I have been asked and seen on various forums a question that basically asks, if a pistol caliber or a .223 / 5.56 is enough to kill pigs. Ignoring the haters and the “more deer are killed with a .22 than anything else” crowed, the question is legitimate. Boiled down it is “what caliber can I reliably hunt and kill pigs with while maintaining recoil and allowing follow-up shots?”
We need to start with a little background.
Back in the 90’s I carried a Ruger Super Blackhawk in 44 magnum to hunt pigs. My friends used dogs and spears and I was supposed to be the backup guy. I am glad I never had to use that pistol to protect or save anyone, I was not that good of a shot and now I know how fast a hog can turn on you, and how entangled the hog and human bodies become.
For over 15 years my parents have lived in East Texas. As a warrior, hunter and manly man, my father started killing pigs for the local ranchers. He started out using his Smith and Wesson model 19, a six shot .38 revolver. This is a man who used to hunt black bear, with that gun. He only used FMJ ammo, he does not like those “cop killers” (standard expanding hollow point ammo).
After a number of hunts, he ran into an issue. A female hog charged him while he was shooting her and a few piglets. He emptied the pistol into her and she slide to a stop, dead, too close for him.
He decided he needed something “more powerful”. To me I figured that meant he was going to go back to the 25-06 he used to use. While it was better at stopping a pig faster, it was a bolt gun and he normally only got one shot off before they scattered into brush and across fields before more could be harvested.
I was wrong in my assumption, he bought a Glock 17 with a laser on it. He showed up on my 40th birthday and we went to the range. At 25 yards he emptied the magazine (17+1 rounds) into a hole just a little larger than a silver dollar, and he grumbled about that! He is a former underwater demolition, fighter pilot and test pilot.
He sent me a photo of his first kills. A couple of 80 plus pound pigs, again, using 115 grain FMJ Winchester white box ammo. Sorry I could not find it to share with you. Below is a kill with a Glock 26.
A few years later he started putting up large traps and cages. He was able to catch many pigs. He was able to shoot every pig in the cage. This resulted in more pigs being killed since they were trapped. However the longer it took to kill them the worse their meat became, presumably due to the chemical fight or flight hormones running through their bodies. We were having to mix store bought pork sausage to make the meat edible.
I have personally seen .38 Special and a 9mm Luger rounds can and do kill pigs. When shot placement was correct for a kill, all pigs ran some distance before dying. None just dropped. When we used to use his 25-06 and my 270, It was normal for a pig to run anywhere from a few yards to over 25 yards before collapsing.
These days, my dad uses one of two rifles. If he is killing pigs in a trap, he normally uses a .22 hornet, stays downwind and shoots them one at a time. He feels they get less upset and ruin less meat due to the reduced sound of the rifle. When we go stalking pigs he brings a M1 carbine I rebuilt for him, and he uses soft nose bullets.
You could say the .22 Hornet is not a “powerful” round, yet he monthly makes multiple one shot kills on pigs from 10 to 120 pounds with it. The 30 carbine round is just a powerful pistol round and once again, he make frequent one shot kills with it.
The last 10 years or so I have been taking my 5.56 hunting deer and pig and regularly make one shot kills on both. Once again they don’t just drop dead, they run short distances before dying. I have used Russian 62 grain hollow points, 77 grain OTM and even 55 grain FMJ rounds on pigs of various sizes, all with the same effect, dead pigs.
Does every pig hit with a 38 special, 9mm, 30 carbine, 25-06 or 5.56 die? Nope. Both of us have shot at and presumed we hit pigs on the run but not found their bodies after tracking them. I would not use FMJ ammo to put “meat on the plate” if multiple animals were needed. Yet these calibers and FMJ, Soft-point and hollow point bullets have killed pigs for me and my dad.
Over this Summer I am planning on using a 300 blackout with 220 grain Sierra MatchKing subsonic rounds. We will see how those hunts end up. It seems, from the internet, that I will need to be within 50 yards to have enough penetration, however that should not be an issue. I don’t think I have shot a hog at a further distance since we quit using the bolt guns and even with them I bet the long shots were 75 yards.
Until we meet again, keep your booger hook off the bang switch until on target and ready to fire.