30-06: 180 vs 200 grain bullet


February 1, 2003, 01:18 AM
With the sloppy weather lately, and PSSD, been spending some time slouched on the couch looking at reloading manuals comparing the common American medium bores (270, 280, 308, 30-06, etc). One anomaly popped up when looking at the Nosler manual. Everybody says the classic 30-06 load for elk and other big critters is the 180 grain Partition. But when I compare the trajectory and downrange energy of the 180 Partition versus the 200 grain Partition, using Nosler's load data, it appears that the 200 grainer has about the same downrange energy, and just slightly more drop at 300 yards. Heck, only down about 10" at 300 yards when zeroed at 200, according to Nosler; not bad for a thumper bullet! Unlike a lot of cartridges, which seem to have a performance peak towards the middle of their bullet weight range (ex. the 6.5s preferring the 140s even though the 6.5x55 and 260 Rem can handle 160 grainers).

Seems like the increased penetration one ought to get with 10% more bullet mass ought to be worthwhile for the big stuff like elk and moose. Has anybody here found the 200 gr weight preferable for 30-06 big game loads?

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February 1, 2003, 09:59 AM
Sectional density--180gr-.270, 200gr-.301. For broadside shots with a Nosler it won't make much difference ,but on those quartering away shots it will. I think it was Elmer Keith who said that in his experience the most common shot on elk is quartering away. I'd take the extra insurance.

February 1, 2003, 10:25 AM
I have seen elk shot with both. They did not know the difference, both worked quite well. The only "problem" I have ever seen with partitions is pushing them too fast and the frontal section being lost very quickly. This is pretty common in the magnum levels with the lighter bullets and hot loads, you end up with a .315" or so FMJ that has to do all of the killing. It works, but not nearly as well as a bullet loaded to appropriate speeds.

Either weight in the -06 is a real slayer!! Keep your partitions heavy and you will be nothing but :D :D :D

February 1, 2003, 11:07 PM
When I used Nosler Partitions, I found 165 grainers to be to my liking. PLENTY of penetration.

I now use 150 gr Barnes "X" bullets for elk. They penetrate as well as the 180 Nosler, and they shoot flatter and hit harder because of the increased velocity.

February 2, 2003, 06:00 AM
& I'd even take cheygriz' option of the Barnes 150s & up it a tad by going to Barnes XBTs in 165s - depending on velocities. I found a huge difference between 180s, 165s, & 150s working up a load in a TC wildcat. All told, at the 2400-2700 fps velocities tended towards at 165 grain bullet - for everything = energy, trajectory, etc. Granted, there was some real close calls, but the 165 came up winner in all categories.

Your BC will vary quite a bit due to velocity, but sectional density should remain fairly constant.

I've poked a .30 cal 165 Barnes through & through elk at a MV of 2400 fps- ranges of 15 - 200 yards. Outstanding penetrators.

Nosler's Partitions are a good bullet, no doubt, but if you really want something to shoot through something & expand = go Barnes.

YMMV regards twist rates & stabilization, etc., & do shoot lighter weight than you'd think.

My stand-by reloaded ammo for the .30-06 is a Sierra GameKing 180. Have tried the 200, but nothing this side needs it except heavy-duty critters - elk aren't in that ballpark & neither are moose.

Save yourself some money & forget Partitions & get GameKings. & if that doesn't work, shoot a gr-weight less with Barnes.

Opinionated? you bet, but that's what you get after shootin' a bunch of 'em. Others'll disagree, but if you're gonna spend premium prices for a bullet, you might as well get the best one you can & that = Barnes.

Art Eatman
February 2, 2003, 09:58 AM
The heavier the bullet, the more thump on the shoulder. I guess that unless I had some sort of failure attributed to the weight of the bullet, I'd choose the lightest bullet I thought would do the job.

From what I've seen and read, bullet design for a particular range of velocities has become more important than weight.

For instance, I had a 150-grain bullet blow up inside a mule deer's neck. That same bullet brand/weight has blown all the way through quite a few whitetail. However, I shot the mulie at no more than 30 yards, and most of the whitetails were between 100 and 200 yards.

Everybody says that an elk has tougher hide and thicker bones than deer. Okay. IF I were going to use a 150-grain on elk, I'd find a design with a thicker jacket. Since I happen to know that most 180s already come with heavier construction, and since they do give better penetration, I'd probably go that route. After all, I ain't gonna shoot 100 rounds of the stuff off a benchrest in a couple of hours.

Nothing wrong with the 200, but every ten percent hurts.

:), Art

February 2, 2003, 10:56 AM
labgrade brings up a good point, the Gamekings WORK!!! On average they tend to be quite a bit more accurate to boot. A heavy for caliber Gameking is really hard to beat. I shoot them exclusively on game these days.

February 2, 2003, 04:19 PM
labgrade, if you promise to come over and carefully de-copper the rifle bore after every range trip, maybe I'll give those Barnes a try. :D I'll give credit to Barnes for offering a good range of bullet weight in the popular calibers, just wish they offered all their bullets in the XLC config.

