Light Small Game Loads For 30-06


February 19, 2010, 05:32 PM
I like to take only my 30-06 when I visit my buddy. Rather than haul my 22LR for smaller game, I was wondering if anyone has come up with some unique loads that are somewhat lighter for taking small game like rabbits, squirrels, grouse, etc.

Seems like I read an article some time back about using 110 grain bullet with triple 777 double F black powder substitute. However, I don't want to dirty up the gun that much and would prefer to stick with smokeless. I have done several google searches, but just come up with lighter loads for reduced recoil, typically using 150 grain bullets. What I am trying to come up with is a .22 LR substitute for my 30-06 by reducing velocity on a 110 grain bullet.

I've got all the tools here so any ideas would be appreciated?

If you enjoyed reading about "Light Small Game Loads For 30-06" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
February 19, 2010, 05:38 PM
You have to use cast lead bullets to do what you want to do.

Any reduced load jacketed bullet going slow enough for small game hunting would likely stick in the barrel.

See "The Load" posted here.

The other thing is, you will have to sight in your rifle with any reduced load in order to hit anything with it.
It will not shoot to the same POI as the full power loads you are sighted in with.

It would be a lot less trouble to just take the .22RF with you!


February 19, 2010, 05:47 PM
Ever consider going with a commonly available 165 grain cast bullet? When I was a kid I'd load 150 grain cast bullets I made, and back them with very small charges of Red Dot held in place with a little Dacron fluff. Hunted all kinds of small game, varmints, Starlings, you name it with this combo, and it was very accurate, and effective w/o destroying edible game.

Also used Unique, but in larger charges for 06 and 30/30 with the same bullet, but never did use it for these very light "gallery" type loadings. If you were to go with this 165 grain cast and Unique, 6 grains should be just shy of 1000 fps. As I can best recall, I used 4 grains of Red Dot, and the velocity would have been in the 850-900 fps range.

February 19, 2010, 05:49 PM
RCModel, Interesting article and I've got the casting setup. But I didn't think about having to re-zero the on second thought sounds like the idea of flexibility might be a bit more trouble than it is worth. I figured someone out there had already thought this through. It's probably simpler just to pack my Ruger Mark III 22LR pistol for any small game (difficult but fun). :banghead:

February 19, 2010, 05:50 PM
Galil, I might try this. I've already got lots of Unique sitting around. I'll bet Lee has some inexpensive molds for just what you are suggesting. Thanks.

February 19, 2010, 05:54 PM
No problem Scalper, and keep an eye on your PM notification.

***Added*** Yes, Lee does have plenty of inexpensive 30 cal molds, and the 150 grain bullet I refer to is one of them.

February 19, 2010, 08:50 PM
Paco on has developed reduced velocity loads for the .30-06 with Red Dot, Green Dot, Unique, Bulls Eye, and 4759:

You need to read the whole thing to get the finer points. Very interesting article. Light bullets (like the jacketed 110's) ARE NOT what you should be using.

You won't know how they will shoot thru your scope until you try it. Best case - you get lucky. Worse case - you'll need to learn how to dope your shots. Either way, it's a doable task with tangible benefits.

I would suggest you develop at least THREE levels of loads. One in the 1,200-1,500 fps range for small game and quiet near-range practice/plinking. One in the 2,000 fps range for varmints and mid-range shooting out to 150 yds. And a “full up” load for hunting and long range plinking/practice.

A fourth level would be what the Finn’s call a “cat sneeze” load. At sub 900 fps it‘s nearly silent, for very close range.

February 20, 2010, 01:22 AM
You might consider this gadget -

It was developed up in Canada for shooting grouse with a hunting rifle. (Canada takes a dim view of the "kit gun" concept, thus the need...)

I have two on the way, in .243 and .30-06.

To summarize the info in the link, it is a "cartridge adapter" with a twist. Instead of shooting same caliber pistol ammo in a rifle sleeve, it uses .22 rimfire blanks (for powder-actuated anchor guns) and swaged lead shot.

I have seen posted results that show excellent accuracy (small groups), though with less velocity than a .22LR to reduce leading the bore.

I'm hoping that a ballistic reticle will provide some useful "hold-over" points for close range use of this adapter. Perhaps 50-100ft.

