Shortest barrel for a 30-06?


Sniper X
November 18, 2011, 01:02 PM
What is the shortest barrel that will still get good ballistics out of the 30.06 round? I am talking factory ammo here. And not out to ranges of 1000m, something more like to 500m, and closer. I am thinking 18~20in is minimum.

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Float Pilot
November 18, 2011, 01:10 PM
I cut down a 30-06 Mauser once and made a short Mannlicher style carbine. It was an 18 inch barrel. You loose about 25 fps per inch of barrel loss in barrels between 18 to 26 inches long. So I lost 150 fps from cutting a 24 inch barrel back to 18 inches. My chronograph results verified this.
It also gave me a rather huge muzzle flash and muzzle blast.
But it was a good forest carbine and the guy who bought it has killed all sorts of deer and caribou with it. Although most were within the ethical and realistic 300 yard hunting range.

November 18, 2011, 01:26 PM
I've found about the same. I currently own a 20" Winchester 70 carbine. With handloads I can still match factory loads from a 24" barrel in the carbine, but muzzle blast is a bit more. Personally wouldn't want one shorter than 20". Not because of velocity loss, but blast.


If you are seriously considering a shorter barrel I'd go 308 instead of 30-06. The 308 with a 20" barrel will just about equal a 30-06 from a 18-20 barrel. In my opinion a 30-06 just works best between 22"-24". The 308 doesn't really gain much beyond 20" In my experience a 308 will do anything from an 18-20" barrel that a 30-06 will do at that length, but with less recoil, less muzzle blast, and in a lighter more compact rifle.

November 18, 2011, 01:37 PM
I've got a 30-06 1952 carbine Mannlicher Schoneur that I think has a 19 inch tube. I'd measure it now, but it's deep in a safe. It barks, but not too bad. Course I'm deaf as a post. I use it as a brush gun. It's very light and has a wonderfully smooth action. It's been beaten to death. I think someone bought it for their wife to use in an African safari. I found it in a pawn shop for $450. Neat little rifle.

November 18, 2011, 01:40 PM
A 15" T/C Encore barrel will get 2,600+ FPS with a 150 grain.

Personally, I would not go shorter then 20", because the muzzle blast just gets to fierce, too close to my ears.


November 18, 2011, 01:42 PM
What is the shortest barrel that will still get good ballistics out of the 30.06 round? I am talking factory ammo here. And not out to ranges of 1000m, something more like to 500m, and closer. I am thinking 18~20in is minimum.

What do you consider "good" ballistics? Exterior ballistics is almost entirely dependent upon two variables: bullet BC and velocity. You will probably find your velocity with a 18" - 20" barrel is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150fps (+/- 50fps) less than a normal length .30-06 barrel. Download an exterior ballistics program such as PointBlank, and you will see the difference in drop and windage between a bullet with 150fps difference in velocity. And, as previously mentioned, muzzle blast is going to be tremendous with a 18" - 20" barrel. Personally, I won't go shorter than 22", and much prefer 24" for hunting and 26" for LR target shooting. Just MHO.


November 18, 2011, 03:44 PM
Unless someone did not re crown the muzzle correctly cutting a barrel shorter will not make it less accurate. In fact it usually results in better accuracy since the muzzle is usually re crowned at that time. All things being equal shorter barrels are stiffer, which can also improve accuracy.

You will still have enough velocity to shoot at 500 yards and much farther. A 20" 30-06 barrel will be very near 308 velocity from 22-24" barrels. They have no problem shooting well past 500 yards.

November 18, 2011, 08:24 PM
My father had a 16" FN Mauser carbine in 30-06 and I used to use it as a kid.

The muzzle blast and noise were insane, to say the least. Don't do it. You WILL flinch.

If you must, get a 308 with a 20 inch barrel.

November 19, 2011, 04:22 PM
And not out to ranges of 1000m, something more like to 500m, and closer. I am thinking 18~20in is minimum.

do think it lost some accuracy due to the barrel being cut down by a previous owner.

As was mentioned the reduction of barrel length will not in and of its self affect accuracy. In fact often shorter barrels benefit from increased rigidity. You do lose velocity which affects drop and drift.

A 16" 308 can shoot out to 600+ yards no problem, so an '06 ought to be able to as well. A 16" 30'06 could do the same. The shorter barrel means a loss in velocity. This means you will have more drop and more drift at any given range (with otherwise similar bullets). The round will also cease to be traveling at super sonic speed sooner which affects stability and thus accuracy. The slower round will also have less energy at any given distance. As others have mentioned a 16" barrel in an '06 is going to produce a fair amount of flash and blast. I regularly shoot a 16" 308 and while the blast is noticeable it does not even begin to approach being something that would make one flinchy or scared to shoot the rifle. If shooting at range or retaining as much energy when the bullet gets to where it is going are important I would keep a longer barrel probably in the 18-20" range. If one is trying to get as light a rifle as possible.

In sum, a 16" 30'06 will do what you are asking but may not be the best tool for it. However if the trade offs of size and weight are important it might be worth the compromise. Of course if weight and size are real important a short action like a 308 might be a better choice. Try gathering some numbers in terms of the velocity that each round will do then you can use one of the many programs to calculate the energy differences, and the differences in drop and drift at given ranges and it will give you an idea of what you are dealing with.

