THE .30-06 – Still America’s Best!

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For the general run of both mule deer and whitetail hunting I can’t imagine a better cartridge than the .30-06, flat enough for most situations and plenty powerful. This beautiful Colorado buck was taken with a Kenny Jarrett .30-06.
In general I don’t think the .30-06 is ideal for dangerous game, although it has been used up to elephant with the right bullets. But I do think it is perfect for leopard, especially with a bullet designed to open on deer-sized game. I used a 180-grain Swift Scirocco to take this Zambezi Valley leopard right at dark. Fortunately for PH Andrew Dawson and me, he was stone dead just a few yards from the bait tree.
By today’s standard .30-06 velocities are unimpressive, but because of its popularity it is always on the cutting edge of new developments. The first Hornady Superformance loads were, naturally, in .30-06. At 3016 fps, this 165-grain Superformance load is solidly into .300 Winchester Magnum territory.
The first time I ever used the .30-06 was in Kenya in 1977, an over-the-counter Ruger M77 that made me a .30-06 fan to this day. Using handloaded 180-grain Nosler Partitions, I racked up a long string of one-shot kills, including this fringe-eared oryx, taken at about 250 yards.
It is absolutely true that the .30-06 is not inherently as accurate a cartridge as the U.S. military cartridge that replaced it, the 7.62 NATO or .308 Winchester. On the other hand, with greater case capacity it is faster, and it is generally plenty accurate enough.
I am probably best known as a magnum guy, and I do like heavy rifles—but the .30-06 has been adequate for elk for a century, and it’s better today because we have better bullets. This Colorado bull was taken with an interesting rifle, an R.F. Sedgely Springfield converted to left-hand bolt, probably made about 1930.
Following the crowd isn’t always exciting, but sometimes it makes sense. Everybody loads .30-06 ammo. You can get it anywhere, and there are well over a hundred factory loads to choose from.

By
Craig Boddington

The cartridge first known as “Ball Cartridge, Caliber .30, Model of 1906” is without question the most famous American rifle cartridge, not only in our own country but throughout the world. In 1903 we replaced the Krag-Jorgensen in .30-40 Krag with the long-serving and much-loved 1903 Springfield and a new .30-caliber cartridge. The Springfield was a Mauser clone, its rimless cartridge similar to Mauser’s designs, but longer with more case capacity. The initial 1903 cartridge was loaded with the same 220-grain roundnose bullet as the Krag, but in 1906 the bullet was changed to a faster and more aerodynamic 150-grain spitzer. At the same time the case neck was shortened by .07-inch, thus the Model of 1906—the .30-06—went forward to make history. The .30-06 served the United States in both World Wars, the Korean conflict, the early years of Vietnam, and a dozen banana wars in between. It was chambered to the Springfield, the Pattern 14 Enfield, the Marine Corps’ Johnson semiauto, the Garand, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and several versions of the Browning machinegun. Clear into my time, the 1970s, the .30-06 was still seeing use both with snipers and in the Browning light machinegun.

JUST PLAIN GOOD

It is often written that the popularity of the .30-06 as a sporting cartridge is based on its use as a military cartridge. Yes, this has much to do with its initial popularity. Until some time between the World Wars the lever action was America’s most popular repeating rifle action. The returning doughboys had indeed loved their Springfields and Enfields, and respected the other team’s Mausers. Many turned to bolt actions…aided by tens of thousands of surplus rifles dumped on the market, along with new commercial bolt actions from the major manufacturers. After World War II the ascendancy of the bolt action accelerated, and it has long been the most popular rifle action in the world.

On the other hand, there are lots of great cartridges suitable for bolt actions, and it has been more than fifty years (1957) since the Garand was replaced by the M-14 in 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester). The .308 Winchester is a great cartridge, no question…but as a hunting cartridge it has never approached the popularity of the .30-06. If its lasting claim to fame is that it was America’s military cartridge during some of our biggest and most successful wars, then why isn’t the .303 British as globally accepted as the .30-06? After all, the .303 British was in service from 1888 until 1957, and in an empire the sun never set on it was used in a lot more places. The .303 British was a very popular sporting cartridge, but it has faded into history, while the .30-06 remains a world standard hunting cartridge. I suggest that its lasting value as a hunting cartridge is primarily because it is so damn good!

Today we have a bewildering array of hunting cartridges to choose from, including an even more bewildering array of fast and flashy magnums. In 1920 the .30-06 was fast and flashy, but today its ballistics are quite pedestrian. Over the years it has been factory-loaded with everything from 100 to 220 grains, and handloaded with component bullets from 100 to 250 grains. The most popular loads today are 150, 165, and 180-grain bullets, at “standard” velocities, respectively, of 2920, 2800, and 2700 feet per second. There is nothing special about these figures…except that they work.

Recoil and muzzle blast are moderate, accuracy is generally pretty good, and bullet performance is uniformly spectacular. This is because most .30-caliber bullets are designed to provide optimum performance at .30-06 velocities. The fact that the velocities aren’t extreme also helps, because high velocity is the great enemy to bullet performance. And while .30-06 velocities are as not as impressive as the magnums, the recoil is also not as impressive…and under most circumstances the .30-6 is fast enough. With 150-grain bullets it is a near-perfect deer cartridge…and will certainly do for pronghorn and sheep. With 180-grain bullets it is superb for elk, fine for moose…and although it isn’t ideal, has probably handled more big bears than all the other cartridges put together. The 165-grain bullet is the great compromise, flatter-shooting than the 180s, harder-hitting than the 150s.

In North America we generally have the luxury of knowing exactly what game we are hunting, so I’ve taken a lot of deer, pronghorn, caribou, and even a couple of sheep with the .30-06 and 150 or 165-grain bullets (whichever shot best in that rifle). For elk and black bear I’ve used 180-grain bullets. Even though the .30-06 is a genuine favorite of mine, I’ve never used it for moose or big bears. On specific hunts for specific animals we do have the luxury of choosing the perfect tool.

