.270 vs. .308 vs. .30-06?


January 21, 2004, 11:56 PM
Coming from a gun-impoverished family, I've never shot these rounds. I've only practiced with two rifle calibers, .22 short/LR and 7.62x39. How do the .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield compare in terms of:

RECOIL (similar bullet weights in similar weight guns)

NOISE/MUZZLE BLAST/FLASH (again, similar loads in similar barrel lengths)

OVERALL PERFORMANCE (actually, I have a good idea how they perform, but again, I've never shot them...)

I'm currently looking to buy a hunting/target/SHTF rifle in these calibers. Does the short action have any great advantages over the long action?

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Dave R
January 22, 2004, 12:04 AM
The short action will save you a couple inches of overall length, and a few ounces is weight.

The difference in recoil and energy between the .308 and .30-06 is neglible. The two are almost twins.

I have not shot a lot of .270, but from what I remember, its recoil is a little less. Its range is a little better (and trajectory is a little flatter), but it shoots lighter bullets and therefore is not quite as suitable for game much larger than deer.

January 22, 2004, 12:06 AM
There's so little difference between the three that it's hardly worth noticing. Especially if you handload.

January 22, 2004, 12:13 AM
I agree, the recoil is so similar that the particular load you are shooting will make more difference than what caliber you are shooting. My personal choice of the three, if I only got one, would be the 30-06 because you can buy a great variety of loads over the counter, and any place that sells ammo will have it. You can buy loads from the "accelerator" 55 grain sabot bullet for coyotes, up to 220 grains for elk and moose.

Art Eatman
January 22, 2004, 12:27 AM
Halfway-close comparisons:

7.62x39, 139-grain bullet at about 2,300 ft/sec.

.308, 150-grain bullet at about 2,800, most guns; shorter barrels, generally, is the reason it doesn't commonly get to 3,000 ft/sec.

.30-'06, 150-grain bullet at about 2,900.

.270, 130-grain bullet at about 2,900.

The .270 and '06 are best used with barrels of 24 or 26 inches, although this last isn't common. Were one down around 22" in barrel length, the .308 is probably the better choice for performance.

In a bolt-action, and particularly for a handloader, the '06 is the best of the three for all around use. In a semi-auto para-military critter, the .308 is better; inexpensive plinking or practice ammo is cheap.

The .270 is almost purely a hunting cartridge. In skilled hands it's quite suitable for elk when using the 150-grain bullets.

The recoil above the 7.62x39 will be noticeably but not painfully greater. The muzzle flash is more a function of type of powder and barrel length.

This is sort of a quick and dirty overview; lots of variables and "yeah, but".

:), Art

January 22, 2004, 12:37 AM
art pretty much summed up what I've heard about the three. The 30-06 is supposed to be the most versatile as far as hunting goes, but it also has the most recoil. I've read that the .270 is acceptable for moose with good cartridges and a good shooter. The same article said that if the shooter's skill allows such a shot, the .270 is capable of taking deer at 500 yards since most loads maintain 1000ft-lbs of energy at that distance (hornaday's light magnum cartridges have around 1400ft-lbs).

January 22, 2004, 03:00 AM
While I have little to no first hand experiance with these calibers (except for .308), I'd go with the .30-06 or the .308 before the .270

The .270 just doesn't have the bullet selection that the other 2 do. Thats why I'm suprised that the .280 isn't more popular. Same idea as .270, but way better bullet selection...

January 22, 2004, 03:34 AM
The 150 grain 270 has the BC of 180 grain 308 bullets. It is the best long range performer of the group and on a par with 300 win mag. You end up with less energy than the magnum, but also less recoil.

For closer range big game you can use 160 grain semi-spitzers but you'll have to handload those as there are no factory loadings I'm aware of. With this there is no game animal you can't hunt in the lower 48 states.

If I could have only two rifles it would be a 270 win and a 338 win mag. The 30-06 is a good compromise for the "one rifle" hunter.

January 22, 2004, 09:16 AM
So the recoil differences are slight (with maybe .270 being slightly lighter), right?

The .30-06 is the most popular hunting cartridge, so I would expect a larger variety of loads for it.

The .308 virtually duplicates the .30-06, but with a shorter case, and thus a slightly shorter action/rifle. It is also the standard choice for semiauto rifles because of the short case.

The .270 is a bit better for long range (~400 yards) shots. It has less heavyweight bullets available.

The noise/blast factor is basically the same, and is mostly dependent on barrel length and the individual load.

