By David Higginbotham
A rancher I know in Florida has a pig problem. He invited the GunsAmerica staff to help in his eradication efforts, and I was more than willing to oblige. I’d never hunted hogs, but have yet to find a part of the pig I didn’t like to eat. And because I review guns, I asked a simple question: “what is the best gun for hunting hogs?” Everyone seems to have a different opinion. Some prefer the compact design and rapid-fire potential of the AR-15. Others leaned toward the power and range of the .30-06 and .308s. Those who’ve hunted with a good 6.8 spc were passionate about the caliber’s performance. No one mentioned 7.62×39, much less the venerable AK platform’s design. As one who prefers the Kalashnikov over the Stoner, I knew what I was going to take. And now, after the hunt, I’d put my AK up against the biggest hogs south Florida has to offer.
Because I spend most of my time punching keys on a laptop, or punching holes in paper at the range, I figured we’d need an expert on hand for the hunt. Dwayne “Hog Man” Powell runs Kissimmee River Hunt and Fish, a guide service out of Okeechobee, Florida, and was more than happy to help. Hog Man is the Jim Cramer of hunting guides. He’s loud, his optimism is contagious, and he’ll come colse to beating you to death with his hand shakes and bro hugs, but if you can catch it or hunt it in Florida, Hog Man will show you how. We were there to kill swine, but I thought we might as well work, too, so I set up some real-world reviews. For those of us looking to test guns, Hog Man gives a veritable guarantee.
The Arsenal SLR107-34 in 7.62×39
I’d opted for a fairly basic Arsenal in 7.62×39, but I knew I would need to make some modifications. To begin with, the AK is a rattle-trap. This Bulgarian AK has a folding steel stock. I’d attached a Magpul QD sling to the stock (simply by drilling a hole near the base of the butt stock). The steel of the sling hardware knocking against the steel stock made unwelcome music. It wouldn’t have been noticed if I were walking beside a moving tank, but rang out loud and clear in calm Florida morning.
The magazine well rattled less with a Magpul PMAG 30 AK mag than it did with a typical steel mag. As this was my first opportunity to use the new Magpul AK mags, I tested their reliability (as best I could) while sighting in the gun. They fed consistently, even when packed tight with 30 rounds. While hog hunting doesn’t always require vast amounts of ammo, I prefer to carry at least two mags with me on any hunt (one in the gun and one on my hip). If one magazine malfunctions, a spare will keep you in the hunt.
Maybe the biggest question for me was not the gun, but the optic. For close quarters work, I am partial to red-dots. I’m a sucker for the Trijicon RMR. I’d recently tried out the Mission First Tactical forend on this rifle, hoping it would be a good platform for the RMR. While it provided a great grip, I had mixed results with the optic. After I ran a few magazines through the Arsenal, I noticed the RMR needed tightening. No matter how tight I got the optic, it always shot loose.
Trijicon’s Accupoint seemed a much better option. With no batteries to wear out, I could travel with the optic without any extra considerations. The 1-4×24 has a fiber optic reticle display shaped like a simple diamond. It is easy to find, and fast. And the variable low-powered magnification makes it function more like a neon green red-dot than a traditional scope. At $1,250, the Accupoint isn’t for everyone, but it is one of the most versatile optics available.
As good as the Accupoint is, I still had to attach it to the rifle. I love the simplicity of the AK design, but I hate the side mount for optics. I’ve never used one that I liked as well as I like a good section of rail on an AR. Yet there are options. My favorite addition to any AK is the AK Adaptive Rail System (AKARS) from Parabellum Armament. It is a simple addition and well worth the $125 you’ll spend to pick one up. To attach the AKARS, simply remove the rear sight leaf and install the new rear sight (and its rail tail) in its place. Parabellum includes a new cover that anchors the section of rail completely. The whole combination installs in a matter of minutes. After you figure out how to get the old sight off, the rest is easy. The AKARS pins in place front and rear, and you can even lift up the whole assembly (optic and all) to access the guts of the gun.
The AKARS gives you a new rear sight, and new cover, and a functionally solid strip of rail. Mounting optics is now as easy as it is on any other railed rifle. The newest version of the AKARS takes the concept one step further and adds a dovetailed slot for interchangeable rear sights. The dovetail is sized to accept GLOCK rear sights, so there are a number of options available.
