The calibre hunter

Byron Pace surveys the capabilities of the .25-06, surely the king of the .25 calibres on offer

The .257 projectile can be found in the .250 Savage .257 Roberts, and .257 Weatherby Magnum, with weights ranging from 60-125gn. More commonly here in the UK we are used to seeing it in the .25-06. It started off life as a Wildcat cartridge back in 1920 when it was introduced by AO Neidner, but only started to gain a substantial following after powder development in the 1940s from Hodgdon, producing more consistent slow-burn rates. From there, handloaders were able to unlock its untapped potential, and the calibre really started to gain traction among wildcatters. It was, however, the adoption by Remington that propelled it into regular usage when they introduced the cartridge in their famous Remington 700 model late in 1969.

The design was achieved by simply necking down a standard .30-06 case, and was unaltered from its original inception. When many commercialised wildcat cartridges fell by the way-side over the years, the .25-06 stood the test of time, and today most rifle manufactures offer models chambered in this .30-06 variant.

It is a fast, flat shooter, pushing out a mean 3500fps with an 87gn bullet, and still tipping the 3000fps mark with a 120gn load. Saddling the 100gn mark nicely with a swift muzzle velocity, it has been described by its American advocates as the ideal dual-purpose varmint and deer calibre, adequately dispatching red deer-proportioned game, while its ballistics, laser-like trajectory and wind-bucking ability put it in serious contention for the top handful of varmint cartridges. Recoil energy sits somewhere between a .243 and a .270, producing 12.5ft/lb from an 8lb rifle when pushing a 120gn bullet at 3000fps. That compares favourably to the unforgiving .270, which will donkey-kick you an extra 5ft/lb for the pleasure of 10gn more projectile weight. Despite this, as far as varmint cartridges go, it is still punchy and doesn’t provide the all-day pleasure of a .22-250 or .220 Swift.

In terms of accuracy it certainly doesn’t disappoint, with sporter-weight rifles commonly approaching half-MOA. Off-the-shelf rifles tend to eat factory ammo quite satisfactorily. However, it is the hand loader who will get the best out of this round, able to customise the weight variations and powders to deliver its maximum capability.

For the UK hunter the 117gn load will take care of all our deer species with ruthless efficiency, delivering a very similar trajectory to the highly acclaimed .243 Win, while having the advantage of a few extra grains of lead and copper to tame the larger species such as sika and red deer. Equally, it compares remarkably well to the foxer’s favourite, the .22-250 Rem, mirroring its flight path for the first 200 yards, before it starts showing a slight advantage, falling 1.4in less over the next 200 yards – this being despite carrying an extra 30gn in weight. Comparing a 100gn in .243 and .25-06, the sectional density is obviously lower: .242 compared with .216 respectively, highlighting marginally reduced penetrative abilities – the higher the SD, the better the penetration (SD = bullet weight in pounds divided by diameter in inches – but a heavier 115gn .25-06 round delivers a SD of .249, even surpassing the 130gn .270 load with a SD of .242.

The .25-06 is a very capable round, and probably overlooked in the UK, where it should surely be a serious contender. Foxes to red deer – I think it ticks all the boxes.

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