Basically, any of these guns will work as a GP hunting/SHTF rifle, right? (I'm not going after moose or anything like that; just underfed and hunter-wary Florida whitetail and or JBTs :evil: )

January 22, 2004, 09:25 AM
The .270 is also anomalous in that most 130-, 140- and 150-grain rounds will have a very close, if not identical, POI. I've always thought that was handy. It's also possessed of the flattest trajectory of the three. Jack O'Connor championed the .270 cartridge, and killed just about everything in North America with it. Read his works for a (quite slanted) opinion of the cartridge. Even its detractors will admit that It'll do if the shooter will. The difference between it and the .30-06 is negligable until one gets into the 220-gr `06 loads. There isn't a bullet of similar section-density available to the .270. I would give the advantage for larger game to the .30-06. The .308 is in the same boat as the .30-06 if you're shooting 150- to 180-gr loads. It doesn't have the `06s ability to use the heavier projectiles (220gr), so it's utility is rather limited. It does have other advantages (short action, surplus ammo) that may or may not appeal to you, but ballistically it can't much more than "me, too!" with the .270 and `06 in most circumstances. In some, it just gets left behind.

January 22, 2004, 11:02 AM
I'm a fan of the 270... Whether it makes sense to me or is just some loyality that I can't remember the origin of, I like it.

The 308 will have a bit more bullet drop off with standard bullet weights as will the 30-06 to a lesser extent. Bullet selection will be greater for the 30 caliber guns but to me, that doesn't matter much. I tend to have one or two loads for most of my rifles that cover pretty much anything I might want to do with that rifle.

Much has been said about how flat shooting a cartridge the 270 is. But since most made shots (as in shots that actually hit where intended) are probably well under 300 yards, that isn't really a huge thing in my book.

For recoil, at one time, I had wood/blued Ruger M77s in 25-06, 270 and 30-06. I'm not what I would call recoil sensitive. As long as it's less than a 300 Win Mag, I can handle it without complaint. Having said that, I noticed a considerable difference between the 270 and the 30-06. Of course, I'm a fan of the 270 in 130 Gr and the 30-06 in 180 Gr. Comparing 150 Gr to 150 or 165 Gr bullets is going to be less stunningly different between the calibers.

As most above have said, they are all three most simliar... similar enough that things like price of the gun out the door and how the rifle fits you are far more important. Go out, look at a bunch of different rifles and pick the one that you can get for the best price and the one that fits you the best. You can always expand the collection later. ;)

Art Eatman
January 22, 2004, 11:28 AM
Hunting in Florida? I'd go with the .308, of the cartridges mentioned. You'd rarely need to load hot for long-range shooting and all that sort of thing. Deer and hogs fall quite easily, and the distances are commonly rather short. (Inside 200 yards, to this west Texas hunter, is "short". :) )

The main thing is the fit of the rifle to your own individual body size. When you mount the rifle to your shoulder with your eyes closed, and then open them, you should be looking right through the sights or scope. After that, it's a matter of your own sense of aesthetics and the size of your billfold.

For a bolt gun, a .308 with a 22" barrel (+/-) and either a 4X scope or a lowish-power variable (1X-5X range, or 2X-7X) will give you a lifetime supply of meat. :)


January 22, 2004, 11:36 AM
The 30.06 is hard to beat as far as bullet selection. I have never owned or shot the .270 or .308 but have been thinking real hard about trying a .308 in a bolt gun. Just when I thought I had decided on the .308 along came all those short magnum rounds to complicate things.

January 22, 2004, 11:59 AM
Yeah, hunting in Florida is basically turkey, waterfowl, and "everything else."

I'm not too recoil sensitive. I shoot my 870 20 ga. and I don't even notice the recoil, so a step up wouldn't kill me. Then again, I am a beginner...

Looks like all three would do fine. :cool:

January 22, 2004, 01:24 PM
Out of those three, I favor the .30-06. (Just my preference.)

My Dad however, is a die-hard .270 man. He went on a moose hunt about 2 yrs. ago in Newfoundland. I asked him if he wanted to use my 7mm mag. instead of his .270. He gave me one of these :scrutiny: .

Anyway, he ended up killing a small bull (600 lbs.). Shot was about 400 yds., using Federal 150 gr. So, credit is due to the .270 (and of course shot placement!).

January 22, 2004, 01:46 PM
I was shooting two Rem 700's back and forth at the range, a 270 and 308... To me the 270 had more unpleasent recoil, and it was a heavier gun. I think it was a 'sharper' recoil.. Like compaired to my Enfield, and to a lesser extent the 308, which is more of a shove. :confused:

January 22, 2004, 02:59 PM
all three are fine calibers.

