First Look: .308 Texan for Texas Hog Hunting

How does this new airgun caliber work compared to the standard .457? Jim Chapman heads to Texas for field testing and research on wild pigs.

First Look: .308 Texan for Texas Hog Hunting

Feral hog management is challenging on vast tracts and less so on smaller ones, but one thing is certain: constant effort is required if you want to severely curtail populations. (Photo: NASA/Wikipedia Commons)

Shooting out of the blind, off sticks, and offhand, the AirForce Airguns Texan's ergonomics were quite good. The author is having the barrel cut down and re-crowned on his rifle, opting for compactness at the expense of some power. (Photo: Jim Chapman)

When my friends over at Fort Worth-based AirForce Airguns sent me a new version of their big-bore air rifle, the Texan, a few weeks back, I quickly noticed if was chambered in a sleek .308, as opposed to the standard .457 caliber. The new design utilizes an air bottle for a buttstock, which is a hallmark of AirForce Airguns, and provides a lot of air for a high-shot count. Big bores can be air hungry, so this configuration is a good solution when more shots might be needed, say for predator or hog hunting.

Pushing a 133-grain hollow point bullet at 1,000 fps, the Texan generates the power needed to cleanly dispatch medium-sized game. But power without accuracy is meaningless, so the fact that I could consistently print an eight-shot group under ½ inch at 50 yards (off sticks) put a smile on my face. The property I was hunting is covered in dense thickets, and in my experience most shots come in the 50 to 75-yard range. I sighted the rifle dead on at 50 yards, two mil-dots at 100 yards, with the rifle/bullet combo consistently grouping at a ½- to 1-inch respectively.

Texas Hog Hunting

On arrival at the Dallas-Forth Worth airport, I rented a truck and was on my way three hours west through Abilene to the Dos Plumas Ranch. I’ve been coming to this property for a few years to field test air rifles. I was going to do this at a range that has a lot of pigs, and I’d be hunting from blinds over feeders and spot and stalk through the thickets.

The author with one of the pigs that dropped to the Texan .308 and 133 grain bullet. The pig folded on the spot. (Photo: Jim Chapman)

When I arrived at the ranch, my first stop was the range, where I checked zero and found that the airline baggage handlers had not managed to shake it out of alignment. Next, I camo’d up, collected my gear and hitched a ride out to one of the blinds overlooking a feeder.

My objective was to see was how well the .308 would handle the heavy construction of a feral hog’s skull. The Texan is a powerful airgun when the adjustable power is dialed up. It also shoots flat. My preference for hog hunting around thickets is to take head shots, because these animals can carry a lot of lead and I want them anchored where hit. Shooting an air rifle at 100 yards is like shooting a .30-06 at 300 yards with respect to trajectory, as you’re dealing with a similar drop. I postulated if the trajectory could be flattened by increasing the velocity, while still delivering a projectile with adequate weight, it should make a great hog gun.

I set up in the blind at 4 p.m. It took about only 30 minutes before a 150-pound sow walked into view at 55 yards. As she turned broadside, I held on her ear and squeezed the trigger. The bullet impacted where intended and the porker rolled on its side with barely a twitch. On examination, the bullet had punched through the skull, expanded and traumatized the brain, but didn’t exit.

More Hogs to Hunt

The next day I went out in the early afternoon on a stalk through the thickets covering a rocky hillside. I got some elevation and started glassing the area without much luck. I was just getting ready to pack up and move on when I picked up on a hog laid up under a tree about 150 yards across the hill side. Using the landscape to cover my approach, I closed to about 75 yards, finding a spot where I could hunker down and get a shot. Lining up the first mil-dot on the sleeping pigs head, I squeezed the trigger and watched through the scope as the bullet hit right behind the ear. This pig also simply rolled over dead.

I had a few more days of hunting and a few more pigs with essentially the same result. This is arguably an anecdotal report, but I gained a lot of confidence in the .308 as a pig stopper. Out of the Texan, the .308 is dead accurate and flat shooting. The 133-grain hollowpoint is efficient with respect to both its ballistic and terminal ballistic performance. I tried some solids of about the same weight and found that the accuracy was OK, but not quite as good. I also tried some heavier solids and the accuracy was close, but the trajectory was more pronounced. I think the hollowpoints allow a slightly lighter bullet with a longer bullet length, which may work better with the rifles twist rate and lower (compared to a firearm) muzzle velocity.

More Bores Coming

There are quite a few big bores coming to market these days, and from what I’ve been told by several manufacturers, .457 seems to be the most popular caliber. I think this is a good choice for a dedicated big-game gun that will be used for deer-sized game up.

However, the .308 is to my way of thinking. It’s the optimal caliber for an air rifle intended for shared duty predator/hog hunting. It has the power to take out a coyote at 125 yards and the relatively flat trajectory helps optimize the accuracy further. But it also does the job when you need to shift over to hog-hunting mode. I know of several guys who use this caliber in their deer rifles. Definitely check your local regulations; in some states where airgun hunting for deer is legal, a .40 caliber minimum is stipulated.

Pigs are notoriously tenacious. I’ve seen many hit hard by a powerful centerfire round that take off, never to be seen again. This is why I like head shots on this animal, especially with an air rifle. When you consider that air rifle projectiles do not produce a hydrostatic shock, but rather kill by precise placement on a vital organ, the head shot makes a lot of sense. The kill zone on a head shot and a broadside are about the same in this context, but the headshot produces more immediate kills. This precision is where the intrinsic accuracy and flat-shooting characteristics of the .308 (in the right rifle) shine!

An advantage of the .308 for the airgunner is the flexibility. It allows the hunter to move between predators and hogs without compromise. An interesting observation on this hunt was that while on the ranch several hunters came through using a variety of centerfire rifles. Several times we ended up working late into the evening tracking their wounded animals — and some were not retrieved. There was some eye rolling from some of these same hunters about me using an airgun. Some even questioned my wisdom of using an airgun for these tough animals. But with the air rifle I took four shots and killed four hogs, and not one of them took more than two steps after the shot. It just illustrates that power is only relevant if you place the bullet where it needs to go.

A last note about the projectiles I used. Unlike a firearm where the energy is generated by the bullet, in an airgun the energy is generated by the gun ,from the high pressure compressed air. Not all airguns of the same caliber produce the same energy levels, the same bullet out of one gun may produce 80 ft./lbs. of energy and out of another model produce over 200 ft./lbs. of energy. And some .30-caliber airguns are designed to shoot Diablo-style pellets (usually lower power), and some are designed to utilize heavier cast bullets. While it is possible to kill a coyote or hog with a .30-caliber pellet, the range is more limited and the latitude for suboptimal shot placement disappears. Know what your requirements are before selecting a rifle and a projectile!

Overall, I am impressed with the .308 for hog hunting and plan to use this caliber, and this rifle a lot more in future. I headed back to West Texas in February for a serious predator hunt. Do you want to guess which rifle was included in my gear?

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