Hunting and Outdoors

How to Set Up an AR-15 for Hog Hunting

A guest post by Jonathan Owen, CEO of

“You have an AR-15. You’re coming.”

Despite my naïve protests about being a shooter not a hunter, I was dragged into the world of tactical hunting. A pile of dead hogs later, I was hooked. I no longer own any of the gear I used that day. I’ve gone through many iterations and changes in my kit. Thanks in part to my role at, I’ve had opportunities to try all kinds of configurations for hog hunting guns. So when I was recently asked about how to set up an AR-15 for hog hunting, I readily agreed to answer. While I’ll be the first to say that there is no one size that fits all, when you’ve finished reading I think you’ll have a better idea of how to set up your own AR-15 for some tactical hog hunting. Then it’s time to chase some wild boar!

Why focus specifically on setting up the AR-15 for hog hunting? It’s this generation’s gun, and for good reason. The limitless configurations make it one of the most versatile guns on earth. The hardest part is figuring out what you want—never mind need—as you customize your AR-15. Since you’re reading this, you’re more likely to own an AR-15 than any other single gun. Here are some questions and answers for you to consider when getting set up to hunt wild hogs with yours.

The AR-15 is perfectly suited for hog hunting — it’s versatile, durable, and easy to carry and shoot. Image courtesy of


Perhaps your first consideration is caliber. I don’t know how many different calibers an AR-15 can be built-in. Hogs are hunted with a lot of them including .223/5.56, 300 Blackout, .458 SOCOM, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC II, and countless others. I’ve killed hogs with most of those and others as well. This will surprise some, but not everyone: I’ve killed more wild pigs with .223 ammo than any other caliber. Modern loads render some of the old conventional wisdom obsolete. Remington Hog Hammer made with Barnes 62-grain TSX bullets has demonstrated excellent performance for SHWAT writer Brian McCombie, and I’ve had great experience with DRT Ammo’s .223 on hogs weighing 200+ pounds.

A lot of buzz over .300 AAC Blackout during the past couple of years has lead many to explore that round. I’ve been cautious about getting too wrapped up in it, but I plan to give it a workout this year. Having hunted with sub-sonic rounds through a short-barreled AR pistol with Liberty Suppressors Mystic X silencer, I wasn’t impressed. Maybe it was the ammo; maybe the distance was too great. It was definitely quiet. We’ll try it again with some unique ammo, but supersonic .300 AAC looks more promising. But like .458 SOCOM and 6.8 SPC II, your range is a bit more limited. If you’re hunting under 200 yards, any of these rounds should be great. If you’re planning longer-range wild hog hunting, the 6.5 Grendel might just be your pick.

Day or Night?

Hunting hogs at night is a real blast. Adding a white light to your gun is easy and doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If the shooting gets fast as the daylight fades to dark, your white light becomes a real asset. I’ve watched Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat point a white light at hogs who were undeterred by its presence. Bill has spent countless hours with the hogs figuring out which white lights scare them, and the specifics of color temperature and technique that leave hogs comfortable and vulnerable.

Most hunters effectively bagging hogs in the dark have instead employed a broad variety of weapon-mounted green and red lights, particularly when hunting predictable places like feeders. Alternatively, you can also equip a feeder with remote control lights like the Inhawgnito, but that’s another story. Flashlights in white, green and red are all easy add-ons to your AR build that won’t trash your bottom line. An important side note: you’ll want your AR to use a handguard that allows for mounting accessories. Three or four years ago, that generally meant a quad Picatinny rail. Today you have countless options.

However, there are better, albeit far more expensive, doors to crash. Jump into the high-tech world of night vision and thermal optics and you’re into a whole new level of the game. Instead of spending a hundred dollars for a light, you’ll spend ten to twenty times that to access what many consider the pinnacle of tactical hunting. Case in point: Recently I’ve been highly impressed by the line of thermal optics from IR Defense. I’ve watched IRD grow for a year, and recently hunted with their IR Hunter Mk II. Using this thermal optic, I was able to identify hogs at 400 yards and shoot them on the run at 125 yards. Thermal can fool you though. Rocks at a distance can look remarkably like a group of pigs far off. Stay tuned to for more on that.

