Ammunition

Cartridge of the Week, The 30-06 Springfield, 30-06 Spr. ,30-06 Spfld., 7.62x63mm, .30 Government

Born from the .30-03, the .30-06 Springfield is one of the most important cartridges of the 20th century. Developed in 1906, the name derived from a 30-caliber bullet in the year 1906 and most commonly pronounce it as thirty-aught-six.

30-06 Springfield Rifle Cartridge
This iconic cartridge needed an equally historic gun for its debut and it found one in the Springfield Model of 1903, which would not be the only famous rifle that chambered the .30-06. Later the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) would utilize this cartridge to become one of the more devastating infantry weapons of World War II.

Springfield Model of 1903
This is a monster cartridge. The energy that disperses in this round is overwhelming. So much so that you will remember firing a 1903 Springfield the following day—and so will your shoulder.

With around 3,000 ft-lbs., this is like a city bus hitting your target. While this seems awesome, as I stated previously, it is a lot less awesome for most after a day at the range. The recoil and the long cartridge stroke prompted developers to begin work on a shorter version of the .30-06, known as the .308 Winchester. The .308 Winchester is virtually the same bullet, but in a shorter cartridge. The .308 would eventually replace the .30-06 as the cartridge of choice for the military.

.308 Win (left) vs. 30-06 Spr (right)
While designed as a military cartridge, it has become a staple cartridge for hunters. Other than very dangerous game in Africa and Asia, very little game will not surrender to this round. The first sporting application was in the Winchester Model 1895 lever action rifle. It would become a staple hunting round and would be used in the Remington Model 30 1921, the Winchester Model 54 1925, the Savage Model 40 and 45 1928, and to the present day in numerous hunting rifles from all major manufactures.

Bull Elk Bugling
The military rifles that made it famous were the Springfield 1903, the 1917 Enfield, the 1941 Johnson Light Machine gun, and the 1941 Johnson Rifle. In the machine gun platform, it saw usage in the BAR, M1909 Machine rifle, M1919 M37 Machine gun, M1917 Machine gun, some limited Lewis guns, and a machine gun designed by Marlin which is similar to the BAR.

However, the most iconic weapon that it saw use in was the United States Rifle, Caliber .30 M1, or M1 Garand. “The greatest battle implement ever devised,” were the words of General George S. Patton. Whether single shot, semiauto or fully automatic, this was a devastating bullet in a military platform rifle.

With almost infinite civilian variations and nearly 20 different military applications, this is without a doubt one of the most versatile cartridges ever designed for the modern smokeless powder rifle.

Please leave comments below and look for my Firearm of the Week, every Friday and The Cartridge of the Week on Mondays.

.30-06 Springfield Ballistic Comparison

Cartridge Bullet Weight Muzzle Velocity Muzzle Energy
.243 Win 100 Grains 2,850 fps 1,805 ft-lbs
.30-30 Win 150 Grains 2,715 fps 2,048 ft-lbs
.30.06 Spr 150 Grains 2,900 fps 2,820 ft-lbs
.308 Win 150 Grains 2,750 fps 2,518 ft.-lbs.
.300 Weath Mag 150 Grains 3,200 fps 3,412 ft-lbs
.300 Win Mag 150 Grains 3,290 fps 3,570 ft.-lbs.

Tell us what you think about the ‘thirty-aught-six’ in the comment section.

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Comments (11)

  1. I got some surplus 30-06 ammo belt feed. had to remove the clips. When I shoot them out my m1 the brass fly’s forward, and when I shoot other ammo. it doesn’t cycle very well. some times wont cycle at all. I pulled the bullets on that surplus ammo and it is filled 90% with ball powder, 60 grs. I was just wondering what powder it was . and is it going to damage my M1. Thank You.

  2. Sorry, comment should read “inaccuracies below.” The inaccuracies were above when I was writing the comment below, but are now below since my comment posted at the top of the column of comments!

