30-some­thing

WHY YOUR SEARCH FOR THE PER­FECT BIG RI­FLE CAN START—AND END—WITH THE .30

Gun World - - Con­tents -

There’s never been a bet­ter time to be in the mar­ket for a hunt­ing ri­fle. To­day’s guns—thanks, in large part, to ad­vance­ments in ma­chin­ing and met­al­lurgy—are more ac­cu­rate and af­ford­able than ever be­fore.

Sub-MOA ac­cu­racy, once the “holy grail” of ri­fle­dom, has now be­come such an achiev­able goal that many hunters are un­happy when their bud­get guns don’t shoot un­der an inch with fac­tory ammo.

Bet­ter trig­gers have helped with ac­cu­racy, and new pow­ders have al­lowed ammo man­u­fac­tur­ers and hand­load­ers to wring the most ve­loc­ity out of all loads. Per­haps most im­por­tantly, there are many su­perb hunt­ing bul­lets ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing con­sis­tent re­sults, even at very high ve­loc­i­ties.

The chal­lenge is that all the op­tions avail­able to­day make se­lect­ing the right ri­fle/load/op­tic combo some­thing of a co­nun­drum.

Be­gin by look­ing at the .30 cal­ibers. I’m not dis­count­ing the 6.5s, the .270s and the .338s, so if your li­cense plate reads 7MM4LFE, just hear me out. The var­i­ous .30s—from the milds to the wilds— will cover about 90 per­cent of all hunt­ing any­where on the globe. Sure, you can fill your ri­fle rack with a bunch of dif­fer­ent guns in a bunch of dif­fer­ent cal­ibers for hunt­ing any­thing in the world, but if you had just one gun, which one would it be?

Dis­count­ing the rar­i­fied world of dan­ger­ous-game hunt­ing, I know that my do-all car­tridge would be some fla­vor of .30 cal­iber. But even within this fam­ily, there are a lot of great op­tions.

A VERY BRIEF HIS­TORY OF THE .30S IN THE UNITED STATES

In the 1890s, when the U.S. Army de­cided to ditch the .45-70 in fa­vor of some­thing lighter, it choose the .30-40 Krag. It worked well in bolt-ac­tion ri­fles and quickly caught on as a hunt­ing car­tridge, too. More than a few record­book white­tails, mu­leys, elk and moose fell to the .30-40.

The 1890s also pro­duced an­other great .30-cal­iber round: the ven­er­a­ble .30-30 Winch­ester, which is still a pop­u­lar choice for hunters. As the black pow­der car­tridge era ended and smoke­less pro­pel­lants be­came com­mon­place, smaller, faster bul­lets be­come stan­dard; and, in 1906, the United States mil­i­tary adopted the car­tridge we know to­day as the .30-06.

Like so many other car­tridges that be­gan life as mil­i­tary rounds, the .30-06 be­came a pop­u­lar sport­ing round. It could drive a 150-grain bul­let from the bar­rel at 2,900 feet per sec­ond, a 165-grain pro­jec­tile at 2,800 feet per sec­ond and a 180-grain pill at around 2,700 feet per sec­ond. Com­pared to the loads that were pop­u­lar just two decades be­fore the ’06’s de­but, this new round was blis­ter­ingly fast, and mak­ing shots at game at 200 and even 300 yards be­came com­mon.

IN PRAISE OF THE ’06

The .30-06 was a very ver­sa­tile hunt­ing round when it de­buted, and it re­mains so to­day. There’s lit­tle ques­tion that our na­tion­wide love af­fair with the .30-cal­iber hunt­ing rounds stems from the pop­u­lar­ity of this car­tridge; and the fact that it re­mains so lauded a cen­tury af­ter its in­cep­tion speaks to the stay­ing power and func­tion­al­ity of this round.

I also think the .30-06’s po­si­tion in the mid­dle of the class makes it a log­i­cal choice for those who want the ul­ti­mate do-all hunt­ing car­tridge. If you are look­ing for one gun that will al­low you to hunt just about any game any­where in the world with supreme con­fi­dence, look to the .30-06.

What makes the .30-06 so great? For starters, it com­bines a flat tra­jec­tory with moder­ate re­coil. The .30-06, when sighted in a cou­ple inches high at 100 yards will, with most loads, hit dead-on at 200 yards and will shoot about 8 inches low at 300 yards. That’s not ex­tremely flat by to­day’s stan­dards, but it’s within a cou­ple of inches. When you stretch things out far­ther, faster loads have an ad­van­tage.

