Sunday, February 20, 2005

.308 vs. .30-06

Lately, I've been digging around in some strange places. I think I mentioned the Mil-dot slide rule. I attempted to contact the inventor, as he purportedly lived in a town not to far away from where I live. His widow passed on the news to me that she is widowed. However, she gave me several links to sites that the inventor used to post on.

While cruising those links, I found this article. The author alleges that the .308 is up to 60% more accurate than a .30-06. He makes his case well, but one line made me skeptical:

At the peak of the .30-06's use as a competition cartridge, the most accurate
rifles using it would shoot groups at 200 yards of about 2 inches

I'm not one to crap on another guy's parade, but I regularly get groups of about 1 inch at 200 yards. With articles like these, I always wonder if they are just shooting a crappy .30-06 rifle. I may be well out of my league on this one, but the .30-06 round has always served me well.

I'd like to here from both parties on this one, as to the relative accuracy of the rounds. Obviously there are people who shoot both, whose opinions I would especially value.

A finely-tuned 30-06 will shoot up with a .308, if not outshoot it. I sort of prefer the 30-06 myself.

I think the .308 may edge it out at distances past 400 yards (at least on paper), but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Again, handloading maximizes the potential of the 30-06 to probably outshine the 308. The right rifle and load in the 30-06 will do everything the 308 does. But if you're regularly shooting those distances, a different caliber is probably in order, anyway. Something along the lines of a .300 Win mag, 300 Ultra Mag, 7mm Magnum, etc. Extra velocity and whatnot.

I am not sold on the alleged superiority of the the 308. But that's just my opinion.

I happend to come across this in one of Jeff Coopers Commentaries today (Vol. 10, No. 1), thought you might be interested. It's long, but as always, it's good.


Doubtless you have noted the recent tendency on the part of various gun writers to denigrate the 30-06 cartridge. The late Charley Askins demonstrated this attitude some years ago in a magazine article, and now we see that a currently active colleague has taken up the tattered banner of iconoclasm again.

The trouble with the 30-06 is that, like Julius Caesar, it is too good. It is not only too good, but it is too old - now only four years short of its centennial. People have been trying to improve upon it since before I was born (and that was a very long time ago), but without success. Its great virtue seems to be its unacceptable versatility, which is a drawback in the age of specialization. I acquired my personal 06 when I was in high school, and while I have obtained a number of other weapons since then, I have never felt a real need to improve upon the cartridge. The 30-06 is nobody's first choice for elephants, nor is it ideal for prairie dogs, but it will suffice for either of those if that is all that is available, and it will account comfortably for everything in between - including Homo sapiens.

The cartridge was deemed too large for optimum portability after the Korean War, and was replaced by the US government with the 7.62 NATO cartridge, or 308 as we call it now. The 308 is a tad smaller than the 06, but this is a minor point to the individual owner, and with the advent of the more modern propellants any power difference between the two cartridges is negligible.

The 30-06 retains a minor, but not inconsiderable, edge over the more modern 308 in its accommodation of the 220-grain bullet, which renders it a practically perfect cartridge for the African buschveldt today, where versatility in one loading can be very useful. The 30-06/220 is eminently suitable for kudu or lion, yet will not tear up an impala or a springbok (whereas the 30-06/150 might).

I grew up on the 30-06, and that makes me a dinosaur, but I am nowise ashamed of that. In my teens I took four-for-four (bighorn through moose) with four shots in Alberta, and I have since taken a fair list of quadrupeds, big and little, with the same round.

Today I might fancy the 308 over the 06 simply because I can get it in Scout configuration. The Scout, after all, comes over-the-counter in 308. The difference in "field effect" between the 308/150 and 30-06/150 is negligible, so the handiness of the Scout favors it in high mountains and tundra. If the hunter is going to ride around in vehicles, however, handiness hardly matters.

