Editor’s Note: The second annual Summer Gun and Hobby Show takes place this Saturday, July 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Gold Rush Inn. What could be a more appropriate time for this column about an ammunition classic?
The 30.06 Springfield is now over 100 years old, having been accepted by the U.S. military in 1906 (hence the ’06 in the cartridge name.)
Since then it has been used with great success by the U.S. military until the relatively recent arrival of military versions of the both .308 Winchester (7.62 x 51 mm) and later the .223 Remington (5.56 mm NATO).
By far the greatest success of the venerable 30.06 Springfield has been in the hands of hunters throughout North America and the rest of the world. The 30.06 is so common and so popular (and effective) that ammunition for it is available all over the globe.
That is certainly not the case with most of the new “super-magnums” and even some of the other old standbys. It is so popular that every current rifle producer chambers rifles in 30.06 Springfield.
The ’06 factory loads are available from 110 grains to 220 grains to fill the hunter’s needs for bullets better suited for various game animals or target use.
Because of the popularity of this cartridge, every bullet weight category includes many choices to suit the specific needs of the rifle the hunter is using. There are also factory-loaded “light magnums” which move the 30.06 up almost to the speed and energy of the .300 Winchester Magnum.
It is not commonly understood, but very important, that two similar rifles may shoot the same ammunition differently as far as accuracy is concerned.
Try different manufacturers, bullet weights and bullet types until your rifle lets you know which ones it likes best by putting the holes closer together on the target.
The sky is the limit with the bullet/load combinations available to the handloader.
The .30 calibre is the most commonly-utilized medium bore calibre, so literally hundreds of different bullet types and weights are readily available. The reloading manuals contain many more suggested loads and combinations for the 30.06 than for any other cartridge.
For the plinker, or anyone else who just likes to shoot, 30.06 ammunition from the Second World War is still available by the case.
These are full metal jackets (FMJ), so not legal for hunting big game in the Yukon, but they are fine for an afternoon of shooting pleasure.
The 30.06 with a 180 grain bullet that produces 2,800 pounds-feet of energy at the muzzle is the minimum cartridge to hunt bison in the Yukon. This standard was created to try to minimize the wounding loss rate which might occur with lesser cartridges.
Unfortunately too many hunters still think a “super-magnum” will kill better, when bullet placement is the real key to success.
Wildcat cartridges are where someone takes a cartridge and “necks” it up or down (makes the opening smaller or larger) to accommodate a bullet of a different calibre.
The 30.06 has been used for many variations, with the most common and regularly used in the Yukon being the 25.06 Remington, .270 Winchester, .280 Remington and .35 Whelan. The 30.06 just doesn’t stop being successful.
I am totally consistent in my answer when a new hunter asks me, “What rifle should I buy for my first or only Yukon hunting rifle?”
Without hesitation and completely prepared to defend my answer, I advise to buy a 30.06 and you’ll never be sorry.
The guns are available used as well as new, at all price levels. The recoil can be dealt with (and mitigated with a pad), and ammunition is available all the time and everywhere.
The 30.06 Springfield has lasted for over 100 years as one of the most popular and capable hunting cartridges in history.
Probably no other cartridge will ever match its record for popularity and effectiveness.
Its reputation and century-old acceptance have endured because it is simply a totally excellent all-round cartridge.