Nobody seems to know exactly when the .25-06 was first worked up as a wildcat cartridge. Weve read opinions that it was 1914, while others lean into the 1920s. Most historians credit Adolph O. Neidner, a maker of custom rifles, as its originator, however.
It was Neidners intent to develop a varmint round that drove 80+ grain bullets at higher velocity and flatter trajectory than the .250-3000 Savage or .25 Krag, then widely used for Chucking. He achieved this by retaining the overall case length and shoulder angle of the .30-06 while necking it down to accept the smaller projectile. For a combination of reasons, not the least of which were the Great Depression, World War II, and the existence of the .257 Roberts, commercial production of the .25-06 by Remington didnt get underway until 1969.
For its originally intended purpose of varminting, the .25-06 is considered to be at its best with an 87-grain bullet leaving the muzzle at about 3,500 feet per second. For deer-size game, 120-grain bullets are recommended over 100-grain bullets because they are less likely to destroy as much meat due to their lower velocities. Though some feel the caliber is suitable for taking adult bear, elk and moose, wed shy away from it on game that large at any range that didnt assure a well-placed shot resulting in a quick kill. As a matter of fact, wed shy away from taking any shot with any rifle at any game sans similar assurance.
The first production rifle to be chambered for the .25-06 was the Remington Model 700. Today, several other manufacturers of bolt actions offers one or more models. The .25-06 is one wildcat that has become a household pet.
For this head-to-head test, we evaluated three bolt action hunting rifles chambered for the .25-06 Remington cartridge. They were a Remington Model 700 BDL, a Ruger Model 77R Mk II and a Savage Model 111G.
Here are our findings:
Remington Model 700 BDL
Each long gun manufacturer makes at least one very handsome rifle, and Remingtons star is the Model 700 BDL. It features a fancy walnut stock and, starting last year, an engraved receiver. In .25-06 Rem., this $583 bolt action has a 4-round internal magazine with a hinged floorplate, a 24-inch barrel and open sights. The rifles spring-loaded extractor and ejector are located on the front of the bolt.
We found the Model 700 BDL to be handsome and very well made. Its barrel and roll-engraved receiver had a shiny blue finish. The aluminum alloy trigger guard and floorplate were glossy black. The back of the bolt had a dull blue finish, while the bolt body was left white and jeweled. A few superficial tool marks were noted on the top edge of the right locking lug. Moving parts had little or no play.
This Remingtons barreled-action was fitted to a one-piece American walnut stock with a black forend tip, cut skipline checkering and a high gloss finish. Its shiny black plastic butt plate and grip cap with white spacers as well as the blued steel swivel studs were carefully installed. The stock was closely mated to the receiver. There was a small, uniform space along the sides of the non-floating barrel.
No functioning problems were encountered while firing the Model 700 BDL. The bolt not only locked and unlocked smoothly, it glided back and forth. Top-loading the internal magazine through the loading port in the right side of the receiver was easy, and unloading it was a simple matter of releasing the hinged floorplate.
When pushed forward, the floorplate release at the front inside of the trigger guard unlocked the back of the hinged floorplate. Pushing up on the bolt release, a small tab at the top inside of the trigger guard, allowed the bolt to be withdrawn from the receiver. Both of these controls worked smoothly.
The manual safety was a two-position lever on the right side of the receiver behind the bolt handle. Pulling it rearward prevented firing by blocking the sear, but not the bolt. Although the safety engaged stiffly, its forward movement was smooth.
In our opinion, this Remingtons handling qualities were the best of the test. It was slightly less muzzle-heavy than the Ruger Model 77R in this evaluation, affording very good muzzle stability. Shouldering was the most natural. Target acquisition was good for a hunting rifle. The stocks raised cheekpiece was very comfortable and allowed the best cheek-to-stock fit. The oval forend and hand-filling pistol grip provided an easy, secure hold. Muzzle jump was moderate during recoil, but the hard butt plate did nothing to lessen the kick.
