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By Ron Spomer via Sporting Classics Daily

The world’s most successful, popular and versatile hunting cartridge was officially born 100 years ago today. Happy birthday, old timer . . .

A century is but one exceptional human lifetime, yet 1906 was a long, long time ago. The Wright brothers had gotten off the ground just three years before. Peary had yet to reach the North Pole. Most Americans stored their milk in an ice box and drove to work by horse. Henry Ford’s Model T wouldn’t come along for another two years and the first commercial radio broadcast for another fourteen years. Yet there sat the .30-06, bottling up enough energy to flatten everything from rabbits to rhinos.

Not only is the venerable .30-06 Springfield still kicking, it’s kicking the butts of more modern, efficient and powerful rounds. It’s a perennial leader in ammunition sales and rifle reloading die sales. It’s the first cartridge chambered in virtually every new bolt-action big game rifle released.

Technically, the ought-six wasn’t born in 1906 so much as “christened” after a rapid evolution inspired by the deadly performance of Paul Mauser’s 7x57mm, which took the world stage in 1892 and stole the spotlight when Spanish troops roughed up Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba six years later. It wasn’t the cartridge alone, but the rapid-fire bolt-action that impressed the Americans.

By 1903 the U.S. military had designed not only the Springfield bolt-action rifle, but a new high-energy round, the rimless (for smoother function in a stacked magazine) .30-03, which fired a 220-grain .308 bullet. No sooner was it adopted than authorities recognized the advantages of flatter trajectory and less carry-weight, the search for which led to a spitzer shaped, 150-grain bullet mounted in a .30-03 case shortened just enough to earn a new title: Ball Cartridge, Caliber 30, Model of 1906. At 2,700 fps, it was quite a phenomenon.

The ought-six went on to serve the military with distinction until 1954, but military service does not equate to sport-hunting popularity. It certainly helped that millions of farm boys met the .30-06 at the expense of Uncle Sam, but credit Teddy Roosevelt, Stewart Edward White and other famous big game hunters for tempering the cartridge in the gamefields.

Teddy, the youngest, most energetic and most popular president America had embraced to that time, took the first sporterized Springfield on Safari in East Africa in 1909, shortly after leaving office. With his bad left eye, he misjudged range badly and shot worse, but had enough sense to not blame the rifle or cartridge. He sang its virtues so loudly that his friend, novelist and adventurer Stewart Edward White, ordered a customized Springfield of his own for a 1911 Safari.

Seymour Griffin, later of Griffin and Howe, began selling limited numbers of Springfields on his own sporter stocks in 1910 after reading Roosevelt’s African Game Trails. Nevertheless, it was a lever-action, Winchester’s beefy M1895, that first digested the .30-06 in a mass-produced sport-hunting rifle. Alas, the cartridge was too long and too powerful to fit the smaller, lighter, handier Winchester M94 and Marlin 1894 lever-actions, the favorite rifles of that era. No one knew it at the time, but the Springfield .30-06 was the beginning of the end for the lever-action, though it would take several decades for the average hunter to get wind of this.

The initial trickle of sporterized Springfields soon went into full flood. Remington chambered its first M30 for the .30-06 Springfield in 1921, Winchester its M54 in 1925. This was four years before the first commercial AM radio was mounted in an automobile. During its 28-year production history, Winchester’s pre-64 Model 70 was chambered for 18 standard cartridges from .22 Hornet to .458 Win. Mag., yet nearly 80 percent of production was .30-06.

If the Model 70 was “The Rifleman’s Rifle,” the .30-06 was The Rifleman’s Cartridge. Col. Townsend Whelen praised the .30-06 in his magazine writings and books. A young college professor in West Texas, named O’Connor, took to hunting everything from desert sheep to jackrabbits with a.30-06, though he later came to prefer its trimmer offspring, the  .270 Winchester. Ernest Hemingway employed a Springfield ought-six to shoot not only lion but also buffalo and rhino on a 1936 safari, tumbling at least one of the latter at long range as it steamed away. You can read all about it in the Green Hills of Africa. Not to be outdone, popular columnist, reporter and novelist Robert Ruark in the 1950s literally learned to shoot with a .30-06 under the tutelage of Harry Selby. It was enough gun, and Ruark’s Horn of the Hunter kept its stock soaring.

Ultimately the .30-06 succeeded not because it was exceptional but because it was versatile. Like the average Joe, this was a Blue Collar, Jack-of-All-Trades, work-a-day round that would handle any job assignment, bunnies to bears.

