Best Tips for Hog Hunting with Handguns

Hog hunting is challenging. Hunting hogs with a handgun is a skill test like no other.

Best Tips for Hog Hunting with Handguns

The author shot this hog with a Remington XP100 in 7mm-08 at a distance of 179 yards in 20 MPH crosswinds. (Photo: Kat Ainsworth)

We spotted the sounder of feral hogs from the dirt road bisecting the fields. Following a morning hunting turkeys — a morning being skunked — it was nice to see signs of animal life. I had an assortment of guns in the truck with me, each selected for a specific range: a Remington R1 Tomasie Custom in .40 S&W, a Remington R1 10mm Hunter and a Remington XP100 in 7mm-08. The XP100 is a beautifully designed bolt-action pistol built by Carlos Martinez at the Remington Custom Shop and I had yet to take an animal with it. This moment marked the pistol’s inaugural hunt.

Keen on getting after the hogs before they spooked and ran, Spike Box Ranch hunting manager Tyler Pounds pulled the truck behind a copse of trees. We would stalk the hogs on foot starting 1,000 yards out and hope for the best.

At a ravine 179 yards from the hogs — a distance I verified with my Leupold rangefinder — Tyler hunkered down to my left while we decided what to do. The 7mm-08 was certainly capable of it but there were other factors to consider as well. All day we’d been buffeted by constantly shifting 20 MPH crosswinds, a problem which led to a brief, rapid-fire debate about drift and drop.

“Pick one,” Tyler whispered. “Pick one and shoot, they’re going to run.”

Sure enough, the hogs were restlessly shifting and ready to bolt. Staying prone in the ravine with just my head and shoulders above the edge, I slowly lowered the bipod into the soft Texas dirt. The XP100 was topped with Leupold VX-3 Handgun 2.5-8x32mm optic and through it I focused on a scruffy brown sow. As a result of range time I knew the pistol was wickedly precise — one-hole, five-shot groups at 100 yards are nothing if not impressive. But the crosswinds were serious. The sow turned her head my way. I squeezed the trigger.

She dropped like a stone. The Barnes VOR-TX 7mm-08 120-grain TTSX BT bullet had entered the hog’s skull by way of her left eye and exited through her right ear. Bolt pistols present unique challenges during a hunt but, as with this case, they get it done with style.

The Method

Handgun hunting feral hogs is a stellar way to put your skills to the test. Holstering up or cradling the bulk of a bolt pistol is different from heading out with a rifle or shotgun. It requires closer proximity with your prey, more precise shot placement and patience. Remember, it’s your responsibility as a hunter to take animals with a clean, ethical shot. Feral hogs might be pests but they deserve your respect.

Before using a handgun to hunt, take the time to practice. Hit the range, shoot from various positions and become familiar with the accuracy and trajectory of your ammunition at various distances. Your placement is going to shift if you’re standing rather than kneeling or going prone. Choice of ammunition matters as well since hunting rounds will perform differently than FMJ training rounds. Train with the gear, and in the firing positions, you’ll use while hunting. Don’t skimp on trigger time. One magazine is not enough. Prepare to burn through some ammo.

Be honest with yourself about your abilities. If your skill with a handgun limits you to shots within 15 yards, own it. Work on expanding your range but only hunt at the distances your current abilities allow. Keep in mind the cartridge you use and the length of your gun’s barrel will also affect the ranges at which you can hunt. If you want to reach out and touch feral hogs at greater distances, consider larger caliber handguns with longer barrels.

.40 S&W

The .40 S&W was designed in the aftermath of the 1986 FBI Miami Shootout, an event that produced a ripple effect of change in the handgun world. Today many gun owners are quick to dismiss the .40 S&W, which is a mistake.

Its parent cartridge is the 10mm and although the case length has been shortened, features such as rim thickness remain identical to the 10mm. It has a significant edge over 9mm. For example, I’ve taken quite a few hogs using Hornady Critical Defense .40 S&W 165 grain FTX, which produces a muzzle velocity of 1,175 feet per second and muzzle energy of 506 foot-pounds.

In contrast, Hornady Critical Defense 9mm 115 grain FTX has a muzzle velocity of 1,140 feet per second and muzzle energy of 332 foot-pounds. The extra weight and energy of the .40 S&W provides the force necessary to drop a hog with a single shot. And, although it isn’t impossible to drop a hog with a 9mm, it is inadvisable. The .40 S&W, however, has proven itself repeatedly.

.45 ACP

More than a century has passed since John Browning designed the .45 ACP. In that time, there have been significant advances in ballistics, making the cartridge faster and more effective than it once was.

However, even with those improvements it remains sluggish compared to other handgun hunting options. Its bullet diameter is .451-inches — yes, additional size is a good thing — but it just doesn’t pack the punch of others. Hornady Critical Duty .45 ACP 185 grain FTX has a muzzle velocity of 1,000 feet per second and muzzle energy of 411 foot-pounds, both of which drop faster than cartridges like the .40 S&W or 10mm.