February 20, 2010, 03:49 AM
I loaded up 90 rounds of 30-06 using a Sierra 110gr HP bullet. I loaded several different powders and charge weights but unfortunately I haven't been able to run then over a Chrono or test them for accuracy yet. Hopefully I'll be able to get to it within the next few weeks as soon as the weather breaks...

February 20, 2010, 05:59 AM
Many years ago we used to use cast bullets and Unique in the aught 6 for squirrels. But you really do want to shoot them in the head. Otherwise...............slush! lol

Marlin 45 carbine
February 20, 2010, 08:55 AM
something along the line of the 'game getter' is the adapter that fit and fires a .32acp round in the '06, been considering one myself. would be handy on a hunt where squacks and rabbits were plentiful.
Sportman's Guide has them listed.

February 20, 2010, 10:28 AM
CAUTION: The following post includes loading data beyond currently published maximums for this cartridge. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Neither the writer, The High Road, nor the staff of THR assume any liability for any damage or injury resulting from use of this information. For a 30-06, Alliant 2400 @ 24 gr. with a Hornady 110 gr spire point will shoot very close to point of aim of a 150gr standard loading. But it sure is not a rabbit load. Good load for youth starting deer hunting.

February 21, 2010, 09:12 PM
dmazur - I just contacted Brian Hammond about his Hammond Game Getter. Along with many of the other ideas presented here, this also sounds like an easy solution without having to cast or reload. I will try some of the reloads presented, but I am also going to get one of these little gadgets for the 30-06. I am hoping between the lube and the lower velocity, that barrel leading is not an issue.

This is a pretty ingenious gadget.

February 22, 2010, 04:30 AM
About the "Game Getter", I don't know how much the GG is but you can buy something similar and for probably less money from Sportsman's Guide. For $15 each you can get a .32 ACP Rifle Chamber Insert ( for your 30-06, .308 Win or .303 British. You shoot comparatively inexpensive .32 ACP ammo from your rifle with the insert. They work and I was surprised how quiet they are.

February 22, 2010, 08:19 AM
You can use a Speer 100 grain "Plinker" bullet with 16 grains of SR-4759 powder. Speer lists this at 1548 fps. According to Speer this can be bumped up to 20.0 grains of SR-4759 for 1960 fps. I've used this at the 16.0 grain loading and it works well - relatively quiet and no recoil.

*Don't take my word for it, please verify this in a reloading manual before you try it.

February 22, 2010, 08:53 AM
Here's a link to some very interesting and useful light load information from the Hodgdon powder people using IMR Trail Boss. Originally they didn't recommend it for jacketed bullets, but now they are saying it is safe to do and works with either jacketed or cast lead bullets of any weight appropriate for the caliber.

Trail Boss is also very inexpensive as powders go. I've been using it with great success with both cast and jacketed bullets of ALL weights in both my 91/30 Mosin and a 98K 8mm Mauser. Also, see page 50 of the 2010 Hodgdon loading magazine/manual.

Trail boss is a unique powder that is so bulky that you simply cannot put enough of it in any cartridge (handgun or rifle) to cause it to exceed the SAAMI listed max pressure.

It's the only powder I've ever heard of that you can develop your own load data for in any cartridge and caliber for pretty much any bullet appropriate for that caliber.

Basically, just fill the case to roughly the spot where the base of a seated bullet would rest. Weigh that amount of powder. That becomes your max load. Multiply that weight by .7 (70 percent) and that becomes your recommended starting load. According to Hodgdon, you'll find your best accuracy for a given bullet with a charge weight somewhere between the 70 and 100 percent values. Takes some experimentation, but I've done it and it works. Also, since Trail Boss is a very bulky powder, even the min load will fill the case to a point that it will be over half full. Position sensitivity becomes a non-factor here.

Velocities usually come out somewhere between 1400 and 1700 fps in rifle cartridges and it's safe to use this formula with both cast lead and jacketed bullets of any appropriate weight for the caliber you're working with. Accuracy is usually quite good once you find the best load for a given bullet. I've only tested to 50 yards with iron sights and to 100 yards with my scoped rifle since at my age I can't see much beyond 50 yards with irons and our local indoor range is maxed out at 100 yards. I don't have an outdoor range close enough to make that kind of testing practical until the weather gets better.