Not too big, not too small. Not too heavy, not too light. Not too much recoil, but just enough power for nearly anything the average hunter was likely to tackle. For the most common species—whitetails, mule deer, pronghorns—it was pure poison with a 150-grain bullet at 2,800 fps, shooting flat enough to easily reach 300, 350 yards—farther than most shooters could match without excessive ballistic calculations. An 180-grain bullet packed 3,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, enough wallop for elk and moose. While a bit excessive for the available powder space, the big 220-grain, round-nose slugs, at a modest 2,300 fps, pushed their mushroomed tips deep into the biggest bears.  Thin-skinned, hollow-point pills of 125- or 130-grains could be flushed from a 24-inch barrel at 3,000 fps, converting the big game rifle into an acceptable varmint rig. Even lighter bullets, 115 to 110 grains, could be loaded light for practice and training rounds, or as small game getters. The .30-06 truly was the one-rifle, do-it-all, multi-purpose tool of the age, and that mattered a great deal during the Depression.

Perhaps most interesting is how nearly perfect the .30-06 has proven, how “just right” the designers and engineers got it. And this was the Federal Government. Of course, wildcatters have converted the .30-06 case into just about every permutation imaginable, from .224 through .375. Many, beginning with the .270 Winchester, have become standardized, yet none have bumped the original as King of the Hill. For the record, the legitimate family includes the .25-06 Rem., .270 Win., .280 Rem., .338-06 and .35 Whelen.

Despite its versatility, or because of it, could the .30-06 be on its last legs? Ours is the age of specialization, the perfect gun for every game. For elk, moose, kudu and eland we have a half-dozen short and long .308 magnums that leave the -06 in the dust. Close on their heels are an equal number of 7mm magnums perfect for long-range deer, sheep, goats and antelope. On the lighter end, we have numerous 6.5mm, .257 and .243 cartridges that shoot flatter and recoil softer than the old Springfield classic. Serious varminters, of course, trick out hot .224s. With such choices, why would anyone settle for the run-of-the-mill .30-06? Probably because new powders and bullets make it more effective than ever.

One of the reasons the -06 won so many hearts and minds early on was bullet performance. At .30-06 velocities, most common, jacketed bullets of the day mushroomed dramatically and penetrated reasonably without coming apart. Pushing them to magnum velocities for increased killing power on elk and larger game sounded good on paper, but translated poorly on the shoulders of moose and bears. Increased velocity also ruined more meat, which never sits well with meat hunters, who are the bulk of big game ammunition buyers. Tough, controlled-expansion, premium bullets have solved the fragmenting problem in magnums while simultaneously improving the reach and punch of the .30-06.

Bullets such as the Barnes X, Winchester Fail Safe (and now XP3) and Swift A-Frame stick together so well that they penetrate more efficiently than traditional slugs. This means a lighter bullet can do what a heavier one used to do. Instead of pushing a jacketed, soft-lead 180-grain 2,700 fps for a 300-yard trajectory of minus 14 inches, an elk hunter can spit a more ballistically efficient 165-grain Triple Shock X bullet 2,900 fps for a 11.4-inch drop at 300 yards.

Improved powders have nudged ought-six velocities steadily upward until today’s standard for 150-grain bullets is 200 fps faster than the original. Handloaders using the latest Hodgdon, IMR, Ramshot, Alliant and Winchester powders routinely get 3,000 fps from 150-grain pills at safe pressures. Hornady and Federal squeeze .300 Win. Mag. velocities from the -06 in their high-energy factory loads.

Certainly, these same advances make magnums that much faster, too, but when the average hunter discovers Dad’s old ought-six is shooting like a .300 Winchester Magnum, he’s pretty tickled and less likely to jilt Old Death Wind for an unproven, hard-kicking newcomer.

Perhaps after a century the .30-06 should bow out gracefully. Virtually everything else from that era has. Only six other cartridges of that age are still produced, most in token quantities. But the -06 can still blow out all its candles in one blast. Hunters the world over still respect it. I doubt it will expire until the last rifle is pried from someone’s cold, dead fingers. So happy birthday, old timer, and many happy returns.

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Sporting Classics Rifles columnist Ron Spomer is producer of the comprehensive mobile app Everything Whitetail which includes extensive details on guns, ammo, bullets, ballistics, recoil, hunting tactics, whitetail behavior and much more. Record and share your experience with the built in Hunt Report feature. Everything Whitetail is available for both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms. 

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  1. The .308 will lay a deer down, but not as surely as a 30-06. I tried to find a modern sporting rifle in 30-06, because it gets the job done, but the closest thing is the FNAR (which didn’t quite fill the bill). So we adopted the AR-10.

