“Two brothers…woke up early Saturday morning to slaughter one of their pigs, say police. The older brother had the .22 caliber rifle, while his younger brother, a man in his late 20s, stood by. When the older brother put the gun to the pig and fired, police say the pig bucked back.” The ham sack bucked hard enough to knock the brother with the gun off balance, causing him to fire the gun again, this time hitting his brother in the face. sacramento.cbslocal.com says he’s in critical condition and family and police are convinced it was just a bizarre accident. I’m no animal husbandry expert and I’ve never shot anything with a face. But if I wanted to humanely put down a pork dinner, I don’t think a .22 would be my choice. Here’s hoping for a full recovery. [h/t Elliotte W.]

48 Responses to Hog Butchering Tip of the Day: Use the Right Caliber

  1. Maybe it was just a freak accident. Perhaps a .22LR is usually a fine killing caliber for a certain type of farm raised pig. I watched a special covering the life and work of the men who hunt alligators or crocodiles in the Southern Swamps. The .22 LR, fired from a long gun, was used by different hunters to shoot a single round into a soft spot behind the head of the hooked (from several inches away) still very much alive and kicking critters. Some of those reptiles were 10-12+ feet long. I recall the Marlin model 60 being used and possibly the Ruger 10/22.

    • I can confirm gators, right behind the jaw, makes them stop thrashing. Even after cutting the spinal cord from the brain, they will still react to touch hours after.

    • The Marlin/Glenfield 60 that I have had for the last 35 years has dispatched all manner of short-range game. Including several large pigs at point-blank with one shot.

      The stupid idiot screwed up. That is a tragic event for the poor hog who deserved a quick painless demise, and unfortunate for the poor SOB who was shot in the face by a rank amateur not properly trained. Hopefully the complete tool who didn’t know WTF he was doing learns from his mistake and gets some decent training from somebody who has actually slaughtered a hog.

  2. 22 works great and has for a century. usually we shot behind the ear down and in toward the brain. I have personally seen 400+lb hogs drop like a stone with a single 22 round to the brain. For regular size hogs , high forehead angled back works fine. You don’t put the gun up against them . we used round nose , not hollow points.

    most of the farmers I knew in KY and Mich only had 22’s and shotguns on the farm . and they used the 22 for cows too. placement is everthing.

    • Growing up in Kansas my Dad worked at the local slaughter house and put beef straight down every day with a well placed .22 Short to the brain. When putting livestock down it’s precision over power.

      • I doubt there is anything in the world that’s domesticated that can’t be put down with one well placed .22 LR.

    • Yep, farm boy from West Virginia here. The largest animal I’ve seen put down with a .22 was a 600-700 pound beef. No hollowpoints was standard even when we hunted with .22’s. Didn’t want to tear up any good meat.

    • I spent time growing up on my grandfathers farm in Italy. He used a 22lr behind the ear of the big pig and we made Prosciutto and sausage every fall.

      Also learned to make soup using the fat because nothing on the Farm went to waste.

  3. Ye Ole .22 LR is a perfectly common and appropriate caliber. My grandfather and father both used it. If you raise the hog and become friendly with it, you can call it like a dog. Then it’s just a matter point blank and hit the sweet spot. No meat loss because we all love souse, ya know. Also, a sharp rap with a ball peen hammer will do the job. FYI, if you don’t kill it stone dead and just hurt it, the adrenaline makes the meat tough. Never shot anything with a face? Turn in your man card.

    • I’m really hoping the man card thing was a joke, and that you don’t actually believe non-hunters aren’t men. Also, am I the only one kinda weirded out by killing a pig with a hammer?

      • I think slaughterhouses use a hydraulic piston to kill cows, but they used to use a big guy swinging a sledgehammer. Chickens are electrocuted to the point of paralysis but not necessarily death, and then have their throats cut. Most people will be weirded out by killing anything industrial style. Don’t have time to do it in a sporting manner.

        • My dad owned a small-town slaughterhouse from Navy discharge in ’53 to retirement a few years ago. Went to a “humane stunner” (round thing with a cocking knob on the end and a side lever that fired a blank cartridge at the base of arubber-cushioned bolt – massive bone trauma at blank-point and a range of about 2″) sometime in the 70s but for years before that used a Remington bolt .22 at blank-point range and killed thousands of cattle and hogs. Two factors – blank-point and bolt action. It was an environment where a semi-auto would have been obviously dangerous. Shoot the hog, stick the rifle in the corner, lift gate on kill chute, stick hog to bleed out. All within seconds.

      • To a small farmer trying to get by in the old days a hammer was much friendlier to the bottom line than a rifle and ammo. Same concept as a bolt gun used for cattle and was also much less frowned upon than nowadays.

      • Joke, yes. But if the S really does HTF it’s a good skill to have. Living in rural eastern KY, I’m not used to those who don’t hunt or at least look down on it. Flatlanders ( jk)

    • I would have to say more livestock has been done in with a 22 than all other calibers put together. We certainly accounted for our share.

