Like many others, I was surprised when I was informed that SIG SAUER was releasing a match-grade .30-06 cartridge suitable for the CMP shooting sports. While SIG has been growing left and right into many areas of the industry, it seemed odd that they would make the effort to keep M1 Garand and 1903 Springfield shooters supplied with top-shelf match ammo when they seem to have bigger ballistic fish to fry.
In this ammo review, I fired 500 rounds of the new SIG rounds through both M1 and 1903 rifles to see just how well it would do on the line at the National Matches.
SIG SAUER has been relentlessly storming a wide variety of industry segments aside from firearms for years now, getting into business lines like optics, suppressors and ammunition.
The GLOCK was the long-established standard law enforcement pistol worldwide until the P320 came along and began displacing Gaston’s designs. Even my local police department has upgraded to the P320. This came on the heels of the US military’s adoption of the P320 as its standard sidearm.
The industry shakeup has been tremendous and SIG is now one of the largest full-line firearms manufacturers in the world where just a few years ago it was essentially just another brand among many. The meteoric rise of SIG SAUER hasn’t been limited to just their guns. SIG ammo is arguably some the best in the industry today.
I have fired SIG ammo in the thousands and have never had a failure to fire or a cartridge fail to go bang. If I had a question about something odd I found in testing, SIG was fast to research the cause and make corrections, if there were any to make.
The dive into the .30-06 ammo market was surprising. They were going up against Hornady, which at one time was fully supplying the National Match events at Camp Perry.
You could find vintage match offerings for a number of calibers, including 6.5x55mm and .303 British. The options slowly vanished over the years as many shooters gravitated to hand loads or foreign imports to fire in their old service rifles. To an observer like myself, the decline in available offerings meant that the old guns and aging competitor base would likely decline significantly in my lifetime.
The decline in overall participation has been the result of several factors. Diehards like myself will probably never stop shooting in the National Matches, but I’m 29 and have been at it since I was 13 years old. But I have seen the demographics and numbers change over the years and I have to say that it’s sad to watch an era slowly die, literally and figuratively, before my eyes.
The aging population that held the M1 and Springfield in high regard is disappearing, as are many of the rifles themselves. Many younger shooters like myself are fast to hoard M1 and Springfield rifles, as they aren’t making any more of them and the good ones just aren’t available like they used to be.
I will snap up any mint 1903 I find and store it with no intent to use it. It’s worth more than the cash I paid for it to have it on hand.
Old guns are a form of currency that retains value while appreciating at a higher rate than gold. Doubt me? Go look for yourself. A good condition 1903 will run you easily $1000 today and a mint one like the rifles pictured here can go for substantially more. Compare that to the $400-500 they were only about ten years ago.
So, if the guns are getting hard to find, competition numbers are struggling, and expertise and knowledge about old guns is generally lost on today’s shooters, why did SIG decide to make .30-06 match ammo? I have a pretty good idea.
The .30-06 is a purely American cartridge that has dominated every aspect of our pioneering outdoor culture for well over a century. The cartridge is of extreme importance to the American way of life, having been our round of choice in two world wars and many conflicts.
It also served in the field and on the trail. There are only a few rounds made that can realistically rival it in terms of popularity, versatility, and practical usage. It can do everything demanded of a rifle round and is still the gold standard for hunting.
SIG’s choice to make this load comes at a time when SIG itself is gaining great cultural significance. The adoption of their products (think about their newer guns like the P365 and P320) by many agencies, all service branches, and millions of civilians has ensured that the current and future generations of soldiers, police, competition shooters, and hunters will all be familiar with SIG products.
By creating a .30-06 match load, SIG has thrust their brand into the heart of the American shooting culture by appealing to a new generation and showing them that they can have their M17 and their M1 and support them both on one brand.
The ammunition itself was rather unremarkable in that it did just as all SIG ammo I have tested has done. It shoots and shoots very well. I put 500 rounds through six rifles and found that it excelled.
The load itself consists of a 175gr Sierra MatchKing bullet over temperature-stable powder. This is a winning combination as match day is rarely a nice, pleasant 70-degree day with a cool breeze. You never know what you’ll get on the match line and a proven bullet and stable powder are huge for the modern competitor.
