Should You Choose A Centrefire Or Rimfire Rifle For Feral Pig Hunting?

A wide variety of invasive species wreak enormous havoc on Australia's farmland and native ecosystem, but few cause as much damage and expense as the feral pig. Descended from domesticated pigs released into the wild during the days of Captain Cook, millions of feral pigs now roam the Australian countryside, destroying fences, devouring crops and contributing to rapid soil erosion and localised droughts.

It goes without saying that any feral pigs near your farm, orchard or livestock ranch need to be gotten rid of as soon as possible. Rifle hunting is a quick, efficient and relatively humane method of controlling the local feral pig population, but to hunt feral pigs effectively, your rifle must be carefully chosen.

One of the most important differences in pig hunting rifles is also one of the most overlooked: the type of ammunition it fires. Centrefire and rimfire rifles may look very similar at first glance, but they function in dramatically different ways, and each has pros and cons when it comes to feral pig hunting.

What are the pros and cons of choosing a centrefire rifle for feral pig hunting?

Centrefire rifles use centrefire ammunition, a type of bullet that is fired by a hammer that strikes the centre of the base of the cartridge. This configuration has numerous advantages over rimfire ammunition, which is activated by a hammer striking the edge of the cartridge base.

For starters, centrefire rifles are extremely reliable. Because the hammer strikes the dead centre of the bullet's primer, all of the primer burns simultaneously and at an even rate, which makes misfires extremely unlikely—this is handy when you're hunting a fast pig that is darting from bush to bush and may only get one chance to make a clean killing shot.

The design of centrefire ammunition also allows the cartridges to be made with much thicker brass than rimfire cartridges, allowing for larger, more powerful and more deadly calibers. By contrast, rimfire rifles are rarely found in calibers larger than a .223. While smaller rounds are more than capable of taking down a pig when fired by an experienced shooter, inaccurate fire will merely wound a larger pig, and high-caliber centrefire rifles will be more effective (and humane) if you are relatively new to feral pig hunting.

Unfortunately, these advantages come at a price, and both centrefire rifles and centrefire ammunition tend to be significantly more expensive than their rimfire counterparts. Some of this cost can be allayed by reloading spent centrefire ammunition (which cannot be performed safely with rimfire ammunition), but this should only be done by experienced, expert hunters.

What are the pros and cons of choosing a rimfire rifle for feral pig hunting?

Many novice pig hunters start out with a rimfire rifle before moving up to centrefire shooting, and rimfire riles and ammunition are ideal if you are just starting out or only need to hunt pigs on an infrequent basis. The rifles themselves are inexpensive, and their ammunition is very cheap, allowing you to expend many rounds during target practise without breaking the bank. 

Rimfire rifles also create less recoil, even when compared to a centrefire rifle of identical caliber, due to the unique design of the ammunition they fire. This makes them much more accurate than centrefire rifles after the first shot has been fired and is particularly useful if you are hunting multiple pigs or need to take down a wounded animal quickly and cleanly with a follow-up shot.

However, the limitations of rimfire rifle and ammunition design mean they can only be practically used for short- or medium-range shooting, and they are much less versatile than their long-range centrefire cousins. They are also unsuitable if you intend to use the meat and/or hide of the pigs you hunt, as the thin brass shells of rimfire bullets tend to fragment on impact, making large portions of the pig's flesh unusable.

For additional advice, contact gun shops in your area.