In Hodgdon's 2010 manual, they even talk about doing this for the big magnum cartridges like the .375 H & H and the .458 Win Mag.

Recoil becomes very light and the muzzle report is reduced to not much worse than that of a .22 LR handgun.

February 22, 2010, 04:15 PM
Thanks for bringing up this topic.

Many years ago I made up some gallery loads, as I called them, in 30-06 by thumb pressing a .310 roundball (the same as I use in my 32 cal. ML) over a tiny amount of pistol powder. I don't recall the specifics like powder type and amount, whether I used a tuft of something to keep the charge in place, etc. I do remember that they were very accurate and quiet out to 40 yards in a WW I era unmodified '03 Springfield using the iron sights. I stopped using them as I got more involved with handguns and muzzleloading and disposed of the brass so it wouldn't get mixed up with the cases I use in the Garand.

Well, I start retirement this summer, still have that '03 Springfield and plenty of brass and roundball. Time to do some research and mark off a hundred 30-06 cases to see if I can recreate the load, just for fun. It might be a hoot to try the same kind of powder puff load for the 45-70 Rolling Block. :D


February 22, 2010, 05:31 PM
It's the only powder I've ever heard of that you can develop your own load data for in any cartridge …. just fill the case to roughly the spot where the base of a seated bullet would rest.

I can think of another powder that has that same property. Black Powder. Probably, most of the modern substitutes, as well. I say “most” only because I haven’t tried them all.

Trail Boss should make for an excellent small game load. Bulkiest powder available to us handloaders. Fills the case better than any other smokeless powder.

I wonder if TB shares another similarity with BP - best accuracy being achieved when the load density is EXACTLY 100%. Meaning powder level right to the base of the bullet. Less, not so good. More (compressed charge), not so good, either.

I do know it’s advised not to compress TB. Perhaps that’s why. Accuracy goes to pot.

February 22, 2010, 10:32 PM
My RCBS #12 list loads for a 100 gr. bullet. That might work on a small game.

Ed Harris
February 23, 2010, 09:28 AM
Reduced range guard cartridges were developed between the wars for use in the M1903 Springfield at urban installations where full power ammunition posed a risk of collateral damage if fired other than on a range.

The M1906 Guard cartridge used a reduced charge of Bullseye powder with the standard 150-gr. FMJ service bullet. It was identified by 6 dents or flutes on the shoulder of the cartridge case. According to ordnance pamphlets, the M1906 Guard cartridge gave accuracy equal to normal Ball ammunition at ranges up to 200 yards and shot approximately to point of aim at 100 yards using the standing bar of the folded down battle sight on the M1903 Springfield rifle. At a range of 200 yards the Guard cartridge required an elevation of 650 yards on the elevation slide.

My initial experiments sought a subsonic load producing minimum noise, but 100-yard groups with pulled cal. .30 M2 Ball bullets loaded subsonic weren’t not as good as when they were driven a bit faster. I used once-fired LC military cases which were full length resized; primer pockets swaged, trimmed to length and primed with standard Winchester Large Rifle primers.

I settled on a charge of 8 grains of Alliant Bullseye as the best compromise. Any jacketed bullet from 110 to 150 grains can be used. Do not use less than 6 grains of Bullsye with jacketed bullets in the .30-'06 as bullets may not exit the barrel. Use standard large rifle primers. No fillers are needed.

Pulled Ball M2 150-grain jacketed bullets were crimped using the Lee Factory Crimp die. Velocity from my 22" Mauser sporter with European style, tapered throat is 1080 f.p.s. and from a Sako A2 silhouette rifle with 24” Douglas Premium barrel, tight-necked target chamber and SAAMI throat 1160 f.p.s. Report and recoil are very mild, like shooting a .32-20. The average of five consecutive 5-shot groups fired at 50 yards from the Mauser sporter with 4X scope was 1.2 inches. The point of impact at 50 yards was 3.5" below that of normal Ball M2. This enabled using the heavy duplex reticule as a short-range post, using my normal zero for 180-gr. hunting ammunition. The Sako with 10X scope shot very consistent inch groups at 50 yards.

