Hunting Hogs With Black Powder

Hunting wild hogs has become a nationwide sport as many state game departments have liberalized hog hunting regulations in an effort to control damage done to food plots and wildlife habitats.

Not only do hogs destroy artificial plantings, but also in extreme cases, so disturb the forest floor that almost no understory vegetation survives to provide food and cover for other species.

More hogs are being taken each year by muzzleloading guns as the primary species being hunted or as additional animal (s) harvested during hunts for big or small game.

Georgia’s state-owned Ossabaw Island and the federally managed Cumberland Islands National Seashore are prime examples of areas with long-term hog problems. Both management authorities reached the conclusion that hog numbers must be severely reduced to prevent deprivation of endangered species, preserve habitat and restore the islands’ diverse wildlife. These hogs compete directly with deer, turkey, quail and rabbits to the point that all but deer are now seldom seen.

Muzzleloaders used for deer are also frequently used for taking hogs.

Hog trapping has removed thousands of hogs from both islands, but never seriously threatened the expanding population because hogs reproduce so rapidly that populations recovered almost immediately. Scheduled hunts, including rifle and muzzleloading hunts, also took hogs; but for administrative and safety reasons, the number of hunters was limited. In addition, not all hunters were interested in taking hogs even if they had the opportunity. Designated employees who shot hogs every day were necessary to gain some measure of control.

Black Powder Hog Hunting
Hunt regulations frequently dictate what muzzleloading guns may be used on hogs. In Georgia, for example, hogs may be taken from some state wildlife management areas during small game season. The muzzleloading hunter has an advantage in that Georgia considers muzzleloading rifles and handguns to be “small game guns.” If properly selected, these muzzleloaders are much more capable hog guns than the .22 LR or small game loads fired from shotguns.

Combined Small Game, Hog Hunts
Muzzleloaders that might be used where the main focus is to take small game and a hog, if a favorable shot presents itself, could reasonably include the following:

Hunting wild hogs has become a nationwide sport as many state game departments have liberalized hog hunting regulations in an effort to control damage done to food plots and wildlife habitats.

A. A double-barreled shotgun or rifle-shotgun combination with one barrel loaded with shot for small game and the other with a patched round ball, or bullet, for hogs.

B. A double-barreled rifle with one barrel charged with a “squirrel load” and the other with a much stouter load for hogs.

C. A round-ball shooting muzzleloading rifle in at least .45-caliber, and preferably .50-caliber, loaded with a charge of from 70 grains to 110 grains of FFg.

During the small game hog hunt, the majority of the shots will be taken from the ground and a good-size powder charge and heavy bullet is needed to penetrate a big boar and result in a quick kill. A 200-pound to 600-pound boar will still be able to move around sufficiently to hook and perhaps even kill a hunter with a 12-gauge ball through both lungs. Have a good climbing tree spotted before you shoot because you may need it. Unless you have some good escape options or someone that is able to deliver a quick back-up shot, huge hogs are probably best left unmolested by the single muzzleloading hunter on the ground.

Combined Deer, Hog Hunts
Muzzleloaders used for deer are also frequently used for taking hogs. Any but the mildest black-powder deer loads will be effective on hogs weighing about 200 pounds. In addition, the shooter will often be watching a trail from a treestand or convenient rock and be in a better, and safer, position to make a shot. Some gun-load options for muzzleloaders used for deer and hogs include:

A. In the tradeoff between bullet penetration and expansion, good choices are the Thompson Center MaxiBall, CVA Deerslayer or Buffalo Bullet. These bullets offer excellent penetration, but comparatively little expansion — ideal for punching through the heavy gristle plate of a boar or making it through the thick neck muscles for a spine shot. These bullets do not give as quick a kill on deer with a double-lung shot as some popular bullets such as the CVA PowerBelt hollow points.

B. A .50-caliber in-line rifle using restricted expansion, saboted bullets by Barnes, Knight, Nosler, Remington and Speer, is another option. The Barnes, Knight and Remington bullets are solid copper with deep expansion noses while the Nosler and Speer A-frame bullets have solid partitions to keep the bullet bases intact. These bullets are typically used with either two or three 50-grain Pyrodex Pellets. All of these bullets give excellent accuracy and terminal performance, although some in-lines will shoot some bullet-sabot combinations better than others.