Kinda funny how I've been seeing frequent mention of GameKings on various boards lately. Wonder if Sierra changed their designs, or simply that the customer base finally clued in.

I don't mind (much) the extra recoil of a 200, as long as I'm getting something in return. I intend to work up a lightweight target load (possibly a 125gr Ballistic Tip at a sedate speed) and a deer load (probably a 150-165gr at warm speed) as well as a tankbuster round, thus 9 out of 10 rounds fired will be a creampuff load. That's my motivation for the ought-six; universal component availability, broad spectrum of possible loads from turkey up to moose power. None of this "one rifle, one load" nonsense for me.

February 3, 2003, 09:55 AM
I get some sort of fouling off any jacketed bullet shot. I don't see Barnes fouling any more than another brand, Thing that keeps me from shooting lots of 'em is their price. Cheaper bullets out there for "regular hunting" & "just shooting" & frankly, more accurate.

Been using GameKing 180s for elk for at least 15 years - plenty good bullets. Lots use the 165s in '06 with great results.

Art's correct that using a bigger bullet hurts more on your end.

February 4, 2003, 12:05 AM

Just use a little Sweet's 7.62 after shooting Barnes bullets.

Like Labgrade said, you're not going to shoot a tonm of the.

BTW: My motivation for going to the Barnes was to have one bullet weight, and never have to readjust the scope.

I don't use the Gameking, but I do use the 150 Speer BT for deer and antelope. they work well on these animals. I switch over to the 150 Barnes for Elk, and if I'm lucky, moose.
I never have to change scope setting.

If I plan it right, I'm in an area where deer and elk are open at the same time. I just fill the magazine with 5 rounds of the Barnes reloads, and I'm good to go for the whole season.

February 4, 2003, 12:11 AM
200's hold on to Energy with a vengeance.

I prefer the 200 just because you will be tempted to take longer range shots on Elk.

February 4, 2003, 12:32 AM
That they do, Zorro.

I've still a 100 or so 200 gr GameKing '06 reloads about somewhere. Only thing I ever had a chance to shoot with 'em was a poor elk calf at about 180 yds.

Knew I was hitting it, but got no results I could tell (not all that unusual with elk at times) - kept pounding the poor thing.

Each one of the 4/5 rounds blew through without much expansion per the autopsy. Too much for too little, I guess.

200's a great bullet too, just kills my arm though.

February 4, 2003, 07:26 PM
180 grain vs 200 grain bullets in a 3006... I did a SUBJECTIVE study on this very question long ago. When reading these results remember that I am an average size guy (5'10" @ 180 lbs) and I shoot a 10 lb rifle in 3006. Oh, I am VERY sensitive to recoil and muzzle blast.

I shot bullet weights from 110 to 220 grain in weight (mostly Speer but a few Noslers and Sierras. Those bullets below 125 grain would not group well enough for me to use them for anything other than fouling shots. 125 to 130 grain bullets were good shooters in fair weather with normal groups about .75 inches - not bad but not real good either. The 150 grain bullets were a bit better and recoil was climbing to the "noticable" region.
165 grain bullets gave me the smallest groups at .4 to .5 inch at 100 yards and recoil was tolerable for me. The 180 grain bullets shot almost as well as the 165s at .6 - .7 inches but recoil was at a level that I would reserve for the toughest targets I was likely to hunt - Black bear in the Olympic forest. The 200 grain bullets probably would have shot as well as the 180s if not for the recoil that was uncomfortable for me. It did affect my shooting and I know it. The 220s did NOT shoot well with 3 inch groups partly due to the recoil as well as to the length of the bullet.

With that part complete I did the math and found the loss in trajectory (I use a +/- 1 inch from LOS for my point blank range) was large enough to throw out the 200 and up bullets. The 180 grain bullets would have to be used within 150 yards which put the energy and hunting index back into the range of the 165 grain bullets. I now have just two loads that I shoot from my 3006. A 130 grain Speer HP for pests and varmints and the 165 grain that I use for hunting the medium sized game (up to mule deer in the cascades). I still have the data for the 180 grain load but I don't think I really need it even for the big black bears on the Olympic Penninsula. A 165 grain Nosler partition will drop anything in Washington State that I am likely to put my cross hairs on.


February 6, 2003, 10:58 PM
I always prefered the 180 GR. bullets in 30.06. The 165's also performed well. Seems like 200 GR. bullets would be a little too much unless your hunting in heavy brush. Theres probably not much difference in the 180's and 200's. I bet those deer wouldn't be able to tell much differnce.

February 6, 2003, 11:47 PM

Don't count on anything "heavy brush"-wise. There's no such thing as a "brush-buster."

Far as DPtoo's initial query goes, it all really depends on somewhat of a reading of his "One anomaly popped up when looking at the Nosler manual. Everybody says the classic 30-06 load for elk and other big critters is the 180 grain Partition"

Part of that equation is that he's reading the Nosler manual. What else would stand out? Anybody think Nosler wouldn't tout their own Partition bullet? Perhaps some bias?