Your hog AR can use illuminators ranging from white lights to weapon-mounted green and red lights to thermal optics and traditional night vision. Image courtesy of
Your hog AR can use illuminators ranging from white lights to weapon-mounted green and red lights to thermal optics and traditional night vision. Image courtesy of

An alternative to thermal is traditional night vision (NV). We’re talking the usual green images. It’s great military technology available to us and allows for the use of infrared lasers and illuminators of countless price points and configurations. The best gear for this is almost as pricey as thermal, but has the added benefit of being able to drive and scan for hogs without any additional lighting. For as little as $3,100, a number of manufacturers like TNVC are producing NV monoculars that can be mounted to your AR-15 or to a helmet. We’ll cover your NV options more thoroughly later on at

Hunting during the day is straightforward. Have an optic that works for your scenario and get to work. Obviously, your scenario makes a difference along with your preference in optics. Years ago, I invested in a Trijicon ACOG ECOS system that gave me a 4x magnified optic with a red dot 1x unmagnified optic combination. It remains a favorite set up. Red dot sights like the EoTech and Aimpoint optics are super fast to use with both eyes open and I’ve enjoyed great success with them as well. If you plan on bagging multiple hogs from a group, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat this kind of a setup.

Alternatively, more magnification both increases the ranges you can make confident shots at and adds precision to virtually any shot beyond 50 yards. There are probably as many magnified optics choices as there are ammo choices. Lots of optics are good enough to hunt hogs midday at 150 yards. Your run of the mill 3-9x scope might be just fine. However, cheap scopes simply aren’t as sharp and lose contrast quickly at higher magnification. Lack of high-quality optical coatings can leave you unable to see clearly with your scope angled towards a late afternoon or early morning sun, washing out when pointed in the direction of the sun. Brands like Trijicon, Nightforce, US Optics and Bushnell Elite Tactical are all winners at various price and feature points.

How will you hunt?

If you hunt from a blind, you might not need a sling on your AR-15. I prefer spot and stalk hunts, which leave me carrying my rifle so I value a sling. Tactical shooters often prefer single-point slings, but for walking any significant distance, I prefer the stability of a good two-point sling to an AR bouncing around on a single-point sling. Over time I’ve collected a number of slings including convertible single/dual point models, but my go-to sling, a Viking Tactics two-point padded model, remains my favorite.


If precision is important to your hunting, you need an upgraded trigger. Truth is, once you’ve used a good drop-in trigger replacement, you’ll probably loath whatever trigger came in your rifle. I’ve pulled Timney, Wilson Combat, CMC flat triggers and plenty of others. It seems like there is a new drop-in trigger maker for the AR-15 popping up every other month. Most are pretty good; some have nice proven track records if that’s important to you.


While there’s no limit on interchangeable AR-15 configurations, these considerations combined with your personal preferences of brand, grips, stocks, etc. will get you all set to hog hunt with your AR-15. Fact is, getting set up to hunt hogs with the puzzle pieces covered here will also get you set up to effectively hunt various varmints, deer and other exciting prospects for the tactical hunter.

Jonathan Owen, the CEO of Special Hog Weapons and Tactics, started pulling triggers in the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Soon he was teaching air-rifle marksmanship and gun safety. His introduction to hunting after college was frozen season of absentee deer, leading him to conclude he was a shooter, not a hunter. That lead to a civilian fascination with all things tactical. Later, when introduced to the dynamic world of tactical hog hunting, all that changed and Special Hog Weapons and Tactics was born. Today, Owen is a highly regarded industry professional who loves both the shooting and hunting aspects of the firearms community. A writer, photographer, videographer, storyteller and consultant, he loves bringing new experiences and gear to anyone who’ll pay attention. This material is adapted from Special Hog Weapons And Tactics. Copyright ©2014

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (18)

  1. I keep forgetting that for many of you a three point buck is the size of medium dog. Around here a three point buck will dress out at 90 plus pounds and a .223 simply is not adiquate.

    1. Shot placement proper ammo is key negative blogs about deer body weight in certain areas has some validity but just tells of the educational level or lack of as your basis for discussion

  2. Most people I know who shoot deer with a .22 (not 223 or 556) also use a “one eyed dog”. Of course night or day hunting with a rim fire weapon is illegal in most states.

  3. J.O –

    Forget .300 Blk – oooh, I can hear lots of arm chair rumbling “out there”!
    Build one on the Russian 7.62×39. Pretty much the same ballistics for all but the 220 gr. Price / rd:
    Blk: +/- $1.00 ; Russian: $.21 cents delivered.
    Do the math & the hog can’t tell the difference!!!

