Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

I've been following a post on The Firing Line forum about the relative advantages of the .30-06, vs its offspring, the .308 Winchester.  So, the title of this post isn't really about siblings, so much, as about offspring.  This discussion has filled internet forums, and circulated around campfires since the .308 Winchester was standardized, back in 1952.

I admit that I'm a fan of both cartridges, and the intent of this little discussion is not to get involved in the parentage or lineage of the .308 Win.  I know that it came from the original  T65 cartridge, and I know that Winchester standardized it as a sporting cartridge before NATO adopted it as a military standard..  I also know that for all practical purposes, the military's 7.62X51 cartridge is a virtual substitute and that SAAMI says they can be used interchangeably.  That's not the purpose of this discussion.

I also know that I'm a fan of both cartridges.  The old .30-06 Springfield has been around a long time, and lots of military and sporting arms have been chambered for it.  Likewise the .308 Winchester, which to my paltry attempts at research, the shorter cartridge seems to be supplanting the older, longer cartridge in popularity.  So, when we talk about which cartridge is best, we have to ask; "Best for What?"  There's the rub.

Which leads me to this article, written by German Salazar, a noted NRA competitor.  In the article, he looks at the argument, and tries to decide which cartridge is best for his purposes, which is NRA prone Highpower competition.  He uses identical rifles and accumulated data over the course of several years, and he comes to some interesting conclusions.
In the Long-Range matches, the spread between the cartridges is a little bigger, reflecting the increased importance of ballistics when the range gets stretched to the maximum. So even with the same shooter firing all the rifles, the differences become more pronounced. Many modern-day competitors look down on the .30-06 as a long range cartridge, but I'll definitely say that if you want a good shooting cartridge with excellent barrel life and a huge choice of components, you can't do much better than the .30-06 for all around use.
I'm not a high-power competitor, nor do I shoot F-class, or any of the long range games.  I'm a hunter, plain and simple, a guy who can't see farther than about 250 yards on his deer lease.  Yet the campfire discussions continue. Which cartridge is better?  And I admit, I've got both of them and use both of them.  I've come to know and trust them both.  Yet, after all the discussion, with the newer powders and better bullets that we're blessed with, I really think that the difference between the two cartridge is the difference between Eenie and Meenie.  For most practical purposes, it just doesn't matter.  I don't think that a whitetail deer, nor yet a mule deer, nor even a bull elk would be able to tell the difference at 300 or so yards.  So, for the practical sportsman, what's the difference?

Not a whit.  It's only in the rarefied air of serious competition, or military sniping that the difference comes into play, and even in those situations, the two cartridges under discussion are always being supplanted by newer, more whiz-bang cartridges designed by folks who make money at such things, or for whom the difference matters.  We sportsmen are a fickle lot, and we'll jump on the new bandwagon whenever it rolls by.  Reference the success of such cartridges as the .260 Remington, or the 6XC.

I'm sure that in this puny blog post, I'm contributing to the debate, but I'm scribbling here more to link to Salazar (who has another great article here), more than anything else. I'm convinced that American sportsmen today are living in a golden age of riflery.  We're blessed with factory produced rifles that are more accurate, more durable, and more affordable than anything that was available 20 years ago.  It really doesn't matter which cartridge we use, simply because the rifles, the powders, and the bullets we have available to us today are so much better than the same equipment that was available to our fathers.  Every thing else is either an intellectual exercise, or marketing.  Use the rifle you've got, practice, take time to lay on your belly, or squat on your haunches and learn to shoot the rifle.  It'll do what you want it to do.


Anonymous said...

I am on my third 30-06, never had a 308. I have had the the opinion with no study to base it on that the 308 was inherently just a little more accurate then the 06 while the 06 was about 50 yards longer for hunting use. At the ranges I would shoot any difference in accuracy real or imagined or the extra distance make no difference. I just prefer the 06 same as I prefer my 300 savage and 257 Roberts over newer cartridges.


Old NFO said...

I also have both, and I use the 30-06 for hunting, and the .308 for long range... Except for the SCAR in .308 which gets used for hog hunting...

Rivrdog said...

I bought a Savage 99f in 300 Savage last year, but since I've always been a .308 & .243 Winchester guy, I need to figure out the 300 Savage. There are only two factory loads made for it now, the 150 and the 180, but I'd like to see how far I could reach out and touch targets with a 168-gr match boat tail bullet at about 2600 fps or so, maybe as slow as 2500.

Trouble is, the rifle currently has no optics on it. I have a decent Nikon 3-9X40 to put on it, but that scope wouldn't fit the bases/rings for my Savage 99e in .308, which sports an old/reliable Weaver K4. The Weaver seems not to have a 40mm objective bell, probably 32, so swapping the mounts between the Savages won't fly, unless the f-model has a skinnier barrel. They look the same, but I haven't miked them.

My research said that higher bases WERE made, but I can't find any. The 99f is drilled and tapped, probably for those same, lower bases that I have on the 99e.

Gerry N. said...

Paw Paw, I think you're right on the money. My favorite three cartridges are .30-30 in an old H&R Topper 158, .308 in a Ruger #1 SS. and 6.5mm Swedish Mauser in a Swedish M38 Short Rifle. All are low to med. Recoil and with modern bullets deadly accurate far beyond original design limits. I was most surprised by the Topper 158 with it's break action. At 200 yards, the farthest I can conveniently shoot, no longer ranges available, It will put five out of five 150 Hornady spire points into 12". That is far and away good enough for what I need done. The .308 and 6.5mm Swede will do somewhat better due to a scope on the Ruger and a Williams aperture sight on the Swede. Any one of those would suit me fine if I lost all my other rifles. My other rifles are .30-40 Krag, .303 Brit., 7.62x39, and .30 Carbine. All of which are legal, albeit not ideal, deer cartridges here in the People's Republik of Warshington.

Gerry N.