6 Best Calibers for Hog Hunting

Feral hog hunting has become one of the most popular shooting sports in the southern United States. Feral hogs are deemed a nuisance invasive species in most states and have very few regulations.

Hunting feral hogs after dark in most states is legal, opening an entirely new type of sport shooting for most hunters.

The best calibers for hunting feral pigs are heavy enough to deliver sufficient energy to penetrate the hog’s thick cartilage layer that protects the shoulder region. Bullet weight and caliber are important considerations.

In general, cartridges in the .30 caliber family are considered the best for feral hog hunting. Popular cartridges for feral hog hunting include the .30-30, .30-06, .308, and the .270 Winchester.

Know Your Quarry – The Feral Hog 

The feral pig population in the southern US is due largely to domesticated pigs that escaped into the wild and slowly returned to a wild state.

Feral pigs are an aggressive and tough quarry. They are smart and highly adaptive to their environment.

Hunting them requires a rifle caliber that delivers enough energy to stop these animals quickly and efficiently.

Choosing a caliber for hunting feral hogs depends a lot on the terrain you hunt. In heavily brushed areas, a heavier round nose bullet in a large caliber is useful for minimizing deflection due to limbs, twigs, and leaves.

In flat open territory, a spitzer-pointed bullet with good penetration in a caliber that delivers maximum energy is a good choice for the longer shots that may be involved.

The base factor is a caliber large enough to stop a 400-pound feral hog with ballistics that matches the terrain and style of your hunting.

Caliber Choice for Feral Hog Hunting

Plenty of large magnum caliber rifle cartridges are sufficient to take a feral hog humanely. However, lugging a .300 Win Mag or a .338 Lapua to kill a 300-pound feral hog seems like overkill.

No one wants to endure the punishment of the weight of these rifles or the pounding from the recoil they impart.

Given all the possible choices for a rifle caliber suitable for hunting feral hogs, we have chosen the calibers on my list. I believe that these calibers give hunters enough delivered energy for feral hogs of any size. 

30-30 Winchester

The 30-30 Winchester cartridge was first introduced in 1895 for the Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle and was designed for the new smokeless powders just becoming available.

The combination of the heavy round-nosed bullet and the terminal energy makes this a potent round for feral hog hunting.

A look at the ballistics of the 30-30 round gives some insight into why this old cartridge is still popular with hunters who frequent are with heavy brush or woods. 

RangeBullet DropVelocityEnergy
50 yards-1.49 inches2200 fps1612 ft-lbs.
100 yards+0.15 inches2019 fps1357 ft-lbs.
150 yards+0.66 inches2019 fps1136 ft-lbs.
200 yards-2.28 inches1686 fps947 ft-lbs.

What Makes the 30-30 Winchester Good for Feral Hogs

From 0 to 150 yards, you can see that the 30-30 is a relatively flat shooting round that delivers a large amount of terminal energy.

Past 200 yards, the trajectory suffers rapidly, and the energy drops off. However, most feral hogs are taken at ranges much less than 200 yards. 

The first brand new rifle I ever owned was a Marlin 336 lever action 30-30 rifle. I received that rifle from my soon-to-be wife over 40 years ago and have hunted routinely with it ever since.

That 30-30 rifle is still one of my favorite rifles for hunting white-tailed deer and feral hogs. It performs in heavy brush reliably on any hog I have encountered. 

.30-06 Springfield

Again, in the .30 caliber family, the .30-06 Springfield is a favorite with hunters in the US for almost any size North American game animal. It is especially effective on feral hogs when paired with the proper bullet and powder load.

This is such a popular cartridge for hog hunting that several leading cartridge manufacturers now offer cartridges specifically designed for feral hog hunting.

The .30-06 Springfield offers impressive ballistics that make it suitable for feral hogs. Because most hunting rifles chambered for the .30-06 Springfield use a box-style magazine, you are not limited to round nose bullets like a tube-fed level action rifle.

A spire point bullet paired with modern powder gives ballistics characteristics that seem perfect for feral hog hunting.

RangeBullet DropVelocityEnergy
50 yards-0.149 inches2697 fps2664 ft-lbs.
100 yards-0.0014 inches2597 fps2471 ft-lbs.
150 yards-1.14 inches2499 fps2288 ft-lbs.
200 yards-3.67 inches2403 fps2115 ft-lbs.

Why the .30-06 Springfield is Good for Feral Pigs

One of the biggest advantages of the .30-06 Springfield is the adaptation of spitzer-style bullets and new powder loads that give superior performance.

The terminal energy delivered to the target is impressive. This factor alone makes the .30-06 Springfield an excellent feral hog rifle.

Many rifles chambered for the .30-06 Springfield are semi-automatic. These files provide rapid and accurate follow-up shots if necessary.

If you have ever been the focus of a feral pig’s attention, you can easily understand the need for quick backup shots to stop a fierce attack.

The .308 Winchester

The .308 Winchester is a derivative round of the .30-30 Springfield. Developed by Winchester in conjunction with the US Military, this round had become a favorite with hunters and sharpshooters alike. 

Many shooters don’t realize that the ballistics of the .308 Winchester is not quite as good as the venerable .30-06 Springfield.

The advantage is that the .308 Winchester operated with short-action rifles instead of long-action systems. This makes it possible to design smaller and lighter rifles.

RangeBullet DropVelocityEnergy
50 yards-0.149 inches2707 fps2440 ft-lbs.
100 yards+0.0075 inches2598 fps2248 ft-lbs.
150 yards-1.121 inches2491 fps2066 ft-lbs.
200 yards-3.65 inches2387 fps1897 ft-lbs.

