.257 Roberts vs .25-06 Remington: Which is Better?

The .257 Roberts and the .25-06 Remington are wildcat cartridges developed by individuals and quickly recognized for their potency and power by major ammunition manufacturers. 

These two cartridges perform similarly and have been popular with deer and antelope hunters. Each of these rifle cartridges deserves a closer look and comparison if you look for a rifle in a proven caliber with a reputation for consistent, clean kills.

The .257 Roberts 

First introduced in the 1920s by Ned Roberts, this wildcat cartridge based on a .257 caliber bullet in a converted 7×57 Mauser round was not an instant hit. 

Remington saw the potential in the .257 caliber and brought the cartridge to the public in 1934 with an underpowered version sporting a 117 gr round nose bullet. This bullet choice performed poorly ballistically and didn’t garner much respect.

Winchester revived some interest in the .257 Roberts cartridge by introducing the caliber into its Model 70 XTR rifles in the 1980s. 

This long-action rifle from Winchester gave the popularity of this cartridge a bit of a boost, but, overall, interest in this load has remained low among hunters.

Ballistic Characteristics of the .257 Roberts

Several ammunition companies have upgraded their loads for the .257 Roberts enhancing its performance over the traditional loads from years ago. 

Typically, small calibers such as .257 are a compromise between bullet speed and delivered energy at the target.  It is safe to say that the smaller calibers much be driven faster to be effective.

The introduction of new powders and new ballistic-tipped bullets has given the .257 Roberts new life among deer and antelope hunters. 

These new technologies now allow a 117-gr bullet with a plastic ballistic tip to be driven above 2900fps at the muzzle. 

Some of the newest loads suitable for North American deer and antelope deliver impressive numbers.

Winchester Super-X 117 gr PP

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds500 yds
Velocity (fps)278024412071176114881263
Energy (ft-lbs)200915111115806576415
Trajectory (inch)+2.6+1.80.0-4.1-11.7-70.0

Remington Core-Lockt 117 gr +P

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds500 yds
Velocity (fps)265022911961166314041199
Energy (ft-lbs)18241363999718512373
Trajectory (inch)+2.0+1.80.0-4.1-11.7-78.2

Federal Premium Nosler Partition 120 gr +P

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds500 yds
Velocity (fps)278025602360216019701790
Energy (ft-lbs)20601750148012401030855
Trajectory (inch)+1.9N/A0.0-8.2-24.0-48.9

At ranges less than 300 yards, the ballistic characteristics of the .257 Roberts certainly show that it can be a very effective caliber on deer and antelope. 

Many hunters feel that the .257 caliber is too large for smaller game or varmints such as coyotes. 

There is some concern among feral hog hunters that the .257 doesn’t deliver enough penetration to be effective.

The .25-06 Remington

The .25-06 cartridge was born from the same wildcatting background as the .257 Roberts. However, Col. Townsend Whelen and Adolph Neidner collaborated on a new cartridge based on the .30-06 case as the foundation of his new load. 

Keeping with the tradition in the .30-06 family, the new cartridge was dubbed the .25-06. 

Like the .257 Roberts, the .25-06 suffered in its early years by being ahead of the powder technology curve. The .25-06 didn’t find its full potential until the 1940s when Dupont introduced IMR4350 that 25 caliber loads began to reach their full potential. 

Remington brought two loads for the .25-06, featuring an 87-gr bullet that produced 3500fps at the muzzle. The Remington 120 gr load reached 3220 fps.  These are velocities still very respectable.

Ballistic Characteristics of the .25-06 Remington

The .25-06 Remington cartridge remains popular with many mid-range deer and antelope hunters in the United States. 

The load never caught on in Europe, but the cartridge found a footing in Australia and New Zealand after shooter and author Nick Harvey popularized the round.

Recent advances in power and bullet technology have improved the ballistic characteristics of the .25-06 Remington, and all major ammunition manufacturers now offer various loads and bullet choices.  These are some of the more popular factory loads for the .25-06 Remington.

Winchester Super-X 120 gr

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds500 yds
Velocity (fps)299027302484225220321825
Energy (ft-lbs)23821985164413511100887
Trajectory (inch)+1.90.0-7.5-22.0-44.8

Remington Core-Lokt 120 gr PSP

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds500 yds
Velocity (fps)299027102484225220321825
Energy (ft-lbs)23821985168413511100887
Trajectory (inch)+1.60.0-7.2-21.4-44.1

Federal Premium Vital-Shock BTSP 117 gr

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds500 yds
Velocity (fps)299027702570237021902000
Energy (ft-lbs)232020001715146512401045
Trajectory (inch)+1.50.0-6.8-19.9-40.4

It is easy to see from the charts that the. .25-06 comes out of the rifle barrel at approximately 300fps faster than the .257 Roberts when loaded comparably.

