Photos by Michael Anschuetz
Hunting hogs requires a fast-handling gun chambered for a game-dropping cartridge. Because the sport involves hunting running game, cycling the gun’s action quickly and shooting with both eyes open are definite assets. The Mossberg 464 lever action with an XS Sights Lever Scout Rail and an Aimpoint Micro H-2 optic is an ideal hog-hunting rig.
I admit up front that before I started this project I wasn’t much of a fan of lever-action rifles even though the first rifle I ever fired was a lever-action Winchester Model 1873 in .44-40. (I was seven years old at the time, and my dad had to help me hold the rifle.) However, after Outdoor Sportsman Group publisher Mike Schoby challenged me to put together this hog-hunting lever gun/red-dot rig, I’ve come to appreciate the innately good characteristics that continue to make lever actions so popular among hunters.
The Lever Action’s Leverage
A lot of riflemen like a lever-action rifle for three basic reasons. It’s fast-shooting; it handles like a dream; and it is accurate enough to get the job done.
As Layne Simpson once wrote, “…a lever action can spit out a lot of lead fast.” I consider this to be the lever gun’s primary leverage. By keeping it shouldered while working the lever, a lever-action rifle makes follow-up shots faster than a typical bolt-action rifle, as fast as a pump-action rifle, and almost, but not quite, as fast as an autoloader.
Other advantages of lever actions: They are generally shorter, lighter-weight, and quicker-handling than a typical bolt-action rifle. Lever actions are hands down the most comfortable type of rifle to carry one-handed, and they are extremely quick to shoulder.
The lever action excels as a hunting tool, and typical lever-action accuracy is generally more than adequate for that purpose. In some rare cases, a lever action can produce amazing accuracy (sub-1 MOA), but in my experience, they generally average around 1.5 to 2.5 MOA. And as every serious hunter knows, that’s more than adequate for hunting big game, especially at the ranges at which most lever-action cartridges are intended to be used.
The Mossberg 464 I chose for this project has all those characteristics. Like other venerable lever guns, the Model 464 has a slim, flat-sided receiver; a two-piece stock; a loading port in the side of the receiver; a tubular magazine with barrel band; and an exposed hammer.
The Model 464’s receiver is open-topped with the right side slightly lowered to allow sideways ejection of fired cases, thus permitting receiver-top scope mounting of a traditional riflescope. In addition, the hammer has a threaded hole cross-drilled completely through the base of its spur that can be used to install an accessory side-spur for ease of cocking if the rifle is fitted with a traditional scope. As I mentioned earlier, for this project I used an XS Sights Lever Scout Rail to mount an Aimpoint Micro H-2 red-dot optic forward of the receiver (more about that later), so I didn’t use those fine features, but they are there if you need them.
The Model 464’s cylindrical bolt contains a spring-loaded firing-pin system and is enclosed by a front receiver ring and a rear receiver bridge. The extractor is a forward extension of a collar-type spring, which fits in a groove in the bolt body. When closed, the front of the bolt is tightly enclosed by the receiver ring. The bolt is locked by a thick vertical lug that moves up through milled slots in the receiver behind the bolt to hold it firmly in place when the lever is closed. The bolt-locking lug contains a firing-pin striker that serves to transfer the hammer’s energy to the firing pin.
The Model 464’s sliding two-position manual safety is located on the rear tang, where it is equally accessible for right-handed or left-handed shooters. Interestingly, the rifle’s serrated hammer does not have a traditional “halfcock” position, but it does incorporate an innovative integral passive safety system. Unless the manual tang safety is disengaged, the hammer cannot contact the firing pin, and unless the lever is fully up and squeezed against the bottom tang by the firing hand, the trigger cannot be squeezed.
Loading the Model 464 is through a familiar spring-loaded gate on the right side of the receiver that feeds into a full-length tubular magazine. Magazine capacity is seven rounds.
The round barrel is 20 inches long, and the gun’s overall length is 38.5 inches, which helps make it quick-handling. Weight is a mere 6.75 pounds, which also helps make it nimble. My version of the Model 464 has sling-swivel studs and a checkered walnut pistol-grip buttstock and forearm. Mossberg also offers it with a plain, straight-grip wood stock or a black composite stock that’s adjustable for length of pull and comb height.
The Optic and Optic Rail
The Model 464’s sights comprise a front blade with a gold bead and an adjustable rear sight. Both sights are dovetailed into the top of the barrel. But because I chose to use the Aimpoint Micro H-2, I opted for installing a scout-style top rail. I chose the excellent Lever Scout Rail from XS Sights, and it utilizes the dovetail for the rear sight, so installing it requires removing the Model 464’s rear sight. The process is simple.
The Lever Scout Rail comes with the rail, a mounting pillar, a jackscrew, a pillar nut, two 6-48 screws, a 5/64 hex wrench, and thread-locking compound. The first step is to remove the filler screws from the front two scope mount holes in the Model 464’s receiver. Then tap the factory rear sight from its dovetail with a hammer and a non-marring punch.
Disassemble the rail’s mounting pillar and try it in the dovetail slot on the barrel. Try from both sides as one might start easier. If it will not readily start in the slot, then metal needs to be removed from the bottom of the mounting pillar with a file or emery paper until it starts into the dovetail slot. I didn’t need to do that, but the fit was snug. If the fit had been looser, there wouldn’t have been any problem because the jackscrew takes up any slack.
Once the mounting pillar is centered in the dovetail, fit the rail on the rifle. It should fit tightly over the pillar. If the pillar is too far to the rear to line up, then the pillar hole will need to be opened by filing it with a 1⁄4-inch round chainsaw file until the pillar fits through the hole. Again, mine fit tightly and did not require any filing.
The next step is to check if the rear holes line up correctly with the screw holes in the gun’s receiver, left to right. If they do not line up, the mounting pillar is not centered in the dovetail and needs to be tapped into proper position. Once the holes line up and you are confident of a good fit, remove the mount and apply a small amount of thread-locking compound to the top of mounting pillar, the underside of the mount at the pillar, and the threads of the two rear screws. Reassemble the mount onto the mounting pillar and start the two rear screws in their holes. Wipe off excess thread-locking compound and make sure it does not get into the action through the screw holes.
Install the jackscrew and tighten with the 5/64 wrench. Torque to 20 inch-pounds. Tighten the other screws and wipe off excess thread-locking compound. Torque to 20 inch-pounds. Install the ring nut on the jackscrew and tighten. Torque to 20 inch-pounds. Set the rifle aside upside down to prevent the thread-locking compound from running into the action and let it cure for four hours.
As tactical and military shooters have proven, an electronic-dot optic mounted forward of the receiver scout-style is very conducive to shooting with both eyes open because it enhances situational awareness and target acquisition. The technique also lends itself well to hunting running game. Of course, Aimpoint has been a leader in the field of electronic-dot sights for a very long time. I started using Aimpoint optics in the mid-1980s on my Bullseye pistols. Since then I’ve used Aimpoints on everything from pistols and revolvers to rimfire rifles to AR-15s, and they have served me well.
According to the company, the Aimpoint Micro H-2 was developed for shooting with both eyes open. The Micro H-2 is lightweight (it weighs 4.8 ounces with the lens covers), but it’s very rugged, and it can be used on shotguns, rifles, and handguns.
The 1X Micro H-2 is non-magnifying and parallax free, and it is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The top of the protective cap fits into holes on the adjustment screws, and each click of the adjustment screws corresponds to a 0.5-inch movement of the point of impact at 100 yards.
The optic features advanced lenses and cutting-edge lens coatings for excellent light transmission. The unit comes with a built-in Weaver/Picatinny-style base. The Micro H-2 also comes with clear flip-up lens covers, and the aluminum housing is reinforced for improved ruggedness.
