Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hog Hunting Rifles: Part I

© 2009 Albert A Rasch

I’ve wanted the Marlin 1895 Cowboy for what seems like an eternity. I bet it would be a fantastic boar hunting rifle. With its long octagonal barrel and a good vernier tang sight I could swat a hog a couple, maybe three hundred yards away. And to top it all off, it holds half a box of 45-70 ammo in its feed tube! How's that for capacity; it's a fightin' man's rifle is what it is!

I was perusing the racks at the neighborhood gunshop, when an overlong levergun on the racks caught my wandering eye. Could it be? I wondered.

Indeed it was; a Marlin 1895 Cowboy.

After handing me that long sought after pig slayer, Mike the good natured salesman that he is, was trying mightily to encourage me to part with my hard earned money. But with stoic resignation I explained to him that I was not in the position to purchase it. At least not today. Things are tough. We were chatting when I commented on looking forward to a little hog hunting sometime this late winter or early spring. A young fellow who had been engrossed with the revolvers in the case, looked up at the mention of hog hunting. Mike and I were busy trading some stories and the conversation drifted to calibers, I being a big bore proponent, and Mike a dyed in the wool 30 caliber man.

The young man had sidled himself up the counter. He turned to me and asked, “What do you consider a good boar hunting rifle?” I raised an eyebrow at the interruption; Mr. Marlin, Mike, and I were in deep consultation at that very moment. But the fellow was serious, as serious as an untested warrior girding for battle might be. “I, um, I want to hunt hog, and I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation…Sir.” I handed the Marlin back to Mike and nodded my head. It was a fine piece of equipment. Maybe later.

I looked Junior over. Six foot plus, 200 pounds plus, solidly built, (What the devil are they feeding these kids now-a-days anyway?) and polite, even if he had to think about it.

“What’s your name kid?” I asked. “Otto…Sir.” He replied. I nodded my head in acknowledgment; it’s important to reinforce good behavior.

“So you want to hunt wild pig, huh? Get yourself a trophy tusker maybe?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Well tell me what you got. Do you already have a rifle?”

“I don’t have a rifle yet, and I’m here trying to figure out what to get. My friend’s dad says I need a 338 Winchester Magnum, while on the internet they say a 45/70 is better.” He must have read one of my pieces. Good for him, obviously comes from a good family. He continued, “My dad’s got a 7MM Magnum, I think it’s a Winchester. And we have a Ruger 10/22. I shoot it some.”

“Ok buddy I think I got it.”

What we have here is a young man who wants to go hunting but doesn’t have the experience or equipment to do so. Lucky for him he met me. I didn't ask him how much he wanted to spend. I was going to let him experience the whole gamut of choices and then let him decide what he wanted.

"Ok pal, let's see what Mike has behind the counter." The first gun I asked for was the Harrington & Richardson single shot. Mike pulled an Ultra Hunter in 308 Winchester. Price tag was a little over $300.00.

“Otto,” I started, ”this is not a bad place to start. It’s a single shot in 308, it won’t kick you too hard, and it will be a little easier on the wallet than some of the others. Ammo is pretty reasonable too.” I broke the action and handed it to him. "The H&Rs come in a variety of calibers from .22 long rifle to 45-70 government. They even have one in 45 Long Colt that I wouldn't mind having, and I do have one in 10 bore with rifle sights. It's got a hole on the end of it that your thumb will fit into!"

“I was kinda looking for a good bolt action.” He said handing it back to me. “And isn’t the 308 sort of light for hogs?”

Fair enough question. “Otto, I wrote a long article for a blog called The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, here let me write it down for you.” Mike passed me a piece of scrap paper. "There's an article by the name of Boar Hunting: Rifle Calibers, read it. It has a lot of information in it that will help you decide which cartridge you need." I scribbled down the pertinent web site addresses.

“The 308 is a great cartridge,” I paused,”for the hunter who is deliberate in his shooting. That is to say, a hunter who picks his shots and hits where he aims each and every time.” He looked at me. Before he could open his mouth though. I asked, “How good a shot are you? Tell me honest.”

