Deer hunting: 30-06 or 308?


October 4, 2006, 09:59 AM
Which is better? More/less recoil? Better accuracy? etc?

Also, is it true that a 308 rifle will fire 7.62x39 or is that misinformation?


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October 4, 2006, 10:28 AM
7.62x39 is the soviet AK round, it won't fire that. I think you mean 7.62x51, and physically they are interchangable, but the there is a difference between the .308 and 7.62x51, so I would check with the manufacturer to make sure you can fire either/or.

Sleeping Dog
October 4, 2006, 10:32 AM
measuring the cases, the 308 is 51mm long and shoots a .308 bullet. The AK round is 39 mm long and shoots a .311 bullet. So, shoot a AK round in the 308 gun? The bullet will have to fly free for a few mm's before encountering rifling, then have to squeeze a little to get through the barrel.

So, yeah, it might shoot. Once. :)

As to .308 vs .30-'06, they are ballistically so close that it really makes no difference.

editing: I almost forgot: when you shoot the 7.62x39 with the .308 gun, the magic words are "Hold my beer, and watch this!"

October 4, 2006, 10:36 AM
308 vs 30-06 on deer is a toss-up. whichever you like better is the one to run w/ - either will work fine, and both will punch both sides of a deer.

October 4, 2006, 10:38 AM
Like SD said, ballistically the .30-06 and .308 are so close that it doesn't make much difference. In terms of recoil, I've never noticed any difference between the two worth mentioning, but recoil is subjective so your mileage may vary.

I prefer the .30-06 personally, because there is a wider variety of factory-made ammunition available in that caliber, mostly due to its popularity.

October 4, 2006, 10:42 AM
The 30-06 has a greater powder capacity than the 308. That allows it to handle heavier bullets (180gr, say) better. If you'd be primarily using lighter weight bullets (125gr-165gr), there isn't much difference between the two.

At that point, it comes down to which is better supported within your local ammo marketplace and which is chambered in a rifle that you like.

October 4, 2006, 10:46 AM
The deer won't care. He's equally dead either way.

October 4, 2006, 10:57 AM
Between these to calibers it will boil down to 2 things. Do you or do you plan to reload in the future? And do you want a short or long action rifle? Thats really bout it, have fun shooting.

October 4, 2006, 11:07 AM
Like others said, there is no difference between the two for most people. Does a long action or short action gun fit you better?

The other factor in your target. The 30-06 can handle a heavier bullet than 308 can, but this only come into play above 165 gr and would only matter for things like bears, elk, or moose. Since you said deer, this should not be a consideration uless you think you may engage larger animals in the future.

For the reloader, ammo selection is a toss since both use the same bullet, powder and the brass is easy to come by for iether.

I tend to nod to 30-06 when posed with this question. my reasons are the ammo availability (every store in the woods here carries 30-06 ammo), more options for heavier game, and well, it is still 2006, the 100th year of 30-06.

October 4, 2006, 11:10 AM
Not sure on the difference between long vs. short action. I'm a bolt gun newbie, sorry guys.

I don't plan on reloading.

October 4, 2006, 11:12 AM
As it was said, the two are *almost* the same once the bullet leaves the barrel. If you reload, the extra case capacity of the .30-06 is nice to have, especially with heavy bullets.

If you're really recoil sensitive, go with the .308. The .308 manages to get about the same performance with less powder: From Hodgdon's website, the max load of Varget with a 150gr bullet in the .308 is 47gr, in the '06 it's 51gr. With a 7.5 pound rifle the recoil energy is 20.4 ft-lbs in the .308, 21.5ft-lbs in the '06. The velocity is 2937 in the .308 and 2975 in the '06. Basically the same speed, but the '06 has about 10%*** more recoil, on account of having to use more powder to get the same speed. (Note: I used the 7000fps approximation for the powder exit speed.)

I'm about as big a fan of the '06 as they come, so that's what I'd pick. However, they're close enough (and out here ammo for both is stocked in about the same quantity and variety for each) that you should probably choose based on the gun, rather than the cartridge. If you like rifle A better than B, then don't pick B because it's an '06 instead of a .308 or vice versa.

You won't go wrong either way.

Edit: *** Should be 5%. Oops. As everyone else has said, there are minor differences in recoil, cartridge length, max bullet weight, etc. None of them will mean a lick to Bambi.

October 4, 2006, 11:22 AM
The diference is just as it sounds, a rifle in 30-06 will be slightly longer than a rifle in 308.

Note: some 308 guns are in long-action rifles but no 30-06 guns are in short action.

