Craig Boddington

Yes, that title will upset some folks. Funny thing about the .25-caliber cartridges, bullet diameter .257-inch: Those who love ‘em tend to be passionate about their “quarter-bores.”. Those who don’t love .25s probably don’t hate them, just ignore them.

This big feral hog dropped in its tracks to a single 100-grain Interlock from a Savage 1899 in .250 Savage. The old .250 Savage isn’t fast, but it’s as effective on deer-sized game today as it was a century ago.

The .25-caliber is a uniquely American bullet diameter, rarely seen in Europe, equally uncommon in Africa. I’m told the .25-06 has some following in South Africa, but I’ve rarely seen a .25 in use on safari.

Over here, the quarter-bores have a rich history, going back to the dawn of smokeless powder. The .25-20 was created by necking down the .32-20 case to .25-caliber, first by Marlin, then by Winchester, and chambered in their popular 1892 lever-action. Initially loaded with blackpowder, the .25-20 quickly transitioned to smokeless. Although occasionally used for deer, the little .25-20 was a common small game and varmint cartridge, popular among trappers.

On a Kansas deer stand with a Winchester M94 .25-35, made in 1906. Because of iron sights, Boddington is careful which stands he chooses, but he does a “sit” or two with this rifle most deer seasons.

Winchester’s .25-35 was the first .25 designed for smokeless powder. The .25-35 and .30-30 use the parent same case, and were introduced together in 1895, so were the first sporting cartridges designed for smokeless propellent. Although hampered by round-nose bullets in tubular magazines, the .25-35 shoots flatter than the .30-30 with a less recoil. The .25-35 was a common alternative to .30-30, plenty of gun for deer-sized game. Jack O’Connor’s outfitter in Sonora in the 1930s, Charlie Ren, used nothing but a Savage 1899 in .25-35. O’Connor famously quoted Ren as saying it was “all he needed.” Lord knows how much game that rifle accounted for.

In 1915, Arthur Savage engaged early cartridge genius Charles Newton to develop a high-velocity cartridge for his lever-action. Newton’s project for Savage resulted in the .250-3000 (.250 Savage), the first commercial cartridge to break 3000 feet per second. The Savage lever-action was stronger than the Winchester, and its box magazine could use sharp-pointed bullets. The .250 Savage was popular for decades…and a real thorn in Winchester’s side.

Gunwriter Gary Sitton was another huge .25-06 fan. He used his Dakota M10 .25-06 to take this fine buck on John Wootters’ South Texas ranch, “Los Cuernos.”

In 1920, Savage introduced the M20. Essentially a scaled-down Springfield action, it was not only America’s first commercial bolt-action; it was the world’s first short bolt-action, sized specifically to the .250 Savage case. In our Kansas deer season just past, Ryan Paul brought a cherry M20 and shot does with it, first M20 I’ve ever seen in the field.

The only way the .250 Savage could reach 3000 fps was with its original light-for-caliber 87-grain bullet. 1915 expanding bullets worked when they worked, but most hunters learned that the .250 Savage performed better with 100-grain bullets at about 2800 fps.

Wyoming gunwriter Bob Milek in the field with one of his beloved .25s. Milek used both the .257 Roberts and .25-06 for game up to elk. Boddington doesn’t believe the .25’s have enough bullet weight or frontal area for larger game, but with proper shot placement, they surely work.

Gunwriter Ned Roberts necked the 7×57 case down to .25-caliber, creating the .257 Roberts, adopted by Remington in 1934. Its longer case enabled heavier bullets at higher velocity than possible with the .250 Savage. Until the .243 came along, the .257 Roberts was the standard “crossover” varmint/big game cartridge. Although rarely chambered in new rifles today, it was extremely popular, and remains an important cartridge.

The .25-06 was developed at Frankford Arsenal during WWI as a military experiment. After the war, it remained a common and popular non-standard wildcat. Amazing to me none of the majors picked it up sooner, but it wasn’t adopted as a commercial cartridge until 1969, as the .25-06 Remington. To this day, the .25-06 is the most popular .25-caliber. With heavier bullets, it is fast, flat-shooting, powerful, and awesome on deer-sized game. With lighter bullets, the .25-06 is probably the largest and most powerful cartridge that could sensibly be used for varminting.

Boddington used his Dakota .257 Roberts with 117-grain SST to take this weird Kansas “management” buck. The buck went down so fast and hard it seemed to bounce.

