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.308 Win Vs. .30-06 Springfield: Ballistics, Applications, & More

308 vs 30-06
April 26, 2022 Edited April 11, 2023 4940 view(s)
.308 Win Vs. .30-06 Springfield: Ballistics, Applications, & More

While far more similar than they are different, the .30-06 Springfield and .308 Winchester are two of the greatest cartridges ever made and two of the most popular hunting cartridges in the United States!

How do these two military giants stack up to each other? We’ll break them down and find out!

History

Both of these cartridges have a long and outstanding history to them, but we only have time for the highlight reel right now.

.30-06 Springfield

30-06 bullet on workbench

Developed in 1906, the ‘06 was actually an update of the .30-03 that came a few years before it. The .30-03 was an old-school round-nose bullet, where the .30-06 was one of those newfangled pointed bullets that took the world by storm around the turn of the century.

Originally developed by Springfield Armory (the national armory, not the firearms manufacturer that uses the same name today), the .30-06 had several major iterations during its lifetime. While the chamber stayed the same, the ammo used by the military had some hiccups.

Early on, it was estimated that the .30-06 of 1906 using a 150gr bullet had a maximum range of over 4,400 yards. Turns out, it only had an effective range of 3,400 yards. It was tested to 1,800 yards, and the rest was an “estimate”. Clearly, someone over at Springfield was bad at math.

This caused problems during World War I.

Back then, doctrine included using machine guns yeeting rounds at their max range to barrage the enemy. Coming up 1,000 yards short was a problem, to say the least.

After the war, Springfield got to work, and in 1926 the M1 Ball Ammo came to the field. Loaded with a 174gr bullet that was heavier and more aerodynamic, the M1 Ball had a range of 5,500 yards.

And here is where a bit of history lore was born. You might have heard that the military had to download the .30-06 for safety reasons. As a result, it’s unsafe to shoot modern .30-06 ammo in a vintage M1 Garand unless you use a gas plug to regulate the gas.

It’s true. Turns out, 5,500 yards outpaced the safety limits of most US military base’s firing ranges.

Since, in most cases, you can’t just build a longer firing range, the ammo wasn’t safe to train with since any shots that missed might fly way past the safety zone and kill someone.

In 1938 the issue was solved with the introduction of the M2 Ball ammo (the same ammo that the M1 Garand was designed for). The M2 Ball basically took the ballistics of .30-06 back down to the 1906 loading, but with a new powder and slightly better 152gr bullet.

.308 Winchester

308 ammo on table

Almost 50 years after Springfield Armory developed the .30-06, Frankford Arsenal (again, the national armory -- not the modern brand) started playing with the .300 Savage as a base cartridge for testing. For their experiments, it was named simply the T65 series of cartridges.

Frankford quickly saw that with some minor modifications and using newer powders, they could almost perfectly replicate M2 Ball ammo ballistics but with a cartridge that was smaller and lighter than the .30-06.

After a few years of testing, Winchester decided that the cartridge Frankford was working on would be a great cartridge for civilian use. Winchester introduced the .308 Winchester in 1952, two years before the T65E5 would be adopted by NATO as the 7.62x51.

The rest, as they say, is history. Practically speaking, .308 Win was designed to be and is .30-06 but smaller and lighter while keeping the same ballistics.

Applications

Hunting

hunter with 308 rifle

Both cartridges are great for hunting. Being .30cal, they each have a good weight for penetration, good velocity, and more than enough range for the average hunter.

Depending on the load you use, both .308 and .30-06 are good for at least 400 yards.

For anything in North America, from deer to moose, you won’t go wrong with either choice. If you’re planning on larger game as your main harvest, then .30-06 will give you a bit more energy and range.

Long Range Precision

308 Rifle Firing

308 Winchester isn’t the best these days, but it still holds its own very well in the long range department. Consistent hits to 800 yards are mostly where this cartridge lives, but if you develop a good load using some of the newer, better bullets, pushing .308 Win to 1,200 yards is a good challenge that won’t drive you insane.

.30-06, on the other hand, really isn’t a great choice but is at least doable. More recoil, higher cost, match ammo is almost impossible to find even during the best of times and doesn’t really offer anything over .308 Win for long range shooting. All-in-all, .30-06 just isn’t a great choice for long range.

Ballistics

Talking about ballistics for these two cartridges is a little hard since there are SO MANY choices when it comes to ammo for both of them. Normally, I try to compare match ammo Vs. match ammo -- but since .30-06 match ammo is rarer than hen’s teeth, that’s not a fair comparison in this case.

When it comes to hunting ammo, you can find basically the same options for both calibers, from the lightest options to the heaviest, although .30-06 ammo does tend to go a little higher in weight.

308 vs 30-06 Ballistics Chart

Bottom line: unless you want to use the heaviest options for .30-06, you can find -- there isn’t enough difference between the two to really make a difference.

However, anything .308 can do, .30-06 can do it slightly heavier. While .308 Win tops out at around 185gr bullet weights, .30-06 can go as high as 210gr. Both cartridges can be found using bullets as light as 110gr.

A 168gr SMK from a .308 moves around 2750 FPS whereas a .30-06 will sling a 180gr SMK at about the same speed.

