After I decided I wanted to hunt wild pigs I was faced with a challenging question: how?
Hunting with a bow and arrow sounds cool, but I don’t think I’m that hardcore. Crossbows are interesting but a little medieval for me. Dropping from a tree with a big knife sounds like a recipe for disaster. I guess there are other ways to do it, but I decided I needed a rifle.
Guns can be confusing. Caliber? Grain? Magnum? Centerfire? Rimfire? I guess I kinda knew the difference between bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles, but that’s about it. Taking the California Hunters Safety Course was very helpful, the online class I took covered different types of actions and explained the difference between caliber, grain of ammunition, and type of cartridge (centerfire/rimfire). In the in-class portion of the course we also had some hands-on time with rifles and shotguns.
However, learning what the words mean and knowing which rifle I should buy are totally different things. I’ve shot a few rifles before and they’ve been wildly different. I loved the iron sights on the M1 Carbine, but the .30-caliber Carbine rounds weren’t ever intended for long-distance shooting or hunting. My friend Brad’s .30-06 shoots bullets intended for long-distance hunting, but kicks like a son of a bitch. It was hard to wrap my head around the idea that both shot the same caliber rounds, but the size of the cartridge, the amount of gunpowder behind the bullet, and the overall shooting experience could be so totally different.
I quickly figured out that the caliber of ammunition I wanted to shoot was at least as important as the type of gun I wanted to shoot. Because I have no particular brand loyalty to Remington or Winchester, and because I wasn’t sure what I’m going to be shooting with the gun in the future, I wanted an accurate rifle chambered in a do-it-all caliber. I also wanted a popular round that I could buy anywhere, and I made sure I checked the relative price of ammunition.
From extensive research on the Chuck Hawks website, a site I can’t recommend enough, I found that .30-06 and .308 rounds are recommended for just about any type of hunting. Availability is almost universal. Prices are reasonable. The $1000 Hunting Rifle System page is a great summary of what people in the know recommend.
The ballistics of .30-06 and .308 rounds are very similar, but from my limited shooting experience the .30-06 kicks a lot harder and is a lot louder. I decided I wanted a rifle chambered in the quintessential .308 Winchester. In retrospect this was an excellent choice and one I have so far been very happy with.
So once I chose the type of ammunition I wanted to shoot, next I found myself grappling with the choice of rifle. Again Chuck Hawks was a great resource. I read about the popular Remington 700 series, and was getting ready to buy one when I discovered a highly-recommended manufacturer called Savage Arms. My rifle choice was primarily driven by my desire for excellent out-of-the-box accuracy combined with a low cost of ownership.
Savage Arms makes rifles that have a reputation for being accurate as shipped from the factory. In addition, some of their rifles have a special trigger that helps the shooter realize the inherent accuracy of the rifle. The “AccuTrigger” is a two-stage trigger that enables a very light trigger pull while guarding against accidental discharge. When I discovered my local gun shop, Markells, had a Savage Arms 11FNS chambered in .308 in stock, it was an easy decision.
I’ve taken the rifle to the range a few times and we keep getting better. The type of ammunition definitely makes a difference, that cheap Russian stuff is cheap for a reason, but I think I’m definitely the limiting factor in the accuracy equation.
The next big decision is the type of ammunition. Sure, shooting .308-caliber ammo is a good choice for hunting pigs, but what type of ammo should I shoot? I had no idea there were so many options! Okay, we’ve got FMJ (full metal jacket, illegal to use for hunting in California), BTHP (boat tail hollow-point), Spitzer (Sp), Semi-Spitzer (SSp), Super Shock Tip (SST), Pointed Soft Point (PSP), and a truckload of other differentiators thought up by marketing dweebs working for Hornady, Winchester, Remington, Federal, Speer, and other ammunition manufacturers.
After shooting a bunch of Russian junk at the range I realized that I should practice with the equipment I was going to use while hunting. Unfortunately this can be very expensive! The craziest ammo I’ve ever seen, and I must confess I immediately bought a box of 20 for $45, is the Winchester Supreme Elite XP3. It’s not just Supreme, it’s not just Elite, it doesn’t just have a number. It’s got all three. This is crazy though, $45 for a box of ammo!
If you want to get crazy about accuracy you should be thinking about how many twists are in your rifled barrel, the weight (grain) of the ammunition you’re shooting, and of course the distance to your target. You should also think about the lethality of your caliber and bullet weight. The Guide to Hunting Wild Pigs in California has a great table recommending the minimum caliber and bullet weights for pigs weighing under and over 90lbs.
I ended up choosing 150-grain Remington Core-Lokt Express. It’s $21 for a box of 20 at Big-5. They always have it in stock. The ammo shoots really well, doesn’t foul up my rifle, and based on the bullet recovered from my first successful kill, works really well.
So in conclusion, my extensive research led me to purchase and use:
- Savage Arms 11FNS chambered in .308
- 3-9×40 Bushnell scope that came with the rifle
- 150-grain Remington Core-Lokt Express
I hope this helps someone out there. Good luck!