Reloading the .30-06: Versatile and Reliable

Reloading the .30-06: Versatile and Reliable
In an attempt to confirm the .30-06's great versatility, the author loaded and fired almost 400 handloads with bullets ranging in weight from 90 to 220 grains. From left to right: Hornady 90-gr. XTP-JHP; Speer 125-gr. TNT-JHP; Nosler 150-gr. AccuBond; Speer 165-gr. Deep Curl; Barnes 168-gr. TSX; Remington 180-gr. Ultra Bonded; Swift 180-gr. A-Frame; Hornady 190-gr. Interlock BTSP; and Sierra 220-gr. JSP-RN.

Not long ago I found a treasure trove in the form of a bunch of old gun magazines destined for the trash heap. I rescued them and soon was reliving the memories.

One piece I found interesting — for this second time around (I had first read it back in 1966) — was Warren Page's report on "The All-American Game Rifle." He commented that the first person to bag Boone and Crockett's 25 typical North American species had hunted with a Griffin & Howe custom Remington Model 30 chambered in .30-06. Page listed multiple bullet weights and types suitable for taking everything from varmints to heavy game and generally made a good case for the '06 as the universal game cartridge.


I must confess to having little regard for the '06 until just a few years ago. When I started shooting in the early 1970s, magnum fever was already running rampant. I thought only old-timers shot .30-30s, .30-06s, .35 Remingtons, and such. My first centerfire was a .270 Winchester Model 70. During the next 30 years as my arms battery grew, I owned three or four .30-06s, but they were always the first to be sold or traded off if something more exotic caught my eye. I didn't realize what I'd been missing until soon after I became Shooting Times' reloading editor and featured the .30-06 in a column focusing on how to develop a good handload six years ago. After that initial project enlightened me to the virtues of the .30-06, I later enhanced my newly acquired appreciation by investigating how switching different brands and types of the same weight bullet affected ballistic performance.


After completing both exercises, it was obvious that the .30-06 could handle most any shooting or hunting scenario. That's especially true if you're a handloader.

Learning to Appreciate the '06

Sometime ago I acquired another .30-06 rifle, a Sako A7, and while I had fired it a few times with factory loads, I had gotten only so-so results before other reloading projects crowded my schedule. After recently rereading F.C. Ness' Practical Dope on the Big Bores, I was fascinated by the versatile performance attributed to the .30-06. So I decided I should explore the .30-06's varied capabilities myself. I had several boxes of once-fired Black Hills brass and an extensive assortment of bullets, primers, and powder. I eventually fired about 400 handloads topped with bullets weighing from 90 to 220 grains.

The actual loading process was uneventful. I tumbled the brass before lubing and full-length resizing on an RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme press. I've tried other tools, but I prefer Hornady's New Dimension full-length sizer die with the tapered expander decapping rod. After wiping the residual lube off, I trimmed and deburred the case mouths before cleaning/uniforming the primer pockets, which I do each time I reload a batch of brass.


When loading a spherical or short-grain, stick propellant, Redding's volumetric powder measure will throw precise charge weights repeatedly after it's adjusted. However, if the recipe calls for a stick propellant, like IMR-4350 or H1000, the RCBS Chargemaster electronic powder measure/scale combo gets the nod. Of course, I periodically check the charge weight (every 10 or so rounds) on a separate scale to ensure that I'm loading safe and reliable ammo. And I double-check after charging a batch of cases by shining a small flashlight into every case — every time — to make sure there's powder in each one and the propellant level looks "right" compared to the ones I've already weighed.

The various load recipes were determined after carefully comparing data provided in several current edition load manuals. I purposely biased propellant charge weights in accordance with the specific bulletmaker's recommendations.

30-06_003I seated the different bullets tested to the maximum length possible that allowed the round to fit and feed reliably from the magazine and also not jam the bullet ogive into the A7's chamber throat leade. The lead-free bullets were seated so that they were at least fifty thousandths of an inch off the rifling, per the makers' recommendations.


The accompanying chart depicts the better ballistic performance results I obtained. As you can see, the venerable .30-06 is still quite versatile.

Muzzle energy ranges from 1,000+ to 3,000+ ft-lbs, so there's plenty of power available to pound prairie dogs, coyotes and rockchucks, or dispatch any deer, elk, moose and most bears. Reduced-recoil, specialty handloads are readily assembled that will help the novice rifleman learn how to shoot without being battered.

I've belatedly learned to appreciate this 100-plus-year-old cartridge. Page simply described the .30-06's only apparent fault as, "It just ain't so very sexy!"

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Springfield Armory Saint Victor

Springfield Armory Saint Victor

The SAINT' Victor Rifle delivers a lightweight and agile rifle solution while maintaining effectiveness at extended engagement distances.

The Glock 21

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

James Tarr runs through the 3-Second Headshot drill.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the .30-06. Ammo

Get the Most Out of the .30-06

Joseph von Benedikt - April 01, 2019

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the...

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day gifts. Accessories

Shooting Times Father's Day 2019 Gift Guide

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 07, 2019

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day...

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet. Ammo

Danger Tamed: Hornady DGX Bonded Hunting Ammo

Joseph von Benedikt - May 23, 2019

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet.

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol? Here's why. Handguns

Revolver vs. Semiauto Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity

Allan Jones - May 15, 2019

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol?...

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

The new Hornady Handgun Hunter ammo is crafted for hunting many different types of game. Ammo

Hornady Handgun Hunter Ammo - New for 2020

Shooting Times Digital Staff - January 27, 2020

The new Hornady Handgun Hunter ammo is crafted for hunting many different types of game.

The Winchester Wildcat 22 LR Ammo is a good plinking round as well as a reliable small-game hunting round. Ammo

Winchester Wildcat .22LR Ammo

Jake Edmondson - December 13, 2019

The Winchester Wildcat 22 LR Ammo is a good plinking round as well as a reliable small-game...

Federal's recently introduced Terminal Ascent bullet could very well prove to be the best all-around hunting bullet made by anyone. Ammo

Federal Premium Terminal Ascent Bullet Review

Joseph von Benedikt - April 15, 2020

Federal's recently introduced Terminal Ascent bullet could very well prove to be the best...

The new SIG Sauer Elite Hunter Tipped ammo utilizes premium nickel-plated cases, custom-formulated propellant and premium-quality primers. Ammo

SIG Sauer Elite Hunter Tipped Ammunition

Jake Edmondson - May 06, 2020

The new SIG Sauer Elite Hunter Tipped ammo utilizes premium nickel-plated cases,...

See More Ammo

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now