    If there was a decent AR clone in 30-06 I’d buy one in a heartbeat!

      • I thought only .45 ACP could do marvelous things like that. I guess I need to get a 30-06, for those times when the Mosin’s 7.62X54R (much older than 30-06 by the way) just won’t do.

        By the way, isn’t this article about a decade late? 1906 is 109 years ago. What’s the deal. Was 30-06 developed in 1906 or 1915?

    • Based upon the deer I’ve shot over the last 20 years, my .30-06 hits harder than my .308. It’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison, since my 24″ stainless ’06 barrel from my Winchester 70 is pushing 150-180 grain bullets about 200 FPS faster than the 20″ chromoly (4140?) barrel of my Remington LTR. Both good calibers.

      • .308 will pass through light foliage and hit meat.

        .30-30 will pass through light foliage, heavy foliage, saplings less than 4″ in diameter, a rock composed of lght-colored sandstone, and (still) hit meat.

        .30-06 will pass through foliage and have such a potential POI shift as to qualify as a negligent discharge.

      • I’d love an HCAR, if they weren’t something like $8k.

        I don’t know if there is a way to produce one closer to 1500-2k. If I could get one even at the 2k level I would take it over the .308 rifles.

      • I know that in the past, you could get a Saiga in 30-06. The real question is whether you could get quality 30 round mags to go with it. I just need a VEPR in 7.62X54R (as well as a quality hunting rig in 30-06).

    • Have you tried Noreen Firearms BN 36 ? My works fine after a lot of tweaking . Took quite a bit of slick in the upper and the gas adjustment was real touchy , and it definitely favors the high pressure heavy grains but I am satisfied with my purchase now . I always wanted a 06 that would throw more than 4 or 5 in a semi and the BN 36 throws 20 buggers rapid fire . Little recoil and fairly light weight scoped on a pod . Lots of fun and nice hole puncher . I would suggest you take it apart when you get it and make sure everything is tight . Took about 60 rounds to get mine tuned in the way I want it .

  2. The greatest cartridge designed by an American with a special do it all ability that reflects the people it came from. Every American should have a couple in the back of the safe. The perfect western gun. In my opinion better than a 270 Winchester. (Another all time great)

    • Joseph,

      The only reason I like .270 Winchester over .30-06: long range shooting. At 600+ yards the .270 bullet is moving considerably faster than a .30 caliber bullet, whether it came out of a rifle chambered in .308 or .30-06. Of course the only reason it is moving faster is because it has a smaller cross section and thus less wind resistance.

      Having said all that, it all depends on your range and intended target. Are you shooting elk and moose out to 200 yards and deer out to 400 yards? No doubt the .30-06 is superior to the .270 Winchester. Are you shooting deer out to 400 yards, pronghorn antelope out to 600 yards, and human attackers to 800 yards and beyond? No doubt the .270 Winchester is superior to the .30-06.

      I have heard people claim that a .270 Winchester is fine for elk and even moose out to 150 yards or so. Personally, I would much prefer something even bigger than .30-06 for elk and moose. Will either one kill an elk or moose? Eventually. I would rather go with something that drops them sooner rather than later.

      • You are dead right on the long range shooting of a .270 and they rock against big mule deer, sheep and pronghorn. Still not huge differences ballistically especially with some of the new nosler accubond bullets. I personally like the .30-06 due to it’s superior ability against elk. While I have seen one shot stops with the .270 I have also seen elk run off over the darn mountain after taking multiple 300 yard hits from one. Granted the shooter was not making good kill shots but like you said, against larger game the 06 has the advantage.
        On another note the 30.06 beats a 308 in every way except efficiency.

  3. Mauser 7×57 in ’92? Seriously…?

    Methinks thou must needs brush up regarding the granddaddy of ’em all – the 7.62x54R – introduced in ’91 and still in military use.

    I’m aware that the U.S. has a bone to pick with Russia, but history is sacrosanct.

      • The 7.62x54R is as Russian as can be. The Russians began using it in 1891 and it’s still possible to find Mosin Nagants with tsarist markings on them (which puts them before 1918, and also puts them before the existence of Czechoslovakia). In fact, if you can find one dated before 1899, you don’t need to screw around with FFLs or paperwork, since they aren’t legally firearms. (The ones that you see for cheap these days are all WWII vintage, if I am not mistaken.)

        If you were asking about the Mauser, I’ll let someone else answer.

