© 2007 - 2012 By Albert A Rasch
Boar Hunting: Rifle Calibers Part II
577 Nitro Express rolls off the tongue with fluidity and grace...
My preference is towards "The Big Bores", 40 caliber and above. With these large, relatively slow moving projectiles whose diameter is already the width of expanded thirty caliber bullets, I'm assured of penetration and good wound channels. Invariably, they will completely perforate the target, giving two points of egress. The low forties are characterized by a series of cartridges that have never been popular in the US. The only choices we have readily available are the 416 Remington and the 416 Rigby. Available in relatively expensive firearms, I don't think these are common hog guns by any stretch of the imagination. Would they work? Yes, yes they would, though I would throttle them back from the 2700-2900fps to the 2000 range for my own sake. And as you will see, I have plans for a 416 hog gun.
I'm going to jump right into the 458s, the darling caliber of the professional hog hunter. I'm going to skip the 444 Marlin because I've never seen one, nor do I know anyone who has experience with it. I have heard of some people having a bit of difficulty reloading it. But I am not aware as to the details.
The 45-70 has, as we all know, been subject to a 30 year renaissance, from black powder enthusiasts reloading at moderate pressures to Ruger #1 fans stuffing them with loads treading close on the heels of the 458WM. Marlin certainly did their part introducing lever guns in a multitude of models designed to wring out the best of the 45-70. Whether the close-in Guide Gun or the long barreled Cowboy, the 45-70 has really meshed in nicely with Marlin. I have a strong desire to obtain Marlin's 1895 Cowboy version with a tang mounted vernier peep sight for long range hog sniping. The reproduction Sharps are now available in 45-90 and 45-120 also for the black powder shooters. Things that most 45-70 users have in common, healthy doses of powder and big hunks of lead out front, are what make that cartridge so effective. Again, hard cast lead bullets with big wide meplats (the flat tip on the end where the point ought to be) rule the roost here.
I use the 458WM more than anything else. Loaded with factory 510gr SPs I haven't had any difficulty dispatching anything I could hit. But the cost of shooting factory ammo for it has really stopped me from using it as much lately. Therefore I ordered dies, powder and the assorted stuff one needs to reload. I'm shooting for about 1500fps with 440gr LBT designed bullets. I expect that at 50 yards this combination should be able to penetrate a 250 pounder end for end. I would also like to try Barnes Originals in 600gr RNSP just for fun. Call me a glutton for punishment.
There are a few 50s, the 50-70, 50-100 and 50-140 plus the British Black Powder and Nitro Express. The American fifties are available in several Sharps and Remington rolling block reproductions. (Wish List Alert: Marlin, make a 95 available in the 50-100 please!) Alas, I have not had the pleasure of using any of these. At some point in time I will have a Ruger #1 rebarreled to the 500NE 3 1/4, just so I can have a handful of Churchill cigar sized shells to drop in the chamber. All of the 50s have what it takes to put down big hogs in a hurry. Bullet diameter combined with mass creates a phenomenal knockdown capability.
As you can see, given a choice I will always pick bullet weight over velocity. Since I believe that the challenge in hunting is getting close, and my circumstances, (read palmetto), are such that closeness is required, I don't feel the need for speed. My most recent hog was a 225 lbs sow taken at about 30yards. The 776 grain forster slug pulverized the lungs disappearing into the next county after punching out a fist size exit on the far side. I think the velocity is somewhere in the 1100fps range at the muzzle of the 10 bore gun. (See the post titled "Got one! The rest of the story on the HuntAmerica Hog hunting Forum 1/15/02)
If you were to ask me, what I would consider to be the perfect wild boar hunting gun, I would have to answer as follows. It would be a double rifle chambered in 500NE, and would put four shots in six inches at 100yards, two from each barrel. Its balance would be like that of a fine shotgun and its finish, in deference to the places I hunt, would be as plain as possible, oiled wood and brushed steel. The sights would be a flip front sight with a square blade and a pop-up round white bead, and on the rear, an adjustable square notched sight. If I could I would try to have some kind of peep sight that could be put on and taken off, or flipped with ease, for more deliberate shots. My ammunition could have to be handloaded 550gr WFNGC hardcast bullets at 1700-1900fps at the muzzle, basically the equivalent of the old Sharps 50-140 or the 500 Black Powder Express. Of course the rifle would have been regulated for that. Cost about 10,000 bucks.
On a more practical side, I have been toying with the idea of converting that Colombian .308 FN Mauser that I have to 416 Taylor. The 416 Taylor is essentially a 458WM necked down to 416 caliber. The ballistics are comparable to that of the classic Rigby but in a case that fits in a standard action. Using a medium barrel by Douglas, with the bore deeply recessed and no muzzle brake, the barrel length would be 21 inches, maybe an inch and a half less, for portability and maneuverability. I would use the same sights I described for the dream double. I've heard much about the Ashley sights but never having seen or used them I can't comment on them, though the theory and comments I have heard are very positive. I wonder if I could have the receiver machined to accept Ruger scope rings. Ammo would be loaded with 350- 400gr WFNGC hardcast bullets also keeping the velocity within the lower limits of 1700-1900 fps. If I feel the need for more oomph I can always crank the speed up to almost 2200fps, and a multitude of good bullets are available from Barnes and Hornady. With the bolt I would expect the accuracy to be within a three inch circle at 100 yards. Keeping the weight light, under seven and a half pounds or less if possible, for those all day foot hunts, I would likewise add a good Pachmyr Decelerator pad just in case I did decide to use some hi-speed persuasion. I would probably fit it with a bayonet lug for those close quarter situations if I didn't think my friends would think me crazier than they already do. Cost about 500 bucks, if that.