The .30-06 has shined most brightly for me in Africa, where you cannot choose the perfect tool, and where you have no idea what a hunting day may bring. You might have to take 200-yard at a small steenbok, perhaps a longer shot at a much larger kudu—or a closer shot at a bigger and tougher zebra. We could argue the perfect rifle and cartridge for each situation, but this is meaningless because you must use the rifle you are carrying. Over the years I have used many rifles and cartridges in Africa, so I’ve had opportunity to compare.

I am totally convinced that the .30-06 is the best, bar-none, absolute champion African plains game cartridge, and over there I shoot 180-grain bullets almost exclusively. The first time I personally ever used the .30-06 was in Africa, on my first safari in 1977. This makes me a Johnny-come-lately to the ’06, but I managed to make a good choice. In Africa the plains game rifle might be used every day, so it must not kick you into next week every time you squeeze the trigger. It must reach out a bit for the smaller antelope in open country…but its bullet must also have the power and penetration to handle a 500-pound wildebeest or an 800-pound zebra. The .30-06 does all these things with quiet efficiency.

Big game is a matter of preference. I generally consider the .30-06 outclassed, but I have taken rhino and elephant with 220-grain solids. Before there was a “caliber minimum” lots of buffalo were taken with the .30-06 as well. If your “one gun” is a .30-06, however, in a pinch it will do.

On that first safari in Kenya I had a classic case of “missitis” the first couple of days. Then I straightened up and my PH straightened me out, and I had 14 straight one-shot kills with the .30-06 and 180-grain Nosler Partitions handloaded to 2800 fps. I have been a fan ever since! The closest shot was a dik dik at maybe 30 yards. The longest shot was a Coke’s hartebeest for lion bait. This was late in the hunt and I was feeling cocky; it was a facing shot in a crosswind at 400 yards. I held a body’s width into the wind, quite a bit high, and the bullet entered center of chest. The largest animal taken with the .30-06 was a zebra, down in its tracks.

The most difficult shot was at the only good East African impala we saw, following his herd through a narrow window in heavy cover at maybe 200 yards. I was on the scope, PH Willem Van Dyk was on the binoculars; he told me to get ready, as there would be no time for me to see the horns. He said, “He’s next, he’s coming.” I picked up the reddish brown, found the shoulder with the rifle swinging, and squeezed. The buck went down in the opening, and Van Dyk said, “Expletive, man, you can shoot.” I have had great confidence in the .30-06 ever since, and although I have used many other cartridges, I keep coming back to the .30-06 for my “light rifle.”

HUNTING HISTORY

One of the first, and certainly the most publicized, sporting use of the .30-06 was on Theodore Roosevelt’s safari in 1909. The Springfield rifle wasn’t generally available to the public yet…but it’s possible that Teddy, fresh out of the White House, knew someone. His 1895 Winchester in .405 and his .500/.450 Holland & Holland both gave good service…but it was the Springfield he used the most. I have actually held that rifle, and it is not, despite all the history, a .30-06; it is an unmodified .30-03, the older version. No matter. It was the 1909-1910 Roosevelt safari that clinched the historical record of the .30-06.

Just a few years later Leslie Tarlton, one of the professional hunters on the Roosevelt safari, and a man who is credited with taking perhaps the most lions of anyone, anywhere, any time, wrote that he considered the “American .30 Springfield as the very best of the smallbores” (as the .30-caliber was then considered). As the years passed most Americans who journeyed to Africa carried a .30-06: Author Stewart Edward White in the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway in 1934, Robert Ruark in 1952…and so forth. It was this tradition that made me choose the .30-06 on my own first safari…and the legend was exactly accurate!

As the years passed the .30-06 became America’s darling in the game fields of North America. It was the “go-to” choice for gunwriters like Colonel Townsend Whelen—and it was the early favorite of Jack O’Connor. Yes, he became an outspoken champion of the .270, probably a better choice for the wild sheep he loved to hunt. But he was an early advocate of the .30-06, and in later years, he admitted privately that the .30-06 was more versatile.

For generations now the .30-06 has been the most popular cartridge among North American hunters. Its ballistics aren’t sexy, and it has competition from many newer cartridges that are longer, shorter, fatter, and often faster. The .30-06 just plods along, doing its many jobs as well today as it did fully a century ago. Despite all that competition, it remains the standby for millions of American riflemen.

POPULAR AIN’T ALL BAD

Besides the simple fact that it’s a great cartridge, the .30-06 offers advantages in its longevity and its popularity. Every major firearms manufacturer throughout the world chambers to this cartridge…and anywhere in the world where rifles and ammunition are available at all, you will find the .30-06. There are more than 130 .30-06 factory loads, from Remington’s 55-grain sabot Accelerator to Federal’s 220-grain loads. We have a century of handloading data, thousands of recipes for getting the best performance from the rich array of .30-caliber bullets.

The.30-06 is hardly a cutting edge cartridge—but because of its popularity it will be on the cutting edge of any new load development. A good example is Hornady’s new Superformance line, using new propellant technology that increases velocity without raising pressure or increasing load density. The first loads seen in this new line were, you guessed it, in .30-06—and they increased the velocity of the tired old warhorse very close to standard .300 Winchester Magnum performance (as Federal’s High Energy and Hornady’s Light Magnum loads have also done).

If you want a hunting rifle for a specialized purpose, whether it’s pronghorn, mountain game, Alaskan brown bear, or three-toed gazork, then there are specialized cartridges that are probably ideal. But if you are going to own just one centerfire hunting rifle, make it a .30-06. It is the versatility king, short of thick-skinned dangerous game the ultimate jack-of-all-trades…and, as generations of riflemen have learned, it works!

One of the wonderful things about the .30-06 is routinely fantastic bullet performance. This is because of its mild velocity, and also because most .30-caliber bullets are designed for optimum performance at .30-06 speed. These are some of the first of Federal’s Trophy Tipped bullets, of course tested first in the .30-06.
: I would never say that the .30-06 is ideal for game the size of eland, which are considerably bigger in the body than buffalo. But it’s all about shot placement, and the .30-06’s relatively mild recoil in relation to its power simplifies shooting. My wife, Donna, loves the .30-06, and used it to drop this old Namibian bull with PH Jamie Traut.

