What .30-'06 bullet for whitetails, 150 or 180 gr.?


July 27, 2003, 11:05 PM
To those who insist that .30-'06 is too much gun for whitetail deer, I'm not getting into that debate. It's what I've got in my limited gun collection, so that boat has sailed.

Having said that, I must reveal that I'm a neophyte deer hunter and this year will (or may, depending on my opportunities to hunt) be my first season. Being new at this, I'm curious about the comparative benefits of 180 gr. vs. 150 gr. bullets, or some other load.

As I write this I'm reasoning through the options in my own mind, and it seems that the velocity of the .30-'06 cartridge with the energy of the 180 grain bullet would maximize the dropping power of the round. However, is there a benefit to the greater velocity of a smaller, 150 gr. round? Does it make a great practical difference, or am I opening a can of worms on a religious debate?

If you feel compelled to share your favorite cartridge for deer hunting along with educating me as to the comparitive differences of the bullets, feel free. I'm always in the market for free advice.

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July 27, 2003, 11:18 PM
when I stopped using a 30-30 in 1984 I switched to my current 30-06,and from prairie goats to elk it takes'em-I prefer the 180grain on the animals I hunt,does what I need without overdoing it

Art Eatman
July 27, 2003, 11:30 PM
My father and I both have used the 150-grain bullets in our '06s. So, there's some 75 years' worth of "opinion". :) He always used the Hornady; I've messed around with several different brands. They all work.


July 27, 2003, 11:39 PM
Split the difference - go with a 165 grain bullet.

Steve in PA
July 27, 2003, 11:55 PM
Been handloading Hornady 165gr BTSP for years out of a Winchester Model 70 XTR. Taken many a deer with it......still waiting to take a PA black bear with it.

July 28, 2003, 12:09 AM
I use a 150 grain Hornady Interlok at about 3000 fps for deer. I am hunting muleys, but for whitetails I would be even more inclined to go with the 150s. The 150s are desinged for smaller game animals than the bigger bullets. They are designed to expand on smaller animals.
The 180s and the 165s will certainly work, and if you use the rifle for all North American game animals it makes a lot of sense to go with one bullet for everything. If I was using my '06 on elk, and bigger bears along with deer, I would work up a good 180 grain load and use it on everything.
But for a pretty much dedicated deer rifle, I use the 150s.
The last deer I shot with a 150 dropped so fast it was gone before the rifle hit it's peak during recoil. And, I didn't get a whole lot of damaged meat.
In addition, the 150 might shoot a little flatter.

July 28, 2003, 12:44 AM
I think you could flip a coin for whitetails. When I started hunting whitetails, my mentor used 180 PSP Core Lokts because he thought they would be better in heavy cover, so that's what I used. But I don't think it would have made a bit of difference to use 150's, or 165's. I would use the one that my gun shot best.

July 28, 2003, 06:52 AM
right combination of muzzle velocity and ballistic coefficient. if you just can't do 165's, opt for the bc: 180's.

Al Thompson
July 28, 2003, 09:09 AM
Use a good bullet - only non-premium bullet I can recomend is a Core-Lokt by Remington. Once you get zero'ed, get off the bench and start shooting from field positions at ranges your likely to encounter.

The 'zact weight of the bullet is almoost immaterial. :) I'm on my 25th year of hunting with an '06 and love it. Used it on 3 continents and and 5 different countries with no complaints.

Art Eatman
July 28, 2003, 09:49 AM
I gotta agree with Al's "The 'zact weight of the bullet is almoost immaterial." Look at it thisaway: Less felt recoil is as good a reason to stay with a 150-grain as any there is.

If all you ever took were neck shots, a doggoned 110-grain varmint bullet would do just fine.

:), Art

July 28, 2003, 09:51 AM
For what it's worth, I've seen deer taken with both weights. Use whatever is accurate in your gun.

I will say that the exit wound I saw with the 150gr bullet was much larger than the exit from the 180gr load. However, the shot was short (20yds or so) on the 150gr.


July 28, 2003, 12:24 PM
In my .30/06, I use a Nosler 180 for all my hunting. The reasons are:

1. In my rifle, 180s are more accurate than 150s, 165s, and 200s.
2. A 180 is fine for ANYTHING I plan to hunt with that rifle.
3. Though a "soft" 150 might open faster and do more damage on a broadside shot, a good 180 will have enough penetration to get the job done from any angle.

I wouldn't use Remington's old 55 grain sabot load, or milsurp FMJ ammo, but for whitetail deer, just about anything you shoot out of a .30/06 will get the job done if you do your part, so I'd suggest you don't fret about it too much.

