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35 Years of Loading the .25-'06 Rem.

The .25-’06 can take everything from varmints to big game if loaded correctly.


For 35 years my Ruger Model 77 chambered in .25-’06 Rem. provided great enjoyment—from shooting ground squirrels and marmots to hunting big game from antelope to elk. But all those years of shooting ate away the .25-’06’s barrel to the point that the first 6 inches of its bore looked like wrinkled alligator hide, and its accuracy fell off to the extent that a prairie dog perched on its mound much farther away than 150 yards was in no grave danger

So last winter I sent the rifle to Sisk Rifles in Dayton, Texas, for a new barrel. A couple months later Charlie Sisk returned the rifle with a new 24-inch Lilja barrel with a 1:10-inch twist. As a bonus, Sisk applied a durable, ceramic-based finish called Cerakote to the barrel and action that protects the metal from corrosion and wear.

To develop loads for the new barrel I tried some varmint and big-game loads that had shot well through the years in the old barrel and sampled a few new bullets and propellants to see if they have advanced the .25-’06 Rem. in the last 35 years. The American Rifleman test of a load’s accuracy is five consecutive, five-shot groups at 100 yards. Firing that many rounds, though, to find several suitable loads could cook a .25-’06’s bore. So I started by selecting four bullets and four propellants for each bullet and shot three-shot groups with each combination. While three shots may not reveal whether a load is precise in the long haul, they do illustrate whether a load is inaccurate. Those few shots also reveal whether your velocity requirements are met.

Varmint Loads
Ground squirrels are most of the reason I torched the Ruger’s first barrel. When I bought the .25-’06 Rem., it and a .30-’06 Sprg. were my only center-fire rifles. I liked the .25-’06’s mild recoil (compared to the 125-grain bullets fired from the .30-’06 Sprg.) shooting Hornady or Sierra 75-grain hollow-point bullets at 3,500 fps, and it was great fun to shoot at the little varmints the whole of a summer day.

One day it dawned on me that the Leupold 2-7X scope on my rifle failed to provide a close enough look to aim precisely at ground squirrels or marmots past 300 yards, so the 3,500 fps with the 75-grain bullets and 49.0 grains of IMR4320 was a waste of propellant and velocity. Backing off to 42.0 grains of IMR4320 dropped velocity to about 3,000 fps. At that reduced speed I could still aim at the nose of a marmot at 300 yards and knock it off its rock perch. My records show that this reduced powder charge doubled the extreme spreads of velocity compared to the heavier propellant charge that more nearly filled .25-’06 Rem. cases.

The sharp plastic tip on today’s Hornady 75-grain V-Max bullet means it has a slightly higher ballistic coefficient compared to the old hollow point. The result is that the V-Max bullets drop about an inch less at 300 yards. The V-Max bullets clocked up to 3,685 fps from the new .25-’06 Rem. barrel driven with 55.0 grains of W760. That results in only 8 inches of drop at 350 yards with the bullets hitting 1-inch high at 100 yards. But repeated shots with that much propellant would soon put me in the market for yet another barrel. Consequently the .25-’06 Rem. and I will enjoy occasional trips with the load using 42.0 grains of IMR4320 and 75-grain V-Max bullets to shoot gophers and keep my eye sharp. Besides, now I have a .223 Rem. and a .22-.250 Rem. that can take the pounding of long-range varmint shooting.

Antelope Loads
Hunting pronghorn antelope can be a long-range affair. Every season for decades I shot antelope with the .25-’06 Rem., a few were at 400 yards, but most stood close to either side of 150 yards. My standard load was Sierra 100-grain bullets with 53.0 grains of IMR4350 for a muzzle velocity of 3,245 fps. At all of those distances the Sierras held together and penetrated deeply. With such good results there was no sense changing bullets. Nonetheless, I also shot the newer Barnes 100-grain Triple-Shock X-Bullet because it’s a great bullet that hangs tough no matter what it hits.

Two more recently developed propellants significantly increased the velocity of the 100-grain bullets compared to my old load of IMR4350. Ramshot Hunter clocked 3,412 fps with the Sierra bullet and Alliant Reloder 17 drove the Barnes at 3,441 fps. Those speeds put my .25-’06 Rem. on the heels of the .257 Wby. Mag. With the Sierra bullet sighted 3 inches above the point of aim at 100 yards, it is right on aim at 310 yards and there is no worry about holdover on an antelope out to 375 yards.

Loads For Larger Game
At home in Montana, deer and elk seasons run concurrently. While looking for whitetail or mule deer through the years I’ve shot four elk with my .25-’06 Rem. The 120-grain Nosler Partitions and Speer Grand Slams went completely through the elk. One bull staggered all of 30 yards before it pitched over. Some great controlled-expansion .25-cal. bullets, such as the Barnes 115-grain Triple-Shock X-Bullet and Swift 120-grain A-Frame, have come to market since I started shooting the .25-’06 Rem. 35 years ago. But switching from the Partition now would be sort of like trading in my wife to satisfy some idiotic midlife crisis.

Reloading manuals from years ago list 54.0 grains—and often heavier charges—of H4831 with 120-grain bullets. Today’s manuals top out at a couple grains lighter. I’ve used 54.0 grains for decades and never had the slightest hiccup with it, and opening the Ruger’s bolt on a fired case has always been as easy as picking a daisy. Of course, as a safe and astute handloader, you will reduce all the listed loads by a couple grains to start your .25-’06 Rem. reloading. A couple of new propellants did increase the Partition’s velocity by slightly more than 100 fps. But accuracy with Ramshot Magnum and Alliant Reloder 25 was not on par with H4831.