If you are over say 5'8" you may find a 308 to be too short to shoot comfortably at the same token, if you are short like I am, a 30-06 may be too long with out modifying the stock like I have to.

My best suggestion would be to head over to you local gun dealer and ask to shoulder a 308 and a 30-06 in the major brands, Ruger, Remington, Winchester (if he has any) Savage, to feel the difference. Go with what feels best. If the gun fits you, recoil will be nothing, if it doesn't fit, recoil can be punishing with iether of the two.

October 4, 2006, 11:39 AM
Of course, I own an '06. I like the '06 better because you can shoot heavier bullets and it is a lower pressure round. Also, if you use the "light magnum" ammo, it puts the old '06 about equal with the 300 H&H.

October 4, 2006, 01:18 PM
they are balistically about the same. the .308 is a short action, and the 30-'06 is a long action. you can shoot heavier bullets out of the '06 w/ more powder. if you use the same weight bullets, they are about the same. same recoil..etc. either one is going to put a deer down.

.38 Special
October 4, 2006, 01:24 PM
In my experience the difference between long and short action tends to be no more than a quarter of an inch. Which makes it, IMO, no more important than the distinction between .308 and 30-06.

I like the 30-06 because I'm traditionalist. I like that Hemingway carried one and I like that Teddy Roosevelt carried one. And that's the most valid sort of argument you'll find on the topic. If one floats your boat -- for any reason at all -- more than the other, buy it. Otherwise get whatever's on sale.

October 4, 2006, 02:59 PM
"In my experience the difference between long and short action tends to be no more than a quarter of an inch."

True, somtimes a 1/4 inch can make a difference. Of course, since we do not know the stature of the buying in question, a youth gun might be called for, in that case there is quite a bit of difference.

Stiletto Null
October 4, 2006, 03:07 PM
Max loaded cartridge length (tip to base) on .30-06 is about 3.25". Max on .308 is about 2.75".

Sounds about right, considering that .30-06 is 7.62x63mm in metric and .308 is 7.62x51mm.

So when cycling, there's an extra half-inch or so of stroke length on a long-action rifle.


If you're not handloading, there isn't much difference between the two in commercial loads. At a given bullet weight, I guess you could expect a .30-06 hunting load to be ~100ft/s faster at muzzle than its .308 counterpart.

Woo frickin' woo.

Find a rifle you like. For deer hunting, either will do just fine.


Which is better? Depends on how you define better. .30-06 gives you a bit more case capacity, but if you're not handloading, this doesn't matter very much. Both will be very available.

More/less recoil? For a given bullet weight, a .30-06 will probably send the bullet out a little bit faster, meaning a little bit more recoil (P = mv). Enough to notice? Doubt it.

More accurate? Flamewar waiting to happen. Theoretically, .308 is a more "inherently accurate" design, on account of having a shorter powder column (more consistent ignition). In practice...nobody uses either for precision competition that I know of, and there are plenty of long range wildcats in existence based on both cases. Whatever.

October 4, 2006, 03:15 PM
As said above, little practical difference for the average deer hunter between the two rounds. You should be able to find either anywhere you might hunt. Recoil and accuracy are essentially the same. Same number of guns chambered in each cartridge.

Only advantage in my opinion to the 30-06 is that if you plan on hunting larger game ever, the '06 allows heavier bullets than the 308...up to 200 gr (or even 220).

Another note...swear to yourself to never believe anything from the person who told you that 7.62x39mm will shoot from a 308. Where do people get this stuff?

Stiletto Null
October 4, 2006, 03:16 PM
Future Weapons? I mean, the guy's a SEAL/weapons expert, he knows what he's talking about.

Ben Shepherd
October 4, 2006, 03:17 PM
Which one do you own currently or have access to the easiest? Use that one.

Until you get above 165 grain slugs there is almost no difference ballistically or terminally. And you shouldn't need heavier that 165 for deer.

Bigger stuff where heavier slugs are a better choice? Then the old '06 starts running away from the 308 due to it's larger case capacity.

October 4, 2006, 03:54 PM
Here is a picture of the two rounds to help you understand long/short action.
30-06 is a long action and 308 is short. This means that the action on the rifle is longer for the 06 and shorter for the 308 they use the same 308 diameter bullet. I have shot many Whitetail with both rounds they both work. This could be a life long debate which is better But personally I use the 308.

October 4, 2006, 04:17 PM
i would just go w/ what you can get. they are damn near the same. u can pick up some really cheap as .762 ammo somtimes. walmart is gonna have a better selection of '06 ammo tho. guess it just depends on where you live and what is available.

