Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Best all-around

One of the commenters over at The High Road forum (.us, not .org) asked the question, what's the best all-around caliber for North American game.

Four pages later the discussion is still going on. The consensus is that the best all-around caliber is the .30-06. It's hard to argue with that answer.

The .30-06 is one of the best, ever. It's been around since 1906 and it's still going strong. Every bolt-action manufacturer that I'm aware of chambers rifles for that cartridge and the ammo manufacturers commonly list it in the top three of cartridges sold in North America.

You can buy ammo anywhere, virtually at any big box store, any gun store, and almost any country convenience store. Ammo is easy to find. It's easy to reload for, too. Page after page of .30-06 recipes can be found in virtually any reloading manual. I've loaded it hot, for velocity. I've loaded it down (about 1800 fps) for plinking. The best cast bullet group I ever saw was shot with a 200 grain Lyman bullet and the bullet traveling about 1600 fps, out of a bone-stock Remington 700 in .30-06. That 5-shot group fell into 0.76 inches with a called flyer. If he hadn't flown that bullet, the whole group would have been under half an inch. I didn't shoot it, but I saw it and it was the damndest exhibition of cast bullet shooting I'd ever seen.

By best target from my Savage goes into 3/4th of an inch. This with a 168 grain bullet traveling 2800 fps. Don't let anyone tell you that the .30-06 isn't capable of fine accuracy.

If you're hunting game up to the size of elk, the .30-06 will do the job. If you're hunting whitetail deer, the .30-06 will do the job. If you want one rifle that'll kill nearly everything in North America, the .30-06 is your medicine.

Every cartridge has its fan club. Some like the .270, some like the .243. I love the .30-30 and think that it'll do anything a .30-06 will do inside of 100 yards. Truth be known, most game animals are killed inside 100 yards. There are others that think the 7mm Remington Magnum is the cat's meow for all game. If you want a nice, light carbine get the .30-30. If you want the full size bolt action rifle, get the .30-06. I love my .30-30s. I currently own two and have one on order.

The hunting season is upon us, and while I'll likely be carrying one of several rifles this year, I know that I can rely on my .30-06. It's not flashy, it's not a whiz-bang magnum, it's not the latest, but it's likely the greatest.

Folks ask, what caliber should I buy if I can only buy one caliber. Either the .30-30, or the .30-06. I've never felt undergunned with either of them. But, if you're looking for best all-round, the .30-06 is the cartridge.


Anonymous said...

I have two 30-06's, an O3-A3 and a M1917. I shoot and enjoy both. My heart, though, belongs to an old, beat up Krag in .30-40. The rifle I actually use is a Ruger #1 in .308 Winchester. The ballistics on that round are almost idendical to .30-40 which are so close to .30-06 as to be rounding errors. If one compares similar weight bullets in any of the main battle cartridges of the late 19th through the mid 20th centuries, the ballistics are all nearly identical. A man would be well equipped with a decent rifle in any of those calibers.

I've often wondered how the venerable .30-40 with the round nose 220 gr bullet was good medicine for animals up to and including Moose and Kodiak Bear through the 30's and 40's, but now the .30-06 is thought to be a little light. Are these critters harder to kill nowadays?

Strange, no?

Gerry N.

Termite said...

My $.02 worth.

The 30-06 is more than necessary for deer, but not massive overkill. A bit light for large grizzlies and polar bears, but not dangerously so(with the proper bullets). For everything else in North America, it is just fine.
However, I don't own one, and have never owned one.

Rivrdog said...

.I would have been a 30-06 guy, but I started out my high power shooting in 1961 with .308 (in a Savage 99E, which is still my #1 hunting rifle), and I don't see any point in changing. My Dad started out with 30-40, which was cheap when he began hunting around 1920, but he eventually got a BAR in 30-06. I inherited it, but was on a caliber-restricted budget in those days, so I sold it.

At Boomershoot this year, I learned that the .308 round, properly loaded and shot from a decent rifle, is good to MOA out to 600+ yards, or at least double the distance at which I would ever try to take game.

BTW, limited only by the Weaver K4 on that Savage 99E, I shot 4" boomerite targets at 380 yards. With a scope providing more parallax adjustment (to get rid of the multiple crosshairs my old eyes see), I would have tried the 600 yard targets, but my .243 WIN70 got me satisfaction on those.

The .243 is, of course, a .308-based round...

My conclusion is that better powders and better bullet selection have made the slightly-weaker .308 into the full equal of the 30-06.

Last word: train yourself to hit with the rifle you own, and quit coveting something just a little better.

Pawpaw said...

Rivrdog sez: "Last word: train yourself to hit with the rifle you own, and quit coveting something just a little better."

That's good advise. I agree that better powders and bullets have increased the performance of even the most plebeian of cartridges.

Still, if you can't hit with it, it doesn't do any good to shoot. Learn to shoot the rifle you have and you'll find that it does whatever you want it to do.