The .30-06 is intresting from some standpoints, the ability to use saboted .223 Remington Accelerators at over 4100fps...

And the specific exemption of M2 Ball Armor-Piercing ammunition that makes it legal to own and buy. (Hey, you never know when the deer may start driving around in Bradlys!)

A friend of mine has a .270 bolt gun, I have a semi-auto .30-06. I would rate the recoil as relatively equal, the difference between .40S%W and 9mm at best (hard for me to notice in other words.)

Other than that, any of those mentioned calibers will do the job and serve you very well.

Other factors come into play here. What do your buddies use? (so you can share ammo if you ever need to...)

.308 will be the cheapest for ammo, but .30-06 is not far behind if you look hard enough. (I just bought some PMC .30-06 ball for $4/20 if I recall correctly.)

.270 ammo will be signifigantly more expensive, and rather harder to find. It is still a common hunting cartridge, but generally stores will have 2 or 3 boxes in stock compared to 20 or 30 of .30-06 or .308.

January 22, 2004, 03:03 PM
I'm not too recoil sensitive. I shoot my 870 20 ga. and I don't even notice the recoil, so a step up wouldn't kill me.

I've never shot a slug from a 20 gauge but I'd imagine a one Oz slug (or one Oz of shot) in your shotgun will be more recoil that you'll experience from any reasonable load in any reasonable 270, 308 or 30-06 rifle. And the 3/4 Oz slugs will in the ballpark if not still slightly more than the rifles.

Get a box of five of the Remington Slugger 3/4" High Velocity slugs... If you can handle them just fine, you'll have no trouble with the rifle recoil. :)

January 22, 2004, 03:14 PM
All 3 calibres are excellent

If you're after a semi-auto (particularly mil surp) or cheap plinker that will be suitable for hunting, SHTF, etc I'd recommend the .308. Ammo is cheap and plentiful.

The differences in recoil and performance between the 30.06 and the .308 can be written on the back of a postage stamp with a crayon. Some people figure the shorter action of the .308 is an advantage as the rifles are lighter, the bolt moves less (therefore faster to cycle), the ammo is lighter, etc.

The .270 will give slightly less recoil (all things being equal) though the differences are small. Although the .270 doesn't have the same bullet weights as the .30 calibres, the superior sectional density and therefore better penetration of the lighter projectiles makes the .270 every bit as effective as either the .308 or 30.06 in terminal ballistics.

In other words, the target (paper or flesh) won't be able to tell the difference between the 3 calibres ....... and if you do your job there'll be a DRT deer every time. You can't go wrong with any one of those 3 calibres.

It is not by accident that all 3 calibres are consistently in the top 10 most popular centrefire cartridges sold in the USA.


January 22, 2004, 04:04 PM
The short action will save you a couple inches of overall length, Really? A COUPLE of inches? :what:

Anyway, the three cartridges are very similar. In top notch target rifles, the .308 MAY be more a hair more accurate, as the powder column is shorter relative to the case length. In autoloaders, the shorter case of the .308 may be an advantage, and IIRC the rim is about 0.005" thicker. There's also a lot of decent surplus 7.62 NATO ammo available now - cheap! - which is suitable for plinking.

The '06 is slightly more powerful than either the .308 or the .270, especially with heavy bullets. It's extremely common worldwide, as is the ammunition.

The .270 can be slightly flatter shooting than the two .30 caliber rounds, but is slightly less suitable for the biggest game. There are also fewer bullet choices available.

But really, you have to really split hairs to differentiate between the three.

January 22, 2004, 06:17 PM
I've owned all three and the only one I have still is the 30-06. First off, grain selection is great. I've taken more deer than I can count with it including a few bear and a couple moose. One moose was a 1100 pound beast. My favorite round is....

30-06 / Grain 180 / Vel 2880 / Eng 3315 / 200 yard drop 3.3

In comparison.

.308 / Grain 180 / Vel 2620 / Eng 2743 / 200 yard drop 4.4

270 / No 180 grain available OUCH


270 / 150 Grain / Vel 2850 / Eng 2705 / 200 yard drop 3.5

January 22, 2004, 06:27 PM
30.06 AP baby!!! thats the difference

need a level IV vest to stop it. or three car doors. Don't ask how I know I just know.