The .257 Weatherby Magnum was one of Roy Weatherby’s original cartridges, introduced in 1944, based on a necked down and shortened .300 H&H case. It is one of the fastest and flattest-shooting of all commercial cartridges and was Roy’s personal favorite. It’s not especially popular; a limitation is that it has remained a Weatherby proprietary, thus limited sources.

In recent years there have been few new .25-caliber cartridges. An exception was the short-lived .25 WSSM. Great little fireplug of a cartridge, about the same performance as the .25-06, yet from a much shorter case, fitting into short actions. Several of the short, fat magnums introduced at the turn of the millennium have fallen by the wayside. Mostly, I put this down to “too many, too fast.” Too many new cartridges for the market (us) to accept. The “super short” magnums were so short that feeding problems occurred in some platforms.

For the record, I’m not a huge .25-caliber fan but I neither hate them nor ignore them. I have a long history with .25s. In the early ‘70s, on a cougar hunt, the houndsman handed me a Colt Lightning slide-action .25-20. Since then, I’ve hunted with all of them, even tried the .25 WSSM when it was new. I had a super-accurate .25-06, used it a lot, have had a couple of .257 Weatherby Magnums. As a lever-action buff, I’ve had a succession of .250 Savage rifles, have a good one now, made in 1920. Also have a 1906 M94 in .25-35. My current favorite .25, however, is a Dakota M76 in .257 Roberts, accurate and sweet-shooting.

This blacktail was taken with a .257 Weatherby Magnum. By far the fastest commercial .25-caliber, the .257 Wby shoots flat and hits hard.

I admit that I’m not passionate about .25s, but friends that I’ve respected have been. Great gunwriter, friend, and mentor Bob Milek was a quarter-bore guy. He loved the .257 Roberts and .25-06 equally. Gary Sitton, one of our greatest gunwriting talents, was also a .25-06 guy. My longtime boss at Petersen’s HUNTING, Ken Elliott, was a .257 Weatherby Magnum guy, thought it was the cat’s pajamas. So did Robert E. “Pete” Petersen, founder of Petersen Publishing. Sadly, all these guys are gone. Scott Rupp, one of the best Editors I currently work for, is still with us. He’s a quarter-bore guy.

Tastes in cartridges are often somewhat reginal. Usually, this is driven by game hunted, and by local hunting conditions. Texas is the great stronghold of the .25-06. Hard to find a Texas deer camp where somebody isn’t toting a .25-06. Medium-sized deer, shots often on the longer side. More than that: A common landform there is long, open cuts between brushlines, the famous Texas senderos. Here’s the thing about hunting a sendero: They’re narrow with few reference points. When a buck steps out he may not stop for long. No time to mess with a rangefinder, quick look at antlers and shoot. A flat-shooting .25 is a near-perfect choice.

In 2023, Ryan Paul brought a Savage M20 to Kansas, first time Boddington has seen an M20 in the field. An aperture-sight rifle, Paul used it to take does, using a scoped rifle for his buck.

In Central California, we hunt small-bodied blacktail deer. The .25-06 is popular here today, but, historically, I think the .250 Savage was a top gun. I say this because, for years, it was easy to find Savage 99s in .250 on almost any used-gun rack. In the .250 Savage’s heyday, we didn’t yet have feral hogs, and in our tight canyons, shots on our blacktails are rarely long. The .250 Savage was an ideal choice.

For me, the .25s are excellent for pronghorns and deer-sized game, questionable for larger game. Others disagree. Bob Milek used his .257 Roberts or .25-06 for elk almost every year. Milek was a Wyoming resident, usually looking for a fat cow or young bull for the freezer, rarely seeking (or taking) mature bulls. In that context, fine. For all-around elk hunting, I draw the line. Can work just fine, with caution, but I don’t think the .25s offer either the bullet weight or frontal area for general use on game larger than deer.

A nice Central Coast blacktail, taken with a .25-06 on a Ruger M77 action. Accurate and flat-shooting, the .25-06 is the most popular .25-caliber cartridge, a great choice for deer-sized game.

