In the long range shooting world the .308 and the .30-06 have been embedded in the history of American firearms. Both rounds have their roots in the U.S. Army and was used in many conflicts all over the world.
The hunting community and self-defense groups also recognized its effectiveness and highly embrace them both. However, many gun folks love to debate which caliber is better or the best for hunting elk.
Brief History The U.S. military used the .30-06 in both world wars. Springfield M1903 was used during World War I. In WW II the .30-06 caliber was used in the M1 Garand. Conflicts in Korea and Vietnam also employed the .30-06. Today this round is used by snipers for special purpose. The .308 made its debut in the 1950s, which later developed into the 7.62x51mm NATO.
Caliber Differences The bullets are an identical 7.8mm in diameter. The primers are the same. The only real difference is in the cases. Put a .308 and .30-06 next to one another the .30-06 has a longer case. What it all really boils down to is that the Army liked the stopping power of the .30-06, but they didn’t care for the long action round. They wanted something better suited for short action rifles that would allow boots on the ground to carry more rounds into combat. The military wanted a round that could cycle better out of their rifles. Which is why the .308 was the better option, with the less recoil that allows faster accurate follow-up shots.
Personal Preferences When talking about .308 vs .30-06, a lot of people want to pick sides and ask ‘Which is best?’ But let’s face it, “best” is highly subjective, especially when we’re talking about two rounds that are for all intents and purposes nearly identical.
You can try and break things down by comparing bullet weights and muzzle velocity. Both are going to be slower as you use heavier bullets. There are differences there, but in some cases they’re so small that it doesn’t matter to most shooters. A .30-06 has a muzzle velocity around 2,900 feet per second with a 150-grain bullet, while a .308 is around 2,800. You won’t be able to know the differences.
DEAD FOOT ARMS
The choice you make between the two really depends on personal preference and what you intend to use it for. Both rounds are great for big game animals. If you’re deer hunting on the Kansas plains, you might want to go with a .30-06 hunting rifle. The higher velocity means this round is going to shoot flatter at longer ranges than the .308. A good rule of thumb to remember is for long range, the .30-06 is the better round because of its higher velocity. Means it will shoot flatter at the long range distance than the .308.
You’ll also find some hunting and fishing guides in Alaska prefer a little bit of extra power that a heavier grain .30-06 has for protection against black bears or other angry large game animals. The extra stopping power is probably why it has become one of the most popular big game hunting rounds ever. Bighorn sheep, elk, antelope, bear, moose, deer, you can pretty much hunt them all with a .30-06.
As far as hunting cartridges go, it has more than enough stopping power for deer and similarly-sized North America game animals. It’s something to consider if you’re hunting an area where most of your shots are going to be under 200 yards. That’s not to say the .308 can’t go long range. It definitely can, but most hunters are more confident with the .30-06 at longer distance.
The .308 is also a round to consider for AR platform-style rifles. If you’re predominantly using the AR platform the .308 can be used. Maybe want the capability to launch many rounds down range with more rounds than the .308 is the better candidate. If you don’t want the AR but still want to hurl .308. Take a look at a M14 or a M1A – which you can use effectively against most pest predators. So, again, just to recap: a .30-06 is generally going to be better suited for long range shooting, and a .308 is going to be better for faster shooting.
You can’t go Wrong with Either Calibers We’re not going to pick a favorite between the .308 and .30-06, because both rounds are great for what they are. You really can’t go wrong buying a sporting rifle chambered for either. Before you go to the gun store to buy one, just ask yourself what you’ll be using it for and pick the one that best suits your needs.
Either way, you can rest easily at night knowing that whatever task you have picked for your rifle, these cartridges are sure to deliver when the time comes!
PRICE: Which is Cheaper?
Price is something to consider when it comes to practicality – Yes, the .308 ammo is usually cheaper.
The .308 uses less brass and the popularity means bigger production and lower price. The difference isn’t that much, but if you’re an F-class long range shooter, then price can be an issue.
From a prepper/survival perspective, the .308 is mass produced for many different types of sporting rifles. Which means, the .308 Win will be easier to find and use in the event of some type of catastrophic event that requires you to hunt your own food or survive in the wilderness.
Experienced hunters will tell us it all depends on the size of the game. For short to medium range, both cartridges do an awesome job for game up to elk. Beyond elk, go with the .30-06 Springfield with a heavier bullet like 180 grain which gives you a bigger punch.
With this extra power – you can bring down bigger or angry 4 legged that comes at you. So, for deer, big coyote, elk, and even small moose you can use both cartridges with 150- or 165-grain projectiles.
If you’re a .308 Winchester diehard and insiste on big game, then get some high quality bullets. Hunters also know that the .308 Win has less recoil than the .30-06, which translates into slightly better accuracy.
-For whitetail hunting both soft-tip hunting rounds are great although the .30-60 might be too much within 100-150 yards.
-For smaller game like squirrel and rabbit, neither of the two are a good choice. Pick something less powerful like a .22LR.
The .308 Winchester for survival, and for rifle hunters starting from scratch; 30-06 for really large game.
So if you’re trying to decide between the two calibers, maybe you shouldn’t worry about which caliber is more lethal or more accurate. View it from a practical and logistical factors, find the rifle you like in either caliber, and be confident that no matter which you choose, it will perform. Again its all about the Indian and not his arrows.