« Much Ado about Nothing (With apologies to the worshipful Wm. Shaxpur) | Main | Rifles I Don’t Own (But Wish I Did): The G&H-built .416 Rigby »

August 29, 2006

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

The .25/06: An Unbeatable Cartridge for Deer and Antelope

This past week I got out my beanfield rifle, which is a Savage Model 10FLP in .25/06, and was reminded once again of what a useful cartridge the .25/06 is. Created by a wildcatter named A.O. Niedner in 1920 (!) it’s simply the .30/06 necked down to .257. The cartridge was commercialized by Remington in 1969. It has always sold well, but has never set the fields on fire, and is now in something of a decline, from what I read.

It’s one of those purported dual-purpose big-game/varmint rounds like the .243 or the .257 Roberts, but in truth it’s a pretty poor varmint load—it burns far too much powder for that. For big game, though, it has some fine qualities. Although it comes in a poor second to the .270 as an all-around big-game load, as a deer and antelope cartridge the .25/06 is unbeatable. Used with good 115-grain bullets, it will give you velocities well in excess of 3,000 fps along with very light recoil.

I was introduced to the cartridge by knifemaking great George Herron, a South Carolinian who used a heavy-barreled Ruger Number One in .25/06 to kill something like 150 deer over the years, and George never shot twice at the same deer. As I recall, he handloaded 90-grain Sierra bullets to some outlandish velocity, and it worked, but I prefer 115-grain and 120-grain Nosler Partitions in handloads, and the Federal factory loading of the 115-grain Partition.

One other thing about the .25/06: There is an 87-grain varmint load that really howls along, and if you are looking to terminate the furtive existence of a coyote and don’t care about spoiling the pelt, why, look no farther.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The .25/06: An Unbeatable Cartridge for Deer and Antelope:



Owned and shot both the 25-06 and 257 Roberts in rifles built on Mauser actions. I found both cartridges accurate for varmints. 26-06 had considerable muzzle blast even from a 24-inch barrel. I would think a 26-inch barrel is best on a 25-06 to take advantage of all that powder it burns. I would think a 22-inch barrel on a 25-06 is a monster to avoid.

I had more experience with the 257 Roberts on big game. 120-grain Speers with 45-grains of IMR 4350 was my favorite load for deer and elk. I did switch to 7x57 Mauser w/140-grain bullets. Certainly need more bullet weight for the big, hairy stuff.

BTY: My 257 Robert varmint load was 49-grains of IMR 4350 with any good 87-grain bullet. A SCREAMIN’ load. Case life was very short maybe about three loadings @Cartridge.


Ralph the Rifleman

I have seen similar results with this caliber--again while I was stationed out west--one guy in our hunting group had a .25/06 (I believe it was a Mod 70?) short case life, but it dropped deer-dead-and man the fur would fly on coyotes and chucks!Too bad it is slipping from the shooting scene...

mike shickele

Even though I don't own, and have never owned a 25-06; I have always respected it's capabilities.
In northern Canada, it is used as a top notch wolf round by those who hunt that animal seriously. For deer and antelope, it would probably be excellent.
As far as case life goes; whenever the subject of case life is brought up with a cartridge based on the 30-06 or 308, in a rifle with forward locking lugs; I tend to wonder if it's not improper sizing technique.


I think it's a good cartridge - it seems silly to me with a lot of good "oldies" around, everybody wants a short mag. I don't think people know what they are missing, especially youngsters who only read about mag cartridges in outdoor magazines.

B. Cameron

Hey, Cory, let's not pick on the youngsters too much! I could have gone and spent my money on a fancy-new short-fat that eats expensive ammo and kicks my butt to shoot ... but instead, I got the classics - a .270Win and a .30-06. A .30-30 is next on the list...

DP: On the topic of .25 cartridges, any thoughts on the .25-20? Dad has great-granddad's .25-20 in near-mint condition, and while ammo is pricey ($40/50), it looks like a beauty of a shooter...


Hey Mr. Cameron......Sounds to me as if it would behoove you to invest in a press and dies for that antique....especially @$50 a box.

Ralph the Rifleman

Dave..Have you ever had an article on the .264 Winchester Magnum? That was a darn good "flat shooter" that never caught on either. I recall reading that due to the bore size-to-powder charge it caused accelerated throat erosion,and case life suffered, as well. I am bit of a magnum follower since I enjoy reloading and the case capacity of these rounds allows for interesting results.

Dave Petzal

To Ralph: Nope, never done one. When the .264 came out in the late 1950s, it achieved its ballistics via a two-diameter bullet and a 26-inch barrel. But it had the bad luck to meet with Jack O'Connor's disapproval, and that pretty much killed any chance it had of success. Without the two-diameter bullet and the long tube, it was just an extra-loud .270. I think, though, with the powders we have today, it would be worth some interest. A friend of mine with whom I hunt each fall has owned a custom .264 for years, and swears by it.

