CharlieZ's question is the most important one. Both will do a very good job. If you anticipate shooting at longer ranges on larger game, the 30-06 is the clear choice. If you want a short, handy rifle for moderate ranges, the .308 is all you need. The recoil of the .308 in it's average weight rifle compared to a sporter weight 30-06 are similar. I have a .308 in a Savage Scout rifle, it is very light, and it's a bruiser, so keep that in mind if you want to buy a really light rifle and recoil is a consideration.
The 30-06 really doesn't come into its own until bullets heavier than 165 grains are used. The 308 is far more popular as a target round, but either is accurate enough for hunting purposes. As pointed out already, the 308 is found in short action rifles.
The balistics are pretty close when the bullet widhts are in the 150-180gr. area (the 30-06 is faster, but not by a whole bunch). Difference gets proportionally greater as bullet weight goes up; the 200gr. bullets are much better handled by the larger case.
No surprise, a larger cvolume case always outperforms a smaller volume case when both are pushed to the same pressure.
To the 308's credit:
1. CHEAP plinking ammo / cheap military brass.
2. Short action.
3. Small vel. loose (in comparison to the 30-06) with 150gr. bullets.
4. Better perfomacne in short tubes than the 30-06.
To the 30-06's credit:
1. Performance with 180-200gr. bullets is noticably better.
2. Long ction (some of us like long actions).
3. maybe CHEAP ammo (is some reasonably priced mil-spec. ammo imported...cannot swear to it's quility as I've not used any).
4. More velocity gain in longer tubes than the .308.
Like the man said, it depends on:
1. What you want to hunt and how you hunt it.
2. Are you looking for a light weight rifle?
....as good a place as any to place this rabid-rant.
Do believe that if you need to lay a ruler to it to tell the differnce in loads (trajectory or windage) then the difference is MEANINGLESS. People seem only able to differentiate a differnce in drop/windage of 15-20% In other words, if load A drops 20" at range, and load B drops 18" at the dame range, we wouldn't notice on anything but paper targets. . The rounds would "hunt " the same.
Guss it's becasue most shooters will "hold over" on long range game...and our guesstiame of that hold is an unmeasured amount...somthing like "I'll just hold 1/4 a critter over and 3/4 a critter into the wind". One we guess a hold, the differnce in that guess is worth more than a few inches in trajectory.
Playing range games, it makes little differnce to 95% of the players. You know your drop from measuring, make your drop/wind chart, and dial in the right setting for each range. If the guy next to you is putting 151/2 MOA of adjustment and you are putting in 12 1/4 MOA of adjustment, it makes no real differnce...you both are "on".
Make it to the top 10% of the shooers, and the advantge of a few MOA differnce in adjustments becomes important...until then, it's how you whot rahter than what you shoot.
I have allot of .308s and 30-06s.
One 30-06 kicks so hard in the prone position at targets and with factory ammo, that it is all I can do to concentrate.
30-06 recoil from the bench doesn't seem to be a problem. It doesn't feel good, but I can easily concentrate.
The .308 recoil seems to be less than I would expect based on the difference of bullet velocities.
Recoil compensators are too loud for me for ever shooting without hearing protection, so I rely on recoil pads. The ones that are an inch thick are still not enough for that one 30-06 in the prone position.
To tell the truth - there's not a nickle's difference between the two for normal hunting conditions.
I have two 30-06's, no .308's. That's only because the 06's were obtained prior to the .308 becoming popular.
Back in the early 70's, took a cousin from Penn out to Wyo for deer and antelope hunting. He had a Win Mod 88 in .308 that he used exclusively back there for deer and bear. He did everything with the .308 that I did with my '06 in Wyo. Ranges varied from 100 to 350 yds. First year might have been a fluke, but the succeeding years had the same results.
If you like a short action and don't plan on using anything heavier than 180 grain slugs, go with the .308. If heavier bullets may be contemplated, the '06 will serve you better.
I agree with everything said here, but lets take a few more things into consideration. This comparison will make no difference if you handload or not, but the power of the 30-06 is never realized in a bolt rifle until you handload, end of story. The .308 factory ammo is very tough to better with handloads in terms of velocity. As Ribbonstone put it, don't worry about the trajectory difference in the two rounds, because it really isn't there.
To the heart of it, a 30-06 in a 24" sporter and a .308 in a 20" carbine do show a very real difference in velocity, especially if one handloads his ammo. If you're putting them in the same rifle, with bullets of 180grs or less, they're about the same thing. If you put them in the rifles that they typically come chambered for the respective rounds, there is a fairly healthy performance advantage for the '06. If you want a light, short barrelled rifle, get a .308, not a 30-06, as the extra powder is of no benefit in a 20" barrel, unless you like additional muzzle blast. If you want a full sized rifle, get the 30-06, because this is where it's meant to reside and it will outperform the .308 in every facet of performance in a full size rifle.
Remember, it's the 30-06, not the .308, that is considered the gold standard. That gold standard is a antelope to moose standard, and alot of that has to do with the ability to handle heavy bullets and somewhat longer ranges.
I'm done with my "rant", and it's only my opinion.
No real significant difference in the field, based on what I have seen. I've hunted a lot with a .30-06, and have hunted a lot with another guy who shoots a .308. The differences in performance of individual bullets were much greater than the difference in performance of the two rounds.
