The Indomitable .40 S&W Goes Hog Hunting

Dropping feral hogs with .40 S&W isn’t just possible, it’s easily accomplished.

The moon was full with 99% visibility when Spike Box Ranch hunting manager Tyler Pounds and I left the bunkhouse for a night hunt. Although we wanted to do some calling, the sky was too clear and bright, meaning we were better off chasing hogs than coyotes or bobcats. Instead of loading the truck with a pair of rifles, though, we holstered up. Yes, we had handguns, and we were relying specifically on one of mine chambered in .40 S&W. Handgun hunting hogs with a competition 1911? Bring it.

Location, Location, Location

The Spike Box was my choice for the inaugural hunt with the gun, the then-new Remington R1 Tomasie Custom Double-Stack (a full review of which is coming soon). Located in northern Texas, the Spike Box ranges some 90,000 acres and is a working cattle ranch. When you’re glassing for game–or hogs–it takes a moment to become utterly confident that it isn’t actually a cow you’ve spotted. Hogs are everywhere on the property–huge boars, fat sows, tiny bacon-bit babies–and if you see one all by its lonesome, give it a minute. Another is bound to appear.

The first rule of handgun hunting hogs? Have a gun. Second rule? Have hogs.

Have a Gun

There is a multitude of options for handgun selection. Hunters are not limited to only single-shot, long-barrel pistols or magnum revolvers. In fact, you can even use your competition handgun to get it done. In this case that meant my R1 Tomasie Custom, a gun that had proven itself time and again on paper and steel. It was, after all, designed by Team Remington Captain Travis Tomasie. Tomasie took gold in the 2005 IPSC Handgun World Shoot–among other wins–and knows his way around a handgun. Because the R1 Tomasie Custom is meant for competition, it’s chambered in .40 S&W–a cartridge currently experiencing a decline in sales in the gun world at large. It’s a cartridge that just might be deserving of a comeback courtesy of the hunting world.

Hunting feral hogs with handguns is an excellent test of your skills and marksmanship.

Here’s the thing about smaller cartridge selection for hunting tough animals such as feral hogs. It’s your duty as a hunter to do everything in your power to ensure a clean kill. That means using a gun chambered in a cartridge capable of dropping a hog with one shot, not ten. Technically, 9mm can get the job done, but it’s walking a thin line because it is reliant on so many factors including incredibly precise placement and size of the hog. Is .40 S&W better? Yes. The same power factors that make it popular in the competition world make it a solid hog hunting choice. Sometimes fractional differences in size and power matter.

Have Hogs

The first hog to be dropped by the .40 S&W-chambered R1 was averagely sized for the area. He weighed in around 130 pounds and dropped from a single round of Inceptor .40 S&W 88 grain ARX to the heart. It happened fast; it was dark, Tyler spotted him in a field, I raised the gun, and the hog hit the ground before he even knew what happened. My competition gun was officially christened as a dual-purpose hunting gun–with frangible rounds, no less.

Spike Box Ranch Hunt Manager Tyler Pounds with one of the hogs he shot using the pictured Remington R1 Tomasie Custom Double-Stack in .40 S&W.

Inceptor ARX was utilized for the majority of the hunt. Many gun owners are understandably hesitant about using frangibles to hunt but, the reality is, they’re fantastic for dropping game of all sizes. Using Inceptor, I’ve hunted hogs, deer, coyotes, badgers–the list goes on.

Inceptor currently focuses on handgun cartridges–cartridges I’ve hunted with at length from .40 S&W to .45 ACP to 10mm–but does produce .223 Rem, which also performs well on game. Inceptor utilizes cutting-edge injection-molding technology to create the polymer-copper compound bullets, the .40 S&W version of which moves at over 1,400 feet per second. They’re lightweight, precise, and drastically reduce over-penetration risks. And they didn’t stop with that first moderately-sized boar.

