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Purpose Built for Pork: Savage Hog Hunter Review

by Greg Rodriguez   |  September 19th, 2012 18

Savage-Hog-Hunter_001

Though they are not one of our more glamorous game species, feral hogs are quickly becoming our most popular because they are incredibly destructive, fertile creatures. Females become sexually mature at seven months, and they’ll drop eight to 12 piglets each year until the day they die. Even by the most conservative estimates, our nation’s wild hog population has surpassed four million, and it’s growing fast. That’s bad news for farmers because the marauding porkers can lay waste to vast tracts of cropland overnight. In fact, in some parts of Texas, feral hogs have made it impossible for some farmers to earn a living. They are equally destructive in suburbia, where gluttonous pigs can turn lush golf courses and entire streets full of verdant lawns into barren moonscapes in a single night.

Fortunately for those farmers and ranchers, hunters are willing to pay to help solve the hog problem. Because hogs are so plentiful, hog hunts are cheap, and hunters are eager to take advantage of this affordable, delicious resource. Manufacturers are eager to woo those hunters with a wide variety of hog-specific guns, ammo, and optics. The coolest hog-specific item to hit the market, at least to this Texan, is Savage’s new Hog Hunter rifle.

Made for Slaying Hogs
The Hog Hunter is built on Savage’s proven Model 11 or 111 push-feed action. The short-action Model 11 is available in .223 and .308, whereas the long-action Model 111 is offered in .338 Winchester Magnum. All three rifles have Savage’s standard three-position, tang-mounted safety. The rearmost “Safe” position locks the bolt, the middle “Safe” position allows you to cycle the action, and the forward position is the “Fire” stage. The bolt release is on the right side of the receiver, just behind the ejection port.

All three Hog Hunters have 20-inch barrels, though the .338’s longer action makes it an inch longer overall and 12 ounces heavier. I chose the .308 version because I think it’s the best choice for the hog hunting I do. Like all the Hog Hunters, its relatively stout, medium-contour tube is threaded 5/8 inch X 24 TPI to accept a sound suppressor or muzzle brake. Suppressors are legal to own in at least 35 states, and they’re now legal for hunting in several of those states, including Texas. Because many hog hunters hunt at night or near suburban developments, suppressor use is increasingly common.

The Hog Hunter is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and its barrel is fitted with adjustable sights from LPA. The front has a gold bead, and the rear is adjustable for windage and elevation. I like backup iron sights on my rifles, and the LPAs are good ones.

The barreled action is finished in an attractive, rugged matte black and bolted onto a utilitarian but good-looking synthetic stock. The Hog Hunter has a blind magazine that holds four rounds (three in .338 Win. Mag.). I’d prefer to see a hinged floorplate because it’s easier and safer to unload, but Savage designers chose a blind magazine to avoid the possibility of the magazine inadvertently opening when it catches on brush or limbs. I can’t fault their logic because that’s a real possibility in the thick brush feral hogs seem to prefer. Besides, the middle safety position allows users to unload the rifle safely.

Other features include an oversized bolt knob that makes rapid reloads a breeze, a soft-rubber recoil pad, and Savage’s AccuTrigger. I fitted my test rifle with a set of Talley lightweight mounts, and I originally mounted a Leupold 4-12X 40mm VXR scope with an illuminated reticle. I did quite a bit of shooting and hunting with that scope, and it’s an excellent scope, but I was anxious to test the new Nikon M-308 riflescope line so I replaced the Leupold with a 4-16X 42mm M-308 scope with BDC 800 reticle when that scope hit the market earlier this year. The M-308 was designed for AR-10-type rifles, but its BDC reticle and Rapid Action Turrets, which are calibrated for the popular 168-grain match load, make it a perfect match for the 20-inch Savage, too. Nikon’s bright, clear glass makes the M-308 perfectly suited for low-light hog hunting, and its long-range reticle allows me to hold dead-on out to 800 yards if need be. It’s also a fairly compact scope that looks great on the Savage Hog Hunter.

Hogs Down!
I really liked the Hog Hunter right out of the box. It’s an attractive rifle, to be sure, but its handling qualities are what won me over. I’ve always been fond of short, heavy-barreled rifles. The Savage’s tube is more of a medium contour, but it gives the gun that muzzle-heavy feel I love. The rifle seems to point itself, and the barrel swings on target smoothly and effortlessly. Its short length also makes it easy to manipulate in a deer blind and a pleasure to carry in the South Texas brush.