Sniper X
November 21, 2011, 01:32 PM
I have long range rifles covered. I have an Erma SR100, and a Bravo 51, and a few others. I need a short brush rifle for my land for varmints. And since I got this Rem 710 for the equiv of $175.00 with four mags, I figured I'd cut it down to 18in for fast handling in the tight stuff. I think I'll do it. BTW my Bravo 51 is 20in but 7.62x51.

November 21, 2011, 01:36 PM
Shot a T/C encore in 30-06 once. 12 inch barrel I think. How's that for short?

I regained feeling in my hand a scant few hours later ;)

Sniper X
November 21, 2011, 01:46 PM
Wow, so even 18in isn't technically short!

November 21, 2011, 02:26 PM
Wow, so even 18in isn't technically short!

Sniper X,

You're deluding yourself.


NM Mountainman
November 21, 2011, 04:28 PM
Shortest practical barrel length for a 30-06? It depends on how much you value your hearing. The short answer is 20"; the longer answer follows below.

If we consider a 24" barrel to be a "standard length" for a .30-06 hunting rifle, cutting the barrel to 22" inches (and re-crowning) will make the rifle seem a little handier. The muzzle blast will increase somewhat, and the velocity will probably drop by about 60 to 70 fps. The advantages and disadvantages of a 22" barrel (compared to a 24" barrel) are relatively minor.

If the rifle owner later decides to cut another 2" off the barrel, the increase in muzzle blast will probably seem substantial, and the resulting decrease in velocity could be an additional loss of 70 to 80 fps (it varies with each individual load and rifle). But the rifle might seem noticeably handier than with a 22" barrel and much handier and quicker when compared with a 24" barrel.

IMO, the 20" barrel is the "sweet spot" for a shorter barreled .30-06, .308, or 7mm-08. The disadvantages are not minor but are tolerable, and the increase in overall handiness is generally worthwhile (especially if the rifle is now a handy 7.5 lb. lightweight including scope) for many hunters under certain challenging hunting conditions.

I recommend that you cut the barrel to no shorter than 20" and try it for at least a year or two before going any shorter than 20". A bolt action with a 20" barrel can make a very nice and handy light weight hunting rifle. I think this is a better plan with a short action .308 than with a .30-06. You may be giving up too much performance for some purposes with a .30-06 when you go below 22".

But suppose the rifle owner decides to cut off another 2" to make a lightweight carbine with an 18" barrel. He could lose another 80 fps in velocity along with an even greater increase in muzzle blast. (I have fired Rem 760's and 742's in 30-06 and .270 and .308 bolt actions with 18" barrels.) He will be well advised to wear both plugs and earmuffs while shooting at the range as well as effective hearing protection while hunting. There may also be an increase in perceived or felt recoil. If the intent is to make the rifle more suitable and handier for a woman or youth, it is likely that the smaller shooter will find that the disadvantages of the 18" barrel offset the slight increase in ease of handling and the slight decrease in weight.

With an 18" barrel, the rifle is now beginning to look and feel a little too muzzle light (compared to the 20" and 22" barrels) for most shooters. The shorter and lighter barrel may not settle down for a steady hold quite as quickly nor swing quite as smoothly. The increase in ease of handling will probably seem minor or even negligible (when compared to the 20" barrel), while the increase in muzzle blast will probably be downright obnoxious and maybe even unnerving. By cutting the barrel to 18", most hunters will reluctantly conclude that they have passed the point of diminishing returns with a .308 or .30-06 hunting rifle.

IMO, there would be no sane or practical reason, nor any further benefits to be gained by cutting off another 2" inches of barrel. But suppose the owner has seen a few hunting rifles with 16" barrels, and he thinks they look like cool, lightweight, and convenient hunting rifles. So he cuts the barrel to 16.25" and, in effect, ruins a good hunting rifle to make an impractical, hard to sell, novelty gun. (IMO, YMMV.)

There are no practical advantages involved. The disadvantages far outweigh any possible (but largely non-existent) advantages. The muzzle blast is so intense that it is no longer any fun to shoot. Wearing of effective hearing protection while hunting will be mandatory.

With a 16" barrel, he will lose another 65 to 90 fps in velocity (compare to the velocity in an 18 inch barrel), and his rifle will no longer perform like a .30-06. (Now it will be more like a .300 Savage or .30-40 Krag.) It will look and feel out of balance (to most hunters), yet its shorter length makes it feel no easier to handle than it did with an 18" barrel; and it feels only a little more handy than with the 20" barrel.

Don't do it. Your ears will still be ringing long after the mostly illusory benefits have evaporated in the harsh light of reality. Just because a few companies are selling bolt action hunting rifles with 16" barrels, doesn't mean it's a good idea, except possibly for a small minority of hunters with highly specialized needs and requirements.

A highly motivated and experienced handgun experimenter and/or hunter may have good reasons for wanting an Encore in .308 or .30-06 with a 14" barrel. But he probably won't enjoy shooting it very often with full power ammo, and he will probably own several other barrels in other calibers which he enjoys shooting a lot more. He will also require double hearing protection at the range and effective hearing protection while hunting in the field. This is a game best played by careful experts.

(The story is somewhat different with the lower velocity lever action cartridges like the .30-30, .357 mag, and .44 mag. The shorter 16" and 18" barrels can be quite practical and efficient with these cartridges in a lever action carbine.)

November 21, 2011, 10:31 PM
Chop away.

Longer barrels are generally more pleasant to shoot. Shorter barrels are nice to carry.
Since you already have the rifle, I don't see anything holding you back.

If, or when, you reload, a medium-light load of 3031 or something similar with a 150 grain bullet should moderate any perceived harshness.

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