Editor’s Note: Born and raised in Kansas, Craig Boddington has been writing about his passions, hunting and shooting, for more than 35 years. Currently Executive Field Editor for InterMedia Outdoors, Boddington has published more than 4000 articles and 22 books, is the host of outdoors television shows on both The Outdoor Channel and The Sportsman’s Channel, and has produced six feature-length DVDs. Check his website at: www.craigboddington.com.

{ 64 comments }

{ 63 comments… add one }

  • Willy1947 October 15, 2010, 12:08 pm

    We have had 30-06 around since1906, 30 Government. Let face it we had surplus rifles and cheap 30-06 ammo. What most people do not know is we almost had a 7mm round. If General MacArthur had not demanded the 30-06, we would be talking about a 7mm. As the best all around deer rifle of all times. I am 63 have never owned a 30-06. I have always shot 7mm’s.

  • Earl October 15, 2010, 12:38 pm

    I started hunting big-game with a M-70 in .243 Win. It was fine for a lot of things, but it was not ideal for everything. And given my shoestring student budget, I needed a rifle that would do everything. I swapped the M-70 for a Ruger M-77 in .30-06 Springfield. Why .30-06? Because I could afford the ammo… surplus and factory was available and often discounted in price. The result was I shot the hound out of that rifle. Then… one day… I swapped some gear and got a surplus 03-A3. I was amazed at how accurate that rifle was. The M-77 and the 03-A3 became my be all to end all do everything rifles. Over the last 30 years I’ve shot a plethora of rifles and calibers. I’ve shot a pile of small and large game. Since 1985 I have used a left-handed Rem. 700 BDL in (you guessed it) .30-06 for all my deer hunting. Shooting from hard off the muzzle on out to the other side of a peanut field, I have not had a single failure. One reason is that the Rem. 700 consistently shoots under MOA on out to 400 yds, which is the longest distance at which I have done any significant testing. The other reason is that the .30-06 shoots sufficiently flat enough that with practice one can reliably get first round hits at any distance one might reasonably expect to see and shoot game. My last deer was a big +180 lb. (big for our area) 8 point buck which was shot at a counted 157 paces. The buck was quartering away. At the shot he collapsed like a sack of potatoes and did not even flinch. I shot him with the rifle I use in vintage military rifle matches… a Smith-Corona 03-A3. The 150 gr. bullet entered just in front of the left hip and exited the right front shoulder. The exit wound was about the size of a tennis ball.

    On Monday I will go on the first of what will be many hunts for this deer season. I will be carrying my left-hand Rem. 700 stuffed full of Rem. 150 PSP ammo. The only things I’ve done to the rifle is add a 3x Weaver scope, a carrying sling and a Pachmayr recoil pad. I expect I will see some nice bucks. I expect I will shot a nice buck. I will cycle the bolt, but I do not expect I will need to fire a second shot. That has been the routine for over 25 years. It is a nice routine.

    • Mack Davis October 12, 2013, 5:04 pm

      That Smith-Corona… made a good typewriter too.

  • LA Halstead October 15, 2010, 3:09 pm

    The ’06 has worked in my hands for 35 years. As the author said: “It’s just plain good.” Ground Hogs, crows, boar, deer, various varmits, targets, plinking, it is [excuse my English] plain good………..Creeker

    • chickenclaw October 15, 2012, 4:58 am

      hhaha you shoot crows with a .30-06 ? are you insane man? I suggest a good old .22 will do you just fine for that hahaha that is dumb as hell

  • jlp October 15, 2010, 3:09 pm

    I have always told people, you cannot go wrong with the 30-06 caliber. Manageable recoil, good accuracy and a wide variety of bullet weights ranging from light weight 125 grain varmint bullets to super heavy 220 grain slugs. The caliber has long barrel life so you can relax when working up super accurate loads without having to count down the rounds of barrel life left as when you use the barrel burn out magnum calibers. The 30-06 will kill anything on the planet and do it out to very long yardages. People shoot the 30-06 better because it does not knock the fillings out of your teeth like the over-powered magnums do.

  • Gordon October 24, 2010, 1:27 am

    I have the best of both worlds I guess. I grew up hunting with a 30-06. When my brother left for college, I used his 8mm 30-06; this is a 98 mauser chambered out to a 30-06 or more commonly known as a wildcat. I frequently hit dinner plate sized rocks across the canyon with no problem. Now I have a Browning 7mm mag; its an old one that I inherited from my uncle. Both rifles are wonderful to shoot, very accurate if loaded properly, and get a lot of questions at the range. I have used bowtails, spitzers, grand slams, and A-Max ammo of various grain weights. My preference is a 180-190 grain for both calibers. Accurate and pack a powerful punch. That’s my bit.

  • Jeff October 3, 2011, 10:38 am

    Craig-
    This was a great (and fun to read) article. When I was a lad in the early 80′s, Ruger ran ads for its M77 bolt action, touting it as a working man’s hunting rifle with classic lines. At that time, the 30-06 reigned supreme with all the gun writers, too. I am sure I must have read your accounts of using the 30-06, during that period. When I returned from my first Iraq deployment in 2004, I bought a M77 MKII in 30-06 for the nostalgia, but also because it had the reputation of a versatile, mild and accurate round. I used that gun to kill an elk in 2009 and despite flirting with the idea of buying a 7mm-08 tack-driver upon returning from a subsequent deployment, I am sticking with the girl I brought to the dance. My gunsmith is currently purtying her up a bit with a muzzle crown, chamber work, re-bluing, glass bedding, trigger job and new recoil pad. I expect to feel like Hemingway when he got his Springfield from Griffin and Howe.

