The .30-06 Springfield Cartridge

DunnBy Robert Dunn
AGI and GunTech Video Producer,
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Charter Member

30-06cThe Springfield .30-06 is my favorite rifle cartridge. Yes, there are plenty of cartridges that are bigger and faster. Many of those bigger and badder cartridges will tear up your shoulder pretty quick too. When I was a kid, compliments didn’t come around too often. One of my fondest memories was when my Dad told me what a good job I did reloading a big pile of aught sixes! The .30-06 was the caliber of my Dad’s deer rifle (Springfield 1903A3) and that is what we primarily loaded for. To this day I get a satisfying thrill out of churning out a custom batch of cartridges.

The .30-06 cartridge (7.62x63mm) was born in 1906 at the request of the U.S. Army and was known as the M1906 cartridge. The thirty-aught-six’s case was based on the earlier .30-03 rimless bottleneck case. It replaced all of the armies previously used .30 caliber cartridges. During the first decade of the twentieth century, most of the world’s armies began using the aerodynamic spire point bullet (Spitzer). By shortening the case neck of the .30-03, the .30-06 could achieve higher velocities and longer effective ranges using the boat-tailed Spitzer bullet. It turns out that machine guns liked this design change as well!  The military used the Springfield cartridge for almost a half a century before being replaced by the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge (.308 Winchester)…”Grumble, grumble.” During the .30-06s service to our country, it was fired from such weapons as the Springfield 1903A3 rifle, the M1941 Johnson rifle, the M1917 Enfield rifle, the Lewis gun, the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), the Browning M1919 machine gun, and the M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle! That’s a pretty damn good cast of characters that spit out lead from the good ole Springfield cartridges! 30-06d

The .30-06 was our country’s sniper round for many wars, right into the 70s. The cartridge was developed for its .308″ bullet to reach out to 1,000 yards. The recoil and muzzle flash is moderate (compared to magnum cartridges) and when loading bullets between 150-180-grains, velocities of 2900 to 2700 feet per second can be achieved. These ballistics will ruin a two-legged predator’s day for sure (unless your enemy is larger than a deer or an elk)! In the Vietnam War, Carlos “White Feather” Hathcock’s weapon of choice was a Winchester Model 70 chambered in .30-06, which put an end to many enemy combatant’s lives. With such a good track record, many folks wonder why the military would switch to using the 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester) cartridge. I guess it is because the 7.62 NATO round utilizes a shorter action, and has less recoil, which in turn has weight and cycling benefits. The .308 case also uses less propellant to achieve the same velocities.

The Winchester 1895 lever action was the first commercial rifle to be chambered for the .30-06 cartridge (circa 1908). Winchester had a good idea using that cartridge, as the .30-06 is still one of the most popular hunting rounds in North America! Like my Dad’s rifle, many Springfield 03A3s were sporterized for hunting purposes. Depending on the charge that the cartridge is loaded for, it is good choice for almost all types of small and large game in the United States. When I think deer or elk, the .30-06 always comes to mind. If you are after bear, loading a heavy 200 grain bullet would be preferable, as it would give you deep penetration. The cartridge is not a bad choice for much of the game found on the African plains too.

30-06bThe aught six is a versatile cartridge. It has been manufactured for various uses over its many years of service, for example; armor piercing, armor piercing incendiary, ball, explosive, rifle grenade cartridges, tracer rounds and Match cartridges for competition shooting. Many large cases do not perform very well with reduced loads, however the .30-06 can still maintain good accuracy when the charge is reduced. If you are teaching someone to shoot a centerfire rifle, you can use a lighter 100 to 130-grain bullet at 2000ft/sec to make a good training round with low recoil. The .30-06 was the first centerfire cartridge I fired. We used to blow up milk jugs, watermelons and unfortunately an entire collection of G.I. Joes at the range when I was growing up. Now that I am all grown up, the .30-06 is the cartridge that I hoard away for the apocalypse. Why?, you may wonder… because the .30-06 cartridge is still produced by every ammunition manufacturer that I can think of , there is still plenty of surplus ammo out there to be found and .30-06 reloading dies are purchased more than any other die set on the market, plus I already own a Springfield and a Garand. The popularity of the cartridge is not limited to the U.S.A., it has been a successful cartridge worldwide and can be purchased just about anywhere that ammunition can be found. The next rifle on my list is a left-handed Remington 700 SPS chambered for .30-06. I’ve got a Leopold VX-3 and a Harris bipod sitting on the shelf eagerly awaiting my next purchase…whitetails and zombies be scared!

21 Responses to The .30-06 Springfield Cartridge

  1. I agree on the aught six ,i have used it for most of my life when hunting and i own a springfield garand in .06 and is one of the most accurate rifles i own .As far as why the military chose the .308 is based on recoil ,nato round and used by all of nato forces and is lighter in weight for the saw gunner to carry more ammo for it or as in vietnam the ol pig (M60) it may not have the power of the .06 but it still gets the job done our most deadliest sniper ever r.i.p. Chris Kyle took out an insurgent sniper at over 3/4’s of a mile with the a 7.62 nato rifle so it can do the job in the right hands and will soldier on well into 21st century will it ever be what the .06 was ? doubtful but it has its advantages over the .06 in military use in many aspects .Number 1 being weight of the amount of ammo carried by our machine gunner crews. However in the civilian world the ol .06 will never die .

    • Just a correction for you on your statement. The SAW was chambered for the 5.56. The 240B is chambered for the .308. Other than that I agree with you.

  2. My rifle of that I use is a 1909 Argentine mauser with a 30-06 Douglass barrel. It has many deer met there demise at this weapon!!!.

  3. Like the author, I too have two rifles in .30-06…M1 Garand and Rock Island Arsenal, nickle steel(and an 03 Springfield) that my grandfather owned. The RIA I sporterized, the Springfield I refurbished to look like new, which was given to my older brother. I couldn’t believe the beautiful walnut I found under all that old dirt and grease of the stock and handguard…was amazing!
    I’m still reloading SL 53 head stamped cases, (St Louis Ammo Plant, 1953) for my Garand…can’t seem to wear them out!
    The .30-06 is a hard hitting cartridge that keeps on going and going!!!

  4. just call me stupid. i sporterized an ao3 and shot a lot of corrosive ammo down it without cleaning. when i rebarrel it, i will be putting a 6.5 o6 on it. i love the ballistic of the 6.5. i wish i had a garand but i do not. i do have an ar 10 in 308 and 260 remington. did i say i love the 6.5. the 308 has more power at the muzzle but the 260 has more power at 1000 yards. love the ballistics of the 6.5 mm. also it has the same action as the 223 ar 15. no need to remember what i am shooting everything is in the same place..

  5. I own both a Remington 700 and M1 Garand (Springfield, 1944) and love the .30-06 round. My next purchase will be the Ohio Ordnance Works BAR (semi-auto) which is also .30-06.
    Would love to get a Springfield -03, but think that’s beyond my budget at this time.
    Long live the .30-06 round and the rifles that use them.

    • UM even a semi auto BAR will cost you way more than any springfield 03 bolt action dude , jus sayin .I have what i call the poor mans BAR lol a zastava RPK with 30, 40 and 75 round mags . not in .06 but will get the job done and holds more rounds per mag and very easy to control from shoulder or bipod in rapid fire mode 1 day i will either build me a BAR or buy 1 always been one of my all time faves. The .06 will never die i also have a k98 LSR type mauser chambered in 8MM.06 i use .06 brass necked up to 8MM great old wildcat similar to the .06 in a k98 sniper rifle it is a great shooting rifle as well. I could not part with either. Many many 4 legged critters have met their demise at the hands of the 30.06 in my hands down south.

  6. I appreciate the comment however, I’ve always wanted a BAR since I first fired one when in basic training in the early ’60s. I was able to fire the BAR several times since and still love the feel of the gun. Since the Ohio Ordnance Works announced that they were putting them out for sale as a semi automatic, I have decided to buy one. You might say it’s a part of my bucket list.

  7. I first fired the ’06 round when I was a junior competitive shooter in the form of DCM M-1 Garand rifles. A few years ago I got the opportunity to buy a sporterized ’03 Springfield, and have fired nothing but handloads in it.
    Just recently I bought an excellent M-1 Garand with all matching serial numbers. When time permits I am looking forward to loading for it and firing it. I always thought when I was a kid that I was going to own a Garand some day. The day is here!

  8. Settled for .308 based on the available platform for it. Would still love to own an aught-six though, maybe someday. Always learn something from Robert, good article as always and thanks for the article! Cheers.

  9. Yes, probably for the same reason I will purchase a .308 at some time as well!! LOL!! I am thinking of a bolt-action .308 with a bull barrel and match-type stock probably. That way I can compare its accuracy to my ’03-A3 Springfield and those old Mosin Nagants!! LOL!

