Consider the .25-06, a century old cartridge, if you’re getting ready to look for your next deer rifle. It might just be the best purchase you ever make.
The dog days of summer are upon us — lots of sportsmen and women are spending time power-trolling for crappie, punching through grass beds for big bass, fishing deep for killer cats or dreaming of late-summer alligator hunting.
Other sportsmen, like die-hard deer hunters, have other things on their mind.
It’s the best time of year to buy that perfect, new deer rifle you’ve always dreamed of — you know, the one that never misses, puts them down in their tracks and doesn’t leave a bruise on your shoulder.
Does it exist? You bet it does. This time-proven quarter-bore, the .25-06, which has been around for a century, could be the right rifle for you.
The .25-06, aka quarter-bore, came into being a little more than 100 years ago, in 1912, when Charles Newton necked-down the .30-06 Springfield cartridge to accept a .25-35 Winchester bullet. It was a wildcat cartridge for half a century, meaning that rifles were custom builds and ammo couldn’t be bought off the shelf; it had to be hand-loaded.
Things changed in 1969 when Remington started producing its Model 700 rifle in .25-06, along with ammo. It was marketed and quickly became known as “the western cartridge” due to its effectiveness on deer and antelope in open country.
The .25-06 is a hunter’s cartridge and was developed to kill deer-sized game with authority out to 400 yards. Many professional hunters worldwide consider it the perfect killing cartridge, possibly due to the combination of high velocity, good bullet weight and low recoil.
“I bought my .25-06 in 1989; it was a used gun, and I got it from a friend,” says Matt Shell of Brookhaven. “I like it because of the flat trajectory and low recoil. It’s also extremely accurate.”
There is a lot of hype and attention given today to newer and long-range calibers such as the 6.5 Creedmoor, causing the old quarter-bore to fly under the radar. The .25-06 isn’t a magnum cartridge, and isn’t a 1,000-yard shooter for plinking steel. It is, however, a killing machine and, make no mistake, it delivers bullets at blistering speeds.
The 6.5 Creedmoor will outperform the .25-06 past the 500-yard mark due to its better-developed ballistic coefficients. Arguably, however, any shot longer than 500 yards for the average hunter could be considered unethical.
The .25-06 will make all other calibers of rifles, including the 6.5 Creedmoor, blush with the numbers it produces out to 400 yards. It’s a speed demon and will deliver a 115-grain Nosler Partition bullet in a Federal factory load at 3,030 feet per second out of the muzzle. The same load sighted-in at 200 yards is 1.5 inches high at 100 yards, 6.8 inches low at 300 and 20 inches low at 400. If you go with a slightly lighter bullet, the numbers get even more impressive.
“I upgraded to a Hogue stock and put a Steiner 3x15x56 scope on my .25-06,” Shell said, “It’s my ‘go-to’ gun. It shoots a Federal Premium 117-grain BTSP extremely well. I guess that over the years, I have killed two or three hundred deer and hogs, combined, with it — plus a few coyotes.”
The biggest downfall to the .25-06’s performance would be that it doesn’t hold its accuracy in rifles with shorter barrels. For optimal accuracy, choose a rifle with a barrel at least 26 inches long. Anyone who loads their own cartridges needs to know that it also needs a slower-burning powder for optimum accuracy. Factory loads already have this in consideration.
The .25-06 has been used to harvest every known big-game animal in North America, including grizzly bear. It’s a little too much gun for squirrel and ground hog-sized critters and really not the best choice for elk or bear. It’s absolutely lethal to deer, hogs and coyotes in the hands of a southern hunter.
The most-popular companies producing loads for the .25-06 are Barnes, Nosler, Federal, Remington, Winchester and Hornady. Reloading supplies are plentiful, too. The best-killing bullets for the .25-06 are the Nosler Partition, Swift A-frame, and Barnes TTSX. A Nosler Partition bullet in .25-06 traveling around 3,000 fps is devastating to a whitetail.
The old quarter-bore is largely overlooked and forgotten by many hunters today. If you are considering a new deer rifle, find someone who owns one and talk to them about it.
“I have access to plenty of other guns: 7 Mags, .30-06s, .270s and more,” Shell said. “But I will grab the .25-06 every time; I know what it will do, and I have that much confidence in it.”
This traditional deer rifle is quick and flat-shooting with low recoil. It’s very attractive when you take a hard look at it. When it comes to deer rifles, it really is the total package.
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