When it comes to iconic firearms calibers, one can argue the .30-06 Springfield is in a class by itself. Having first been in service as a U.S. Military cartridge, it became a legend in hunting rifles, renowned for its range and stopping power. The cartridge is one of many 30-caliber rifle cartridges and has been lost in the shuffle of more modern offerings on the market. However, a suitable cartridge design never goes out of style, and this round is still as relevant today as it was when it was first introduced in 1906.
Today we'll examine the .30-06 Springfield cartridge in depth. We'll explore why this centerfire rifle round still matters and is one you should consider for your next hunting rifle. We'll also look at the ballistics of the round and the big game animals of North America it can down quickly and cleanly. We will also recommend the best modern hunting rifles chambered for this old design today. There's something out there to fit nearly every hunter's distinct style.
History and Ballistics of the .30-06 Springfield
We won't go too deeply into the history of the .30-06 since it's been heavily covered. All you need to know is the U.S. Military first developed the cartridge for combat purposes. They first introduced the round in the M1903 Springfield rifle, which saw combat in World War I. However, in World War II, the .30-06 became a legend in the semi-automatic M1 Garand and Browning BAR. One could even argue the .30-06 won the ground portion of the war. It was adopted into various other rifles and machine guns, and they used the round in active service until the 1970s. A near 70+ year run is one heck of a track record for anything used in the military, which is usually always looking for the next big thing! Through various conflicts, the military used the .30-06. Many soldiers saw the hunting potential of the round once they returned home. As a result, the .30-06 gained a second life with sportspeople and shooters, extending its life well beyond its already storied service history.
As for ballistics, the .30-06 is plenty of speed for most hunting applications. A simple 150-grain Remington full metal jacket (FMJ) has a muzzle velocity of 2,900 feet per second. It's still doing 2,600-fps at 100 yards and a little over 2,300-fps at 300 yards. At 400 yards, you're looking at a little over 1,800 fps. The trajectory is excellent too. Remington puts the drop at -24.3 inches at 400 yards and only -8.2 at 300.
The speeds and trajectory are even better if you start using premium ammo. Federal Premium's Nosler AccuBonds in a 150-grain bullet weight is also doing around 2,900-fps at the muzzle. However, this boat tail and polymer tip bullet sustain velocity and energy slightly better downrange. It's doing 2,700 fps at 100 yards and 2,493 fps at 200. It's still doing 2,100-fps at 400 yards. It isn't until you reach 500 yards that it dips beneath 2,000 fps. Federal Premium puts the drop at zero at 200 yards and only -7.2 at 300.
At the same time, the .30-06 delivers an extraordinary amount of energy. Those Federal Premiums provide about 2,400-foot pounds of power to the target at 100 yards. It's the same for Remington Core-Lokt's weak points. For example, 150-grain Winchester Ballistic Silvertips have a velocity of about 2,700-fps at 100 yards and hit with about 2,404-foot pounds of energy. The 30-06 is a magnum, long-range round. And it has the speed and power to take down almost any North American big game animal, from whitetails to moose. It's the main reason the round has such staying power.
We only gave the ballistics for some 150-grain options. Most big game hunters favor much heavier bullets in the 165 to 180-grain range without a noticeable loss in velocity at longer ranges.
Benefits to the .30-06 and Frequently Asked Questions
The most significant benefit to the .30-06 Springfield is affordability and availability. Even the higher-end premium rounds rarely go for more than $60 a box, which is in sharp contrast to other higher-enough rounds that may go for $80 to $90 a package these days. Because it's been around so long, a ton of .30-06s are out there, and many manufacturers stock ammo accordingly, even in places where hunters may not use it as often.
At the same time, the .30-06 has a very manageable recoil compared to other 30-caliber options on the market. That makes it useable for just about anyone without sacrificing too much in terms of power. The excellent versatility means you can own one hunting rifle for just about any scenario or game animal you may face.
Many newer shooters get confused when they see others interchangeably throwing around the terminology .30-06 and .30-06 Springfield. There's no difference between the two--one's just a shorter way of saying it. Springfield gets its name because the iconic Springfield Armory designed it. The 30 in the name comes from the fact it's a 30 caliber, and the "06" portion designates the year the cartridge was introduced, back in 1906. Now, let's look at some of the top rifles on the market being chambered for this popular caliber.
Ruger Hawkeye Hunter
This is the best option for traditionalists who want a reliable gun with a classic look. The Hawkeye is a classic bolt-action rifle with a gorgeous American walnut stock and satin stainless steel finish. This rifle has a 22-inch barrel with a 1:10 twist rate. Ruger gave this rifle an ultra-reliable Mauser-type extractor that is non-rotating. It helps this rifle cycle quite effortlessly. We also like the three-position safety that allows loading and unloading without turning off the safety. Ruger also packages this rifle with a 20 MOA Picatinny rail ready for your optics. The MSRP on this rifle is $1,359, so it's not a cheap option. However, it is an ultra-reliable one that will last you years in the field.