  • david December 8, 2011, 12:20 am

    I just ordered one of the new S2 Weatherby Vanguards–love the rifle. IMHO it’s the best value in the bolt action sporter market. The caliber? 30-06 of course. I don’t currently own another bolt rifle, and if you just own one, this is the caliber. It’s a little more power than I need, and kicks a little more than I like, but like the writer said, boy is it versatile. Go on an elk hunt in Montana (with good old boys) and you’ll find 8 of 10 of them carrying ’06s. There’s a reason. BTW, I’ll just have to indulge myself with another bolt rifle to get the lighter, more specialized caliber that I want. :-)

  • Ernie December 16, 2011, 1:03 pm

    Great article, only 1 comment, in the early part of the article, Craig says that the Pattern 14 Enfield was chambered in .30-06. This is not true, the Pattern 14 was chambered in .303 British. It was the U.S. Model of 1917 (Enfield) and the U.S. Model 1903 Springfield, which were both used in WWI, and were chambered in .30-06. Still my favorite cartridge. I have a sample of every U.S. battle rifle ever chambered in .30-06 and I love shooting them all. From the 1903, the 1917 Enfield, 1903A3 and my M1 Garand. For hunting I us an H&R single shot with a 22″ heavy barrel, I believe in the ” one shot, one kill” philosophy so I’ve studied long range ballistics and always use my ballistics computer with my mil dot scope to make sure I make the shot.

    • James Wilbert November 18, 2012, 1:12 am

      You ARE correct! the Pattern 14 is in .303, and the Model 1917 is in .30-06.
      I have a commercial FN Mauser (JC Higgins Model 50) I inheritted from My Dad, and a Garand. The Mauser was opened to an Ackley 40 degree, and that allows Me to approach .300 H&H Mag velocities, but at 60yrs old, I use “fireform” data to shoot and Hunt with, 99% of the time. The weapon is Very accurate!!! It’s More than adaquate for anything I hunt(deer, pigs, Elk, etc)
      I have a Isreali rebarreled .308, and a Rem 700 in 7mm Mag that barely outshoot it(My ’06) ,but not by much.
      My .45-70 Siameese Mauser is close and My .340 Wby is outstanding(accuacy wise), but the Weatherby is more recoil than is managable, anymore, and the .45-70 has a limited range.
      So, I have to agree with Boddington. If You can only own 1 rifle, make it a 30-06!!!!

  • Sherman June 20, 2012, 12:46 am

    I Have two 30/06 and I have deer wv. for many years .with these guns and killed alot of deers.

  • Ben July 9, 2012, 3:17 pm

    For me it’s not so much the caliber as the gun that I shoot from. I’m partial to Ruger #1s. I have one in 30’06 and one in 45-70. I think that I was very lucky in acquiring both of them about 2-3 years ago because since then I haven’t seen them anywhere for sale and when I ask the dealers they say Ruger has a backlogged order for them. The #1 in 45-70 has tremendous knockdown power between 100-150 yards. I’ve yet to hunt anything with the 30’06 but I don’t doubt it’s effectiveness either.

  • peter September 3, 2012, 4:08 am

    How is 30.06 fair with 7.62X54 caliber? R they pretty much the same? or the 7.62X54 is more powerful base on the casing.

    • AJM September 3, 2012, 10:32 am

      peter, the .30-06 is more powerful than the 7.62x54R. Longer casing so more propellant means the bullets go faster. However the x54R is no slouch. Just not as powerful or common as .30-06. FAR more hunting/target shooting/whatever loads available for .30-06 than x54R but x54R is cheaper since it’s available as cheap surplus and even the imported commercial stuff is cheaper than .30-06.

      I had a nice Mosin M44 that I recently sold. Decided I wanted a Springfield and the adaptability and versatility along with availability of .30-06 and .30 M2.

      • Joe September 5, 2012, 4:22 pm

        The 7.62x54R is a helluva lot closer to .308 ballistically than .30-06.

        • Don November 18, 2014, 10:22 pm

          When people say it’s between the two they’re not far off. .308 has roughly 5gn case capacity less than 54r and .30-06 has about 5gn more with a propellant common to all 3 like 4895. You can use heavier projectiles with 54r as well which I wouldn’t necessarily try with a .308. A 91/30 has the throat for big bullets.

  • Nonny September 3, 2012, 8:16 am

    This article is what folks in the entertainment industry call “playing to the crowd.” An article praising a cartridge the majority have no objection to always goes over well. The truth is there are plenty of other cartridges that do what the 30/06 does better and then some. About the only point in its favor at this point is ubiquity. Well, almost. You can get a 30/06 rifle and ammo just about anywhere anytime, but can you get what you need? Rifles? Yes, if you run it like a single-shot, but not if you insist on one that allows you to run the bolt properly. Ammo? No. The 150gr bullets are too short for close-range quartering-toward shots. The 180gr loads exceed the average shooter’s tolerance for recoil. You can generally get 165gr loads if you have some time on your hands, but not as easily as you can get better loads for other cartridges. Things have certainly improved since ’06. Holding on is a little silly.

    • E350 4x4 September 3, 2012, 10:20 am

      Nonny: What are your recommendations then for rifles in more current calibers, for 1. deer 2. Elk. Both in the Western States.

    • Harry September 4, 2012, 5:52 am

      Nonny: I have hunted whitetail and mule deer, as well as pronghorn for over forty seasons. I have harvested animals with .243, .270, .30-06. The .30-06 is by far my pick. WIth 150 grain standard factory loads, I have crushed more shoulders than I can count. I have to take exception to your comment. The 30 caliber at .30-06 speeds achieves complete penetration through both shoulders, even in thin skinned bullets such as Remington Power Points.

      • Nonny September 4, 2012, 12:52 pm

        E350, it sounds like you want a 270 WSM. If you are thinking in terms of .30/06 performance and recoil then any of the .308 and .284 Winchester based cartridges will do. They come in an easier to run short-action and beat the .30/06 or are so close that differences are insignificant.

        Harry, I own a .30/06. It is set up with 165gr Remington Core-lokts. Winchester Power Points would have been fine, except the Remington Core-lokt was the only 165gr load I found commonly available. Either is fine for deer as they require a slightly long for caliber, soft bullet. Those tough bullets are too likely to zip through without expansion at short range. I’m guessing an old-time shoulder-buster like you knows all about that. As for my /06, it takes up space in my case as a back-up rifle when I travel.

