This is a repost from http://reasonablenut.blogspot.com/2005/02/308-vs-30-06.html
I happend to come across this in one of Jeff Coopers Commentaries today (Vol. 10, No. 1), thought you might be interested. It’s long, but as always, it’s good.
Doubtless you have noted the recent tendency on the part of various gun writers to denigrate the 30-06 cartridge. The late Charley Askins demonstrated this attitude some years ago in a magazine article, and now we see that a currently active colleague has taken up the tattered banner of iconoclasm again.
The trouble with the 30-06 is that, like Julius Caesar, it is too good. It is not only too good, but it is too old – now only four years short of its centennial. People have been trying to improve upon it since before I was born (and that was a very long time ago), but without success. Its great virtue seems to be its unacceptable versatility, which is a drawback in the age of specialization. I acquired my personal 06 when I was in high school, and while I have obtained a number of other weapons since then, I have never felt a real need to improve upon the cartridge. The 30-06 is nobody’s first choice for elephants, nor is it ideal for prairie dogs, but it will suffice for either of those if that is all that is available, and it will account comfortably for everything in between – including Homo sapiens.
The cartridge was deemed too large for optimum portability after the Korean War, and was replaced by the US government with the 7.62 NATO cartridge, or 308 as we call it now. The 308 is a tad smaller than the 06, but this is a minor point to the individual owner, and with the advent of the more modern propellants any power difference between the two cartridges is negligible.
The 30-06 retains a minor, but not inconsiderable, edge over the more modern 308 in its accommodation of the 220-grain bullet, which renders it a practically perfect cartridge for the African buschveldt today, where versatility in one loading can be very useful. The 30-06/220 is eminently suitable for kudu or lion, yet will not tear up an impala or a springbok (whereas the 30-06/150 might).
I grew up on the 30-06, and that makes me a dinosaur, but I am nowise ashamed of that. In my teens I took four-for-four (bighorn through moose) with four shots in Alberta, and I have since taken a fair list of quadrupeds, big and little, with the same round.
Today I might fancy the 308 over the 06 simply because I can get it in Scout configuration. The Scout, after all, comes over-the-counter in 308. The difference in “field effect” between the 308/150 and 30-06/150 is negligible, so the handiness of the Scout favors it in high mountains and tundra. If the hunter is going to ride around in vehicles, however, handiness hardly matters.
There need be no discussion of intrinsic accuracy, since that is a function of rifle execution rather than cartridge design. Given equally fine launchers, both cartridges will deliver one-holers at reasonable ranges, and will shoot flatter than the marksman can appreciate out to where he can no longer see his target clearly.
The 30-06 (“United States cartridge, caliber 30, model of 1906”) was and remains king. If the 308 now encroaches upon it that is because of improvements in rifle design, rather than new cartridges. Let him who would denigrate the King place himself well beyond the castle walls lest he be overheard. The punishment for lese majeste can be both undignified and uncomfortable.
“But there ain’t many troubles that a man caint fix
With seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six.”