LITTLE ROCK — Semiautomatic rifles with high-capacity magazines are important tools for managing feral hogs.
Recreational hunting is a vital cog in managing feral swine, but it is only effective if you kill a concentration of pigs. That requires semiautomatic weapons capable of firing a lot of rounds quickly.
This first came up in 2009 on a hog hunt in the Alma bottoms with Ryan Rains. More than 20 hogs came into the field that evening, and I killed one with a bolt-action rifle. That’s a typical hog hunt for most people. You get one shot. By the time you manually cycle another round into the chamber, the hogs are running pell-mell in all directions. Your next shot is going to be a low-percentage attempt on a pig running very fast at a less than ideal angle.
Rains offered hog hunting on his property as a way to make some extra money, but he wanted to eradicate them to make more food available for whitetailed deer and wild turkey.
“For the amount of pigs you have on this place, you’d need an M-16 to kill enough to make a difference,” I said.
An M-16 is a fully automatic military rifle that is capable of firing every round in a magazine with one pull of the trigger.
Minus that, the next-best alternative is a semiautomatic that can fire a lot of rounds quickly and accurately with repetitive trigger pulls. The most accessible option is an AR-15 with a magazine that holds 20 or more cartridges.
This subject resurfaced Thursday with Sam Sneed of Conway, who regaled me with tales of hunting hogs on a friend’s ranch in Texas. The place has an overpopulation of wild hogs, and popping one here and there with a bolt-action rifle is akin to popping a couple of starlings from a flock of a thousand. The impact is insignificant.
Sneed’s friend is serious about it. They use AR-15 rifles with 30-round magazines. With these firearms, they are able to either eliminate entire herds of pigs or reduce their number by a large percentage.
Sneed talked of one hunt where they ambushed a herd of eight pigs. They unleashed a hail of lead from their ARs and killed seven.
“The best thing is to try to catch them at a water source,” Sneed said. “They’re all bunched up, and they’re standing still.”
Hog hunting is a niche market, of course, but it is a legitimate and popular sporting use of high-capacity magazines in concert with socalled assault rifles. A growing segment of shooters use them for varmint hunting, too.
I’m not sure exactly how they did it, since they were always pretty secretive, but the most prolific hog hunters I ever knew used boltaction rifles chambered for .22 magnums. They were my neighbors in Hartford, and they often came home with truckloads of dead hogs.
Which introduces the subject of suitable hog cartridges. My neighbors proved that with proper shot placement — in their case, head shots — a .22 rimfire was adequate. The AR-15, of course, fires a centerfire .22, either in .223 Rem. or it’s military equivalent, the 5.56x45. The difference is that the .223 Rem. cartridge has thinner walls, so it holds a bit more powder. An AR-15 fires them interchangeably.
Lester Sitzes of Hope, a former member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, uses a Ruger Mark II varmint rifle chambered in .220 Swift. Anything the Swift does, the .22-250 does just as well. Bullet selection is the key. You need a tough, wellconstructed bullet of at least 50 grains. The 50-gr. Hornady GMX is a good choice, as is the 55-gr. Sierra GameKing, the 60-gr. Nosler Partition or the 64-gr. Winchester Power Point. Head shots are best.
For the hog I killed with Rains, I used a Ruger Mk. II in 6.5x55 Swedish and 140-gr. Remington Core-Lokts. The pig’s armored shoulder absorbed that blow, and I killed the hog with a second shot on the run. However, that bullet was traveling less than 2,500 feet per second at impact. The .220 Swift and .22-250 shoot a much smaller bullet, but they also travel about 1,000 fps faster. The .223 Rem. is a bit slower. I read many accounts from hog hunters who say their .22 centerfires slice through a hog’s shoulder like a nail through wood.
Some people, like Todd Orr, also hunt hogs with bigbore air rifles. That is the antithesis of hog hunting with high-cap., AR-15s, but they all serve the same purpose.