The Results Stalk hunting in the dense Florida underbrush is ideal for the AK. I had the Arsenal’s stock folded and the rifle on a single point sling. The resulting package was very compact and easy to maneuver through the palmettos, Spanish moss and scrub oaks. As we were working through dense undergrowth that stood between long stretches of open pasture, we could have encountered hogs at distances as close as five feet, or as far out as 300 yards.At that narrow end, the Accupoint gave me a big advantage over some of the hunters I was working with. It would have been difficult to sight in on close hogs (in the short time we would have had) with a 4-12 scope. At the same time, I may not have had much luck with anything on the run past 200 yards.
We never tested my theories, though. We were hunting on an immense cattle ranch, and one with a big hog infestation, but the rancher wasn’t in favor of us using dogs. A good dog can sniff out a hog. We can smell them, but hogs are adept at hiding. They can hold incredibly still and let you walk right by. We stalked pigs for four hours, found fresh tracks and scat, but didn’t see a single hog. By early afternoon, we’d gone in town to hunt barbeque instead. Yet we were far from finished.
Late in the afternoon, we all split up and headed out again. This time, we each picked out a single spot and waited near feeders that drew small herds at predictable times. From our makeshift blinds, we had the advantage over the porcine beasts. They are smart, but not brilliant. Their desire to eat, a defining trait of the species, was sure to bring them out.Not that we didn’t have to wait. Our feeders were supposed to have gone off at 5:00, scattering corn and drawing them in. Yet the timers didn’t work quite right. Human error. Daylight savings time, I think, threw off everyone involved. As we’d just sprung forward two days before, the pigs’ internal clocks were off, too. As I waited, I saw a lot of wild life. A flock of turkeys came through, picking up kernels the pigs had missed the day before. The cows, with more than 1,000 acres to roam, decided to park in the grass between the feeder and me. Five white tailed deer came within ten feet of my blind. With the way the wind was blowing, they never knew I was there. As dusk set in and the sky darkened, a barred owl began hooting from the other side of the fields. It was, in every respect, one of the most tranquil settings I’d ever seen. Yet no pigs.
It was almost dark. I’d looked at my phone (that’s how thoroughly I’d given up on the hunt) and saw a text message from Hog Man. We were out of light. He’d come get me, he wrote, in about ten minutes.
I put down my phone and looked back at the field. Beside me, maybe 20 feet away, were four sows. The wind in the cabbage palms had covered their arrival. At the feeder, a good 70 yards out, I could see a lot of movement. A palmetto blocked most of my view, and the pigs weren’t straying as far out as I’d hoped, but I could see at least one big hog.
“Hang on,” I texted back. “Pigs.”
Though a gap in the palmettos the size of a basketball, I watched a boar push around a fat sow and several shoats. He was the one I wanted, but I couldn’t get a clean shot, as the sow kept herself right in my only open line of fire.
I lined up my shot, dialed up the magnification on the Accupoint, and took up the slack in the trigger. The boar, getting a little greedy, tucked his snout into the haunch of the big sow and tossed her out of the way. In that moment, he presented his flank and I fired.I hit him with the first shot and at least six of the next ten that I fired. It happened surprisingly fast. I couldn’t have designed a better practical test of the AK’s potential. After the first shot, the boar ran directly at me. The hamlet was an explosion of pigs, and the only one that came my way was the boar I’d just shot. In that single moment, all of my training and built-in muscle memory worked to my advantage. I fired once, jumped from cover, and hammered the hog until he slid to a bloody stop. Without even thinking about it, I had kept both eyes open, held the glowing yellow triangle on the closing black mass, and worked the trigger until the hog dropped 20 yards in front of me.
I went back into the brush where I’d dropped my phone. “Now you can come get me,” I wrote.
“That sounded like fun,” Hog Man replied. And it was. For me. Not the pig.
In the end, I’d say the AK was ideal for the stalk hunt. At close range, the AK’s flat recoil allows for very fast follow up shots. With the right ammo (not bulk FMJ junk), I see no reason why I would choose a 5.56 over a 7.62×39 for a stalk hunt. And even from 70 yards, the AK is no lightweight. If I’d placed that first shot where I’d wanted, right in his ear, the pig would have fallen where he stood.
Still, I know the debate will continue. And I have to admit one slight defeat. It wasn’t the insurgent annihilation I’d hoped for. On the other side of the ranch, one of my friends dropped two hogs with two shots from his 6.8. I fired eleven rounds and only dropped one. So much for bragging rights.