The Mauser sporter struck much, much lower at 100 yards, and would require re-zeroing, but accuracy was fair, averaging 2.6” for ten consecutive 5-shot groups at 100 yards, which compares to firing full-power Ball M2 ammunition. The Sako with 10X scope averaged 2” for ten consecutive 5-shot groups, also typical of M2 Ball ammunition in that rifle.

Cast bullet loads can be assembled which approximate the M1919 Gallery Practice cartridge using a 150-grain round or flatnosed bullet such as as the RCBS 30-150CM and 5 to 7 grains of Bullseye, 231, Red Dot, 7625, PB or Unique. These do not cycle the action in semi-automatic rifles, but can be fed from clips in the Garand if the action is worked manually.

Whenever using reduced charges of dense, fast-burning pistol powder it is absolutely necessary to visually inspect 100% every case for correct powder fill using a pen light to positively prevent missing or double charges or spilled powder.

Some years ago I wrote an article in the Handloader's Digest, 10th Edition in which I reported results using a charge of 13 grains of Red Dot in a variety of .30-'06 class military rifles. “The Load” with Red Dot gives about 1600 f.p.s. approximating the energy of the .32-40 Winchester and is more accurate at longer ranges up to 200 yards, but is louder than the M1906 Guard and M1919 Gallery Loads.

February 23, 2010, 09:46 AM
I can think of another powder that has that same property. Black Powder. Probably, most of the modern substitutes, as well. I say “most” only because I haven’t tried them all.

Trail Boss should make for an excellent small game load. Bulkiest powder available to us handloaders. Fills the case better than any other smokeless powder.

I wonder if TB shares another similarity with BP - best accuracy being achieved when the load density is EXACTLY 100%. Meaning powder level right to the base of the bullet. Less, not so good. More (compressed charge), not so good, either.

I do know it’s advised not to compress TB. Perhaps that’s why. Accuracy goes to pot.
Not seeing the accuracy point being right at 100 percent case fill with TB, at least in the 8mm (8 X 57) Mauser.

The 100 percent point is around 18 grains of TB and the best accuracy with 197/198 grain FMJ's is right at 10.5 grains in my rifle (98K with a 25" barrel) - this will undoubtedly vary from rifle to rifle. With the bulkiness of IMR Trail Boss, the use of it will certainly make developing light loads for the big rifle cartridges much safer and it will be impossible to overcharge the case. This is not so with the other useful powders like Red Dot and 2400 to name a couple.

When using powders other than Trail Boss, like Ed Harris says in the previous post, it is imperative that you check each and every load to make sure that you haven't accidentally put in too much or to little powder. KABOOM's are hazardous to everything, including you and your prized appendages.

(Hey Ed, 73 from W0EB)

February 24, 2010, 01:48 AM
About Trail Boss and compressed loads, DO NOT COMPRESS TRAIL BOSS! The donuts shape of Trail Boss controls the burn rate and if you break up Trail Boss you can cause pressure spikes and you won't like the results.

BUT, like said above, when used correctly Trail Boss is a lot like Black Powder. I'm sure that's because it was developed to mimic BP for the Cowboy Action crowd and it does what it was intended to do quite well. It even does low pressure/velocity rifle rounds well to like said above. It just works...

Dirty Bob
February 25, 2010, 11:51 PM
I'm glad to see this thread! I'm about to try using buckshot and pistol powder to make some very light (and, I hope, quiet) loads for my long-barreled .30-06. I plan to make up and test the loads at the range, and hope to find something quiet and accurate that consistently makes it out of the barrel. First, I need some primers...

All my best,
Dirty Bob

February 26, 2010, 03:44 PM

Help me to understand your numbers. First let’s do some basic math.

A 8x57 case holds, on average, 60 grains of water. That’s measured right up to the mouth, no bullet seated. According to Lee Precision the density ratio of Trail Boss is 0.2172 grains/cc. There are 15.432 grains to one cubic centimeter (and one cubic centimeter of water weighs one gram). So…. An EMPTY 8x57 case should hold [60 / (0.2172 x 15.432) =] 17.9 grains of Trail Boss. (Very near your 18 grain number).

