Best AR Ammo for Hunting Hogs at Night

Targeting nighttime wild boars with thermal-imaging optics? These are the cartridges you should be shooting!

Best AR Ammo for Hunting Hogs at Night

The debate will continue forever, but the good news is a variety of hog-slamming ammunition is available for hunters pursuing feral swine day or night. (Photo: Patrick Meitin)

North America has a hog problem. U.S. Fish & Wildlife estimates reveal 42 of 50 U.S. states have established populations of invasive swine. These hogs cost American taxpayers about $1.5 billion annually property damage and control efforts. This doesn’t even begin to take into account the negative impacts hogs have on native game populations. In many areas hog hunting has transformed from mere sport to desperate control measures.

In this ongoing battle, ARs and thermal-imaging optics have emerged as an effective and popular control tool. ARs are quick handling, offer fast follow-up, high-capacity magazines and Picatinny rails to attach nifty nighttime gadgets. Thermal imaging optics allow you to own the night.  

It’s understood the .223/5.56mm remains the most popular AR chambering, but it’s also easy to argue it is less than ideal for hogs, especially at night when follow-up becomes complicated. There are specialized AR cartridges targeted at the hog market — the .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowulf come to mind — but they remain quite specialized and ammo proves pricey. Since most of us aren’t in the full-time hog-culling business we need general-use rifles for everything from predator calling to hog hunts. Which common cartridges shine in AR platforms? To follow are my picks.

.224 Valkyrie

Federal Premium’s breakthrough .224 Valkyrie was created by necking the proven 6.8 Remington SPC down to .224 caliber. But there is more involved, namely fast rifling twists (1-in-6-inch) allowing proper stabilization of bullets up to 90 grains. The Valkyrie spits 60-grain varmint pills to 3,300 fps and 90-grain big-game or match bullets to 2,700 fps. The 90-grainer’s high ballistic coefficients (.450 to .563) allow it to remain hypersonic to 1,300 yards. This creates a long-range juggernaut, but also pile-driving terminal performance combined with mild recoil.  

Federal’s Valkyrie was introduced in the Savage MSR 15 Valkyrie, both companies beneath the Vista Outdoor umbrella so there was thorough communication between all involved during R&D. And because of massive 6.8 SPC military contracts, Federal is able to offer ammo affordably. Interest exploded, ammo now available from Hornady (88-grain ELD-Match, .545 BC loaded to 2,675 fps), Underwood Ammunition (72-grain Lehigh Controlled Chaos at 3,100 fps) — with others sure to follow. Federal Premium offers four loads, including 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint (3,300 fps, .270 BC), American Eagle 75-grain TMJ (3,000 fps, .350 BC), 90-grain Fusion MSR bonded soft point (2,700 fps, .450 BC) and 90-grain Gold Metal Sierra MatchKing (2,700 fps, .563 BC).   

6.5 Grendel

Based on extensive hands-on experience, I confidently label the 6.5 Grendel (developed by Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms) as possibly the most effective AR hog cartridge around. It is compatible with compact AR-15s, produces marginal recoil, but high-BC bullets carry energy efficiently. During a recent Texas hog-culling foray we killed 24 hogs in one night with various rifle/cartridge combinations. Half were taken with an Alexander Arms AWS 6.5 Grendel, and all dropped where they stood or rolled like headshot rabbits when running — including three 300-plus-pound boars.

The Grendel’s paper ballistics appear lackluster at first blush, pushing Speer’s TNT 90-grain HP to 3,000 fps, 129/130-grain pills like the Hornady SST and Swift Scirocco II to 2,300 fps. Yet the Grendel hits with authority and maintains velocity across longer distances due to high ballistic coefficients.  