        Now for the 150gr /06 bit: I do most of my deer hunting in areas that have over forty deer per square mile. We kill piles of deer. I’ve never made it out of the teens in one season myself, but I have hunted with those that spend every morning in a stand from August to January. I have seen about every way there is for a round to fail on a deer. 150+ pound bucks seem to be the hardest; especially when they are in rut. Now, quartering toward where you’ve got to hurry up and get one in him before he runs under your stand is tough on a bullet. It is tougher still when you’re near really thick stuff a buck with a blown up shoulder will run into and go for a while. If the 150 works for you on that shot, I hope it keeps on working.

        • James Wilbert November 18, 2012, 1:22 am

          “…Hurry Up and get one in Him…”? You aught to be ashamed doing that, but posting You’re doing that is a disgrace!
          You’re No Sportsman. Nor do You have any respect for the animals You hunt!
          Ignore the Butcher, folks.

    • Jeff P September 4, 2012, 7:42 am

      I don’t have a problem with the 220 gr. bullets in my Savage 110 in 30.06. That rifle is as cheap as it gets from zero to DRT. I bought mine used with a scope for $225. That’s hard to beat. It shoots the 165 gr. bullets more accurately than any other load (Remington Core Lokt). I learned that from a lot of testing. And of course the cartridge is a known to be effective setup so I don’t have to spend my time loading my ammo. I can shoot cloverleafs at 100 yards and I can shoot 6″ groups at 250 yards off hand. With that accuracy and the range of bullets available it’s like having a whole series of guns that can be carried around all day. I just have to remember which pocket I put the different cartridges in. Black bear are a pretty big issue where I live now so I have the 110 setup almost as a scout rifle with iron sights where the rear sight is mounted midway down the barrel. I haven’t had to shoot a bear of course but bear attacks are up tremendously and it’s good to know that aggravating bear that invites itself to dinner every time I cook out can be dropped in her tracks if the situation arises. It seems she gets more bold every year. I generally have a 12 ga. laying around for that job but if she starts getting too aggressive I can nail her at a good distance if I so choose. I doubt that is going to happen but there are so many bears the government is about to loosen the restrictions on shooting them. If that happens I’ll be ready. And I still have a nice deer rifle for whenever I decide to drop a buck for dinner (for a lot of dinners actually).

      I have much more accurate bolt action rifles but that’s only because I know the Savage shoots well enough to get the job done. I no longer shoot it for plinking fun because ammo prices went up a few years ago and I now shoot a .223 that is supremely accurate (a Savage 12). But when push comes to shove it will be the 30.06 Springfield that draws the duty and that’s for a whole set of different duties.

      • Jeff P September 4, 2012, 7:44 am

        I forgot to mention I’ll be using the 30.06 for hog hunting soon. They are also invading this area and a 30.06 will dispatch them as quick as pulling the trigger.

  • Ricardo September 3, 2012, 9:58 am

    Great article a keeper. Just to comment I have a Sporter 30-06 shoots great looks even better. Some sentimental value behind it my Uncle who was a 1st Marine Raider during WW2 gave it to me before he passed away.

  • Herbert Fritts September 3, 2012, 10:02 am

    Got my first 06 at 8 years old carried one hunting for 48 years never need anything bigger or faster.
    Ernie
    Wikipedia
    When the U.S. entered the war, the P14 was modified and standardized by the U.S. Ordnance Department and went into production at the same factories as had produced the P14, production of that rifle having ceased, as the Model of 1917. Sometimes called the M1917 Enfield, it was chambered for the standard US 30-06 cartridge and enjoyed some success as a complement for the Springfield M1903 rifles which were America’s official standard issue, soon far surpassing the Springfield in total production and breadth of issue.

    • James Wilbert November 18, 2012, 1:26 am

      It was an M1917 that Sgt. Alvin York carried to capture the Germans- No matter what Holiwierd says.

  • George Price September 3, 2012, 10:23 am

    Nonny – WOW! you do truly have a “hard on” for the good ole’ ’06 !! I just bought a Kimber Montana 84L 30.06, have been working up loads for the last few weeks – Although not a “tack driver” it is producing sub MOA 3-4 shot groups with all acceptable weights, 150-165-168-180 and I’m gonna see what she will do with 200 PT and Accubonds too – I’ve had many, many ’06′s over the years and wandered from it to magnums way more than I should have but I’m back now and plan to hunt out my lifetime with the little “lightweight” ’06 and just be happy (and never hungry)

    • Bernie November 23, 2012, 12:36 am

      Seriously? and in parenthesis? no wonder you need a big gun..

  • PJ Shea September 3, 2012, 11:01 am

    In 1965, I ordered an 03 A3 30-06 Springfield from a mail order catalog. They advertised it for $19.95, and $29.95 if you wanted them to “select” a better one for you. I felt, what the hell, and spent the extra ten bucks. I received a Remington 03 A3. After inspection, I saw that the barrel only had two riflings. I bought the rifle to deer hunt. It was my first high powered rifle. Prior to that, I had always borrowed rifles from my Dad and uncle. I planned on customizing it as I got the money to do it. The first thing was to change the barrel. However, after taking it out and shooting it, I changed my mind. After adjusting the iron sights, I was getting 1 1/2″ to 2″ groupings at 100 yards. Good enough for me! I was a happy camper. Over the following ten years or so, I changed out the stock, trigger, added a scope and shortened the barrel. I still have it, kinda. My son uses it now since my hunting has slowed down. With a scope, I carried those groupings to over three hundred yards and as a result, I added several deer, white tail and Muleys, a couple of Elk, a couple of black bears and countless ground hogs to my kill list. I have owned and shot several calibers during the past forty plus years and always come back to the 30-06. I own eight 30-06s now, 700 BDL, M77 Ruger, Standard #1 Ruger, Savage M110 and a Mauser V24 conversion but my 03-A3 Remington is my favorite. I have two 03s other than my A3, both Remingtons. I don’t know of a more versital caliber. I’ve even shot those 55 grain Remington Accelerators at ground hogs. They worked OK under two hundred yards, not to well for over that. Thanks for reading my rant.

