Favorite Hog Rifles From The 2012 SHOT Show

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?

Well, I’ve already written about the rifle that really caught my attention…  the Savage Hog Hunter.

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.

I had to reach a bit to come up with my last selection.  It was close, between the new Thompson-Center Dimension and Ruger’s new American rifle.

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.


6 Responses to “Favorite Hog Rifles From The 2012 SHOT Show”

  1. Joshua on January 24th, 2012 09:50

    Are the Rugers and Savages still American made? Same question for that Winchester fro $1400, although I’m guessing “no” for that one.

    On a more general note: with the 12 gauge AR and that AR/lever hideosity, can we now say the M16 craze has officially jumped the shark?

  2. Phillip on January 24th, 2012 10:28

    Josh, the Rugers and Savage rifles are still made in the USA, to the best of my knowledge. I could be wrong, as I know Savage outsourced some of their “Stevens” line to Russia or Turkey when they brought back the Model 311 shotgun, but I’m fairly sure the Model 111 is still made in the states.

    I’m not too sure about the Model 71 and really didn’t think to look. Since Winchester and Browning are now, essentially one and the same, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a foreign stamp on this rifle.

    As far as the AR craze… I’m not sure they’re done yet. Crosman now makes the MAR-177, which is a .177 PCP air rifle upper that mounts directly to your existing AR lower. I don’t think there’s really any ground left to cover there… unless someone comes up with a muzzleloader upper. Laugh, if you will, but at this point it would NOT shock me. The AR12 really feels like little more than a nifty “toy”, but it did function pretty well when I shot it. I heard a couple of folks mention that it “stovepiped” with certain loads when they shot it, but the guns at Range Day went through a LOT of rounds without cleaning, so it would be hard to blame the gun for that.

  3. Beastslayer on January 24th, 2012 17:54

    And the winner is?

  4. The Suburban Bushwhacker on January 25th, 2012 05:49


    Enough already with the value-for-money offerings, where are the money-no-object guns?


  5. Phillip on January 25th, 2012 07:29

    Heh heh… Sten, as you may imagine, I did spend some time ogling these guys too. There was even a bit of fondling. Might have been some drool, but I’ll never tell.

    But the Merkels, Blasers, and others from the higher end really haven’t changed since the last time I slithered through the booths. Beautiful and tempting as always, but not really all that much in the way of news.

  6. Neil H on January 28th, 2012 20:51

    I really like that the “hog” scope is a nice trim, small objective size. In the current “tactical” world, that’s refreshing to have choices in the other direction.

    Joshua: The 464SPX looks like a platypus, but without likable quirkiness. The designer obviously has one foot on the dock and one on the boat and couldn’t decide which to be on. I think they’re mixing two things that don’t have a crossover appeal.

    I want to say most of the Winchester reproductions are made in Japan? They’re supposed to be good quality but obviously not Made in USA. Still, for those of us who have terminal nostalgia (which probably describes most lever-gun purchasers, Mossberg please note) but would want to actually shoot the thing, they’re probably more accessible than the original. I’ve seen a new model 92, and it was a nice rifle.