.308 Winchester vs .30-06 Springfield: Big Difference for Hunting?

The .308 vs. .30/06 cartridge comparisons are one that is well looking into. It is also an emotionally charged comparison. Many hunters had dads and grandfathers who believed in the.30/06. Many people who were returning from battle benefited from the cartridge since it saved their lives.

The .30/06 has received so much praise that it has become a symbol, and any who contest its brilliance are viewed as heretics. At the same time, the .308 Winchester cartridge has a solid history among veterans of the post-Korea War era and a well-established reputation for accuracy.

Therefore, the key to resolving the .308 vs.m.30/06 dispute should be to detach the evaluation from all feelings and concentrate just on facts.

The Difference Between .30-06 vs .308

Before delving into the specifics of the key distinctions between these two 30-calibre all-stars for long-range shooting, it’s critical to comprehend a little bit about their rich histories.


Because it was first introduced in 1906 and uses a.30-calibre (.308-inch diameter) bullet, this cartridge earned its name. The Springfield rifle and the cartridge were provided to American service members, and they won World War I as a team.

The M1 Garand, which took the place of the Springfield bolt-action rifle prior to World War II, as well as the .30/06 helped our troops win a second World War. With the original.30/06 ballistics, a 150-grain bullet could travel at a speed of 2700 fps. This was a cartridge that was considered to have extremely high-performance in the first ten years of the 20th century.

Modern factory .30/06 ammo has substantially improved ballistics. The Precision Hunter load from Hornady is among the modern.30/06 loads with the flattest shooting patterns. A 178-grain bullet will accelerate to around 2750 fps. At 500 yards, the bullet will only drop 44.3 inches below the line of sight if it is sighted at 200 yards.

At that distance, it will still deliver 1533 foot-pounds of energy. The .30/06 Springfield became particularly popular for hunting after World War II due to similar ballistics, and new bolt-action sporting rifles were virtually usually chambered for it first.

A Brief History

With the invention of the 30-30 Winchester, America’s love affair with 30 calibre rifle bullets had its start far back in the Wild West. Later, the U.S. Army created the 30-40 Krag to replace the.45-70 Government as its smokeless powder.

The U.S. Military began working on a new cartridge in 1901 to take the place of the 30-40 Krag, which Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders made famous during the Spanish-American War. At the time, it was believed that heavier bullets were a better option. As a result, the original 1903 design utilised the same 220-grain round nose bullets that the 30-40 Krag fired.

The legendary 7x57mm Mauser cartridge served as a model for the 30-03 Springfield, which has a case head that is exactly the same size. However, it didn’t take long for the American generals to notice that several European countries preferred Spitzer (pointed) rounds with faster velocities in their new boltaction rifles.

The U.S. Military quickly adopted a similar concept to avoid falling behind. A novel cartridge that shot 150-grain Spitzer bullets was proposed and approved in 1906. The 30-06 was created as a result. Both the “30” and the “06” (pronounced “aught six”) indicate the bullet’s calibre and the year of adoption, respectively.

The 1903 Springfield, the Army’s new boltaction rifle, helped the 30-06 acquire popularity at first, but it wasn’t until the M1 Garand’s introduction during World War II that it truly became well-known worldwide.

Our men who fought in the trenches on the Western Front in World War I, stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II, attacked the 38th Parallel in Korea, and saw limited action in the jungles of Vietnam all carried 30-06 ammunition.

In addition to enjoying great success on the battlefield, the 30-06 is credited with having killed every major big and small game in North America up to the black bear. Given that it is still among the most widely used hunting cartridges in the world more than a century after its introduction, the 30-06 is unquestionably a rifle cartridge of American legend.

.308 Winchester

The U.S. Military created the.308 in the early 1950s in an effort to find a shorter ammunition with properties similar to those of the.30/06.

The.308 or 7.62x51mm NATO, as it is commonly known, enabled for nearly.30/06 performance out of individual and crew-served weapons that were shorter and lighter at the time thanks to developments in contemporary propellants.

As the country’s military service gun, the.308 and the M14 took the place of the.30/06 and the M1. The ammunition has since served our forces in a variety of machine guns, the SR25 semi-automatic rifle, and a variety of bolt-action sniper-type rifles. Hunting for big animals also became quite popular with the.308.

The size of the casing is the main physical distinction between the.30/06 and.308 calibres. The.30/06 case measures 2.494 inches in length, whereas the.308 case measures 2.015 inches. The Hornady Precision Hunter is one of the greatest factory loads for the .308 in terms of ballistic performance, similar to the.30/06 calibre.