Browning AB3 Composite Stalker
This rifle is an excellent option for anyone who wants a highly light gun at an affordable price. The Browning AB3 usually goes for about $600. Thanks to the synthetic stock, it comes in at trim of six pounds, 13 ounces, making it perfect for spot and stalk hunts. This rifle has a matte-blued finish on the 22-inch barrel with a 1:10 twist rate. We also appreciate the polymer recoil pad and textured grip panels. They help add to the ergonomics of an already lovely rifle. You probably will not need a second shot, but in case you do, the short, 60-degree bolt throw helps ensure fast cycling.
Savage Arms 110 Ultralite
For serious backcountry big game hunting, the Savage is an excellent choice. Savage skeletonized the receiver to get this rifle down to just 5.85 pounds. That's going to make it extremely easy to tote up the side of a mountain after that big buck or bull. This rifle has a 22-inch carbon fiber-wrapped stainless steel barrel with a 1:10 rate of twist. Savage also threaded it for those who want to add a suppressor later. This rifle also has Savage's signature AccuFit and AccuTrigger systems that allow you to adjust things like the length of pull and trigger pull yourself. No visit to the gunsmith is required. Savage also introduced a new model with a Kuiu Verde camo pattern to help vanish into the high country scrub brush. This rifle has an MSRP of $1,699.00.
Mossberg Patriot Synthetic Cerakote
The Mossberg is an excellent choice for the hunter on a budget who wants a quality rifle without breaking the bank. We chose the synthetic Cerakote for this list because, at $518 MSRP, you're not going to be hard-pressed to find another rifle for this price with a protective Cerakote finish. Mossberg applies this finish to a 22-inch stainless steel barrel, meaning this rifle should last through many years of abuse in the field. The twist rate is 1:10, and the weight is just 6.5 pounds, thanks to the stock and fluted barrel. This is a fantastic option for the deer hunter who also wants to possibly pursue elk, moose, bear, and other big game in the future.
The pump-action rifle has fallen out of popularity these days, but Remington still makes a quality option in the 7600. This is an excellent option for anyone who wants the fastest follow-ups possible without a sporting rifle. It is fed through a four-round magazine and cycles effortlessly thanks to the twin action bars. This gun has a great-looking black matte finish that, combined with the Monte Carlo walnut furniture, makes it natural beauty. This rifle has a free-floating 22-inch barrel, so you're not going to miss out on accuracy either. At around $900, it's not the cheapest option out there. However, we like this one for anyone who loves to do deer drives with family and friends. It will be the fastest rifle you can use in that situation.
Weatherby Mark V Hunter
Another classic design where it's hard to go wrong. This rifle comes in at 6.2 pounds, thanks to the polymer stock. Weatherby gave this rifle a full-enclosed bolt shroud and a six-lug action. This rifle has a 24-inch barrel with a 1:10 twist rate. The barrel is coated with a Cobalt Cerakote finish to protect against the elements. The barrel is also threaded, and Weatherby includes a thread protector standard. As if those features weren't good enough, they gave this rifle their crisp Trigger Tech trigger system, an unbelievably short 54-degree bolt throw, and they back it with a sub-MOA group guarantee at 100 yards using factory or premium ammo. For the serious hunter who wants a serious gun, this is a good one to consider at $1,400.
Winchester Model 70 Extreme Hunter
For the hunter who scoffs at the idea of canceling a hunt just because bad weather is on the way, the Model 70 is a great option. Winchester gave the receiver and 22-inch, free-floating barrel an FDE Cerakote finish to shed water and snow and help prevent corrosion. They also gave this rifle their signature, buttery-smooth "Pre-64" action for quick and efficient cycling no matter what nature throws at you. The Bell and Carlson synthetic stock has a VSX finish that helps it shed water. It's fitted with a TrueTimber camo pattern that's perfect for hunting in a high desert environment. We also just like the ergonomics of it, especially that Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. The Model 70 is a proven rifle design, and this new offering from Winchester makes it better. The MSRP is $1,729.99, which is not too bad for a premium design like this.
Bergara B-14 Ridge Rifle
Our last pick is an excellent middle-of-the-road option as far as budget goes. The Bergara can usually be found for $750 new. This rifle features a 24-inch threaded barrel with a Graphite Black Cerakote finish. Bergara molds epoxy pillars into the glass fiber-reinforced polymer stock of these rifles. That helps with the action, which operates on a two-lug system. Bergara also includes a sliding plate extractor. There is also a coned bolt nose and breech. The company guarantees a 1.0 MOA or less group at 100 yards with factory match grade ammo. This is an excellent option for anyone who wants to upgrade seriously from a budget firearm but isn't quite ready to spend $1,000 or more on one just yet.
READ MORE: HOW TO DECIDE BETWEEN A .308 AND A .30-06
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