January 22, 2004, 08:31 PM
Well, as far as recoil goes, I can tell you that the 270 recoil isn't bad. Shooting prone at paper isn't too pleasant, but that's to be expected. I took my first coyote a few weeks ago with 150 grainers, the first shot brought it down and after that I have no idea where the next three went, I was too excited. The muzzle blast and recoil might as well have been from a .22LR as much as I noticed it. I guess that's common though. As far as bullet selection goes, there might not be much factory ammunition loaded except for 130 and 150 grainers, but bullets for handloaders is just perfect for me with 90,100,110,120,130 and probably up to 170 grainers.

January 22, 2004, 10:10 PM
Even its detractors will admit that it'll do if the shooter will
What!! Even Elmer Keith. :D When asked about the capabilities of the .270, he grudgingly called it a "pretty fair coyote round." ;)

I'm a fan of the 270
Me too.

January 22, 2004, 10:36 PM
Another consideration for you. You will never find .270 ammo for sale as surplus as you will the other two, because it was never used by military. so if you want to spend some afternoons making noise without breaking the bank, .308, or 30.06 :D

January 23, 2004, 07:21 AM
Another consideration for you. You will never find .270 ammo for sale as surplus as you will the other two, because it was never used by military. so if you want to spend some afternoons making noise without breaking the bank, .308, or 30.06

That would decide it for me right there.

Master Blaster
January 23, 2004, 09:58 AM
270 ammo will be signifigantly more expensive, and rather harder to find.

Last time I was in Walmart they had two different loads in winchester and two different remmington loads in .270. They were between 10.50 and $13 per box of 20. They actually only had two different 30-06 loads and the cost was about $1 more per box.

Surplus is fairly easy to find for .308 and very cheap at about $4 for a box of 20 for good surplus by the case. 30-06 surplus is difficult to find (good stuff) and a good bit more expensive.

www.AIMSURPLUS.com is a good source for .308.

.308 military ammo is still being produced, not so for 30-06.

My .270 seems to kick a bit more than my 30-06 and my .308, but thats probably my perception or the difference in the rifles.


January 23, 2004, 12:18 PM
I'm fortunate enough to own 2 of the 3 the .308 & the .270. For hunting and such I prefer the .270, but only because every deer I have ever shot with it was DRT. It is true that the loadings are a bit less (mainly because of bullet size), but that doesn't mean much. A quick search of the web shows that the 30-06 has more loading. My results follow:

.270 Winchester - 8 cartridges 130-150 Grain
Federal - 13 Cartridges 130-150 grain

.308 Winchester - 10 cartridges 147-180 grain
Federal - 14 cartridges 150-180 grain

30-06 WInchester - 17 cartridges 125-180
Federal - 22 cartridges 125-220 grain

I don't shoot surplus ammo, so I wouldn't know what was available, but quality ammo is available in each. As others have said, the difference is nominal between them, so just pick what fits you best and the best price.

January 23, 2004, 01:32 PM
The .270 and .30-06 are found in half-inch longer actions than the .308, but the weight (five ounces?) isn't the primary difference, I find. The primary difference I notice is one of balance; the shorter length moves the balance of the rifle backwards, sometimes remarkably. I prefer the weight a little further back, so in gun boutiques I always prefer the shorter actions within the same brand of rifle. It's a small difference, though, and for 20 years I've been using a 270 as my primary deer rifle, while other purchases and calibers have come and gone. As has been said before, we're a superstitious lot, and deer being DRT has given me no reason to change.

I do think we make too big a deal about it, sometimes. The deer won't know the difference. Starting wth a clean slate, I'd likely say "None of the above," and go with a 7mm-08, which is to the .308 what the .270 is to the .30-06.


January 23, 2004, 01:45 PM
Any of the 3 will perform equally well for most situations. But you did mention it as a SHTF rifle...

With that in mind, you'll want to stock up on ammunition. The only way most people can afford this is to buy surplus. That rules out .270, and the .308 is more available and affordable in surplus (and it's smaller & lighter than .30-06). Consider the rounds to be useful for cheap practice, and buy 500-1000 at a pop. With .308 you'll find stuff for under $.20/rnd. With .30-06 it will be significantly higher (probably more like $.40-.50/rnd)

You'll also want to consider getting a semi-automatic rifle, for STHF, in the same caliber. The only way to go with this is to buy a military pattern rifle. Commercial pattern rifles are not as easy to take apart & clean, and are less rugged. There's a lot more .308 options than .30-06, but it would be difficult to argue with a .30-06 M1 Garand rifle :D

You can get a CETME rifle in .308 for $350.


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