“Ok… I guess.” Was his reply

“Well this would be a great rifle if you learn to shoot better than just Ok.” I wondered where his dad was. He should be here and in the conversation. “Listen to me, it is very important that you understand this. To harvest game, to kill an animal, requires from you the dedication to learn to shoot well. That is the respect that you must show the animal." Mike nodded sagely from behind the counter. I didn't want him to get the wrong impression though. "That's not to say that you need a bigger caliber gun for hunting or that a bigger gun will kill any better; no, what I am saying is that using a .308 requires you to be more selective in the shots you take." As I handed the H&R back to Mike he mentioned, “I’ve got a used one in 45-70 by the way.” I nodded.

“Mike let me have that #1 over there, please.” Mike put up the H&R and pulled a Ruger #1 from the rack. Not one of those stainless steel models, but a nice, properly blued model 1-B. Time for sticker shock! $850.00 I almost keeled over. I haven't bought a new rifle in five years.

“Now Otto, this is a gentleman’s rifle. This is the Ruger #1 in 30/06. This and a box of Remington Safari Grade ammo and you can take any hog, deer, or for that matter bear , if you do your part.” Mike piped up, "Hey Albert, Remington came out with a proprietary H-mantle now. It's called Premier A-Frame. I don't believe they use the Swift A-Frame anymore." "Really? I'll have to look into that." I responded. I handed the Ruger to Otto and he levered the action open. “Nice, isn’t it. I own a couple; one in 45-70, and the other, my main wild boar rifle is in 458 Winchester Magnum. Still don’t have that 416 Rigby though.”

Teasing me Mike said. “I can get it for you anytime!” I know Mike, I know.

“It sure is nice, but I don’t know…” Otto drifted off.

“Buddy," I interrupted, "you have to go with what you feel is right for you. You’re among men now, men who respect you and your decisions. You want to be a hunter right? Well we hunters know that you’ll make the right choice when you pick a gun… and when you pull the trigger. So don’t sweat it Ok?” He looked surprised and relieved.

"If you have your heart set on a bolt action, there are two things to know. One is controlled round feeding, and two, push feed." Mike grabbed his stool and sat down. I looked at him like, what, I’m long winded or something?

“Listen here Otto, controlled round feed is where the cartridge is captured by the extractor, like a claw sort of, and held through the whole cycle in and out. Push feed actions push the cartridge from the magazine into the chamber and then the extractor snaps over the rim. Got it?”

Otto was lost.

“Mike you got a 700 floating around?” Dumb question I know. He pulls a Remington model 700 BDL and hands it to me. I look at the tag and I see it’s a 300 Remington Ultra Mag. Not my favorite cartridge. I like the 700s just not in magnum cartridges. If I was going to build up a tactical rifle, I would probably do it on a 700 action.

“Otto, see how the bolt face is round and only has this small thing here? That’s the extractor. These have a reputation for breaking, at least a few years ago they did. Mike? What’s the verdict on this?” I love putting him on the spot.

“Pretty much resolved; I’ve been selling these (RUMs) since early 2003, and I’ve never had one returned.” If Mike says so then it must be.

While Mike was speaking I picked up a surplus 98. When did they get so pricey? “Now see this here? That’s the extractor. Notice how much bigger it is. If you’re smacking hogs, or maybe you’re dreaming of Alaskan brown bear, I would stick to the controlled round feed. It secures the cartridge as it picks it up from the magazine. He nodded in agreement. Mike rolled his eyes. "My Weatherby Mark V has a very similar extractor." Mike patiently traded rifles with me. This time a Weatherby Vanguard in 300 Weatherby Magnum.

(Good, I got another one on the CRF bandwagon! That argument between CRF and push feed has been going on for I don’t know how long. We writers need to keep the pot stirred up.)

Otto really liked the Weatherby, but then again, who wouldn't. "This is chambered in the 300 Weatherby Magnum." I said "Probably one of the top ten cartridges ever designed." Mike grabbed his stool again. My turn to roll my eyes. "The .300 is as flat shooting as any other cartridge made for hunting, can kill just about anything given the proper bullet, and the recoil is still well within the realm of reasonable. Truth is, it is a little excessive for hunting hogs up close, but if you are hunting and not just shooting, and you're using good ammo, you will pick your shots, and do fine." I went on, "This rifle and cartridge are not for a first timer though. The recoil is more than you are accustomed to, so without practice and a coach, you might get bad habits that are difficult to get rid of."

I'm pretty sure he had his boar hunting rifle. Until he looked at the tag; the price was more than he had bargained for, about $700.00.

