It has been over a year since I wrote about a gun I personally own (and told you that I’d feature more of them), so I’m way overdue in presenting The Pig Truth to y’all. This dedicated suppressed, 12-inch-barreled, thermal optic-equipped .458 SOCOM was built for hammering wild hogs here in Texas.
In this article I’ll detail the components I chose for building semi-auto The Pig Truth. After I finish her shakedown I’ll write an actual review of how the complete firearm performs. Finally, stay tuned for hunting stories as The Pig Truth gets fielded over the next six months.
Believe it or not, the component that kicked off this entire build project was the Liberty Suppressors Goliath. I saw this suppressor, designed specifically for .458 SOCOM, at SHOT Show 2017 (video of it here) and knew I had to have it. Made entirely of titanium, the 2-inch outer diameter, 10-inch long can weighs just 20 ounces.
Not that 20 ounces is lightweight for a suppressor, but it sure as heck is for one this size. One that tames the bark of .458 SOCOM so incredibly well. As I was only a week away from moving to Texas during SHOT 2017 and I was already enamored with the .458 S, seeing and holding this suppressor sparked the idea and I started building out The Pig Truth in my head.
Of note: the only non-titanium part of the Goliath is the swappable thread inserts. These stainless steel mounts are available in four different, standard thread sizes (custom sizes are available, too) and two inserts are included in the box.
Running a 16-inch or longer barrel was never considered. As .458 SOCOM was designed for a complete burn in short barrels and shorter is handier — not to mention I knew there would be 10 inches of suppressor attached on this AR platform rifle — this upper was always destined for an SBR or pistol lower.
After consulting with a few companies and folks who have significant .458 S experience under their belts, I decided on a 12-inch barrel. This is long enough to wring out nearly all of the oomph from a typical, supersonic .458 S load without being too excessive for full burn from a typical, subsonic load.
That said, “typical” is a pretty vague concept with a somewhat niche cartridge, and I wanted The Pig Truth to confidently shoot everything from 140 grain PolyCase ARX up to 600 grain D600 Colossus from Black Butterfly and everything in between. So I hit up X-Caliber Barrels.
If you aren’t familiar with X-Caliber, then this is the most important part of this article. Hit up the AR-15 barrel builder page and stand in awe of the depth and breadth of customization options. They will build, with the utmost precision, any-freaking-thing your heart desires. My 416R stainless steel barrel features a tight 1:10″ twist, a carbine-length gas port, a heavy profile, some big ol’ muzzle threads, and no fluting (though their thermal fluting is darn cool, I had already hit my budget).
After shooting a couple of custom-built bolt action rifles that were good for quarter-minute groups and finding out that the companies started with blanks or chambered blanks from X-Caliber, I knew what they were capable of. And the pricing, as long as you don’t go too far down the customization rabbit hole, is very good. At the end of the day, nobody else offered exactly what I wanted. X-Caliber had my unique barrel made in eight weeks and it’s a work of art.
A good barrel needs a good bolt. For this I chose, in part due to X-Caliber’s recommendation, Rubber City Armory. It’s a beautifully-machined piece with flawless fit and finish.
As .458 SOCOM has a large case head diameter — seen above compared to a 6.5 Grendel, which has the same head/base/rim diameter as 7.62×39, which is already meaningfully larger than 5.56 NATO — there isn’t a lot of meat supporting the lugs. It’s critical that bolts are made of high-grade steel, properly heat treated, stress relieved, and fully inspected. Rubber City checks those checks all around.
Also critical for bolt life in a gun like this is a properly-tuned gas system. As this was a dedicated-suppressed build and delaying and limiting gas was a consideration, I first chose to go with a carbine-length gas system instead of the typical pistol-length one you’d almost always see on a short barrel setup like this (and subsonic ammo AR builds in general).
Then, I chose the most adjustable gas block available, the Superlative Arms Bleed Off.