Nothing to be denigrating towards DPtoo or his thread, but duh! Nosler's gonna tout their bullets.

Nosler will puff their stuff just as much as will Sierra. (Hornady or Speer) That is one thing we can all take to the bank.

Partitions seem to be a "standard," so is their Ballistic Tip line for accuracy & I've found that if it won't shoot a Ballistic Tip, it ain't a good load (but having very good success with Hornadys)

Can't argue (much).

BTs are some of THE most accurate bullets I've ever shot (my fave in a TC wildcat load) but - they're too expensive.


Far as performance on game?

[IAny[/I] decently constructed bullet desined to expand on stated game, through expected velocities will kill it - if propery placed.

I see no need to go for premium bullets unless one is using somewhat of a a marginal caliber."

& frankly, from my experience, I'm way off on my "data" ;)

February 7, 2003, 01:38 AM
labgrade, I don't see whatever point you are trying to make. I compared Nosler's ballistic tables for their 180gr and 200gr Partition spitzers for the 30-06. According to the current Midway catalog, there is a whopping 20 cent retail price differential for a box of 50, which implies about 10 cents wholesale differential. I kinda doubt Nosler is going to cook their tables in order to emphasize one bullet weight over the other, there doesn't appear to be much financial incentive to do so.

February 7, 2003, 04:35 PM
I was merely saying that Nosler will tout its own bullets as being the best. Nothing else.

The rest was just ramblings ....

147 Grain
June 2, 2005, 09:40 AM
Great Thead!

Speaking of upgrading to the 200-gr. Partitions, the same can be said for using 200-gr. AccuBonds.

June 2, 2005, 10:30 AM
In regards to the Gameking, are we talking JHP or JSP?

I have Gameking JHP 165's set up going 2900 from my Savage and are putting a pattern just under 1" @100yds and am quite happy with the load.

180's are going to be the weight I want to use for elk but havent started working up loads yet.

June 2, 2005, 12:24 PM
WRT Sierra, I believe the following is true:

June 2, 2005, 04:11 PM
The 165gr Gamekings that I have sitting in the safe loaded are JHP.

I believe they also have a Spitzer boat tail with the soft point tip.


Vern Humphrey
June 2, 2005, 04:41 PM
I'm a firm believer in the Nosler Partition Jacket for big game. It's always worked for me.

The new Barnes Triple Shock (TSX) with the relieving grooves is supposed to exhibit far less copper fouling than earlier designs, but I haven't tried it yet.

In .30 caliber -- especially in the .30-06, the 180 grain weight in a premium bullet has always been my choice. With time, I began for no good reason to gravitate toward the 165 frain weight, and found it just as good -- in premium bullets, mind you.

I would personally consider a good .30-06 loaded with either a Nosler Partition Jacket or a Barnes TSX in either 165 or 180 grains to be close to ideal for elk.

June 3, 2005, 12:14 AM

One thing you have to keep firmly in mind when looking at the Nosler manual is that they don't derive their data from real world guns. Nosler fifth edition, .30-06, page 306, barrel: Lilja. Test barrel, SAAMI minimum specs.

Get ahold of either a Speer or Hornady, or preferably both manuals, & compare all three caliber to caliber & bullet weight & shape ( B/C ) from N to S to H. There are some interesting conclusions to be drawn from that comparision.


June 3, 2005, 04:36 AM
I agree, and it is a point well taken that the 200 grain partition is a tiny bit better performer than the 180 overall. It's an even better choice for the magnum 30's where the difference is even greater. But that performance is also related to the design of the partition bullet itself, which sheds bullet mass as it penetrates, to a substantial degree.

The newer bullets, including the Nosler Accubond, alter the equation, as they retain more weight as they penetrate, but the best performing bullet in the market today is the Barnes X bullet, and the best bullet in that series is the Triple Shock. It's a match grade accurate expanding bullet that rivals a solid in penetration. Even a 150 grain Barnes X bullet from a 30-06 will out penetrate any other conventional expanding bullet of any weight, at any velocity, and expand more consistently as well. In the 30-06, a 168 TX3 will provide all the penetration you could ever need.

In the magnums, a 180 will deliver a little more down range energy and velocity retention, but the terminal performance of this bullet in a standard cartridge is so exceptional that it makes the magnums unnecessary. The Barnes x-bullets perform so well that no other bullet even comes close in terms of terminal performance.


147 Grain
June 16, 2005, 08:51 PM

Seems that the front part of a partition has similar bullet construction to the excellent Solid Base design and that is what I like about Nosler's Flagship round:

1. Front Portion: Ability to fragment like a Solid Base with a hammer-effect causing shock - penetrating 7" to 10"

2. Rear Portion: Ability to keep on going like a Failsafe or Barnes X.


No other bullet provides the best of both worlds, with the AccuBond being the ONLY design I know of that has similar results (to the Partition). They sure must have done some tweaking and fine-tuning during the 4 1/2 years of research and development.



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