The .30-06 pro­duces a level of re­coil that is man­age­able for most shoot­ers. If you don’t think that’s a crit­i­cal fac­tor, you haven’t shot a lot of mag­nums. I know sev­eral peo­ple who own faster .30s and .33s who have never achieved full ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial from their guns be­cause they get beaten up ev­ery time they pull the trig­ger. The .30-06 gen­er­ates about 20 foot-pounds of re­coil in an 8-pound ri­fle, which is more or less the thresh­old for av­er­age shoot­ers.

Ammo is avail­able just about any­where, and there are so many fac­tory loads to choose from that you’ll have no trou­ble find­ing a load that works for any non­dan­ger­ous big game. And be­cause the .30-06 doesn’t pro­duce ex­tremely high ve­loc­i­ties, bul­lets per­form pre­dictably.

IT’S GOT GAME

There are vol­umes writ­ten about the .30-06’s per­for­mance on game, so I won’t go into great de­tail—other than to say it has per­formed ex­tremely well for me on mul­ti­ple con­ti­nents and on game rang­ing in size from small deer to 1,000-pound-plus an­te­lope in Africa.

My African ex­pe­ri­ence with the .30-06 was quite telling. In our camp were two hunters—one with .30-06s and one with a .338. It would make sense that the chap shoot­ing the .338 would have had less cleanup work to do in re­gard to fol­lowups and the like, but the re­al­ity was that the ex­act op­po­site was true: Those of us shoot­ing ’06s never had a game an­i­mal go out of sight. The guy with the .338 had two long, hard track­ing jobs that took up a cou­ple of days of sa­fari. I’m not knock­ing the .338 Winch­ester Mag, which is a great car­tridge … if you can han­dle the abuse it gen­er­ates.

THE MILDER .30S

I clas­sify the .30-06 as the “do-all .30”—a clas­sic, mid­dle-ofthe-road round. But there are plenty of ver­sa­tile .30s on both sides of the ’06’s power curve.

Many of the milder .30s are over a cen­tury old—rounds such as the afore­men­tioned .30-40 Krag and the .303 British. There are still a few .30-40s in ser­vice, and I’ve seen a hand­ful of .303s in Africa, but the old .30-30, which started life as a black pow­der round al­most 125 years ago, is cer­tainly the most pop­u­lar and most avail­able of the mild, old .30s.

Think the .30-30 is a relic that has largely been re­placed by newer, faster rounds? Think again. One of the na­tion’s largest ammo man­u­fac­tur­ers says the .30-30 is still one of its 10 most pop­u­lar of­fer­ings!

The .30-30 is largely a lever gun round due to its rimmed de­sign, but I hunted with a Thomp­son/Cen­ter G2 Con­tender in .30-30 in Texas a few years ago, and it was a won­der­ful ri­fle—light and com­pact, with very min­i­mal re­coil. It’s a great op­tion, even to­day, with many great mod­els to choose from.

The .30 T/C car­tridge is an­other im­pres­sive, mild .30 that never got the at­ten­tion it de­served. It was a short-ac­tion car­tridge that could fit in light, com­pact bolt guns and had great bal­lis­tics. Sadly, the .30 T/C is lan­guish­ing, but it is the par­ent of one of to­day’s most pop­u­lar car­tridges—the 6.5 Creed­moor.

If we’re talk­ing about mild .30s, it would be a shame to over­look the AR-friendly 300 Black­out. This mild car­tridge is ef­fec­tive on deer, hogs and the like at moder­ate ranges. With the right load, and in an AR, it gen­er­ates very, very lit­tle re­coil. Plus, the .300 Black­out fits in AR-15 ri­fles, so you don’t have to step up to the larger, heav­ier AR-10.

There are those who think the mild

.308 Winch­ester is un­der­pow­ered for elk, but that wasn’t the case on this hunt. The Moss­berg MVP Scout ri­fle was topped with an EO Tech op­tic, and the elk went down with one 165-grain Nosler Par­ti­tion bul­let. No mag­num could have been more ef­fec­tive in this case.

The .30s range from the mild to the wild. From the left: .30-30 Winch­ester, .308

Winch­ester, .30-06, .300 Winch­ester Mag­num, .300

Weatherby Mag­num

I

The Winch­ester 94 in .30-30 has ac­counted for a whole lot of big game, and as long as ranges are moder­ate, this ri­fle/ load combo is ex­tremely ef­fec­tive. Plus, a light, handy lever gun is easy to carry in the woods.

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