  3. There are a few inaccuracies above. For one, the .308 does not do what the .30-06 does, only better; it is always behind the .30-06 other than in one situation: the case is smaller and lighter. That means more rounds carried per unit weight, and means semi- and full-automatic action cycling is less violent owing to reduced bolt excursion. As for power, the .30-06 case holds 12 grains more powder than the .308; the only reason they are close as they are in performance is that the .308 was developed 49 years later, and metallurgy and manufacturing techniques improved, allowing higher peak pressure in the cartridge. Given that modern rifles have modern metallurgy, if you load a .30-06 to the same pressures, it leaves the .308 in the distance, approaching (not equaling, approaching) .300 Win Mag in performance. Finally, 7.62 mm is NOT the same as .308; mil brass is harder, thicker, and lower capacity as a result; .308 can be loaded to higher performance as a result of about a 3 grain higher case capacity than 7.62 NATO. That also points up that if you put a .308 powder load in a 7.62 NATO case, you will have significant overpressure compared to a .308 case. 7.62 chambers are built with more slop and headspace, so don’t fire .308 in a mil weapon, or you run the risk of blowing out the shoulder with the weaker brass. The .30-06 may be a grandaddy, but it’s one that can keep up with, and stay ahead of, the young ‘uns in a new rifle designed to handle modern pressures.

  4. Oh, I almost forgot. As to accurate automatic fire, the M1919 machine gun and the Browning Automatic Rifle were extremely accurate at distances beyond 600 yards in both WWII and the Korean Conflict. The Browning continued in use into Vietnam by the ROK and the US Army with great effect. As a matter of fact, one of the complaints about the BAR was that it didn’t get a good enough dispersal at distance, and thus wasn’t effective enough against area targets. So it was pretty accurate in the right hands. The main fault with both these weapons was that the barrel couldn’t be changed out, so they would overheat. Recoil and accuracy wasn’t a factor. The M60 was adopted because of its quick change barrel and the fact that it used disentegrating link belts. The M1919 was more reliable, and so was the BAR.

    1. In one aspect of this post, you are wrong. The barrel on the 1919 IS CHANGEABLE. Though definitely not in 30 seconds or less, whereas the BAR needed to be sent to an armorer.

      But the barrel change on the 1919 is really a mute point anyway. In the original military trials, the 1919 had like a 250,000 round belt, yeah, UNBELIEVABLE, BUT TRUE, and Mr Browning simply pulled the trigger, locked it in some fashion and WALKED AWAY. The 1919 ate the entire belt with NO failures.

      Try THAT with an M60 or M240!!

      The 1919 was immediately adopted by the military.

      And the “con” that the 1919 didn’t have a changeable barrel is just STUPID. But, when the barrel on the 1919 is in the neighborhood of TWO INCHES IN DIAMETER, yeah, that’s F-in’ HUGE, why would you change it or even want to?!?!? But, I’d also say that the M60 or M240 would most likely turn WHITE HOT and simply MELT if you did try to do the 1919 military trials.

      Plus you are talking apples and oranges when anyone includes the 1919 with ANY squad automatic rifle. The 1919 was MEANT to be a heavy machine gun, NOT a squad automatic like the M60.

      Someone, somewhere, convinced the military establishment the M60 could do the same thing that the 1919 could without all the weight and cost. And unfortunately for the military, they bought the story. So, tell me, what heavy machine gun does the infantry now have?? Yeah, I thought you couldn’t!!!!

      And do not tell me they have the M2 50 cal either. THAT is NOT an infantry weapon. That is a mobile weapon that has to be mounted on a vehicle, and you can’t just trek a vehicle up a hill or through a river to some outpost, like Korengal, and put it at just the right location to suppress the enemy if they choose to try and overrun you. Well, I digress a little, you can carry the 50, but you and whose army [pun intended] is going to help you, whereas the 1919 is EASILY carried to just about anywhere.

      Today’s soldiers are a little less safe in not having the 1919 around, and if they did, any of them could easily substitute for any McDonalds advertisement, as they all chant “we’re lovin’ it!!!”.