Ralph the Rifleman

Thanks Dave--Great Blog,for sure.

Mike Diehl

Hey Dave.

I've seen lots of different cartridges and read your blog and others that mention yet more cartridges.

So what's the deal with cartridges? We have more 'modern' (brass, nitro shooters in the .223-gargantuan magnum range) than Eskimos have words for "snow."

Is this all driven by the need to have "new product" to market to the gadget-addicted?


Love the .25's...I grew up shooting the .257 Roberts and am all the better for it. No recoil and devastating results on the white tail I hunt in Mississippi. Great round.

Roger Reeves

Sure is good to finally see that the 25-06 is alive and continues to be a long, flat shooter for proper size game. I will be using my Rem 700 custom 25-06 , topped with a Nikon 3x9x40 for Antelopes in WY and Whitetails in Montana. Then I will switch to my 700 CDL 30-06 for Mulies and Elk after the whitetail hunt. My only complaint with the 25-06 is I wish a l30 to l40 gr bullet was available. Not being a re-loader I use off the shelf ammo. If you can hold the cross-wire still on the animal, he will surely fall, as the 25-06 does a wonderful job if you do yours.

Dave Petzal

To Mark: I would be careful with that screaming load. If you're only getting three shots out of your brass, your pressures are either WAY too high or your dies aren't adjusted right, but something is definitely wrong.

To Mike Deihl: Rifles never wear out, the number of hunters is shrinking, the essential designs of rifles haven't changed for 100 years, and so the gun biz has to do something, and that is, a raging torrent of new cartridges.

mike shickele

Hello Dave
Your right; if a case is attempting to contain more pressure than it is designed to, case life will of course be short.
I myself never think of this because I insist that all of my loads stay below max for safety, and reliability.
Overloads are what give handloaders a bad name; I have never had to throw a lot of cases out because the primers became loose, or incipient head separation. I throw them out when I loose track of how many shots they have fired. In saying that; I have a lot of old Norma brass that must have at least 20 rounds through it, in 4 different rifles.
All of my cases are sized with a full length sizing die to the point where when they are re-chambered, the shoulder just bumps up against the shoulder of the chamber.


Pressures are certainly high with the 49-grain IMR4350 load for 87-grain bullets in 257 Roberts I mentioned, but this is a load listed in Speer's Manual #6 and Hornady’s Manual [1976 edition], and although the primer was flat it wasn’t dangerously flat, nor was the bolt difficult to open. However, after three loadings a ring would start to form on the base. That’s when I would toss the case. As I recall I resized the entire case. That may have had something to do with short case life.

The shortest case life was with .220 Swifts with also about three reloads before I saw the ring forming, but you don’t buy a 220 Swift to be conservative, nor a 25-06 in my opinion. I have this philosophy when I load for varmints.

BTY the most accurate load I found for 220 Swift is Remington’s Premier Varmint Loads disturbuted in 1994*. I can’t beat them. I tried.

Many thanks for your concern and advice!

*Lost the lot number



The 49-Grain, IMR 4350 load/87-grain bullet was for a 257 Roberts Improved rifle I played with.

In my notes I do have this load listed as being used in a standard 257 Roberts chambering, but the high pressures were there so I dropped back 2-grains, although the signs weren't dangerous.

I loaded 47-grains IMR4350 for the standard 257 Roberts as my standard 87-grain bullet load. Both these loads are listed in the previously referenced loading manuals. No change in the case life, or pressure signs.

mike shickele

Reloading is an art, and like many other arts, I will assume that is is open to interpretation; unless you are hunting!
The animals deserve to have a load that is repeatable, not only maximum.
The second round needs to be able to be chambered, no matter what the temperature is.
It is unacceptable to have a loose primer fall into the magazine; many will disagree with me on this.
Reliability is just as important as accuracy; and more important than velocity!


To Mike S,

Sorry guy, but you lost me. I believe you’re talking about a repeat shot on big game using handloads. If this is your aim, you’re correct.

From my area of interest the most I’ve shot at big game in a season is maybe 12 or 14-rounds [Montana], usually it’s less than six-shots. At varmints I would shoot easily between 150 to 200 rounds a season here in Upstate New York.

To me the joy of owning any rifle is fussing with it via handloading and shooting it on the range and in the field seeing exactly what I can get out of it, pushing the limits. Fortunately, in Upstate New York we have lots of woodchucks allowing a shooter to indulge themselves deep down in this rifle pocket.

Woodchucks are a two-inch target so the accepted criteria is to keep a rifle as close to a 2-inch mid-range trajectory as possible, and extending its range. There’s always that balance to achieve max velocity to accuracy for this criteria. A rifle in 25-06 is a toy to play with here!

What does a shooter do when he’s pushed and used a rifle and the caliber to its max? You buy another rifle in a different caliber to start all over again. Hee-Yah!!!