        • Mark, the Czech round you’re thinking of is 7.62x45mm. Only used in the vz. 52 rifle (sort of like the Czech equivalent to the Soviets’ SKS) and a couple Czech machine guns, as far as I know. They quickly abandoned it for the combloc standard 7.62x39mm after only a few years in service.

        • >> In fact, if you can find one dated before 1899, you don’t need to screw around with FFLs or paperwork, since they aren’t legally firearms.

          Just be aware that state and federal law can differ on this, depending on where you are. For example, in my state (WA), antique firearms are defined thusly:

          “”Antique firearm” means a firearm or replica of a firearm not designed or redesigned for using rim fire or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898, including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1898, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.”

          Quite obviously, a pre-1899 Mosin won’t qualify, because it is designed to be used with conventional center fire ignition, and ammo is both manufactured in US and is readily available in any store. So you won’t violate the federal law by possessing one with a criminal record, say, but you will violate the state law.

          For most states, it seems that they have copied their definition of “antique” either from NFA, or from GCA, depending on when they enacted their laws. The definition above is pretty much verbatim from NFA. Thus, on federal level, it only applies to NFA items, but on state level it has been appropriated here to apply from everything. GCA definition is more relaxed:

          “A) any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; and (B) any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica — (i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or (ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial”

          Note that here the additional requirements only apply to replicas, not to originals, unlike the NFA definition.

  4. I’ll never forget the first time I fired the ,30-06 Springfield. I was a kid and used to twenty-twos, although I had once fired a lever gun in .30-30 Win. To say that I was shocked by the recoil of the .30-06 doesn’t really cover it. Still, I was smiling.

    And if the .30-06 was born a hundred years ago, then it’s now 2006, there’s no TTAG, I’m still living with my ex, I’m fifty pounds lighter and I haven’t retired yet, but I’m thinking about it. Where does the time go?

    • I was wondering about the 9 year error, m’self; thought it might be a re-post, but yeah – 2006 was pre-TTAG.

      Someone cannot do math.

        • You are screwing with me here . I already had my hand on my rifle safe and was drooling at the mouth .
          I thought I had another reason to burn some 06 powder . Nothing like a celebration run .

        • You need a reason other than “I think I need to spend some time with my _____”? (Fill in the blank with whatever rifle you were thinking of.)

    • People are always stuck in time when praising a .30 caliber round.
      .30-06 = pre WWII
      .308 = pre GWOT
      .300 BLK = pre sent. It may be today, but they are stuck in time.

  5. A couple of corrections:

    1. The .270 Winchester is popularly claimed to be a necked-down .30-06, but it isn’t. It is a neck-down .30-03. It is based on the .30-03 cartridge. The .270 Win case length is 2.540″, and the ’06 is 2.494″ long. The .280 Rem is also 2.540″ long, I believe.

    2. The .30-03 had problems with throat erosion, as well as some stiff recoil. The ballistic performance of the Spitzer bullets the Germans were fielding in the 8×57, however, gave the US Armory some real heartburn – after San Juan Hill where we nearly had our clocks cleaned by the 7×57, the US Army was determined that we were not going to give up that much range to the enemy again. The .30-03 was set to use a round-nosed bullet. The ’06 used a spitzer bullet – the first in US military history.

    3. There are so many rifles chambered in .30-06, it’s not ever going to be remotely rare. Think not only about the sporting bolt, pump, and semi-auto rifles (of which there are perhaps a few million taken together chambered in ’06), think of all the 1903’s, 1903A3’s, Garands, Pattern 1917 Enfields, Model 30’s, etc, not to mention 1919’s, BAR’s and other full-auto toys. The ’06 ain’t going nowhere based on US military rifles in civilian hands alone.

    Now add in the factor that “you can’t go wrong with a .30-06.” When customers come to me (and just about all other gunsmiths out there), expressing bewilderment as to “what rifle should I buy to hunt anything in North America?” what do you think we’re recommending? Most of the time, we’re recommending a .30-06. For those who are experienced and reload, I might suggest a .280 Remington, or .280 Ackley Improved. For the newbie hunter? .30-06. Done. Under 300 yards, any game being hunted where the hunter does his job well and places the bullet properly, the game is going down, DRT.

    The .30-06 is also the single best round in terms of hunting logistics.

    Why? Because you can go out on a hunt anywhere in the US or North America, forget your ammo at home and find ammo out on the road. You can go into towns with a population of 120 people and find a box of ’06 at the gas station, drug store or in some other hunter’s pickup. Beginning hunters usually aren’t going to start handloading at the start of their hunting careers, and you can now find almost every stripe of hunting bullet sitting atop well-made ’06 cases, and you can find many of these new high-end preloaded ammo at every (literally every single one) big-box sporting good store.

