25-06 vs 30-06: Which Ammo Is Best?

The 30-06 has long been the sports shooter and hunter’s choice for the ideal large game cartridge. The 25-06 is also an excellent hunting cartridge yet is more suited for medium game. But did you know that the 25-06 originated from the 30-06 and is a necked-down version of it? Let’s take a look at both these cartridges and how they stack up to each other – you might be in for a surprise!

Main Difference Between 25-06 vs 30-06

Picture of 25-06 & 30-06 ammo

25-06 Ballistics

Ballistics is a great way to truly analyze a round’s performance. By looking at the cartridge’s ballistic performance, we can determine what environment a round would perform better in. And also what targets the cartridge is better suited to hunt and ensure an ethical kill.

For the 25-06, we are using Remington’s Core-Lokt 100-grain ammo. This centerfire ammo has a ballistic coefficient of 0.292.

Velocity (fps)

  • Muzzle Velocity – 3,230
  • 100 Yards – 2,892
  • 200 Yards – 2,579
  • 300 Yards – 2,286
  • 400 Yards – 2,013
  • 500 Yards – 1,760

Energy (ft-lbs)

  • Muzzle Energy – 2,316
  • 100 Yards – 1,857
  • 200 Yards – 1,476
  • 300 Yards – 1,160
  • 400 Yards – 899
  • 500 Yards – 688

From the ballistics data above, we can see that the 25-06 is an extremely fast bullet, being able to travel at speeds well over 2,500 fps. In our post on how fast bullets travel we saw that weight plays a huge factor in speed. The energy is also considerable, you will be able to ethically hunt elk up to 200 yards and smaller game like mule deer up to 300 yards.

30-06 Ballistics

We are also using Remington’s Core-Lokt rounds, but with a 165-grain bullet. The rounds have a ballistic coefficient of .447.

Velocity (fps)

  • Muzzle Velocity – 2,820
  • 100 Yards – 2,616
  • 200 Yards – 2,421
  • 300 Yards – 2,234
  • 400 Yards – 2,056
  • 500 Yards – 1,886

Energy (ft-lbs)

  • Muzzle Energy – 2,913
  • 100 Yards – 2,507
  • 200 Yards – 2,147
  • 300 Yards – 1,829
  • 400 Yards – 1,549
  • 500 Yards – 1,303

The 30-06 is also a fast-traveling cartridge, but what really stands out about it is its ability to maintain high kinetic energy throughout its flight path. The 30-06 has enough force to allow you to comfortably shoot elk at a distance of 400 yards and smaller game like whitetail deer at 500+ yards. We also compared the 30 06 vs 7.62 rounds and confirmed the 30-06 was a great hunting round!


Taking both the velocity and energy into consideration, it is clear that the 30-06 has superior ballistics. Its efficiency of maintaining its initial muzzle energy and velocity is much better than the 25-06 – which is important. Muzzle energy was also a major factor when I compared the 270 WSM & 270 Win cartridges.

25-06 vs 30-06 Recoil

picture of handgun recoil when firing

While felt recoil is not as important for advanced shooters. It does affect inexperienced shooters or someone who just doesn’t like it considerably. That being said, it is important to know that felt recoil depends on several factors, from cartridge loads to aiming position.

The most pertinent factor to recoil is a rifle’s weight – the two being inversely correlated. That means that by increasing the weapon’s weight, the response would be a recoil reduction, theoretically.

It’s a good thing we handled the ballistics first, so you might already know which cartridge will pack a bigger punch. A 30-06 with a rifle weight of 8 pounds and using a 165-grain bullet weight will produce a recoil force of 20.1 pounds when fired. Recoil was a major factor when we compared the 223 and 30-06 rounds in a previous test.

In comparison, a 25-06 will have much less recoil than the 30-06 platform. Using a 100-grain bullet weight in an 8-pound rifle will produce a mild recoil of 11 pounds.

However, when we level the playing field by using a 120-grain and 125-grain bullet weight for the 25-06 and 30-06, respectively, things get interesting. Using exactly the same rifle with the same weight as the other recoil comparison, the 25-06 will produce 12.5 pounds of recoil force. At the same time, the 30-06 will produce a light recoil of only 10.2 pounds.

So if you level the playing fields, it is evident that the 30-06 will produce less recoil, a favorable scenario. However, you are comprising a lot of the 30-06’s performance for the reduction in recoil. The 25-06 will outperform the 30-06 in terms of ballistics.

So it comes down to personal preference, do you choose the lighter bullets and compromise performance for less recoil in the 30-06 platform or just choose the 25-06, which will have better performance than the lighter bullets of the 30-06. If the recoil doesn’t bother you, go for the 30-06! Smaller rounds like the 10mm vs 357 have much less recoil.

30-06 vs 25-06 For Deer Hunting

We saw from the ballistics data that the 30-06 is capable of shooting just about anything. Just like we saw in our comparison of the 243 Win vs 30-06 rounds the 30-06 can be great for hunting. But that high power might be too excessive for deer hunting. Then again, the 25-06’s high velocity will cause unnecessary damage to the deer’s meat if the shot placement is not accurate.

