How To Hunt Wild Hogs With an AR-15 in 5.56/.223

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If you’d like to know how you can successfully hunt wild hogs with an AR-15 chambered in the standard 5.56/.223, then here’s how I did it recently having no previous hog hunting experience.

I really wanted to try hog hunting and knew my dad would enjoy it so I booked us a hunt at Hog Haven in West Virginia for a Friday that was also my dad’s birthday.

Why Hog Hunting?

In recent years, feral hog populations have dramatically increased across America. As the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries writes,

“Feral hogs are four-legged ecological disasters. They cause damage to wildlife habitat wherever they exist. The only place hogs should be found is within the confines or boundaries of their owner’s property as a livestock or domestic animal, where they are cared for according to all livestock or domestic animal regulations. Anywhere outside of these physical and regulatory boundaries they are a direct threat to our natural resources, environmental quality, and agricultural interests. Any feral hog (see definition below) found should be dispatched immediately, assuming you have permission and do so in accordance with all state and local ordinances.”

Because they’re considered such a nuisance species, as far as I know, most American states allow you to hunt them all year round.

That appealed to me because I once again missed deer season this past year.

Plus, in my home state of Virginia, the minimum size for hunting deer is “.24 caliber or larger” which means I can’t use my AR-15 chambered in standard 5.56/.223 to hunt deer. But I can use it to hunt hogs.

Lastly, because you can eat wild hog meat and the type of hunt I booked with Hog Haven in WV was for “meat hogs” which are the smaller, younger hogs that–from what I hear–have more tender meat than the tougher, older boars.

In short, I wanted to bring home the bacon baby!

Choosing The Right 5.56/.223 Hunting Ammo For Hog Hunting

The truth is that the effectiveness of the AR-15 in .223 comes down to the types of bullets that you use. After all, the bullets are the part that actually do the work.

And contrary to what every anti-gun talking head on TV states, the AR-15 is not a “high-powered” rifle. In fact, among hunters it is not considered a powerful hunting rifle at all.

(It’s infuriating when you hear outright lies such as the media calling an AR-15 a “high powered” rifle and then comparing it to a “less deadly” hunting rifle that is probably twice as powerful. But I digress).

The original 5.56 ball ammo (as issued to the military) was designed to be fired at high velocity, yaw on impact and fracture at the cannellure to create massive wound channels — and while this has proven to be combat effective — for any type of hunting you typically don’t want to use regular FMJ’s (Full Metal Jacket) ball ammo.

For one, it’s illegal to take game in many states using ball ammo.

Two, you don’t want a lot of bullet fragments in the animal that you’re going to eat later (That sounds like a great way to chip a tooth!). Plus, the less meat you destroy the more you can eat!

Three, much like proper self-defense ammunition, you want good, reliable penetration (deep enough to reach vital organs, so at least 12-18″). And you want good expansion to maximize the amount of permanent tissue damage, from a bullet that holds together and retains as much of its weight as possible.

Luckily, much of the advancements in modern barrier blind bullet technology have paralleled the advancements in hunting bullet technology.

In fact, they’re darn-right similar and in some cases they’re the exact same thing.

Self-Defense Bullets Are Often Great Hunting Bullets

I’ve written an article that explains the best self-defense ammo for the AR-15 and how the primary choice is barrier blind ammunition.

An interesting fact is that the .223 Speer 62 gr Gold Dot Jacketed Soft Points (JSP’s)(one of the most highly rated barrier blind .223 loads) are identical in construction to the Federal 62 gr .223 Fusion JSP.

The 62gr .223 Federal Fusion MSR hunting bullet is an excellent barrier-blind bullet. But unlike the hard-to-find and expensive Speer Gold Dot .223 loads, the Federal Fusion .223 ammo can be found relatively easily at most places that stock hunting ammunition and even cheaper online. (NOTE: ideally, you will want an AR-15 with the Mil-Spec 1/7 twist rate in order to stabilize the heavier 62 gr bullets correctly.)

Picture of Federal Fusion MSR .223 from Federal Ammo website.
Picture of Federal Fusion MSR .223 from Federal Ammo website.