Seat a 198 grain bullet into a 8x57 case and there remains approximately 52.8 grains of empty space under the bullet. So, a 8x57 case with a bullet seated, filled right up to the base of the bullet, should hold at most [52.8 (0.2172 x 15.432) =] 15.8 grains of Trail Boss. Any more and you will compress the powder.

So my question for you, when you state the “100% point” for a 8x57 case as 18 grains of TB were you measuring to the base of the seated bullet or to the mouth? I suspect it was to the mouth. It’s important for me to know since Load Density is calculated based on how much powder a case would hold with a bullet seated, divided by the powder charge.

For example. You’re getting best accuracy with 10.5 gr of TB. That would be equal to a Load Density of [10.5/15.8=] 66.5%. Based on my calculated number for what the case should hold with a bullet seated. 18 grains of Trail Boss under a seated bullet would be a HIGHLY COMPRESSED charge. Based on my calculations, 15.8 grains of Trail Boss should equate to a 100% Load Density.

Just want to be clear on your numbers, since they are based on real measurements and mine are just calculated. In my experience an accurate Load Density in one cartridge will often give good accuracy in another similar cartridge. And I’m interested in extrapolating your findings to other similar cartridges.

Gadzooks Mike
February 27, 2010, 10:11 AM
Not so long ago, 1 gun was what people had. They couldn't afford one for this, that, and something else. So what they did was develope different loads for different game, all shot out of the same gun. You might try working up some light loads, cast is easier, but you can use some light weight jacketed bullets as well, to use on small game. As mentioned, there is a danger of sticking on in the barrel, especially with jacketed bullets, so be careful while you're working up the load. I use both in my 30-30 with some Unique or Herco. I prefer Unique and 115gr cast, but now and then use Hornady 110gr RN jacketed. The aim point will change, so you'll have to spend some time at the range (oh boy!!). I carry a few of the light weights when I deer hunt, just in case a bunny comes to visit. Good luck!

Gadzooks Mike
February 28, 2010, 12:55 PM
Here's some info on using the Speer Plinker bullets with Unique powder that you might find interesting.

March 5, 2010, 04:49 PM
For 30 cal, buy a five pound sack of 0 buckshot. Deprime your case, load it with 5 grains of unique (or so, remember that fast powder is very delicate, a little more could lead to disaster, this is why you should do one cartridge at a time so nothing is double charged!!!!!!!!:what:) over a large rifle primer. Seat the 0 buck flush with the top of the neck with your strong thumb (for gorillas) or small (lead, brass, rawhide, wood) hammer, this will leave a tiny little lead "o". Put some LLA or water pump grease, or the like on top...let it dry overnight, or not. No filler is needed. This should get you about 1000 fps. Kills coons deader than need be, usually a one shot proposition! Try that with a 22lr!! I use this same load for other small game. No leading at these speeds. Expect 1" groups at 25-30 yards. I am not sure how it could get much cheaper (1400 rounds per pound of math comes to .06 cents a piece assuming you have the brass already, which will never wear out at these speeds :) ) or easier...leave your fancy Dillon press at home...hopefully where it gathers some dust, cuz you be shootin and not loadin friend! That is satisfying!!

PS If you are using your Lee Measures the .7cc one is the ticket for this

PSS If you cast your own with a Lee $20 .311 roundball mold it would even be cheaper, and the mold would pay for itself in the first 1/2 pound of powder ( 0 buck is $21 or so a box--49 grains a piece, around 150 per pound means a little over 700 in the five pound sack)

Lee .311 rb mold = $20
5 pounds Hornady 0 buckshot = $21 (will need two box's per pound of powder)
1 pound Hercules Unique=$18
1000 primers=$30
$90 or so for 1400 rounds of fun! And it won't grind your rifling off like military ball will.
FYI there are 7000 grains in a pound

March 5, 2010, 05:49 PM
Wow! This has been a great thread. I've been thinking about loads like this for a long time. I've got some "Plinker" bullets for my .30-06 so I'm going to try loading up some of these for fun.

Thanks for all the posts!

All the Best,
D. White

If you enjoyed reading about "Light Small Game Loads For 30-06" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!