We thought the triggers grooved 3/8-inch-wide face was very comfortable. Its movement was the best of test, though our shooters considered it to be about a pound too heavy. The pull had no slack and released crisply at 4 3/4 pounds with a minor amount of overtravel.
The Model 700 BDLs front sight, a hooded front blade with a white bead-shaped top, was dovetailed to a 1/4-inch-high base. The rear sight, a sliding blade with a U-shaped notch, sat on an inclined base. After loosening the appropriate screw, the rear could be moved for windage and elevation adjustments. This system provided a decent sight picture at moderate distances.
Using a one-piece base and a set of rings (not provided), we equipped the rifle with a Burris Fullfield 3-9X scope for accuracy testing. In this area, we considered the Remingtons performance to be above average with the right ammunition. The smallest three-shot average groups, 1.25 inches at 100 yards, were obtained using Federal Premium 117-grain BTSPs. On the flip side, Remington 100-grain Core-Lokt PSPs only managed 1.60-inch groups.
Muzzle velocities were, in our opinion, more than satisfactory for a .25-06 rifle with a 24-inch barrel. Average velocities measured from 2,876 feet per second with Winchester 120-grain PEPs to 3,348 feet per second with the Remington 100-grain load.
Ruger Model 77R Mk II
For $9 less than the Remington BDL, Ruger offers the Model 77R Mark II. It features a stainless steel bolt, a non-rotating Mauser-type extractor and a fixed ejector. An Integral Base Receiver and a set of 1-inch scope rings are also standard equipment. This particular model doesnt come with open sights. The .25-06 Rem. version has a 24-inch barrel and a 4-round internal magazine with a hinged floorplate.
In our opinion, the Model 77R Mk IIs workmanship was nearly as good as the Remington in this test. Except for its lightly polished stainless steel bolt, all steel parts had a high gloss blued finish. The alloy trigger guard was dull black. Minor tool marks were noted on the bolts locking lugs. Most moving parts had a small amount of play.
This Rugers one-piece stock was made of nicely-grained walnut with sharp, neatly cut checkering and a satin finish. Its black rubber recoil pad, black plastic grip cap and blued steel swivel studs were expertly installed. The stock mated well with the non-floating barrel. But, medium-size gaps were present along both sides of the receiver and at the left rear corner of the trigger guard.
During testing, the Model 77R Mk II functioned as it should. The bolt rotated the easiest, but its back and forth movement wasnt as free as the Remington. Inserting rounds into the internal magazine through the ejection port in the right side of the receiver required only a minimum of effort, as did unloading the magazine by releasing its hinged floorplate.
All of the controls worked positively. Depressing the floorplate release, a spring-loaded catch in the front of the trigger guard, unlocked the rear of the hinged floorplate. When its front end was pulled away from the gun, the bolt release lever on the left side of the receiver permitted the bolt to be removed from the receiver.
Since this rifle was designed for right-handed shooters, its manual safety was mounted behind the bolt handle on the right side of the receiver. When this two-position lever was moved rearward to the engaged position, it blocked the sear only.
In our opinion, the Ruger was the most muzzle-heavy rifle of the test. This provided the best muzzle stability, but made shouldering and target acquisition the slowest. All shooters thought the stocks straight comb was too thin and the least comfortable, but it afforded a decent stockweld with a good view of the scope. Securely grasping the rounded forend and the slim pistol grip wasnt a problem. Thanks to this models moderate weight and rubber recoil pad, felt recoil was the mildest.
Movement of the ungrooved 1/4-inch-wide trigger was clean, but we considered it to be a couple of pounds too heavy. After a minuscule amount of slack, the pull released at 5 1/2 pounds. There was a minor amount of overtravel.
As we stated earlier, this Ruger wasnt equipped with open sights. But, there was an integral base mount on the top of the receiver that accepted the rings supplied with the rifle. Using this mounting system, we installed a Burris 3-9X scope.
