30-06 bullets for Elk or something bigger than deer

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Dec 24, 2002
Southwestern Ohio
So now that I got the 165gr load going for deer hunting I'm interested in bullets for the bigger dudes. Elk and maybe even black bear if I can hunt them here.

I know there are several good bullets out there like the trophy bonded bear claw or the Swift A Frame to name a couple. I also notice the difference in price as well.

I plan on working a solid reload for this years Elk season should I get drawn.

Whats your experience on the 180gr bullets for such animals?
The only elk I ever shot with an '06 was taken on the White Mountain Apache Res, near Show Low with a 180 grain Nosler Partition. I shot it broadside at close to a full run. It ran about 50 yards and was trying to get up a hill but was on the ropes. I felt sorry for it and shot it through the spine from a downward angle. Both bullets penetrated completely, seemed to stay together and appeared to have expanded.
There are newer bullets and more expensive bullets, but I don't think they offer much over the good old partition.
The next year, I shot one within 100 yards of the last one only that year I was using a .338 Win Mag (factory Remington CoreLockt, don't remember the weight). As far as I am concerned, it didn't do anything the '06 didn't.
Any experiences with the Nosler?


That's a big yes sir on the Nosler and experience with them. In the smaller calibers .308 and below they almost always shed their noses I've recovered a hand full of 180gr noslers and seldom do they retain more than 60% of their weight and on at least three different occasions I've seen them completely blow aprt both front and rear core seperation. And that is at 06 velocities. I've got the remains of a NoslerPT I plucked out of a hog carcass.

The only thing reamaining was the a peice of the rear jacket and attached to the partition the lead from the nose and the tail were gone and it weighed around 50grs. Generally speaking I do not trust the smaller partitions on large game.

I'd go with a trophy bonded 180, A swift A-frame, A failsafe (If your gun will shoot them). Or if you want a really good bullet that pentrates flys straight and has unbelievable B.C.go with a Barnes 180gr TSX.

If you want to shoot loaded ammo go with the Trophy Bonded they are a serious weight retaing no BS tough bullet.



Nosler PT's make an excellent deer bullet.
I'm not sure what type of 165 grain bullet you choose for deer, but i settled on a 165 grain barnes-X for too use for elk also.

My dad and I both used the 180's till we moved to Eastern Oregon and realized that the shooting was potentially a little longer than in the jungle stuff we were hunting in Montana. The 165's were a little flatter shooting and we have full confidence in the Barnes-X bullet doing it's job.

Now as far a ballistics report of these here 165's ummmm.... well we haven't been able to find a legal spike elk inhabiting the same general area as us in the past few years since making the switch. But I'll let you know as soon as we do!
My "standard" big game recipe for my .30/06 is a Nosler Partition spire point 180, once-fired Winchester brass, a Winchester large rifle primer, and 61.0 grains of RL22 powder. (This is max in my Nosler manual, and 1 grain under max in my Speer manual. No sign of pressure problems in my rifle even in hot weather, but YMMV, work up from below, keep an eye out for pressure signs, adjust seating depth to your rifle, etc.)

This clocks at around 2725 or so out of my 22" barreled Model 70, which is substantially faster than standard commercial ammo is when actually chronographed.

I've used this load on deer, impala, kudu (African antelope about the size of elk), gemsbok (slightly smaller than elk, but very tough), zebra, warthog, etc., with very satisfactory results.

The only nitpick is that I haven't been able to get this bullet to shoot an honest MOA - my "on demand" group size is about 1 1/4" - 1 3/8" for five shots. (The rifle wil do about 3/4" with 180 Ballistic Tips, but IMHO that bullet is too fragile for elk.)

I tried 180 Barnes X-Bullets, but it seems my rifle is one which just doesn't like them - regardless of how I played with powder charge and seating depth, I would always get one or two fliers per group which opened it up to 4" or more. :eek:
FailSafes: I bought some 150s and blithely loaded them in my usual pet load. Accuracy was not a group, it was a pattern! So, I start puzzling. First thing I learned was that I had signs of high pressure. Then I was told the bullet's jacket was harder than the usual copper. Voila!

I should have started at a lesser powder charge and worked up.

Since then, well, the usual "Round tuits" apply...

There have been a few reports from south Georgia hunters that the FailSafes didn't expand on small whitetail, but I don't have any direct knowledge of details.

Anybody used the Sierra 180 SPBT GameKing on elk? The Sierra folks seem to think they're good for that purpose, and they sure do give great accuracy and trajectory.

Are there issues with the failsafe? I was interested in these as well.


I have not been impressed by Fail Safes in regard to accuracy.


I have a Kimber 84M that won't even think about shooting Barnes X but that little turkey shoot Barnes TSX into a neat little sub 1/4" group. It is truely something to behold. My .375 also loves the TSX. If interested you may give them a try.
Will do. Midway has the Barnes Triple Shock X for $25 per 50.


Swift A Frame are $36 per 50, Speer Trophy Bonded Bear Claw are $20 per 25, Nosler Partition are $20 per 50 and the Sierra GameKing are $16 per 100.

Price is not a factor unless it takes a bit to work an accurate load.
It sure does when your working an accurate, strong load up. By the time you creep up a few grains per 10 rounds it can get expensive with the top line bullets.
I'm in the same boat!

I generally have used cheap winchester 180 grain bullets in my '06. They have actually worked well. Last year I used Nosler Partitions High Energy. (I ended up shooting a 6x6 at 40 yards and they were not very effective....I think due to the higher velocity at that range) This year, I have reloaded 180 grain Hornady Interbonds for elk. (I am still messing with powder amounts etc). Last night, I bought 100 rounds of Hornady Interlocks in the 165 gr. for $15. I will be using these for deer. My dad uses the 165 bullets for elk. Next, I am going to load 180 grain round nose...since I prefer those while hunting at close range and thick trees.
I would go with any good bonded bullet for elk that your rifle shoots accurately.
I'm happy with 165 for everything in my 06'. I've been using Hornady Interbonds and they shoot sub minute groups and have performed well on the two deer I shot with them. I've also used Nozler Partitions (180) with good success on Elk although I think 165 is plenty of lead and I only have to keep track of one trajectory chart.

Pat S.
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