    One of the big sporting magazines did a survey of hunters a decade or more back, asking “what chambering are you using in your hunting rifle?” What was the most popular? .30-06. Hands down, walking away, no contest. Second chambering was the .270 Winchester. All these new “magnums” with various refinements and claims? They’re literally in the noise floor of the mountainous “signals” of the .30-06, .270 Win, 7mm RemMag, etc.

    OK, so you want to do better than the ’06, but not spend a fortune on a rifle. Back in the early 60’s, Townsend Whelen (Col. USA, Ret) wrote an article for (I think) Field and Stream titled “Just a Little Bit Better,” in which he counseled readers “if you have a .30-06 or .270 Winchester with which you already shoot well, you need read no further.” Such opening lines would cause today’s gun rag editors’ hearts to stop dead as a wedge. But Col. Whelen pointed out that the three cartridges were very close in ballistic performance, with the .280 being perhaps just a wee bit better for the rifleman who wanted “one rifle to hunt everything.” I’d still agree with him today, provided the shooter is going to hand-load. With the variety of 7mm bullets out there, you now have a range of bullets, Bc’s and terminal performance that outstrips the .30 cal bullet space.

    The other cartridge that I would recommend to a hunter seeking to “do better” than the ’06, but keep their ’06-length action and their magazine/bottom metal is the .35 Whelen cartridge. This is a worthy choice for a hunter who wants a bit more oomph to take on moose, bears, musk oxen and so on. The .35 Whelen wasn’t a new idea – it was the American version of the 9.3×62 Mauser: Take the current military cartridge, neck it up, put a medium-bore bullet from 250 to 300 grains on a full stack of powder and call it a higher powered cartridge that will fit on customized military rifles. This is a brilliant idea, first done in the 9.3×62 by Otto Bock, a Berlin gunsmith in 1905.

    • I CONCUR TOTALLY , my absolute favorite reloader and also my absolute favorite hunting round . The 308 is fine for plinking . He He . Cheaper I guess . I’m just kidding of coarse , the 308 / 7.62 has a place in my cupboard .

  6. The article came from “Sporting Classics” which I will guess re-runs old articles.

    Regardless of where the nine year disconnect came from, it’s a valid point. It seems that once we came up with metallic cartridges and smokeless, firearms had become a “mature” technology, and, though there have been improvements (such as semi-auto) the older stuff is still quite viable and useful, bolt actions and the rounds designed for them still have their advantages, fill some roles better than anything else does even a century later, and therefore are not obsolete.

    I expect there will still be a role for the 30-06, the .308, and the 7.62x54R a century from now (to say nothing of a zillion more specialized rounds, and even certain pistol rounds), unless something comes along that renders all chemically-propelled projectile weapons obsolete.

    • In 165 grains, it’s 100 feet per second faster (according to the generic data on Wikipedia, which shows 2800 fps versus the .308’s 2700 fps, That’s a 3.7 percent improvement, and if energy is your thing, it’s actually a 7.5% improvement (since energy is proportional to the square of the velocity). That doesn’t seem like much improvement in a cartridge that’s considerably larger than the .308 is.

      So I wouldn’t say the 3.08 does everything better. But it has a lot of big advantages.

      The .308 has a lot more semi-auto rifles chambered in it, and I’ve favored it for this reason. A 7.5% improvement doesn’t, to me, justify picking up and dealing with another caliber. If I ever step up from .308, it will be to something that’s a magnum.

      (The 54R is barely more powerful than a .308 judging from the 150 grain data (165 grain is not shown for the 54R, so I had to compare 150 grain data, It’s even less of a step up from .308 than 30.06 is. I am more likely to buy one of them, though, because of cost and the historic connection.)

        • And you won’t, unless you hand-load. Further, you’ll need to seat the bullet deep in the neck, or you’ll need to throat your chamber.

        • mark s., if your goal is launching a 220 grain round out of the .30-06 I would recommend you look into the .338-06. It won’t do anything a 35 Whelen won’t do and the reverse is not true, but it might be that all you need is a new barrel with the 338-06, depending on the rifle.

        • Very, very few factory loads for 200 grains and up. Federal has a 200 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw load and a 220 gr Hot-Cor load, Remington makes a 220 gr Core-Lokt, but finding them in stock anywhere but online is darned rare. There are boutique manufacturers as well, mostly online.

        • Never mind my last, I have ’06 on the brain. Back to reading comprehension class. Sorry all.

