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.308 vs .30-06

Ballistics Performance Comparison of .308 Win vs .30-06 Springfield

If you’re looking for a cartridge for target shooting and hunting that has also been used by the U.S. military, both the .308 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield are great options. Because of their similarities, the debate over which is better has continued endlessly for years. Still, there are a few differences in size and weight that affect the performance of these calibers, and you can use those differences to determine which one is best for your specific needs.

308 Win vs 30-06 Springfield

The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the .308 Winchester vs the .30-06 Springfield based on bullet weight and various performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.

.308 Win 125 gr vs .30-6 Springfield 125 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.

.308 Winchester .30-06 Springfield
Bullet Velocity (Muzzle) 3,100 ft/s 2,700 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds 2,836 ft/s 2,412 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds 2,587 ft/s 2,143 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds 2,351 ft/s 1,891 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 400 yds 2,128 ft/s 1,660 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 500 yds 1,918 ft/s 1,454 ft/s
Bullet Energy (Muzzle) 2,667 ft-lb 2,023 ft-lb
Bullet Energy @ 100 yds 2,232 ft-lb 1,615 ft-lb
Bullet Energy @ 200 yds 1,857 ft-lb 1,274 ft-lb
Bullet Energy @ 300 yds 1,534 ft-lb 993 ft-lb
Bullet Energy @ 400 yds 1,257 ft-lb 765 ft-lb
Bullet Energy @ 500 yds 1,021 ft-lb 587 ft-lb
Usage @ 0 yds Toughest Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 100 yds Toughest Game Large Game
Usage @ 200 yds Large Game Medium Game
Usage @ 300 yds Large Game Small Game
Usage @ 400 yds Medium Game Small Game
Usage @ 500 yds Medium Game Small Game
Recoil Energy (150 gr) 15.8 17.6
Recoil Velocity (150 gr) 11.7 11.9
Recoil Score* (150 gr) 2.97 3.16
*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures takend from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.

Velocity

Velocity, and the related issue of accuracy, are generally a good way to choose between calibers. For the .308 and .30-06, these numbers are extremely close. Even though the .30-06 is slightly larger than the .308, its extra powder (and extra umph) gives it a slightly faster velocity.

As seen in the above table, the .30-06 has a muzzle velocity of 2,700 ft/s, which is just 25 ft/s faster than the .308’s 2,675 ft/s. This difference becomes even more negligible at longer distances, with the .30-06’s velocity at 500 yards coming in at 1,454 ft/s, just 17 ft/s faster than 1,437 ft/s for the .308. But even at close ranges, we’re talking about imperceptible differences here.

Historically, fans of the .308 have argued that the .30-06 is not as accurate at long ranges. This may have been true in previous years, but new versions of the .30-06 in high-quality rifles have made this difference negligible.

Energy

If velocity can’t help us choose between these two popular cartridges, what about energy? After all, bullet energy provides the stopping power needed to bring down game or protect in a self-defense scenario.

We’re also seeing highly comparable numbers for bullet energy, but again the .30-06 has a slight advantage over the .308 when we hold the bullet weight constant. However, it is worth noting that the .30-06 is capable of loading heavier bullets, even up to 250 grains according to some experienced hunters.

Many hunters have claimed that both calibers can take down any game in North America. The extra weight and power of the .30-06 may be necessary for larger game – though some claims that it just adds recoil and weight to your hunting experience. If you are focused on larger game, that just might be worth it.

Recoil

The .308 Winchester was designed in part to mimic the energy and impact of the .30-06, while lessening the recoil. While we’ve seen that the .308 doesn’t quite have the same oomph as the .30-06, the designers did succeed in lowering the recoil. The .308 is considered one of the milder big game cartridges, which can make a huge difference for shooters whose accuracy is impacted by recoil, or anyone who is planning to shoot a large number of rounds over the course of a day.

Trajectory

Trajectory is another important factor in deciding between rounds. The trajectory of the .308 and .30-06 remain very similar out to about 500 yards. At 200 yards, the .308 drops 4” on average, while the .30-06 drops 3.71”. The difference gets slightly more pronounced the farther out we go: at 400 yards, the .308 has a drop of 32.8”, while the .30-06 drops 31”.

Price

Both cartridges are easy to find at any major ammunitions seller. You can usually find a good selection of rounds, as well as components for loading your own ammunition. Finding more rounds for one cartridge or the other may depend on your region or store.

The .30-06 is generally just a bit more expensive than the .30. This can usually amount to $5-10 more per box. If you’re going to be shooting plenty of rounds as target practice, this difference could start to add up.

Size

The biggest difference between these two highly similar rounds is the size. The .308 uses a shorter case than the .30-06: the .308 is just 2” long, while the .30-06 is 3.34” long. This means that the .30-06 can hold heavier bullets and more powder, which gives it extra energy (and greater recoil). However, the .308 can be chambered in smaller rifles.

This can make a difference for hunters who plan to carry their rifles across lengthy expeditions in the backcountry.

Rifle Type

The size difference just discussed affects what rifles can hold each of these calibers. There are generally more compact rifles available for the .308 than there are for the .30-06, usually because their barrels are shorter. This compactness may be important to you if you are hunting in the back country and carrying your rifle over long distances.

The .30-06 is generally not offered in semi-automatic rifles because it is a longer cartridge. You can find some specialty .30-06 rifles, but they are generally more expensive. The .308 is available in semi-automatic sporting rifles such as the AR-10.

Which Caliber is Best?

The debate between these calibers has raged on precisely because they are so similar, and there is no definitive answer to which is best. If you want to hunt larger game at longer distances, you might find an advantage with the .30-06 Springfield. If you are looking for lighter recoil, cheaper ammunition, and a lighter rifle for backcountry hunting, you might find you prefer the .308 Winchester.

The good news is that you can’t go wrong here. Both of these cartridges have loyal followings because they are excellent for everything from target shooting to hunting to self-defense.

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.