By: Spencer Durrant
I’m a big fan of wildcat rounds and unique cartridges. The creativity involved in crafting effective wildcat rounds is fascinating, and I’d own more rifles in .375 W&S Magnum, .35 Whelen AI, and .416 Hoffman if I had the cash.
As it stands, I funnel my love for unique cartridges into underrated modern production rounds. This passion has spilled over into my rifle collection, where every gun I own – save my AR-15 – is solely a hunting weapon. Whether it’s my trusty Marlin Model 60 or my Ruger American short-barreled .308, every rifle I own has a dedicated hunting purpose.
I primarily hunt elk because it tastes better than the mule deer in Utah. It’s also cost-effective, because I don’t buy any meat from the grocery store. The .308 is a solid elk cartridge, though recently the elk hunting community has turned all aflutter over the 6.5 Creedmoor. While the 6.5 Creedmoor is a stellar round, there is, at least in my mind, a round that beats it: the .25-06 Remington.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is such a popular elk hunting round because it shoots flat with minimum recoil. It makes a lot of folks happy, but the .25-06 could make them happier.
Now, before I dive into ballistics, I need to preface it with this: I rarely take a shot on any big game animal past 350 yards. I love getting as close as possible to my animal; for me, that’s a huge part of the thrill of hunting. A lot of hunters are into long-range shooting these days. That’s fine for them, but it’s just not how I like to hunt.
So when I look at ballistics, I look at how a round performs out to 400 yards. If I can’t get closer than that to an elk, I don’t want to take the shot.
This is what the .25-06 Remington 110-grain Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter looks like from the muzzle to 400 yards:
And here’s the 6.5 Creedmoor 143-grain Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter:
I know the bullet grain weight comparison looks off, but I chose to ignore that in this comparison because the .25-06 Remington performs at its peak in a 110-grain bullet. The 6.5 Creedmoor is made almost exclusively in heavier bullet weights, and the 143-grain seems to be the most popular.
Zeroed at 200 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor has the edge in bullet energy, but only just. The .25-06 is traveling faster.
Where the .25-06 really takes off is at 300 yards. It’s traveling faster than the 6.5 and drops only 6 inches from zero, compared to almost 8 for the 6.5. The bullet energy is almost a full 100-ft/lbs of force less, but it’s a flatter-shooting cartridge with nearly identical ballistics in my ideal shooting range.
Again, I’m not trying to put down the 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s a great round that’s harvested a lot of elk. But for someone like me, who prefers to take close shots, it’s hard to beat the .25-06. It shoots flatter and faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor out to 400 yards, though the 6.5 keeps the edge in ft/lbs of force.
Of course, it’s easier to find rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The Remington 700 .25-06 is a bit pricey, though Mossberg’s Patriot Synthetic .25-06 is cheaper than my Ruger American .308.
Regardless, the .25-06 is a legitimate elk hunting round, and an excellent choice for deer hunters in the Rockies who want something different.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. He’s the Owner/CEO of Cutthroat Creative Media and Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Sppencer_Durrant.
Photo Credit: Spencer Durrant