A 178-grain bullet will be fired at roughly 2600 fps. With a 200 yard zero, this bullet will retain 1346 foot pounds of energy and fall 50.2 inches below the line of sight at 500 yards. Even though the.30/06 case is around 24% longer than the.308 case, it only gives a 6% increase in speed in terms of external ballistics.

According to the principle that velocity increases at a rate of one to four in relation to case capacity.

A Brief History

The U.S. Military began working on a successor to the legendary M1 Garand after the end of the Korean War. The military desired a more contemporary service rifle with select-fire capability and detachable magazines comparable to the Stg-44 and AK-47 notwithstanding the M1 Garand’s gallant service in World War II and Korea.

Despite having delivered excellent performance, the Springfield was less ideal for a full auto service gun since it needed a lengthy action. The U.S. Military required a new ammunition with ballistics that closely resembled the Springfield, a shorter case to fit into a short action, and a 30-caliber bullet. This was possible thanks to improvements in case design and new propellants.

What was ultimately accepted was known as the 308 Winchester or 7.62x51mm NATO. The new ammunition was first made available for purchase by Winchester, who rapidly modified their Model 70 bolt action rifle to take it.

The 308 Winchester quickly rose to prominence as one of the most widely used large game hunting cartridges in North America. The 308 quickly began to rule longer range shooting contests because competitive marksmen quickly learned that it was an incredibly accurate cartridge.

In order to prevent ties between the 308 shooters, the NRA had to reduce the bullseye on its high-power rifle targets.

Although the 308’s tenure as the service rifle calibre for the U.S. Military was relatively brief—it was eventually superseded by the 5.56x45mm NATO (223 Remington)—it is still used by trained marksmen and snipers because of its unmatched accuracy and potent stopping power.

But with the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor and the 300 Winchester Magnum, this is also in doubt.

.30-06 vs .308: The Comparison

Let’s examine each of these exceptional longer range shooting rifle cartridges’ dimensions and specs in more detail before we begin the comparisons.

The first major difference between the two rifles is that they both fire .308 calibre bullets, but this is where the similarities end. The case length of each cartridge is the first obvious distinction. The Springfield has a greater barrel length (2.494″) than the 308 Winchester, which is shorter at 2.015″.

Both great cartridges’ overall lengths—2.8″ and 3.34″ for the 308 and Springfield, respectively—are very different.

The 30-06 requires a long action while the 308 Winchester fits into a short action due to the difference in case length and overall length.

In a bolt action rifle, a short action will have a shorter bolt throw and require less movement when chambering a cartridge. As they enable quicker follow-up shots and are thought to have a tighter, stronger receiver that boosts accuracy and decreases total weight, short action rifles are frequently selected.

How the powder capacity of these two gun cartridges compare is the next key distinction. While the 308 has 58 gr H2O in its casing, the 30-06 holds 68 gr H2O. Given that a 30-06 has a case that is almost 0.5″ longer, this makes a lot of sense.


Both the 308 Winchester and the 30-06 are thought to have a reasonable recoil impulse, however, you could disagree with me if you’re used to shooting.22 LR or 223 Remington.

Although neither cartridge is weak in terms of recoil, accuracy can be achieved by using good shooting technique and cheek weld. The 308 Winchester will have lesser recoil than the 30-06 because it has a shorter case and, consequently, a smaller case capacity.

You can choose from a wide range of bullet weights while firing any cartridge, and this will have a significant impact on the recoil you feel. Additionally, the weight of the gun affects how hard the bang switch will strike your shoulder.

The 30-06 causes roughly 23 ft/lb of shoulder damage on average, compared to the 308’s average perceived recoil of about 21 ft/lb. It will be simpler to build good shooting habits and not anticipate recoil with lesser recoil. This may result in better downrange accuracy.

Overall, the 308 Winchester has a slight edge in terms of recoil.


The two rifle cartridges have their own factions that claim theirs is the better option for accuracy, so this is a hotly contested subject in the shooting community. The 308 cartridge was initially preferred since it used a short action, which made it more accurate.

Short action rifles should have a more rigid shooting platform due to its tighter build. And the preliminary competitive outcomes mirrored this.

Since the 1950s, rifle technology has advanced significantly, making it highly unlikely that you can tell the difference in accuracy between a 308 Winchester and a Springfield when using a modern sporting rifle.

External Ballistics

The best tool we have for evaluating the performance of the .308 to the .30/06 is external ballistic performance. The .30/06 will hit around 14% harder and shoot about 14% flatter when using bullets of the same weight, such as those in the Hornady Precision Hunter load.

