Both of them come with a loyal following that will argue until their last days as to why their cartridge is the best available. What we will see is that these are two calibers that are very similar and we have to look at the details to understand under which situations one might have the edge over the other.
In this article, we will take a look at two popular cartridges, the .270 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield, and discuss under which situations one might serve you better than the other. There is no “winner” in our opinion. Both can be effective in very similar conditions, and we think your preference and confidence with a cartridge is just as important as the small differences, especially when comparing two cartridges that share many similarities as these two do.
Before fully jumping in we do want to mention a disclaimer. We are going to compare only a limited amount of different rounds for each cartridge. While we are selecting a variety of rounds with a good range of bullet weights and designs, it’s only scratching the surface. There is a lot more to a good hunting round, but our selections for comparison will give you an excellent starting point and base of knowledge to dive even deeper into the discussion.
.270 VS .30-06: A Brief History
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of comparing ballistic data and other performance specs of these two cartridges, we think it is important to have an understanding of where they came from and the reason they were manufactured. We will also look at the dimensions of the two calibers and their cartridges.
The .270 Winchester/.270 Win/.270 made its appearance in the hunting world in 1925 where it would stay in relative obscurity for a time. For several years, the .270 did not have a significant following of users. Jack O’Connor, a famous writer of firearms and hunting, really pushed this cartridge and its abilities in the field and brought it to the forefront of hunting rounds, where it remains to this day.
The .270 has gained a huge following in the world of hunting from small varmints and predators to large American game such as sheep and deer. With a leap in bullet technology, the .270 is much better suited for taking larger game such as elk.
The .270 came from the .30-03 which saw very brief use in the United States in the early 1900’s. Another cartridge that comes from this parent case is the .30-06 which are very similar to the .270. The .270 can be thought of as a necked down version of the .30-06.
As far as bullet weights go with the .270, most ammunition is going to fall between 120-160. There are smaller weights that are available for small game. Like the .308, there is a lot of options regarding bullet weight and design, and they are readily available and affordable.
Like the .270 Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield has the same parent case, the .30-03. Because of this, as we will see, there are a lot of similarities between the two cartridges. The .30-06 was developed in 1906 and throughout the years saw modifications, especially to bullet design and also saw combat in several wars until it was replaced in the late 70’s.
Though retired from military service, the .30-06 is a well-known hunting cartridge that is sought after for its velocity, power, and flat trajectory to take down larger game cleanly beyond 500 yards.
The .30-06 is widely available in just about any retail store that sells ammunition. It has a huge selection of bullet weights as well as designs that allow to .30-06 to be used in a variety of hunting situations. The .30-06 can also be an extremely hot load when hand loaded, increasing its performance greatly
270 vs 30-06 Specs
|Max Pressure (SAAMI)||65,000psi||60,200psi|
When looking at the 270 versus 30-06 specifications, we see that the overall length of the entire cartridge is very similar. They both also can hold the same amount of powder. The biggest difference between these two cartridges is the bullet size. The .30-06 bullet has a much larger diameter than the .270 and is going to be the main reason for some of the difference we will see in its performance.
As we move into the heart of our comparison, we will take a look at four different rounds for each cartridge that encompass a broad range of different bullet weights and designs. Those rounds are listed below.
- 270 Winchester Hornady SST Superpformance 130gr
- 270 Winchester Hornady InterLock SP American Whitetail 130gr
- 270 Federal Vital-Shok Nosler Partition 150gr
- 270 Remington Core-Lokt PSP 115gr
- .30-06 Federal Vital-Shok Nosler Partition 165gr
- .30-06 Hornady 150gr GMX Superformance
- .30-06 Remington Core-Lokt PSP 125gr
- .30-06 Nosler Custom Hand Loaded AccuBond 200gr
While a lot of hunters might shrug off the recoil of a cartridge, it does have the potential to influence your shot. Heavy recoil can cause enough flinch to throw off a shot. While most hunting cartridges used in the US can be handled pretty easily by an experienced marksman, we still think it is a category to investigate.
What we are looking at in this category is the actual energy generated by igniting these cartridges. The actual “felt recoil” is going to depend on a lot more than just the caliber and is not something that we can quantify.