I was also impressed with the Model 11’s smooth action and oversized bolt knob, which made cycling the action effortless and lightning fast. The Hog Hunter’s 2-pound, 10-ounce trigger pull also impressed me. I wasn’t sold on the concept when the AccuTrigger first came out in 2003, but the dozens I’ve tried since have made me a fan.

After zeroing the scope, I settled in to do some serious accuracy work with Winchester’s new hog-specific 150-grain Razorback XT, Federal’s 165-grain Barnes TSX, Hornady’s 165-grain InterLock, and Black Hills’s 175-grain match loadings. Since I had planned to shoot some pigs with the 150-grain Razorback load, I started with it. I was pleased to see my first two rounds almost touch, but the third round opened the group up to 1.10 inches. The next four groups were a little tighter, and the average for five, three-shot groups was an impressive 0.95 inch.

My next groups (fired with 165-grain loads from Federal and Hornady) delivered similar performance. The Hornady load shot a hair tighter, with an accuracy average of 0.82 inch, and the Federal load averaged 1.30 inches. The Black Hills match load averaged an excellent 0.78 inch. That’s pretty impressive accuracy for any factory bolt action, and it’s really impressive when you consider that the Hog Hunter rifle has an MSRP of $513.

With my accuracy work out of the way, I installed a titanium .308 suppressor from a now-defunct maker. I’ve used that can on many rifles over the years, and I’ve been impressed with how well it holds zero, but those rifles were bedded. I was curious to see how much hanging a 19-ounce suppressor off the end of the barrel would affect the Hog Hunter’s point of impact. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the point of impact shift was a lot less than I expected—about 3 inches low and 2 inches left. That may sound like a great deal, but because the shift is consistent, it’s very easy to compensate for by dialing the scope or adjusting hold. My accuracy was unaffected by the suppressor, but recoil was considerably less with the suppressor attached.

With my gun zeroed for the Razorback XT load, I spent the next few months testing it on hogs. A drought made the hunting tough, but I managed to take eight hogs with the Savage Hog Hunter. The pigs weighed from 80 to 180 pounds, and ranges varied from 50 to 290 yards.

I shot the 180-pound boar right on the point of the shoulder from 250 yards, off of shooting sticks from the kneeling position. The bullet destroyed both shoulders and everything between before exiting. Later, I shot a slightly smaller boar at 290 yards from the prone position. Once again, the bullet exited, but the pig dropped in its tracks. I was pleased to see my bullet strike exactly where I expected it to at that range. I wasn’t surprised, but it was nice to see.

The Hog Hunter is an easy-handling rig that points as naturally as your best Brittany. That proved to be an asset when I had to make a quick, 75-yard offhand shot at a nice meat boar, and again when I shot a client’s wounded pig as it ran through the brush. That short, heavy barrel helped me swing smoothly, yet the compact rig came up fast and right on target. Four more pigs with four shots just proved what I already knew—the Hog Hunter is a rifleman’s kind of rifle.

The Hog Hunter is an accurate rifle with excellent handling qualities and all the features I’d demand were I ordering a custom-built hog rifle. I’m also pleased to see Savage hop aboard the suppressor bandwagon. I got my first suppressor in 1998, but until recently, I didn’t know many people who owned them. The proliferation of hogs across America and an increase in the number of states where suppressors are legal for hunting has changed that.

Whether you’re a casual hog hunter or a rancher dealing with a real hog problem, you’d be wise to consider Savage’s new Hog Hunter. It’s a good-looking, quality rig that has everything you need to handle your hog problem in one very affordable package.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.boarhunter Greg Boarhunter

    Thats a great looking weapon! You can see what states allow you to do night hog hunting with suppressors at http://www.HuntWildPig.com

  • Bear Mountain Quest

    Hunting wild boar is an exciting and fun challenge. Russian boar are known to be an especially unique challenge, as well as great eating. To learn more visit the hunting resource center at http://sciboarhunter.com/

    P.S. Friends and family are always welcome!

  • jerry

    Have to get one of those asap.