It is my belief that for true trophy hog hunting where the quarry will top 275 pounds, a thirty caliber rifle would be the minimum. From personal experience I believe that the Swift A-Frames are the best hunting bullet available, but the Failsafes are more lenient in terms of allowing more marginal shots. The construction is such that even after punching through a pinepitch and mud encrusted hide, three inches of shield and a shoulder knuckle, it still has enough mass to drill a hole, albeit a small one in my opinion, through the lungs and end up through the liver on the far side. This again is from personal experience.
In connection with this article, I posed this question to the many members of the HuntAmerica BBS, a hunting and shooting forum on the World Wide Web.
Projectile mass or velocity; what determines your choice? I received many responses:
Coug2Wolfs, known to many on the HuntAmerica Forums, put it best when he said, "Albert, big bullets make big holes, big holes kill animals real fast, that's why I use 'em. The high steppers make big holes too, sometimes even bigger than the big bores, but often they will not exit, and that makes me worry. The blood spoor is mandatory if something goes wrong and you have to track 'em down on dry ground."
Coug2Wolf, I could not agree more. In deference to the hog's heavy fat and gristle layer, which normally seal any puncture wound less than 1/2 inch in diameter, two exit wounds, preferably as big as possible, really assist in game recovery.
StubbleJumper says, "I hunt mostly wide open fields and mountains so ranges can be long. Therefore I chose cartridges based on trajectory and energy which is most affected by velocity. Using the 7mm STW with 140 gr bullets and the 300 UltraMag with 180 gr bullets have taken whitetails, mule deer, elk, moose, black bear, bighorn and pronghorn with the 7mm STW at ranges from 20 yards to 434 yards have taken elk and moose with the 300 UltraMag at ranges from 90 yards to 370 yards. Both rifles are customs built on stainless 700 actions with match grade barrels and Macmillan stocks."
StubbleJumper, I am with you on everything but the black bear. Call me over-cautious, but for me, I would prefer a big slug with big penetration. Isn't it true that there are more fatal black bear attacks than grizzly? But I do know someone who took a smallish blackie in Vermont in the early eighties with a .223 and 55gr SP. Go figure.
Frank in Montana says: "If the ranges are short to moderate then I like heavy for caliber at a moderate velocity. But if I expect long ranges I go lighter to flatten the trajectory, but still stay away from the real light weight bullets." Good balanced approach I think.
Ray in Alaska: "About your question on "velocity or bullet weight," at least in my view...All depends on the type of game and cartridge used. I feel that for moose size game within 300 yards, any bullet from 210 grains up to 300 grains out of the .338 WM or the .375 H&H will provide a "dead right now moose."
GMSemel: "I think that Hunters today bounce around to much between bullet weights rather that pick one weight and learn its path well."
I think that the marketing departments at the major purveyors are doing what the so called "range jockeys" are demanding. And it’s those same range jockeys that can't hit a six inch circle at 100 yards off the bench and wouldn't even be able to hit a drum at the same distance offhand. Again I do have my own range so I do have an advantage, but I think it is a responsibility to the game we take, to be able to shoot properly.
Mike Murphy: "I'll probably take heat for this, but if we examine why many hunters like heavy bullets (myself included) it generally is because of the greater and more reliable penetration they offer. However, with many of today's premium bullets, the heavy weight is no longer needed to get that penetration. The Fail-Safe, Barnes X, Swift A-Frame, etc., do the job without the need for heavy for caliber slugs. The comments above (In the forum discussion.-Ed) regarding penetration seem to support the idea that penetration is what many are seeking and not the "shock" value of velocity. With the new premium bullets we can gain the advantage of better trajectory AND penetration, i.e. the best of both worlds. In the end, as we all know, what really matters is bullet placement whether it's a 100Gr. .243 or a 500Gr. 45/70."
StubbleJumper responded: "Mike Murphy- You make a good point about not requiring heavy bullet weights for penetration when using premium bullets. I have been of this opinion for quite some time but there are many people out there who are living in the past and have a hard time letting go of old beliefs, so they simply will not admit that this can be true. With the lighter weight premium bullets you can have speed and flat trajectory without sacrificing penetration."
Mike and StubbleJumper make the point that I am loath to admit to, but that I have ample and supporting evidence for. And that is that any reasonable cartridge loaded with quality components, is up to the task. Assuming responsible shooting and proper bullet placement, any game can be taken.
My avowed favoritism towards the big bores is based on several things. Physics; big things hit harder. Character; it takes practice and diligence to become a competent shooter with the big bores. Linguistics; 577 Nitro Express rolls off the tongue with fluidity and grace, whereas 280 Remington doesn't. And furthermore you swat animals with a big bores; when you use the others you just shoot them.
Where's that phonebook? I wonder if Holland and Holland is taking orders...
Don't forget that there is a Part I :Boar Hunting: Rifle Calibers Part I
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...