Both are entrenched in hunting lore and come with a passionate and loyal following. While popular, these two calibers fill very different niches of the hunting world.
In this article, we will take a look at the ballistic and other properties of these two calibers. Not with the intention of declaring one better than the other, but to better understand each calibers application and under which hunting situation each is better suited for.
.30-30 VS .30-06: A Brief History
Before we jump into our 30-30 vs 30-06 comparison, we wanted to briefly touch on where these calibers came from and how they have been used since their introduction. We will take a look at some of the design specs of the cartridges and compare the two and list several rounds for each caliber that we will be comparing throughout the article.
The .30-30 Win (thirty-thirty) is one of the oldest hunting cartridges, but given that it is still a popular caliber hints at its effectiveness. It was one of the first cartridges to be made with smokeless powder and was introduced in 1895. The name comes from the bullet diameter (.308) and the amount of powder originally used in the cartridge (30grains).
Because the .30-30 is most often used in lever action firearms with tubular magazines, bullets are often only designed with flat or rounded noses to keep from striking the primer of the next round in the magazine. Because of this, the performance seen with other rifles with ballistic tips are often not seen.
The .30- 30 is a little more limited in the weight of bullets because of the cartridge dimensions and are usually found in 150-170 grain weights with some lighter weights also available.
The .30-06 (thirty-ought-six) was developed in 1906 in response to advances in cartridge design in foreign nations. Its name comes from the bullet diameter (.308) and the year it was produced (1906).The .30-06 Springfield 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 which all make it able to take down larger game cleanly up to and 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
.30-30 VS .30-06 Specs Comparison
|Max Pressure (SAAMI)||42,000psi||60,200psi|
From looking at the spec between the 30-30 vs 30-06, we see that the .30-30 Win is a much smaller cartridge than the .30-06. While the bullet diameter is similar, the cartridges differ pretty dramatically. The .30-30 cannot hold near the powder charge of the .30-06 or hold up to the amount of pressure that the .30-06 can. We will shortly see how varied the properties of these two calibers are, and the cartridge dimensions are the main factor.
To look at these differences, we have selected four rounds for each caliber. We have tried to cover a range of bullet weights, loads, and bullet design to give us a diverse set of available rounds for each caliber. Below we have listed our choices.
- .30-30 Remington Core-Lokt SP 150gr
- .30-30 Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 150gr
- .30-30 Federal Premium Nosler Partition 170gr
- .30-30 Federal Powe-Shok Jacketed Hollow Point 125gr
- .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
For experienced hunters, there are not many hunting calibers normally used that will put them off from shooting because of recoil. Still, recoil does have an effect on performance, most notably accuracy. High recoil can cause the shooter to flinch which can throw off the bullets trajectory and cause a missed shot. High recoil also makes it more difficult to realign the rifle for quick follow up shots.
What we are going to look at in this section is the actual recoil energy (ft.lb) that is generated from firing rounds of each caliber. We also want to mention that what we are measuring is not “felt recoil”, the recoil you feel when shooting, Felt recoil relies on a lot of other variables that we can’t account for.
First, let’s look at the recoil energy of averages for both the .30-30 and .30-06 calibers. It’s a pretty dramatic difference in recoil energy between the two, with the .30-06 round generating nearly double the recoil energy of the .30-30.
Let’s see if this trend holds when we look at several different rounds of each caliber.
As the previous graph, we see each of the .30-06 rounds generating a significantly greater amount of force than the .30-30 rounds. For some, this might not be a factor in their decision, but it does impact applications which we will discuss at the end of the article.
When comparing calibers, in this case, the 30-06 vs 30-30, ballistic properties are understandably an important component of a thorough comparison. We will look at several ballistic properties of the two calibers to draw conclusions from trends we see. From these conclusions, we can better understand under which situations, one or both calibers would be suitable to use.
Our first sub section for caliber ballistics is velocity. We will compare the eight rounds and compare the bullet velocity from the muzzle out to 500 yards.
The velocity of a bullet leaving the muzzle tells us a lot about how the bullet will fly. Faster velocities mean that wind and gravity will have less of an impact on the bullet during its flight path.
The trend that we are seeing makes a lot of sense if we think about what is going on regarding design. For the most part, the bullet weights are similar but the cartridges used are much different when we compare their max capacity from our specs table. The .30-30 bullets are being pushed from a much lighter powder load than the .30-06 bullets. From the muzzle to 500 yards, the .30-30 just doesn’t have the velocity of the .30-06.
