Effective Range Of The 30-06 Springfield

The year was 1964 and the Winchester Firearms Company was closing out the old Winchester Model 70 at the time. Bad move, but it was what it was. 

With about $90 and change in my pocket, I drove my old 41 Ford coupe to a local Target store in town, walked up to the gun counter, and soon became the proud owner of a great looking Model 70 Featherweight Winchester rifle chambered with the best round going of the day, the 30-06 Springfield cartridge.

With a second trip to a jewelry store in town and a back-room deal on a brand new Leupold 3X9 Gold Ring 40mm piece of glass, I was well on my way into the big league of modern center-fire rifle shooting. 

From that day forward, and over the next 60 years, the Model 70, with the same AR 10 scope style and Weaver mounts, has been at my beck and call. 

While that was the first 30-06 that crossed my path in a hunting lifestyle, many others would follow. At that time you could buy WWII surplus Springfield rifle cartridges for $25 through the NRA DCM program. 

As I went to school, advancing my education, I would buy a military rifle each four-month period and rebuild it into a sporting-style deer rifle. The re-sale of the rifle paid my school tuition so, in effect, light gunsmithing got me a college education. 

I have told this short form of a long story because it validates my thinking abut the 30-06 cartridge in that I shot more deer, varmints, and predators than I could ever remember or start to count in a span of almost 60 years. 

Of the big four rifle cartridges ever developed, and developed totally in the USA, the 30-06 ranks as the very top of the food chain. Winchester 300 Win Mag, Winchester 270, Winchester 30-30 are all right in the game. But the “Oh-Six” is clearly top gun in every respect.

Just how good is this ammo, you’re asking at this point in time. First of all, the 30-06 shooting a 180 grain bullet will leave a 24” rifle barrel at 2700 fps. Depending on the bullet design, i.e. a round-nose brush, a heavy game bullet, or a streamlined long-range bullet (Hornady ELR, for example), the exact range of the 30-06 varies.

Part one of the whole equation is the fact that the cartridge case (fuel cell, if you will) has only so much room for propellant. I have  identified the stuff that pushes the bullet as a propellant being much like the gasoline that moves a motor vertical. 

Modern gunpowder is not an explosive but rather a gas- and pressure-building substance that will move a bullet at very high velocity. 

For a period of about 25 years, I didn’t shoot any factory ammo in my Model 70 Winchester. Every round that went into the rifle’s magazine was hand-loaded by me using only one powder type and charged with a Hornady 150 grain “Spar Point” bullet sitting atop the cartridge case. 

Why would I be this limiting? Because this 150 grain was a spear-point design of the time that retained velocity well over longer-ranges, and yet at closer range always held together on large game animals, even when moving very fast at contact speeds. 

How far will the rifle and cartridge shoot? Based on some field-harvested mule deer in Wyoming and Montana through the years from 1970 through present time, I can say that my 150 grain Hornady hand-loader has taken mule deer at more than 400 yards with regularity, and whitetail brush country deer as close as 75 yards. 

Now that all of that is out of the way, here are some simple facts about this ammo. 

Using the current bullets available today from many sources, but in my loading room Barnes, Hornady,  Sierra, Berger, and Nosier, I can push this bullet to 1 mile with accuracy. 

Using some of the new hand-cut bullets offered for 1 mile and more shooting, I think that the 30-06 would be clearly capable of sending accurate rounds as far as 2000 yards.  

For this review, I have included a couple of down-range ballistics charts that show remaining energy and velocity on 30 caliber bullets fired at 2700 fps in 178 grain weights. These results mirror the ammo used in the 30-06 and should shed some light on the subject. 

Ballistic Results – 30-06 Down-Range

RANGE (YDS)

VELOCITY (FPS)

ENERGY (FT.-LB)

TRAJECTORY (IN)

Based on a Hornady 178 Grain BTHP MATCH long-range target bullet in 30 cal, this table indicates that the fired bullet leaving the rifle at 2700 fps will reach 2000 yards, or just beyond 1 mile (1,760 yards), with a total velocity of 891 fps remaining in its flight. 

This is a transonic velocity performance print, and the bullet is about to go subsonic. In most cases, bullets that fly subsonic will start to wobble and become inaccurate in a best-case scenario.  

Shooting at higher elevations and in warmer air will improve this ballistic profile, but for the most part the shooter needs to consider that the 30-06 Springfield about finished at this extreme range limit.  In real world limits, the 30-06 is an excellent 1000-yard target, sniper, or any other heavy bullet requirement to 1000 yards. 

In war as far back as Sergeant York in WWI and Carlos Hathcock (White Feather)  in Vietnam, each displayed some of the deadliest sniper shooting ever recorded at the time. The cartridge? The 30-06 Springfield. Rifles were Enfield bolt-actions for WWI, and the almost over-the-counter Winchester Model 70 sporting rifle reworked by Marine armorers in Nam. 

As a final note, the Russian 7.62X54 R, the Jap 7.7, and the German 8mm were also very close to the ballistics of the 30-06 Springfield. Why? Because this history-making round well-known to other armies is still just as good today as it was in its birth year of 1906.

Listed countries using, or that have used, the 30-06 Springfield in war (public data information):

 Afghanistan[20]

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