Recommended rifle and ammunition for hunting California wild pigs

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.

 

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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.

Target practice

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!

Winchester Supreme Elite XP3

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.

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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!

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14 Responses to Recommended rifle and ammunition for hunting California wild pigs

  1. Great post fella
    Savage sounds like a great choice looking forward to hearing more
    SBW

  2. Phillip says:

    Good stuff, Will! You definitely did your research.

    Just remember, if you come down to hunt below San Jose, you’ll need to look into lead-free bullets.

  3. Jeremy Crone says:

    Will,

    What if I have a really pointy rock and streachy rubber band? According to what I’ve read, the balistics are close to that of the Barrett 50cal but what do you think?

    Looks like you guys are having fun. Hope to see you and Sara sometime in the future.

    Ran a 1/2 Marathon a week ago. OYE!!! In a storm no less.

    Cheers Man,

    Jeremy

  4. jay says:

    I am going wild boar hunting and was told I am goingto be in a tree 250-300 yards away what kind of gun should I use, my friend says he has a 30-06 that I can use is this a good choice and what size grain bullets

  5. Bruce Frank says:

    Most places in CA where one will find pigs is limited to lead-free ammo. I have shot competitively for years. Just started pig hunting here in CA this year. My rifle is a 20 year old Remington 700 Varminter in 308. The rifle was a tack driver with jacketed lead bullets. Switching to lead-free bullets presented a problem. Extremely expensive to work up a load.

    Finally in frustration I bought a box of Hornady match with the 150 grain GMX bullet just to see if the rifle could shoot a no-lead bullet reasonably well. Son-of-a-gun, my first group was less than 3/4″. Getting back into the groove I was able to consistent get my groups below 1/2 minute.

    Finally duplicated the accuracy with my handloads and the Hornady 150 gr GMX bullet. Using Hornady once fired Match brass, 43 grains of W748 powder, Federal BR primers and the GMX bullet shoots 1/2″ groups. And, the load is mild; three to four grains below maximum.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I just bought a Savage 111 30.06, and some 165-grain Remington Core-Lokt Express. I’ve never owned a rifle and the cool thing I like about it is it has a recoil pad on the butt. I’m going for my first Wild Boar this weekend on public land. Exited I am! Great Post!

  7. Art Martin says:

    Everyone:
    I shot a 245 Lb hog with my Remington 700 BDL in 7mm08
    Highly accurate round, 140 grain Remington.
    Light recoil. Short action cartridges seem to have very good accuracy.
    Shot was at about 75 yards and he anchored right there.
    Shoot what you shoot well and accurate.
    Son bought me a hog hunt for Christmas and in a few weeks we’ll be out there dropping a few. He’ll be using a Savage kin 7mm08
    SC hogs on the Savannah River basin. Doesn’t get any better tha that.

  8. SavageShooter says:

    .308 is a oldie but goldie when it comes to caliber selection. You can kill piggy’s with a .223 up to say a .416 Rigby if you want. I personally think anything more than a .308 is too much, while using a .243/.270 is about perfect for that animal type. But for all around cartridge, the .308 can shoot varmint (110gr bullets) up to Elk (190gr bullets) So you can’t go wrong with that caliber.

  9. G Barry says:

    Nice post, very informative. I agree, the .308 seems like a good
    choice as opposed to having several different guns for different game.

  10. Brandon says:

    I enjoyed your article. I went through a very similar process when deciding what to boar hunt with. As it happens I ended up with a milsurp mosin-nagant. I don’t mind the kick so much as I am a big man (i.e.fat,lol.) I find it to be right between the .308 and 30-06 in power. I handload to to get good quality hunting rounds. What rounds do I use? .308 of course. I like the Sierra hard cast boat tail hollow points. They provide excellent penetration and mild expansion for more soft tissue damage. My first hog was a 275lb male. He dropped like a stone. A big stone. I was taking the advice of a veteran hunter at the time and went for a head shot. I am now more wise and rarely do I attempt such a feat any longer. Even so, those .308’s do tremendous damage and I have had other successful hunts as well. On a side note. I do NOT recommend buying a Mosin-Nagant for hunting unless you plan to put in a lot of work to make it useable. I had done the work already and a friend asked me to go hunting. I said “With what?” He said “Your rifle stupid.” Lucky for me I had done a good job and the hunt went great. Please do yourself a favor and buy a good, ready made hunting rifle like this gentleman did. And always buy good ammo. said, “The last thing you want to be thinking about when hunting dangerous game. Is how much you saved on your ammo.”

  11. Jeff Wolcott says:

    I just talked with a rancher in Parkfield CA (Roger Miller, Miller Bros. hunting)I was talking about a hunt and wondering what hog numbers were like.Roger told me he estimates there are over 200 hogs roaming his ranch today. They are hitting his barley fields pretty hard.He said you have to use nonlead bullets on his ranch (condor zone). My experience with copper is, factory ammo is pretty good. Handloads take awhile to develop.

  12. Ty says:

    Thanks for the info i use 308 for just about everything in north America. I may try my 45-70 marlin on our next hunt ! Thanks again .

  13. 7mm08 says:

    Just did a comparison of calibers, recommendations, power……
    Sectional density, foot Lb energy, recoil and accuracy.
    7mm08 140 or 160 grain, then 6.5 or 260 140 grain or 25-06 120 grain
    then 308 180 or 200 grain, then 303 180 grain.
    Small pigs and close distance .243 95 or 100 grain or 257 Roberts 117 grain
    or 30-30 170 grain or 45-70 405 grain just to name a few.
    The 7mm08 160 grain has very good sectional density, more energy than
    a 308 200 grain or 30-06 220 grain at 200 yards is very accurate and has
    a lot less recoil. 7mm08 a great all around round. Deer, Elk Moose, bear, hogs….
    This is the first time I have sent in a comment.

  14. 7mm08 says:

    Read Chuck Hawks sectional density.
    The 308 and 30-06 150 grain SD is 226
    The 7mm08 150 grin is 266 and the 160 grain is 283.
    Also the 7mm08 160 grain has similar energy at 100 and 200 yards
    as the 308 and 30-06, it also has a lot less recoil.
    Accuracy is number one, sectional density and energy are both important.
    a 7mm08 140 grain SD is 248, ft Lb 100 yards 2216, 200 yards 1925,
    300 yards 1664, 400 yards 1432 and 500 yards 1225.
    Also less wind drift and less drop than the 308 and 30-06.
    Also a lot less recoil.

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