While they call it the “Bleed Off,” it actually provides two modes of operation: your standard adjustable gas block’s gas-limiting mode, and Superlative Arms’ unique bleed-off mode. A click-adjustable set screw — with the detent external to the gas block so it doesn’t get carbon locked and burned up! — can move inwards to reduce the effective size of the gas port or can move outwards to vent gas pressure to atmosphere.
This offers two unique ways to tune a direct impingement system, and I’m excited to do further testing with this. What I’ve found so far, though, is in-line with testing done by others: when suppressed, bleeding off unneeded gas and pressure to atmosphere provides less through-the-action blowback and lower at-ear sound levels. It seems to work.
Side note: at SHOT Show 2018 I picked up a Gas Block Genie and decided to use it while building The Pig Truth. It absolutely makes positioning your gas block a simple and accurate science. If you’ve installed your gas block up against the shoulder on the barrel, you’ve probably done it wrong! Yes, there are dimples and feeler gauges and other, creative ways to get a gas block installed precisely and correctly, but without a doubt Gas Block Genie makes it dang easy.
Not content to leave gas adjustment solely up to the gas block (and also knowing that it wouldn’t be accessible without at least removing the suppressor), I also chose a gas-adjustable bolt carrier for this build. Offering four gas setting clicks available right through the ejection port, an S7 tool steel build, and a fantastic finish, the Bootleg Inc adjustable carrier looked like the best option.
As The Pig Truth is currently tuned, it will just cycle enough to run 350 grain subsonic ammo with the carrier in the “unsuppressed” setting. From what I can tell, this restricts the carrier’s gas port the most and the gas entering the carrier has the largest rearwards effect on it. Clicking the dial towards the full “suppressed” setting appears to allow more gas to pass through the carrier more freely, reducing its effect on the carrier itself.
This prevents the gun from beating itself up from excessive bolt speed, due either to installing a suppressor on a gun tuned to run without one or running powerful ammo in a gun tuned to run weaker ammo. For me, this allows switching between subsonic and supersonic loads without abusing The Pig Truth.
One downside: venting more gas through the carrier ups the noise. Port pop is increased and dB at the shooter’s ear increases. If you’re running this carrier on a suppressed setup, I would still recommend using an adjustable gas block to do what I did here; tune via the gas block for your weakest ammo with the carrier on “unsuppressed,” and only click the carrier into the suppressed settings to quickly and easily slow things down for full-power ammo.
A nice bolt carrier group deserves to cycle inside of a nice upper, and for this I knew exactly where I was going: GIBBZ Arms. An enlarged ejection port provides clearance for exfil of those fat, .458 SOCOM cases. No way was I purchasing a standard upper and hogging the port out with a Dremel.
GIBBZ also originated the forward charging handle AR upper, which I’ve come to enjoy. They make them in locking latch flavor as seen above, ball detent-only flavor (I have one of those on another rifle of mine), and even right-side charging for lefties.
Not only does the GIBBZ G4 upper provide an easier and more ergonomic location for the charging handle compared to the typical AR platform location, there’s also less gas blowback. Thanks to the upper’s sealed-off hindquarters, there’s no charging handle gap through which hot gasses squirt into the shooter’s eyes. And, unlike some other side-charging uppers, GIBBZ units function with any standard bolt carrier.
This leaves only one upper receiver component left: the handguard. That 2-inch outer diameter Liberty Goliath spurred the idea of running a 2-inch outer diameter handguard and matching the two up as closely together as possible. Achievement unlocked!
In the custom AR handguard game there’s one name to know: Unique ARs. From mild to wild, off-the-shelf to custom artwork, they have you covered. Well, as long as it can start life from a 2-inch OD, round aluminum tube. For most users that’ll mean a suppressor can be run inside the handguard. For me, it was a perfect outside match.
Unique ARs’ first design sketch was a bit on the wild side for my taste. The only direction I had given was to use the TTAG logos to good effect. We scaled it back a bit, as you can see.