There need be no discussion of intrinsic accuracy, since that is a function of rifle execution rather than cartridge design. Given equally fine launchers, both cartridges will deliver one-holers at reasonable ranges, and will shoot flatter than the marksman can appreciate out to where he can no longer see his target clearly.

The 30-06 ("United States cartridge, caliber 30, model of 1906") was and remains king. If the 308 now encroaches upon it that is because of improvements in rifle design, rather than new cartridges. Let him who would denigrate the King place himself well beyond the castle walls lest he be overheard. The punishment for lese majeste can be both undignified and uncomfortable.

"But there ain't many troubles that a man caint fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six."
Hello one and all,

I have read recently in many, many, articles and blogs by 308 shooters that the .30-06 is past it's time and prime. I wanted to share my experience with the .30-06 round. I am an avid sportsman, meaning that I like to hunt and shoot. I own several firearms, among them my H&R single shot .30-06. Sometimes I go shooting with a friend of mine who is a sniper on the State's tactical team. He uses a .308 caliber Remington, bolt action, with a heavy barrel rifle, and a Leupold VX III 3.5-10x50mm scope.

I use my simple H&R single shot .30-06 with Burris 3-9x40mm scope. We both shoot 150gr bullets in our respective cartridges. If I shoot new rounds, I use the Winchester Supreme Ballistic Silvertip. If used, I shoot a hand-load using the same casing from the Winchester. We shoot anywhere from 200-300 yrds. When finished, you can cover both our 5 shot groups with a quarter. I will say my buddy's grouping is a little tighter than mine, but not by much. He is amazed that I can keep pretty much even with him.

But it is my experience that it's a combination of shooter, gun, scope, and familiarity with the weapon that makes for a good shot, and not just the round itself. I have shot 308's and do like them. But you cannot beat the variety of the .30-06.

Dr. Corday,

I whole heartedly agree with you. This post is over a year old and I plan on posting a more in-depth analysis, in view of recent experience.

Thanks for taking the time to leave a thoughtful, intelligent comment. I always appreciate that.


You're welcome.

With the advance of technology in the manufacture of rounds from companies today, it is my opinion, and experience that the .30-06 is not outdated. Maybe it was the way I was taught from my grandfather, who instilled in me to make my shots count. That is why I love my H&R single shot rifles and shotguns. I know they are not the most impressive rifles on the market, nor do they hold a high capacity of ammunition, but I just love them.

I duck hunt with friends who tease me and tell me to get a semi-auto 10 gauge, because as they say, "when you miss you really need to get that next shot in." I just smile and tell them the one Ihave will suffice. And I have missed my fair share of game, but it simply wasn't their time. I have enjoyed reading the postings on your site. And will add some more input in the future. Thank you again and I look forward to reading your more in depth writings.

Emile Corday
Over my years in Africa I shot open sight rifles satisfactorily on the range and off, at war and on the hunt with 5.56 NATO, 7.62 NATO and .303 British amongst others.
If my life depended on it at that time I'd have chosen my old auto R1 (FN/FAL) rig in 7.62 NATO with 168 grain FMJ because that's the best I could get my hands on back then. (AK47 was a reliably available 2nd choice).
Oddly I was more consistent shooting beyond 300 metres with the mortor like trajectory of the .303 British in 180 or 220 grains with solid bolt action.
Last year in glorious USA I purchased a saintly 30.06 Springfield sports rifle, what a character!! First day on the range was tight as a ducks butt, consistently grouped inside 1/4$ at 100yds. A couple of weeks later I sustained grouping inside or touching the 1/4$ at 200yds.
Now that's pretty fine shooting for out-of-the-box ammo (Remington core-lokt 165 grn). Especially considering the rig is out-of-the-box Remington 710 (original pressed receiver!)
I've no doubt the 30.06 is King but who am I to say. I'm sure I'd prove myself wrong if issued a full house M24 - Oh boys that would be fun!
Sgt. LGT
Mr. Thorne,

Thank you for the comment. I find the more opinions I have, the better prepared I am to discuss this issue.

