180gr 30-06 on deer experience?

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Woodbridge, Dec 7, 2021.

  1. Woodbridge

    Woodbridge Member

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    I read through the entire thread on shot placement last night which inspired me to post something that I've been wondering about. I agreed with a couple of the posts about, while not wanting to waste meat, the importance of putting a deer down on a small parcel outweighs the loss of meat from the effectiveness of a shoulder shot.

    I have been successfully hunting deer with traditional 150gr cup and core loads in a 30-06 for quite a while. I hunt in the timber and have made some closer quartering shots recently where the lighter bullets have fragmented quite a lot. Although those deer still expired pretty quickly, I fear some of the stories that I've heard about bullet breakup and lack of penetration.

    I am considering the switch to 180gr loads and hoping that some of you can share some actual experience about the effectiveness of 180gr cup and core loads on whitetail from 20 - 100 yards.
     
  2. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    It it ain't broke... Don't try to fix it.

    I've killed deer with 150's, 165's and 180's from a 30-06. They all died and I can tell no difference.


    Deer are small and a 30-06 is really bigger than needed to kill one. IME a lighter bullet that expands violently will put game down faster as long as it has enough penetration to reach the vitals. And most any 150 gr 30 caliber bullet will do that. Yes, it might destroy more edible meat, but you won't lose as much meat as you would if you kill the deer and can't find it.

    Where the heavier bullets come in is twofold. On bigger game you might need more bullet weight to get the penetration you need. While a 150 gr bullet will be more than enough on a small whitetail, it might not reach vital organs on a 700 lb elk or a 1000 lb moose. Especially from bad angles. This is where you want to use a heavier cup and core bullet or even a premium bonded or solid copper bullet.

    The other reason is to get a more aerodynamic bullet for long range. Most 150 gr 30 caliber bullets are short, stubby bullets with poor aerodynamics. While they start fast, they also slow down fast. Many of the modern 180 gr or heavier bullets are more streamlined and retain velocity much better down range. While they start slower, they retain that speed better out past 400 yards.

    On the other hand some rifles may simply shoot the heavier 180 gr bullets much better than 150's. If that were the case I'd use 180's.
     
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  3. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    IMO: Many of the stories of cup and core bullets breaking up and failing to put white tail deer down are just that; "stories". i've killed 10-15 deer from a stand very close to a "can't go there" property line. Shot with muzzleloaders, most have dropped on the spot from high behind the shoulder shots.

    There is a great article in the November edition of Game and Fish magazine written by Richard Mann. Mann says cup and core bullets are best for whitetail deer. Seems that retained bullet weight ain't the final answer.

    Mann and others participated in a whitetail cull hunt. The .308 ammunition furnished was 168 grain Barnes VOR-TX. First day of the hunt well hit deer were running 100 or more yards into the rattlesnake infested brush. A change to the 168 grain Hornady Zombie Max ammunition resulted in deer that dropped instantly.

    Quote from Mann:

    "You can have either deep penetration or massive tissue damage, but not both."
     
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  4. Roverguy

    Roverguy Member

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    30-06 with 180s are my elk load. Given your concerns about fragmentation, a more robust bullet construction, think the likes of the classic Nosler Partition or a mono metal like Barnes, than traditional cup n core bullets will do the needful without adding recoil. At timber hunt distances, they should hold up better than cup and core 150s.
     
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  5. IdaD

    IdaD Member

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    I like shooting 180 grain out of my 30-06 but realistically for deer anything in the 150-180 range would be fine. I think the 180 grain is a really good match for a 30-06 for many of the reasons outlined by jmr40 above. But again on a deer any kind of decent soft point out of a 30-06 will work just fine.
     
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  6. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

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    With "standard" bullets - i.e.. cup-and-core designs essentially unchanged for decades - I like to go heavier. 180 is kind of minimum for me, actually, and I have had surprisingly good results from the 220. I am at the point where I believe the 220 is superior to just about everything in the '06, at least out to 200 yards or so.
     
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  7. Alaskan Ironworker

    Alaskan Ironworker Member

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    Ive only ever killed two black tails, but both were with a 30-06 using 180 grainers. One was at around 100 yards and it ran about 20 yards before collapsing. The other was at about 7 yards, it dropped where it stood. Unfortunately I was only 14 when i shot them, so I dont recall what make of bullet it was.
     
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  8. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    Yup. For my needs, I pretty much just use two loads for the .30-06- 220 gr for elk, and 150ish grain FMJ for "other" non-hunting applications. Somebody in the field for long range deer or antelope would probably want a different combination.
     