Why The .308 Winchester is a Good Choice for Feral Hogs

The .308 Winchester cartridge, when loaded with a boat-tailed hollow-point rifle bullet, makes a formidable package against feral hogs.

Find a scout rifle chambered in .308 Winchester, and you have a lightweight short rifle that is more than adequate to make humane kills on the largest feral hogs.

If a sporting rifle for feral hogs is in your future, considering the .308 Winchester cartridge would be a good choice. If you are shopping for such a rifle, I suggest you look at one of the available scout rifles.

.300 Blackout Supersonic

I hear more and more from hunters who are using the .300 Blackout cartridge for feral hog hunting. The .300 Blackout was a response to a call for a larger caliber cartridge that could be used in the standard-issue M4 rifle.

The .300 Blackout is essentially a shortened 5.56 case necked for the .30 caliber spitzer-pointed round. This makes standard 5.56 magazine and receivers compatible with the .300 blackout and gives a performance that mimics the 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge used in the infamous AK-47 rifles.

When loaded as a supersonic round, the ballistics information looks more like a pistol cartridge than a rifle cartridge. However, the numbers seem to belie the true results of the .300 Blackout round. 

RangeBullet DropVelocityEnergy
50 yards0.00 inches1027.8 fps445.6 ft-lbs.
100 yards-6.7 inches1006.1 fps427.0 ft-lbs.
150 yards-22.0 inches996 fps410.3 ft-lbs.
200 yards-46.3 inches967.8 fps395.1 ft-lbs.

Why is the .300 Blackout a Good Choice for Feral Hogs?

Two factors make the .300 Blackout a good choice for feral hog hunting. The delivered energy of the .300 Blackout at supersonic speeds looks terrifyingly small.

At 200 yards, the terminal energy is 395.1 ft-lbs. This seems small but is much more than is needed for a clean kill on a feral hog.

The other factor that works into this equation is the advancement of bullet technology in the last few years. When the .300 Blackout is loaded with high expansion ballistic tipped ammunition, the stopping power of the .30 caliber bullet is astounding. 

300 Blackout Subsonic

This caliber choice is a bit of a niche option. One of the growing ways to hunt feral hogs is using a thermal or day/night scope at night.

By and large, feral hogs are nocturnal creatures. A feral hog is much more active after dark than during daylight hours.

A hunter can turn darkness into an asset rather than a liability with the new generation of thermal scopes or digital day/night scopes.

A .300 Blackout rifle loaded with subsonic ammunition and fitted with a suppressor can be a potent weapon against feral hogs.

If you look at the ballistics, there isn’t that great a difference in subsonic and supersonic performance out to about 100 yards. Most nighttime hunters report that most of their kills occur at about 75 yards.

RangeBullet DropVelocityEnergy
50 yards+3.5 inches1010.8 fps499 ft-lbs.
100 yards0.00 inches993.0 fps481.6 ft-lbs.
150 yards-12.3 inches976.5 fps465.7 ft-lbs.
200 yards-33.7 inches961.0 fps451.0 ft-lbs.

Why go Subsonic with the .300 Blackout?

This data is based on a standard .300 cartridge shooing a 220 gr Sierra MatchKing bullet. As you can see, there isn’t much difference between the ballistics of the two loads.

With a good suppressor installed on your rifle, what you lose is not performance; the incredibly loud bang typically accompanies shooting a short-barreled rifle.

This has been my choice for several years. I shoot a .300 Blackout built on an AR-15 platform. The rifle has a 10.5-inch barrel and is fitted with a custom-built (yes, I have a tax stamp for both) titanium tube suppressor. The loudest thing about shooting this rifle is the bolt, buffer, and buffer spring create noise.

.270 Winchester

I had difficulty deciding on the last caliber to add to my list of best calibers for feral hogs. I finally went back to one of my old standbys.

The .270 Winchester is not a true .30 caliber. The bullet measures .28. Winchester developed the .270 Winchester to accompany the release of their now-famous Model 54 bolt action rifle.

The .270 is a close relative of the .30-06 and the .280 Remington. I have been shooting a Savage bolt action rifle chambered for .270 for many years with great success.

I have taken many white-tailed deer, mule deer, and feral hogs with my simple and unassuming .270. I like the ballistics and the way this gun shoots. There is considerable recoil but nothing the average shooter will find overpowering.

RangeBullet DropVelocityEnergy
50 yards.235 inches2916 fps2454 ft-lbs.
100 yards0.00 inches2777 fps2226 ft-lbs.
150 yards-0.89 inches2642 fps2015 ft-lbs.
200 yards-3.03 inches2512 fps1821 ft-lbs.

Why I Choose to Shoot the .270 Winchester

Out to 200 yards, the .270 Winchester is an incredibly flat cartridge for the bullet size and the loads. Under 100 yards, there is very little if any compensation needed for bullet drop.

In many ways, I think the .270 Winchester is an overlooked cartridge mainly because it is so close to the .30-06 in size and characteristics.

My testament to the .270 Winchester was one of my most memorable hunts. I was with my son, staked out on a winter wheat field. A large 10-point buck came out of the surrounding mesquite trees before sunset.

My Savage rifle in .270 dropped that buck within two steps. We later measured the shot as 285 yards. I have a lot of confidence in the .270 Winchester cartridge.

Choosing Your Caliber for Hunting Feral Hogs

My choices are, by no means, the end-all and be-all for hunting feral hogs. They are my choices based on my experience. Almost any modern centerfire rifle larger than a .22 caliber bullet can take down a medium-sized feral pig.

In my opinion, nothing smaller than a .30 caliber bullet is adequate to stop a 400 lb. boar hog. 

string(8) "big-game"
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