Once an Alexander Arms proprietary cartridge, following its trademark release and 2012 SAAMI acceptance, both rifles and ammo have become easier and cheaper to find. At last count 16 different loads were offered, including five loads from Alexander Arms (120 Nosler Ballistic Tip, 120 Barnes TSX, 123 Lapua Scenar, 129 Hornady SST, 130 Swift Scirocco), four from Federal Premium (90 American Eagle Speer TNT, 120 Fusion SP, 120 American Eagle Open Tip Match, 130 Berger Gold Metal), two from Hornady (123 SST Custom, 123 ELD Match Black), two Wolf Ammo (120 MPT, 123 SP) and three PPU/Prvi Partizan (110 FMJ-BT, 120 HPBT and 123 SP). Of these, Alexander’s 129 Hornady SST and 130 Swift Scirocco II and Fusion 120 loads have emerged as my go-to hog medicine.

6.8 Remington SPC

The 6.8mm Remington SPC (Special Purpose Cartridge) evolved through a joint effort of Remington and members of the 5th Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Operations Command in reaction to reports the 5.56mm NATO had proven unreliable at incapacitating enemy combatants in the field from M4 carbine (AR) rifles with 16-inch barrels. The 6.8 SPC met those needs with minimized magazine-capacity loss and nominal recoil increases.

The near-standard load propels 115-grain bullets to 2,625 fps and delivers 1,759 foot pounds of energy from the muzzle. The SPC produces about 44 percent more energy than the 5.56mm NATO at 100-300 yards and was designed specifically for efficiency in 16-inch M4 Carbine barrels.

The SPC is quite versatile, launching 90-grain pills to 3,150 fps, projectiles to 130 grains at 2,600 fps; heavier bullets proving optimal for thumping the largest boars. To 250 yards the SPC offers ballistics mirroring the 6.5 Grendel.

The 6.8 SPC has taken hold, rifles offered by most mainstream AR manufacturers, and ammo quite common. I count 24 factory loads, including three from Remington (115-grain UMC Metal Case, 115-grain Sierra MatchKing BTHP Match, 115-grain Open Tip Match High Performance Rifle), four Federal Premium/American Eagle (90 American Eagle Speer TNT, 90 Fusion SP, 115 Fusion SP, 115 American Eagle FMJ), four Hornady (100 GMX Full Boar, 110 BTHP Match American Gunner, 110 V-Max Black, 120 SST Custom), one Sellier & Bellot (110 Hornady “Plastic Tip”), five SSA/Nosler (85 E-Tip, 90 BSB, 110 AccuBond, 110 SP, 115 Custom Competition OTM), two PPU/Prvi Partizan (115 FMJ-BT, 115 HPBT) and five Double Tap Ammunition (90 Bonded Defense JSP, 95 Barnes TTSX, 100 Nosler AccuBond, 110 Rifle Defense and 110 Barnes TSX).

.300 AAC Blackout

Essentially nothing more than a .223/5.56mm necked up to .308 caliber; the Blackout nonetheless hurls heavier bullets that lend the round more hog-killing dependability. The versatile cartridge was designed to produce a more powerful AR-15 round without sacrificing magazine capacity.

Versatility comes from handling 110-grain varmint bullets at 2,400 fps, to 125-grain pills to 2,100 perfect for hogs, all the way up to 208- to 225-grain bullets that can be loaded subsonic (Western Powders’ Accurate A1680 the magic dust here, allowing subsonic loads while reliably cycling autoloader actions) for pellet-gun silence from suppressor-equipped rifles. Hornady’s 110-grain GMX monolithic/controlled-expansion bullet is designed to expand at Blackout velocities, while the Barnes’ 110-grain TAC-TX FB, with long polymer tip to boost ballistic coefficients, was designed specifically for Blackout applications, offering deep penetration with controlled expansion.   

The Blackout has become mainstream and rifles are readily available from most major players. Factory ammo is likewise readily available, more than 50 loads offered from all the usual suspects. As examples, true varmint loads are offered by Hornady (Zombie Max 110, Black 110 V-Max) and Nosler (125 Ballistic Tip Match Grade, Nosler 110 Tipped Varmageddon), hogs loads sold by Hornady (American Gunner 125 HP, 135 Flex Tip, 110 GMX), Barnes (120 VOR-TX, 110 TAC-TX), Winchester (150 HP), Remington (130 Barnes X, 120 Open Tip Flat Base) and Federal Premium (120 and 150 Copper HP and Fusion 150 bonded SP). Subsonic wares are offered by Hornady, Sellior & Bellot, Remington, Nosler and Noveske, Winchester, Sig Sauer, Atomic and Fiocchi, with bullet weights from 190 to 220 grains.

