The Hi Power vs. the Javelina!


A few years ago, a good friend of mine invited me and another friend to hunt with him in far south Texas at a private ranch located near Edinburg. The 500 + miles passed quickly enough and we arrived late in the afternoon. The fine fellow who ran the place was a really knowledgeable reloader, hunter, and truly one of the finest shots with a rifle that I've ever seen. When he spoke of loads, guns, or anything related, I listened closely.


It was on this trip that I was introduced to the javelina. There are some minor differences between them and true pigs as they belong to the family Tanyussuidae while the former are of the Suidae family. These little beasts average from about 35 to 60 lbs., and are 20 to 24" high at the shoulders. They can be about 3' long.


They do have sharp tusks and the Spanish word, javelina, means "spear," or "javelin." Though eyesight is poor, their hearing is exceptionally good, as is their sense of smell. They can run like the wind if startled. My observation is that they are not dangerous as in "dangerous game animals," but one is well advised to be wary of their ability to bite and treat them with the proper respect in the field. They can hurt you if cornered or injured and there's no other way to escape.


My first one was shot with a rifle. It was a little pet, a CZ-527 chambered in .223 Remington.  The 55-grain Ballistictip was very effective and a pretty darned nice boar was collected. The "problem" was that using a rifle on them just was not all that challenging as the ranch was loaded with the little buggers. By the way, this rapidly expanding rifle round did not completely penetrate any javelina I saw shot regardless of the angle of entry. The Hornady 40-grain copy of the Nosler bullet worked just as well when fired from a Thompson-Center Contender.


Hunting them with a handgun is quite something else and as much fun as I can recall having. The experimentalist in me also sought to see how various rounds would perform on these tough critters and for a few years, I got to see several different loads in primarily 9mm and .45 ACP used on them. Results were surprising and I'll detail them later on.


Thinking back on these adventures to recall specific pistols and loads, I cannot help but smile as these were such good times, spent with good friends, and much laughter, joking, and telling of lies. Every now and again, one of us would shoot a game animal or javelina.


The first javelina I shot was with a Browning Hi Power 9mm Mk III. The load was Triton's 115-grain +P Hi Vel JHP. It averaged 1332 ft/sec from my Hi Power and was an accurate as well. (Unfortunately, Triton Ammunition is out of business now, but there it's rumored that it may open again under new ownership.)


This is the Hi Power I shot my first javelina with. It's a Browning Mk III with Uncle Mike's black checkered rubber grips and a dab of skateboard tape on the front grip strap. It has Novak fixed sights and a Cylinder & Slide ring hammer. The magazine safety is long gone and it has a Wolff conventional 18.5-lb recoil spring.

Corn has been scattered along a dirt road to lure them in and it worked. You must approach these critters upwind or they'll smell you and be gone. Staying in the brush and quietly working my way toward them, I spotted a nice boar slowly walking along, nibbling corn. Distance was about 35 yards. I took a rest and prepared to take the shot if it remained. The animal was quartering away from me so I attempted to put the bullet in right behind his right shoulder. The vitals in a javelina are a bit more forward than one might initially think. Concentrating on sight picture, I began pressing the trigger and was mildly surprised when the gun fired. The javelina hit the ground hard, kicked, and jumped up and darted into the brush! I followed. Going to where I'd last seen him, blood was easy to spot and within but a few yards, I could both smell and hear him! The smell comes from a musk gland located on their backs toward the rear and the sounds I heard were his warnings, made by popping his tusks together!  I couldn't see him! About the time I noticed his little brown eye staring at me in the thick brush, he bolted! A few seconds later, my good friend yelled that he'd come out of the brush and was under a tree and visible. He was about 15 yards away and I quickly went to the sound of my friend's voice. Sure enough, there the javelina was, standing broadside and obviously "sick," about 15 yards away. The second shot was a broadside and the JHP entered just behind the right shoulder.  He dropped and was dead.


While cleaning the animal, I noticed that my first angling shot had not entered the chest cavity. I was a little too far out and I simply hit him in the upper shoulder, back to front.  The bullet exited. The shot that was taken broadside did not exit although the expanded bullet did apparently fragment and did separate from the jacket.


Later during this trip, I shot another using a 124-grain Hornady XTP loaded over 6.0 grains of Unique from the Hi Power.  The distance was about 20 yards and the animal was facing me, but at an angle. I put the bullet into the body just in front of the left shoulder. The javelina fell, kicked, and tried to get up, but couldn't. It fell again and was dead within a very few seconds. The XTP left the Hi Power at approximately 1243 ft/sec, or at least that's the average velocity when I chronographed the load.


This bullet was recovered and estimated penetration was 14 to 16." No bones had been hit and the Hornady had done the usual XTP "one-and-a-half" expansion.


This is the load I used.  It averages 1243 ft/sec from my Mk III and 1238 ft/sec from a CZ-75.


Here's the Hornady 124-grain XTP "before" and "after." The expanded bullet on the left was removed from the javelina.


On another trip, I shot a pretty fair javelina using Triton's 115-grain +P Quik Shok ammo. The Quik Shok is a bullet designed to break into 3 equal pieces rather than just mushrooming. Externally, the bullet looked just like a conventional Hornady XTP.  I later learned that Hornady had made the bullet, but to Triton's specs.  The gun used was a CZ-75 Pre-B and was stock except for being refinished and having CZ factory wood grips added. This was one of the most interesting things I've ever seen. Average velocity of the 115-grain Quik Shok from the CZ-75 was within a very few ft/sec of the 115-grain Hi Vel.


