® Custom™ pistol ammunition. Hornady ballisticians have determined that some cartridges from Lot numbers 3101327, 3110256, 3110683, 3110695, 3110945, 3111388, 3111885, may exhibit excessive chamber pressures. Use of this product may result in firearm damage and/or personal injury.Product Recall Details: Item number 9249 500 S&W 300 grain FTX® Custom™ Pistol Ammunition. These lots were shipped between September 9, 2010, and October 17, 2011.Included Lot Numbers:
- 3111885The lot number can be found printed on the lower portion of the box label.If you own any of these Lot numbers or have any questions regarding this recall, please call 800-338-1242. Hornady Manufacturing Company will make all arrangements associated with the return and replacement of this product.Any other lot numbers or item numbers are not subject to this recall and require no action.
January 24, 2012
Every year at the SHOT Show I try to come up with a list of my favorite things. This year is no different, so I thought I’d give some thought to which of the new rifles I’d like to carry on a hog hunt.
The options are fairly wide, but since I didn’t really spend any time with the ARs or military stuff, that’s sort of out. I do have to admit to a certain satisfaction at the .416 Barrett. Any rifle that allows me to shoot stationary clay pigeons from almost 1000 yards away… well, that’s just fun. But it’s kind of loud, and anyway, I’m not really interested in shooting game from that sort of range.
And then, there was the RAC AR-12, shotgun. This is a semi-automatic shotgun modeled on the AR-15 (hence the name). I played with one a bit at the skeet range, and while I couldn’t get the hang of it enough to hit a clay, it was sort of fun just to shoot. I wonder how it would handle slugs? I didn’t ask, but maybe I should have.
Regardless, I doubt I’d have a lot of interest in hunting with this gun, but it would definitely be a conversation-starter! I can only imagine the looks you’d get unpacking this thing at the duck club!
Really, I’m more of a traditional rifle sort of guy, and I do like my lever actions. My old Winchester 94 was a trusty tool in the whitetail woods, and my Browning lever action in .243 has also been a real deer slayer. However, Mossberg has really pushed the envelope a little too hard with this year’s entry… the 464SPX.
So what did I like?
While I’d prefer a different caliber selection, this setup really worked for me. I’ve always been a fan of Savage rifles, both for reliability and accuracy. The accu-trigger isn’t a new thing anymore, but I still think it makes a really good rifle great (although it took some getting used to). Topped with the Leupold HOG scope, the rifle is quick on target and should be the ticket for rapid follow-up or on hogs breaking cover at close range.
As with most of the other offerings from Savage, the Hog Hunter is priced right too, at around $500 without the scope. The scope retails for a shade less than the rifle… not cheap, but I still believe you pay for quality in optics.
Another rifle I thought would be great for hog hunting is Winchester’s reborn Model 71, chambered in .348win. I stumbled onto this rifle during the range day, and couldn’t stop myself from putting a few rounds downrange. It’s a sweet feeling rifle, and the .348 doesn’t kick as bad as you might expect.
I don’t know a ton about the .348, but from my reading it’s a very capable round to 200 yards. With the iron sights on this rifle, I think you could have a blast on hogs, and kill them cleanly too. The only downside I can see is that the MSRP on this thing is a bit over $1400. That’s a lot of money for a levergun, but if you’re into the classics, it may be worth it.
The Dimension is a pretty cool piece of work. I think the guys at TC (and Smith and Wesson) covered the bases well when they designed this gun… right down to the preset torque driver for assembling the barrels and actions. With an MSRP of around $600, and additional barrels for about $200, it’s not an unaffordable addition to the gun safe. Accuracy is supposed to be pretty impressive too, although I haven’t shot one for accuracy. But I just couldn’t fall in love with this thing.
Ruger, on the other hand, has released a new line of affordable rifles in their American line. These are lightweight, but sturdy rifles, priced in the mid-$400 range. They are intially available in four common calibers, .243, .270, .308, and 30-06.
I didn’t get the chance to shoot the American on the range, but I handled the heck out of a couple on the show floor later in the week. These are not beautiful rifles by any stretch of the imagination, and they don’t have a lot of “wow” factor, but they appear to be designed for functionality.
I’ve shot the M77 in a lot of variations, and it’s a solid rifle that can take a beating. If the American is of any comparison, it’s going to be a hot ticket item… especially for budget-conscious hunters.
There are a lot of other great rifles out there, but I had to select a small handful to make this manageable. What did stand out about this particular group was the price (excepting, of course, the M71). Gun makers haven’t forgotten about the budget-conscious hunters out there, and with the general quality of modern rifles these days, you simply don’t have to spend a fortune for a really high-quality gun. I think that’s a very good thing.