The MSR designation simply means “Modern Sporting Rifle” and is the regular fusion bullet loaded cartridge with these changes (from the Federal website):

A. Primer: Compatible with rifles that have a free floating firing pin.

B. Powder: Clean-burning, low-flash, fast-burning propellant boosts velocity through 16- to 20-inch barrels.

C. Brass: Federal® made brass case features a harder case head for exceptional primer retention.

D. Brass: Military-style colored iris gives visual confirmation of proper case metallurgy.

E. Optimized boat-tail profile: For improved accuracy.

F. Molecularly-fused jacket: Totally eliminates component separation, unlike other conventional methods. Fused around a pressure-formed core.

G. Skived tip: Internally skived bullet for consistent long-range expansion.

Is .223 Big Enough For Hog Hunting?

My custom "Underground" AR-15 with Burris 1.5-6x scope.
My custom “Underground” AR-15 with Burris 1.5-6x scope.

I think that depends …

In our case, we planned on hunting the smaller “meat pigs”. They top out at about 100lbs so I had no doubt the .223 would be enough.

But Josh, the owner of Hog Haven immediately asked me what caliber my AR-15 was in when I told him I’d be using it for hunting. Again, most hunters don’t feel a .223 is very powerful. I told him I planned on using good hunting ammo and he told me that would be a necessity because you needed a lot of penetration for hogs.

In my research leading up to the hunting trip, I found the following story posted at GunsandAmmo.com:

“Don’t think the .223 has enough oomph to take down a pig? A year ago I might have agreed, but since then I’ve done a lot of hog hunting. In my experience, a heavy, bonded .223 bullet actually works better on hogs than 12-gauge slugs. Sound crazy? I know, but on my last hunt I saw hog after hog soak up one-ounce 12-gauge slugs (one big sow took five and kept on going).

William “Hoppy” Kempfer at Osceola Outfitters in St. Cloud, Florida, who’s been guiding hog hunts for 17 years, has seen the same thing.

“I’ve never seen more ‘wounded’ animals than those hit by big, slow-moving bullets like .45-70s and .45-90s,” he told me.

I used a Benelli M4 tricked out by ATI and hit a 90-pound hog twice with slugs. Both went all the way through, but the hog acted like it hadn’t even been hit. The next day I dropped a 150-pound hog with one Federal Fusion MSR .223.

Our group of writers took 15 hogs in three days, and everybody had the same experience when it came to slugs vs. .223. I theorize that hogs are more susceptible to hydrostatic shock than they are blunt-force trauma. This is good news, for just about everybody seems to own an AR these days, and most ammo manufacturers are offering hog-specific ammo for them.”

And a quick look at the Federal ammo website, or any retailer online that sells the Fusion .223 rounds, will give you dozens of pictures of 100+ pound deer that were killed with this same bullet.

The truth is: I’ve never done it, but I’ve read multiple reports of hunters online taking over 200 pound pigs with .223 out to about 225 yards assuming their shot placement was decent.

I know that for the smaller pigs, .223 with a good bullet is plenty. I would LOVE to go hog hunting again for much bigger hogs to see the limits of this particular bullet.

Even Dr. Roberts posted a list of good .223 hog hunting rounds once (notice how these recommended loads are all on the approved .223 self-defense ammo list by Dr. Roberts too):

— Federal 55 or 62 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bonded JSP
— Winchester 64 gr solid base bonded JSP (Q3313/RA556B)
— Remington 62 gr Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded JSP (PRC223R4)
— Swift 75 gr Scirocco bonded PT
— Speer 55 or 64 gr Gold Dot JSP (and identically constructed Federal 62 gr Fusion JSP and Federal XM223SP1 62gr Bonded JSP)
— Nosler 60 gr Partition JSP
— Barnes all copper TSX bullets, preferably the 70 gr version

Where To Shoot Hogs (That Shot Placement Thing)

Deer hunters are, by far, one of the biggest groups of hunters in the U.S. (probably the world). So most of us that have heard anything about hunting have heard mostly about deer hunting.

But Hogs have a different anatomy than deer, with the main difference being their vital organs are lower and far more forward than on deer.