So. Let’s first take a look at the overall averages of the recoil energy (ft.lb) of the two cartridges. As you can see, the .30-06 packs quite a bit more of a punch than the .270. Interestingly, if you have shot both and talked to a lot of other hunters/marksmen that have you will notice that the kick feels different between the two and not just by the sheer amount of force. The .270 kick tends to be a bit sharper while the .30-06 feels more spread out through the trigger pull and release. It’s not quantitative by any means, but it’s a trend that is often noticed.
Let’s take a look at our eight rounds for comparison and see if the trend continues or if there are some outliers.
It’s pretty clear that the .30-06 generates a pretty noticeable increase in recoil than the .270. With a force of over 20ft.lb for just about all of our .30-06 rounds, it can impact your shot placement if you are not familiar with the firearm and cartridge.
You can also notice how much greater the larger grain bullets for the .30-06 will produce a lot more kick. If you’re used to shooting the .30-06 or other hard kicking cartridges, it’s still not going to be anything you can’t deal with, but for those without much experience or a younger hunter, it’s definitely going to take some getting use to.
When comparing cartridges, in this case, the 270 vs the 30-06, ballistic properties are understandably an important component of a thorough comparison. We will look at several ballistic properties of the two chosen cartridges to draw conclusions from trends we see. From these conclusions, we can better understand in which scenario, one or both cartridges would be a good choice to shoot.
Velocity is an important property of bullets for several reasons. For one, the faster a bullet is traveling, the less effect wind drift and gravity are going to have on the flight path. This is very important for long range shots, which these calibers are often used for. Once a bullet falls to a certain velocity, a lot of outside factors can greatly decrease the accuracy.
Of course, velocity is only one part of a larger equation for an effective hunting round. Velocity and bullet weight/design often go hand in hand along with a cartridges ability to hold only a limited amount of powder charge. It’s a lot of information and velocity also plays a role in wound size and type which is important for hunters, but warrants an entirely separate article to cover the full scope of the topic.
Regardless, it’s important to look at the velocity, along with other cartridge properties to be able to draw meaningful conclusions. So, looking at our eight rounds, we can draw some conclusion with regard to velocity, measured in ft/s of the 30-06 vs 270.
What we can see from this graph is that there is not a whole lot of difference in velocity between these two rounds. The .270 SST 130gr rounds show the highest velocity, but it is not that much greater than the heavier .30-06 rounds. It’s pretty impressive that the much heavier bullets of the .30-06 can compete with the lighter .270 when both have fairly similar load capacities. All of the rounds, other than the two lightest, are still traveling at over well over 1,500ft/s and closer to 2,000 ft/s at 500 yards which is a great sign for long range accuracy.
Another interesting aspect of this graph is the heavy Nosler 200 grain round. You can see the trend its drop in velocity is not as steep as the other rounds, and if we carried this graph out to 800 yards, it would still be traveling faster than the other rounds on the chart. This velocity, bullet size, and bullet type are what make it one of the best large game rounds for elk, moose, and bear.
Ballistic Coefficient (BC)
The ballistic coefficient of a round is simply letting you know how well the bullet resists drag and wind drift and thus, the easier it will be to group shots at long range. The larger the coefficient, the better the bullet is at resisting these external factors. BCs could also have several articles written on the variables that go into its calculation, but for now, we will stick with the basics.
Overall, both cartridges have rounds with very high BCs. Both of them have a longer and skinnier tapering than other bullets which helps cut down on wind drag. The heavier grains of the .30-06 bullets also improve the BC because the increased mass makes it more difficult for cross winds and other environmental factors to affect the flight path which we see with the 200grain .30-06 round. Of course, as you can tell from the bar graph, just being heavier alone does not mean you will have the highest BC as material, shape, and density of the bullet also play a role.
With our selection of ammunition, you can see how the design of the bullet plays a role in its ability to handle wind resistance and limit drag. Most of our rounds have decent BC’s, but even within the same cartridge, you get BCs for some rounds a tenth or more decrease. It all has to do with its ballistic properties and bullet design.
Since both of these cartridges are most often used in hunting situations where longer shots are needed, we are going to focus more on the long range trajectory. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be used in elk or whitetail country where there is thick timber or undergrowth and shorter range shots.