See you on campus.

P.S. GeeWhiz: I bet varmint shooting is more active than big game shooting. How come there’s not the coverage in the press for the sport?

Dick Filippini

In my very limited experience, the .25-06 is a superb deer/antelope round. I've been using one ("old" model Ruger M77) since the early 70's and have nothing but good things to say about both the rifle and cartridge. The first year I hunted (w/ a borrowed 7mm Rem. Mag.) the ranch in Southeastern Montana I've returned to for the last 30+ years, I asked the owner/guide what he recommended. He strongly suggested the .25-06 as "the perfect round" for that country. (And also hinted that, since he was tired of chasing wounded deer for Eastern dudes that couldn't handle 7mm Mag. recoil, if I came back with a 7 Mag. I was likely to find it at the bottom of the Tongue River. Good advice.) I bought one and have used it every year since with no regrets. It's massive overkill for coyotes, but close to ideal for big mule deer, whitetail and antelope. It shoots flat, hits hard with my handloads of 53-54 grs. of H-4831 under 120 gr. Nosler Partitions or Rem. Core-Lokts (a little warm but OK in my rifle) and doesn't recoil much. Great rifle for women and inexperienced (young) hunters. Sometimes I wish there were 10-20 gr. heavier bullets available (imagine the S.D.!!) but then the feeling passes and I'm perfectly happy with the 120's. A RFGW from Wyoming, sadly no longer with us, used it on everything up to and including elk and had nothing but good things to say about it. I've played with a baker's dozen different calibers in those 30+ years but have always come back to the .25-06. And speaking of different calibers, anyone out there playing with the 6.5-.284 wildcat?? Had one made up on a Rem. M700 long action and will take it to Montana this year to play with (along w/ my .25-06). Any load recommondations and/or web sites for info would be appreciated. Gotta go. Montana's only 2 months away and I need to load some .25-06 for the trip. Good Hunting to all of you out there. Hope this season is successful and safe.

P.S. to DEP: As soon as you return from the 15-20 or so hunts we all know you'll go on this Fall, please post them to this blog as soon as you return. We're anxious to hear where you went, what you hunted (& w/ what rifle/cartridge) and if you had any luck. Although, animal or not, any time in the field beats the hell out of time at work.

jeremy canter

25-06 has too much muzzle blast.

craig curtis

guys yes reloading is an art form as well as an engineering feet ,that most dont try to conquer .but im hearing some scary things here ,i read that some cases were disgarded because they thought they had been shot enough not sure? for shame if you dont keep rock solid stats on everything from lenght change to the obvious wear and tear your just asking for trouble theirs so much more to it than velocity and drop and or performance . safety should be numero uno. dont teach the young bad habbits , records of everything should be kept,primer type case fired once twice ,brand of brass, fire formed ? or off the shelf oh well you know !! lets keep our ears intackt and our limbs attached kapisch. in my book exsessive wear is for the manufacturers to deal with not my blued beutys !!

mike shickele

Craig C
I agree with you, and I do keep records; my point was that none of my cases ever show signs of wear for three reasons.
#1-good chambers in all of my rifles.
#2-proper case sizing that takes the case down enough for ease of chambering, but not so much as to put undo stress on the case.
#3-if I EVER see any signs of pressure, at any ambient temperature, I back off on the load immediately.

I check all of my cases very thoroughly for any sign that they may be wearing out.

And, I must remind you that the argument that I was making was for safety. In the future read ALL of the pertinent information. Though in the future I will attempt to SPELL IT OUT MUCH MORE CLEARLY!

Mike Urbigkit

I grew up in Wyoming, and have been an avid gun nut and reloader since the late '60s. I have owned, shot and reloaded for just about everything that came along. For open plains and mountain hunting, the one catridge that has always been accurate, mild to shoot, easy to load for and accurate in any rifle I used, is the 25-06. I currently own 2, one light weight sporter and one heavy barreled varminter, both Remington 700's. I have killed everything from prarie dogs, coyotes, antelope, deer, elk and moose with this cartridge, and have never had to shoot any of them twice. I shoot and like 416's, 375's, 300 Weatherbys, 7mm Rem mags, and even an old 35 Whelen. The 25-06, with my favorite loading of 4064 topped with the Nosler 120 gr Partition, will do for all. Shoots straight, light to carry, and no recoil. What more do we need?

Roger Reeves

Ok guys, going to Wy in 3 weeks and take the 25-06. Will be using Winchester Ballistic tip ll5 grs for Antelopes, then on to Montana for W-tails/Mulies. Will give you a report on hunts when I return. For the Elk, will be using a 30-06 with Remington Scricco l80 gr bonded. You guys keep your fingers crossed that I fill my tags. I will be hunting with l4 other disabled guys, most in wheel-chairs.

Ralph the Rifleman

Good Hunting, be safe,and bring back some pics!

Our Blogs