  • Charles O'Brian

    You say there are millions, and you say farmers and ranchers sell permits to hunt hogs. Reasonable prices? BULL! Yes, they give you the oportunity to kill 2 or 3 hogs a day "FREE". But they SELL you 2-3 nights stay in their bunk houses for "BIG BUCKS". FREE! BULL!!!! I dare any farmer or rancher to call me a "LIAR".

    • Aaron

      i agree wanted to go on a hog hunt next year for my birthday. cheapest i saw was for several thousand dollars. all the free hogs u could want if you go for the fifteen thousand dollars hunting package. guess i'll stay home and hunt turkey and deer.

      • Guest

        Talk to Danny SantAngelo the owner of Okeechobee Outfitters in FL …. very reasonable priced, and great guides. I hunted with him and it was a great experience, looking forward to continuing to hunt with him for many years to come

    • https://www.facebook.com/bret.bellizio Bret Bellizio

      Fort Riley had a feral hog problem and had to get contract hunters to terminate them. A farm just north of post was hit by a tornado and hogs moved into the maneuver and impact area. The terrain was Oak groves transitioning to open prairie. Every year post let hundreds of permits (year round, no limit) and each year less than ten hogs were killed. I am not calling you a liar, but maybe you should look more at places that don't advertise but issue permits.

  • Jmill

    Farmers have liability letting you shoot on their property. Liability insurance is not cheap.

  • Karl

    Ya i checked into hog hunting too. Free hog hunting is some what true, but all of the added expense of guides, houseing, and other land owner required fees add up fast.

  • Hunter

    I want to warn everybody that you should get the 2 piece scope rail. If you get a thin one piece rail like the weaver it will scrape your thumb when you try to load the magazine. I bought the weaver 48338 one piece rail and it was too thin. I ended up using a Ken Farrell rail which is pretty thick and leaves enough room for my fingers to load the magazine. Weaver #46 is the two piece.

    Also, Warning- I used blue locktite (Permatex threadlocker blue) on the screws and it destroyed the black finish on the receiver. It seemed to eat the finish and leave white patches. So do that at your own risk.

    Fantastic gun, I like mine. I hope it gets warm soon so I can hunt some hogs. Putting a Vortex Viper 1-4x on it :) :)

  • Philip

    What are the rings and scope you have pictured? where did you buy it. I'd like to duplicate your optics

    thanks

  • Larry E. Carey

    How is loading with the scope in place? I'd love to have this rifle with a detachable box magazine, and I've been trying to get through to the custom folks at the factory. With that option, you'd have a rifle that does it all, and at a price that's about half the cost of a Ruger Scout. I know there are some after-market outfits that will do modifications, but that might also void the warranty. Thoughts?

    • Greg

      just get an axis 20″ TB.(threaded barrel) with detachable box mag.I love mine.

  • Jonathan Ryan

    What was the exact size/model of the Talley mounts that were used?

  • Ohio Hunter

    Free hog hunting, I’ve not found any.

    Liability insurance – they have to have insurance, so does it change if they allow someone to hunt the land? With mud running here, owners let people ride on their property without giving them permission, but will not run them off. If someone gets hurt “they are trespassing, I didn’t give them permission”.

    Could they not sign a liability waiver?

    Even reasonable rates I would be willing to pay, like $100-300 for a hunt to help the farmers, but $3000 or triple that is out of my range considering I have travel costs, and boarding costs. Southern Ohio has coyote, but not pigs. Here farmers are happy to let you wipe them out, and people pay us for their furs.

  • Haze

    I just got my S.Hog..dont have a scope on it yet.
    do you find it hard to load ammo with scope small clearence?
    als how much was your nikon scope?
    thanks

  • Hogsdown

    I own a hog hunter and I set up with a Vortex Diamondback 4-12×44 and I love the gun. First day at the range was shooting 580 meters easily with 150grain Core Lok. Only took a few shots to get the scope zeroed. I am really impressed with the out of box accuracy. Standard iron sights on it really easy to shoot at about 220 meters. Now to let the local pests (hava and boar) be the targets instead of steel 12×12 squares. Happy Hunting.

  • Mike w.

    I have one and added a “Stalk Tech’ LASER to it. Works great on that corn feeder 200 yds away at night!

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