It’s powered by one CR2032 battery, and its low-power-consumption Advanced Circuit Efficiency Technology allows 50,000 hours (over five years) of constant operation with one battery. The dot has 12 brightness settings, allowing it to be used in varying low-light and daylight conditions. It’s offered with two dot sizes (2 and 4 MOA). Mine has the 2-MOA dot. The Micro H-2 is fully waterproof, and according to Aimpoint, it has become the company’s most popular red-dot sight with hunters, competition shooters, and sport shooters.
Just about any cartridge that is good for hunting deer works well for hog hunting, too, and the classic .30-30 Winchester has accounted for untold numbers of deer over the decades. The number of hogs taken with this classic cartridge is anybody’s guess, but I’m sure the number is substantial, especially in recent years since wild hogs have become so plentiful. Hog hunting has become so popular that the major ammunition makers have come out with hog-specific loadings in a handful of chamberings. Today, companies with hog-specific lines include Hornady, Remington, and Winchester. The hog loads are offered in a bunch of chamberings ranging from .223 Remington to .300 Winchester Magnum. Obviously, lever guns aren’t made in all of those chamberings, but Hornady and Remington offer hog loads in .30-30, so I shot both in the Mossberg “Hog Hunter” rig.
Remington’s line of hog-specific ammunition is called Hog Hammer. The company’s .30-30 load features a Barnes 150-grain all-copper TSX bullet with a flat nose, which, according to Remington, provides 28 percent deeper penetration than standard lead-core bullets and nearly 100 percent weight-retention on hogs while also expanding rapidly to deliver devastating wound channels. The load uses a flash-suppressed propellant, Remington 9½ primers, and nickel-plated cases. The bullet’s ballistic coefficient is .184, and its factory-rated muzzle velocity is 2,335 fps for a factory-rated muzzle energy of 1,816 ft-lbs and a 100-yard energy of 1,209 ft-lbs.
Hornady’s hog-specific line is called Full Boar, and its .30-30 loading features the hard-hitting 140-grain MonoFlex bullet. Constructed of a copper alloy and Hornady’s patented Flex Tip, the MonoFlex bullet retains 95 percent of its original weight. According to Hornady, the copper alloy is harder and tougher than solid copper and does not foul or increase pressure the way solid-copper bullets do. The Flex Tip initiates immediate expansion, even at lower velocities, and the bullet’s proven deep penetration and high weight retention combine to produce deadly and dependable performance on game. The .30-30 140-grain MonoFlex bullet has a ballistic coefficient of .277, and its factory-rated muzzle velocity from a 24-inch barrel is 2,465 fps. Its factory-rated muzzle energy is 1,943 ft-lbs, and its energy at 100 yards is 1,501 ft-lbs.
The Range Results
I also fired four other factory loads in the Model 464, with several of them being proven .30-30 deer-hunting loads. The results of all six factory loads are listed in the accompanying chart. As you can see, all produced good performance.
The Model 464 was more than accurate enough for hunting hogs with all of the factory loads I test-fired. Overall, average accuracy was 2.09 inches. Like I said at the beginning of this article, in my experience, lever-action rifles usually produce 1.5- to 2.5-MOA accuracy, and the Model 464 fell firmly within that range.
My most accurate groups came with Hornady’s LEVERevolution 160-grain FTX loading, which averaged 1.72 inches. It also was the load with the most energy, based on chronographing the loads 12 feet from the muzzle of the rifle’s 20-inch barrel. The energy for that load averaged 1,950 ft-lbs.
Shooting the Mossberg 464 was a lot of fun. Learning to shoot running game takes a lot of practice. Learning to shoot a rifle with both eyes open takes a lot of practice. But the Model 464 with the Aimpoint Micro H-2 is so much fun to shoot that it won’t seem like a chore at all.