"Boy, they sure are expensive." He mumbled.

"You got that right kid! But you get what you pay for." He was getting dejected.

"Come here, let's look at some of the lever guns."

Mike has a good selection of leverguns both new and used. "Mike," I said, "do you have a Marlin 94 in 45 Long Colt?"

"I sure do." He flipped tags until he found what I asked for.

"This might just be the most practical Florida hog hunting gun you will find. With practice you can shoot this out to one hundred yards, ammo is relatively inexpensive, and if you handload, you can cut that cost even further. Not only that, but if you roll your own, you can increase the power exponentially. But that's a conversation for another day!" He looked it over thoughtfully. "Mike, you have any Cor-Bon ammo?" I could see the boxes, but I couldn't see the letters or numbers. "Just the 45-70." He said, and then added, "Look on the table, there's some LBT bullets there." I walked over and after a quick search found what I was looking for. It was a box of 300gr 45 caliber wide flat nose bullets. Mike read my mind and got some generic 45 reloads with 200gr round nose flat points on it.

"Otto, these round noses are good for practicing and shooting at the range, but for hunting hog you really should move up to these hard cast solids. For deer you can get the Winchester Silvertips if you want. But on hogs I would avoid the hollow points at all costs."

"Why's that?" He asked.

"Well, on a wild pig, penetration is the most important factor. I big boar hog will have a thick, hardened, shield over his front quarters that protects him from other boar's tusks. This gristle and fat will also stop a light bullet, or a hollow point that opens to much. A tough solid though, will go through and do what it's supposed to. And that's to scramble its insides enough that he doesn't want to slice and dice you. "

"Now let's say you get into handgun hunting, You can get yourself a Ruger Bisley in 45 Long Colt, and you only have to carry one type of ammo." I could tell he liked that idea.

Mike butted in at this point. "Watch out kid, if it's not a .45 Albert thinks it's a squirrel gun! How about a 30/30? " Mike went back to the racks and pulled what I thought was a Winchester Model 94.

He continued, "This is the new Mossberg 464. It's less than a year old."

I was dumbfounded. "Mossberg? I didn't realize they were making a levergun."

"Ahhh, so you don't know everything!" He retorted.

"Look wiseguy, I'm a busy man. If Mossberg's board of directors forgot to call me, I can't be held responsible! I'm calling them as soon as I get home." Otto wasn't sure how serious we were.

"Don't mind him kid," he said with a chuckle, "Albert knows more than anyone I know, but I love it when he doesn't." I was working on a full blown case of pseudo-sulks.

"Now Mike, you know I have a lot of respect for the 30/30." I turned to Otto, "The 30/30 is a fine cartridge, provided you don't try to make it do something it's not supposed to. Back in the day it used a 160 to 170 grain round nosed soft point. That killed an awful lot of deer, bears, and elk, to say nothing of all the outlaws, cutthroats, and bandits it put six feet under. The reason it was and still is so successful is because it pushes a lot of lead at a sedate speed. The bullets don't blow up, split into pieces, or veer too far off mark. It hits, and keeps on going until it runs out of steam."

"Sooo... You think this is a good boar gun?" Otto asked innocently looking the Mossberg over.

"Otto, You have to decide that for yourself! Neither Mike nor I can tell you what is the best rifle is. We can recommend which firearm might be suitable for the game you're pursuing, but we can't tell you what is best for you." Mike chimed in, "You see kid, Albert here is a single shot fan. He would much rather make that one shot kill, than shoot the biggest animal out there. His idea of a successful hunt is one where he stalks or waits for that one shot. It's the challenge he's after not the animal." I continued, "If you where going out west after pronghorn for instance, we would recommend a bolt action in a 6.5 mm or 25 caliber. If you told us you where heading out for grizzly, I wouldn't let you go with anything less than 45/70 loaded to the hilt, whereas Mike here might let you go with a popgun like a 375 Holland and Holland! So it really comes down to what you think is best, after analyzing how you hunt, how recoil tolerant you are, what your skill level is, how comfortable you are with your gun, and most importantly why you hunt."

Otto thought about that for a couple of minutes. He was nervously chewing his bottom lip. "You know, I really like these leverguns. I like the idea of having more bullets..." "Cartridges." I corrected. "Cartridges. I like having more cartridges to shoot." He paused, looked around some and asked, "What other choices do I have?"

