Apex Predator: Micro .22 Mag handles hogs

Josh Chauvin, the Apex Predator, downed this hog with his new micro .22 Mag, the Little Badger.
Josh Chauvin, the Apex Predator, downed this hog with his new micro .22 Mag, the Little Badger.

2.9-pound weapon packs a punch

Many people hunting public lands use rimfire weapons to take pigs during small game season. This year I tested out my rimfire weapons for some hog hunts, and wanted to share some feedback on the smallest gun I’ve ever used: the Little Badger, a 2.9-pound survival .22 Magnum.

I had never harvested a pig with a rimfire weapon before. In earlier years, I lost a few pigs I shot with a .22LR. Well, after taking hundreds of pigs with archery, shotgun and centerfire weapons on the public lands, I wanted a rimfire hog this season.

I took my .22LR Mossberg bolt action and entered the woods on opening day of squirrel season, and headed to one of my favorite hog areas. Taking body shots with this weaker caliber usually means a lost hog, so I was focused on getting a head shot.

I got within 20 yards of hogs four times the first day and three times the next day. I could have had several quality body shots, but just couldn’t line up a head shot on the pigs, which  were constantly moving in palmettos and briar patches.

Shotgun hunting is much more efficient. Even using my recurve bowhunting was easier than this mission, but I’m not one to give up easily.

Finally, in the last hour on opening weekend, I had pigs fighting just 3 yards away. But I still didn’t have any easy head shots as bodies were darting back amidst squealing and roaring. I was about to leave the woods frustrated again.

Suddenly, one of the fighting pigs stuck its head out from the thick cutover just 8 yards away and stopped. My scoped .22LR put down that 100-pound pig with a perfect ear shot using hyper-velocity ammo. It was very satisfying feeling to drop a pig with a low-powered weapon.

However, after all those missed opportunities with easy body shots, I researched .22 Mags, which are known for being able to make ethical body shots on pigs. I found out about a cheap micro 2.9-pound survival rifle for only $160.

Josh Chauvin shows off a nice hog taken with his micro .22 Mag, the Little Badger – which weighs less than 3 pounds.

This crack barrel, which folds in half to fit in a backpack, came ready with a Picatinny rail to mount my 2-7 powered Leupold scope.  This 8-ounce rimfire scope is the lightest 7-power on the market. Low scope rings didn’t fit well for the first few hunts, but I attached medium-height aluminum Nikon scope rings, the lightest I could find and they’re a great fit.

I outfitted the micro .22 with an ultra-light 2-ounce sling. I used some electric tape for the top sling buckle area, and the wire stock’s bullet holder secured the bottom buckle in place. I removed the back fixed sight and lower stock piece to shave more weight, and the gun scoped and suppressed weighs only 3.8 pounds.

Accuracy is outstanding. I’m consistently shooting quarter-sized groupings at 70 yards, and often put hole in hole at 50 yards from the bench rest. The short 16.5-inch barrel really throws out those bullets where they’re aimed.

The gun also came threaded for my suppressor. The suppressed high-velocity rounds in this .22 Mag are much quieter than a .22LR unsuppressed.

Sure, the 40-grain CCI gamepoints I’m shooting are loud enough to spook the pack of pigs I’m shooting at, but I’ve seen hogs a couple hundred yards away pay no attention to a suppressed .22 Mag. In contrast, a loud shotgun blast will have any pig within a half-mile running for cover.

Also, Winchester started making subsonic ammo for the .22 Mag in 2017. These rounds shoot extremely well from my Element 2 suppressor in the gun, but they do hit 7 inches lower at 50 yards than normal ammo. Subsonic ammo in the .22 Mag makes the suppressed gun very versatile, providing a quiet option for small game hunting while not messing up a big game hunt.

Having a micro rimfire is a great addition to tote in during deer hunts. The state now allows multiple weapons on public land deer hunts. I can recurve hunt for deer and use my micro .22 Mag for hogs that pass out of bow range, or for taking small game on the hunt. I try to take out as many hogs as possible to help the woods: I’m now at 58 pigs taken out so far this season.

On my first hunt with the Little Badger, I saw pigs heading my way. They were all moving slowly, which only allowed for a body shot. At 25 yards, the copper-jacketed soft-point bullet double-lunged an 80-pound sow with a complete broadside pass-through. The hog ran right by me and made it 110 yards before expiring within a couple minutes.

Later in that hunt, I dropped a pretty 80-pound spotted pig in its tracks with a shoulder shot at 70 yards after a long stalk. In just one morning of downing two pigs with body shots, I was sold on this .22 Mag pig operation.

However, this weapon isn’t the best choice for body shots in thick, untrackable cutovers and briar patches. With no great blood trails to follow, finding a body-shot pig with the .22 Mag takes a grid search. In more open woods, this is easily doable, and any direct shot to the heart or lungs should have the pig piled up within 150 yards.

And even though I’m using the most powerful type of ammo for the gun, the internal damage isn’t very extensive. The hole from the expanding copper-jacketed soft point is about the size of a nickel, but doesn’t create large energy damages like a centerfire rifle. So make sure shots are well placed, much like an archery shot.

I researched that .22 hollow point bullets often fragment in the thick hide or bones, and don’t penetrate as well. On the other hand, .22 full metal jacket bullets won’t expand well. This is why I choose to use the CCI jacketed game points, which expand well, penetrate deeply and are made for larger game like coyotes. After recovering a couple bullets from body shots that lodged in a hog’s outer hide, the bullets showed nice expansion — much like a Core-Lokt with great weight retention.

Still. I lost a nice boar with a body shot to the shoulder, so with bigger hogs I’ve been trying to take head shots if I can’t get a quartering-away look at the vitals. I downed several more pigs with the gun this season, and some of the shoulder shots the pigs dropped while others ran 40 to 80 yards before piling up. All the head-shot hogs dropped on the spot.

My favorite harvest came from the article’s picture. I followed a big boar on the move for a while as it walked through open woods. I was doubting if it would ever give me a shot, but finally I found out why the pig was moving so fast: The boar was hungry and stopped under a hot overcup acorn tree to feed. I got 20 yards away and waited for it to pause for an ear shot while resting the micro .22 against a tree.

This big beast dropped in its tracks from the tiny weapon. I couldn’t be happier with the performance of the Little Badger: Hiking out the woods with a heavy backpack full of pork is much easier when the gun in your hand weights less than 3 pounds.