However, increased recoil more than makes up for this advantage in energy on target and flatter trajectory. The .30/06 will typically recoil from an eight-pound rifle around 14% harder than the .308.

It may or may not matter to the shooter, however, it has been discovered that many shooters find sustained fire to be comfortable at about 20 foot pounds of recoil, which is typical for the .308 Winchester.

Some will contend that while comparing the .30/06 and .308 Winchester calibres, it is important to keep in mind that the .30/06 will perform better when using larger bullets, such as ones weighing 220 grains. The slower 220-grain bullets would hold together better and penetrate deeper in the days of shoddy bullet construction, which did offer the.30/06 an advantage.

The heavier 220-grain .30/06 bullet will no longer perform any better than a 168-grain bullet from a.308 Winchester or .30/06 when it comes to bonded and mono-metal ammos, though. In fact, at 300 yards, most 220-grain ammos shot from a .30/06 will perform 15% worse in terms of velocity, energy, and trajectory than a 168-grain Barnes TSX bullet fired from a .308 Winchester.

Terminal Ballistics

We must consider terminal ballistic performance when contrasting the.30/06 and.308 for hunting. Remember that the ammos used in both cartridges have the same diameter, weight, and style.

Therefore, from the perspective of terminal performance, the.30/06 delivers slightly quicker velocities than the other. You’re a fool, though, if you believe that an animal or forensic pathologist can distinguish between a wound caused by a.30/06 and one caused by a.308 when the same bullet is used.

When using the same bullet, the.30/06 will shoot more forcefully and the bullet will fly farther than when using a .308 Winchester. However, the change is so slight that, from the perspective of terminal performance, it is impossible to tell the difference inside of 250 yards or so.

However, you can get to a point while shooting at great distances where the .30/06 does have an advantage. The minimal velocity required to start bullet expansion is the best example of this.

For optimal expansion/deformation, a modern mono-metal bullet like the Barnes TSX needs to impact at roughly 2000 fps. When firing a 168-grain TSX from a .308 Winchester calibre and a.30/06 calibre, the.30/06 will reliably produce bullet upset out to about 400 yards. But at about 350 yards, the .308 Winchester will lose the necessary velocity for dependable bullet upset.


There is simply no competition in this category because the 308 Winchester is the lightest choice. And the firearm itself as well as the ammunition fall within this.

In comparison to their long action counterparts, small action rifles will be lighter and shorter overall. This weight differential may be expressed in terms of ounces in modern construction. But as every traveller will attest, “Ounces equal pounds.”

Your feet and back will appreciate you for bringing your 308 Winchester if you intend to stomp that hunting rifle through the wilderness.


You’ll adore both the 308 Winchester and the 30-06 Springfield if you’re a reloader like I am. Both of these great cartridges are simple to handload because to the variety of weights and propellants available.

Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to have both in your collection, it is simple to stockpile parts for each as they both use the same calibre ammos and primers. The Hornady InterLock SP or the Nosler Partition are excellent choices if you’re trying to reload for a well-liked hunting bullet in order to capture that monster buck that has been taunting you on your trail cameras.

Consider the Hornady 178 gr BTHP Match or the Nosler 168 gr HPBT Custom Competition to truly dial in the FPS and extract every MOA of accuracy while boring out the X-ring. Every reloader out there who appreciates actually customising their cartridges to maximise their potential has their hearts set on the 308 Winchester and the 30-06.

Ammo Price

When seeking to buy a new hunting rifle or target shooting platform, ammunition costs are a constant factor.

The 308 will often cost less to purchase ammo because less material went into its manufacturing, both in the case and the amount of propellant used. Always buy in quantity; be sure to look through our selection of bulk 308 Winchester ammo.

Let’s examine the Remington 180 gr PSP, a well-liked hunting round that you can buy at Ammo.com. (Please take note that all ammo price quotes in this article are accurate as of writing but are subject to change based on the state of the market and supply/demand.)

While the 30-06 Remington ammo will run you about $2.10 each round, the 308 Remington ammo will cost you about $1.60 per round.

Now, that cost difference probably won’t matter much that much if you only fire a few boxes a year to verify your zero and go Whitetail hunting. However, if you shoot competitively and go through a lot of ammo annually, that expense could add significantly to your shooting budget.

Right now, 308 Winchester ammunition is less expensive to purchase.

Rifle Availability

Since its creation, long-range shooters and hunters alike have taken a huge interest in both of these cartridges. Due to this, a large range of sporting rifles in both cartridges are available to suit your needs and price range.