  4. Agree with Davis Bush. I’ve hunted feral pigs and javalina in Texas and feral pigs and Russian boar in Argentina. Definitively the piglets and/or young specimens (less than 100 lbs) are the best tasting. In Arg. 5 different muscle samples are taken to a vet’s lab to be tested for Trichinosis (nasty stuff). In terms of shooting them, placement is always the first consideration! The anatomy of a pig is different than that of a white tail ( . As for ammo, any caliber from .243 to .308 will do the job. And a few times some old males will require more knocking down power since they can reach close to 600 lbs. In these cases the .300 Win Mag is best. And when approaching a downed pig, make always sure you have a round on the chamber and be ready to shoot. Their vitality is amazing!

  5. It doesn’t seem practical, to me, to spend the kind of money I see in this article,for equipment, to take a pig. I lived off of wild pigs in Arizona. One pig would feed me for a week. The hogs I see here would feed me much longer but taking them is identical and at a comfortable range…ie
    @ 100yds. One shot one kill with my POS (more than 4 rounds in the mag and it will not feed)Remington 597, 10-22 into whichever ear I was looking at.

    1. I agree larry, like you I’ve seen many hogs, and In time’s of need deer, killed with a 22 lr with one shot into the eye , ear , at up to 100+- yrds, but it’s fun to be king of the hill with nice expensive equipment, yet it takes a lot to stalk effectively and get into a position to place a kill shot in the ear /eye at 50 yrds on a hog , and the older I get the harder it gets. Just cannot compare shooting a hog at 200 + yard with NV to a 5 hr stalk that gets you into position at 50 yrds to make a Ear shot.
      So if youve got the $$ and it’s you’r thing, then might as well set
      you’re AR up nicely, cause if you think about it there’s not a whole lot of diff. in shooting multiple running hogs than shooting a group of charging Zombies . lol

    2. You’re right Scott. Sometimes it does take a while to get the shot but to me, that is what hunting is all about. Wild animals are keenly aware of their surroundings but I keep in mind that the human animal is the”World’s #1 Predator”. Even if they know I am around, I out think them. Never gone home empty handed.

    3. BTW Scott, I do not own nor do I desire to own a “High Power” 22…ie…223/5.56. If I need more power for longer ranges and stopping power I resort to either my M1A in 308 or my M1 Garand in 30-06. But for most applications 100yds and closer, my “Low Power” 22 works just fine.

  6. Among the several calibers mentioned, you omitted the Bushmaster 450. A dedicated upper is compatible with any AR lower and uses the standard AR magazine. Ammunition is readily available and affordable. The factory 250 gr FTX bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2200 fps, is dead on accurate at 100 yards and effective to 300. It is devastating on hogs with the factory bullet, but can also be reloaded with a variety of .452 bullets, including Barnes.

  7. Follow the links, check out the site ! SHWAT -Special Hog Weapons and Tactics- certainly turned out to be an enjoyable initial couple of hours reading the exploits of the Owen s and extended clan. The gear reviews and other HOG-relater stuff was interesting enough that I subscribed/liked, Hell,I even sent an email about site ?? (almost instantly responded to by J.Owen -himself-) to the progenitors of this worthy subject matter.
    Definitely worth my time, and even resulted in this referral too.
    Now if there were only wild/pest-E hog-hunting do be done here in N.E. Ohio….

  8. There are a LOT of Hog Hunting TV programs on Cable. Yes they are edible..and some are better than others. The key is recipe and preparation. Just as it is with other wild game.. Note I said WILD and not at all like domestic swine. I have had nasty and mostly have had great.
    An example is turkey- Don’t ask for the white breast meat on a wild turkey.

    1. Hogs are definitely edible, but the best ones are the smaller ones, up to 200 lbs, and especially immature hogs. An old, large boar is probably not on the menu. You can generally hunt hogs in any state, where they are found. They are an invasive species that do a lot of damage. In Texas, you can hunt them 24/7 year round and from helicopters, if you want to. There is no limit, and you don’t even have to harvest the hog. They make good vulture, coyote, and small critter chow.

    2. I started hunting public Red and Grassy Slough in Mc Curtin county Oklahoma 2 years ago. Look for The town of Idabel. Game Warden down there doesn’t eat pork but told me they caught and tested wild pigs years back and found they all had brucellosis and pseudo rabies. I have shot 2 pigs there and left them lay. Bobcat ate on 1 and covered the rest.

    3. Forgot to mention you can cook the pseudo rabies out of the meat and can tell if it has brucellosis if you have someone tell you what to look for.

  9. Any caliber will kill a hog. What you don’t want is the hogs to kill you!
    As of late they have learned to be aggressive.
    A multi round AR is great for followup and multiple targets. Having a 223 to hunt in the open is great but the 300AACblackout shines better in brush at close range. A suppressor has a advantage but not a rule.
    Fit the gun to the need with swap caliber uppers.

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