  • nazario assad September 3, 2012, 11:18 am

    parner checa este articulo del caliber mas popular de EUA Y creeo que del mundo

    saludos

    • rodriquez November 26, 2013, 10:42 am

      Si, es popular, no importa comolo dice!

  • Jerry Tasker September 3, 2012, 11:56 am

    Got my ’06 from my dad in 1997. Before he gave it to me, he had taken an elk, a mule deer and a couple of western white tails with it in Montana. He got it from his father-in-law (my grand father)who bought it circa 1920. It’s sporterized – looks and shoots well. My granddad, JB, took three bears, an absolute monster elk and deer too numerous to count. He also used the ’06 on safari in Africa sometime in the 1930′s, but I have no idea what he shot on that trip. My father always referred to it as JB’s “elephant” gun, but I don’t know that granddad took an elephant, and never will, as both have passed. This year, my friend, Jim, who just bought a newer scoped Ruger ’06, and I are planning on putting them through their paces on hogs in Florida this winter. I’ll be using the original iron sights.

  • bear September 3, 2012, 12:02 pm

    My basic deer gun: for 34 years: Ruger M-77, .30-06, scoped; 12 years: Rem 1100 12 ga Hastings barrel, scoped
    Maybe a couple firing pins for Ruger; several more and gaskets for cylinder ring for Rem. Any questions?
    I have a couple:
    Short of getting a supply of Rem Accelerators in .30-06, what would be good load for coyotes, crow, and such?
    And what load for hogs? aywhere from in the brush to 200 yds?
    tnx
    bear

    • bear September 3, 2012, 12:20 pm

      Back again
      OH, only change I would have made is a composite stock.
      Feed is std Rem round 150 soft point or pointed soft point.
      Integral Ruger mount and rings, mounts low as intended.
      Redfield and Bushnell scopes hold zero.
      Every time I come across a Weaver mount I almost want to cuss.

  • Bill Laird September 3, 2012, 12:07 pm

    I am only a youngster (61) but I have, like so many others, been a fan of the 30-06 since I started shooting in the late 1950′s. Over the years I have owned and still own many “specialty” rifles. To this day my favorite rifle is
    pre-64 Model 70 in, of course, 30-06. At one point in time I was handloading for six different rifles in 30-06 and ALL of them shot into less than MOA at 100 yards.
    This article was bound to bring out all of the “my such and such” is better than any 30-06. Personal opinion is fine but the facts regarding the ’06 are not in dispute. Nonny, I don’t know what a short 150grn bullet is. If you mean that it is a “lighter” bullet weight, you need to give it a reference point. A 150grn 30 caliber bullet is huge compared to a 55grn 22 caliber bullet. I will put forth that without telling us what game you are hunting with your “close-range quartering-toward shots” I will say you are completely ignorant of the round of which you are talking about. I hunt in southern California where our deer rather small. I specifically load the 150grn bullet because of the performance on the deer that we harvest here. I have used the 150grn with shots at 30 yards quartering away to shots at 250 yards looking at me. I have not always had one shot kills but will rack that up to the shooter, not the cartridge. I have loaded 180grn Barnes TTSX bullets in the same rifle and have had stellar results on elk. Two years ago I shot a cow elk at 175 yards quartering towards me. The bullet entered inside of the left shoulder and exited just in front of the right hip. Literally dropped in her tracks. I have loaded 200grn Sierra Matchkings in the Model 70 and never had any problem with that combination feeding through the gun.
    What criteria are using for your statement regarding recoil with 180grn bullets? Anecdotal responses from inexperienced shooters does not determine the acceptable recoil for the “average shooter”. I have had children tell me that the recoil from a heavy target 22 is unacceptable. I have shot 460 Weatherby’s and don’t think that the recoil is unacceptable.
    Your statement regarding the ability to buy “better loads for other cartridges” is the ultimate definition of silly. You cannot go into any store that sells ammunition and find as diverse a selection of bullet weights and loads for any other caliber than you can for the 30-06.
    I dare say Mr. Boddington might have a little more experience than you do when comes to his choice in a rifle/caliber combination. In his article, Mr. Boddington stated forthrightly that there are many hunting situations that a “speciality” rifle is a better choice than “just” a 30-06. I will agree with Mr. Boddington, and disagree very strongly with you, that if you only have the choice of one rifle/caliber combination to use here in the United States of America, you will not find a better combination than a bolt rifle shooting the most versatile array of bullets and loads, than the 30-06.

  • Mark Vodopich September 3, 2012, 2:21 pm

    in 1980, I found a Parker Hale model 1200 in .30-06 in a pawn shop in Delta, Co. Bought it by saving money from my summer job working with my father, and have had that rifle ever since. It has killed many deer and several elk. I eventually began shooting in silhouette matches, and experimenting with handloads found that a Nosler 165 gr SBBT would give me the best accuracy and more importantly, the greatest consistency. The longest shot I ever harvested a mule deer at I paced out at over 500 yards. One shot, didn’t take another step. There may be better calibers out there, but I’ll never love one more than my old .06!

  • Scott September 3, 2012, 3:19 pm

    My friends in B.C. mostly use the 30-06 for moose, elk, bear & deer . Mostly 180gr factory loads for larger game and 150 to 165gr for the lighter.
    I’ve handloaded the 208gr Hornady Amax to about 2500fps which groups under 1″ with 5 shots at 100yds in my rifle and will be using this next year.

    Terminal Ballistics Research out of New Zealand, >http://www.ballisticstudies.com/Knowledge+Base/.30-06+Springfield.html< has some useful info re. various factory & handloads on the '06 and other cartridges.

    Scott
    9/2012

    • E350 4x4 September 3, 2012, 8:32 pm

      Scott, thanks for the link.