My favorite part was having the ability to spec precisely where I wanted what: threads for a shorty rail section on the front at 3:00 and 6:00, threads along the entire length for a full rail at 12:00, and a QD socket at the front at 10:30. That’s right; not 9:00, not 10:00, not 11:00, but 10:30 on the dot. This rotates and sucks the rifle into my body without stabbing me with the sling hardware.
And, of course, I was able to spec the precise length. Unique ARs had me install my barrel and measure from the receiver to the barrel shoulder. I added a smidge to account for the Goliath’s thread insert. Unique ARs then custom-designed and cut the handguard to this exact measurement, and the result was dead-on perfect.
That’s one extra black “black rifle,” eh?
Perhaps the coolest part of Unique ARs’ designs comes from the thickness of the aluminum tube they use. Cutting in at an angle gives three-dimensional pop, which can be enhanced via Cerakoting service if desired. Check out their gallery and three full pages of factory design options for some seriously artistic machining and coating work.
The only downside I’ve encountered with this handguard setup is that, thanks mostly to the large diameter of my barrel and the slightly-taller-than-extra-low-profile gas block height, there wasn’t quite enough room inside to properly clear the gas block. I ended up cutting a relief notch in the top of the handguard with the aforementioned Dremel. Had I realized this ahead of time, of course, Unique ARs could have done this cut in-house.
With the top rail installed, the cut is completely hidden. Only about two-thirds of the thickness of the tube was actually needed for clearance anyway. Counting from the muzzle end, this means I can’t use the third and fourth bolts that affix the rail to the tube. That shouldn’t ever pose any sort of real world issue. In fact, as I haven’t yet put the rail to use I haven’t even installed all of the bolts anyway.
While I intend to use The Pig Truth to test out a handful of different night vision optics, my current plan for personal use is to stick with a permanently-installed daytime optic plus a clip-on thermal. First up in that realm is one hell of a feral hog hunting combo: Atibal’s new APEX 4-14x scope and Ignite clip-on thermal.
The first focal plane APEX includes legit low dispersion glass that delivers clarity way above the norm for its price point. On paper, the compact Ignite thermal beats the competition on resolution, features, size, price, and more. Initial impressions are extremely high, but stay tuned for a full review after it has a couple hunts under its belt.
A Magpul MS1 Padded Sling was chosen to lug The Pig Truth around. Not that it’s too incredibly heavy at 11.75 lbs (that’s with everything seen in this photo minus ammo). But the padded MS1 was the perfect choice, providing a super smooth, quick-adjust slider and nicely integrated padding for those long treks. I’m using their super fancy, heavy duty QBM swivel up front and a strap loop through my ACE M4 Socom stock at rear.
Up front, Magpul’s new bipod offers tilting and panning functionality along with rapid deployment and light weight. Lots of features for the price. I think it’s a great bipod for an on-the-move hunting rifle.
Another shot of that burly ACE M4 Socom stock. This is the shorter CQB length; they also do a longer one. It’s extra strong — including its unique buffer tube — for smashing sh*t and pre-chewing MRE crackers and such. No question it’ll shrug off that .458 SOCOM recoil and some general rough treatment.
No doubt this is a cool looking rifle. Thus far it’s shooting great, too! Next step: hogs.
The Goliath ships with an Armageddon Gear suppressor cover. Maybe it’ll see use while I’m out hunting or on the range, but for photo shoots it just covers up all that hard measuring work I did.
Lancer mags feed the heavy, fat .458 SOCOM slugs reliably.
Dedicated suppressed though it is, I must admit that The Pig Truth looks pretty cool sans can, too. It doesn’t hurt that the Atibal Ignite thermal optic happens to align nearly perfectly with the end of the handguard.
That’s a .223 Remington next to its X-Caliber Barrels muzzle brake on the left, and their .458 SOCOM counterparts on the right.