Although the difference wasnt significant, the Model 77R Mk II produced the largest groups of the test. At 100 yards, they measured from 1.40 inches with Winchester 120-grain PEPs to 1.60 inches with Federal Premium 117-grain BTSPs.
Chronograph testing showed that this .25-06 generated muzzle velocities that averaged from 2,879 feet per second with the Winchester 120-grain load to 3,356 feet per second with Remington 100-grain Core-Lokt PSPs. These speeds were nearly the same as those of the Remington Model 700 BDL.
Savage Model 111G
If the other rifles in this test are out of your price range, Savage offers the $374 Classic Hunter Model 111G. This economically-priced bolt action features a hardwood stock and open sights. Its spring-loaded extractor and ejector are on the front of the laser-etched bolt. When chambered for the .25-06 Rem. cartridge, this model comes with a 22-inch barrel and a 4-round fixed magazine.
We considered this plain-looking rifles workmanship to be acceptable. Its barrel and receiver had a blued finish with a light polish. The back of the bolt was dull blue, while the bolt body was white and had a laser-etched logo. The trigger guard was made of black plastic. Some tool marks were noted in the bolt raceway inside the receiver. A moderate amount of play was present in moving parts.
The walnut-stained hardwood stock had pressed checkering and a uniform, satin finish. It didnt take a sharp eye to see that the brown rubber recoil pad and black spacer were installed too high, but the blued steel swivel studs were well done. No significant shortcomings were noted in the mating of the stock to the receiver. The space along the right side of the free-floating barrel was much larger than the space on the left.
The Model 111Gs functioning was reliable, but not what we would call perfect. On three occasions, a live round popped out of the magazine while a spent case was being ejected from the chamber. There were no other problems.
Loading rounds into the fixed magazine through the large ejection port in the receiver was a snap. Since the magazine didnt have a hinged floorplate, the only way to empty it was to repeatedly cycle the action. The bolt didnt bind, but it dragged against the top of the black plastic magazine follower.
Shooters could readily operate the manual safety, a three-position slide on the tang, with the thumb of their firing hand. When pushed fully forward, the safety disengaged. In the mid-position, it blocked the trigger and allowed the bolt to be manipulated for loading and unloading. Pulling the safety all the way to the rear blocked the trigger and locked the bolt.
The cocking indicator, a large steel lever in front of the bolt handle on the right side of the receiver, was this Savages other control. It raised when the bolt was cocked. Furthermore, depressing this lever and then pulling the trigger permitted the bolt to be removed from the receiver.
In handling, the Model 111G was the most evenly-balanced rifle in this test. Although this provided the least muzzle stability, shouldering and target acquisition were the fastest. The stocks straight comb was wide enough to provide a good cheek-to-stock fit. None of our shooters cared for the plainly-shaped forend and pistol grip, but they could be grasped firmly. Due to this models comparatively light overall weight, it recoiled the most.
We felt this Savages trigger had an uncomfortable squared face and was excessively heavy. According to our self-recording trigger gauge, the pull released with 6 1/2 pounds of rearward pressure. There was no slack and little overtravel.
At moderate ranges, our shooters felt the open sights provided an acceptable sight picture. The steel front sight, which was dovetailed to a raised base, had a black bead-shaped face. The black plastic rear sight consisted of an adjustable blade with a U-shaped notch and an inclined base. It had one screw for elevation changes and two opposing screws for windage corrections.
For accuracy testing, a Burris Fullfield 3-9X scope was installed on the Model 111G using a one-piece base and a set of rings (not included). In spite of its heavy trigger, this rifle was the most accurate. The best three-shot average groups of the test, 1.15 inches at 100 yards, were produced using Federal Premium 117-grain boat-tail soft points. Groups opened up to 1.40 inches with Winchester 120-grain Positive Expanding Points.
This .25-06 had a barrel that was two inches shorter than the others tested. So, we expected its velocities to be the slowest, but that wasnt the case. The Model 111G actually yielded the highest average velocities with the Remington and Winchester loads.