For as long as hunters have gathered around a campfire swapping tall tales of past hunts, there has been a debate on which caliber is best for deer hunting. Hunters will argue till the last embers burn out on the effectiveness of .30-06 Springfield over the .270 Winchester or the .308 Winchester over the 7mm-08 Remington. While each hunter has their own reason for their personal favorite, the truth is there are only a handful of “Rifle Cartridge Families” designed for medium and big game animals. For example, both the .30-06 and the .270 are the same cartridge family, and there is very little ballistic difference between the two. Likewise, the .308 and the 7mm-08 are siblings and with similar weight bullets, ballistic differences evaporate. I encourage you to use the link above and read about the cartridge families outlined by Chuck Hawks, but for this debate, we will focus on the three most popular.

The .30-06 Family

The .30-06 Springfield launched in 1906 and was originally developed as a military round. It didn’t take long before hand-loaders started creating wildcat rounds by either necking the round-up or down. Some of the wildcats became so popular that they were picked up by companies like Remington and Winchester. Today popular siblings of the .30-06 include:

  • .25-06 Remington
  • .270 Winchester
  • .280 Remington
  • .35 Whelen

375 H&H Family

A few years after the .30-06 was released, Holland and Holland introduced the .375 H&H. Some popular wildcats include:

  • .300 H&H Magnum
  • .300 Weatherby Magnum
  • .340 Weatherby Magnum
  • .375 Weatherby Magnum
  • .416 Remington Magnum
  • .458 Lott

With the increasing popularity of the .30-06 some companies took the .375 H&H and shortened the case to the overall length of the .30-06 and a whole new breed of very popular magnum rounds were born including:

  • .257 Weatherby Magnum
  • .264 Winchester Magnum
  • .270 Weatherby Magnum
  • 7mm Remington Magnum
  • 7mm Weatherby Magnum
  • .300 Winchester Magnum
  • .338 Winchester Magnum

The .308 Family

The .308 was originally developed in 1954 by the military to replace the .30-06. Its goal was to replicate the performance of the .30-06 but in a smaller lighter case which could be shot out of smaller lighter rifles. The adventure was a huge success. The .308 is not only smaller and lighter than the .30-06 it also has a shorter bolt throw, less recoil and is generally more accurate, and it only gives up about 100 feet per second (FPS) in velocity to the .30-06. The .308 family includes:

  • .243 Winchester
  • .260 Remington
  • 7mm-08 Remington
  • .308 Winchester
  • .338 Federal
  • .358 Winchester

Splitting Hairs

Hornady currently loads a 150 grain bullet for the .30-06, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester and 7mm-08 Remington. The velocities of these rounds range from 2,770 to 2,910 FPS, a difference of only 140 FPS. Atmospheric conditions, barrel length and shot to shot variances on factory loaded ammo makes this difference virtually irrelevant. So, hunters are literally arguing over .031 or 3 one-hundredths of an inch difference at the base of the bullet between the .270 and 30-06 or .308 and .024 inches between the 7mm-08 Rem and the .30-06 or .308. However, there are some valid debates to be had. The debate really starts to make sense when you compare the wide range of bullet weights loaded in each cartridge. While all of the above cartridges have starting bullet weights at 120-125 grains, the .308 and .30-06 offer bullet weights up to 220 grains which makes them better suited for dangerous game. But for the average deer hunter, debating the effectiveness of a 139 grain 7mm-08 and a 150 grain .308 or a 140 grain .270 and a 150 grain .30-06 is really just splitting hairs! If you are able to accurately place your shot, the deer will be just as dead no matter what cartridge you choose. So the next time you cozy up to the campfire with your hunting buddies and the caliber debate heats up again, just sit back, relax and hit them with some of this intellectual ammunition!

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