    2. It was not the M1919 that Browning used for the tests. It was the water-cooled M1917. He fired 20,000 rds through the prototype without a single malfunction, and then another 20,000 rds. He then used a production model to fire 21,000 continuous rounds without stopping, which took about 48 minutes. The weapon weighed about 47 lbs. without the tripod, T&E mechanism and water can. With these, it weighed in at 103 lbs. or more. The army considered it a heavy machine gun. It used a cloth belt for feeding.
      The M1919 machine gun is considered a medium machine gun, and weighs in at 31 lbs. and change without the tripod. It also originally used a cloth belt. It was modified to use a disintigrating link belt. It was the M 1917 Browning which could be fired for long durations of time, due to the water jacket’s superior cooling qualities. The M1919 in all its variants had to have time to cool, otherwise a ‘cook off’ condition would ensue. This condition was agrivated by the fact that the Browning M1919 in all its variants fired from a closed bolt. This caused the barrel to heat rapidly. And until the A6 variant of WWII, the barrel was difficult to change and adjust. The M1919A6 variant was the first gun that didn’t require field stripping to change the barrel. It was also the first M1919 variant which didn’t require a tripod in order to be fired. But it weighed 32 lbs. It was also the first variant that was easily (relatively) employed by infantry in the offense. The M1919 in all its variants was at a seriousdisadvantage against the MG34 and the MG42. They were both lighter, had higher rates of fire, were capable of being used easily in the offense and cooled better between bursts, because they fired from an open bolt. They were both designed from the ground up to use metallic links, and their barrels required only seconds to be changed out.
      The M60 in its variants used several features from these two guns. It was designed to fulfill the role of platoon light machine gun, and did it quite well. It weighed 23 lbs. in the version I used to carry. It fired from an open bolt, could be used accurately from a bipod or a tripod, was quickly deployable and could go all day firing sustained fire. The barrel could be changed in seconds if it overheated. It also wouldn’t cook off as easily as the 1919, because the round wasn’t left in the chamber. The M240 light machine gun is much the same. Both are very good weapons for what they are designed to do. At 18 to 23 lbs, they are much more mobile than the M1919A4, which weighed in at 32 lbs without the tripod, and required a crew of three to carry, set up and fire it.
      And yes, even if you don’t like it, the M2 HB Cal. 50 machine gun is an infantry weapon. And I have humped it up hills in Korea, and other places. Its a bitch to do, and takes four men to do it, but we’ve done it.
      When I was in, every company had at least two of them and we deployed with them.
      By the way, if I have a choice between the M1919 and either the M60 or the M240, I’ll take the 240. Its a more reliable weapon than the M60 due to the adjustable gas system. But only a little more reliable. The M60 was a very good light MG.
      And no, the M1919 was not easily carried anywhere. By the time you added up the weight of the tripod, T&E, weapon and spare barrel, you were humping around 80+ lbs. I have carried the M60, tripod, T&E and spare barrel myself along with a full ruck and all the battlerattle. It normally takes two men to transport the M60, but it took about 3 to 4 men to transport the M1919 in all variations except the A6. And ALL air cooled machine guns will overheat, including the M1919. But the 30-06 is still a better round, and the M1919 was designed to fire it, so I like it anyway.