Well, I paused for a moment, "There used to be pump rifles... I think Remington made one, and it was pretty popular up north and with the cops."

Mike added, "They still make it, it's the Model 7600. But I haven't had a call on one in years."

"I stand corrected, again!" I laughed! "Ok, everyone have their fun!"

"Then there's the automatics, the ARs and the Browning."

"Not my favorite type of firearm for hunting to be honest. Now I wouldn't say they don't have there place under certain circumstances, like maybe varmint hunting with the AR, or a situation where recoil must be better managed. But I don't know or appreciate them as hunting weapons. As weapons systems yes, but as hunting arms no."

"Ok, last but not least..." I turned back to Mike, "You can pull up your stool now. Last but not least, drumroll please, are the double guns and the combinations. These are the rifles and shotguns of the true sportsman and the professional hunter." I added, "I hope you have bags of money if you decide on this route!."

"Mike let me borrow that Ruger side by side, if you don't mind."He slapped it across my palm, It was the Gold Label in 12 gauge. Closeing the action, I shouldered the shotgun and welded my cheek to the stock. "Imagine if you will, I wily boar hog, two foot at the shoulder tall, and tusks like the curved daggers the bedouins wear." I took a step forward. "You've stalked him for hours and now you have in your sights. Carefully you line up the sights and as he turns he presents you a picture perfect target. You gently, ever so carefully squeeze the trigger, and BOOM! The shot goes off." I lifted the muzzle skywards. "As you pull the rifle back down, the boar has closed the distance between you and him by half. Without thinking, or wondering why he's still moving, you finish pulling the rifle down and with a second to spare, pull the trigger, the second barrel goes off and the 450gr slug slams into the wild pig, putting him down for good." With a dramatic flourish, I broke the action, removed two imaginary spent 500 Nitro express hulls that my imaginary semi-ejectors lifted from the chamber, and put them in my pocket. I blew in the chambers and drew two more imaginary cartridges from my belt and dropped them in the now empty gun.

Not for nothing, I was in rare form; even my heart was beating faster. Otto's eyes were wide; he looked suitably impressed. Mike on the other hand was trying his hardest not to laugh.

Holland & Holland Round Action Sidelock

"That's when the bags of money you paid for a doublegun makes it worthwhile. Double guns are the professional hunter's gun of choice when after dangerous game. You have two very powerful shots immediately available to you. But it's unlikely that you will find a double rifle here or at any local gunshop. They're rare and usually available through specialty dealers." Mike added, "I could probably order you one though, if you got the money."

"About $95,000.00" I stage whispered. Otto's eyes opened wider.

"Having said that, I found a German drilling in Virginia a couple of months ago. It is one of the rare times where I have berated myself long and hard on not having done better. A drilling is most commonly two shotgun barrels side by side with a rifle barrel centered below. This one in particular was two sixteens with an 8X57R underneath."

"What would that be good for?" Otto asked perplexed once again.

"In Europe the game belongs to the land owner. He or she could be walking and come across pheasant, quail, a fox, wild boar, or a stag. With a drilling he could be ready for any of them. Bird shot for the birds, buckshot for the fox, and the rifle for a boar or stag. Here in the States, I think if you are carrying it, you're doing it just to be different!"

"Or you're an eccentric!" Mike said. I ignored the barely hidden finger he was using to point at me.

"Well, eccentric maybe, but I have a friend that owns land with great dove and quail habitat, along with wild boar and deer. I could see where a combination gun could be real handy."

"I'll grant you that," he replied, "but you would still be an eccentric, if not a full blown loon."

"I'll take that as a compliment sir." I said with a flourish and a bow.

I was pretty much at the end of my discourse. Oh I could have gone on for hours. There are cape guns, shotguns, black powder guns, all sorts of handguns, bows, spears, knives even sharpened sticks. Otto had been tutored on rifles, now it was up to him to make a decision.

We will finish up with Otto and his decision in Hog Hunting Rifles Part II.

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...

Nebraska Hunting Company CupidFish.com Scott Croner


GoGo said...

