The Best Pronghorn Cartridge

Each year hundreds of eager hunters head to the wild, wild west to indulge in the ultimate rifleman’s hunt — pronghorn.

Commonly called antelope, pronghorns are open country runners that defend themselves against predators by seeing and fleeing, not hiding or fighting. Lewis & Clark reported the first specimens to science in 1804. They attempted to stalk a buck and his harem during the early rut in September. Before they could crawl anywhere close, the herd had spotted them and run like the wind. Hunters have been having similar luck ever since.

But we have an advantage Lewis & Clark didn’t. The 25-06 Remington, arguably the perfect round for this game.

The 25-06 shoots fast and flat with minimum recoil. The cartridge is essentially a 30-06 case necked down to hold a .257 bullet, so it’s a 25-caliber. Most ammo comes with 85- to 120-grain bullets flying 3,500 to 3,000 fps. That’s fast enough to easily reach an 8-inch diameter target with a dead on hold to 300 yards if zeroed for 250 yards. Sleek, long, sharply pointed, high B.C. bullets should still be packing more than 1,000 foot pounds energy at 400 yards.

Pronghorns are not large animals. A really big buck might hit 130 pounds soaking wet after a big meal with gobs of mud clinging to his hooves. But they are tenacious. Strike the vital chest cavity or spine if you want a clean kill. Precision shot placement is much, much more important than bullet diameter, weight or impact energy. Lots of pronghorns are taken cleanly with 223 Rems. and 22-250 Rems. each year.

With a well-built 25-06 Rem. rifle, accuracy shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve shot a wide variety of bolt actions and single shots in 25-06 over the years, and they all shot MOA or better. MOA at 500 yards means all bullets will land in a 5-inch circle or no more than 2.5-inches from point-of-aim. An antelope’s chest is about 15 inches deep with at least 12 vertical inches being vital lung/heart/spine. MOA accuracy is more than good enough for precise well beyond the distances most of us can shoot accurately and consistently. This YouTube video shows a 25-06 hit in slow motion and gives you some idea of its performance.

A full-power load throwing a 120-grain bullet 3,000 fps will generate 13.9 foot-pounds of free recoil energy in an 8-pound rifle. To put that in perspective, a 30-06 150-grain load at 3,000 fps generates 18.5 foot-pounds free recoil and a 223 Rem. spitting a 55-grain bullet 3,200 fps kicks up 3.2 foot-pounds free recoil energy in the same weight rifle.

If you insist on less recoil and are willing to compensate for a bit more wind deflection, shoot a 100-grain bullet in your 25-06 and it will jolt with just 11.7 foot-pounds. Stepping down to an 85-grain pill at 3,400 fps drops free recoil to 10.8 foot-pounds. That’s just 1.5 foot-pounds more than the 243 Win., a real pussy cat to shoot.

The 25-06 is not a one-trick pony, either. Given those ballistics, it’s perfect for mule deer, whitetails, wild sheep and — with the right bullets — even elk. More significantly for most hunters, this cartridge shoots so well and recoils so little that it is an outstanding coyote round. In fact, many dedicated chuck and prairie dogs shooters turn to the 25-06 Rem. for long-range hits on windy days.
If you’re looking for a versatile, flat-shooting cartridge, check out the 25-06 Rem.

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2 Responses to “The Best Pronghorn Cartridge”

  1. George King

    Shot a bunch of “speed goats” over the years with calibers .30-06, 7mm Rem Mag, .280 Rem, and 6 mm Remington. My favorite was a Ruger #1 chambered in 6mm Remington. I used a full dose of H-4831 behind a 95 grain Nosler and typically had the rifle printing 4 inches high at 100 yards. Had all the confidence in this setup and can honestly say I do not recall more than a miss or two that included some shots at 400 +. Haven’t taken any antelope with the .25-06 but have an unfired Cooper 52 chambered in .25-06 AI that should be up to the task when an opportunity presents itself. Have used the .25-06 with great success on mule deer and caribou however.

  2. Dogtired

    The 25-06 is arguably the best round out there for mass consumption. In at least 90-95% of shots on deer with a 120gr bullet with a muzzle velocity of about 2900fps, deer drop like they were struck by lightning. It has little recoil, an amazingly flat trajectory, and is resistant to wind drift given the high BC bullets. It can be loaded for everything from the smallest varmints to all but the largest of Na game species. I have two bolt actions chambered in this cartridge that have easily accounted for 50 or more deer between them. Shots beyond 150-200 yards aren’t as spectacular, so I try not to go past that. Everyone owes it to themselves to get at least one rifle chambered in this amazing round!