It’s my suspicion that hogs get their reputation for being “hard to kill” or that you need big bullets to kill them from the fact that their vital organs are in a different location than deer and many deer hunters shoot them in the belly instead of the correct spots.

In the Youtube video below, you’ll see an excellent explanation of proper shot placement for hog hunting:

And here are a few pictures for reference, first showing the aiming points from the LoneStarBoars.com video …

aiming points to shoot hogs
aiming points to shoot hogs. Credit: LoneStarBoars.com

And here is a “see through” that shows you the anatomy of that same hog, so you can see why aiming there makes sense because the organs are so low and forward:

hog anatomy
hog anatomy. Credit: LoneStarBoars.com

The Hog Hunting Trip Was a Success!

So after a lot of travel we made it out to West Virginia to Hog Haven. Josh, the guide and owner, was extremely friendly and showed us a great time — entertaining us as we traveled around his 200 acres hunting for the right size hogs.

beautiful views
beautiful views

It truly is beautiful out there as the pictures show.

Again, we were going for the younger, supposedly better tasting “meat hogs” and not the big monsters this trip. Though we saw plenty of those like this 500+ pound beast that greeted us without fear:

Big hog, over 500lbs
Big hog, over 500lbs

The truth is we hunted around for a couple hours without seeing the smaller hogs we were looking for. We traveled all over trails through the woods and the perimeter of the property on a Polaris Mule, seeing if we locate any sign of them.

Eventually, after about an hour and a half of searching we decide to dismount and try our luck waiting at one of the hunting stands on the property.

Then out of nowhere I looked to my right, down a small hill and there were three of the perfect sized hogs about 15 yards away.

I quickly alerted my dad and our guide and turned down the power of my Burris MTAC 1.5-6 power scope all the way to 1.5 power and clicked on the illumination.

I mounted my rifle, and as luck would have it, one of the pigs turned directly to look at me face-to-face.

What’s funny is as I centered the red dot on the pigs face — and aimed slightly high on his head to account for the offset I guesstimated would come in to play at this short range — I just barely heard my dad ask “which one are you aiming for?” as I pressed the trigger and saw the pig drop like a rock in my scope.

When I looked up, my dad was already turning to lead one of the other hogs that took off. He fired one shot from his 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser bolt gun and I saw the second hog go down.

And just like that, after what seemed like a long time looking (even though it was only a couple hours), it was all over. We had our kills.

Here’s a picture of my dad and his hog:

Dad with his hog
Dad with his hog

And here’s a picture of the hog I killed:

Bringing home the bacon
Bringing home the bacon

After the hogs got field dressed and looking around for the last of the three for a little bit, we made our way back to the office and our guide made quick work of the hogs, skinning and quartering them up:

Hogs quartered up
Hogs quartered up

I Can’t Wait To Go Hunting With My AR-15 Again!

This was my first hunt with my AR-15 and I plan on it certainly not being my last.

It was extremely fun, I love hunting hogs now, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I think it’s a great way to have fun shooting and practice hunting while harvesting your own meat.

The next time someone tells you that “nobody hunts with an AR-15” you can correct them and let them know that plenty of people not only use AR-15’s at the range, in shooting sports, and for self-defense … but they also hunt with them too.

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Caleb
Caleb Lee is the #1 best-selling author of "Concealed Carry 101" and founder of PreparedGunOwners.com. He is a civilian (no law enforcement or military experience) who shares information about self-defense and becoming more self-reliant. He's a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo, NRA Certified Basic Pistol & Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor, Concealed Carry Academy Instructor certified & also a graduate of the Rangermaster firearms instructor course. He's also the author of numerous online courses including the UndergroundAssaultRifle.com course.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I agree 100%, I did a hog hunt on a friend’s family farm in south Georgia a couple of years back using a brand new Ruger AR-15 and some sort of JSP 5.56 bullets. There were 6 guys, 2 w/ AR, 2 with 0.308s and 2 with semi auto 12 ga shotguns. The shot gunners had trouble keeping their hogs on the ground but the AR and 0.308s did a super job. Only downside was I had to leave my meat behind with the family farm owners as I did not have the ability to bring any home. One interesting point was my Ruger came with a red dot sight already installed and when I did my sight in shooting at my local range, I found the sight was dead on at 25 yards and just a tiny bit off at 50 yds so I did not do any adjusting for the hunt. Almost all the hogs were taken between about 30 and 40 yards.