If you want to bring in the cost factor, then the 30-06 will be the better option. The mass adoption and popularity of the 30-06 allow it to have a cheaper rifle and ammo cost than the 25-06. Price was also a major ranking factor when we compared the 30-30 and 44-40 rounds in a previous test!

Taking both factors into consideration, I would opt for the 30-06 as my go-to deer hunting cartridge.

Trajectory Comparison

Trajectory (inches)

Just like we saw in our comparison of the 300 win mag vs 3006 rounds, trajectory is very important. Using the same rifles and ammunition we did for the ballistics, we determined the trajectory as follows:

The 25-06:

  • 100 Yards – 0
  • 200 Yards – -2.7
  • 300 Yards – -10.6
  • 400 Yards – -19.9 (zeroed at 200 yards)
  • 500 Yards – -41.8 (zeroed at 200 yards)

The 30-06:

  • 100 Yards – 0
  • 200 Yards – -3.6
  • 300 Yards – -13.1
  • 400 Yards – -22.5 (zeroed at 200 yards)
  • 500 Yards – -45.2 (zeroed at 200 yards)

Both cartridges have a relatively flat trajectory up until 200 yards. However, beyond 200 yards, the bullet drop becomes an important factor. The 25-06 is the better flat shooting cartridge, but this can be predicted due to the 60-grain bullet weight difference between the two cartridges.

Nonetheless, the 25-06 Remington shoots flatter than the 30-06, making it more accurate and equipped for long-range shooting.

Stopping Power Comparison

Both these cartridges have considerable stopping power, regardless of using factory loads or custom hand-loaded loads. After all, these two calibers are designed to comfortably take down medium game, like deer-sized targets, as well as big game.

However, the combination of heavier bullets, higher ballistic coefficient, and more efficient ballistic allows the 30-06 to have a much higher stopping power.

History Of 25-06

In 1912, Charles Newton decreased the neck diameter of the 30-06 to produce the .256 Newton. However, it did not get much traction, yet it sparked the release of a shortened version, the .250-3000, in 1915. Thereafter, Frankford Arsenal used the cartridge to produce the .25-06 for use in World War 1.

As technology improved, the 25-06 received a lot of improvements. However, following the second world war, the cartridge slipped into history as it did not get much recognition until Remington standardized the cartridge in 1969.

History Of 30-06

The 30-06 is well aligned with American War history. It was introduced by the US Army in 1906 and was only replaced in the 1970s by the NATO weapons. The long service history speaks to the cartridge’s exceptional performance.

The “30” in the name refers to the caliber of the cartridge and the 06 to the year it was released. When the 30-06 was introduced, it replaced the .30-03 6mm Lee Navy and .30-40 Krag cartridges. The cartridge is now predominantly used for sporting and hunting goals as it still remains a highly versatile round.

Which Is Best For Hunting?

Given the versatility, lower cost, and long-range performance of the 30-06, it makes for the better hunting cartridge. The increase in power allows you to comfortably hunt larger animals without worrying whether you might injure the animal.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my custom 25-06 Savage Arms Axis, and it truly is a great round. But my favorite gun for hunting remains my .30-06 Bruno – and many hunters would agree.

I mentioned earlier that the force of the 30-06 might be too excessive on smaller game. But, if you use lighter bullets, you will have a cartridge that shoots flat and will do minimal damage to the meat, given you have an excellent shot placement.

Which Is Best For Self Defense?

Any of these two rounds would be well-equipped for self-defense purposes. The larger force of the 30-06 might be too excessive and could possibly lead to collateral damage. For this reason, I recommend using the .25-06.

Still, a rifle is not ideally suited for self-defense purposes as its maneuverability and ease of shooting at close range is difficult – best to use a handgun if you are looking for a weapon for self-defense.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 25-06 caliber good for?

A caliber is an excellent medium-sized game cartridge. And is capable of taking down larger-sized game at closer ranges as well.

What was the 25-06 made for?

The 25-06 was originally designed to be used in the Great War as an alternative to the 30-06.

Is 25-06 good for elk?

Yes, but given the ballistic performance of this cartridge, I recommend using heavier factory ammo and restricting shooting at elk to 200 yards. This will ensure that you have enough energy to deliver a lethal shot.

Which is better 6.5 Creedmoor or 25-06?

The 25-06 has a much higher velocity than the 6.5 Creedmoor. It also shoots flatter than the 6.5 but has a very similar energy performance. However, because of the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor, its ammo is much cheaper and more abundantly found.

Is a 25-06 bigger than a 30-06?

Not at all; the 30-06 is much bigger in terms of power. But in overall length, the 30-06 is also bigger. The 30-06 measures 3.34 inches, and the 25-06 is 3.250 inches.

What distance can a 25-06 shoot?

A 25-06 can achieve distances well over 1000 yards. However, for target shooting, it is best kept at distances within 500 yards. For ethical hunting, a 25-06 can shoot medium game up to 300 yards and large game within 200 yards.

Final Thoughts

Even though the 25-06 is a worthy advisory to the 30-06, the 30-06 is still the cartridge to beat. This shows that new isn’t always better. I enjoy shooting with both cartridges, but the 30-06 is hands down my favorite. I would not recommend it for varmint hunting but rather for that once-in-a-year memorable elk or moose hunt – it deserves respect!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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