  • H.R. BEVIS September 3, 2012, 8:51 pm

    This is one of the best articles that I have read. Craig Boddington is a very good writer and I have been reading his stuff since he started writing. In 1965 a friend came to me with an 03-A3, he wanted me to make it into a sporting rifle. So, I went to work. I turned the barrel just enough to get it good and smooth, I then Blued it using a slow rust method that always gives me a very good Bluing job. I made him a new stock and free floated the barrel for him. I also glass bedded the action for him.
    At the time I did a lot of target shooting with an old M-1 that I had. And that old M-1 shot pretty darn good.
    The barrel of that 03-A3 had a two groove barrel and I really did not know what to expect in the way of grouping at 100 yards. I put a 2.5 X scope on the rifle that he already had on hand. Shooting some real good hand loads I started shooting to get the rifle shot in for him. To my complete amazement the rifle would shoot a three shot group no bigger than one inch at 100 years. And I shot a number of targets with 150 gr. bullets. When I called my friend to come and get his rifle, I told him how good that it was shooting he could hardly believe what I was telling him. He was quite a bit older that I was and he could not shoot those one inch groups, but it would still shoot them for me….

  • Gem Gram September 3, 2012, 9:50 pm

    I personally own about 95 centerfire rifles in about any caliber you can name from .222 and .223′s to .375 H&H. Reload for most of them. Sure, a 25-06 and a 7mm08 were the most accurate rifles I ever owned or shot. I once shot five pennies dead center in five shoots at 100 yards with that 7MM08 just t to show off. I repeat dead center!

    And all that said, I have to say that NOTHING compares to the 30-06′s that I have owned. One was a rifle called “Lessie May”. She was my Zen rifle for twenty years. I named her and called her a Zen rifle because the trigger had never been pulled on an animal that did not shortly die. Several of my friends could shoot better groups with their rifles on paper, but none shot more deer in all kinds of situations. The joke in the deer camp was to send me out the last part of the first day of hunting with the Zen rifle to get a baby deer for camp meat. It was more than a joke because almost alway that was what happened.

    With 150 grain bullets she dropped some of the largest Northern bucks I have seen, all like they had been hit with a giant flyswatter. So this discussion of killing power is simply ridiculous. I gave that rifle to my son to pass down to my first grandson. Sure I have killed several deer since then with a nice Steyr rifle also in 30-06 and a coup,ke with other rifles in different calibers but NOTHIN ever equaled the absolute confidence I had in that Lessie May rifle. If it absolutely had to be done at any range out to 700 yards that rifle would deliver. She has not killed anything since, but I absolutely KNOW that the first deer I will see Shawn standing next to if I am still alive will be with that Lessie May rifle. (and by the way as far as recoil goes, my sons started shooting that rifle for fun at 10 or 12 years old, so somebody needs to man-up)

    One of the greatest gunsmith I have ever known, John Le Bout, sat and laughed one day after building many rifles for me and asking, “what caliber is this new toy going to be?’ In the discussion that followed he said he called them my toys because he absolutely knew that the rifle I really killed things with was a mail order 30-06. I was thinking about it for a couple of minutes when he smiled and said, “You know they could have stopped inventing cartridges in 1906 and the animals that we hunt for would not have known the difference. And neither would you! So all the rest are just toys we play with.”

  • Sundowner September 3, 2012, 11:52 pm

    I wanted a .30-06 all my life. When I finally got to where I could afford and use one for hunting, I was handicapped by a shoulder injury and could not handle the recoil. I purchased a .25-06 BAR to try and reduce felt recoil. It worked well until a freak accident injured the shoulder to an even more delicate point. I helped one daughter pick out a fantastic 06 for her husband. The other son in law lucked out and walked into a pawn shop as a fellow was pawning a custom built 06 on a 98 Mauser action. It is beautiful and I am jealous. I have hunted with the boys. I never heard them fire a second shot. They are all smiles which makes my heart happy. They never looked for anything else to shoot. I hope I get a second go around in the next life. If it has not been invented there, I will do it for them.

  • Uncle Phil September 4, 2012, 1:28 am

    The first high powered rifle I ever shot (6 years old) was a 1903 Springfield 30-06. The third deer I ever killed, and the first elk I ever killed was with one. I currently own a custom 03-A3 that I inherited from my father-in-law who had it built from a two land surplus rifle. He used it to kill elk, moose, bear (both kinds), and hundreds of whitetails and mule deer. I have used it on deer and elk and I will continue to do so even though I’m getting older and the Williams peep sight it was build around is getting harder to use. Just means I’ll have to hunt “better” is all. This rifle is already promised to my older son for his collection and no doubt 50 years from now it will still be harvesting game. In my opinion 30-06 is the best all around cartridge yet developed. If we are still shooting a century from now I’m pretty confident people will still be shooting it.

  • bill chase September 4, 2012, 2:43 am

    Just as my Dad always said, the ’06 is and always be the original “gopher to grizzly gun.” Also, if the caliber is so out-dated, why did it win the Wimbleton shoot for so many years?????.

  • Lopaka Kanaka September 4, 2012, 7:43 pm

    Like everyone who left a comment on this page we are all 30-06 shooters when we hunt any game in North America. I have owned three 30-06 rifles in my life time and 03-A3 was my first in 1965, then a Remington 700, then a Winchester 300 Magnum, and currently a 750 Remington 30-06 with a muzzle brake. My old shoulders need a little more cushion when firing. I have magazines with 145,150, 165, and 180 loaded in my pocket when I go hunting. Remington Core-lkts are my go to ammuntion when I go hunting here in the Golden State. I live in a area that is very heavy bush here in the hills and use my Marlin 336 30-30 with Hornady 165 FTX for deers. Happy hunting everyone and keep doing what you do best and lets all vote for a new commander in chief this November.

  • 2f350s September 5, 2012, 1:45 pm

    I have spent 34 years hunting/guiding for everything from javalina to elk and am a strong supporter of the 30-06. My father gave me mine in 1983, a Sako. For 20 years, the Sako and a pre-64 M70 .243 were the only rifles I owned. I’ve since shot-out the barrel of the .243 and bought a pre -64 barrel in 30-06 to replace it. An excellent gunsmith I use is swapping them for me and I’m going to give the newly re barreled 30-06 to my twin brother when its finished. I know he will appreciate the verstility of available bullet weights and the acceptable recoil. I’ll get the pleasure of knowing it will serve him well hunting anything in the lower 48 for years to come.