        • I have launched , as you say , thousands of 220 grainers , from most of my 06 rifles and with the correct barrel , they usually go exactly where I want them to go . I am familiar with 338.06 and I believe I have shot this barrel in the past but I can’t recall being overwhelmed .

    • The .308 has the edge in accuracy and efficiency whereas the .30-06 has the edge in power and versatility. Really, why own just one .30 Cal when you could own several?

      • Because I like to keep caliber at a minimum. Standardization is a good thing with weapons. .22, 9mm, 223, 308 and 12 gauge are the only calibers anyone should ever need. I have no use for dozens of specialize bastard calibers with single digit improvements on each other.

        • Generally agree only that I prefer .45 to 9mm. For standards and versatility, there’s a nice .357 around too. No caliber wars, bro.

        • Just curious –
          Which of those calibers are you going to carry on your hip while hiking in bear country?

        • For hiking in bear country I might add a .44 to that list but I kind of feel similarily. I want to keep it to 5-6 calibers total for myself. Just makes it so much easier.

        • That’s one way to differentiate between a “collection” and an “arsenal”.

          What’s the fun of having 6 different guns in 9mm?

        • “.22, 9mm, 223, 308 and 12 gauge are the only calibers anyone should ever need.”

          If you want to have a sad, boring gun collection, I suppose that would be enough. Personally, I like to shoot a revolver once in a while. And old military surplus rifles are a whole lot of fun, but none of ’em come in that approved caliber list.

        • What about our 50 caliber black powder guns and our magnums . The 22 magnum is a pretty versatile round too , maybe not legally but I could kill anything from a squirrel to a 10 point buck with a well placed 22 WMR and also poke a hole in a class IIA bullet stopper . You can chamber it in anything from a 2″ pocket pistol to a full size revolver ( Single Six preferred ) , semi auto 30 round pistol ( PMR 30 ) to a bolt action tack driver ( Marlin , Volquartsen ) or the semi auto ( Kel-Tec , Volquartsen , Magnum Research ) and the quality ammo today in this rim fire round is very reliable . Nice bug out gun if you can afford to store lots of ammo .

        • Even from a purely utilitarian perspective, this is unnecessarily limiting. Revolvers have their uses, and you don’t want one chambered in 9mm. And .308 is not the best cartridge for long distances – you might want something like .280 or even .300 WinMag in your line-up.

          Of course, that also completely ignores the fact that people don’t own guns for purely utilitarian purposes…

          Personally, I try to stick to some middle ground between the two, by applying two simple rules:

          1. Don’t get guns chambered in cartridges that are so similar to each other that there’s no practical difference.

          2. Have at least two guns for every cartridge.

          Rule #2 is fairly obvious, but #1 is a bit complicated. For a straightforward example, there’s no practical point in owning handguns chambered in both 9mm and .40 S&W – they’re close enough that you’re either okay with one or the other, but switching between the two is not worth the bother.

          Note though that similarity is not just about ballistics, but also includes things such as what kinds of firearms can be chambered in them, and even what the price is. For example, you could argue that there’s no practical difference between .357 and 10mm in a handgun, but 10mm doesn’t work well in revolvers, while .357 has problems in semi-autos. For another example, 7.62x54R offers only marginal performance increase over .308, has fewer guns chambered in it, and its rim creates feeding problems in semi-autos (and even bolts), and makes it impossible to create a true double-stacked magazine for it. But it’s also 2x cheaper than .308 (and that difference used to be even larger), and so it’s that much easier to stockpile.

          Then again, these aren’t hard rules, more like general guidelines. E.g. I’m not going to get another M1 Carbine just to get two guns chambered in .30 Carbine. And they definitely don’t apply to antique and other collectible guns, which aren’t practical to begin with, and which may be hard or impossible to match in caliber – e.g. my 1889 Schmidt-Rubin that is still chambered in the original 7.5×53.5 (and which is basically impossible to feed unless you hand-load, or buy from someone who does).

    • I like .308 and if I get into another caliber, that’s the one. I can’t get into specs but as I understand it the ’06 does perform better at the top end of bullet weights.

      • The biggest factor here is going to be your barrel twist The common twist rate in a 308 I believe is 1 in 12 and the 06 is usually 1 in 10 . The 1 in 10 will stabilize the heavier weight bullets , anything above a 165 grain will generally be more accurate from a 1 in 10 twist barrel . Both calibers can handle similar grain loads and kill efficiently but if you’re looking to put a hole into a can at 500-1000 yards in a 200 or 220 grain , look more closely into barrel twist and barrel quality .

      • Those differences are very very small. I don’t know where they computed what the experimental error must be, but it’s possible it’s greater than the differences shown.