The 200gr .30-06 cartridge is interesting because of its trend compared to the other rounds, including the .30-30. It does not bleed off speed nearly as dramatically as other rounds up to the 500-yard mark.
Ballistic Coefficient (BC)
The ballistic coefficient is a number that is derived from several bullets and cartridge variables. The actual number gives you an idea of how well a bullet can resist wind drag and wind drift. The higher the BC, the harder it is for the bullet to be pulled off target and the better the velocity and trajectory is going to be.
So, let’s take a look at our eight rounds for this comparison and compare the BCs to see what we can conclude.
It’s fairly obvious that the .30-06 rounds have a much higher average BC than the .30-30 rounds. We mentioned briefly about the bullet design of most .30-30 rounds, and these bullets just do not provide the same aerodynamics of other calibers, including the .30-06. What this means is that the longer the shot, the higher the chance that the .30-30 round is affected by environmental factors and a lot more velocity and energy will bleed off. We are about to look at both short and long range trajectory, and we will see how it is impacted as well.
Before we look specifically at short and long range trajectory, we wanted to give you an overall look at how flat the trajectory of these calibers are when compared. We used two cartridges for both calibers that are similar in bullet weight and design. We are looking at the .30-30 round in this graph throughout the article, but the 150gr .30-06 round in this graph will only be used for comparison here.
For the first 150 yards, both the .30-30 Win and the .30-06 Springfield have very similar trajectories. It’s from this point that the two begin to deviate pretty drastically. Just like we mentioned with the velocity, there just is enough of enough force generated to keep the .30-30 bullet flying as straight as the .30-06 bullet of the same weight. You can begin to see how this will impact applications of the two rounds.
Short Range Trajectory
In this section, we will take a look at our eight different rounds and compare the differences in short range trajectory. This data comes from the manufacturer and is gathered from shots zeroed in at 100 yards and measured bullet drop (inches).
We see that at 200 yards, 100 yards further than where they were zeroed, there is a general trend of the .30-30 showing a greater bullet drop, though only by several inches. If we move out another 100 yards, the difference becomes much more dramatic with differences closer to 15 inches between the .30-30 Win and .30-06 Springfield calibers. Some rounds are probably available that do not show as much difference, but even at short range, the .30-30 is going to require more dramatic elevation adjustments than the .30-06 to put it in the vital area.
We saw in the short range trajectory data that the .30-06 shoots much flatter 100-200 yards past the zero mark than the .30-30. The .30-06 is a known long range hunting caliber so we can expect to see an even greater difference between calibers when zeroing in the rounds at 200 yards and measuring out to 500yds.
Now, let’s take compare the 30-30 vs 30-06 data for long range trajectory and see what trends we can extrapolate.
It’s pretty obvious right off the bat that the .30-30 has a much more pronounced bullet drop past the 300-yard mark than the .30-06. In some cases, we are looking at a 100-inch difference between the two calibers. While there might be some .30-30 rounds out there that will provide better performance at these ranges, this trend is going to hold up the majority of the time. With the velocity and ballistic coefficient of the .30-30 compared to the .30-06, this outcome is expected.
For hunting calibers, the knockdown power is a critical factor when determining what you need to hunt certain game. The ability of a bullet to cleanly take down a target depends on the wound that is created, which we will not cover, the amount of kinetic energy the bullet is carrying that can transfer to the target causing massive damage to organs, and penetration which is needed for damaging vital organs of large game. In this section, we will look at both the energy that can be transferred to the target as well as the sectional densities of these rounds which correlates to penetration.
In this section, we will look at the force of our eight rounds for the 30-30 vs 30-06.
In general, you want at least 1,000ft.lb or force associated with the bullet when it reaches the target. This is especially true when dealing with game deer sized and larger. Anything less than this and you need a perfect shot placement for quick dispatching.
From the muzzle to 500 yards, the .30-06 provides a significantly more amount of kinetic energy to the target than the .30-30. Three out of the four .30-06 rounds still had well over 1,000 ft.lb of force at 500 yards. On the other hand, the .30-30 rounds
fell below 1,000 ft.lb by the 200-yard mark. This will be a major factor in functional applications of this caliber that we will discuss in a few sections.