If we look at the trajectory of two similar rounds, .270 Federal Nosler Partition 150gr and .30-06 Federal Nosler Partition 165gr, we can see that both have a nice flat trajectory up to 100 yards.
With heavier bullets, these are as good of “brush guns” as a .308. For both cartridges in just about any type o cartridge that is available, the bullet drop difference between them out to 300 yards when zeroed in at 100 yards is negligible. For the real heavy grain weight bullets, such as a 200 gr .30-06 might be more dramatic, but generally, both cartridges show the same changes in trajectory.
Let’s go ahead and look at the long range trajectory of our eight rounds for comparison.
What we can see from these rounds is that for them ost part, the .30-06 shows a more pronounced drop in trajectory than the .270. Some rounds are definitely worse than others such as the Core-Lokt PSP 125gr and the super heavy Nosler 200 grain, which would be expected, but honestly, most of the rounds are probably not significantly different from the .270, and you’re also dealing with heavier bullets. What we might see is a much more pronounced increase in stopping power for the larger .30-06 bullets so keep that in mind.
In this section, we will examine our eight ammunition rounds and look at the kinetic energy they carry along a flight path from the muzzle to 500 yards for our 270 vs 30-06 comparison. We will also examine the sectional densities for each round we have selected to represent the both cartridges to determine the amount of potential penetration. Both of these cartridges were designed to be able to reach out at far distances and be able to still carry enough kinetic energy and punching power to kill the target on impact.
Now, there are more factors that go into a bullets ability to drop animals cleanly, such as the bullet design and its ability to cause serious wounds based on how the bullet expands when it reaches the target. We can’t really quantify this in our 30-06 versus 270 comparison. Because of that, we will strictly focus on energy that is accompanied with the bullet and will be transferred to the target and the amount of penetration you will get on the target.
So, let’s compare the energy (ft.lb) of our eight rounds for comparison.
There is quite a bit of information that we can take from this graph. First, just scanning over it, we don’t see huge differences in stopping power. The majority of the .30-06 rounds have much more initial energy leaving the muzzle. As you can also see, there are .270 rounds that match up well with .30-06 rounds from the muzzle out to 500 yards. We also see that all of the rounds besides the two Remington Core-Lokt cartridges have well over 1,000ft.lb of energy at 500 yards, which we would expect from long range hunting cartridges.
Overall, the .30-06 do have slightly more stopping power than the .270 related to kinetic energy, and this trend would hold true for most rounds that are available. The heavier .30-06 rounds that are available will give you even more stopping power, but you will have to take into account the loss of trajectory that comes with using heavier bullets.
When hunting larger game, you oftentimes need your round to be able to penetrate through thick skin and tissue to reach vital organs. One way to determine the amount of penetration two cartridges will have is to compare the sectional density (SD) of the bullets used.
The SD is derived from a calculation using the bullet’s diameter and weight. A bullet with a higher sectional density should have greater penetration than a bullet with a lower SD. The sectional density alone does not indicate penetration. The velocity as well as the design of the bullet factor in as well. Higher velocities increase penetration as does highly bonded bullets that will not fragment on impact.
Deeper penetration is not always an indicator of a better cartridge. Like everything we have covered, it all depends on what you’re shooting at and we will discuss this more when we get to the applications of these cartridges.
Let’s take a look at the sectional densities of the eight rounds we have been using for comparison.
We do not see huge differences between the two cartridges, but you can see how bullet weight influences the sectional density and the bullet’s ability to penetrate more deeply.
If you really need deep penetration, a heavier (200+) .30-06 round is going to be the better choice. Both of these cartridges carry a tremendous amount of energy which will generate more penetration as well, so they are still around the same mark.
You might also notice that some of the lighter .270 rounds have similar sectional densities as heavier .30-06 rounds. The reason for this is the smaller diamters of the .270 bullets. More force is localized to a smaller areas which allows the bullet to be driven deeper.
In the end, both the .270 and .30-06 are going to give you roughly the same penetration as well as kinetic energy needed to kill medium and even larger game efficiently with a well placed shot.
If you have looked at any of our previous cartridge comparisons, you will know that we think accuracy is a tough category to really quantify simply based on data. Accuracy has a lot of variables besides the type of caliber cartridge being used. The firearm itself, environmental conditions, and most of all the person pulling the trigger all have significant impacts on accuracy.
