Ammunition: the .30-06 Springfield center-fire cartridge

A series of introductory articles conceived to teach beginners specs, features and history of the most popular rifle ammunition calibers.

Although Americans boasted for a long time how their .30-06 Springfield issue ammunition was a "new" and "absolutely original" round, it is actually nothing more than a slightly lenghtened an 8mm Mauser (792x57mm) round − more precisely, 5mm longer − loaded with a quintessentially American .30-caliber (7,62mm) ball.

Some history

The roots of the .30-06 Springfield round, among many others, trace back to the U.S. military; the caliber takes its very same name from the year of adoption: .30 stands for the caliber, while 06 stands for the year 1906.

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
The .30-06 Springfield caliber M1 Garand semi-automatic service rifle was used by U.S. troops in World War 2 and in the Korean War

Just like 8mm Mauser, the .30-06 Springfield caliber evolved to its current form through a lengthy modification process, spawning from a progenitor − the .30-03 round − that featured a slightly longer case neck and was loaded with a round-tip 220-grains ball.

Military engineers quickly realized how the original .30-06 was hardly an "improvement" over the .30-40 Krag round it was meant to phase out; they refined the project by shortening down the case and by following the German steps by loading it with a lighter (150-grans) "Spitzer" tipped bullet.

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
A .30-06 Springfield caliber, 180-grains RWS H-Mantel cartridge

That's, in short, how the .30-06 Springfield cartridge − officially the Caliber .30 ball cartridge, model of 1906 − was born. It served in both world wars, earning a steady reputation as a good performer; following the conflicts, the amount of military surplus ammunition made available to civilian customers provided the grounds for the explosion of this cartridge's popularity as a hunting and sports shooting platform.

Dimensionally known as the 7,62x63mm, the .30-06 Springfield is a jolly little old lady, well over 100-years old now, but it's more popular than ever, and just as effective. No hunting gun or ammunition manufacturer can afford to leave .30-06 Springfield out of its catalogue.

The round

Capable to provide top-notch performances with balls ranging between 130 and 200 grains in weights, it can be used for a plethora of hunting specialties; provided the wide array of loads and reloading components available on the market for the .30-06 Springfield − probably the widest choice in the .30-caliber segment − it's hard to find a better monicker for this cartridge than "the world's most versatile ammunition". As of today, .30-06 Springfield remains a well-established milestone in the comparaison of weapon and ammunition platforms, given its undeniable set of qualities.

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
Hornady Manufacturing Company produces the monolythic .30-06 Springfield caliber Superformance loads
The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
.30-06 Springfield caliber, 180-grains Winchester Power Max ammunition

The .30-06 Springfield is also one of the very few calibers available for basically all civilian gun designs, from Kipplaufs to semi-automatic rifles, from bolt-action down to express rifles; it is even not totally out of commission when it comes to military purposes, as many old rifles chambered for the .30-06 Springfield round are still kept in governmental reserve stocks around the world.

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
The RWS brand offers a plethora of hunting-oriented .30-06 Springfield loads, including the 180-grains, controlled expansion H-Mantel
The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
The .30-06 Springfield caliber Winchester Supreme CXP3 loads use 180-grains Nosler Ballistic Tip balls with LubaLox coating

The .30-06 Springfield round is one of the first choices when it comes to boar hunting; European battue hunters, in particular, seem to easily fall prey of the sense of solidity and sheer power provided by the long case of this .30-caliber cartridge.

Its success in the selective hunting field is instead mediocre, at least when it comes to the European hunting grounds; although it would indeed be a solid performer, selection hunters prefer lighter, faster rounds; it's a shame, since the wide array of bullet weighs available for the .30-06 Springfield would allow this all-rounder to give most of its competitors a run for their money in this field.

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
Two hunting rifles manufactured by Sauer & Sohn, chambered for the .30-06 Springfield caliber: a walnut-stock Sauer 202 rifle and a synthetic stock Sauer 303 model
The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
The single-stack magazine of a Sauer 303 Hybrid semi-automatic hunting carbine, hereby portrayed with some Geco .30-06 Springfield caliber rounds

Fields of application

A high caliber round, the .30-06 Springfield can be used on mid-sized and big game − basically on everything other than pachyderms and large buffalos. As the "national cartridge" of the United States, it is the most widely sold and... reloaded on the other side of the big pond, and basically used on "everything that moves" (and on many targets that don't, given how popular it is for competition shooting). The .30-06 Caliber round provides the best performance when loaded with balls ranging between 150 and 180 grains in weight; it will also provide acceptable results with 220-grain bullets, although you'd basically be at its maximum threshold there. A .30-06 Springfield, 150-grains round can develop muzzle velocities ranging around 850 metres-per-second, with a power factor of about 400 kilograms/meter.

Although not conceived as a "sniper" round, it is a solid performer even on long ranges when used with balls ranging between 150 and 180 grams in weight, particularly when it's aptly hand-loaded. Just like most old military calibers, the .30-06 Springfield doesn't offer the flattest of trajectories, but it is easy to manage − and so is its recoil.

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
The Sako 85 Hunter bolt-action rifle is chambered for the .30-06 Springfield rifle


The .30-06 Springfield was Ernest Hemingway's caliber of choice for whenever he decided to take a break from his writing and journalism occupations to dedicate himself to big game hunting in the vast African plains (with less than commendable results, as it would seem). 

The Winchester Model 70 bolt-action rifle used by U.S. Marine Corps sniper Carlos Norman Hathcock was in .30-06 caliber as well. During its numerous missions in Vietnam he scored 93 confirmed kills, including a 2500-yards hit achieved with a modified .50-caliber Browning M2 machine-gun. 

The .30-06 Springfield cartridge
The .30-06 Springfield caliber Bergara BX-11 bolt-action rifle, in its 20-inch barrel variant with a walnut stock, is a highly effective choice for boar hunting

Some reloading data for the .30-06 Springfield caliber

Rifle: Ruger N.1
  Barrel lenght: 52 cm






.30-06 Spr. 

Vihtavuori N140

    52 grains

150 grains

CCI Standard

.30-06 Spr. 

Vihtavuori N140

52,5 grains

165 grains

Remington L.R. St.

.30-06 Spr. 

Winchester 760 

53 grains

180 grains

Federal 215 (Mag.) 


Our readers should be advised that ammunition handloading requires skill and attention. All provided handloading data should be considered as purely indicatory; even the slightest variations could cause dangerous pressure surges, which could in turn result into bodily harm or property damage. In no case will the author of this article or accept any responsibility for any injury or damage caused by the improper use of these data.

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