.30-06 Springfield: One Cartridge to Rule Them All

Updated on June 10, 2019
LJ Bonham profile image

LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.


Why the .30-06?

Is the .30-06 the world’s most versatile hunting cartridge? Many hunters say yes. Adopted by the U.S. military in 1906, the .30-06 served for over five decades and through three wars. This jack of all trades has been used to hunt game on every continent for over a century. It is the most popular big game cartridge in the world. Factory ammunition can be found anywhere—from Palmer, Alaska, to Mozambique and everywhere in between. There are more powerful cartridges and flatter shooting cartridges, so why has this old veteran not just survived, but thrived?

Everything a Hunter Needs

The answer is balance. Thirty caliber bullets strike a good balance between the aerodynamic efficiency and deep penetration offered by six through seven millimeter bullets, and the wide wound channels created by larger calibers. Thirties also have good sectional densities—the ratio between bore diameter and bullet weight, which dictates how well a projectile penetrates a target. The higher the SD, the deeper penetration, in general. Thirties have flatter trajectories than big bores, as a rule. These are the qualities which attracted the American military to the thirty bore and have satisfied hunters ever since.

How The .30-06 Stacks Up.   (L-R) 9.3x62mm, .30-06, 8x57mm, 6.5x55mm, .308
How The .30-06 Stacks Up. (L-R) 9.3x62mm, .30-06, 8x57mm, 6.5x55mm, .308 | Source

Better in So Many Ways

There are other thirty caliber hunting cartridges, but the .30-06 remains at the top. It generates one hundred feet per second greater velocity than the .308 Winchester, its leading competitor, for any given bullet weight. It is more available world-wide than either the .303 British or 7.62x54R, its two contemporaries. It just works well, no matter the climate or game.

.30-06 vs. .308 and .300 Win Mag.  Velocity By Bullet Weight
.30-06 vs. .308 and .300 Win Mag. Velocity By Bullet Weight | Source

A World Beater

American soldiers learned to love the .30-06. Since many vets also shot the .30-06 in target matches after their service days, it made sense to use a familiar round for hunting as well. As the United States prospered after both world wars, American hunters flocked to Africa, South America, Alaska, Canada, and Europe. The .30-06’s effectiveness impressed non-American hunters and they soon adopted it as well. By the 1980’s, the .30-06 had become as prevalent around the globe as American fast food, soft-drinks, and rock and roll.

If It Walks, There's a .30-06 Load for It

The .30-06 can take game from rabbits to elephant with the right load. Available bullet weights range from 110 grains to 250 grains. Ammunition is manufactured in Western and Eastern Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Africa, and makers offer loads for every possible application.

For varmints and small predators such as rabbit, coyote, and fox, the 110 grain through 130 grain bullets are best. Deer sized animals are well served with 150 – 180 grains. For large or dangerous animals such as elk, moose, bear and African plains game, 180 – 250 grains are appropriate.

North American Elk
North American Elk | Source

.30-06 By The Numbers

Average factory ammunition performance by bullet weight is as follows:

  • 110 grain: 3500 fps/2990 ft-lbs
  • 130 grain: 3150 fps/2860 ft-lbs
  • 150 grain: 2950 fps/2800 ft-lbs
  • 165 grain: 2800 fps/2870 ft-lbs
  • 180 grain: 2700 fps/2900 ft-lbs
  • 200 grain: 2550 fps/2890 ft-lbs
  • 220 grain: 2400 fps/2810 ft-lbs

Hand loaders can improve further on those nominal figures. Also, some bullet weights are only available as reloading components, not as loaded ammunition.

A Magnum Without the Kick

While the heaviest bullets appear to travel at low velocities compared to magnums, their high SD’s allow them to penetrate deep into large, heavy-bodied animals. Used at appropriate range, they are just as effective as magnums but without as much recoil.

Many Grizzly Bears Have Been Taken Over The Years With 30-06's Loaded With 200 Or 220 Grain Bullets
Many Grizzly Bears Have Been Taken Over The Years With 30-06's Loaded With 200 Or 220 Grain Bullets | Source

The Golden Mean

Mid-weight thirty caliber bullets have good ballistic coefficients (BC). High BC bullets have flatter trajectories and lose less energy down range. At .30-06 velocities, these bullets will hit about 2.5 to 3 inches high at 100 yards and the same distance below line of sight at 250 to 280 yards depending on weight. This means a hunter does not need to adjust their scope for bullet drop at the most common hunting ranges. A real advantage since animals often do not stand still for long, and every second counts.

Smaller-bore bullets have higher average BC’s than thirty caliber bullets and drift less in cross winds, but inside three hundred yards, this is a minor consideration. Beyond that range, the small bores and thirty caliber magnums come into their own, but for most hunters, in most situations, the .30-06 gets the job done.


The .30-06: America’s all-rounder and gold standard hunting cartridge. It shoots flat enough, hits hard enough, doesn’t beat up the shooter, and is available in every ammunition store around the globe. Long live the king!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 LJ Bonham


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Kyle Cook 

      23 months ago

      ONe of the best reviews ive ever read on the 30-06 it’s my favorite caliber the best all around rifle ever made plane and simple


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)