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.
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30-06 Vs. 308: Quick Comparison Table
Cartridge case length
Maximum muzzle velocity
Case capacity in grains
.308 left side and 30-06 is in the right side
History of The .30-06 Vs. .308 Models
The 30-06 is a 30 caliber cartridge that the U.S. Army adopted 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 14 gm. 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:
1. Germany’s 7.92 × 57mm Mauser
2. France’s 8mm Balle D Spitzer
3. Russia’s 7.62 × 54mmR Light Bullet
4. 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.
In this 308 vs. 30-06 verdict section, I would like to give some Pro Tips – So, If you are an experienced reloader or shooter, then you probably need to know what are the top progressive reloading press and Case Prep Centers– And for that good reason, you must also need to know some of the best scopes for this ammo too. Let’s have a look at these scope selections. Learn which will be the right optics for the 308 from here.
30-06 Ammo 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 a 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 to reduced raw material use and, by extension, production cost. This is 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 Chart
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 the 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 exact 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 vital 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 in increased recoil.
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, the discrepancy in velocity between the two cartridges was relatively 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 of 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 vs. 30-06 Muzzle velocity
Where the 308 Winchester struggles slightly to keep up with its counterpart is in the muzzle velocity department. Generally speaking, the 308 can handle slugs of between 125 and 185 grains fired at 3100 fps and 2510 fps. When you compare this to the 110 and 220-grain slugs of the 30-06 that fire at speeds of 3500 fps and 2500 fps, it is clear which cartridge packs more punch.
The reason is that it can accommodate more powder. The 30-06 has a case length of 2.94 inches, while the .308 has a case length of 2.015 inches. Thanks to its longer case length, the 30-06 casing can hold more powder, hence have a higher muzzle velocity.
When it comes to weight, the 308 is the lighter of the two and is also smaller. In addition, it has a point-blank range of about 300 yards, which edges out the 290-yard range of its rival. Nevertheless to both require a rifle scope to push beyond the 300-yard mark. Thus, the best scope for 308 will be a necessary accessory for long-range shooting.
30-06 vs. 308 Ammo Cost
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.
- Ease Of Use
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 the 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 games like elk. In short, both are equally useful when it comes to hunting big games. The ease of use is where a clear distinction marks itself.
308 is used in short action rifles for hunting. 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.
Why the 30-06 Cartridge is so Popular
The 30-06 cartridge is popular because it offers a balance of power and range. This makes the 30-06 one of the most versatile cartridges for big game hunting and some medium-sized game animals. Its popularity also stems from its availability in many different rifle calibers, which gives hunters more options to suit their specific needs.
In the United States, hunters and gun enthusiasts use the .30-06 cartridge, also known as a “thirty-aught six,” for many reasons.
Its popularity has to do with its versatility:
- it is a great all-around hunting round;
- It can be used for target shooting, self-defense, or military purposes.
The .30-06 is certainly not one of the cheapest rounds on the market today (though it’s still relatively inexpensive), but what you get for your dollar is worth every penny. Moreover, it shoots well out of most rifles and handguns – even ones that have been designed specifically to shoot smaller calibers such as the .22 9mm or 5.56×45 mm NATO – due to its wide range of bullet weights from 110 grains to 220 grains.
The .30&06 Springfield was the main rifle in military service for more than 50 years. It was later replaced by the 7.6251 mm NATO and eventually 5.5645mm NATO.
It’s a rifle used in many wars, like World War I and II, Vietnam War, etc. It’s also one of the most common hunting rounds today because it has been around so long. It is powerful enough to take down an animal quickly but not too powerful for people who are still learning or might be younger or weaker than others. There are many different bullets to use when hunting for animals with guns like 6.5 Creedmoor. Still, the .30-06 performance is better than most of the other bullets.
The .30-06 is a powerful cartridge, but the recoil is within limits for most shooters. For example, a 150 grain 2700 fps bullet produces 19.01 foots-pound force. This can be a lot for some people, but you can use lighter bullets to start and move up as you gain more experience. One of the reasons why .30-06 rounds are popular is because it travels at 1200 fps even at 1,000 yards.
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 ’50s, 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 an excellent 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 works explicitly 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.
About The Author:
Lake Streeter, A Gun enthusiast, and loves to hunt in the middle of the wood. Always check the latest hunting gears out in the market and try to share his honest opinion with the audience in OUTDOOR EVER.