Imagine that you live in a neighborhood that is comfortably suburban, and lets say that you are in the American south somewhere that is rather “purple” in being a mix of red voters and blue voters. And your neighborhood has a problem, an invasion of feral pigs destroying yards, gardens, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Your “blue” voting neighbors are convinced that the State needs to do something, and the State (being firmly Southern in character) recommends “kill ’em yerself!”
So…in order to get thin the swine herd a bit, you decide to do some scouting, and find the trails where they head in, and out of your neighborhood. You also notice that there are some really good hide sides (aka final firing points) where you can ambush the little bastards, but not all of them are on your property so you get permission from the owners. But, you go ahead and shoot a few, which unfortunately causes a distress to some of your “Blue Voting” neighbors as they called the cops at the first sound of a firearm discharge.
So what are you to do? Well, you could switch to a bow for silent kills, you could set traps, or you could load up some real quiet loads and see if the neighbors are ok with that. So for short range work, where you can get within 150 meters of the target, subsonic bullets are a pretty good option.
Most long range cast bullet shooters choose the absolute slowest barrel twist rate that they can for the bullets they are shooting. Cast lead alloys don’t do well when spun too fast, and accuracy suffers. At the other end of the spectrum, odds are your big game rifle has a tight enough twist to easily stabilize some “sub-sonic” loads just fine.
So, assuming you have a 30 caliber rifle, from 308 Win to 300 Win Mag, all you need is:
1) a heavy for caliber bullet, you can make or buy as you see fit. The 190 to 220gr range is where I look for a 308 Win.
2) some fast pistol or shotgun powder, or a powder like “Trail Boss”
3) some sort of synthetic filler fiber, like Dacron.
You want a bullet on the heavier side because we are looking at pistol velocities, and since Force equals Mass times Acceleration, and we are deliberately minimizing acceleration we need to maximize Mass to put more force on the target. Since the velocities are going to be “stupid slow” for a big game rifle, you don’t need a gas check, although having a gas check won’t hurt anything.
If you choose a spitzer style cast bullet, you can get a little more energy on target than a flat nosed or round nosed bullet, but if cast spitzer bullets don’t deform much in tissue. So whether you care more about terminal disruption or terminal energy may influence your choice a bit, but honestly all bullets are lethal.
Load with whatever primer you have on hand for your normal loads, and then add the pistol or shotgun powder. If you have a cast bullet handbook, you’ll notice that not a lot of data starts below 1,125 feet per second (the speed of sound at sea level). But, as you get heavier bullets, the starting charge speed gets less, and while it isn’t recommended to go below starting charges, that’s what the Dacron filler is for, to help maintain good ignition with a low charge densities. Then seat the bullet, and I recommend seating long so that you are either in the lands or touching the lands of your rifle.
Roll your finished rounds across a mirror, watch for bullet wobble which indicates excessive runout. Use the cartridges with excessive runout for chronograph work so you can verify velocity. Then get to the range, verify your load for accuracy, and noise level. If you can’t get the accuracy you need, try changing powders or bullets, since you can’t really change the velocity level you are looking for at the muzzle.
You don’t need a suppressor in order to muffle the sound of a rifle report as long as you pick your final firing point well. If you can re-purpose a 55 gallon drum, or some other external noise suppression system (cardboard boxes filled with pillows/rags) then you can avoid the 200 mother may I permit and keep killing them feral pigs quietly. If one of your firing points is from inside a house, make a like a sniper and use the smallest loophole you can, your position well inside the room, shooting through the smallest opening in the window you can, the room will muffle the sound from the neighbors quite a bit.
What can you expect for terminal effects? Well, if you load a 220 grain round nosed bullet to shoot 1118 fps from the muzzle, you’ll have 475 foot pounds of energy remaining at 150 yards which is more than a 45 ACP produces at the muzzle, but less than a 44 magnum. However that 30 caliber bullet will have a much higher sectional density for deep penetration, which is a good thing on those feral pigs.
If you used a 180gr bullet at the same muzzle velocity, you would have 371 foot pounds remaining at 150 yards, which is quite a bit less than the 476 of the 220gr bullet. So it makes sense to use the heaviest bullet that you can, and for me with my 1:10 twist, a 220gr round nose flat base bullet will stabilize just fine.
Remember the advice on this blog is worth every penny you paid for it, and all handloading lawyer speak applies. You are responsible for the ammo you load, so be safe and smart when it comes to loading up rounds that are outside the general performance range of your reloading manual.
Now, say you want to move between final firing points without looking like a crazy guy carrying a rifle, to avoid disturbing your “Blue Voting” neighbors. Well, you need some way to make your big game rifle, not look like a big game rifle. So get down to the local GoodWill or other second hand store, and get an old golf bag, and a few clubs. Get out your hand tools and modify the bad so that your rifle can fit inside, muzzle up. Then put your rifle inside, muzzle up, with club sock over the muzzle so it looks like another club. Then modify those cheap clubs so they fit around your rifle and provide good camouflage. Now when moving between houses, you look like a guy carrying sports equipment.
You can make a non-offensive carrying case out of a musical keyboard/synthesizer case as well, after all carrying around a big case that says “Yamaha” or “Roland” is less likely to offend than something that looks tactical green or black.
Of course if your hunting rifle is an AR platform, the ability to separate the upper and lower receiver open up a lot more inconspicuous carrying options. Although I am not personally a fan of the 300 Blackout (I’m rather ambivalent), a feral pig problem like this one would make it a great solution to quietly eliminating the invasive pests without alarming the neighbors.
I hope this has been a fun thought experiment for everyone, comments are open.