This CZ-75 is pretty much stock.  The hammer's been bobbed to eliminate hammer bite and it has a heavier recoil spring in place, a Wolff 18-lb. conventional spring.


The javelina was approximately 25 yards away and was below me as I was on a little rise. I squeezed the shot off and aimed directly behind its right shoulder. At the shot, it simply ran and while witnesses opined that I'd missed, I didn't think so.  Later that day, a friend shot a javelina using a .40 S&W handgun and when it was being dressed, we found my 9mm bullet from earlier in the day! What is interesting is that the animal was eating away at some corn when popped with my buddy's forty! Despite the multitude of jumping fleas, I was determined to examine the wound more closely.  Here's what was found.  The bullet had entered between two ribs and at a slight downward angle. It had expanded, but did not break into three pieces. It had followed the inside of the rib cage all the way around without damaging a single organ! Triton was interested in this information and at their request, I sent the recovered bullet to them with the understanding that it be returned. Well, the jacket was, but the bullet was not! I'm told it was lost. Anyway, this is but another example that even what appears to be a "good" shot from the outside may not be when you get inside.


I shot a couple of javelina with Corbon's 115-grain +P JHP and it worked well. The bullet did fragment and was not recovered other than for some small pieces. The jacket was recovered on one shot.  A rib was hit on this shot made with the recovered jacket. I'd estimate penetration at about 10."


These jackets and bullet were recovered from javelina. From left to right: jacket from Triton 115-grain Quick Shok, jacket from Corbon 115-grain JHP, and handloaded Hornady 124-grain XTP.


Over the course of several javelina hunts, the 9mm Triton Quik Shok was the only failure the 9mm that I saw. Other ammo used was fired from Hi Powers, but also a SIG P-210. Results were the same if the shots were properly placed…which they were except in the case of shoulder shot mentioned earlier. The animals dropped for a few seconds in every case. Sometimes they'd gain their footing and manage to run a few yards, but what I noticed was no difference in the JHP ammunition used, be it the rapidly expanding Corbon and Triton to the less-expansive XTP. I also reckoned that had a felon been shot with the same ammo and reacted the same way, in no case would there have been the opportunity for an immediate shot back at me. Assuming that some of the two-legged "animals" been able to fire, there would have been at least a few seconds lag time.


What is also interesting is that I observed javelina hit well with several .45 ACP loads. Frankly, I couldn't tell the difference in effect!  In each case, the pistol firing the rounds was a 5" Kimber or Les Baer 1911. The ammunition I saw several "pigs" hit with was Federal 230-grain Hydrashok, Remington 230-grain Golden Saber, Federal 165-grain Hydrashok (Personal Defense), and Winchester 230-grain Ranger "T."


On one occasion, one 230-grain Hydrashok hit bone and the hollow cavity was filled with it.  It did not expand. On several others, it worked fine. The Ranger ammunition was the law enforcement only stuff and was used by a friend of mine who is a police officer.  I think it was an earlier version of that being sold today, but was not the old Black Talon. While I do not have a picture of it, a recovered Ranger bullet expanded perfectly and could have been used as an ad for Winchester!


The Federal 165-grain Personal Defense Hydrashok was used on approximately four javelina.  I cannot remember the exact number and it may have been a couple more, but I do remember that it did not prove satisfactory in any instance despite classic expansion. When hit, the animals would simply run. They were collected later, but they never dropped when hit. They did not fail to drop when hit with the 9mm loads except for the Quik Shok in one instance or any of the other forty-five loads. Penetration appeared to be about 10 or 12" in most cases and the bullets did expand.  Hits were good as well.  I have no idea why this is the case, but it is what I observed. I do not trust this ammunition for serious purposes.  For what it's worth, Federal 165-grain Personal Defense Hydrashoks average 1071 ft/sec from my 5" Kimber and 1094 ft/sec from a friend's Les Baer with the same length barrel. (I only saw one or two javelina shot with a .40 S&W 180-grain FMJ, but even it worked better than the Personal Defense .45 load.)


Seeing the javelina drop when hit reminded me of the words of a now deceased friend who was a law enforcement officer in South Carolina many decades ago.  He told me, "I only shot a man down so I could shoot him good."


For a few years, the story repeated itself and the Hi Power and frankly, 9mm, gave a darned good "accounting." On one trip, a fellow shot a javelina mostly all over with a .45-70 rifle using factory ammo. After the fourth hit, one of us put the javelina down for the count with a properly placed pistol shot. That rifle certainly had more "stopping power" than did any of the handguns we used, but placement was not good. This is another reason why I believe that placement remains the primary determinant in "stopping power." The episode with the Triton Quik Shok also reinforces my belief that all gunshot wounds are just a little different.


This javelina was shot with my old "duty gun," a 9mm Mk III. The rounds pictured are the same handload that was mentioned in the article, but the bullets have been moly-coated. They average about 40 ft/sec faster than those not coated. I've noted no difference in effect.


The 9mm Hi Power with proper loads is a worthy javelina caliber in my experience. Just make sure you get the bullets where they need to be. I believe that the forty-caliber Hi Power would be fine as well, but have not personally seen many hit with that caliber.


My wife thinks the javelina is ugly as hell.  I kind of like them, but this one is not in the trophy room. It hangs in my reloading room.


If you get the opportunity to hunt these little beasts with a handgun of decent caliber and with good loads, it really is lots of fun. I'm told they're good to eat, but despite several tries, I just can't really make myself like the taste. Expect jumping fleas and lots of them when cleaning them and whatever you do, stay AWAY from that musk gland on their back.