It is about time we squashed the beef. The .308 win and the 30-06 both claim cult-like followings. Proponents for each swear on the supremacy of their favorite cartridge. This sycophancy creates a problem for the many truth-seekers out there. Just who is telling the truth? Let me walk you through a non-biased 308 vs. 30-06 review.
First of all, the two cartridges share a lot of history. The 308 Winchester was birthed by the 30-06 back in 1952. This showdown, 30 06 vs. 308, will be hard to call! The two have more similarities than differences. Let us begin by understanding the two cartridges historically.
History of The .30-06 Vs .308 Models
The 30-06 is a 30 caliber cartridge that the US army adapted in 1906. The caliber (30) is united with the year of adoption (06) to give us the name (30-06). It is the most enduring cartridge on the market. Before 1906 the .30-03 rimless cartridge was the American pride. It weighed 14g and attained muzzle velocities of up to 700m/s (2300 ft/s).
At the time, however, other European powers developed lighter and higher velocity bullets. The cartridges were as follows:
- i. Germany’s 7.92 × 57mm Mauser.
- ii. France’s 8mm Balle D Spitzer
- iii. Russia’s 7.62 × 54mmR Light Bullet
- iv. Britain’s .303 Mark VII
The desire to bring her infantry to level with her neighbors motivated the morphing of the .303 into the .30-06 in 1906. It aided the American course in World War II. The cartridge had significantly improved on the range discrepancies of the .30-03 noted in World War I. The .30-06 went on to serve as the Army’s machine gun and rifle cartridge for close to 50 years.
It served in that position until 1952 when the .308 Winchester replaced it. Is this proof that the 308 is better than the 30-06?
The fact that the .30-06 parented it is not evidence of it being better than the same. As a matter of fact, the .308 has also parented other cartridges not half as popular as it. Some of these cartridges are:
- i. .243 Winchester
- ii. .358 Winchester
- iii. .307 Winchester
- iv. .356 Winchester
The last two are designed for use by the Model 94 Eject Rifle.
- v. .260 Remington
- vi. 7mm-08 Remington
So, a side by side comparison is the only sure way to call a clear winner. Let us do that.
30-06 Vs 308: A Side By Side Comparison
First of all, let us get one thing clear. These two cartridges are very similar. Especially the military versions. Commercially, however, the two are modified to suit their purposes. Do not think you are shooting whitetail deer with the same bullets used in war!
The modifications will help us determine a clear winner. Without the modifications, the two cartridges are practically different sized twins.
Let us begin with bullet size comparison.
308 Vs 30-06 Size
These two bullets are of the same diameter, .308-inches, to be precise. On the length, however, the .308 Winchester is shorter. The 30-06 is 2.48-inches long whereas the 308 is only 2.015-inches in length. The reduced size is what attracted the military to the .308 Win. Let us put the choice into context.
At the time, new cartridge propellants were developed. These propellants could fire smaller bullets and still maintain the required velocity. Such small cartridges have one significant advantage over their bigger counterparts, production cost.
The cost of production reduces for both the cartridge and rifle firing it. For the rifle, smaller cases do not need a big bolt and action. This reduces the overall size and weight of the gun. Reduced gun size translates reduced raw material use and, by extension, production cost. This is the reason why long action rifles are bigger, heavier, and more expensive than short action rifles.
The 30-06 requires long action rifles. That is a factor to consider when shopping for the best 30-06 rifle. The 308, on the other hand, is used in short action rifles. Another downside of long action rifles is that they are slower to load and operate. On size, therefore, the 308 takes the day!
308 Vs 30-06 Ballistics
You cannot notice the differences in accuracy at ranges under 1000 Yards. Most hunters will require a 600-800 Yardage. The 30 06 Vs 308 ballistics are practically the same within hunting range. Past 1000 Yards, however, there is a lot of visible difference on the 308 Vs 30-06 Ballistics Chart.
On professional shooting ranges, the .30-06 is greatly shunned. Research showed that the 308 groups about 8 inches when shot repetitively at 1000 Yards. The 30-06 groups double that at the same yardage.
N.B.: Grouping means shot distribution or how far apart shots fired at a specific target are.
So, the 308 clearly beats the 30-06 on accuracy. The effects will not be felt on routine hunts, but it is worth noting.
The 308 is the most accurate long range caliber. For hunters, however, this does not mean much. At below 800 yards, the difference in accuracy is negligible.
308 Vs 30-06 Recoil
Recoil is an obvious front to match the two. Recoil is important for two main reasons:
- i. Aims
- ii. Injury
When the recoil is too high, it jerks the shoulder back. This movement affects the aim. The degree to which your target will be affected depends on the recoil velocity. I have found high recoil cartridges to shoot above a required target. No matter how well calculated the aim is, high recoil will mess it up.
High recoil is also very likely to damage a shooter's shoulder. The stakes are greater than mere comfort. Continued use of high recoil shells has been shown to cause permanent shoulder injuries. It is a career ender!
Recoil velocity higher than 27 J is not safe. Tolerable recoil should be well below 23J. Both cartridges fall in the tolerable-recoil range. They are both bearable as far as recoil is concerned. The bigger case of the 30-06, however, gives it higher velocity. The increased speed is reflected increased recoil.