Your FAL reference is well taken, as that is my brother's preferred rifle.

I will be posting a new item on this issue and drawing liberally from comments in this thread.

If you object to me using your comment, let me know and I will refrain.

Otherwise, thanks and regards,

- I shoot benchrest and have more 30's than is seemly for a girl. Several of my 06's were smithed in the 50's and hold 1/2 MOA to about 400 yards.
- The 308's are all less than 10 yrs. old and are currently competitive (in the .2's)
- The current winners on the bench, nation-wide, for Hunter Class Rifles are .308's, (and the many wildcats derived from them.)
- A current run at the .308's is being made by the 30-BR. The question that has to be answered before you can compare any two cartridges is, "for what?"
- For the bench: the best accuracy for bullet diameter and powder charge, with the least felt recoil will always favor the least recoil from an accuracy point of view.
- However, the 30-06 in a rail gun will out shoot any benchrest 308 - conditions being equal.
- The comparison is a mental joy, and exercise, but essentially just that; mental. Both are fine rounds and serve different purposes.
- push on.
. . . . . skyblu

Agreed, but with mitigating circumstances.

I think the load and rifle configuration have more to do with intent than the actual cartridge. A .30-06 can be just as competetive as a .308 if the cartridge is loaded for that purpose and the rifle reflects that purpose as well.

I've also thought that a .308 is ideal for hunting. Off-hand it is bit less thump and with modern bullet technology, it can be just as lethal.

Like you said, though, a fun mental exercise but use what works for you.

Hello All,

I am a young hunter from British Columbia Canada, and have one .308 and 30-06 rifle. I talked to every gun shop owner on my island (Vancouver Island) and could not get a straight answer, so I own a Savage 308 Model 99F, short, effective and great for short to Med ranges. I own another 308 in the Remington 700 class and a 30-06 Remington 700 and what one I take depends on my mood. I group at 200 years about one inch, to 2 inch with both rifles. I love the 30-06 for its history and feel. But the 308, and shiny I guess would be best. I have to say, the best way to solve this debate is to buy one of each, and call it a day. Guys I am sure you would rather have both rifles than one anyway...despite the wife saying you have enough all ready...mine says she will divorce me if I bring another home...that’s what a friends Garage is for...Anyway I love both and own both. Thanks for the great info from everyone.