To compare the penetration potential of these two calibers, we will look at the sectional densities of the bullets for the eight rounds we have selected. The sectional density of a bullet correlates with its ability to penetrate deep into a target. Velocity is also another key component of penetration and we have already touched on it.
This number is calculated from the bullet’s weight and diameter. The higher the SD, the deeper the bullet will be able to penetrate the target. While ballistic gels are another great way to test bullet penetration, and also take into account the type of bullet and jacket, we will just focus on the SD.
If we take a look at the SDs of the eight selected rounds we see that they are near identical between the two calibers.
Both of these calibers used bullets with a .308” diameter, so the difference in sectional density all depends on bullet weight. So, for more penetration, heavier bullets should be used. We also have to factor in velocity, of which the .30-06 has more of. With similar bullet weights and the same bullet diameters, the increased velocities of the .30-06 rounds are going to give better penetration.
Also remember, that the type of bullet plays just as critical a role for penetration. Rapidly expanding bullets or bullets that fragment easily are not going to penetrate like a bonded bullet.
Accuracy entails a lot more than just the type of caliber being used. Because of that, it’s very difficult, if not impossible for us to determine which caliber can be labeled as the most accurate. Regardless, we have covered several performance specs for each caliber, and those results do have some influence over accuracy.
For long range shots, the answer is without a doubt the .30-06. The velocity, BC, and flat trajectory all point towards it being much easier to land a hit with much more minimal adjustments than would be needed with the .30-30. When talking about 100 yards or less, both calibers should fly true. When zeroed in at 100 yards, there is also very minimal adjustments that would need to be made on shots coming in within that yardage.
The advantage that the .30-30 has when discussing accuracy is the recoil. Compared to the .30-06, the .30-30 has feather light recoil. You should have no issue with flinching while shooting a .30-30 and quick follow up shots are very manageable.
Price and Availability
The majority of our comparisons have shown a noticeable difference in the two calibers, and the price section follows the same trend. The table below lists all eight of the rounds we have used in this article and their prices per box (20 rounds). Without a doubt, the .30-06 rounds are much more pricey than a box of .30-30 ammunition. If you’re only interested in hunting whitetail at ranges of 100 yards or less than you can save some money by going with the .30-30.
|.30-30 Remington Core-Lokt SP 150gr||$15.67 (20 Rounds)|
|.30-30 Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 150gr||$22.79 (20 Rounds)|
|.30-30 Federal Premium Nosler Partition 170gr||$31.79 (20 Rounds)|
|.30-30 Federal Powe-Shok Jacketed Hollow Point 125gr||$19.49 (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)|
Both the .30-30 Win and .30-06 Springfield are widely available at retail stores that sell ammunition as well as online. You do have more choice for round type with the .30-06 versus the .30-30 regarding bullet weight and design.
We now have a strong understanding of how these calibers perform and can now discuss which hunting situations each caliber would be most effective.
The .30-30 is not a long range hunting caliber. The velocity, trajectory, and stopping power at increased distances all showed us that the caliber is too unreliable. Where this caliber does perform well is with shots taken at 100 yards and less. It has more than enough stopping power, including kinetic energy and penetration, and a flat enough trajectory to take larger game including deer and black bear.
It’s also a great choice for a deer rifle, especially for introducing young hunters to large game calibers, because of the extremely low recoil. Even for experienced hunters, a caliber where you can easily manage follow up shots is a big advantage in thicker woods stalking whitetail. It’s also very affordable.
The .30-06 is a prime caliber for large game from deer to moose. It has tremendous stopping power. Even more important is that it maintains this knockdown power at a distance and can provide enough penetration to reach vital organs of large game. For certain hunting such as pronghorn, elk, and moose where shots beyond 300 yards are common, this caliber shines. Not only can it reach those distances with enough energy to cleanly harvest an animal, but the trajectory is also flat enough that you don’t have to make complex calculations to achieve the desired shot placement.
It’s an expensive caliber that kicks like a mule. If you do not need a caliber that can take large game at a distance, it might be more suitable to go with another hunting caliber.
Conclusion – 30-30 vs 30-06
When discussing the 30-30 vs 30-06, we are talking about historical hunting calibers that have been and will continue to be a part of the hunting world. While these calibers have distinguishable difference in performance, they both can be effective when used in the right situation.
And that is what we hope to have achieved with this article. With this information, you can make a more informed decision on which caliber fits your hunting strategy and situation and make a difficult decision much easier.