  2. Congratulations on your hog. I will say that he looks a lot closer to a domestic hog than most of the ferals I’ve seen, at least the black one coming straight at you does anyway. The curly tail gives him away. But no matter, pigs is pork. The domestic ones generally get bigger, and actually eat a bit better anyway. The young one you have picture will make excellent BBQ in any case.
    500 pounds would be a giant of ferals. Most big boars I’ve seen won’t top 250, and 200 is still a nice hog. The young ones and the sows are far better table fare than those big boars. Get yourself a shoat(young boar) or a young sow, split it half in two, so it will open like a book. Lay it out over a good bed of coals, seasoned however you like it, cook it low and slow till it starts falling apart, the typical “pulled pork” consistency, add in some cole slaw and a few beers, you got yourself a party. In the South, they do this in a dug pit, covered with a tarp and some dirt, held up off the meat by some poles. “Pig in the ground” is an excellent method.
    We like to season them with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion, then marinate and baste with Italian salad dressing.
    The caliber isn’t gonna be as important as the bullet choice, especially if you’re going after the big ones, due to that “shield”. Get penetration, along with some speed, and pigs die as easy as anything else. I don’t use the .223 much, preferring the 30 caliber, but to each his own. You just have to get through that shield, no matter what you shoot. The Nosler Partition works well in 30 cal., likely it would in .223 as well. Many other bullets by various makers work along similar theories. YMMV. The solid copper offerings seem to do the trick, long as you have enough speed to open up like they were designed to do.

    • Thanks so much for your comments Jeff!

      That recipe sounds like a FUN time. I wish I lived somewhere (like Texas or Florida) where I could nail these suckers all the time and harvest hundreds of pounds throughout the whole year, and have some nice BBQ’s 🙂

      And yes, I hear great things about the solid copper bullets too (TSX type designs)

  3. You can add the 7mm Rem Mag to the shotgun slugs. A few years ago I shot two big boars (at night).
    Only to have them run off. Had the same problem with our Texas deer. Would shoot them & they would run. And in all cases they were hit in the vitals.

    • Huh, that’s interesting … think it was just too powerful and went straight through giving em enough time to run off and die somewhere you couldn’t find them?

  4. Great article! Another “sporting” purpose for the AR platform. I just bought a .300 blackout upper for my rifle. I plan to hunt feral hogs and deer here in SC.

      • Plenty! Year round season,and night hunting is also allowed now. These are recent changes to SC’s game laws. Which speaks to the fact that the feral hog population is growing in our state.

        • That sounds like a ton of run Richard …

          I like the fact that because you can hunt hogs year round, and with varied calibers/equipment … and even at night … you can test out a lot of gear/gun combos that you can’t with other game animals.

          Good stuff and mind if I ask what part of SC you’re in with all the hogs? might be worth a trip down there …

          • The midlands (Columbia,Sumter,lee, clarendon,and kershaw county. I live in Sumter, but their all over the state. especially the low country (Charleston).

      • All these are great comments and just a food for thought, i am from Al.. south central LA. ( LOWER ALABAMA) lived in Tampa FL. area and worked and hunted with some guys from the Perry Co. area, lots of feral pigs. They have hunts with dogs and spears really anything that was long and sharp they called it Pigs and Gigs. To get to the point is that i’ve observed over the past 20 years that feral pigs (HOGS) are for sure moving further and further north and now all over the southeast. In my opinon they taste better than deer and i like deer,so get on um ya’ll.

  5. I would love to hunt hogs with my AR. Never been hunting due to be being from Northern Va and not having any friends that hunt. Any advice on how to get started on it? I can barely find a place to shoot up here!

  6. […] How To Hunt Wild Hogs With an AR-15 in 5.56/.223 | Prepared Gun. – Jan 14, 2016. Choosing The Right 5.56/.223 Hunting Ammo For Hog Hunting. The 62gr.223 Federal Fusion MSR hunting bullet is an excellent barrier-blind. […]

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