These are designed to give the hunter much more range to their shots. Sighted in at 100 yards, both of these cartridges have a flat enough trajectory that you can hit targets from 50-350 yards with no issue. For longer range shots, the .270 might have a slightly flatter trajectory than the .30-06, but it’s pretty minimal. The bullet weight will also play a big role. A 150gr .30-06 and 150gr .270 are going to be very similar compared to a 200gr .30-06 and 130gr .270.
The two cartridges resistance to drag and velocity are also pretty similar, so we don’t think outside influences are going to affect either one of them any differently.
As far as recoil goes, the .30-06 does have a significant more kick regarding the energy generated. For some shooters, it might make a significant difference that can cause a little flinch and throw off the shot. From experience and the data, we don’t think there is any noticeable difference between the 270 vs 30-06 from 50-500yards.
Price and Availability
In the table below, we have listed the eight types of ammunition we have used in our comparison and also listed the price that is associated with these rounds from the manufacturer when available. As you can see, the .30-06 is generally a more expensive round than the .270. While there will be some fluctuation in price from round to round, depending on the make of the cartridge, overall the .30-06 is a bit more expensive.
|270 Winchester SST Superformance 130gr||$41.21 (20 Rounds)|
|270 Federal Vital-Shok Nosler Partition 150gr||$34.49 (20 Rounds)|
|270 Winchester InterLock SP American Whitetail 130gr||$29.40 (20 Rounds)|
|270 Remington Core-Lokt PSP 115gr.||$23.49 (20 Rounds)|
|.30-06 Federal Vital-Shock 180gr Nosler Partition||$39.99 (20 Rounds)|
|.30-06 Hornady 150gr GMX Superformance||$54.07 (20 Rounds)|
|.30-06 Remington Core-Lokt PSP 125gr||$22.99 (20 Rounds)|
|.30-06 Nosler Custom Hand Loaded AccuBond 200gr||$65.90 (20 Rounds)|
When we look at the 270 vs 30-06 in regards to availability, we don’t think there is a clear-cut winner. Both of these cartridges are very popular and widely available through major retailers and online. Both have a tremendous amount of options for bullet weights and designs for a wide range of hunting applications. There might be a few more options for the .30-06 but its nothing significantly more than the .270.
We think that right out of the gate we can all agree that both of these cartridges make excellent hunting companions. Both calibers, when the proper bullet weight is used, can take both whitetail and mule deer, mountain sheep, hogs, and even elk. The heavier weight .30-06 rounds can also be used to take moose and moose sized game with proper shot placement.
We definitely recommend the .30-06 for moose and other large game. The .30-06 is available in grain weight bullets that can deliver killing wounds and transfer a much larger amount of energy and potential penetration than the .270. On the flip side, the availability of lighter grain bullets for the .270 make it much better for hunting smaller game where you might not need the stopping power or recoil of .30-06 rounds.
Both of these cartridges are great for long range shots over 350 yards. As we have shown in out comparisons, there is a lot of similarity in velocity, trajectory, and BC. We think it really comes down the size of game you routinely hunt to make your decision.
You will no doubt run across arguments for one over the other and often they have a specific rounds of the particular cartridge in mind. Just from our comparisons, you can see the variability. In our experience and looking at our comparison, both calibers perform very similar in a lot of aspects with only slight differences depending on the round. Do these slight differences matter when you have worked all season to put yourself in a position to harvest a Boone and Crocket buck? It might, but for two cartridges with so many similarities, you really need to experience both on the range and go with what you have the most confidence shooting.
Conclusion – 270 vs 30-06
This is a tough comparison. The 30-06 versus 270 shows us a lot of similarities between these two rounds. While there are definitely some differences between the two, they both can excel in a lot of the same hunting scenarios.
When you get down to picking between two calibers that are similar and can be used in a lot of the same situations, it starts to be a decision based on feel and on how confident you are with a specific cartridges. If you have the opportunity, shoot with both and take them out into the field. Find what’s right for you.
We hope that this article has presented data and provided conversation for what this data means concerning the 270 vs 30-06 and allows you to make a much better-informed decision when the time comes. Either way you go, you have a good cartridge.