  • John McKinney October 17, 2012, 6:57 pm

    This is a great article and while African outfitters and guides prefer a larger caliber and a double barrel rifle…Ill take on any African Game there is even water buffalo , elephant or lion or leopard….because with my 30-06 remington woodmaster with beatiful walnut wood grain dheckered stock and Manlicker 2-7 power scope…I plan to shoot that animal with a remington 220 grain followed by a winchester 180 silvertip followed by another reminton soft-point 220 (biggest they make) and when its done I could hit my mark 5 of 5 rounds in about 3.5 to 4 seconds…..or I could miss once…but never twice….and while some guys dried up spring, never been cleaned 742 may have “jammed” once….I keep Hopps #9 on my spring and bolt….never jams….ever….like I said any game on the planet….30-06 remington woodmaster is ready can get from a 55 grain round that travels over 4,000 fps up to a 220 grain that will stop a Rhino. I entirely agree with the author….30-06 best caliber…best gun for the money ….any remington….still the best gun for the money….in my opinion.
    Sincerely, John McKinney

  • John McKinney October 17, 2012, 7:01 pm

    truth is that big animal will drop on shot one or two if the placement is correct …ask Mr Boddington he hunts that big game…not the preferrable caliber for that…they make a reminton semi auto 7400 in a 35 wheelen….or you can just use the .375 H&H double barrel the guide gives you to use (probably the best bet)

    • John McKinney October 17, 2012, 7:18 pm

      one day someone will shoot a rhino and kill it with a .22 lr (probably a remington) just to prove it can be done. we old remington guys are hard-headed like that.

  • terry December 4, 2012, 12:37 pm

    i am in the market to purchase a 30.06 and i was wondering it anyone would please tell me which make and model would be the better choice for me… I have shot many of guns and in a avid hand gunner but want to venture out and do some rifle hunting. im really torn between the remington or the winchester. its a big delema for me. i dont want to invest alot of cash on a rifle that dosent come highly recomended…….thank you and happy hunting

    • Administrator December 4, 2012, 2:47 pm

      I would look at the Ruger American

      • Don December 27, 2013, 8:33 am

        Ruger American is great! Bought one a little over a year ago and mounted Redfield glass on it. Now they are putting out the exact same combo.

  • Gary December 29, 2012, 10:57 pm

    any combination of the Remington 700 would be a good choice. . .you’d never need another gun.

  • jim December 31, 2012, 12:34 am

    the 30-06 to me is like an old old man who has a million stories to tell…..its wars, its hunts. its sucesses period….its been their and done that

  • jim December 31, 2012, 12:48 am

    if you ever looked at a .50BMG cartridge. its an upscaled .30-06 thats all…i mean, its doing something right if they take a rifle cartridge and blow it up to a heavy machine gun round….proven design it does everything just right

  • jim December 31, 2012, 2:00 pm

    i own .270′s .243′s and 30-30′s and one 45-70 and the big 300 win mag, but my man, nothin bucks it like a 30-06, its my preffered caliber of ANY other….its just perfect, i laid down some huge game with it…i take huge pride in this cartridge…..prod owner m24 heavy barrel .30-06

  • jim December 31, 2012, 2:00 pm

    i own .270′s .243′s and 30-30′s and one 45-70 and the big 300 win mag, but my man, nothin bucks it like a 30-06, its my preffered caliber of ANY other….its just perfect, i laid down some huge game with it…i take huge pride in this cartridge…..proud owner m24 heavy barrel .30-06

  • Semper Fi February 5, 2013, 11:09 am

    Boddington writes –
    With 150-grain bullets it is a near-perfect deer cartridge…and will certainly do for pronghorn and sheep. With 180-grain bullets it is superb for elk, fine for moose…and although it isn’t ideal, has probably handled more big bears than all the other cartridges put together. The 165-grain bullet is the great compromise, flatter-shooting than the 180s, harder-hitting than the 150s.

    I would not argue with his overall assessment regarding 165′s and 180′s. But lets not forget 220′s for bear. and when it comes to his statement of 150′s I simply put forth , I have been using 150 gr core-lokts on NE whitetails for over 30 years. Excellent round However, When I decided I wanted a short action I discovered the 7mm-08.

    If Boddington believes the 150′gr ’06 bullets are “a near-perfect deer cartridge” ; Then I would politely submit the 7mm-08 140gr should be elevated into the realm of “perfect” :)

    Others Mileage may vary.

    Semper Fi

  • Joe August 24, 2013, 4:10 pm

    I have a Remington model 740 Woodsmaster 30-06 ,bought 1972 second hand,with Weaver K-4 scope.It still shoots true.I use 165 gr boat tail hollow pts for deer and hog.
    Only had to have extractor replaced.Other than that ,I have had no problems with it.

  • David November 25, 2013, 9:52 pm

    Years ago I bought a Browning 270 Bar.. lately I don”t feel my shooting is as comfortable and have too many misses… I’m 59 and hunt at least 2 times a week. Recently I got to use a Remington 30-06 Semi- auto with a 18″ barrel? I like the shorter gun! I’m only 5′-6″. Is this package w/18″ barrel as good as a standard 24″ for 100-300yard shots for deer?

  • Don McFall March 11, 2014, 2:37 pm

    My favorite rifle is a Parker Hale 30-06 bolt action. I have used it since 1969 with spbt bullets. Norma produced a spbt round which was my rifle’s favorite. Sadly, Norma stopped production of this bullet several years ago. One shot kills are only a matter of aiming at the right spot. You may shoot for neck shot or shoulder and have a one shot kill that drops in it’s tracks. I have found that about 2 inches and 2 inches in front of the heart will accomplish this. Of course this shot is not always available but if it is try it.

  • Jim Pfost October 3, 2014, 10:33 am

    I’ve been shooting a 30.06 for over forty years and have harvested mule deer, elk, white tail deer, bear, and cougar. The bullet of choice has been the Remington 165 grain for all animals. The bear took two rounds to complete the harvest at 305 yards. The other animals were all taken between 125 yards and 300 yards during dry and wet years. Won’t change over to another caliber; why mess up a good thing and my success…out!

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