Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak
When it comes to hunting wild pigs, one of the first things a hunter must decide is exactly what he/she wants to hunt with. A Google search along the lines of “pig hunting rounds” will most assuredly lead to message boards with hunters arguing ad nauseam about ballistics and preferred rounds. At the end of the day, round choice comes down to personal preference, and let’s be honest—there are tons of good pig hunting rounds out there. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (or pig), and this article won’t actually delve into the different types of hunting rounds out there. Instead this will focus on my own personal favorite pig hunting round.
The 7.62×39 obviously isn’t the only round that I’ve used for pig hunting, but it certainly is my favorite. It’s one of those rounds that can generally be found in surplus and is incredibly inexpensive, especially when compared to some of the other popular rounds. Many hunters praise the 7.62 because it’s generally a hard hitting, heavy round. The 7.62×39 can be found in most stores in a variety of grains ranging from the standard 123gr up to 154gr SP. There are also a few different options as far as firearms go when dealing with this round.
Probably one of the more recognizable rifles around the world, the AK-47 fires the 7.62×39 and is a an excellent choice for a pig gun. Most carry the standard 30 round magazine, which comes in handy because a hunter rarely only gets one shot when dealing with pigs. A relatively short rifle, the AK is perfect for dragging around in the thick brush that pigs often inhabit. Its size also makes for quick target acquisition, which is helpful when firing at multiple running pigs. One of the few cons is that it isn’t the most accurate rifle when shooting over longer ranges.
The SKS is what I personally carry most often when pig hunting. It has a standard 10 round non-detachable magazine and is considerably longer than its AK cousin. This means that downrange accuracy is a bit better. With enough practice, it isn’t out of the question to take shots up to 400 yards away and expect to down a pig. There are also a wide range of aftermarket stocks for the SKS that can allow a hunter to easily add scopes, foregrips, optics, and detachable magazines. The same actually holds true for the AK.
Coming late to the scene in 1987, the Ruger Mini-Thirty is the last of the common 7.62×39 rifles that I would consider using to hunt wild pigs. An extremely short and light rifle, the Mini-Thirty commonly sports a 20 round magazine (though a five round magazine is offered for states where magazine restrictions are in place). With it being a very lightweight rifle in comparison to is counterparts, it does have a slightly greater muzzle rise when firing. However, just like the AK-47 and the SKS, there are a wide range of aftermarket parts available for the rifle that can easily turn it into exactly what a hunter wants to use.
Obviously picking out what rifle you want is an important step, but a much more important thing to consider when hunting with the 7.62×39 comes down to an actual hunting issue: shot placement. Wild pigs are extremely tough animals. Thick hide, gristle, and bones make firing an ethical kill shot quite challenging. I’ve personally seen big boars run off like nothing happened after getting hit in the chest with much bigger rounds, like the 30-06 or the .458 SOCOM. The trick to effectively hunting pigs (with ANY round) boils down to shot placement.
Their shoulders are extremely thick and essentially act as a protective shield around their vitals. A pig’s organs are also arranged slightly differently than other animals, such as a deer. Their vitals are a bit more compact and tucked away behind the shoulder when looking at a broadside profile of the animal. This means that in order to effectively harvest a pig, one must wait for a suitable shot. Quartering away shots are ideal as the round can easily get past the protective shoulder plate and into the vitals. The same goes with shots quartering toward the hunter. Just remember that shots like this tend to travel through the animal, hitting the guts and making a big (and smelly) mess. Head and neck shots are also ideal. Pigs actually have a very large skull, and once a hunter has shaken the habit of instinctively aiming at the chest, head shots are extremely effective. For shot placement, draw an imaginary line from the back of the eye toward the body then draw one straight down from the ear—where these lines intersect is where the shot needs to be placed.
So if you’re in the market for a new rifle to hunt pigs, consider picking up one that’s chambered in 7.62×39. It’s often overlooked as a sufficient hunting round, but its effectiveness cannot be denied. Just remember proper shot placement when hunting pigs, and be sure to check your local and state laws concerning magazine capacity for harvesting game animals. And as always, happy hunting!