You don’t need to look any further than a Savage 110, Ruger Hawkeye, Remington 700, or Winchester Model 70 if you’re seeking to go large game hunting. If you’re on a tight budget, a Savage Axis or Ruger American will do, and if you know where to search, you might even be able to get a cheaply converted Mauser.

The 308 is the vehicle to look at if you’re in the market for a semi-auto, though. Compared to 30-06, semi-automatic rifles of the 308 calibre are much more prevalent.

To meet all of your semi-auto plinking requirements, you may easily purchase an AR-10, FN-FAL, CETME, or M1A chambered in 308 calibre. You are primarily restricted to the M1 Garand for the 30-06 when it comes to semi-automatic fire.


Deer Hunting

We now go on to the subject that causes the most controversy among the average hunter. Which one of these two hunting ammunition is superior? Both the 308 and the 30-06 Springfield can handle the majority of your big game hunting demands up to black bear thanks to their wide range of bullet weight.

Bullet weights ranging from 150 to 200 grains are acceptable for both hunting rounds. The 30-06, however, has a distinct advantage in that it can accommodate 220-grain bullets.

The 30-06 can fire these heavier bullets due to its longer case, increased case capacity, and extended action, but the 308 has a maximum bullet weight of 200 gr. Additionally, a 30-06 will have a higher muzzle velocity (fps) with larger case capacity, often between 150 and 200 fps more than the 308.

Is that relevant? I don’t think the Whitetail or Mule Deer will be able to discern the difference when you’re deer hunting. It may have an impact on a large game animal. Next, let’s discuss especially about elk.

Elk Hunting

Hunting deer is one thing; fighting a bull elk is quite another. Having said that, a bull elk can be legally taken using either of these hunting methods. However, the 30-06 has a little advantage when it comes to hunting elk due to its capacity to fire larger ammos with more velocity.

The 30-06 should be able to cut through the thick elk sinew and bones more easily than a 308 because of its increased penetration (greater sectional density). Witht hat being said, a clean kill of an elk is always dependent on shot location. A 200-grain bullet fired from a 308 into the lungs will be much more lethal than a 220-grain round to the hindquarter.

Due to its superior stopping power, muzzle velocity, and penetration, the 30-06 will, all other things being equal, be slightly more effective against elk (and bears).

Long Range Shooting

Another contentious issue in the longer range target shooting world is this one. Which cartridge is more precise?

The 30-06 “should” be the best longer range cartridge on paper. It can fire heavier rounds with a higher ballistic coefficient since it has a larger case capacity, which will increase the muzzle velocity. So the NRA High Power Competitions “should” be easily defeated by the 30-06, right?

Theoretical predictions do not match what we observe from a distance in this instance. The 308 has less recoil and can accomplish everything the 30-06 can at longer range. Additionally, as we’ve already discussed, less recoil results in improved accuracy and sound shooting techniques.

Simply said, the 308 is a more effective cartridge, therefore switching to the 30-06 does not provide you much (if any) of an advantage. Due to this, I highly doubt the 30-06 will be lined up alongside the 308, 300 Winchester Magnum, and 6.5 Creedmoor at the next NRA High Power event.

Final Thoughts

The biggest distinction between the.308 and.30/06 when comparing ballistic performance is that the latter has a reach advantage of roughly 50 yards. But in exchange for that 50-yard reach advantage, which, depending on the bullet fired, only starts to matter at approximately 350 yards, you’ll have to put up with 14% greater recoil.

Additionally, due to its longer action, a.30/06 rifle will weigh five to eight ounces more when compared to other rifles of the same type.

Ammunition is a factor to be taken into account in the .308 versus .30/06 argument. There is currently a larger variety of factory.308 ammunition available than there is for the.30/06, however this has not always been the case. Only 116 different.30/06 Springfield loads are listed by a prominent internet store compared to 172 different.308 Winchester loads.

Even while many.308 Winchester loads are designed for plinking or precision shooting, the fact that there is now a broader variety of.308 Winchester ammo available is important. The.308 Winchester’s compatibility with AR10s, which are growing in popularity for big game hunting, is also significant.

All things considered, the.30/06 has a slight ballistic advantage over the.308 when it comes to hunting, but that advantage is somewhat countered by slightly higher recoil and a somewhat heavier rifle.

There is no metric that can distinguish between which cartridge will kill a non-dangerous game animal more effectively than the other, therefore both ammos are suitable for all non-dangerous game animals worldwide. With the.308 vs. the.30/06 cartridge, the facts are so similar that emotion might really be the most crucial factor to take into account.

It’s important to enjoy the cartridge you use for hunting, and for the majority of hunting conditions, there isn’t much of a ballistic difference between these two that would be noticeable.

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