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, the discrepancy in velocity between the two cartridges was quite high. Modern improvements, however, make the two to be at a near-par when it comes to recoil. To the average shooter, the difference is negligible. For the gun enthusiasts after a straight answer, here it is. The 308 has less recoil than the 30-06. Hopefully, this puts the 30-06 Vs 308 recoil showdown to an end.
.308 Vs .30-06 Flexibility
Flexibility is one area the 30-06 wins. It has a long case and can accommodate 200-grain and 220-grain bullets. It can also be loaded with extra powder for that extra juice. I, however, recommend company recommendations when it comes to powder. You could end up hurting yourself.
Loading extra powder will only be effective under two scenarios:
- i. The rifle being used can withstand the additional power.
- ii. The shooter is experienced and knows how to balance the powder for extra juice without the added danger.
The beloved .308, on the other hand, is pretty rigid. You are practically limited to company regulations. It does not give you much room for toying around. The restrained take this to be an advantage while professional gun enthusiasts hate the 308 for it.
Finally, despite all the modifications you can make, the 30-06 trajectory will always remain similar to the 308's trajectory. All the flexibility, therefore, does not amount to much in the eyes of the average shooter.
308 Ammo Vs 30-06 Pricing
The 30-06 has a bigger case than the 308. This, naturally, translates to a higher production cost. The extra cost is reflected in the price tag. The .308 is cheaper than the 30-06. The economies of scale further help the 308’s price.
308 Winchester cartridges are the most widely produced of the two. It is, by extension, easier to get and cheaper to purchase. The price difference is well worth noting.
The rifles that shoot 308 cartridges are also smaller, lighter and cheaper. The 308 will, therefore, have the overall effect of making your hunting gear portable. For hunters who carry extra gear like night goggles and walkie-talkies, the reduced weight will prove useful.
30-06 Vs 308 For Hunting
Let us compare the two cartridges as hunting equipment. In my experience, hunters are the biggest contributors to all 308 ammo Vs 30-06 affairs. For hunting purposes, we shall compare the two on five important fronts.
- i. Range
- ii. Accuracy
- iii. Weight
- iv. Ease Of Use
- v. Power
On the hunt, the two are at par. The 308, as we saw, has an advantage on 1000 plus yardages. For a hunter, this benefit is not significant. Or, what was the last time you shot deer at 1000 yards? On accuracy, the two are pretty much at par within hunting range. Many people will try to convince you otherwise but, try out the two for yourself. You will find them both to be sufficiently accurate for hunting.
On weight, the 308 is slightly lighter than the 30-06. The weight is, however, negligible. You would have to carry well over a thousand shells to feel the difference. Considering the average number of bullets carried for a hunt; however, the weight difference should not worry you.
On power, none of the two has a clear hunting edge. Both provide more than enough power to bring down big game like elk. In short, both are equally useful when it comes to hunting big game. The ease of use is where a clear distinction marks itself.
308 is used in short action rifles. 30-06 is used in long action rifles. Their recommended guns offer different experiences. Short action rifles are easier to load and quicker to offload. They are also lighter. Everything a hunter wants in a gun. If you take your 30 06 deer hunting, the deer is very likely to hear you load your gun
On the 308 Vs 30-06 hunting, I recommend the 308. The benefits are, however, not enough to merit a change. If you have a 30-06 rifle, keep it. The rifle caliber comparison is not well pronounced to validate a gun change.
The 308 is a clear improvement on the 30-06. The differences, however, mean different things to different professionals. If you seek to shoot out the range, the seemingly slight advantages of the 308 will prove very useful. In the early 50’s when the 308 hit the market, range enthusiasts compared it to the 30-06. The results gave the 308 a clear edge over the 30-06 at precision. Though the cartridges are far from what they were back then, the advantage is still there.
The 30-06 has undergone many modifications to offset the difference, but it has never quite matched the 308 at long ranges. In fact, when picking out the best scope for 30-06, do not buy the rigs that see upwards of 1000 yards. You will pay extra for the yardage, and yet the 30-06 cannot be effectively deployed at such distances.
If you are a hunter, on the other hand, any will do. If you are wondering about the 308 Vs 30-06 for elk, let me rest your mind. The power both give is more than enough to drop a mature elk at 600 yards. They perform the same in hunt settings. The only thing worth considering in the .308 win Vs 30-06 showdown is the rifle choice. If you are a new hunter starting out, go with the 308, you might as well enjoy the benefits.
For hunters with long action rifles, unless you want the near-negligible hunting edge of the 308 very badly, do not change equipment. The change of equipment may, in fact, prove to be a great undoing for two main reasons.
i. New gear needs getting used to.
A hunter grows into his rifle. Many hunters still hold pieces they bought over three decades ago. Why? Because your gun is your partner in the hunt, not just a piece of equipment. With time you learn how to work with its quirks.
Look at most pro-shooters. They carry the same rifles to the range year after year. When you change guns, you have to grow into the new rig. During this time, your aim will suffer.
ii. New gear nullifies finesse and technique acquired.
You have probably realized that every hunter has a method that specifically works for him. I had a friend who hit the target each time he aimed to its side. Of course, this only worked when using his rifle.
While on the hunt, you develop a technique that helps you deploy your weapon efficiently. The technique is usually specific to your rifle. Change of equipment denies you this edge.
In a nutshell, the 30-06 and 308 are too similar to merit a change into either. This fact holds true, especially for hunters. For the range, the 308 is the better option. It is, however, not the best choice. If you want a real advantage while shooting the range, there are far better options than the 308.