As a modern hunter, finding a game animal that may be hunted throughout the year all over the continent is rare. Feral hog, however, is a species that people can hunt year-round. This invasive species population that destroys crops and entire ecosystems continues to grow at exponential rates that are challenging to keep up within the United States. Therefore, it is helpful to know some of the best cartridges and caliber for hog hunting. This will literally help you to bring home the bacon.
Feral hogs are hunted with a wide array of cartridges. Popular options include .223 Remington; 6.5 Grendel; 6.5 Creedmoor; .243 Winchester; 7mm-08; 308 Winchester; .25-06 Remington; .270 Winchester; and 30-06 Springfield. In states like Texas, where killing more hogs regardless of what is done with the carcasses is often the norm; modern sporting rifles chambered in .223 Remington are often used.
Because of the amount of destruction of which feral hogs are capable and their prolific breeding habits, hunting seasons in many states are liberal and bag limits are high. Some states even disregard otherwise common waste of game meat laws in order for hunters to thin the population at a faster rate. Texas is one such state, and hunters often deploy in helicopters with AR-15 style, modern sporting rifles with high magazine capacities, allowing numerous hogs to be culled in a short period of time.
Common Calibers For Hog Hunting
Hogs can be taken with any rifle that is also suitable for deer sized animals, but the profile of a feral hog is smaller than those of deer, yet more dense. The area of the hog that encompasses the vitals is smaller, so precise shots with quality constructed bullets are beneficial. Again, some hunters in certain states shoot rapidly at moving hogs, with less concern with the harvest of meat. So let’s take a closer look at the nine best cartridges and calibers that are fit for hog hunting, regardless of weather or not you keep the meat.
Cartridges For Feral Hogs
The smallest caliber cartridge on this list, the .223 Remington is used generally by youth or recoil sensitive shooters or in situations where more projectiles at faster rates of fire are preferred. The .223 Remington loses speed and energy necessary for efficacy beyond 300 yards and shots are most effective when taken within 200 yards.
A well placed shot with a .223 Remington will get the job done effectively. However, who am I to argue with the numerous hunters who deploy this cartridge on an invasive species? The ability to deploy with a rapid firing sporting rifle with high capacity magazines makes this cartridge lethal.
The 6.5 Grendel is, in my opinion, the absolute best cartridge regularly chambered in modern sporting style, AR rifles. With projectile grain weights between 95 and 129, this cartridge offers repeatable accuracy and lethality on game up to whitetail deer. Like the .223 Remington, recoil is minimal. The effective range of the 6.5 Grendel eclipses the .223 Remington however, and kill shots can be taken as far out as 400 yards.
The Grendel houses .26 caliber projectiles that are also used in competition shooting, and more rifle options have hit the market as its popularity grows. Not only can you find modern sporting rifles chambered for the 6.5 Grendel, many bolt action rifles have been introduced since the cartridge’s acceptance. Ruger, Howa and CZ all chamber inexpensive yet accurate rifles in 6.5 Grendel.
The 6.5 Ceedmoor is an excellent all-around cartridge for deer sized game including feral hogs. Maximizing heavy for caliber (.26 caliber) bullets with high ballistic coefficients make the Creedmoor effective on game at further distances. The 6.5 Creedmoor maintains over 1000 ft-lbs of energy beyond 550 yards.
The 6.5 Creedmoor fits small action rifles, and you can get a gun that fits just about any shooter and that is highly maneuverable in the woods or blind.
Quality rifles and ammunition are generally available as the 6.5 Creedmoor is one of the most popular cartridges on the market. Recoil is minimal for a cartridge so lethal, so nearly any hunter can manage the 6.5 Creedmoor. Inherent, repeatable accuracy can be expected from this cartridge.
The .308 Winchester Family Tree
Any of the cartridges that have evolved from the .308 Winchester are excellent for deer sized game and feral hogs. Basically, taking a .308 Win case and modifying the neck to house bullets of different calibers have made some of the best short action cartridges out there.
The next two cartridges were both created in this manner, but you would do well to choose a different .308 offspring as well, perhaps the 260 Remington (.26 caliber), 338 Federal (.33 caliber) or the .358 Winchster (.35 caliber).
As I have noted above, the .243 Winchester is derived by necking down a .308 Winchester to house a .24 caliber bullet. Topped with bullets weighing between 58 and 108 grains, the .243 Winchester is best used on hogs with the 100 grain or heavier bullets.
This cartridge is excellent for hog hunting because it has low recoil, is chambered in rifles from numerous manufacturers and ammunition availability is generally plentiful. Shots may be taken out to 400 yards if the shooter is up to it.
My favorite cartridge based on a modified .308 case is the 7mm-08. 7 millimeter projectiles equate to .28 caliber, and bullet weights range between 120-175 grains. For feral hogs, bullets of 140 grains or heavier are ideal and shots can be taken beyond normal hunting ranges as the cartridge generally carries more than 1000 ft-lbs of energy past 650 yards.
Recoil from rifles in 7mm-08 is considered moderate, making this cartridge an excellent choice for younger, smaller bodied or recoil sensitive hunters. Rifles and ammo options are generally plentiful.