The subsonic route is strictly a sub-100-yard option, delivering only 500 to 600 foot pounds of energy with 225-grain bullets launched at 1,000 to 1,100 fps. This is generally suited to nighttime shooting, as ranges seldom exceed 80 yards. The slow pace makes running shots difficult, though while engaging large sounders the subsonic/suppressor approach can allow tipping over multiple standing hogs before departure.

.308 Winchester/7.62x47mm NATO

Many serious nighttime hog cullers consider the venerable .308 Win. in an AR-10 (or modern Springfield Armory M1A) platform ideal. The .308 in something like Ruger’s affordable SR-762 obviously delivers heavier bullets with much more authority than the .300 Blackout, and factory ammo comes in just about any configuration imaginable, from 125-grain varmint bullets to 220-grain round nose that open up a serious can of whoop-ass at typical nighttime hog ranges.

This is dealer’s choice, but from my experiences in thronged Texas mesquite country a 150- or 180-grain round-nosed pill loaded to 2,600 to 2,450 fps seem well suited (granted they feed in your auto-loader). If longer shots prevail, soft point or polymer-tipped numbers in that weight class offer a balance between terminal destruction and flat trajectories.  

Obviously factory ammo abounds, the .308 Win. remaining one of the nation’s most beloved deer cartridges. A quick perusal of a popular shooting-supply outlet turns up 138 individual options, from 125-grain varmint rounds (Hornady V-Max and Nosler Ballistic Tip), to standard 150- to 180-grain big game loads from any maker you can name, to 200-grain long-range fodder (Berger) to 168- (Winchester) and 260-grain (Atomic Ammo) subsonic loads guaranteed to cycle in auto-loading rifles.

The only real disadvantage involved is the AR-10 (and M1A) can prove a bit heavy for walking hunters, as well as including markedly greater recoil.

Bonus Content: 3 'Tacticool' Hog-Hunting Accessories

Plenty of accessories are available to clamp on ARs these days, some seemingly serving more as eye candy than practical utility. Yet while on nighttime hog shoots I insist on a rail-mounted weapon light. They allow approaching hogs before or after the shot while avoiding stepping into holes or tripping over cactus and rattlesnakes. A rail-mounted laser is also welcomed, used to execute from-the-hip finishing shots should I arrive to find a hog still thrashing and gnashing.  

Streamlight (

Streamlight’s TLR-1 Game Spotter Pic-rail light provides green C4 LED illumination invisible to game. The parabolic reflector boosts output to 150 lumens and optimizes peripheral vision. Standard or remote switches are offered, two CR123A lithium batteries providing 1.75 hours of continuous operation. Shockproof, black-anodized, 6000-series aluminum body, unbreakable, scratch-resistant polycarbonate lens and O-ring seal make it battle ready.     

Cyclops (

The rail-mount VB250 Varmint Light from Cyclops emits 250 lumens via high-output CREE LED for a 220-yard reach. Hard-shell kits include green and red LED modules, two rechargeable 3.7-volt batteries (4-5 hours run time each), home and vehicle charging plugs, four mounting mechanisms and pressure switch or push-button continuous tail caps. Rugged milled-aluminum construction is made to last a lifetime. 

Truglo (

Choose a weapon light (white light), laser sight or both with Truglo’s TRU-Point Laser/Light Combo. It attaches to standard Picatinny rails with a quick-release lever, generating 250 lumens. Choose 520nm green or 650nm red lasers, easily micro adjusted for windage and elevation for fast nighttime bullet placement at any desired range and activated through the provided pressure switch. It feeds on two CR123A batteries and is milled from aluminum to be water and shock resistant.

Newsletter featured image: Pulsar 


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