Box of Death


Still Life Portrait*

This is a rather interesting composition. It is a box of brass. I’ve heard many opinions on what people like best for slaughter. I have been using copper jacketed hollow point .22LR for years. The bullet always penetrates the skull and the kill only takes one shot. I’ve done this on small pigs, market size pigs and very large pigs. We’re talking 800 lb sows with hard heads to match. The penetration is very clear because I clean the skulls and examine them. The hole going through the front of the skull is nice and clean. I’ve recovered the bullet fragment – it is always deformed and inside the brain case. Every kill was a single shot.

A larger caliber bullet risks penetrating the back of the skull and sending bone, brains and bullet fragments into the shoulder meat or deeper into the animal. This is not good as it wastes meat and can actually result in more suffering. The lower caliber bullet does a better job of stunning by bouncing around inside the brain case. Stunning the brain leaves the heart beating which makes for a better bleed-out.

I read articles in the newspaper where they make excited statements about “Joe Blo had three guns and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his home!” Well, let’s take a deep breath, step back and realize that bullets come in small boxes of 550 rounds. A round is a bullet. If you buy a couple of boxes then you’ll freak out those who don’t hunt, slaughter their own livestock or otherwise deal with firearms.

Did you hear the one about the farmer who turned in to a gun shop…?

The man behind the counter approached and asked, “How can I help you, sir?”

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“I wanted to buy a gun,” the farmer said.

The dealer smiled and inquired as to what he would like to do with it.

“I want to shoot a pig,” the farmer said.

The dealer quickly stepped back with an alarmed look on his face.

Realizing the miss-understanding, the farmer press his finger to his nose and said, “You know, the kind that goes ‘Oink!'”

The dealer chuckled with nervous relief and approached me again. We talked guns.

Vermont is a reasonable state. There is no permit necessary to carry a concealed weapon. Our murder rate is lower both absolutely and per capita than New York, California, Massachusetts and other places where they have harsh gun laws. Vermont where people pack has fewer homicides than even Australia and Britain where draconian laws essentially ban guns. Oddly gun related crimes increased in those countries after they implemented the restrictive laws. Funny how that works. No clear conclusions.

This is not a gun debate. I’m not a gun nut – what ever those are. I’m not even in the NRA – not that they’re nuts. A gun is simply a tool. Guns are not bad in and of themselves. It is how people use them that is the issue. If you take away our guns we’ll have to go back to using knives, machetes, pikes, hammers and pitch forks. That makes both slaughter and revolutions messier. Just ask the French peasants versus American’s Founders. History lessons are about not repeating.

Also see:
The Kindest Killing Blow
Of Pig Brains and Tea Cups

*For a desktop background of that photo, click it to get the large image. Then save it to your hard drive and use it as a screensaver or wallpaper.

Outdoors: 48°F/31°F Partially Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/62°F

Daily Spark: History is useless unless it can withstand the test of time.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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14 Responses to Box of Death

  1. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Again, Walter, I find myself with you on philosophy. I’ve lived with firearms my entire life, think of them as essential tools, both for converting animals to food and for defense. Well, the Corps taught me other uses for them, but that is another area . . . and I was an NRA instructor for a decade and a half.

    I’m glad you posted the use of .22 hollowpoint in hog slaughter. My father once had to use three rounds from a 9mm Luger to down a boar he was slaughtering, firing from outside the pen at a range of about four feet. And he was using head shots. His telling me of that caused me to always use at least .38 special or .45 on pigs, when I took to raising one or two a year. I did very close-up brain shots, with the animal standing in a soft dirt area, because those more powerful bullets do in fact pass entirely through the skull and a lot of other stuff. After accidentally discovering the method, I always fired at an angle so the round not only transited the brain but the big central vein(s) of the throat, and the result was trembling carcasses bleeding out well with the heart beating for a while, just as your method achieves. But I’m very glad to learn .22 hollowpoint works, because having an unspent bullet coming out of the animal has always been a real worry. I’d rather employ a knife for the bleedout. Will use your method whenever I get back to to the land. Just have always been afraid I’d give unnecessary pain, so never would have tried .22 without the benefit of your experience.

  2. eggyknap says:

    I’ve heard goats’ heads are too hard for the .22, but haven’t heard anything similar about any other animals, provided the shot is well-placed. Is there any particular part of the head you go for? Also, do you use a rifle, or a pistol? I imagine you’re able to take the shot from point-blank range, so “taking aim” isn’t necessarily much of an issue. (I’m hoping to be raising a pig or two of my own in not terribly long, so I’d like to make sure do things correctly)

    • I’ve done sheep and the .22 rifle worked fine. I have also seen it done with a .22 pistol on our sheep years ago when I was getting started. Placement is critical. I have also done them with a hammer blow to stun and then bleed and I have twice done the Shechita method which I don’t like – it worked fine but I prefer to stun first.

