A side by side comparison of 308 versus 30-06. We look at velocity, energy, trajectory and other key factors to help shooters decide what’s best for their needs.
There are countless cartridge comparisons. Gun owners are constantly debating the merits of a 9mm Luger compared to a .380 ACP. Or a .22 LR vs a .17 HMR. Even a 12 gauge vs a 20 gauge is a common discussion around the hunting lodges, firing ranges, and online forums.
But perhaps the oldest, or at least the most discussed, is the .308 Remington vs the .30-06 Springfield. Both of these popular cartridges were groundbreaking when they were released and, despite over a century and a half of combined use, remain among of the most effective cartridges available today.
If you are picking a hunting rifle for deer, black bear, pronghorn, and other medium-sized game, either one of these cartridges will suit you needs.
Quick Pick: 308 vs 30-06
The 30-06 is bigger, faster and delivers more energy at the muzzle as well as downrange. The .308 is generally less expensive to shoot, is less punishing to shoot in terms of recoil and offers about the same trajectory downrange. Both are large enough for just about any game in North America and both can be viable self-defense rounds.
So which one is right for you? Let’s look at the dimensions and performance stats for both of these rounds as we dive deeper to make a decision.
.30-06 Springfield vs .308 Winchester: A Quick Look
.30-06 Springfield.308 Winchester
Bullet Diameter.308 inches.308 inches
Rim Diameter.473 inches.4728 inches
Case Length2.48 inches2.015 inches
Total Length3.34 inches2.8 inches
Bullet Weight150 to 220 grains125 to 200 grains
One of the first things you’ll notice about these cartridges is the size difference. The .30-06 Springfield is noticeably longer than .308 ammunition (roughly half an inch longer), which has clear implications for how the cartridge performs both in speed and energy.
Bigger, of course, is not always better. The .30-06 Springfield requires a long-action rifle, which, all other factors being equal, tends to cost more than the short-action rifles used for .308 rounds. This is an important issue when choosing the initial rifle.
.30-06 is slightly larger, which means it also can carry larger bullets. There is a lot of overlap, but the the range for the .30-06 is larger, usually anywhere between 150 grains to 220 grains while the .308 Winchester usually maxes out at around 200 grains. So there is more potential for heavier bullets at the higher end, which could make the .30-06 more viable for larger or tougher game animals.
.308 vs 30-06 Velocity Compared
|Ammunition||Muzzle Velocity (fps)||200 Yard Velocity (fps)|
|30-06 – Remington UMC 150 Gr. FMJ||2,910||2,341|
|308 – Remington UMC 150 Gr. FMJ||2,820||2,262|
|30-06 – Hornady Superformance 150 Gr.||3,080||2,627|
|308 – Hornady Superformance 150 Gr.||3,000||2,555|
|30-06 – Winchester XP 150 Gr.||2,920||2,458|
|308 – Winchester XP 150 Gr.||2,820||2,368|
|30-06 – Sellier & Bellot 180 Gr. PTS||2,592||2,243|
|308 – Sellier & Bellot 180 Gr. PTS||2,510||2,168|
The stats above won’t settle the debate, as the numbers are so close that it’s hard to call one the clear winner. That said, the .30-06 is faster, if just slightly, in all of the comparisons. However, it’s not an overwhelming victory. The largest margin of victory for muzzle speed was a mere 100 feet per second, while most were within the 80 to 90 fps difference.
This pattern was seen downrange as well. At 200 yards, the .30-06 remained faster in all four of our comparisons. But again, it was not a major victory.
If speed is the top priority for you, then the .30-06 may be your better choice. However, most gun owners, hunters, and target shooters won’t choose the .30-06 simply because of speed; it’s just not that significant of an advantage.
Winner: .30-06 Springfield (Narrow victory)
|Ammunition||Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs)||200 Yard Energy (ft-lbs)|
|30-06 – Remington UMC 150 Gr. FMJ||2,820||1,826|
|308 – Remington UMC 150 Gr. FMJ||2,648||1,705|
|30-06 – Hornady Superformance 150 Gr.||3,159||2,298|
|308 – Hornady Superformance 150 Gr.||2,997||2,173|
|30-06 – Winchester XP 150 Gr.||2,839||2,012|
|308 – Winchester XP 150 Gr.||2,648||1,867|
|30-06 – Sellier & Bellot 180 Gr. PTS||2,684||2,011|
|308 – Sellier & Bellot 180 Gr. PTS||2,517||1,878|
Clearly these are two powerful cartridges. Anything that maintains over 1,500 ft-lbs of energy at 200 yards will be an effective tool for hunting. But once again, we see a slight victory for the .30-06 Springfield, which should not be surprising when we consider that the comparisons all use the same weighted bullets while the .30-06 was slightly faster. Basic physics tells us that if two objects of the same size are traveling at different speeds, the faster will have more energy.
This is not to say that the .308 Winchester is a weak cartridge. Far from it; at it’s least powerful, it was still putting out over 1,800 ft-lbs at 200 yards. Many centerfire hunting cartridges won’t come close to these numbers.
Winner: .30-06 Springfield (Narrow victory)
Unlike speed and energy statistics, trajectory stats from manufacturers are not as consistent, which makes comparing them more difficult. However, if we look at available data, we once again see close results.
For example, when zeroed to 100 yards, the .30-06 Springfield from Winchester drops 13.6 inches; the .308 drops 14.7.
When zeroed to 200 yards, Hornady’s .30-06 drops 6.4 inches at 300 yards. Under the same conditions, their .308 Winchester drops 6.9 inches.
There simply isn’t a big enough difference here to say that the .30-06 Springfield is a better long-range cartridge.
Recoil, especially felt recoil, involves more than just the cartridge. The size and build of the firearm, as well as shooting position and skill level will also have an impact. If all things are the same, it’s fair to assume that comparable .30-06 Springfield cartridges will have slightly more recoil than the .308 Winchester.
Due to it’s larger case, the .30-06 tends to thump a little harder, both at the target and at your shoulder. However, many .30-06 rifles are larger, so there is a chance that recoil could be lessened.
Choosing the .30-06 Springfield or the .308 Winchester
So which is right for your needs? Honestly, it’s tough to say as these are two very similar rounds. There’s really nothing one can do that the other can’t. One difference, however, is the larger variety available for the .308 Winchester. For both rifles and cartridges, you’ll likely find more options for the .308, which could drive your choice.
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