Why is a Short-Action Cartridge a Big Deal?


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Kind of Blued
October 7, 2008, 06:42 PM
I understand it mainly from a military standpoint in that it could be:

Carried slightly more easily in large quantities.

Cycled more rapidly through a machine gun.

Loaded more efficiently, and consequently, more inexpensively.

But I don't really understand why something such as the movement from the 30-06 to the .308 was such a seemingly "necessary" thing (excluding NATO regulations), or why having a long-action cartridge is a "bad" thing.

Is it an effort to get to the launching of a .30 caliber projectile as efficiently as possible? Couldn't we have figured that out a long long time ago?

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ArmedBear
October 7, 2008, 06:53 PM
I have a nice full-size .30-06 hunting rifle. With its 24" #2 barrel and its high-comb Weatherby walnut stock, and a 3-9x40mm scope on it, all around nothing excessive, it's pushing 9 lbs. empty without a sling. It's about 44.5" long.

It shoots great, but carries not so well.

A .308, with a smaller amount of faster powder, will hunt with acceptably-similar performance in a rifle that's 40" long and weighs a tad over 7 lbs. with a carefully-chosen scope. The shorter, lighter action and magazine, a skinnier stock and a shorter barrel all contribute to the reduction in bulk and weight.

That's why I'm looking at a .308.

The military, though, has other reasons. If you're going to ship around hundreds of thousands -- maybe millions -- of rounds and tens of thousands of rifles, size and weight REALLY add up.

Sunray
October 7, 2008, 07:24 PM
"...the movement from the 30-06 to the .308 was such a seemingly "necessary"..." That was to take advantage of the then new powders that allowed .30-06 ballistics in a shorter case. The U.S. military was looking for a replacement for the M1 with FA capabilities at the time too. The slightly shorter case of the .308 was more efficient on FA. Mind you, training conscripts to use it well enough proved difficult.

younganddumb
October 7, 2008, 07:30 PM
I thnik the reason was 308 rolls off the tounge a little better :)

ArmedBear
October 7, 2008, 07:33 PM
.30-'06 rolls off better with a drawl, however.

SimpleIsGood229
October 7, 2008, 07:35 PM
When I saw the title, I thought you would be talking about some short magnum. My answer would have been, "Because Remchester's marketing department says so." :neener:

Just as ArmedBear mentioned, the military switched to 7.62x51 because, with the new (at the time) powder, it matched the .30-06. It's also worth noting that more 7.62x51 rounds can be carried than .30-06 rounds.

MechAg94
October 7, 2008, 09:20 PM
A long action requires the action to cycle further to effect loading and unloading. The receiver becomes smaller (lighter). The magazines are smaller. Etc..

I think a lot of the original idea was to make a lower power cartridge that would make it easier to operate a lightweight rifle at high rates of fire, but still be effective at typical combat ranges. At least that is the reason the Germans did it as I understand it.

younganddumb
October 7, 2008, 09:37 PM
agree with you 100% but don't have a southern drawl so it sounds preety bad one I say it wish I had a drawl though ......

elmerfudd
October 7, 2008, 11:03 PM
To start with, you can make the action about an inch shorter, (double the length of the difference in cartridge length, once for the cartridge and once for the bolt throw). That saves weight and also allows you to use shorter, more compact scopes.

These might not be earth shaking improvements, but they are real ones, so as I see it why go with what is in many ways an inferior cartridge? Now, I own a 30-06 myself and it's an accurate rifle that's powerful enough to take any game in the western hemisphere, so there's nothing really wrong with the 06, but as I see it, there are better cartridges out there now. What the 30-06 really has going for it is popularity. You can buy cartridges for it nearly anywhere and that's something you can't do with a .270 WSM.

Auburn1992
October 7, 2008, 11:07 PM
Usually it'll reduce recoil and will make the gun lighter due to smaller parts. Also, on bolt action rifles, you have a shorter bolt movement; which will help you stay on target.

Aside from this, it also helps in semi-auto guns. The magazines don't have to be as long as if it were the length of an '06

TCB in TN
October 7, 2008, 11:16 PM
Usually it'll reduce recoil and will make the gun lighter due to smaller parts. Also, on bolt action rifles, you have a shorter bolt movement; which will help you stay on target.

Aside from this, it also helps in semi-auto guns. The magazines don't have to be as long as if it were the length of an '06

Lighter parts don't reduce recoil. In fact they typically "increase" felt recoil, if the rest of the package is the same.

You do have a shorter bolt movement which is a boon for full auto, and a very slight improvement for those manually cycling the action, and again you have a slight weight savings from the shorter mags, But unless you are putting a LOT of rounds down range, or you are in a situation where you are carrying A LOT of mags, you are talking about a very minimal difference!

skinewmexico
October 7, 2008, 11:19 PM
Marketing. if an inch of reciever makes that much difference, you have something else going on.

Vaarok
October 7, 2008, 11:42 PM
Militarily, space is second only to weight when considering equipment. Compare a BAR mag with a FAL mag.

Commercially, it's Something New And Exciting they can shill at you.

CWL
October 8, 2008, 12:41 AM
Everyone's numbers are way too low.

When planning for war (WWIII), MBR expenditure would be in the billions of rounds. Saving a little bit in length & weight of one round means a lot in total commodity cost, storing and moving. Also saves unknown $ & weight in weapons design, not just for MBRs but automatic weapons from squad-level to fixed weapons on aircraft, vehicles/AFV etc.

BobOfTheFuture
October 8, 2008, 12:51 AM
TCB, its a minamal diffrence till you have to ship a million rifles overseas, and keep them fed.

elmerfudd
October 8, 2008, 01:12 AM
Marketing. if an inch of reciever makes that much difference, you have something else going on.

It's not a big deal if you already have an 06, but if you're buying a new rifle why not get one with an extra inch of barrel rather than an extra inch of receiver? Especially when that extra inch of receiver limits your choice of optics.

CB900F
October 8, 2008, 08:49 AM
Kindofblued;

From the civilian perspective, there is no practical difference.

For those who state that the short action is "more accurate", I reply: prove that you are able to outshoot the capability of a good long action gun.

If weight is a make it/break it proposition, there are many ways to level that field. It's perfectly possible to obtain an ultra lightweight synthetic stock for many long actions for less than the cost of buying and equipping a new short action gun just to save ounces. Or simply go to a 22" barrel with your .30-06.

As for the cartridge difference, the .30-06 is the standard by which all the others are measured. There are more than enough old threads hangin' around here that quantify the difference. Suffice to say that the .30-06 is everything the .308 would like to be if only it could grow up.

900F

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