October 4, 2006, 05:48 PM
I've killed deer with both, as many other posters have. I currently use a .308 because I got a good deal on the rifle. I agree with other posters who say that 30-06 has a wider range of applications, but only by a little. A friend once told me that a 30-06 kills anything, at least in the continental U.S. I would not feel under gunned with my .308 though.
As for felt recoil, that depends on the rifle, though I'd say they are very close given the same platform. I have a 30-06 auto loader that gives more of a progressive push than a kick. So much so that my 14 year old, 85 lb daughter shoots it. The .308 is a bolt and gives me a fairly stout punch. If I were looking and had it down to one of those 2 options, I'd find the rifle that you like best and take it in either caliber. If both are available, then 30-06. A little more than my 2 cents, but oh well.

October 4, 2006, 05:55 PM
Personally, I'd say, .30-06 for a full-size bolt gun. What's 1/4" on a gun with a 24" barrel? The .30-06 probably gives you more commercial and handload options than any hunting cartridge in North America.

For a lighter, shorter gun, .308 for sure. It's a shortened .30-06, and with modern powder it's essentially the same unless you want to load really big bullets or hot loads. Most compacts (E.g. Ruger Compact and Frontier, Remington Model 7, Weatherby Vanguard Compact) are only available in short-action rounds anyway, so you don't have to decide. HOWEVER, a 7mm-08 (.308 case with 7mm bullet) is probably even better, since it has lower recoil and shoots a tad flatter. Or, if you are willing to jump through hoops to get your ammo, .260 Remington, which is a .308 case and .26 bullet.

October 5, 2006, 08:38 AM
Both are good.

Some folks think that a short-action rifle will cycle a little faster, which makes sense, since there's a little less travel needed. On the other hand, speed on 2nd or 3rd shot may not be that important to you, anyway.

Overall, the .30-06 is a little more versatile, but the .308 can be found more inexpensively, if you're wanting to improve your shooting skill set by shooting surplus ammo.

What I'd probably do, if you don't have a strong leaning either way, is to look at your local shots. If you happen on a good deal in either caliber, get it.

FWIW, short vs. long action has NOTHING to do with length of pull, which is the length from the butt end of the stock to your trigger finger.


October 5, 2006, 11:20 AM
"FWIW, short vs. long action has NOTHING to do with length of pull, which is the length from the butt end of the stock to your trigger finger."


True, but it can affect the position of your off hand on the stock wich can affect the percieved ballance of the rifle.

October 5, 2006, 11:41 AM
How so? I don't see an extra .25" of length or so dramatically affecting the balance of the rifle.

I have yet to hear any of the very experienced shooters I enjoy spending time with claim .308s were going to be too short for taller shooters! (FWIW, most of the time, .308s have been chambered in long action sporting rifles, until relatively recently.)

Again, length of pull is the important thing. Most American rifles now have over-long LOP, especially for combat-style shooting at close range, and even more especially if wearing body armor.


Stiletto Null
October 5, 2006, 11:43 AM
Well, I don't think anybody bothers to make .30-06 rifles with carbine-length barrels. Maybe that's what he was referring to?

October 5, 2006, 11:55 AM
Well, I don't think anybody bothers to make .30-06 rifles with carbine-length barrels.

Not true.

Remington makes their 7600, 7400 and 750 in carbine-length .30-06 (18.5" barrels).

Note, however, that these guns are pumps and semiautos, with steel receivers that are the same size for short and long brass, and that they balance more like shotguns, not bolt-action rifles.

October 5, 2006, 11:59 AM
If you're really recoil sensitive, go with the .308.

If recoil is an issue, Remington makes their "Managed Recoil" line. I've shot it out of my .30-06, and it makes it feel like a .22LR... ok, maybe thats a little bit of an exaggeration, but it seriously makes a huge difference. :D

I prefer .30-06 because of ammo availability, price, and tradition. .30-06 rifles are almost always cheaper to buy than a .308. And the ammo is usually cheaper, and every manufacturer makes it. Not to mention, it can be found everywhere.

And .30-06 is what that my grandfathers used in WWII.

The .308's only advantage is the shorter action. But to me, personally, thats not an issue.

October 5, 2006, 12:02 PM
Ruger International rifles are also carbine length in 30-06.

The point I was making in the people like me 5'4" with short arms have troubles with longer guns. A long action rifle feels heavier on the front than a short action. I guess it has to do with extending my arms out more. I tend to have my off hand on or near the floor plate on most long sporting guns. Short action rifles tend to not affect me this way.