In a matter of days the R1 Tomasie racked up half a dozen hog kills at my hands and several more in Tyler’s hands. When we shot them at night it was without the expected props such as red dots or lasers; the adjustable LPA rear sight and red fiber-optic front sight the gun arrived with worked just fine. Thanks to the fiber optic front sight’s ability to pick up light sources around it the red dot was quite literally dead-on.

Then came the big boar.

By the final night of the hunt, we were both tired. It had been an awesome multi-species week taking ducks, deer, and hogs–plus a few others–but I wanted one more nighttime hunt. Just a quick check of the fields, I told Tyler, and if we didn’t see anything worth going after right away, we’d call it a night.

First, we spotted another average boar–and shot him, of course. Then, as we slowly rolled by a dusty, dark field, a bulky shadow became visible in the distance. It was difficult to tell just how big the hog was but regardless of size, we wanted to go after him. So we did.

The stalk didn’t get far before the boar saw us which presented a problem because the mesquite-ridden tree line was close by.

“Shoot him!” Tyler hissed. “He’s going to get away!”

Because the boar was headed for the trees his muddy behind was my biggest target but a Texas heart shot wasn’t on my To-Do list, so I waited. The tips of his ears bobbed into the air as he moved, and then he made what would become his fatal mistake. He turned his head to look back at us. Without stopping to think about it, I raised the R1 Tomasie in my strong hand, put the red fiber-optic behind his ear, and fired.

He dropped like a stone.

A single shot to the head felled a 250-pound boar that was running away from me at approximately 25 yards. A frangible .40 S&W bullet. It wouldn’t be the last, either. At this point, the R1 Tomasie Custom has brought down dozens of hogs of all sizes. Most shots made on the hogs have been to the heart or lungs and one shot is all it takes. Yes, .40 S&W can drop a hog, even the big boys.

Why

Hunting hogs with handguns is challenging. It adds a layer of interest and skill to a pastime normally undertaken with rifles; if you holster a handgun instead of slapping a magazine into your AR-15, you’re committing to heightened trigger and breath control, more precise placement, and closer ranges. Although I’ve shot hogs using bolt pistols from hundreds of yards away, the average handgun only has a barrel between four and six inches long. Being close isn’t just a fun test of your talent, it’s a necessity.

The Remington R1 Tomasie Custom Double-Stack in .40 S&W has proven itself as a fantastically accurate dual-purpose competition and hunting handgun.

One of the dozens of hogs taken using Inceptor .40 S&W 88 grain ARX frangible ammunition.

On the final night of the R1 Tomasie Custom’s first hog hunt the author dropped this 250-pound boar with a single shot to the head.

Take the time to practice with your handgun. Just as a single shot fired from your rifle isn’t sufficient preparation neither is one shot or one magazine run through your handgun. Shoot as you intend to hunt whether that means using shooting sticks or shooting offhand. When you practice, use the same ammunition you intend to hunt with just as you would with a rifle. To hone your marksmanship at varying distances as realistically as possible use targets like Birchwood Casey PreGame 16.5-inch x 24-inch Boar targets. The PreGame targets have contrasting-colored reactive zones depending on where your bullet strikes the paper and feature a full-color image of a feral hog with its vital zone outlined.

Birchwood Casey PreGame 16.5-inchx24-inch Boar targets give the shooter instant feedback on shot placement thanks to reactive color zones.

Hitting the woods and fields with handguns is fun. They’re easily portable, highly maneuverable, and lighter weight. With practice, you’ll find rapid target acquisition and precise shot placement will come naturally so long as you work within your abilities. Figuring out what you and your gun are capable of is part of the process as well. Don’t stick to shooting targets at only 10 or 25 yards; work through shot placement at multiple distances so you know where the bullet will impact.

You’ll be ready to hit the fields with your handgun in no time. And when you do, you’ll find there’s nothing quite like chasing a sounder of hogs with a handgun (just don’t forget the spare magazines).