Due to those factors, I typically use Inceptor .45 ACP 118 grain ARX frangible rounds because I’ve found the 1,350 feet per second muzzle velocity and 477 foot-pounds of muzzle energy maintain their trajectory longer and drop hogs more effectively. If you’re going to use a .45 ACP, take the time to select a high-performing round. In the world of handgun hunting, it isn’t my top cartridge choice, but it can work under the right set of circumstances.

10mm

This is an awesome option for hog hunting, especially when loaded into a 1911 or revolver with a long barrel. Barnes VOR-TX 10mm 155 grain XPB HP has a muzzle velocity of 1,150 feet per second and muzzle energy of 455 foot-pounds; my Remington R1 10mm Hunter Long Slide eats them like candy and has dropped hogs by the dozens. It retains energy and has a flatter trajectory far beyond that of the .45 ACP, allowing you to shoot hogs at longer ranges.

It also creates a devastating, permanent wound channel. For single-shot, reliable kills in a 1911 or striker-fired platform the 10mm is an excellent choice. The idea that felt recoil makes it difficult to control a 10mm isn’t exactly accurate; with proper training and consistent practice, you won’t have any problems running yours.

.44 Magnum

Hunting with a revolver is something every handgun hunter should do not just once, but repeatedly. Guns such as the Ruger Super Redhawk and Taurus Raging Hunter feature barrel lengths of 7.50 inches and 8.375 inches, respectively, and each delivers superior power.

Their six-shot capacities are more than sufficient, especially when you’re firing one shot per hog. Legendary outdoor writer Elmer Keith had a pivotal role in creating the .44 Magnum, basing it on the .44 Special and carefully fine-tuning it before convincing major manufacturers to produce a commercial version. Hornady’s .44 Magnum 240 grain XTP has a muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet per second and muzzle energy of 971 foot-pounds. Now this is a cartridge made for hunting.

The Others

There are countless cartridges available for handgun hunting: .460 Rowland, .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, .500 Smith and Wesson — the list goes on. Then there are the rifle cartridges to consider. You can hunt with a bolt pistol such as the aforementioned XP100 in 7mm-08 or a single-shot TC Contender in .45-70 Government, among others.

When selecting a cartridge take into consideration not only its initial velocity and energy but how well it maintains them. Remember weight isn’t necessarily supreme; the lightweight, frangible 90-grain Inceptor 10mm ARX is a high-performing round that creates deep, wide, permanent wound cavities and enormously reduces over-penetration risks. Premium hunting rounds are well worth their cost.

Platforms

Everyone has a personal preference for hunting platforms. For handgun hunting there are numerous options including 1911s, striker-fired guns, bolt-actions, revolvers and single-shots.

Rather than limiting yourself to only one platform, try them all. If you believe 1911s can’t be used hog hunting in dusty southern states, guess again. I’ve run 1911s from multiple manufacturers caked with dust and mud that kept on running. Along the same lines, if you feel revolvers are antiquated you are shortchanging yourself and limiting your handgun hunting experience.

Being a well-rounded handgun shooter means learning to run every platform smoothly and reliably.

Placement

Feral hogs have slightly different anatomy than deer. The vitals are located lower and further forward than a deer’s vitals, meaning a heart shot requires aiming just above what is known as the olecranon process — the point of the hog’s elbow — when broadside.

Many hunters prefer aiming behind the hog’s ear, which is certainly another option.

Hogs are tough and will not drop as easily as deer or coyotes. To kill a feral hog effectively with a single shot from a handgun, you must know what your gun can do, select an appropriately fast cartridge with exceptional penetration, and deliver a precisely placed shot.

The Hunt

During the hunt at the Spike Box Ranch where I shot the sow with the XP100 7mm-08, I also shot 17 other hogs with various handguns. They fell to .40 S&W, .45 ACP and 10 mm; the first morning of the hunt, I shot five in quick succession with two different handguns.

One member of the first-morning quintet was a 247-pound boar I shot with my Remington R1 10mm Hunter Long Slide loaded with Barnes VOR-TX 10mm 155 grain XPB HP. One shot, one handgun hog kill. The boar was running when I shot him — yes, you should practice on moving targets — and went down right there in his cloven-hooved tracks. He would have fallen to a smaller cartridge, though; a few months prior, I shot a 255-pound boar with a .40 S&W. Know your gun, know yourself and shoot accordingly.

Handgun hunting hogs is an amalgamation of all the greatest aspects of the hunt. It requires skill, stealth and stubborn persistence. Using a handgun on a feral hog is a way of upping your hunting game. It’s also a way to hone your self-defense skills and discover just what your gun can really do. Finding out what different manufacturers’ ammunition does is eye opening as it relates to self-defense. For me it’s the perfect combination of the two practices because it gives me hog meat and shows me an array of wound cavities and penetration.

Why not try it? Instead of shouldering your rifle, balance the barrel of your handgun on shooting sticks. You’ll be glad you did. Moccus, the Celtic protector of boar hunters, knows it’s addictive. Hunt on.

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