I painstakingly fired 200 individual rounds over my Oehler 35P chronograph to test the runout and see just how consistent the velocity numbers were. Erratic velocities suggest poor manufacturing tolerances, which I see all too often in some ‘match’ grade ammo.
I fired 100 rounds each in two 1903 Springfield rifles for this portion of the tests. The first rifle was a Remington 1903 transitional rifle dated to October 1942. This rifle was among the last made in the 1903 pattern before the mass manufacturing traits were fully implemented. The rifle has a 4-groove barrel. Velocity for 100 rounds averaged 2,714 fps with a standard deviation of 10 fps.
The second rifle was a Remington 1903A3 dated to December 1943. It was among the first rifles to be a true A3 and features stamped parts and a receiver-mounted rear sight. The barrel of this rifle was 2-groove. Velocity for 100 rounds averaged 2,745 fps with a standard deviation of 13 fps.
With 100 rounds tested per gun, I felt that I had gained a good picture of what this ammo was capable of as far as consistency. Next, I tested accuracy from several other rifles including the two Springfield 1903s.
Accuracy was tested at both 100m and 200m (my local range is not measured in freedom units) on CMP targets. I got my hands on two M1 rifles, a 1917 Enfield, and a Remington 700 hunting rifle. I tested the military rifles using my shooting sling and coat just as I would in a match and the Model 700 off a bipod. I was unable to test the Model 700 and 1917 Enfield at 200m, but was able to put a limited number of rounds through both M1 rifles at that range.
The Model 700 had a 3-9x Leupold scope on it and it was able to fire groups that averaged .5” for five shots. A half-inch at 100m is excellent for any rifle and the Remmy loved the SIG ammo. The 1917 Enfield, a rifle I have no particular love for, averaged 1.75” for two 10-shot groups at 100m.
My 1903A3 and 1903 respectively grouped 1.5” and 1.75” at 100m for two 10-shot groups. The M1 rifles did very well and averaged 2.5” and 3.75” at 100m for two 10-shot groups each. This performance is to be expected for the most part as the M1 is an accurate rifle and is great in the field, but it isn’t quite as good as the 1903 on paper.
Backing out to 200m, I fired the M1 duo and got groups averaging 4.25” and 5.75” for 10 shots. This ended my testing with the M1 rifles. I don’t own those guns and was unable to retrieve them again for additional testing.
The remainder of my testing fell to my pair of 1903 rifles. I put an additional few hundred rounds through the rifles and tested the ammo when the guns were blazing hot and from cold bores to simulate match conditions. I also tested the ammo a great deal from offhand to see how well I was able to manage the recoil during the standing phase of competition.
I eventually got both rifles zeroed for a six-o-clock hold using my sling and coat. I at first had some minor fluctuation in group size in my 1903 due to the front sight, but I replaced it and the problems went away. Towards the end of my 500 rounds of testing, I was able to hold the 200m X-ring all day from prone for an indefinite number of shots regardless of how hot the guns were.
During the rapid fire portion of CMP matches a shooter must load five rounds while standing and, when the command is given, drop down to prone and fire ten rounds with one reload in 80 seconds. This ammunition presented no issues when used with stripper clips or being roughly fed under the clock.
My overall experience with the SIG ammo was very positive. I am happy to say that SIG SAUER has delivered an off-the-shelf solution for shooters who want the best for their M1 or Springfield rifle. Of course, modern rifles can benefit from this as well. The .30-06 is still a popular round for a number of tasks and it’s sadly lacking in good, accurate ammo across the board ever since dedicated match cartridges were developed.
Look for my future articles that feature this ammo. I will be shooting it and documenting my experiences at the Camp Perry National Matches this summer in the CMP Springfield Rifle Match. I have very high hopes for my results this year.
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy * * * * *
This ammo is so good it makes me wonder why I would ever hand load again for my 1903 rifles.
Reliability * * * * *
I had no failures to feed or fire in six different rifles.
Consistency * * * * *
This ammo is as good, if not better, than many match-grade hand loads out there. Round-to-round consistency was excellent.
Recoil * * * *
This is powerful ammo and it has a great deal of recoil if you’re only used to shooting an AR. That said, the recoil isn’t barbaric and it creates a long, hard push, not a sharp jab.
Overall * * * * *
This is probably the best, most well-researched .30-06 match load out there today. I suspect it will be extremely popular at all levels of competition.