.30-06 and Elk: 165 grain vs. 180?


June 1, 2009, 06:31 PM
I'm working up hunting loads for a .30-06.

Lord willin' and the crick don't rise CENSORED DUE TO RELIGIOUS CONTENT, I might even get an elk tag.


It really does seem that the .30-06 and the 165 grain bullet are made for each other. After sighting in and testing, I tried out my test recipe at 200 yards and shot a 1 3/8" group with a walnut-stocked, unmodified production rifle. That's the load I want to use, unless there's a pressing reason not to.:)

Any thoughts about using modern 165 grain bullets (TB Bearclaw, Nosler Partion, various Barnes) on elk, vs. 180s?

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June 1, 2009, 06:37 PM
Either one will take down a Elk without a problem. I would use whatever shot best in my gun. The only thing that would make a difference in the bullet selection in my opinion is the range the shot will be taken at. How far do you think you will be shooting?

June 1, 2009, 06:42 PM
I've been hiking around with a rangefinder, and I think that I need to be prepared for up to a 300-yard shot.

More might be good, but I don't know that I want to shoot farther.

This is a mountainous place. I really don't think I can count on an elk coming within 50 yards of me.

There's the rub. 165 seems to be at that "sweet spot" between trajectory, accuracy and "oomph" with the .30-06 case.

June 1, 2009, 06:46 PM
I think either of those weights will work fine with that range. I would try a few and use the one that shoots the best.

June 1, 2009, 06:48 PM
You and an elk would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the 165gr and 180gr bullets. If your getting the groups mentioned with 165's, then that's the load, if you're getting the velocity that you want.

Here's a Rem ballistic chart for comparison.



June 1, 2009, 06:53 PM
if you're getting the velocity that you want.

I still need to chrono it, I suppose, and see if I'm getting what I'm supposed to get from the load.:)

By the book, I should be pushing it about 50 fps over factory.

June 1, 2009, 06:57 PM
Just curious, what bullet is in the test recipe? 1 3/8" group at 200 yards is pretty good.

June 1, 2009, 07:04 PM
165 grain Hornady BTSP (relatively inexpensive -- I figured I'd try other bullets when I got the basic recipe).

Item 3045 here: https://www.hornady.com/shop/?ps_session=6154861be83dfee71a0d202a308b0666&page=shop%2Fbrowse&category_id=ffd8e51c7827b4eed2fb35a333f4eafb

56.5 grains IMR 4350
Winchester case trimmed to 2.485"
Remington primer
Seated to 2.225" OAL (.005" shorter than spec -- longer OAL gave horrible groups)
Light crimp on cannelure

Rifle is a Weatherby Vanguard Sporter (Howa action, 24" barrel, #2 contour, walnut stock).

Ben Shepherd
June 1, 2009, 07:14 PM
Good load generally. I run 57.0 grains under a 165 pill in my rem 700 '06 and get groups similar to yours. But for hunting elk I'd see how the interbond (item #30459)works in your gun. It's a good deal tougher than the one you're currently shooting.

June 1, 2009, 09:08 PM
Simply stated, it doesn't make any difference.

June 1, 2009, 10:05 PM
It's a good deal tougher than the one you're currently shooting.

Oh, yeah. That's why I was asking. I just used the BTSPs to cook up the load.

In my rifle, 57 grains shoots larger groups. Might not be enough to matter. Maybe I should try a few more with 57.

Hornady calls 57 the max load. Hodgdon/IMR calls it 58. Not sure who to believe.

Guess I need to get a chronograph and see if it matters.:)

Have you chrono'ed it from your rifle?

Ben Shepherd
June 2, 2009, 08:06 AM
My rifle may behave differently than yours. I got lucky as 57 is max, and in my rifle, it happened to be the most accurate. Velocity comes in around 2875 with low ES and SD numbers.

June 2, 2009, 10:05 PM
I use 165 Hornady Interlocks in the 06 and 180 Sierra Game Kings in 300 WTHBY, Win, WSM.
If I didn't have the mag cartriges I might load the 06 heavier but the 165's work just fine.

June 2, 2009, 11:33 PM
I'd take a look at the interbonds, if you're on a budget. I use Barnes TSX myself for elk, but they are fairly pricey. Not that killing elk takes all that many bullets, but working up a load can be costly.

Considering that the .30 cal bullet I shoot is a 168grn .308 (when I'm not using a .375 HH), and it had fairly devastating effects under 300 yards at least, I personally wouldn't worry about the effectiveness of a 30'06 with a similar bullet.

That's my experience, however, and others on this board have certainly hunted quite a bit more than I with a .30 bullet for elk.

June 3, 2009, 12:56 AM
I have killed elk with both 150 and 180g remy corloks and coldnt tell any "real" dif. 180 partitions or TB's are my first choice but I would use 165's but in a tough bullet. the only bullet I wasn't happy with was the old (1996) nosler blistic tip 180, My bad for using it on elk and it performed very bad with a close range shoulder shot.