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  9. wombat13

    wombat13 Member

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    You hunt with a FMJ bullet?
     
  10. wombat13

    wombat13 Member

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    My FIL, BIL, and I have killed many deer with 150 gr and 165 gr Nosler ballistic tips in .30-06. They've never reported a problem. If you are concerned about 150 and 165 cup and core bullets, then by all means try something different. Any of the following would hold up a bit better than the 150 gr cup and core bullets. Use whichever you prefer and shoots well in your rifle:

    1. 180 gr soft point or ballistic tip. I've killed several with 180 gr bullets in .300WM (Nosler ballistic tips and Federal Power Shok, which is a plain old soft point) all of which worked very well help up to the higher velocity of the .300WM. I'm sure they would work very well in your '06.
    2. 150 gr or 165 gr Nosler Partition. I've killed one deer with a 165 gr partition in .300 WM and it worked quite well. I recently put up a poll asking High Roaders which bullet they would choose for an all-around hunting bullet in .280AI. The Partition wasn't even one of my listed choices and it still ended up with the second most votes. Lot's of High Roaders consider it the gold-standard for performance.
    3. Barnes TTSX. Pick whichever weight your rifle shoots best, just make sure it is the TTSX, not the TSX. TTSX have a larger cavity to accommodate the tip and open faster than the TSX. These bullets lose very little of their weight and penetrate like a jacketed lead bullet that weighs 25-50% more. Also, the consensus is they perform best when driven fast, so most people drop down in weight. I just developed a load with the 150 gr TTSX for my .300WM and it worked very well this year. I'd go with the 130 gr TTSX in .30-06. That said, my BIL shot two does last year with the 180 gr TTSX in .30-06 and got excellent expansion and quick kills on broadside chest shots. That's the other thing about the Barnes bullets is they tend to be very accurate. The most accurate handloads I've ever developed have been with Barnes bullets.
    4. 150 gr or heavier Nosler Accubond. This was the number one choice in the poll I mentioned above. I listed it 4th here just because I have no personal experience with them.

    Personally, I'd try the TTSX if I were you, particularly if you hand load. Whether we like it or not, there is a very good chance that lead ammo will eventually be banned for hunting. My project over the next year or two is to develop hand loads with copper bullets for all of my hunting rifles (or find a factory load that shoots well) and then stock up so I'm ready to ride out the shortages if the bans happen. I'm pretty sure it will happen in the next five years here in NY.
     
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  11. DM~

    DM~ Member

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    I find 180's at 30-06 velocities a bit tougher than 165's and tougher yet than 150's...

    I think 165's are a good compromise, as a lung shot with 180's will most times have a deer run a bit.

    Of course, all this is general info, as different brands of bullets have different construction methods, even in the same weights.

    DM
     
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  12. Seedy Character

    Seedy Character Member

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    I have used 150gr for 50 years
    Bullet of choice is Hornady Ballistic Tips or Nosier Partition. Though, the Sierra Flat Base Soft Point works just well.
    180gr are elk loads. Again, with BT or Partition.
     
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  13. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    Please re-read your quote of my posting.
     
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  14. Woodbridge

    Woodbridge Member

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    Thank you all for the input. I do hand load and tend to lean toward classic soft points like Interlocks or Hotcores. Hadn't thought much about the premium bullets like the TTSX. The comment about lead free in the future is certainly something to consider. It's not just California, we are steel shot only for waterfowl here.

    Honestly was looking at 180gr round nose soft points becauserange is not my issue. I certainly don't want a caliber diameter exit. Perhaps I ought to stick with the old, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" saying.
     
  15. Stevel

    Stevel Member

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    Used 150 Core-lokts for a few years. Generally stayed in the deer which expired quickly.

    Moved to 165 grain tipped. Except for 1 frontal shot and 1 at 300 yards I always got pass through. The 2 non-pass through went down within 25 yards.

    I am ok with either one. Never felt the need to go to 180's.
     
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  16. hawg

    hawg Member

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    I used a lot of Remington 180 grain Core Lokt bullets growing up. If they don't hit bone the exit hole is small. If you go through the shoulder or if it hits a rib the exit wound is substantial but a shoulder shot wont blow up the whole front quarter of a deer like a 150 will.
     
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  17. hq

    hq Member

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    Norma Oryx 165gr has been my favorite for a long time. Either factory or handloaded. I've even had one travel through a large whitetail buck lengthwise, only to be found inside the hind quarters perfectly mushroomed and at virtually 100% weight retention. A bit heavier alternative for larger game such as moose and brown bear is 185gr Lapua Mega, but with "soft" targets like whitetail it's likely to pass right through.