  10. Terry,
    I had a friend who had several Mosins. Most of them were excellent rifles especially to Finnish versions. But he had one that when he fired it, there was absolutely no way to know where the round went. We even loaded tracer-type rounds for it and we do believe that we are missing a satellite somewhere over Colorado. LOL.
    I still enjoy my .30-06 rifles and have a Garand that has a Douglas barrel and is accurate out to 500 yards with iron sights, maybe farther.

  11. My son was the first to own a Mosin Nagant M-44 carbine. I was with him when he fired it at the club for the first time. He had a scope on it that he added. I looked at the size of the cartridge and told him to make sure he had a REALLY GOOD HOLD on it before pulling the trigger. He had it down on a bench and I was looking through the spotting scope, hoping to see where the round hit if he didn’t hit the target. When he touched that thing off, even with earplugs and cans on, it startled me so much I knocked the spotting scope over. I instantly felt like my face was sunburned, and we had no idea where the bullet hit. He was moaning from the recoil which broke the screw holes out holding the scope to the mount. It was like detonating a stick of dynamite on the end of a short stick!!

    • I have a no5 enfeild jungle carbine has an even more ferocious recoil but it hits what you aim at .Those mosin carbines like any full power round carbine will thump you good . I own a few .

  12. Robert,
    You are right on in this article. My first centerfire was a Springfield 03A3. I traded my Ithaca 12 GA M37 Featherweight for the 03A3 because the Ithaca was no fun to shoot. It was eventually replaced with a Browning 12 GA B2000 gas gun. The 03A3 Springfield had already been partially sporterized with a stock that didn’t fit me. So, I purchased a semi inlayed stock, glass bedded it, removed the parkerizing and cold-blue it, found a sniper bolt with the proper head spacing, and started working up loads using 4320 and 4895 pushing 150 spritzers and 165 gr. boat tails. One inch 100 yard group were common from the two grove military barrel regardless of how it was loaded using a cheap 4x scope. I ended up trading it for a rototiller; a decision I regret to this day. It would be 25 years before I’d find myself owning another aught-six, when I purchased my first M1 Garand built by Springfield from CMP, and was fortunate to be gifted several thousand rounds of military LC 7.62 x 63 made in the late 60’s. I would later purchase an HR M1 Garand at an NRA match in Arizona from CMP. Because I had an abundance of military ammo I purchased a Savage M116, shot about 150 rds of military ammo through it, and started reloading 150 gr rounds that emulated the 7.26 x 63 military ball ammo. I evenually found some once fired commercial Remington brass I intend to use for some pet loads in the Savage. Although I have a Savage 99 in 300 and a Marlin 336 in 30-30, my aught-six is my go-to 30 caliber weapon of choice. My only other go-to long-guns are chambered in .223 and .22 RF. I find no fun shooting anything with a recoil heavier than an aught-six. Plus, my need to keep an inventory of suitable 30 cal bullets and ammo is greatly reduced. The Savage 99 is perfectly happy shooting the same 308 cal Spitzers used in the aught-six’s.

  13. I was visiting family in AZ and we went out to the desert to shoot. It was amusing to hear the pop-pop-pop of the 5.56/.223s go absolutely silent when the .30-06 Garand went off. There was dead silence for about 15-30 seconds and then the ARs would start up again. The only thing that kept them quiet for a longer period of time is when the Walker Colt shooting a .457 ball backed by 60 grains of black powder went off.
    I definitely believe in the .30-06 and its capabilities.

  14. I had one of those Jungle Carbines when I was a teenager. Fired about 3-4 rounds out of it. It was a blunderbuss! They milled off every ounce of weight they could off of those things to lighten them up. And you are right, the recoil WAS horrendous!! Wish I still had it though. It was a nice gun and also was very accurate as yours is!!

  15. I like your choice for your next rifle. I have a Remington 700 BDL in .30-06 and it is a left hand rifle. Left hands are relatively harder to find but worth the search if buying used. Mine is very accurate and of course, looks so good.

  16. Do yourself a favor. Don’t bother getting the Remington 700. Nice rifle, but the Savage 110 is much more accurate right out of the box- as long as the barrel is free floated. It’s also a lot cheaper.

  17. It’s interesting that people are talking about the Remington 700 and some of it’s based on the recall because of “slam-firing”. I have owned my 700 .30-06 for nearly 20 years and never had a problem at all. I have owned less expensive long guns and and they are exactly what Bill Sullivan says they are – cheaper.
    The Savage is a really good rifle and I haven’t fired enough of them to be considered an “expert” so I’ll defer to Bill on that.
    But, I still prefer my Remingtons.

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