Not to sound biased I own several Marlins, Winchester’s, Savages, Remington, Berretta, Tika and a Sako… and I will have a Browning Before the 07 hunting season. Yep…no one tell my wife…
I hunt in Georgia with my .308. Last year I missed two big bucks. However, it was a last minute hunting trip so I had no time to site my rifle in. Now the other guys on my lease are telling me to just get an 06. They say its got a lot more knock down than my .308.I do not agree. What do you guys think? I would really appreciate some input. Thanks!!!
To all...
It is quite refreshing to read a forum such as this that does not contain argumentative qualities. I respect all of your opinions because of your eloquent way of expressing them without getting out of control. I personally prefer the .308 mainly because it more efficiently burns powder. Other that this, ever so slightly tighter groups at extreme ranges. Thank you all. Sheets
i have a 30/06 rem.700. out of the box&withrem.180 gr out of the box it prints is superiour to the .308. "got $$$ notify ne,ok? (christmas is not that far away,heheh.
an `06 will out shoot .308 AND 7mm mag+morepunch at 400 yds, check it out then tell me the aught 6 aint got it ,hmmmm smells like ya aint got it, furthermore how many are hunting at 400 yds or more.?
the `06 will be around another 100 yrs. i seriously doubt the .308 will(except in memorie(s)
improve the `06, c`mon get a realitycheckup.
its been fun but "remember if you are seen here at night, you will be seen here in the morning!"
The 308 has already been around over half a century. We won't be around to see it die off. The 30-06 has its place, but is is not more powerful than a 7mm rem mag....its a couple hundred foot pounds out at 300 yards. I have all three, and I can tell you, I deer hunt with the 308 most times, and my 7mm rem mag on the railroad track deer stand. My 30-06 is taken out when I hunt bear which is not that often anymore.
I meant to say the 30-06 is a couple hundred foot pounds and feet per second less than the 7mm rem mag with similar sized bullet weights.
The 30.06 is more versatile. You have WAY more ammo options off the shelf. Also, if you move into moose, elk, bear, ect at 300 yards, the 308 just can't hold water against a 30.06 in terms of knock down. Anything under 300 yards, they are close, after that, the .06 runs away with as the winner in a hunting stand point. I own a 308 and a 30.06. The 308 is great for deer hunting 200 yards and less. But if I think I will be in an area where my shots are going to push 400+ its the 30.06 all the way.
Personally, I have owned, shot and reloaded several .308 win. and 30-06 rifles and never noticed any real diferrences in accuracy! If anything is noted the 30-06 with heavier 180gr. ballistic tip boat tail bullets had a decided advantage over the .308win. in velocity and accuracy bucking the wind in field conditions while hunting. The .308win. loses to much of its case capacity with longer more aero-dynamic bullets. A classic example of this would be Hornadys light magnum 30-06 loads using these bullets at 2900fps. vs. the lesser aero-dynamic 180gr. bullets used for the .308win. at 2740fps.! Bullet weights rangeing from 55grs. to 220grs is another advantage. Also,the 06 can use fast, medium and slow burning powders with standard or magnum primers aswell! With the advent of Tri-based powders, quick burning, short powder columns are becoming antiquated technology in terms of standard deviation, performance and point blank range. One thing that I have noticed is that the .308 crowd gets extremely upset when technology is applied to the supposedly out dated 30-06. For your information gentlemen, the 30-06 is the number one hunting cartridge in the world and with good simply keeps getting better and better! I still own (3) 30-06 rifles and (1) 7.62x51mm/Nato rifle which is a differrent animal than a .308 win., but that is a different arguement that I'm saving for a rainy day!

I'm glad the fella in the article above mentioned that .308 and 7.62are differrent! I had a Military/Police Remington M700 sniper rifle that shot nice 3/4" groups with Lake City 7.62x51 ammo, but wasn't all that great with commercial .308 Winchester rounds. I was surprised to find out that my newer civilian .308 Remington 700 had a different chamber in it than my late 1970's Police M700 did! Later on, I found out that there was indeed a difference between .308 and 7.62 ammo aswell. I feel that the 30-06 doesn't have the chambering problems that the .308 has and prefer it for hunting. However, plinking with the 7.62 M700 is still alot of fun, but I'm currently minus the .308 Remington 700. Both the 30-06 Remington 700 and 7.62 M700 rifles shoot extremely well with sub 1" groups and I wouldn't get rid of either one! Yes, I'm partial to Remingtons as you may have noticed!

Blu Corsair
My worry is that I will not be able to shoot as accurately with the 30-06 as I do with the .308 due to recoil (absolutely no intention of applying a muzzle break to the 30-06). Bit does that make sense? Won't the reaction of the two calibers be the same with the same weight of bullet at the same (or nearly the same) velocity?
How come I don't see the 06 compeating and winning? Some cartriges are more accurate, like the 6mmbr out to 600meters or the 6 ppc to 300 meters. They win , heck they set serious records!
The 06 is and will always be one of the best hunting rounds ever, period. But is it the more inherently accurate round over the 308 for target shooting ? I don't think so or you'd see it on the line in matches. I don't.
To Anonymous above,
The only reason why you're seeing the .308 on the lines as you put it, is, because it is still a military cartridge! Unfortunately, the .308 isn't winning anymore in heavy bench 1000 yard and rail gun competitions anymore and is getting beat by cartridges like the 5.56x45mm,the 6.5/284 norma and the 6mmbr!Eventually, the 7.62x51/.308 will be phased out of our arsenal.
David M.
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