My hunting rifle, Win m70 in 30-06, had to be modified to fit me, not only did I remove 1.5 inches from the stock, I also had 2 inches removed from the barrel to improve the ballance of the gun. That two inches did not account for much actuall wieght, but out there at the end of a lever, it felt like a bunch.

My shooting partner has a Savage in .308 short action gun, even though the stock is too long for me, it ballances fairly well.

October 5, 2006, 12:36 PM
I have a whopping 12.5" LOP with sporting rifles (my M4 stock, on the other hand, I keep pushed all the way in, since I'll be square to the target, and wearing IBA).

As far as balance- when I got back from basic training, suddenly all the really heavy and unwieldy rifles (HK 91, Rem 700 PSS), while still not ideal suddenly balanced better. ;) (Might have had something to do with the ten pounds I gained.)


October 5, 2006, 12:54 PM
In my own experience I perfer the .308. The 30.06 had more recoil especially with heavier bullets. I use my .308 for hunting deer, and Large Elk in the Oregon mountains and it's usually a one shot affair in most cases. I had a springfield 30.06 and it's kicked alot more than my .308 browning semi automatic does. I don't care what the numbers say. I'm a lot better shot with my .308.

Just my opinion.


October 5, 2006, 01:11 PM
I don't care what the numbers say. I'm a lot better shot with my .308.

Good point, thats the bottom line. Using a "better" round doesnt mean jack, if you cant hit the target.

pete f
October 5, 2006, 01:18 PM
Flip a coin.

ammo availability is a wash, BOTH rounds are going to be available anywhere. iF they carry '06 ammo, they will -08 ammo.

performance, deer hit well with die with both rounds.

If you are thinking about trying big bears or moose or Elk, the -06 might be a slightly better round, MIGHT be. Using permium bullets in them both will kill what you hit.

Gun length. inconsequential.

availability of rifles, every gun chambered for a 30-06 will have a match in 308.

rifle fit, they will all be the same length of pull in the same model, IE the length from the butt stock to the trigger.

THE only place where the .308 clearly outshines the 06, is when you use shorter barrels and do not plan on handloading. In the shorter barrel, the .308 will often exceed the 30-06 solely based on the powders used.

October 5, 2006, 03:11 PM
long action/short action refers to the length of the...drum roll...action.

Not the length of the weapon.


A bolt action 30-06 has a longer action than the 308 because of the longer brass.

October 5, 2006, 03:17 PM
Not the length of the weapon.

Not true.

A short-action gun with a 13.5" LOP and a 22" barrel will be shorter than a long-action gun with the same stock and barrel.

The only time this isn't true is if you have a manufacturer (Tikka?) that just plugs the long action rather than making a short action.

October 5, 2006, 03:33 PM
the length of the bbl and the length of pull are not related to the length of the action, except for the fact that certain manufacturers offer certain configurations. But nothing would you prevent you from having a 16" bbl and a short LOP on a magnum action. (you might have to build it yourself)

Short actions are generally built around 308 length cartridges
Longs are 30-06
Magnums are 375 h&h

That's always been my understanding

October 5, 2006, 06:40 PM
30-06, I love mine. But then I never owned a 308. Its just feels good to own a caliber with so much tradition.

October 5, 2006, 07:06 PM
I have both. If you're only going to buy one, and you're not going to reload, I'd go with the .308. Although it won't handle the heavier bullets as well as a .30-06, a well constructed 150 grain bullet will do just fine on deer. You won't get the most versatility out of the .30-06's larger case unless you reload.

October 5, 2006, 09:07 PM
I beg to differ to a degree on the surplus ammo bit. With the 308 you will find tons, that we are sure of. You need time, patience and plenty of different types of surplus ammo. It isn't military surplus just to be military surplus there is a reason for it. You gotta to find out why. It might be corrosion, dents from the factory or age. Research it out on the net and find out why.I presently don't shoot .308 but I might do so in the future. Your rifle might be a bit finicky and like one type and shoot 5'' groups with another. When you find your type of round get as much of that type that you would want to comfortably lay on to and try to match the same lot if you can.

October 5, 2006, 09:46 PM
To get back on topic, no the 308 will not chamber or fire the 7.62x39. Is the 30-06 or 308 better? For practical applications, as an earlier poster said, flip a coin. Both are very effective rounds and I don't think you will see much difference in recoil in real use. The 308 may edge out the '06 by a bit in accuracy with the right rifle. In the real world, this won't matter that much. Either would be a fine caliber for deer sized game.

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