Ultimate Lightweight .308 AR Hog Rifle
Major Pandemic 03.11.14
After the harassment I took for publishing the Leupold VX-R Hog optic review and not following up immediately with the review of the full Ultimate Hog Hunter Build, I thought I had better get to posting what can be only described as gun porn.
During my planning for my Ultimate Hog Gun build, I talked with a number of people who actually hunt hogs semi-professionally, versus all the guys who want to hunt hogs or have bagged “a” hog. The resounding suggestion for optics was for a super clear, low power optic, and preferably one with an illuminated reticle. Ultimately I decided on the Leupold VX-R Hog Plex 1.25-4×20 scope featuring outstanding optics paired with a BDC (bullet drop compensating) dangerous game reticle optimized for the .308 round. The Leupold Hog turned out to be the perfect setup for my .308 AR format Ultimate Hog Gun build, but before we got to selecting an optic, there were many, many choices to make. The experts said .308 caliber with illuminated low magnification optic, as light as possible, and preferably in an AR semi-auto format.
Recently I published a review of a seriously bad ass and very heavy DPMS .308 build, but this time I wanted to go as light as possible. That starts with the barrel. I am a bit of an accuracy nerd, and I noticed that Lilja, considered one of the premium barrel manufacturers in the world, makes a lightweight .308 barrel for the AR platform.
Generally most folks picking up Lilja barrels only buy the big fat bull barrels, but Lilja felt it was important to offer barrels that could realistically be fielded for hunting. They developed the AR10740 model, which has a .750” gas block size with a profile that hovers around .740” to .750” from front to back. This delivers great compromise of weight to accuracy according to Lilja, and with the 18” barrel you give up very little in the way of velocity. Actually, they noted, mere mortals would not notice a difference in the accuracy between this profile and the bull profile barrels. Good enough for me — famous Lilja accuracy without the weight. Apparently Lilja is a glassmaker, because that is what it looks like down the pristine 1:11 twist bore. It’s simply amazing.
Next on the list was the upper and lower receivers, and for this nothing else would do except a Nickel Boron (NiBo) coated matched Ma-Ten receiver set from Mega Arms. Their .308 receiver set in a DPMS compatible format (versus an AR10 Armalite version) is stunningly gorgeous. I figured since it was an Ultimate build, it should look like it and opted for the special order NiBo coating. I even splurged for the ambi-format lower receiver.
Like all Mega receivers, they have a unique, modern, updated style with smooth blended lines that scream custom. I also slipped in a Mega charging handle. This .308 billet upper and lower set makes and statement and performs perfectly.
If you have poured this much cash into an Ultimate .308 AR Build, then you might as well call Bill Geissele and see what kind of trigger he would suggest. In this case, Bill recommended the Geissele Super Dynamic Enhanced Flat Blade Trigger. I used a flat blade trigger on a 10/22 build and loved it. If I could swap all my other triggers to this format I would. It’s an outstandingly crisp trigger with an awesome feel. The enhanced versions provide a safe, precision, long-range, combat proven trigger for the designated marksman with a lighter trigger pull.
The Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced (SSA-E) Trigger is a finely-tuned, non-adjustable, semi-automatic-only version of their proven, full-auto, two stage combat trigger presently used in the U.S. Special Operations Community. Built on the chassis of the Geissele SSA, the SSA-E provides enhanced trigger control and a little lighter trigger feel for improved precision shooting all while maintaining the robustness and reliability of the combat-proven two-stage SSA trigger. The SSA-E’s reduced 1st and 2nd stage pull weights result in a trigger with a smooth and light 1st stage take-up and a crisp candy cane-like 2nd stage break. The SSA-E has a pull weight of about 3.5 lbs with a 2.3lb 1st stage and 1.2 lb 2nd stage, with a small linear increase at the second stage. It feels light, smooth, and pronounced as you hit the 2nd stage. Geissele says this smooth linear break assures the sight picture and intended bullet placement is undisturbed even in higher stress situations. I say it allows you to be a bit sloppy and still make the shot. That sounds perfect for when a hog is charging you — sold!
The receiver was finished up with a lightweight, low-mass, JP Rifles Carrier and their EnhancedBolt Match bolt. Honestly, this build sat for nearly five months through the worst of the AR parts outage until I finally bit the bullet and bought the best .308 bolt carrier on the market. JP Rifle’s EnhancedBolt is made from a supreme 9310 Steel, which is far tougher and longer living than the old C-158 mil-spec steel. The JP Low Mass carrier delivers the ability to dial down the gas pressure with an adjustable gas block to greatly reduce recoil. To dial down the gas, I used a PRI Adjustable Gas Block with a White Oak stainless gas tube on the Rifle Length Gas system.
For furniture, I picked up a Mission First Tactical stock and grip which fit my hand a bit better than other brands. The forend is a Troy Alpha Rail with the Squid Grips. I have used this forend before in another build, and it is rock solid, durable as hell, slim, and comfortable in my hands. With the Troy Squid Grips inserts, it is the most comfortable forend in existence, even with it starts to heat up. It was the perfect forend for this build to mount my Atlas Accushot bipod, a Surefire X300 Ultra for shooting support, and a light to see the evil hogs. I tipped the end of the barrel with a Troy flash hider to reduce the fire bombs the .308 classically delivers during night shoots. I slipped in a couple Magpul LR-20 20-round .308 mags in the kit and called it complete.
Function and Accuracy
Functionally this build ran flawlessly as you would expect that it should. After tuning the gas pressure with the adjustable gas block to take advantage of the low mass JP Rifle carrier, this thing is a dream to shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger, with a recoil more like a .223 than any .308. The experts note that when you run across a sounder of hogs, you shoot as fast as you can to humanely take as many hogs as possible. The .308 round is certainly the round of choice for hog hunters, but the challenge usually becomes the rate of fire and fatigue on the shooter. My other .308 is getting an adjustable gas block after this build because it is that much of an improvement in rate of fire and decreased recoil.
From an accuracy perspective, the Lilja barrel is an outstandingly accurate barrel and delivered sub-MOA groups .8”-.9” groups with just a 4X max Leupold optic. That accuracy appeared to hold fairly well all the way out to 400 yards with Hornday 168gr VMax and 168gr Tap ammo. Most of my 400 yard groups were in the 6” range, which I considered outstanding considering the 1.25-4 Leupold does not offer the precision of a high magnification optic. But the key was Leupold’s amazingly clear optics and that very useful reticle. I wanted to try some of the 178gr ammo, but didn’t have any on hand. Damn ammo shortage. The Hornday 150gr SST I did have was still plenty accurate out to 200, but it seemed the 168gr rounds tended to hold together a bit better at the longer distances.
According to my experts, this is everything a hog gun should be and nothing it shouldn’t be – well, the NiBo finish is a little over the top, but I will claim it’s an reliability enhancement. The entire package (including the optic and minus the magazine) is 9.6lbs, which is stunningly light for a full accessorized and scoped .308. In fact I have several AR15s which are that heavy with the optics on. So it is light, easy to maneuver, packs 20-round of .308 in a semi-auto format, and shoots with very little recoil/shooter fatigue. This build not only hit the goals my experts and I had, it killed the goals exceeding everything I had hoped for.
Of course, now that the build is done, sighted in, broken in, and run through its paces, I find myself in search of a hog hunt. Chances are this wonderful rig will be christened on this year’s deer hunt, but maybe, just maybe, as a more northern boy without a hog problem, I can invited to come down and help out my southern brethren.