Why Don’t More People Love Mr. Niedner’s Cartridge?

One of my “Ask Petzal” questions was, why isn’t the .25/06 more popular? It’s a good question, and deserves an answer longer than I gave it in the magazine column.

The .25/06 was very popular for a very long time. It was designed by gunsmith Adolph Otto Niedner in 1912. Niedner was a fine workman who specialized in single-shot rifles, and built guns for such shooting luminaries as Ned Roberts, Townsend Whelen, and Charles Newton. What Niedner did was simply neck down the .30/06 to .25, with no other changes. At that time, the .25/06 was a good, useful, light-kicking cartridge but not a barn burner, because the available powders were too fast burning for its comparatively big case. Niedner’s creation got its first major boost in performance in 1940 with the introduction of IMR 4350, and then when Bruce Hodgdon recovered H4831 from surplus World War II 20mm anti-aircraft ammo and sold it to the handloading public, the .25/06 really came into its own.

The .25/06, or the .25 Niedner, was strictly a handloading proposition until 1969, when Remington began loading it, and it became known as the .25/06 Remington. Remington, very sensibly, made no changes to the cartridge, forswearing the “Improved” versions, which required fire-forming and offered only minor increases in velocity.

It was, even as a wildcat, a very popular round. All self-respecting gun writers had a .25/06 in their cabinets. However, in recent years, its popularity has fallen off, I am to understand. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, it’s not short. This is now some kind of cardinal sin in cartridge design. If a round is .30/06 length, it can’t possibly be any good.

Second, it doesn’t have a catchy name. It’s just the .25/06 or, if you’re really old-fashioned, the .25 Niedner. Nitwits who call the .257 Roberts the .257 Bob, or the .300 Weatherby the .300 Roy, are not happy with something that would have to be called the .25 Adolph. It is not a euphonious appellation.

It’s not tactical: You can’t call it the Whisper, or the Blackout, or anything like that. Snipers don’t use .25/06s. It has not, and never will be, chambered in a Powerful Assault Rifle.

I was introduced to the cartridge in a serious way by George Herron, who was an expert rifleman, and who used a heavy-barrel Ruger Number One in .25/06 as his beanfield rifle. He tweaked the trigger, and gouged out wood from the fore-end until it rattled on its hanger. He shot 90-grain Sierra bullets at close to 3,500 fps, and I don’t believe he ever missed a deer in the 15 or so years I hunted with him.

My own .25/06 is a collection of parts. It began life in the early 1990s as a Savage Model 110 Tactical Rifle, which is more than slightly odd, since the cartridge is not remotely tactical. Since it was a pre- Accu-Trigger gun, the trigger was loathsome, and I had it replaced with a Rifle Basix trigger, which is quite nice. Then the firing-pin spring died, and that gave way to a Wolff Blitz Schnell spring, and then I burned out the barrel, and that went to the scrap heap, and John Blauvelt screwed in a stainless-steel tube from McGowan. Last to go was the ugly black stock, after I sent money to McMillan for a nice camo stock in fiberglass. The only original parts now are the bolt, the receiver, and the barrel collar.

And it shoots. It will put 100-grain Swift Sciroccos (3,160 fps) into .406-inch, and 120-grain Nosler Partitions (2,970 fps) into .471-inch. Both bullets shoot into the same group from 25 yards out to 300. If all my rifles were that accurate, my life would have been a lot easier.

The .25/06, as it presently stands, is a notably light-kicking, flat-shooting cartridge that lends itself to a very high degree of accuracy. It is just about an ideal deer/antelope round, will handle any wild pig it encounters if you use tough bullets, and is without peer as a coyote rifle. From what I’ve seen, the .25/06 kicks only a little more than the .243, 6mm Remington, or .257 Roberts, but it’s considerably more powerful and is far better at long range. Unlike the shortfats, the .25/06 actually feeds from the magazine. It’s one of those cartridges whose ballistics, on paper, don’t really describe its abilities.

A word about A.O. Niedner. He led a colorful life, enlisting as a kid in the old Regular Army cavalry in 1880 and fighting against Geronimo and Victorio. He was a police officer at one time, and was elected mayor of Dowagiac, Michigan, where he had his business. Niedner lived to be a very old man, dying at age 91, in 1954. He left us a hell of a good cartridge.