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The .30-06 Springfield
By Chuck Hawks
The .30-06 Springfield needs little introduction to most shooters and reloaders. It is one of the most famous, and popular, hunting cartridges in the world. It is one of only four cartridges to make the "short list" of all-around hunting cartridges and it is probably the most versatile big game cartridge there is. From jackrabbits to Alaskan moose or brown bear, the .30-06 can do it all with appropriate loads.
The most common factory loaded bullet weights for the .30-06 are 150 grain, 165 grain, and 180 grain. These are the best bullet weights for almost all medium and big game hunting with the .30-06, so they are also the bullets most often used by reloaders. The sectional density (SD) of these three bullet weights is as follows: 150 grain .226, 165 grain .248, and 180 grain .271. Using Nosler Partition spitzer bullets for comparison, the ballistic coefficient (BC) of these bullets is: 150 grain .387, 165 grain ..410, and 180 grain ..474.
The regular factory load for the 150 grain spitzer bullet in the .30-06 has a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,910 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 2,820 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures are 2,342 fps and 1,827 ft. lbs. Zero this load so that the maximum bullet rise (mid-range trajectory) is 3 inches, and the average spitzer bullet will not fall 3 inches below the line of sight until it reaches 285 yards. Any load with a maximum point blank range (MPBR) of 285 yards can take a lot of game. This is the flattest shooting of the standard .30-06 big game loads, and probably the best choice for medium size deer, antelope, goats, and sheep.
The regular .30-06 factory load for the 165 grain spitzer, regarded by many as the best general purpose bullet weight for the .30-06, gives a MV of 2,800 fps and ME of 2,872 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures are 2,283 fps and 1,909 ft. lbs. That load has a maximum point blank range (+/- 3") of about 273 yards.
The popular 180 grain factory load has a MV of 2,700 fps and ME of 2,913 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures are 2,023 fps and 1,635 ft. lbs. This load will suffice for all thin-skinned big game, given reasonable bullet placement. Its MPBR (+/- 3") is about 269 yards.
Reloaders can use bullets weighing from 110 to 250 grains in the .30-06, but the 150, 165, and 180 grain bullets remain the most popular. The 150 and 165 grain bullets work well in the .30-06 with medium burning rifle powders, while the slower burning powders offer the best performance with 180 grain and heavier bullets. H414, H4350, IMR 4350, IMR 4831, and W760 have long been used in .30-06 reloads
The .30-06 is offered in a wide variety of rifles. Generally speaking, maximum loads should be reserved for use in bolt action rifles, as lever, pump, and autoloading actions generally lack the camming power to extract stuck cases. It is also a good idea to full length resize cases to be used in these actions.
Here are some .30-06 specifications useful to reloaders: bullet diameter .308", maximum case length 2.494", maximum COL 3.34", MAP 50,000 cup.
The Edition V of the Sierra Bullets Reloading Manual shows that 51.8 grains of IMR 4350 powder behind the Sierra 150 grain bullets gives a MV of 2600 fps, and 59.0 grains of IMR 4350 gives a MV of 3000 fps.
The Sierra Manual shows that 47.5 grains of IMR 4350 powder behind a 165 grain bullet gives a MV of 2400 fps. A maximum load of 56.0 grains of IMR 4350 powder gives the 165 grain Sierra bullets a MV of 2900 fps.
The Sierra Bullets Reloading Manual also shows that 50.1 grains of IMR 4831 powder behind their 180 grain bullets gives a MV of 2400 fps., while a maximum load of 57.7 grains of IMR 4831 can drive the 180 grain bullets to a MV of 2800 fps. All of these Sierra loads used Federal cases and Federal 210 primers, and were chronographed in the 26 inch barrel of a Savage 116 rifle.
Note: A full length article about the .30-06 can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.
Copyright 2004, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.