***Shop GunsAmerica for your .40 S&W***

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Chris October 16, 2019, 7:56 pm

    I have hog hunted in North Florida swamps all my and never used anything but a .22 pistol or rifle.
    Hogs rangeing from 75 to 600 pounds or I caught them and sold to the paid to trophy hunt clubs for $25.00 dollars

  • Josh July 22, 2019, 10:46 am

    Regarding shot placement, I personally prefer the shoulder. It presents the largest target, and breaks a leg or shoulder, which prevents even the largest boar from running. I don’t mind losing some meat, it’s well worth it vs. tracking a hog that has taken a shot in the boiler room. I have shot hogs with a 30.06 , and their heart exploded, yet they ran far, and it was a PITA to track them.

    Another reader commented on frangible and fragments of copper. I eat my takes, but mostly donate meat to other folks in need. I am going to pass on frangible for now.

  • Josh July 22, 2019, 10:36 am

    Another heart warming story from Texas, thanks. I pack a Glock 10 mm with a Johnny Glock trigger job, which make the trigger bearable. I have tried to sneak up on hogs in barley to pop em with the 10, but have not gotten close enough yet, definately a goal of mine.

    I am running Remington Hog Hammer Cu HPs now. Can only use Cu here now. Thanks for the frangible information.

  • Link Lackluster July 22, 2019, 8:43 am

    The .40 is super to the 9mm. Sorry, 9 fanboys.

  • Robert Duke July 9, 2019, 8:04 pm

    Thanks for this informative article. Although I’ve never had the opportunity to hunt, I am very interested in bullet performance. I purchased ARX in .40 S&W for my Beretta M96 and my Kahr. I also load ARX in my 1911 and Keltec P3AT. I was sold on the round by a magazine article; not the best way to make ammo choices but as I stated earlier my hunting opportunities are nil. I belong to a local gun club and have been invited to hunt but who wants to drag a 71 y/o through rough country? I got interested in guns early in life and discovered I had a talent for accuracy in the USMC. Anyway, enough! I now have even more confidence in my self defense choices.

  • gipb July 9, 2019, 1:59 pm

    and where are the 9mm fanboys now… yeah tell me a 9mm hits about as hard as a 40sw!!! NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!

  • William Newberry July 9, 2019, 10:51 am

    Great idea ! This will be perfect practice with the handgun. Even good for point shooting, who needs sights right ?
    Point shooting is something handgunners need to practice more . There will eventually come a time when you can’t use your sights. The .40 is an awesome round , glad it’s being used for something good. Hogs are taking over. Go get em !

  • Handgun Hog Hunter July 9, 2019, 10:22 am

    I’ve been -handgun- hunting hogs for about 15 years. I switched to all-handgun hunting to change things up and put a little more “fun factor” into it, plus it’s good practice for everyday carry and hogs are good analogous for bullet testing.

    I mainly hunt with a 44 in a Super Redhawk and handloads. Finding the right bullet/velocity to load was the most difficult part. I had horrible experiences with standard “carry” ammo – I never lost a hog, but I did have separated jackets, failure to expand, etc. I have also shot hogs with a clean-through heart shot and have them run 100+ yards before they fell. The hogs in the article just went down “like a stone”. Big hogs don’t just fall down, unless you spine shoot them. I’ve had quite a few just drop, but don’t expect them all, even with a great shot, to just fall down….

    I’m not saying you can’t ethically or successfully hunt with a .40, because you certainly can and I’m sure they do very well – with the right bullet and velocity. I have found that you need hunting type bullets to be ethical – with big hogs. My personal opinion (yes, we all have one) is off-the-shelf defense ammo is not the best choice out of a .40, especially frangible ammo. You need penetration and expansion coupled with accuracy.

    I also deer and hog hunt with a Glock 20 and have seen similar results. I am using factory heavy bullets with high velocity (Underwood) in the 10, and it has “dropped” a big boar or two.

    If you haven’t tried handgun hunting – please do it! I’m even handgun hunting rabbits now (Yes, I miss a lot, but it sure is fun when you get a shot on a running rabbit!) If you haven’t tried hog hunting – please do it!