        I would expect that a .30-06 will have an edge over .308 when you push .308 to its range limit. (For the exact loading I use, I know that .308 is done sometime before 1000 yards). That extra case capacity will tell at that point.

        • Steve,

          When you get bored and are stuck inside on a cold day this winter (I assume you are in Colorado and have cold days), compare bullet velocity, energy, and drop between .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 at 600, 800, and 1000 yards. I think you will be quite surprised at how much .270 Winchester outperforms .308 Winchester and .30-06 at long range.

          Personally, I define “maximum range” as the range at which a rifle bullet is still travelling at 2000 feet per second. At that velocity, a bullet will (hopefully) still deliver good terminal ballistics. And, if I am ever engaging a foreign military at “maximum range”, I want a fair bit of confidence that my bullet will penetrate basic ballistic vests. (As far as I can tell, a bullet needs to be going at 2000+ fps to reliably penetrate basic ballistic vests.) With that criteria in mind, the .270 Winchester has a considerably greater “maximum range” than .308 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield — something like 200 to 300 yards more.

        • And a .280 will outperform the .270, with proper bullet selection.

          The bullet selection in the 7mm/.284 bullet space is now second to none. There’s lots of .308″ bullets out there today – just tons of them – but until you’re pushing a pill over 210gr, you’re not going to see the highest Bc’s possible in a .308 bullet.

          Whereas the 7mm bullet space, once you get up to 180+ grains, you start to see some really slippery bullets from the high-end manufactures (Berger, Barnes, et al).

          The .270 is a great round, but I would advise people to not duplicate O’Conner’s loading and persistent mis-use of the 130gr Nosler Partition on top of 60gr of 4831 on “everything.” For larger ungulates, I really recommend the 150gr pills, and now there are 140gr pills as a compromise between the canonical “130gr for deer, 150gr for elk” choice in the .270.

        • US,

          I wasn’t even *thinking* about throwing yet another caliber into the mix; this was a comparison of .308 and 30.06. I’m certainly not arguing *against* any of these rounds. To the extent I am arguing anything, I am arguing that the differences between them are slight enough to not be worth the effort and expense of switching, or even picking up a new caliber, if you already have a significant investment in one of them. If you already have a good .308, is it worth the money to buy a good 30.06? And a quality optic for it? You don’t get all that much extra capability over what you already have, after dropping that cash. The .270 might be a bigger step up (I hadn’t looked at it) but is it a big enough step to be worth it? (And it is a bit harder to find, ammowise, than 30.06, so that partially cancels out any improvement it would give me.)

          I’ve pretty much decided I can live with the shorter max range of a .308 until I get accurate enough with it that I can step up to something *considerably* heftier (i.e., a magnum round) for those rare shots at ranges over half a mile. At least there, I get a huge amount of additional capability for the bucks I’d be spending.

          A smaller budget (both time and money) for such things implies I will want the “niches” I fill to overlap as little as possible, so fewer of them let me do more things.

        • Steve,

          All good points. I was merely stating that .270 Winchester performance improvement over .308 and .30-06 past 600 yards is significant enough to be a serious consideration for someone who is contemplating their first rifle purchase. Is the performance improvement enough to justify purchasing another rifle and optic as you asked? Probably not.

          Having said all that, .300 Winchester Magnum is even better than .270 Winchester at 600+ yards. But you pay for that improvement with increased recoil.

        • Dyseptic,

          There is no doubt in my mind that a .280 will outperform a .270. The only reason I went with .270 is because I don’t hand load ammunition and I wanted to be able find ammunition in every store in every location in the United States. With extremely rare exceptions, if a store has .30-06 ammunition, they also have .270. On the other hand I have never noticed a store carrying .280.

        • Good discussion, I just will throw one more into the mix. I have been working up an old model 70 264 win mag. As best I can tell with 140 grain bullets it has the best ballistics out there. Now if i can just get some time to work it up. (and pray the rifle still will shoot) You guys have any experience with them? It seems that with a 140 you could take most anything up to and including elk.

  7. Short magnums, wildcat cartridges and any ammo described in millimeters be damned. For an all around game cartridge, .30-06 will do it all.

    • In which case, be sure to get rid of every last round of 7.62 x 63, and turn in at a gun “buyback” every rifle you have that is chambered in it.