June 3, 2009, 03:38 AM
i use 165gr sierra gameking with 60 gr of imr4350. it is a HOT load and i would suggest that it is important to work up any load properly. This is very accurate in my FN mauser actioned sporter. I would say if i was shooting an animal as big as an elk i would use a bonded or locked bullet. Maybe speers spitzers or hornadies interlock. I would work up my load using the bullet i wanted to use on the game. both are cheap enough.


June 3, 2009, 09:02 AM

I don't mind spending money on a good bullet for hunting. I just got the die set for .30-06, and from previous experience, I figured on a good amount of trial and error. Turns out, it wasn't so bad.

But... With the TSX bullets, are there special concerns? I understand that Barnes bullets want some "jump" (which I think I'm doing with the bullets I'm using anyway). How is accuracy with them?

Panthera Pardus
June 3, 2009, 11:37 AM
I prefer 180gr Barnes X or 180gr Nosler partitions in .30_06 when hunting smaller game i would drop down to a 150gr buller in the same make of bullet.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
June 3, 2009, 02:39 PM
From what little I know, I think the 165s should work outstandingly (that a word?); if in doubt, use a bonded or partition bullet, and go hunt!

Ben Shepherd
June 3, 2009, 04:56 PM
AB- Follow the COL and seating depth closely and you'll be fine. Also-

The only other troublesome thing about the barnes slugs is you have to start with a CLEAN barrel. If it's fouled with stadard guilding material, it'll foul even worse and accuracy will not be good.

June 4, 2009, 12:46 AM
I prefer 180gr Barnes X or 180gr Nosler partitions in .30_06 when hunting smaller game i would drop down to a 150gr buller in the same make of bullet.

That's pretty much my rule too. 180gr NPs for meese and brown/grizzly bears, non-premium 150s for lesser critters.

Although I recently ran across a load for the 165 on the Nosler website that impressed the hell out of me.

Cpt. America
June 4, 2009, 01:13 AM
You can't go wrong with the Hornady bullet. If you shoot the 165gr without a problem then I would say to stick with it.

Ben Shepherd
June 5, 2009, 03:33 PM
One other thing of note(sorry I don't have links):

I have seen a few studies on the 30-06 stating that, regardless of platform or individual slug choice, the cartridge seems to like the 165 grain slugs accuracy wise. Yes there were many loads that were accurate, but across the board the 165s generally proved to consistently be among the most accurate loads tested.

I've found this to hold true in several '06s in the family. So I usually stay with that weight and change slug construction accordingly. This leads to very little scope adjusting when switching loads.

June 5, 2009, 03:37 PM
Yeah, I know an older guy who has been handloading for 50 years for hunting around the world, competition, and just for the hell of it. He has a whole building on his property, that's just his loading house. In it, he has brass, bullets and dies for every imaginable wacky caliber you've ever heard of, and some that most of us never have. So I've always figured he had some basis for his opinions.

When I asked what bullet weights he liked in .30-06, he said, "165." I asked about larger game and he interrupted me and said, "165 grain. Load it with them.":)

June 5, 2009, 08:41 PM
Barnes TSX, whether .375 or .308, have been unbelievably accurate for me. Honestly, I've never seen a hunting bullet this accurate, though for the price consider them a match bullet just as much as a hunting bullet. With the .375, I was getting well under MOA with the 270 grain, I've got a picture posted somewhere around here... ah, here it is: http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=5400396&postcount=24

In .308, the 168 grain loaded over 44 grains of Varget, was shooting one ragged hole at 100 yards out of a FN PBR. There were some targets I really couldn't figure out if I was missing paper, or just shooting one oblong hole. It was shockingly accurate. I was loading 5 thousandth longer than suggested COAL, but that was just to my rifle's liking. A hundredth long or short didn't make much difference. Just as long as it wasn't jammed up into the lands, it was holding pretty well inside .5 MOA.

I never experienced problems with clean/dirty bores. I've seen some decent copper fouling in heavy rifles, but with the .375 and the .308 it was nothing to speak of. I do make sure to remove ANY traces of lead before shooting these though. And I shoot quite a bit of cast, so do a pretty good amount of scrubbing.

running iron
June 5, 2009, 09:54 PM
The only reason I like the heavy bullets in my 30-06 is cause they are the most accurate in my rifle. I like to think that the heavy weights might buck the wind better, but most if not all the shots I've taken elk with have been 100 yards or less in thick cover. Load up different weights and see what works best. For me, it's a mind game. I have confidence in my own load.

June 6, 2009, 11:04 AM
The Barnes X bullets are very hard to beet, The 165 grain does the job well with a bit more fps and will take out bith sholders but your rifle may shoot 180 better. Great bullet design. All companies now offer a factory load to as a base to try.

June 11, 2009, 05:06 PM
ive decided to give the 200 grn nosler accubond a try in my 300 loaded up at 2791fps... they also make them in the 180 i know. ballistic coefficient is fantastic and i think federal loads them for the 06?

just got the rifle back from the smithy so hopefull i can get out and shoot it this weekend.

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