.30-06 springfield

The .30-06 Springfield may be the only gun you’ll ever need.

In the history of self-contained cartridges, I’m not sure if there has been a single cartridge which has been more iconic nor prodigious. Love it or hate it, the .30-06 in all of its military and civilian glory is a legend and arguably the best all-around cartridge ever devised.

After our troops encountered the ballistically superior Mauser rifles in Cuba, our then newly adopted Krag rifles were already up for replacement. The result of much development and experimentation, which I will not go into here, gave us the Springfield 1903 rifle firing a cartridge known as .30 caliber Government Model of 1906. For the sake of brevity it became known as the .30-06, pronounced thirty-aught-six.

From both a military and a sportsman’s outlook, it was an instant hit. Theodore Roosevelt was the first hunter of note to adopt it as a favorite, finding it adequate for dangerous game on his 1909 African adventures. He preferred its lighter recoil to the big bore weapons on his safaris as well as when hunting stateside. After World War I, doughboys returning home with war surplus rifles were largely to thank for America’s change in trend from lever-action to bolt-action rifles. Other hunters of note that preferred the .30-06 include but are not limited to Ernest Hemingway, Stewart Edward White, Robert Ruark, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr.

Today, the .30-06 remains a top five seller in the United States and worldwide. It remains the most powerful non-Magnum .30-caliber rifle extant. Rifles and ammunition are available commercially on every continent where such is sold. From both a factory ammunition and handloaders standpoint, hundreds of different styles of bullets ranging from 100 to 220 grains in weight are available for any custom or niche load application desirable. Rifles are manufactured in every variation, including bolt, single-shot, pump, semi-automatic and lever-action designs.

But surely anything 125 years old cannot seriously compete with today’s technology, right? Much to the chagrin of the “Magnum means better” and the 6.5mm fans, the .30-06 is still the measuring stick against which all newcomers are pitted. While I enjoy shooting everything from the smaller calibers up to the big bores as much as the next person, the .30-06 for me will always be the ultimate all-around hunting cartridge. It has been successfully used to take every kind of animal on the planet. When loaded with the right bullet, there isn’t any job it can’t handle. To paraphrase an old friend, “It may be perfect for nothing but it works great on everything!”

If the .30-06 lacks anything, it’s pizazz. All my childhood heroes arrived and left on horseback or in farm trucks, but kids today expect more pomp and circumstance, and therefore the .30-06 might seem a bit wrinkly and dim. But I assure you, it’s as useful, versatile, powerful and deadly as ever. The .30-06 might not be the only gun you’ll ever want, but it may well be the only one you’ll ever need.

Are you a .30-06 fan? Write to us at shootingthebreezebme@gmail.com!

Dale Valade is a local country gent with a love for the outdoors, handloading, hunting and shooting.

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