    I haven't experimented much lately, these two do everything I want right now and like @jmr40 said, if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. YMMV, though.
     
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  18. Goosey

    Goosey Member

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    Yup, Barnes is a step backwards on game that size.
     
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  19. wombat13

    wombat13 Member

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    Got it. You only hunt elk with your .30-06.
     
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  20. Laphroaig

    Laphroaig Member

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    I don't know about that. Me, and my hunting buddies have occasionally experienced such failures with several cartridge/bullet combinations: 25-06 100 gr. Rem factory, .260 Rem Sierra 125 gr., .243 87 gr. factory, 270 Sierra 130 gr. Sierra, and .308 125 Sierra come to mind. Generally close shots. If the shot was in the vitals they eventually died, but ran off without a blood trail. Many of them were later found, but some weren't. It's one of those things that doesn't happen every time but certainly can with light for caliber bullets driven at a higher velocity.

    I think at some point bullet weight achieves a critical mass where there is enough material pushing through even if the bullet fragments to get a clean kill. A .30 caliber 150 probably falls into that minimum range. One of my son's uses 150 Rem. bulk bullets (not sure if Corelokt's or just soft points). In one instance he shot a doe at 175 yards facing him straight on. That deer fell at the shot, but required a coup-de-grace to kill it. When we skinned it the first shot never made it into the chest cavity.

    I've been using 165 Hornady's and never have had a problem. You might consider a 165 as a compromise for a 180.
     
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  21. Paul7

    Paul7 Member

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    Have shot one whitetail doe with a 180 Core-lokt, broke both front shoulders and found it 40 yards away. Meat damage wasn't too bad.
     
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  22. Thomasss

    Thomasss Member

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    At 69, I've been shooting 150s and 165s all my life and find a good placed shot will put a deer down quickly.
    I've had deer run 60 yards without a heart and I dropped a nice 8 pointer couple of years ago, in his tracks, by shooting a little high in the chest. No air in lungs, no run. Rem. Core-Lokt, Nosler and Hornady Interlock are excellent bullets out to 350 yards. I prefer 165 grn. when I can find them and I've also used flat bottom and boat tail bullets. If you look for bullets other than what I mentioned, you might want to look for "Controlled Expansion" bullets. My brother has used 180s for long still shots, but I find them slow and unnecessary for deer size animals.
     
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  23. Eagle103

    Eagle103 Member

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    I've never had a bullet issue with a cup and core out of a 30-06. A shot in the vitals with a 150, 165 or 180 grainer should have no problem doing the job. In fact even a gut shot deer from an 06 often won't go far. Don't ask me how I know. :uhoh:
     
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  24. LoonWulf
    • Contributing Member

    LoonWulf Contributing Member

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    I dissagree somewhat. I think you can have both, and shoot "cheap" cup and core bullets to boot...... you just have to add bullet weight and velocity. The amount of each necessary might require a cartridge change depending on the target.

    With a .30-06 running loads of 165gr at 2850-2950 bullet will go clean thru most of the axis deer ive seen, from most angles. A 180 at 2750-2800 will from all but the longest path. Ive had failures with speer 150s at probably 2950-3000 on the same animals, but fine performance from other bullets of the same weight at even higher speeds.
    What IVE come to use as my "standard" philosophy, is if its a cup and core i want to be on the heavier side ot the spectrum and launch between 2800 and 3000.
    This means for ME i shoot 165-180 class bullets in an 06, and is shoot 165s in a .308.
    In 300s i want 180+ preferably 200+..... I really like the 208Amax/eldm from the 300wm if the throats lomg enough to load it out a bit.
     
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  25. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    The vast majority of my deer and hogs are taken using a muzzleloader. i do sometimes use a centerfire rifle, usually a very accurate Remington 700 in .30-06.

    i like the 150 grain Sierra BTSP Game King bullet. Partly because i have a few thousand of those bullets; bought when a regional store chain was driven out of business by Chairman Mao Mart. i like that bullet because it performs very well on deer and hogs, including large hogs. It usually shreds the lungs, heart, spleen and sometimes, the liver. Not that it matters, the bullet base always exits deer shot in the heart-lung area.

    My favorite load is over maximum; velocity averages 3,125 fps with a very low SD. Winchester cases are re-loaded once and discarded.

    Checked the Zero of My .30-06 | The High Road
     
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