As far as hunting calibers go, there are certain rounds that have advantages in certain situations. Similar to how a mechanic needs different tools for different jobs, a hunter needs different rifles/ rounds for different size game and distances. I think it is easy to say that every caliber possesses good qualities that make it more valuable depending on the circumstance. In this article, we are going to compare and contrast the 308 vs 30-06.
To begin, let’s talk about the .30-06 that came about in 1906. The name is a combination of the .30 which is the caliber of the bullet and the year the cartridge was adopted in 1906, it is commonly pronounced as thirty-aught-six. It was adopted by the U.S. Army until the 1970’s where it was replaced by the commercial .308 Winchester (or 7.62 x 51 NATO). Contrived from the .30-03 that was developed in 1903, the .30-06 was a fast replacement of its predecessor because it offered better ballistics with its Spitzer, or aerodynamic, design. The neck was shortened, cooler burning powder was formulated, and she shape was changed in order to create what we call the .30-06. The picture below depicts the differences between the .30-03 (top) and .30-06 (bottom).
Designed in 1952, Winchester brought to market the commercial .308 Winchester, pronounced three-oh-eight. In 1954, it became the choice for our military in the form of the 7.62 x 51 NATO replacing the 30-06. Here it has reigned for over 60 years with more than 30 variations for use in the military. One of the benefits over the 30-06 was the shorter case that provided more reliable feeding in auto and semi auto weapons. Proving to be more than a great military round, the commercial .308 has a reputation for being a sniper cartridge on and off the battlefield. A popular hunting caliber, .308 is often the choice for long range hunting.
Ballistically there is not a big difference between the .308 and .30-06. At 150 grains, the .30-06 Springfield puts out a velocity of 2900 fps with 2820 ft-lbs of energy. Compare this to the .308 Winchester’s ballistics with 150 grains and a velocity of 2750 fps and 2518 ft lbs of energy. As you can conclude, the 30-06 comes out a little faster and packs a little bit of an extra punch with its larger case and extra powder. This difference normally doesn’t phase people. What the main discussion tends to be is which of the calibers is more accurate?
There was a study done in the 1960’s that compared the .30-06 to the .308 in NRA matches using top shooters (Find the full article here). The table below depicts the recorded groupings for each round from 200 yards to 1000 yards.
|Caliber||200 yards||300 yards||600 yards||1000 yards|
|.30-06||2 in.||3 in.||6-7 in.||16 in.|
|.308||3/4 in.||1 1/2 in.||2 1/2 in.||7-8 in.|
The clear winner in accuracy goes to the .308. Yes these are old findings, and like most ammunition load developments will continue to be made that will change the results of the same study done today, but let’s be honest .308 is clearly more accurate. The reason? The .308’s shorter, fatter case allows for higher loading density and a better, more uniform push on the bullet along with a more easily ignitable powder charge.
So in no way is this article meant to discourage shooters from the .30-06. It is still the most popular big game cartridge in the world with a large range of available weights. This article was to simply state some facts for consideration. Like I said earlier, it is always good to have different “tools” for different jobs and so is the case for 308 vs 30-06. If you are looking for a heavier round to use for hunting, you may consider the .30-06 while if you are looking for better accuracy and a lighter round consider .308. For more on ammunition CLICK HERE.