Delivered energy is also greater with the .25-06 Remington cartridge. However, the .257 Roberts offers slightly better trajectories between 200 and 400 yards.

The Basic Comparisons

Looking at the specifications and some basic ballistic data for each cartridge side by side gives us a better understanding of the similarities and the differences. This data is based on SAMMI specifications and factory data available publicly.

.257 Roberts.25-06 Remington
Overall Load Length2.78 inches3.25 inches
Rim Diameter0.473 inches0.473 inches
Case Length0.233 inches2.494 inches
Avg. Bullet Drop @ 300 yds10.23 inches6.11 inches
Avg Velocity @ 300 yds1861 fps2349 fps
Avg Retained Energy @ 300 yds921 ft-lbs1282 ft-lbs

Smaller caliber bullets depend on velocity to maintain energy downrange. In pure ballistics comparisons, the 25.06 has a decided advantage over the .257 Roberts. 

However, other factors to consider, such as rifle weight and recoil. In general, the .257 Roberts delivers less felt recoil, and since it is short enough to operate in a short-action rifle, the weight can be kept to a minimum. These may well be considerations that can sway your decisions.

Side by Side Comparisons

Looking at these two cartridges, the differences are subtle but must be considered carefully when choosing the right rifle and caliber. 

Upfront, I don’t believe either caliber is suitable for game larger than mule deer or antelopeNeither caliber has enough delivered energy to ensure a clean and humane kill on larger game animals.  

If recoil for smaller or younger hunters is a concern, the .257 Roberts caliber may be a better choice.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the .257 Roberts delivers less felt recoil than the .25-06.  

Distance is another concern with either of these calibers. However, the .25-06 round delivers slightly better trajectory performance and carries its energy better at a greater distance. 

However, I do not recommend either of these calibers at ranges over 300 yards.

Best Uses of Each Cartridge

Comparing the .257 Robers and the .25-06 Remington show some interesting similarities and some surprising differences. 

Even though the ballistics are close, there is enough difference that these two cartridges work better in mush different situations.

Choosing the proper caliber for various North American game animals has many contributing factors. It is important that you select a caliber for your hunting appropriate for the game you are hunting. 

Hunting with the .257 Roberts

In general, the .257 Roberts works reasonably well for thin-skinned game animals such as deer or antelope. 

Heavy-boned medium-sized game such as sheep, black bear, and caribou can also be successfully taken with the .257 Roberts as long as you keep its limitations in mind. 

Ranges for these types of game should be kept to 200 yards or less.  

On varmint animals like coyotes, the .257 Roberts can be used. At ranges up to 200 yards the .257 Roberts has a relatively flat trajectory. The velocity is fast enough to be appropriate for smaller varmints.

On larger animals and some heavily muscled animals like feral hogs, the .257 Roberts may prove inadequate. This can be especially critical if you are hunting dangerous game animals like a brown or grizzly bear

Hunting with the .25-06 Remington

The .25-06 owes its heritage to the .30-06 Remington cartridge. With a lineage that links back to one of the most popular rifle calibers still available in the US. 

However, because it fires a lighter and smaller bullet, the .25-06 does have limitations not associated with the .30-06.

Most hunters report great success on deer and antelope-sized game using 115 grain bullets in several varieties. The .25-06 generates some impressive velocities in the mid-range distances at which most of these game animals are taken. 

At these speeds, which are greater than the .257 Roberts, the delivered energy is also increased. This increased velocity translates into better kill percentages overall.

All this happens without a noticeable increase in recoil. Lessened recoil is one of the main reasons hunters choose the .257 Roberts and the .25-06 Remington. 

In the end, the higher energy and velocities far outweigh the negligible increase in recoil.

Final Thoughts

From a purely technical perspective, the .25-06 Remington gets the nod as the choice of these two calibers for mid-range game animal hunting in the United States. 

I find the differences in recoil negligible and believe that almost any shooter can manage either of these calibers. 

More delivered energy on target can often be the major factor in an efficient and ethical kill. Skill on the part of the shooter is still required under any circumstances. The .25-06 Remington gets my nod in this matchup.

string(8) "big-game"
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