    3. And I should have included, the 1919 DOES HAVE disintegrating links and doesn’t have to use the old cloth belts.

  5. Okay, first the .308 cannot do what the 30-06 can do. The 30-06 has a 150 to 200 fps advantage over the .308 in every bullet weight. This translates to a significant range advantage at longer distances and a significant impact advantage at medium to close range. The 30-06 weighs about 15% more than the .308 Winchester in any bullet weight, which isn’t very significant.
    As to accuracy, the 30-06 in modern powders is as accurate as anything out there. The accuracy issue was due to the powders of the day. IMR 4895 or IMR 3031 were the original powders used in this cartridge back in 1936, when it was loaded for the M1 rifle, and the powder didn’t fill the casing more than about 75%. It was a fast burning rifle powder and intentionally so, to keep the pressures at the M1’s gas port within levels that would not bend or damage the operating rod. As a result, WWII velocities on 150 grain bullets were slower, around 2700 fps. The 173 grain ball match round was about 2600 fps. When the 7.62 Nato round was developed, it was intended to duplicate this. With the advent of Improved Military Powder 4350, the -06 gained 150 to 200 fps over the 7.62, and the powder filled the casing to a 95% fill, allowing a much greater burn consistency, which greatly increased the accuracy of the round in any rifle configuration. The standard velocity of a 150 grain bullet in the -06 is 2910 fps, a 165 is about 2800 fps in a 22 inch barrel, and about 2850 in a 24″ barrel. The 180 grain bullet is standard at 2700 fps in the 22″ barrel, and about 2770 fps on my chrony Chronograph in a 24″ barrel. This is a significant difference. The .308 is actually slower than the 7.62 nato, so the difference is even greater between it and the -06. The 7.62 Nato round operates at a noticeably higher chamber pressure than either the .308 or the 30-06. By the way, the 30-06 has a longer barrel life than either the .308 or the 7.62, due primarily to lower mean pressure and longer neck length, which allows the gasses to cool more before contacting the rifling. Strange but true. Accuracy in all my 30-06’s with scopes is under 1″ with several 180 grain bullets. Sierra Gamekings and Sierra Prohunters generally go inside 0.6 inches in my Ruger M77MKII and 0.6 to 0.8 inches in my M1903-A3. Respective velocities using Remington brass and primers and IMR 4350 are 2700 fps ave. and 2770 fps ave. I load about 2 grains off the max with 55 grains even for Sierras Noslers, Speers and Hornaday Amaxes. In my 20″ heavy barreled Mauser (E R Shaw Barrel) I get 2630 ave. and groups at 100 yards of less than 0.5 on most days. This is faster and more accurate than my heavy varmint model 700 in .308. With 165 grain bullets, all these rifles still have significant advantage in velocity with little or no difference in accuracy over any of my three .308 Winchester rifles. The group sizes are for 5 shot groups by the way.
    As to effectiveness, please note that in Afgnanistan, the US Army is using the M14 in an accurized configuration extensively as a designated Marksman rifle. This is because the M16 in all its configurations is woefully lacking in effectiveness at any distance beyond about 200 meters, while the much more effective 147 to 175 grain 7.62 Nato will lay a man out at 800 meters through all his heavy winter clothes. Yes, you can carry 2 5.56 rounds for every 7.62 round, but you need multiple hits from the Barby round to insure that a threat is put down. The 7.62 only needs one. The 30-06 is even better, with the ability to incapacitate a threat at over 1000 meters with a 150 grain bullet, and closer to 1200 meters with a 175 grain round. And yes, it has the necessary accuracy to do it. The -06 was Carlos Hathcock’s favorite round, in a Winchester Model 70, and he used it extensively past 800 meters and out to around 1200 meters with great effectiveness. His favorite bullet was the Sierra 173 grain boattail Matchking. In a 24 inch barrel he was getting around 2800 fps out of it. It was rated 2550 in the match loads for the 7.62 Nato. He carried the 30-06 because it worked.
    Recoil is only about 2 to 3 foot pounds greater in the -06 over the .308 in the same rifle and scope configurations, and is not very significant for the increased performance. Recoil in the .300 magnum family, however, IS significant and can be as much as 10 or 15 foot pounds over the .308 which would be expected for the 400 fps increase in velocity (150 to 200 over the 30-06). But that’s what recoil pads are for. They soak up recoil. Remington’s new pad soaks up about 50% of the recoil from the 30-06, making it easy to shoot in a 71/2 pound rifle and the BDL or CDL will shoot inside an inch with nearly any factory load. I own several .308/7.62 rated rifles, and even more 30-06’s. I also own two .300 Win Mags. Both will shoot Sierra 180 grain bullets inside an inch at 100 yards. I also own one .35 Whelen. It is an accuracy champion, and is made from the 30-06. It kicks more than any of my other rifles, but will put 5 225 Sierra Gamekings into .4 inches at 100 yards, and generates around 3600 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Nothing walks away from being hit by that. But after over 45 years of shooting and 20 years in the Infantry at the sharp end several times, I will take the .308 over the 5.56 any day of the week and carry the weight penalty in both rifle and ammo, and the -06 over both of them any day of the week. By the way, Losok Arms makes a M1A in 30-06 that will shoot inside an inch at 100 yards and carries a 20 round box magazine. That’s the best of both worlds. Check them out.