July 28, 2003, 12:51 PM
i agree with above answers.
what distances do you plan on having shots at, 100, 200, 200+?
if you hand load or can find factory loads with 165's they are great.
if you can afford it buy a box of each 150, 180, 165 and try then in your
rifle to see what it & you like best. shot placement is more important than
a 30 gr. weight difference, all three are good big game weights.

July 28, 2003, 01:37 PM
I can't vouch for their performance on game, because I haven't used them on game (unfortunately).

But, rather unscientific tests on milk jugs filled with sand and water (as in, mud) at ranges out to 250 yards showed that the generic Winchester 150 grain spitzer base soft point packed quite a wallop and did what it was supposed to.

Also, a side benefit--these bullets proved to be match accurate out of my Garand. I used 45.0 of Varget, and a Federal regular primer, with mil surp Lake City brass.

July 28, 2003, 08:21 PM
I agree with Steve in PA. I've had good luck with Hornady Interlock 165gr BTSP handloads. Hornady does make their custom and light-magnum factory loads in 165gr and I'm pretty sure they use the same bullet I handload with. Tends to over-penetrate (i.e. all-the-way-through) on the smaller critters, but that's likely to be true of mostly any 30-06. Never had a deer travel more than 50 yards after being hit in the vitals by one.

as always, FMMV

Gordy Wesen
July 30, 2003, 01:46 AM
The 180's will drop them like they were hit with a hammer but there is a fair amount of bloodshot meat. 150's are better for deer and leave more to eat.

July 30, 2003, 08:17 PM
180's for heavy brush and 150's for everything else. I have had real good sucess with the 180's . Where I hunt the brush is so thick I think the 180's have a little bit of an advantage.

July 30, 2003, 09:44 PM
I have three 30-06 rifles and I have been using either Remington Core Lokt or Winchester Power Point, 150 gr. cartridges for years. They are relatively inexpensive and always do the trick on Whitetails.
I have other rifles as well, both smaller and larger than the 30-06. They all seem to work, when the shooter does his part well.
It is more about bullet placement, of course.
Enjoy your 30-06 for it is a great round.

Jim Hall

July 31, 2003, 11:32 AM
Federal Premiums loaded with 150gr Ballistic Tips.

July 31, 2003, 07:05 PM
Either bullet weight will work on deer or you can just use a 165 and split the difference.

Smokey Joe
August 13, 2003, 01:19 AM
What you want in your '06 is the most accuracy.

You don't "really" need hairsplitting accuracy for hunting, but it sure helps the confidence factor when the chips are down and conditions far from ideal. Every step away from ideal conditions deteriorates your shooting accuracy, so if your accuracy is marginal to begin with, what is it going to be just at sunrise, on a cloudy windy dark day, when your hands are frozen and the deer suddenly appears from the wrong direction. Don't really need accuracy, eh?

I have to assume you handloadÑIf you don't you're missing out on a lot of challenge, fun, learning, knowing your gun & load better, and shooting. But it don't matter what size bullet you shoot if all you do with it is nick ears, spray dirt, and generally fail to connect, or worse, wound animals which is inhumane and unsportsmanlike.

Have been shooting Sierra 165 gr. Gamekings for many years, and have yet to have a deer that was properly hit with one, fail to go down about like a poleaxed steer.

But that bullet was chosen first for its accuracy in my particular rifle. My sporterized '03-A3 holds 'em to 1 1/2 inch groups at 100 yd, all day long, any day you want. On MY good days, I can get it down to 1 in. groups.

If my rifle were partial to 180's instead, that'd be what I'd use instead of the 165's. Ditto for the 150's.

Whatever bullet you use, find an accurate one, which is built to expand properly on deer-sized animals. Although factory ammo has come a long way in quality, accuracy, and bullets, handloading still gives you a much wider range of choices in bullets, than are available in factory ammo. Not to mention custom-tailoring the load to fit the preferences of your particular gun.

August 14, 2003, 09:39 AM
I use 165 gr. bullets in my '06. I may switch to 150 gr. later in life but for now it's 165.


August 17, 2003, 11:16 AM
...I've settled on the 165 (Nosler Ballistic Tip), mostly because they shoot well in my rifle. They all killed deer just as dead.

August 17, 2003, 06:54 PM
another vote for the 165gr Sierra gameking. I've used it with good results in .308 and 30'06. Liked it so much I tried it in 300WM but that was a mistake- not intended for those velocities.

Art Eatman
August 17, 2003, 08:27 PM
Kingcreek, until you get up to the 180-grain, Sierra's .30 boat-tailed bullets aren't meant for velocities much above 2,800 or so. The flat-based 150- and 165-grain bullets have somewhat thicker jackets.


Mike Irwin
August 18, 2003, 01:08 PM
I always used 165-gr. bullets from Hornady. Excellent accuracy, and excellent performance.

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