Groundhogs are cute...but...

We love sitting on the deck and watching the groundhogs play in our pasture. They sure are cute little critters. Then I brush hogged the fields and saw their handiwork up close. Holy smokes, they did a number on the pasture. In like 2 weeks. Unfortunately, they gotta go. Can't trap and relocate--illegal to relocate to public lands and no one else would want them on their land.

1) Ruger 10/22 with iron sights.
2) Marlin 1894 in 357 mag with scope.

Didn't think 22lr would be effective in my hands at required distance (anywhere between 60 and 80 yards), so I went with the Marlin. Initially thought 38 spc would be perfect, but scope is set for my 357 ammo, so I went with 357. I was certain this was too much gun for groundhogs. Hit the first one square in the shoulder at approx 70 yards. He scurried off and made it 10 yards. One entry wound at shoulder. No exit wound. Repeat, groundhog made it 10 yards.

I was surprised this wasn't more devastating to the groundhog. I was using S&B 158 gr SP. Muzzle velocity stated as 385 m/s (1260 fps). Assuming that's for a standard 4-ish inch revolver, I estimate muzzle velocity from the 18.5" carbine to approx 1700 fps (based roughly on ballistics by the inch data), giving muzzle energy of just over 1000 ft-lbs.

So, the question is: Are groundhogs much tougher than I thought, or does 357 mag lose that much energy over 70 yards? Again, I thought this was way too much gun. It certainly made a clean kill, but far from dropping groundhog in its tracks. And bullet didn't exit the groundhog.

Epilogue: The second groundhog was killed with 357 revolver at very close range (10 feet?). It peeked out of its hole at me while I was looking for the first carcass. Retreated into hole and stared at me from hole for longer than it should have. Didn't recover carcass from hole, so can't say what 357 at close range did.

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

We're well into the area of "read about it, haven't done it," but you lose a lot of energy over 75 yards with a little bullet moving fast. Lucky Gunner did a comparo between lever guns last year, and it got me thinking very hard about whether I really wanted to get into .357 at all. ... r-actions/

Now, they didn't test your S&B 158, but they had two 140 grain loads running at around 1700 fps from the muzzle. At 50 yards, they were down below 1500. Bracketing 1300 fps at 100 yards. So let's split the difference and call it 1400 fps at 80 yards, assuming 158 grains retain velocity comparatively well. Probably closer to 600 lbf, looking at their chart for energy vs. range. BBTI's real world guns rarely crack 600 lbf at the muzzle - high pressure cartridges apparently bleed off more through the cylinder gap the longer the barrel is. I've graphed it, because data nerd.

Point is, both shots were probably comparable in energy and terminal ballistics. Both should have been effective on much larger animals, although I'm curious about whether those soft points opened up at all. Lucky Gunner got 158 grain rounds to expand to over half an inch and penetrate 20" with a 4" GP100 in gel - at over 1200 fps. That should be more than plenty for a groundhog.


I've personally seen one that survived a spinal injury crawl around dragging its back legs for weeks. Don't know if a dog got it, or it got hit by a car, or what. All I know is, that little dirt pig was determined to go about its life as if nothing had changed.

I wouldn't even try the .22LR at that range unless you're sure you can make the head shot.

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

I'll look at that lucky gunner link. Yeah, maybe they're tougher than I thought. This same carbine and ammo took down a pretty large deer last year no problem. When I researched for my first centerfile rifle 357 was touted as a great 100 yard and under deer rifle. I'll open up the next groundhog and report back what the round looks like. I buried the other one--not in the mood to exhume a groundhog at this time.

I wonder if a lighter, faster bullet would be better for groundhogs. Anyone else here hunt anything with 357? I'm open to wisdom.

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

It's interesting what you have a sudden desire to shoot when you have property. I used to think my FIL nuts for shooting coyotes. But deer populations continue to fall around here and the yotes make a mess of the fawns. Now I understand, even if I'm not sure it's proper. I am NOT going to eat a coyote.

357 at 70 yards should work fine. Usually. 17 HMR or 22 mag?

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

Soft points out of a .357 are made for deep penetration, not great expansion. Had you used a JHP, it would have been spectacular. A little ground hog doesn't have enough flesh to properly expand a 158gr SP, but it will rip open a hollow point.
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Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

I don't think I ever shot anything with a 357. I have with a 38, and 44 Mag, and rifles.
I'd go with a 158 jhp, but I wouldn't expect drastically different results. Anything is possible from shot to shot, though. I definitely would not go with a 38 or a 22.
When you get up to a rifle that hits at well over 2000 fps, that's when things change.

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

Maybe you need a CZ 512 in .22 WMR. With some CCI maxi-mag TNT ammo. A 30 grain clocking at 2200 fps with a huge gaping maw true hollow point. Not just a little dimple like so many others. Should be good out to 100 or so yards.

"In every generation there are those who want to rule well - but they mean to rule. They promise to be good masters - but they mean to be masters." — Daniel Webster

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

I can't recommend any loads but it does bring to mind a story that I was recounting with my Mom earlier this month. I grew up in *very* small town circumstances in rural MN. Though I've moved away, many members of my family still lived there at the time of this story.

When a groundhog kept trying to access the garage in which Mom kept her Mustang convertible, she went into a "take no prisoners" mode.

She tried trapping it, to no avail. Not sure if it was the Single Six or the Ruger Mk 2, but she did indeed hunt and vanquish the critter.

During that summer, sometimes after she'd been in place (and taken a few shots/missed the woodchuck) my uncle (her brother, who lived adjacent to my parents) loved to shout to her, "What the hell are you shooting at, Sister?"

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

If I recall, Carl was none too effective in his attempts to do in his nemesis.
"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent." -Gandhi

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

.22 all day long. 60 to 80 yard shots should not be a problem for the rifle... perhaps the operator? haha, no offense. No groundhogs out here in central Cali, but fat ground squirrels are a pestilence and my boys and I hunt them all the time with .22s. A well placed shot will drop them at 100 yards no problem.
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Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

Crow wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 5:54 pm .22 all day long. 60 to 80 yard shots should not be a problem for the rifle... perhaps the operator? haha, no offense. No groundhogs out here in central Cali, but fat ground squirrels are a pestilence and my boys and I hunt them all the time with .22s. A well placed shot will drop them at 100 yards no problem.
No offense taken. I did want to use 22lr, but I don't think I'm good enough to guarantee a head shot. 22lr to the body would kill it...eventually. I know it's a varmint, but it deserves better than that.

But yeah, in the hands of an expert who hits head shots all day long--you bet. I use 22lr for squirrels--they are dead on impact. But ground hogs are like 5-6x as heavy (maybe more?) and seem a lot tougher.

Re: Groundhogs are cute...but...

cooper wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 6:04 pm ground hogs are like 5-6x as heavy (maybe more?) and seem a lot tougher.
yeah I guess that's true. I think I misunderstood and thought you mean prairie dogs... Def need a headshot on those big ones.
I know you listed the rifles you have at your disposal, but a .223 would really put them down fast even at longer ranges.
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