Deer - hogs - javelina - coyotes - varmits - etc., were what we have been shooting.
With a Pachmyer Decellerator my M70 .30-06 isn't too bad off the bench, and I can honestly say I've never noticed the recoil in the field, even from prone. My normal hunting load is a 165gr. Partition at about 2800fps. It has been the best and most consistent load I have used. The 130gr. Barnes X gave some instant coyote kills, though, on marginal shot placement.
One has to ask the question, Do you want the most accurate choice? You can hunt deer or Elk with a .308 if you use the correct load. The advantage over the 30.06 is that of accuracy. The .308 has been a standard for sniper rifles for a long time. The new generation is moving to the .338's.
All I really intend to use the rifle on is whitetail and coyote. I would just get an average-sized rifle with a 22" or 24" barrel. It doesn't need to be too light or fancy or anything. Just so it gets the job done. I realize that I might not even need something as strong as the 308 or 06. I'm open to suggestions, if anyone has some.
Have an old Rem. PSS .308 (one of the green park.ed ones from the first year) that use to sit in the safe (after all, there just aren't that many people that need shooting in a given year) until I took it out for Cdogs.
Look at a typical loading manual...the 125gr. .308" bulelts have a BC comparable to a .223's .55gr. bullet and are launched at about the same speed. Gives about a .223's trajectory but more than twice the "whamp" when you connect.
Only down side is that the bigger slugs also like to bounce arround the landscape a bit more...so pay attention to the location of the livestock.
If C-dogs and deer are the two main targets, may re-think to the .260Rem, 7-08, 280 or even the .243 (although I'm not a giant .243 fan, i do own one and shoot it).
Was a time for a couple of years I got hard-headed and shot EVERYTHING with a varmint weight barreled .280. Except for the weight, wasn't a bad choice for any of them.
if all you're using it for is deer and vermin, I'll suggest a .280 Remington. I've got a few rifles to choose from, and the .280 is my favorite for general use. The 7/08 would also be an excellent choice.
I have used nearly all the rounds discussed have owned three 30-06's and all the cartridges based on the 308 case including a nifty 358. My first 308 was a Rem 600 which I sold when I got my 350 and would love back. The 308 makes into a delightful short action carbine or short rifle and doesn't give up much to the 30-06 with factory ammo. Reloaded the 30-06 has more potential but the 308 is a lovely round. My present 308 is a Steyer Scout and it's great though that old 600 was nearly as good. I use speer TNT bullets for varmints and am getting 1.3" group averages at 200 yards.
150 Nosler partitions also get sub MOA and impact only an inch lower all with lovely old 748. Cheap practice ammo is easy to get. Try that with a 260. Looking at all my big game hunting over the past three decades I can really thing of nothing that I have done that couldn't have been accomplished with that old Rem 600 in 308. Excellent economy, compactness and availability, reasonable power, acceptable recoil and decent trajectory spell a versatility that can't be matched imo.
I've been hunting/shooting with the .308 for about 20 years.
I have hunted/shot 30-06's of various flavors, and in fact own 3:
a Winchester 70
My 308's consist of;
a Winchester model 100
a Winchester model 70
a Remington 700 in BDL and a VS
a Savage and of course...my favorite,
From a hunter's standpoint in the NE hardwoods, either will get the job done. The steadfast '06 will shine at distances over 600, but I have never shot at game at that distance, only paper targets in the National matches. The .308 hits accurately out to those distances also (paper targets) .
Which is better? It could be like asking Ford or Chevy, Smith or Colt, 444vs45-70 or 44vs.45....
I've shot both .30-06 and .308 and can honestly say that the better accuracy of the .308 would matter to me for any coyote that 'hangs-up' when called and won't come in closer! The difference is probably even greater when shooting light-weight varmint bullets. There's just too much accuracy and efficiency advantage with the .308 to buy an '06 for your game.
For game beyond the deer class I'd use High Energy Federal's or Light Magnum Hornady's on bear, etc., again, in .308 if that's what you buy right now.
The difference between these two cartridges depends on weither you use factory or reloaded ammo. If you plan to use only factory ammo, the difference between these two cartridges will be almost impossible to notice in the field. If you plan to reload, the difference will be very noticable. The reason for this is that S.A.A.M.I. specs limit pressures to 50,000 CUP for the .30-06. The .308 is loaded to 52,000 CUP. The limit for the '06 is due to the older, weaker actioned rifles still being used in the '06. In a modren rifle, there is no reason the .30-06 cannot be loaded to the same pressure levels as the .308. Three thousand feet per second with a 150 grain bullet in the '06. Whereas reaching factory ballistics in the .308 can be difficult. The .308 has always been loaded with modren powders, some of which are not available to reloaders, to maximum pressures. Velocities are usually taken from 26" barrels by the factories. This combination makes it hard for a handloader with a 22" barrel to get the velocities claimed by the factories. On deer sized game, you and I will still never know the difference. On larger game, or with bullets heavier than 150 grains, the '06 is a giant step ahead of the .308.
As for accuracy. This is more a case on individual rifles than cartridges. In a tuned, match quality rifle, with good handloads, the difference in accuracy between these two cartridges is usually between an 1/8" to 3/16" in favor of the .308. In a hunting rifle, the difference will be in the rifle, not the cartridge. I hope that this is of some help. Good luck.
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