The .30-'06


This is another of the many cartridges that have survived for over a hundred years and is still going strong. There are good reasons for that. It is a very versatile round and it was adopted by the US government as the standard US military rifle cartridge, a position it held from 1906 (actually 1903, but we'll get into that in a bit) to 1957. It served admirably in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. As a non-standard round you could still find it being used in Vietnam.

A bit of information about the name is probably in order. This cartridge in its first form appeared in 1903 along with the M1903 Springfield rifle. It was called the cartridge, Caliber .30, M1903 in the naming convention used by the US military at the time. The name was popularly shortened to .30-'03 for "thirty calibre model of (19)03" and is properly written as .30-'03. Yeah, the apostrophe stands for the "19" of the year.

Things were advancing rapidly in the realm of firearms and cartridges at that time and it quickly became obvious that the '03 cartridge wasn't up with the times, so the US Ordnance department called for it to be modernized by loading it with a lighter 174 grain Spitzer-pointed boat-tail bullet instead of the old-school round-nose bullet weighing 220 grains. This new loading was adopted in 1906 and the new cartridge was christened "Cartridge, caliber .30, M1906" and has been called the .30-'06 (or just "the aught six") ever since.

This is an outstanding cartridge both for its original military purpose and for hunting any game animal found in North America. It has been used to take African big game, but it is not really powerful enough for that use and is not legal in most African nations for hunting the really big dangerous game animals as they have laws specifying a minimum cartridge power and the old '06 doesn't really have enough. With light loads and lightweight bullets it can be used to hunt varmints successfully, though it is a bit much for that. It is a superb choice for anything from deer up through moose -- providing that the right loads are used. Ammunition availability is as good as it gets. It is used in all parts of the world.

For many decades the .30-'06 was the standard by which all other rifle cartridges were judged, both in performance and in rifle size. A rifle with a so-called "standard-length" action was one that could be chambered for the .30-'06. The .30-'06 has engendered more offspring cartridges than just about any other, though the .308 Winchester may be gaining on it these days. It's a case of overkill for home- or self-defense use, but if it's all you have, it WILL do the job.


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