308 vs. 30-06, Which is better?

308 vs .30-06 – Which Is Better?

  • Dale BrownBy your firearms expert Dale Brown

  • Last Updated June 14, 2019

When it comes to big game hunting, there are two all-time favorite rifle cartridges on the market — the .308 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield. Although these two rifle cartridges are pretty similar and they even share history, people can’t seem to stop debating over which one is “better” than the other.

30-06 vs 308

Moreover, since the .308 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield share common traits, picking one over the other can be even more difficult. For instance, both are considered highly accurate, both use the identical .308-inch diameter, both have impressive range and moderate recoil, and both are ideal for hunting almost all medium and large-sized animals in North America.

However, since everyone has their own reasons for loving one more than the other, getting to the truth can be rather difficult. Still, I am going to try to put a stop to this issue once and for all. Below, you will find all the necessary info about both of these rifle cartridges, which will, hopefully, help you make an informed decision.

308 vs 3006

I will discuss the accuracy, reliability, look, feel, and the price of both the .308 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield. But before I get into details, let’s first learn something about the origins of these rifle cartridges. That will provide a better overall understanding.

A Short History Lesson

The .308 and the .30-06 go a long way back. In fact, one was developed from the other.

The .30-06 was first introduced in 1906 with the Springfield 1903 bolt action rifle; since then, it has won the hearts of many and managed to remain one of the most popular rifle cartridges in the world, even today. Also, the .30-06 is a parent cartridge of the .308.

Back in 1936, the M1 Garand was chosen as the standard U.S. Military issue rifle. At the time, it was more technologically developed than any other issued service rifle that was being used on the battlefield.

However, in the mid-1950s, while we were witnessing countless innovations in the small arms market, the M1 started to show its age. So, in 1957, we were introduced to the M14 rifle — the M1’s replacement. At the same time, the .30-06 Springfield stopped being the U.S. military’s primary rifle cartridge.

308 vs 30-06 ballistics

The M14 rifle used the new 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge but its glory lasted only for five years. Then, we were introduced to the M16, which used the intermediate 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge.

Even though the military quickly ditched the M14, the .308 round managed to survive. In fact, several branches still use it as a light machine gun and a sniper round in specialty roles.

What’s more, the .308 has become one of the most sought-after short-action hunting rounds all over the world. Although its design was ballistically similar to the .30-06, the .308 was lighter, smaller, and it fed more easily into the rifle’s breach. And even though it has less recoil, it can be just as deadly as the .30-06 when properly loaded.

Accuracy

The issue of accuracy is probably one of the most important aspects that we should consider in the debate between the .308 and the .30-06.

When the .308 was first introduced, both competitive rifle shooters and marksmen adored using the .30-06. However, it didn’t take long before they started to use the new cartridge. What’s more, they quickly noticed that the .308 was more accurate than the .30-06.

While the difference wasn’t huge, it was definitely noteworthy. The slight accuracy advantage has quickly made the .308 the new favorite among top marksmen. Also, the difference made the NRA reduce the size of the inner bull on their long-range targets.

However, when it comes to hunting, the difference isn’t as important. A skilled shooter who is equipped with the right rifle can use either of the two cartridges and shoot accurately at 600 to 800 yards.

So, when it comes to accuracy, I would have to say it is a tie.

Reliability

Since not everyone uses weapons for the same purpose, and we all have different needs, reliability is a tricky category to discuss. Nevertheless, I will try to address the issue and determine which rifle cartridge is more reliable.

When it comes to hunting, as I have already stated, the difference between the .308 and the .30-06 does exist but it isn’t pivotal. Both are big, heavy rounds and both will get the job done.

.30-06 vs .308

However, when it comes to length, the difference does matter. The .30-06 has a longer case, which means a longer bolt strike. Consequently, that means a longer bolt and a receiver, as well as a heavier weapon.

Moreover, chambering a new round can take us a bit longer, which isn’t good news. Although losing a fraction of a second may seem insignificant, the difference does exist and there is nothing we can do about it.

So, the .308 is slightly more reliable, especially if the things I mentioned above matter to you.

Look and Feel

The .308 fits in short action rifles, which may be advantageous for those who prefer such weapons. Plus, since the length of the cartridge is shorter than in the .30-06, rifles can be made lighter. Also, when it comes to semi-auto rifles chambered in .308, our options are numerous.

So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the .308 Winchester is the favorite hunting round in the United States and, possibly, all over the planet. There’s a reason why the military, the police, hunters, and shooters have been using it ever since 1952.

On the other hand, when it comes to medium range hunting (think bears and bisons), the .30-06 Springfield is many hunters’ favorite. Actually, both the military and hunters have been using this rifle cartridge for more than 100 years.

If you like having many reloading options, you enjoy using heavier bullets, and you don’t mind a long action rifle that is slightly heavier, the .30-06 is the right choice for you.

So, since everything depends on your personal preferences, neither the .308 nor the .30-06 looks or feels better.

Price

Finally, we need to consider the financial aspect; that’s where the real gap opens in this debate.

The factory ammunition for the .308 is normally less expensive than that for the .30-06. Also, the .308 is immensely popular and mass-produced for various types of sporting rifles; and a bigger-scale production means lower prices.