Going After Trophy Hogs
In some areas there are huge hogs that often run over 350 pounds and may be as much as 600 pounds. These huge porkers need big, heavy bullets to penetrate a foot or more of muscle to reach the spine on a down-angle neck shot, or to punch through 4-inch gristle plates in back of the boar’s shoulders. Some gun-load options are:

A. Guns using round balls need bullet mass, and the only effective way to achieve this is to increase the bore diameter. In the 1700s, Europeans considered heavy round-ball rifles that ranged up to 12-bore to be proper tools for taking big boars, and the same holds true today.

In terms of modern-available calibers, .50-caliber round-ball guns are too light, .54s are better and .58s to .62s are better yet. Thompson/Center Arms once made a .58-calber gun called the “Big Boar,” and this caliber is still available from their Fox Ridge custom shop. Powder charges for these guns generally range from 110 grains to 150 grains of FFg.

B. Muzzleloading rifles in .50-caliber with barrel twists from 1:32 to 1:20 will usually shoot bullets weighing from 400 grains to 500 grains with good accuracy. Although there are now some side-lock guns with fast rifling, it is more common to find these twists in in-line muzzleloaders. Good bullets to try are Thompson/Center’s heavier weights of MaxiBalls, CVA’s solid-point PowerBelt in 444 grains, and the heavier weights of Buffalo Bullets.

C. With a reasonable set of adjustable sights, such as Ashley’s Power Ring sighting system, replica Civil War .58-caliber rifled muskets can be very effective hog rifles. The problem is that the issue sights typically shoot so high as to be almost useless at typical hunting ranges. Colt Black-Powder firearms briefly offered a very expensive version of the Springfield rifled musket with Ashley sights for hunting. This is a good gun, but priced out of reach of most hog hunters who want something a little less pricey for their rough-and-tumble sport.

Pistol Hunting Hogs
Loads that would be considered marginal in muzzleloading rifles do not become magical when used in shorter-barreled handguns. There is no muzzleloading revolver that I would consider as a primary gun to use on hogs. Even the big Colt Walker is too unreliable and too puny. As a gun to haul up a tree with you while your hog is trying to gnaw it down, the Ruger Old Army loaded with Hodgdon’s new Triple 7 powder and a 200-grain bullet is about as good as can be achieved with a muzzleloading revolver. This load is a little better than the .44-40 pistol cartridge. It is O.K. for smallish pigs, but completely outclassed for use on big hogs.

To develop hog-killing energy in muzzleloading handguns, you need real power that can only be achieved by combusting large amounts of powder behind a heavy or saboted bullet and, most preferably, shot through a 12-inch to 16-inch long barrel. There are a handful of specialized guns that can take loads like this. Among them are the following:

A. Thompson/Center’s Encore 209X50 with its 15-inch barrel has my vote as being the world’s best muzzleloading handgun for hunting. On hogs I use two .50-caliber Pyrodex Pellets, a Wonder Wad and a 370-grain Thompson/Center MaxiBall. This load penetrated 27-inches of a tough Texas boar. It went in behind the gristle plate on the right side and was imbedded in the gristle plate in back of the left shoulder. This hog weighed 350 pounds and ran 35 yards before expiring.

The author says there is no muzzleloading revolver that he considers a primary gun to use on hogs.

The Traditions Buckhunter Pro
B. Traditions Buckhunter Pro with a 12-1/2-inch barrel can take about 85 grains of FFg and a 250-grain lead Penetrator saboted bullet. I hung a Thompson/Center variable pistol scope on this handgun and have used it to take smallish hogs. The scoped sight allows a little more aiming precision, provided that the shooter is able to fire from a rest or shoots at very close range.

C. Flintlock fanciers have two commercially available options made by the Italian firm of Davide Pedersoli, but both are less capable than the Encore. The first is the .50-caliber Bounty with a 16-inch barrel. The second is the Harpers Ferry 1806 (or 07?) .58-caliber replica that has a 10-inch tube. After adding two pounds of weight to the Bounty’s barrel so that I could hold the gun while shooting a load of 90 grains of FFg and a 296-grain CVA PowerBelt Aerotip bullet, I took a nice Florida buck at 25-yards. This load would also do for hogs in the 150-pound to 200-pound class, but I would not want to try anything heavier.

The best combination of trajectory, penetration and muzzle energy from the Harpers Ferry was with 85 grains of FFg and Hornady’s .45-caliber saboted bullet. I did have to use a lubricated paper patch around the bullet so that it would remain in the sabot while the gun was carried. Both of these loads are in excess of the manufacturer’s recommendations. My guns handled them fine, but work up to them slowly, and use only the recommended components. And don’t forget to clean the barrel between shots. These loads were safe and effective in my new guns, but neither I, or anyone, can take responsibility for loads assembled by others.

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