  6. This discussion is pretty much a Fool’s argument.. The venerable ’06 is indeed one the best all around rifle cartridges of all time. It was one of the first true “high intensity” smokeless cartridges. For years it ruled the roost. Then the .308 Winchester came along..

    With the exception of bullet weights over 180 grains, whatever the ’06 can do, the .308 can do, and do it a little cheaper and in most applications, do it better. There are many reasons why the US Military made the switch from one to the other. Many of those are the same reasons They switched from the .308 to the .223. Reduced recoil., better control, cheaper to manufacture and most importantly, more portable fire power. The average 185 lb. Infantryman can carry about twice the amount of .223 cartridges into the field as .308 and nearly 4 times as much when compared to the 30-06. That’s sheer physics, not opinion based on nostalgia. Under automatic fire, the 30-06 is uncontrollable and wastes valuable ordinance.

    From a target or competition shooting viewpoint, the .308 Winchester’s ballistics and powder burn efficiency make it more stable ballistically and due to the reduced recoil, more accurate. This has been debated for decades and the facts are there to support the case for the .308. Take a trip to any PALMA Range or even your local Gun Range you will see for yourself that .308’s far outnumber 30-06’s. Most Long Range Shooting Trophies belong to the .308 Winchester. For good reason. The .308 is cheaper to load, easier on barrels and much easier on Shooters. Not to mention the vast supply of high quality used military cases available at still (for now) reasonable prices for reloading. Anyone that’s spent a day at the shooting range with an original M1 Garand knows the importance of the recoil factor.

    From a Hunting viewpoint, out to 500 yards, (that’s farther than most of us have any business shooting at anything) up to 180 grain bullets, there is nothing the ’06 can that the .308 can’t do. They are almost ballistically identical. The ’06 has the edge when it comes to heavier bullet performance, but at the cost of a significant increase in recoil. If someone is truly seeking a harder longer, punch in a .30 caliber Hunting Rifle, then why not step up to a .300 Win Mag. Which is to the ’06 what the ’06 is to the .308.

    The 30-06 has it’s place in history, but unfortunately it has long been sandwiched between two cartridges that are just better at doing what the 30-06 was intended to do.

  7. I have no trouble with the recoil of the 30-06. I normally shoot from 20 to 50 rounds at a setting at the range and its not a pussycat, but its not bad either. And that’s in a Ruger M77 Mk II. But you have a few errors. The velocity of the M2 ball 150gr. round was rated at approximately 2700fps, not 2900fps. That was the wwII round. It was later upgraded to 2910fps with a slightly slower powder (IMR 4350), and that’s the standard for the 150gr. round today. Also, the 30-30 produces about 2350fps with a 150gr. bullet, not 2715fps, which would have it in the .308 class. It still hits much harder than the 7.62X39 round, though.
    The 20-06 has it all over the .308 in versitility, too. It will out range the .308 in any bullet weight by 2 to 300 yards, and it is a viable cartridge with bullets from 110 to 220 grains in nearly any rifle. As for accuracy, my 30-06’s, including an M1903-A3 will put 5 round into less than an inch at 100 yards, using Sierra, Speer and Nosler 180 grain bullets. I just finished checking zero at 200 yards with my Ruger M77MKII, and fired a final 3 shot group that was slightly smaller that an inch at 200 yards. This is with a standard barrel, using Nosler Ballistic tips, which are extremely accurate bullets. The original ball ammunition was loaded with IMR 4895, which was a faster powder and didn’t fill the case as well as IMR 4350, so it got a slightly erratic burn, which is why the shorter .308 case, which is about 90% filled by 4895, is more accurate than the military 30-06. This is not true of the same round in IMR 4350. It is very accurate with bullet weights from 150 grains to 200 grains, and can rival any match grade .308 or 7.62 x 51 ammunition.

  8. I addition to the various rifle platforms, and popularity, the projectiles came in almost every flavor as well. Its possible to fine AP Incendiary, tracer, duplex and triplex (2&3 bullets stuffed in the same case), and others often blended together. Neet history here.

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