Even though the difference isn’t mind-blowing, for someone who shoots a lot, it could add up.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the ultimate choice will depend on each individual user. Before making our pick, we should take all the factors into account. That way, we will be able to make the best decision for ourselves.

30 06 vs 308 ballistics

Both the .308 and the .30-06 have a long history in the military, and they are very similar in certain aspects. Also, both are great for medium to large game and both are most accurate when used to shoot at less than 1,000 yards.

When it comes to accuracy, the .308 has a slight advantage, but to an average hunter the advantage won’t make a big difference. In addition, the .30-06 has more stopping power, but the .308 has less recoil.

So, which one is better?

It depends on your needs, experience, and expectations.

If you want to be able to pick from a wide variety of rifles and you don’t want to spend too much on the ammo, then the .308 is a better choice for you. Also, the .308 is better for beginners. However, if you are a veteran, you will probably enjoy the traditional .30-06 a bit more.

Whichever you choose, you can be sure that it will perform.

GunAdvice staff

Dale Brown

Dale is a Kentucky-based attorney who has been shooting guns for more than ten years. In his free time, he writes about politics, law, and his personal experiences with firearms online. He is now the assistant editor of GunAdvice.

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8 Likes

Hunting I will always take a 30-06 or a .303
Truthfully though we are all taking a 30 caliber with a different powder load.

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.30-06. Because? Reasons.

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30-06 hits harder but the .308 is flatter shooting. I like 30-06 more but if I shot long range more the .308 is better, imo.

6 Likes

Don’t mean to rain on your parade but the that statement is false… What powder and bullet, the 30-06 can hold more powder (More velocity possibilities) given the right bullet it will shoot much flatter. Need to consider ballistic coefficients…

7 Likes

Having shot both I can say the 308 is more comfortable to shoot.
Barely noticeable however.
Using a 180 gr bullet and comparing side by side you may get 100fps more from a 30-06 due to case capacity.
That is max loading however, and I have yet to see a rifle that shoots well at it’s max loading. Generally about 80% is where the accuracy lies.
And 100 fps isn’t really much of a difference in a rifle.
As far as flatter shooting and harder hitting go there is no difference.
A .308 dia 180 gr bullet drops at the same rate at the same velocity regardless of the delivery method.
That is physics and cannot be changed.

30-06 or 308 are virtually identical in every way when comparing apples to apples.
The 30-06 has a very slight advantage when reloading because it has a larger case capacity only; but not enough to make it worthwhile because that depends on the individual firearm where it shoots most accurate.
Also there is nothing in North America either one cant take down.
The only spec the 308 has on a 30-06 is weight of the ammo carried.
If you are concerned about that minuscule weight difference you carry too much crap and should loose some gear your packing around.

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To my knowledge the .30-06 has 200-300ft.lb of energy over the .308 on average. The trade off is obviously recoil and round cost…but honestly not that much from what I see.

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Calm down, no need to get worked up. I was talking in general as in the ammo i buy off sporting goods shelf or even surplus. The 30-06 likes to arch more than .308 , from my experience. I dont doubt your claim here though, I dont test a whole lot of ammo and mostly stick to basic stuff.

6 Likes

Definitely true, at least for me too. To be honest if I want a good round for elk or similar sized game I will go with .300 Win mag, ymmv. Its harder hitting and flatter shooting than either .308 or 30-06 but a real shoulder hitter with hot ammo.

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Lots of variables here’s a 308 load with a higher foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

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6.5 creedmore…just sayin. :grin:

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who cares, shoot both…this is as bad as the AR15/AK47 argument…they both kill…easy to reload…every load imaginable is available over the counter…carried everywhere…no game animal will know the difference…they both work with shorter barrels…or even better with longer barrels…use the same bullets/primers and powder…both will shoot better than 99.9% of the people who shoot either…you can get both in probably every action ever made…now let’s do the AR15/AK47 argument/comparison…it is always good for some laughs, hot rebuttals and hurt feelings…

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Against elk I would still go .300 win mag but the 6.5 is a neat round.

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I have a thread with like a thousand posts on that…its not really helpful, glock vs 1911 though…

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Glock/1911 causes more guaranteed butthurt…lol

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I like both the 30-06, and the 308 . Neither have dis-appointed me. But as for the Glock and the 1911…:see_no_evil::hear_no_evil::speak_no_evil:

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That’s the key, trying to compare apples to apples in cartridges. How about this? It’s about as close as I can find.

.30-06 BB 150gr:
https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=263

PREMIUM 30-06 SUPERCHARGED Ammo
150 gr. SPTZ @ 3,100 fps / 3,200 ft lbs

.308 BB 150gr:
https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=259

PREMIUM 308 WIN. SUPERCHARGED Ammo
150 gr. SPTZ @ 2900 fps (2800ft.lbs from the chart)

^ Winner.

6 Likes

Agreed, kind of loaded question as well. However there is much more to learn from objective criticism…
Will definitely be more considerate in the future.

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Say and do as you please brother. Don’t change, be yourself! Don’t worry about offending anyone. Just wait until you see @Joe-Bob and @LonewolfMcQuade go at each other.

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That’s what spoiled cracka’s do.:wink:

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