  8. I was never big on the .30-06 because I found the 280AI to be a better caliber. But then I read, One Man, One Rifle, One Land by JY Jones. Since then, although the 280AI may be a more efficient caliber, I’m still convinced that if you were going to have one caliber for hunting, the .30-06 should be it, especially for the reloader. It is such an incredibly versatile caliber. There’s just nothing on the western hemisphere that can’t be responsibly taken with it, add to that the tens of thousands of African plains game animals that have been taken with it, and that you can get ammunition anywhere ammunition is sold, and you have a winner. It will be a dark day indeed if a rifle in .30-06 isn’t either in my hand or in my gun room.
    That reminds me, I have a friend with a Mauser .30-06 in a gorgeous manlicher stock and I haven’t begged him to let me buy it from him yet this year, as I do every year.

    • I read that too jw and concur , the 06 is a reloaders dream and I have put together some really great stats in my notebooks over the years . No need for a 308 , 06 argument here . Versatility wins hands down in my world . I have lots of 308 guns and would fight the last fight to keep em all but they will bury me with an 06 .

      • Every argument I’ve seen here in favor of one or the other caliber is either: X is marginally better than Y, or “in my particular situation I’m going to stick with X” All of which leads me to think there isn’t really a “right” answer to the question. I can’t really gainsay a person who likes the “other” caliber.

        Some people want as many different things as possible (the collector mentality, and believe me, I *do* understand that!) and others have different aims in mind when they contemplate their next purchase. Or they may just be collecting, all right, but on a different kind of variation. Someone could want an FAL, AR-10, M-1A and a HK-91, and others—quite a variety, but all with the same caliber.

        • You’re right – most all cartridges out there in a standard rifle configuration (short vs. long receiver, I’m leaving off magnum length cartridges like the .375 H&H on up) are margins of improvement over the original – the 7×57 Mauser.

          If you were to load the 7×57 to modern pressures, using modern 7mm bullets out of a modern rifle, you’d find that you never needed the ’06, the .308, and most of the sub-.30 cartridges developed off either one. The 7×57 is thought of today as a sub-par round purely for the same reason that people thing the .45 Colt is a sub-par round: ammo companies have to keep the pressures down to preserve older firearms (and shooter’s flesh) in the event of a modern-pressure round being loaded into an ancient and dubious strength firearm from 100+ years ago.

          Put the modern-loading 7×57 into a modern rifle and you’d then ask yourself “Why did we need…?” and fill in the blank with anything smaller than a .375 H&H. 300 or .338 WinMag.

        • DG, every hunter owes a debt to the 7X57/.275 Rigby. Makes me wonder why here in North America more people don’t choose the 7mm08.

        • You are almost exactly right . The 06 is a little better at stabilizing heavier grain bullets at greater ranges with standard out of the box barrels and hits slightly harder with a little more powder and FPS speeds . It is a little more versatile for reloaders . The 308 wins out hands down in the ability to send more bullets onto the target
          and at much less cost per . There is also the difficulty in manufacturing a good reliable 06 in semi auto formats because of gas pressures and weight requirements of the components needed to do so and the cost is prohibitive to the mainstream market , A 30.06 AR must inherently be a heavier gun comparatively speaking . The BN 36 is a very unique creature and is still being trialed , in my opinion and I for one am more than happy to experiment with it . God bless everyone , this has been delightful ytotoday

  9. Almost everybody has one or more rifles in.30-06 but I suspect hardly anybody shoots it anymore. During the ammo drought of 2013, there was no time I could not find .30-06.

    Even now, I find new Garand-suitable .30-06 (Hornady, PPU, etc.) at very reasonable prices. Usually, cheaper than MilSurp. I can’t stop buying it.

    • The reason why you can always find ’06 ammo is that a) there’s lots of it made, and b) it isn’t used for plinking, as the .223 or .22LR are.

  10. Money being limited for a while, I needed a versatile rifle that would grow with my skill level. A Winchester 70 in .30-06 made since three years ago. Makes even more sense today, with what I know about reloading and the rifle I picked as a neophyte (1:10″). That, and Barnes finally came out with loads for their LRX bullets in .30-06 about a month ago. Off to get some RL17, H4350 and that holy grail of BR2 or 210M primers.

  11. When I was 13 I bought a sportered 03 springfield at a yard sale with an ammo can full of surplus and sporting ammo. Rode that bad betty home on my bike. I had shot a 12 guage at that point, along with a variety of shotguns and rimfires. (when I was younger I had shot a tommy gun. every kid needs a crazy uncle.)

    But that .30-06 was da bomb. I got it for 40 bucks.

  12. I have to say all the talk about the 3006 is very informitive but it was once said that the 06 was not the perfect caliber for hunting.But at the end of the day for the one gun owner the old 3006 was the round that would do it from bears to mice and get the job done !!!


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