      I do it from about a foot to four feet away – very close range. I put the bullet into the brain case. Aim is important since the pig and sheep have such tiny brains. This is in great contrast to humans and even dogs who have much larger brains. Something that is very confusing about a pig to most people is they look at the huge pig head and think big brain but the reality is the pig’s brain is about the size of a chicken egg – the pigs simply have enormous amounts of bone to make a digging lever and muscle. Much of what we see as being their head is really neck muscles. The brain case is up above the eyes, not between them. You want to be just off center to get the weaker bone area. I have also heard of people shooting in from behind the ear but I’ve never done that. I think the idea there is to approach from a weaker bone area. If you’ve never done it before it would be very good to be able to observe someone else the first few times.

      Some time I’ll do a post of skulls with some cut away cross sections which will show the brain placement.

  3. eggyknap says:

    Yeah, I’m hoping to have experienced help to get started, and to collect all the info I can before that time. I didn’t realize their brains were *that* small! I seem to recall reading somewhere that for good placement, aim at the intersection of two imaginary lines going from the each ear to the opposite eye, and presumably the direction the bullet should go upon entering at that point is relatively obvious. But of course it’s easier to say that on paper than to do it with several hundred pounds of not-necessarily-cooperative animal.

    • Aye, reality, especially the first few times, is very different than pure theory. This is why I was glad to watch others else many times before doing it myself. Biggest thing is to be very patient and never shoot until the shot is perfect.

  4. Edith May says:

    That is such an extraordinary photograph Walter. Bullets are not something I think of as art yet you have managed to turn a box of death as you put it into a piece of art. Leave it to you to see the beauty where noone else would.

  5. Duck says:

    I’m not entirely sure what caliber was used on my goat (buck) on the day of slaughter, but it was a very small bullet. I’ll have to ask.

    Pretty much the gun was pressed to a spot behind his ear and then a pop as it was fired, and then Tomahawk went down dead. All I’m saying is, don’t shoot an animal designed to bash heads together in the front of the skull. The bone is too thick there.

    Also, I didn’t particularly mind, but bucks have a strong flavor – not necessarily gross, just more concentrated I guess. Could be something to do with the hanging time as well but seeing as he was my first and only goat so far to bite the dust via gunpoint, I don’t have much other data to go by.

    Hmm, I come to a website about pigs with a name like Duck and start discussing goats… Something a bit funny about me. :)

  6. Duck says:

    Yup, it was a .22 used on Tomahawk… Dropped like a stone.

  7. Mark says:

    Walter,
    As always, I greatly enjoy reading your posts, both here and on HT. This is a topic I have been researching a bunch. Last year I helped my brother in Ny slaughter a pig. As I was getting my own, I wanted to be familiar with the process. He (I) used a .45 and shot the pig from about 5 feet away. As their pigs aren’t hand tame, it was tough to feel confident in a clean shot, but somehow I did it in one shot. When the pig hit the ground, my brother was right there with the knife to bleed it. I asked him how he did it, and he said he angled the knife so it went nearly to the heart. OK, he’s been doing it that way for some time.. I don’t know that it’s the best way based on what I’ve been reading. My GOS’s are hand tame so I won’t have to worry about getting close enough with a .22LR. Placement, as I’ve read is just above the center point of the eyes and off-set slightly to the right. The question is, at what angle? I’ve also read on another Homesteading blog that you can shoot behind the ear, imagining a line from the enrty point to the opposite eye. As I’ve grown attached to the animals, I want to insure a quick, clean kill.

    Thanks again for all the superb info you put out!

    ~ Mark (Brooks WV)

    • Correct. I have a post I am planning about pig skulls and when I do that one it will show the angle. The reason for off center is to avoid the crest which is a little harder. I’ve never tried the back of the head method but heard of it and can see that it would work too.

  8. A.S says:

    I’m going to be slaughtering two pigs soon. Will be using 22lr hollow points. Should I aim above the eyes? Aim at the back of the head? I’m hoping to get a nice one shot drop and then plan on doing a butchers stick to bleed them out.

    Thanks, any advice would be much appreciated

    • See this article which has a photograph of a pig skull cut lengthwise in half such that you can see exactly where the brain is located. Notice to the front of the brain where the bone is harder and the areas where the red is inside the bone where it is softer.

      The brain is just slightly above the eye line. If you draw an X between ears and eyes (from Left Ear to Right Eye and from Right Ear to Left Eye) and then aim just barely to one side of the center point of the X you should get the right spot. Position of the pig head is important to make sure you get the brain. See photo referenced above.

      Having someone who is experienced show you the first time is a good idea. I learned from someone. I’ve done many, many pigs and never had a problem. Getting it right is very important so that the kill is humane for the animal. This is kind and it gives you the best quality meat. Don’t pull the trigger until everything is exactly right. Take your time on this.

  9. jayessdub says:

    A note: The firearm affects penetration. Some people might not understand that a bolt action rifle puts more zing than a semi-auto, which uses some of the power to cycle the next round.

    Barrel length affects this too.

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