    **Caution:
    Handgun hunting is extremely addictive. Please do not handgun hunt if you don’t want the possibility of giving up bow hunting and rifle hunting. Some instances of hog hunting may cause extreme addiction and lack of want for deer hunting in the future. Handgun hunting may also cause need to be in the field scouting, purchase of various bullet/powder combinations, and in extreme cases may even lead to reloading. Handgun hunting can cause depletion of savings accounts and may cause marital issues. Handgun hunt with caution.

  • Johnny N July 9, 2019, 9:56 am

    Great article Kat! I myself have gotten in to a little more of a handgun hunting itch and simply for that “you gotta get close!” challenge. Some years ago I THOUGHT about maybe picking up a bow to challenge myself but…end of the day, I just really like things that go BOOM. So, figured a handgun with right loads would fill that void. Years ago I picked up a big ole S&W PC 44Mag but, just recently a 10mm Glock 20SF to bring weight down.

    As a Californian who can’t stick hogs with dogs, our EDC or, “hunting handguns” have taken over the place of the blade. Takes a little different approach but, still up close and personal…which equals quite the rush!!!:)

  • Rane July 9, 2019, 6:27 am

    I’ve been using this caliber for hunting for years. Some people thought I was crazy until they saw the results. I hand load, and the 40 has so much untapped potential that you can take advantage of by simply reloading your own. My go to for pigs and deer is 155 gr Nosler with 9.4 gr long shot. It shoots over 1300 fps from my full sized guns. That’s over 580 fpe. The bullet nearly always exits making a massive would channel. I’ve also used the 150 gr and 135 gr Bullets with great results. Any thing heavier and you run into issues with case volume. There’s just not enough room the case after the longer bullet is seated to put enough powder in to get any acceptable velocity/energy figures. I’ve been experimenting with the Lehigh extreme defense bullets too. You can get their 115 solid copper bullet to hit 1425 fps from a full sized pistol. The penetration of this round during testing was incredible. My most powerful round that I make and only use for thin skinned critters like deer, or maybe small pigs is my 135 gr Nosler HP load. It’s clocked at over 1500 fps from my full sized guns. And my recovered Bullets (which are few) are often over 0.75” in diameter and hold together very well. They don’t penetrate as well as their heavier counterparts, but go plenty deep enough to have completed pass throughs on critters less than 250 lbs. My average velocity from my HK USP is 1525 fps making nearly 700 fpe. That’s deep in 10mm territory and it’s still under max pressure! I still have 10mm’s, but found out quickly that with light weight projectiles like the 135 gr. they are so similar that you don’t need to use the bigger gun or waste the more expensive brass to achieve the same results. I’ve never tried frangible ammo for hunting, but obviously it works according to this article. I would be concerned with meat contamination. I eat what I kill and don’t like metal fragments in my food. Im really glad to see an article about the 40. It seems most people wrote it off after the FBI decided to drop it. It is in my opinion the most underrated handgun cartridge. This is due to bias testing, reviews, and opinions. That and the fact that most over the counter ammo for this caliber are severely watered down keeping it on par with 9mm and 45 ACP power factors. If you’re on the fence about this caliber I challenge you to get into reloading and buy a quality built gun. You can find out like I did the true potential behind this cartridge that some consider a dying fad. Others call it “short and weak”. Let’s see a 9mm or 45acp do 700 fpe while staying under max pressure (35k psi). The 9mm can’t even come close, I’ve tried. The 45 gets a little closer if you load way past max pressure, but still can’t get there. Only the 45 super, and of course the 10mm can trump it. But they aren’t usual found in small framed guns. The 40 also benefits(like most cartridges) from a longer barrel. So 40 cal carbines are surprisingly powerful and great close range hunting/home defense tools.

    • Phil October 15, 2019, 6:59 am

      Could you elaborate on your experiences? What numbers you got from other calibers, like 9 and 45, and your results if any on game?

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