You are right bother. Nothing like the feel and action of the Marlin 1895 Cowboy or, for that matter, the Winchester 1896. Both are classic pieces and every Hunter or serious Collector should have at least one of these puppies in the inventory. In the case of taking down Wild Boar I'd like to have quite a few extra rounds of .45 in the tube for good measure. As we all know, "Murhy" likes to tag along on the hunt sometimes and many things can go wrong. You miss a first or second shot with the Marlin, you're still pretty well loaded if your target gets mad and starts to bear down on you!My opinion on the bolt-action rifles you mentioned is that they are better suited to longer range engagements. More stand-off capability. You've got enough time to chamber a round or another if need be. Mr. Merlin 1895, however, is already loaded and reay to go with a smooth lever-action and ready to shoot all day long.


Matt said...

Good story; can't wait to see what Otto bought!

Albert A Rasch said...


Well put. When you're facing down one of North America's most unpredictable animals, and one that could leave you the worse for wear, some back up is always welcome. The '95 Cowboy sure is sweet and the extra weight really puts the breaks on recoil; so if you are stoking it with heavy duty persuasion, the follow up, if needed, will be that much quicker.

The other '95 in 45LC is handy and when loaded up with H110 and LBTs packs almost as much wallop as the 45/70. I wouldn't hesitate to us it either.

Speaking of 1886s, I'll let you in on a little secret if you promise not to tell.

I've been coveting Doug Turnbull's 1886 in 50-110.

The Rock Kommando


que hermosos rifles amigo!
en mi casa tenemos un winchester 22magnun. muy parecido a uno de los tuyos.
te mando un gran abrazo desde aqui!
pablo j gonzalez

cypresscreek said...

Great post... I always love to see what our hunters will show up with to shoot some pork, and there is usually quite a variety of opinions in camp on what kills best. But I tell you, nothing works if they can't shoot straight :)

Phillip said...

Albert, Albert...

Poor Otto may have been slightly confused when he started, but it looks like your fine tutelage may have helped to move him toward perfection! Good work!

Personally, I've never been a big fan of shooting a pistol cartridge in a rifle (.45 Colt, .44, .357, etc.), but other than that, I like your choices.

I generally recommend 30 cal or better, even though I know plenty of folks who have good success with smaller guns. When you're hunting hogs up close and personal, it's hard to be overgunned (although .458 WinMag toes the line a little).

I think I've bought all the guns I'll ever buy for now, with one exception... a double rifle, chambered most likely in the pipsqueak (by your standard) .375H&H. You'll see some fine examples this coming week in Orlando!

Albert A Rasch said...


You and me both! Besides having the opportunity to meet you and everyone else, I am besides myself in anticipation. If only Holland and Holland was there with a 577 Nitro Express it would be perfect!

I tend to tease about the 375 H&H, but I believe that it is probably one of the finest rounds available. If I was limited to a two gun battery, it would be a 22 to 24 caliber bolt action, and a 375 H&H, hands down.

Fortunately I don't have those limitations!


Bion said...

GoGo, not to nitpick the nits, but there ain't no 1896 Winchester,so I guess you meant the 1886 and I'm thinking the modern ones are made in Japan...not that that's a bad gun, but I'm more American inclined, and like the New Haven stamp....
And in a good hog gun, I've dropped a number with the .22 magnum, right behind the ear, or right in either eye, depending on the angle...but a .30-30 or .44 magnum is plenty good for the quick shots, when you need a quick handling, open sighted carbine...and if you're quick enough, maybe you'll get two or more! The .45 Long Colt is much stronger now, than it used to be..it used to have a thin walled, ballooned case, that split when you gave it a heavy charge...now, it's a better case, but most pressures are kept down for the old guns it was designed for..that's why I prefer the .44mag...

sipoy said...

When it comes to hunting these days it seems that we simply can't recruit enough young and new hunters, gsg rifles. This is the case across all states and is a troubling phenomenon. That said, there are ways that we can make it easier get both young and old new hunters into the sport, and that is to make it fun! On top of that, making it affordable is a much added bonus that we can strive to achieve. Thankfully, the pellet gun offers both of those things and much more.

Airsoft Spring Tactical Air Pistol UHC said...

Great post, i really like the way hunters shoots the target, i like the sound of the guns.
I wish if i could own a DRAGNOUV or a SPAS 12.

mt1761 said...

Rasch, do you have any knowledge/experience with the Savage 24? Over-under, generally a 20 gauge coupled with a .30-30 or smaller caliber rifle barrel. What do you think of this setup as a designated hog stopper?