I won’t be running the new .25-’06 Rem. barrel too fast or hard. It’ll still get out for some varmint shooting with 75-grain A-Max bullets at reduced velocity, just to keep my eye sharp for big-game season. For those few shots at big game, the Sierra 100-grain GameKing with its flat trajectory and the 120-grain Nosler Partition for its punch will work just fine for antelope to elk. All three loads will certainly provide another 35 years of great shooting and fun with the .25-’06 Rem.

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14 Responses to 35 Years of Loading the .25-'06 Rem.

Ben Randolph wrote:
November 12, 2014

I have the best luck with imr 7828 powder In my 25-06s. RE25 comes in second. One likes the 117 sierra game king the other like 115gr bt

badmurphy wrote:
August 31, 2014

I have a 25/06 on a rem.721 action /w a 27inch Shilan bbl ,1-10twist..Have tried all the bullet makes. Sciroccos,and Barnes hold toget great but the Swifts in 100 grain will not take the heavier powder charge of the Barnes.The Hrnady interlock in 117 is noting fancy but has a bearing survace that you can drive very fast and can penetrate that will boggle your mind.In 1972 my buddy shot a monster bodied buck in Nevada with the new Ruger 77 in 25/06 at 9,000 feet elevation at 75 yards .Bullet was a 117 Sierra BT .shot behind the shoulder ,entry 25 cal. exited the size of a dime ,two steps and down for the count.Sierrias and RL 22 have given the best accuracy . But driving 100 barnes TTx gives 200fps more and that shoots flat and 3400,fps in my rifle ....the extra fps in the TTx is a good advantage. Sweet to shoot if a 270 is a womens' 30/06 then a 25/06 is a womans' 270.

Harry Floate wrote:
March 03, 2014

I got my encore 28 in bull barrel 2506 out and went to my range at 100 yards, using a led sled gun rest and Remington 117 grn. bullets along with federal 120 bonded soft point ammo. set my 4x16 scope with the Remington 117 and fine tuned it with the120 federal bonded soft point. shot five rounds and grouped 3/8 in. group sighted 3in high and then shot the rem.117 it grouped the same. well pleased with both factory loads.

darkness wrote:
August 24, 2013

I bought a browning A bolt with the BOSS system last fall but ran out of time to work up a load. over the last month I have been messing around with some different combos and so far the best has been Nolser ballistic tip 115 grs with 48 gr of H4831-sc CCI 250 prmer in a hornady case and seated about .0015 off the lands. currently it groups 5 shots just under 3/4' and I truly feel that right now this is the limitations of myself and I just need to spend more time behind the scope witch by the way is just a 3x9 Leupold rifleman nothing fancy but this setup seems to be working. I chose the Nosler ballistic tip for its BC numbers and I wanted as heavy as I could get with the best BC number and this seemed like the one I will probably load some of the partitions before next year and see how that goes. I do plan to hunt my Idaho elk with it this year and have no questions that it will get the job done.

Your Name Nardus wrote:
June 06, 2013

I have a 25-06 Ruger Mark 2 and the 100gr Sierra Game kings work beautiful. I tried the 110gr Nosler Accubonds but no luck. Want to go 120gr.

Jeff wrote:
June 01, 2013

I picked up my first .25-06 in a Savage Axis bolt action recently. Took it to the range with some 117 grain Hornady spire points and it's a nice shooting hard hitting rifle. Groups were about 7/8 of an inch at 100 yards and the rifle is very easy for me to shoot well. One thing I want to do on my bucket list is to take at least a couple cow elk in the coming years and I think with a good bullet like the 117 grain Hornady Interlock or the 120 grain Nosler Partition and a good shot, I'll be putting some elk meat in my freezer.

Cam Ford wrote:
May 04, 2013

I have a weatherby s2 and love it so far. Looking to start getting some distance out of it. Any suggestions?

Bill LaCoe wrote:
April 19, 2013

I am a 3rd generation 25-06er. Always go back to 4350 and 100gr Sierra bullets. Now, if i can just find some powder!

Doug Rohrbaugh wrote:
April 13, 2013

I have a Smith and Wesson rifle in a 25-06. Got the gun in 1985 have shot many whitetail and mule deer with it. I have found that it shoots best at maximum loads of 4832 or 4350 powder but does not do we'll with the newer powders.

Danny packebush wrote:
March 25, 2013

Bought a howa in 25-06 year befor last, I hunt deer, hogs and coyotes. I use Noster ballistic tips and it does a great job on everything

Vic M wrote:
August 06, 2012

When did this article appear?

Hubert H. wrote:
April 26, 2012

Thanks for all the great info. I have a early Ruger M77 25/06 (70-41XXX) which I believe has a Douglas barrel because it sure shoots like it does. The Barnes 115 TTSX bullets and the Hornaday 117 grs. shoot very tight in this rifle. Great all around caliber.

Kevin R wrote:
December 09, 2011

I have a 25-06 rem and here in alaska I use it for every thing from wolf to sheep out to 500 yards with hornadys 117 SST and 54.3 gr of RL 22 and love it will never get rid of it

Mack Missiletoe wrote:
December 01, 2011

I am considering both the .25-06 and the .243 calibers ina Ruger standard M77 Hawkeye rifle. I am leaning towards the .25-06 today :D