If there’s a fly in the .25-caliber ointment, it’s a bullet problem. Like our traditional .270 cartridges, the .25s have always been considered hunting cartridges. Historically, there have been almost no match-grade bullets or loads in .25-caliber. Today, with the rage for range, little development of modern, low-drag .257 projectiles. As with older .270s, part of this is a rifling twist issue. Since the 1920s, standard rifling twist for .25-caliber cartridges has been 1:10, stabilizing bullets from about 70 to 120 grains. Maximum G1 Ballistic Coefficient (BC) for the most aerodynamic 120-grain .257 bullets is about .400. Not bad, but not in the same league as the modern low-drag bullets with BCs well over .600.

We need longer, heavier .257 bullets to get there, but our 1:10 barrels won’t stabilize them, and many of the actions on our .25-caliber rifles won’t house them. There are some options out there. Berger makes a 133-grain .257 bullet, and Hornady has a new 134-grain .257 ELD-Match with G1 BC of .645. Undoubtedly, these choices will grow. However, none of my .25s will stabilize these bullets. I’m not interested in rebarreling. Same story as my pet .270 Winchesters regarding the new, heavier .277 bullets.

Two different approaches to varmint rifles. Left, a Savage .22-250. Right, a .25-06 on a Ruger M77 action, both with adequate accuracy for any varminting. Boddington believes the .25-06 is the most powerful cartridge that makes sense for varminting.

Doesn’t matter to me. I’m not an extreme-range guy. My .25s shoot well enough and flat enough for my purposes. Happy to keep them in their box as awesome, light-recoiling choices for deer-sized game, at shooting distances I’m comfortable with.


Today’s factory rifles are, on average, more accurate than I thought possible when I started shooting. American hunters and rifle shooters have long been obsessed with raw rifle accuracy, probably more today than ever before because of the growing fascination with long-range shooting. How much accuracy is really needed depends entirely on what you intend to do. Bench-rest and thousand-yard competitors need all they can get, and so do varmint hunters. Most big-game hunters probably have more accuracy than is truly necessary—but it’s a wonderful confidence builder to know that your rifle is capable of producing teeny, tiny groups! 

257 Roberts group: There’s no telling exactly what load a given rifle will shoot best…and it may not be the load you prefer to use. So far, Boddington’s Dakota .257 Roberts produces its best groups with Remington 100-grain round-nose Core-Lokt, not the most ideal hunting load for a flat-shooting cartridge. This rifle needs handloading and will get it!
257 Roberts group: There’s no telling exactly what load a given rifle will shoot best…and it may not be the load you prefer to use. So far, Boddington’s Dakota .257 Roberts produces its best groups with Remington 100-grain round-nose Core-Lokt, not the most ideal hunting load for a flat-shooting cartridge. This rifle needs handloading and will get it!

That’s a valid reason to demand extreme accuracy—and it’s amazing how many of today’s basic, inexpensive factory rifles deliver. I think this is because, with modern manufacturing, factory tolerances are tighter than ever, with more consistent barrels. When I was a kid, we figured a factory bolt-action that produced 1.5-inch 100-yard groups was pretty darned good. Rifles shooting one inch and better were cause for bragging. Today it’s amazing how many factory bolt guns retailing for less than $500 will consistently produce one-inch 100-yard groups. 

Continue reading “RIFLE ACCURACY WITH DIFFERENT LOADS By Craig Boddington”

Roberts .257: A Quarter-Bore Worth a Comeback

The enclosed blind was warm, and it was still early; I was unlikely to see anything for a while. Truth is, I was wool-gathering… and when I glanced up there was a very large black boar standing broadside near the feeder. Oops! I raised the rifle, slowly got the barrel outside the window, and took a rest.

The distance was about a hundred yards; without further thought, I centered the crosshairs on the shoulder, a third up from the brisket. The shot felt good, but the pig lurched away, instantly lost behind some cedars. Now I needed to think about this. I’d taken the shot with a .257 Roberts and 117-grain Hornady SST. Hindsight being perfect, steady and at that distance, I could just as well have taken a head or neck shot, but I’d instinctively gone for my comfort zone, the shoulder shot, without considering that this was not a big gun for a large pig.

Well, done was done, and something else might come in. I waited until about 15 minutes after sundown, turned the scope down low, and went to check. The boar was every bit as big as I’d thought; he’d gone about 20 yards and was stone-dead. Impressive!

Wild Boar, Wild Hog, Texas Hunting
This big Texas hog took a 117-grain SST on the shoulder from the .257 Roberts and traveled about 20 yards.

Continue reading “Roberts .257: A Quarter-Bore Worth a Comeback”