The parent cartridge to many successful hunting rounds, the .308 Winchester is the .30 caliber (America’s caliber) version. Firing larger, heavier bullets, the .308 Winchester does recoil more harshly than the cartridges listed above but the recoil is still considered manageable for the majority of hunters.
Bullets weigh between 110 and 220 grains, offering an immense range of weights and making the .308 a very versatile cartridge. Bullets weighing between 150 and 170 hit the sweet spot for hog hunting; and the .308 maintains above 1000 ft-lbs of energy beyond 700 yards.
Rifles chambered in .308 Winchester are everywhere, and made by just about every rifle manufacturer. Ammunition has historically been available, though the recent ammunition shortage has affected availability of all cartridges.
The .30-06 Family Tree
Like the .308 Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield has fathered numerous excellent offspring. Also like the .308 Winchester, any of the .30-06 family of cartridges will work wonderfully on feral hogs. Other cartridges based off the .30-06 not listed here are 280 Remington, 280 Ackley Improved (both .28 caliber cartridges) and 35 Whelen (.35 caliber).
A consideration for the .30-06 family tree of cartridges is that they all are fitted in what are considered long action rifles, though you can get light-weight versions if that is a need.
Necking down the .30-06 to house a .25 caliber bullet has created a popular deer and pronghorn cartridge that will work wonders on feral hogs. Generally utilizing bullets between 75 and 120 grains, the 110 to 120 grain bullets are best suited for feral hogs. The .25-06 Remington maintains 1000 ft-lbs of energy beyond 450 yards, and maintains the necessary speed at that distance for the projectile to expand as designed.
Officially released as the .25-06 in 1969, rifles are plentiful and ammunition has historically been available. Recoil is just a touch stronger than the 6.5 Creedmoor and still plenty manageable for most hunters.
The future is beginning to look even brighter for the .25-06 Remington, as bullet manufacturers have begun making longer, heavier .25 caliber bullets that will extend range and lethality once rifles are barreled with the faster twist rates needed to stabilize these lovely, long bullets.
Necking down the .30-06 to fit .27 caliber bullets created one of the best non-magnum cartridges on the market. Recoiling more than all of the cartridges on this list other than the .30 calibers, and chambered in long action rifles, the .270 Winchester may not be for every hunter. It is however, a lethal and effective cartridge on feral hogs and deer sized game.
The .270 Winchester has been around since 1925, both rifles and ammunition can be found nearly anywhere those things are sold. Maintaining more than 1000 ft-lbs of energy beyond 700 yards, the .270 Winchester used to be considered a long-range hunting cartridge, and I still consider it suitable for reasonably long distances. Bullet weights vary between 100 and 150 grains, the best bullets for hogs weigh 130 grains or more.
Known quasi-officially as the venerable .30-06, this .30 caliber granddaddy (development began in 1903 and official specifications formalized in 1906) has been putting meat on the table for over a century. Like the .308 Winchester, the .30-06 is a versatile cartridge with bullets weighing between 110 and 225 grains.
The .30-06 is the hardest recoiling cartridge on this list but still well below magnum cartridge recoil. The heavier bullets of the .30-06 maximizes the distance it retains 1000 ft-lbs of energy to just beyond 800 yards, though you will likely never need to take a shot on a feral hog anywhere near that range.
Rifle and ammunition options abound, and the .30-06 is adequate to take nearly any game species found in North America.
A Straight Walled Cartridge Option
With many densely populated states beginning to allow hunting with rifles chambered for straight walled cartridges where no centerfire rifle had previously been authorized for hunting, Winchester created the 350 Legend to fit a new niche.
Densely populated states have approved straight walled cartridges because of their limited range, and shots with the 350 Legend should be kept within 200 yards. The 350 Legend offers more energy than the .223 Remington yet less recoil and deeper penetration than the .243 Winchester, making it a good choice for recoil sensitive hunters.
Rifle manufacturers other than Winchester have begun chambering rifles in 350 Legend, and even in the midst of the pandemic fueled ammunition shortage, I regularly found 350 Legend ammo available for purchase.
Selecting two families of cartridges (.308, .30-06) and cherry picking the best three from each may feel redundant. These cartridges were selected however, not because of their relation to one another or due to this writer’s laziness, but based on their absolute efficacy and availability.
The six represented cartridges from the .308 and .30-06 families each do things a little differently, be it recoil less or extend maximum range. Each of these six cartridges also maintains consumer popularity which drives rifle and ammunition manufacturing as well as options.
Cartridge options that made it to the final cut but not the final list are the 7.62×39, which is limited by rifle selection, the 240 Weatherby Magnum which was cut based on ammunition cost and availability, and the 35 Remington which is also limited by rifle and ammunition availability. The historic 30-30 Winchester is a known hog killer but is readily eclipsed by the cartridge choices that did make the list.
Again, any rifle you feel comfortable using to harvest deer will suffice for feral hogs. Heck, I implore you to get out there and lower the numbers of this invasive species whenever you can with whatever you can. With an accurate rifle, you can literally bring home the bacon.