They have the same drop within 5 inches past 600 yards and the same windage within 2 inches past 700 yards.

The only real difference is that .30-06 is carrying more energy since it’s heavier, roughly 300 ft.lbf more at the muzzle and 100 ft.lbf more at 600-ish yards.

Is that really going to matter? Not really, not when you’re already working with over 2,700 ft.lbf to start with.

In most practical manners, .308 Win is simply a better version of the .30-06. That’s why the military adopted it, and it’s still true today.

AR-10 or Bigger

If you want to sling .308 Win from an AR, you’ll need an AR-10/AR-308. The cartridge is too large to fit in an AR-15 magazine well so you need to step up to the larger frame size.

I always recommend either buying a complete .308 rifle or at least building it using parts from the same manufacturer. Large frame ARs are much less standardized than AR-15s are so it’s good to stick to one brand if you can.

Just like .308 Win is too large for the AR-15, .30-06 is too large for the AR-10.

However, Bear Creek Arsenal is coming out with their all-new HuntMaster 30-06 semi-auto rifle that looks pretty slick! Check out the teaser here

Which is Better?

If I had to pick one, .308 wins my vote. Unless you’re looking to shoot an older rifle that only comes in .30-06, there really isn’t much reason to choose it over modern options.

.308 Win was designed to be a smaller version of the same thing, and that is exactly what it is. If you really need more energy than what .308 Win can bring to the table, it might be worth looking at a more modern cartridge than .30-06 Springfield -- .300 Win Mag, .300 Norma, and .300 PRC all come to mind.

While the .30-06 will live on for decades simply because of the M1 Garands that are in the world, its days as being America’s favorite cartridge are long over.

[Make sure to check out our selection of .308 rifles, .308 complete uppers, and .308 barrels and leave a comment below! Thanks again to David Lane for his hard work on this article]

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Greg Simmons
April 26, 2022
Great article!!
Morgan Parsons
April 26, 2022
so are you guys gonna do a .30-06 gun? would love to see it considering the other options are $1,300+
John@customerservice
April 27, 2022
Never say never, Make sure you are signed up for our newsletter (https://www.bearcreekarsenal.com/bca-subscribe) to stay updated on all new releases and products.
Steven Schmidtman
April 26, 2022
Good article I learned a lot from it
Travis R
April 26, 2022
All I can say is, Carlos Hathcock was very unhappy when he was forced into the .308. Enough said !
Alan Thomas
April 26, 2022
very biased article as long as you are only comparing ww2 era 30.06 ammo to the 308 (7.62x51 nato) then yes from a ballistic standpoint they are very close, which was the requirements of the military's top brass at the time. now let us look at modern day the 30.06 is better suited in a bolt action just like it was designed for in 1906 unlike the 308 which was designed from the start to be tested and run in semi auto rifles then adapted to bolt action rifles. as far as recoil goes there is no real difference having 9 30.06 and 3 308 rifles in both bolt action and semi autos . from a hand loader view the 30.06 wins out with more powder and bullet combinations that are less finicky than the 308
Johnny richardson
June 3, 2022
thank you , you know why their so biase.. "they dont sell 30-06"
James Acquaviva
April 27, 2022
Excellent article! Thanks. Actually cleared up a couple questions I would always ask myself, but never remembered to look em up.
Solomon Dudley
April 27, 2022
Hello love bca but they need more cal for shooters and hunters they need to make a frame for 3006 and 300 win mag also 270win
Solomon Dudley
April 27, 2022
Bring the 458 mag and 375 h&h.mag in an AR frame caliber but the make it a bolt action. There is a company that Makes ar frames but in a bolt action that would be nice to have and try out something different.
Cody C
April 27, 2022
.308 is great and all but the market needs more long action ARs. If not .30-06/.270 how about .300/.338 WM?
PistolGrip44
April 29, 2022
Remington used to make a great 30-06 semi-auto rifle. The model 7400 series.
Mickey Heath
April 29, 2022
Good article
Mickey Heath
April 29, 2022
You need to make a 300 win mag in and ar platform
Chris Linkous
June 3, 2022
Can you build me a 30.06 upper? Daddy wants one.......I will pay in advance! Come on, lets do it Please Please Please. I will buy at least 2 and maybe 4.
Richard C Littleton
June 6, 2022
Great article.
Travis Russell
June 19, 2022
Carlos Hathcock was disappointed in the 308, nuff said. Why don't you guys make a 270 for the ar10?
Jesse A
August 17, 2022
Heard the news today of a 30-06 Hunter line of rifles coming, and I am very interested. Every time I keep hearing of something new and innovative (22-250 etc.) for the AR Platform, it's from Bear Creek. Keep up the good work.
Ray House
January 22, 2024
My first love ( rifle ) was a Win model 70 in .308 . I've always loved this round and agree that it's so close to a 30-06 but with the short action . I still shoot 2 ; a Remington model seven and a short barrel 700 . Both have taken a lot of deer and other critters .Ammo has always been easy to find and cheap , relatively speaking . Now I'm drooling over BCA's AR 10 in .308 to help with my "pig problem" . I justify this to my wife by telling her that " I need to shoot a lot and shoot fast when a sounder comes by " . I think she's buying in !!! :)
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