The other day someone asked an interesting question on HuntingBC.ca. “If the .30/60 cartridge would come on the market today would it have a chance to become a success with the hunters?” With all the hype today about magnums and super magnums this is a very interesting question and one I would like to spend a little more time and space to answer here.
Like so many things hunting related the .30/06 came to us from the army. The .30/06 was originally (U.S. Cartridge, Model of 1903) loaded with a rather slow moving 220-grain bullet, designed for the Springfield Model 1903 bolt action rifle. In 1905 the Imperial German Army came up with a 8mm (.323) round, which fired a lighter and faster bullet that left the ’03 in the dust. Not to be outdone the U.S. Army quickly modified the ’30 to take 150-grain bullet that too could reach way out there and touch somebody and renamed it “U.S. Cartridge Model of 1906.” What a mouthful to say. So people have renamed it more economically to .30/06 (30 for the cartridge and 06 for the year). Ever since we know it simply as .30/60
What the army achieved with the .30/06 was a cartridge that struck an ideal balance between extreme power (at the time) and recoil. It is this ideal combination that made this cartridge so immensely popular with the hunters. The light recoil meant everybody, even a child, could shoot it for a long time without ending up having to nurse sore shoulders from the recoil at the end of the day. But what really made this cartridge really popular with everybody is the vast number of loads available in the .30/06 variations. It is this variety that made it the all around hunting cartridge it is. Regardless of what you are after, there is no game animal in North America, including the bison that some .30/06 configuration can’t handle well. At the lower end you can go as low as 110 grains and at the heavier end you can fire a 220-grain slug. This will take you from the mouse to the moose all with one cartridge.
Moreover, the .30/06 is now even more powerful than when it first appeared. Because the relatively slow burning gunpowders we have today produce much higher velocities than the propellants that where available before WWI. For example the standard muzzle velocity for the Army issue 150-grain bullet was around 2700 fps, (Feet per second). Most current factory loads today will push that same bullet with around 2900 fps. This occurs right trough the entire range of bullets weights. So now we not only have a good all-round cartridge but also one that shoots quit flat.
Having a cartridge with so many configurations can cause for some confusion. Here’s a brief, but by no means complete, guide: 125 and 130-grain. These bullets are perfect weights for varmints. 150-grain is in my opinion the best of all the deer hunting bullet weights. The 165-grain bullet might be, according to many of the best hunters, the best bullet with enough velocity and punch to take most critters in North America. But if you really want to make sure you have enough power then you go with the 180-grain. For the biggest critters around, such a grizzly, musk ox and bison a 200-grain bullet will leave no doubt behind. The 200-grain .30 bullet might not be the fasted, but it withstands wind well and packs enough downrange power and incredible penetration strength to put every elk, moose, bear, or even bigger African plains swiftly down.
So, do I think that if the .30/06 would be a success if it would come on the market today? You bet it would be. Most hunters do not want, or can’t afford, to have a cabinet full of specialized rifles in different cartridge sizes. What they want is an affordable, easy to handle cartridge that they can use just about anywhere they are ever likely to hunt. Be that in the hardwood forest of the Midwest for whitetails or go after Antelopes in New Mexico’s plains or elk in the foothills of Colorado. The .30/06 is still the best selling cartridge, in fact it sells so good no advertising is needed. Yet the magnums and super magnums are advertised very heavily and still have not managed, as hoped, to push the .30/06 in the gutter. I will go as far as to predict that in 20 years from now, when all the magnums have to make room to another new and hyped up cartridge, the versatile .30/06 still will be around and as much enjoyed as it has been the past 100+ years.