  4. We use .22’s to slaughter our pigs all the time, one good shot between the ears and they’re down. Hope the boys are doing alright after the accident.

  5. Huh, I’m surprised to hear everyone saying that the lowly .22 is good enough for this task. I know a well-placed round can kill most anything, but I would have thought something bigger (or a blade) would have been the general practice

    • .22 isn’t all that lowly – The most successful commercial cartridge of all time got its chops because it works very, very well for a great variety of tasks.

      Millions and millions of hogs for a hundred years have been put to the big frying pan in the sky with the .22 long rifle. It is the farming standard that should be one of those unwritten things to anyone who has spent time at a farm.

      Cartridge and firearms manufacturers do a very good job of convincing people that bigger/faster is better. To be perfectly honest…for a between the ears shot – a ,22 long rifle is just as effective as a .50 bmg

      • Better, even. The .22LR is substantially less, um, splattery than the .50BMG when fired into heads of any sort.

        Though I suppose you could try a longitudinal shot to see if it would save time when removing the innards. (Ew)

  6. I have worked with a friend setting up a 16ft diameter hog trap. We had 11 in there, killed 7 before a big sow damaged the 3/16″ farm wire fence enough for the piglets to get away. We used .22s to keep them from freaking out right away. Like any other type of shooting, it’s all about shot placement.

  7. My father in law used a very sharp knife on his hogs. I followed him (and the pig) to the barn one time. I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or porky. That was some tasty BBQ though.

  8. I’ve never had a problem using a .22 LR to dispatch game or
    farm animals. This just seems like a freak accident.
    Best of luck to the brother though.

  9. I’ve seen many a fatted calf (steer) done with a 22 short.
    A few weeks back I had to put down an old plug head and out of concern for a painless one shot end to his long life I used a 9mm FMJ to the forehead. He instantly dropped dead like a switch had been flipped, it was not untill 20 minutes later that he started kicking, a very dangerous condition.

  10. Ironically enough, just learned at CA hunter ed this weekend that using a .22LR pistol to dispatch large game is illegal in CA. The reasoning is that you can’t take large game with rimfire cartridges, strictly speaking the mercy shot would be considered the kill shot.

    Aside from stories of people who failed hunter ed with particular style (repeatedly lasering the instructors during the practical demos, for instance) that was easily the most mind-bogglingly dumb but true thing I heard all weekend.

    • The law, which is quite common, is a typical statist attempt to limit poaching (w/22LR) and is not based on any ballistic or “humane” principle

  11. I’ve dispatched sheep, pigs, horses and cows with a .22LR. It’s not rocket science, but there is some science involved, namely, knowing where the brain is.

    Hint: It ain’t between the eyes.

  12. .22 Shorts used to be THE method of killing livestock for slaughter. Certainly .22 LR is adequate if applied properly.

  13. We use a .22 for putting down cows for slaughter, don’t see why a pig would be any different. Clearly the shooter didn’t know his porcine anatomy and didn’t put the bullet in the right place.

  14. .22LR is pretty standard for putting animals down on a farm. Cheap, and at point blank range, that little pebble bouncing around inside their brain makes it night night time pretty fast.

  15. Anything that we raised for the dinner table with the exception of fowl were dispatched quickly and humanely with a .22.

  16. And the lowly .22 has been used for many years as the preferred execution/assassination round both in Russia and by the mob. Low report (and what it has is easily silenced), little blood, instant kill if properly placed. The .22 has enough power to penetrate the skull, but not enough to exit again. It loses its energy bouncing around inside the skull making scrambled brains. Result is one or two small holes with very little blood.

  17. .22LR is what you use to put down most domestic farm animals. They are docile enough you can hold them still and it is sufficient. Though, why you’d use a semi automatic gun and put more than one round in is beyond me, and for exactly this reason.

  18. I also had a relative in the sausage business, and he used nothing but .22 rimfires. Some of his hogs were VERY large. He did have sense enough to stand outside of the pen, another advantage of the .22 over the hammer.

  19. The 22LR is perfectly fine for putting down a hog for slaughter. I have personally done my share of home butchering when I lived on the farm. The problem these guys had was distance of the barrel from the animal. Sounds like the muzzle was too close. Best to be a couple of feet from their head to make sure. Growing up on the farm we used the 22LR winchester the most because of its utility of offing rodents, varmints, sick livestock and livestock ready for butcher. Behind the ear or between the eyes is the best placement for the round.

  20. When I was a kid, we routinely shot pigs in the head from 5′ away (and on the other side of a big sturdy wall) with a .22. Then the pig got to run around until it was tired, at which point someone would jump in the pen and shove a big ass knife into it’s throat to finish the job.

    Zero ND – zero injuries (except to the pig) and yummy pork deliciousness.

    Sounds like the difference between experienced butchers and total newbs.

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