Is .308 Better Than .30-06?

The .30-06 and .308 Winchester cartridges have a lot in common. Both are .30 caliber. Both fire similar-sized projectiles. Finally, both have somewhat similar velocities. So, which is the better bullet? Why even bother to care? Read on because we’re going to give you the straight poop on these rounds so you can make an informed decision.

The .308 and .30-06 are proven on the battlefield, shooting range, and hunting fields. They’ve both been used for decades and are well-vetted.

The .30-06 Springfield

Let’s start from the beginning. The .30-06’s name comes from the fact that it fires a .30 caliber projectile and was invented in 1906. Considering this was written in 2023, the .30-06 has endured for a very long time. In fact, it will celebrate its 120th birthday in just a few years! Obviously, this cartridge has been doing something right.

1903 Springfield Rifle
In World War I, the M1903 Springfield rifle chambered in .30-06 was widely issued to US troops and served admirably. Photo by Wikipedia.

The .30-06 has a case length of 2.49 inches and an overall length of 3.34 inches. It is a long-action cartridge. The designation is 7.62x63mm. Upon its inception, the .30-06 was at the cutting edge of rifle bullets. It sent a 150-grain projectile down range at 2,700 feet per second.

It proved its worth in WWI, WWII, Korea, and even in Vietnam. For two world wars, it was the main battle rifle and general-purpose machinegun round for the United States.

M1 Garand
The M1 Garand is chambered in .30-06 and was the first general-issue semi-automatic rifle issued to any military. The .30-06 brought us through two world wars and Korea. Photo: Jim Davis.

As for the hunting field, the .30-06 has taken everything in North America — and a good portion of the rest of the world.

Despite its spirited start and respectable velocity back in 1906, cartridge developments continued. Certain rounds have nudged closer to the 3,000 feet per second mark than was previously imagined.

The .308 Winchester

The .308 Winchester is a short-action cartridge that utilizes a 2.01-inch case length with a 2.8-inch overall length. It was invented in 1952. The military version is designated 7.62x51mm. The .308 offered our military a round that approximated the performance of the .30-06 but in a shorter action and lighter platform. Eventually, the M-14 in 7.62×51 replaced the M-1 Garand in .30-06.

M1A Rifle and accessories.
The M14 (and later civilian version, the M1A) is chambered for the shorter .308 cartridge. Seen here is the M1A with Vietnam-era magazine pouches and ammo bandoleer. Photo: Jim Davis.

Other than the military, hunters also flocked to the .308 for some of the same reasons the military liked it. The ballistics weren’t far behind the .30-06, and the bullets were chambered in a shorter, lighter action.

Many military and police snipers utilize .308 for their rifles because it’s accurate and fires a bullet that’s heavy enough to penetrate obstacles such as glass and other mediums. While more powerful calibers have become increasingly popular in recent years, the .308 is still widely used for sniping.

A Simple Velocity Comparison: .30-06 and .308

The .30-06 has an edge over the .308 — especially when the two shoot the same weight bullet. For example, if we compare the two when shooting a 180-grain Nosler Partition bullet, we can make some observations:


  • .308      2,570 feet per second
  • .30-06   2,700 feet per second

100 Yards:

  • .308      2,388 feet per second
  • .30-06  2,512 feet per second

200 Yards:

  • .308     2,213 feet per second
  • .30-06  2,232 feet per second

300 Yards:

  • .308     2,045 feet per second
  • .30-06  2,160 feet per second

400 Yards:

  • .308     1,885 feet per second
  • .30-06  1,995 feet per second

500 yards:

  • .308     1,734 feet per second
  • .30-06  1,837 feet per second

There’s not a huge difference in velocity. However, the .30-06 does have a slight advantage. Will that make a difference? Most likely not.


As I grow older, I dislike recoil more and more. Both of these calibers have substantial recoil; although neither is what most people consider excessive. If you’re shooting from a standing position, neither is really bad at all. However, if you’re firing from the prone position, both will dig the rifle’s buttstock into the shooter’s shoulder with enough force to let you know where the bear pooped in the buckwheat. Comparatively, the .30-06 has more recoil than the .308. For example, a .308 rifle weighing seven pounds generates about 21 foot-pounds of recoil. In contrast, a seven-pound rifle in .30-06 generates about 25 pounds of recoil.

Granted, those are just dry figures to most people. Actual recoil is more subjective from person to person and rifle to rifle. Of course, the composition of the rifle’s stock, stock dimensions, and whether the rifle is equipped with a muzzle brake also come into play as far as felt recoil is concerned. Obviously, if you go with a very lightweight rifle, the .30-06 is going to recoil harder than a .308, and, in my opinion, it will be noticeable.


Which is more accurate? The truth is both cartridges are more than enough accurate for hunting. In my experience, the .308 has been a little more accurate. Why? I think this because off-the-shelf match-grade ammunition seems to be more available for the .308, given its popularity as a sniping round.

Speaking of sniping, rifles intended for that task are frequently accurized by the factory or custom makers who build them. That’s definitely another significant factor. This isn’t to say that rifles chambered in .30-06 are not accurate because that’s not the case. In fact, those who hand load their own ammunition can squeeze out every last bit of accuracy from a .30-06 rifle.

Rifle for rifle, each caliber is probably about as accurate as the other unless they’ve been given special attention.


Considering their long-lived popularity, both calibers are readily available wherever ammo is sold. Prices on both rounds are also normally very similar, with all things being equal.

Bullet Weights for .308 and .30-06

Both calibers shoot mostly the same bullet weights, but the .30-06 can go heavier.

Remington .30-06 ammunition.
The .30-06 more commonly comes in heavier-weight bullets than the .308. Seen here is the Remington 180-grain Core-Lokt bullet. Photo by Richard Mann.

The .308 is limited to around 200 grains. However, it’s difficult to find factory ammunition with projectiles that heavy. On the other hand, the ’06 can go as high as 220 grains in factory ammunition. Its higher case capacity gives it the edge here.


Because the .30-06 fires heavier projectiles at higher velocities than the .308, it can take a wider range of game more easily. Is it dramatically superior? Well, if you’re bear hunting, the .30-06 does have an advantage. Aside from that, it can also reach out a bit farther than the .308 while retaining more energy. Thus, extended range and more power/penetration help the .30-06 cover a wider range of game and distance.

Game Performance

Either cartridge will perform admirably on thinner-skinned game such as deer or elk. It’s doubtful a deer or elk can discern what cartridge hit them.

A black bear brought down by a .30-06
When hunting dangerous game like this large black bear, the .30-06’s extra power and heavier projectiles give it an edge over the .308. Photo by Alex Robinson (via Outdoor Life).

Heavier game, like bears, will also fall to either caliber. Bullet construction is probably more crucial than caliber in this instance. However, if I were hunting large, dangerous bears, I’d likely go with the .30-06 in a solid metal bullet. The .30-06’s ability to fire a heavier bullet would be a welcomed addition for dangerous game in my opinion. The ability to send a heavier bullet faster and deeper into the animal is desirable when the animal can tear you limb from limb.

Final Thoughts on .308 and .30-06

Both the .308 and the .30-06 have been around for quite some time, with the .30-06 being the elder. While there are newer, hotter cartridges out there, these two are still solidly popular with a large percentage of shooters. The sales of .308 and .30-06 bear this out.

Shooters would do well to consider what they want to use their rifles for and select their cartridges accordingly. Each of these rounds has good things going for it, which is why they’ve stuck around for so long.

So how about it – which is your favorite, and why? Let us know!

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap