Moderation. How many times do you have to be told? The 30-06 Springfield celebrated its 100th birthday in 2006, just by being there. In the hands of Carlos Hathcock, it was a Winchester Model 70 in 30-06 that made most of his 93 confirmed kills in Vietnam. The actual figure has been estimated at more than triple that number. This writer saw a woman, who was at the limit of her recoil tolerance, kill a fine Cape buffalo bull with a single-shot Ruger No. 1 in 30-06. She could handle the shorter length of the No. 1, practiced a lot, got special permission dependent on adequate backup, had the properly loaded additional cartridges in her vest pocket, and the first round in the chamber. It took just three shots; all well placed.
In 2008, a local hunter got the opportunity of his lifetime when asked to go along on a brown bear hunt in Alaska. The 30-06 isn't enough in my book, but he wouldn't be the first. Being allergic to pain, and not wanting to be slung around by a bear during my final 60 seconds of life, my choices begin at 416. But, his father's 30-06 was what he had, and he was determined to use it. At least I would have some input on the loads. He called me from Alaska..." I got my bear! He's a big one! I'm glad I had those 220s. The first shot hurt him bad and turned him. I just kept shooting like you said to, and he went down in four. The last shot finished him."
If the 270 Winchester would have come out first, or perhaps a 7mm version of what we know as the 30-06 case, the wildcatters would have been scrambling to neck it up to 30 caliber. If instead it had come out as the 35 Whelen, or as an 8mm or 338 version, the wildcatters would have been correcting the factories by directing them down to 30 caliber. The 30-06 is a classic case of moderation. It has always been very good to excellent, but is even better today because of the great choice of bullets and powder for reloading. If the 300 Winchester Magnum was okay some years ago, then the 30-06 must be as good today, because better bullets and powders make it essentially equal to the 300 Magnum of not too many years ago. Plus, the 30-06 holds one more round in the magazine of most bolt-action rifles.
As far as accuracy goes, Hathcock also won the 1000-yard Wimbledon Cup with his in 1965; then he took it to Vietnam. Compared to the 308 Winchester, which is accurate to a high degree with a vide variety of loads, the 30-06 requires more effort to develop a shorter list of loads that produce match accuracy. This is not a big deal, because the load each rifleman settles in on for the task at hand will be the load he is using. It doesn't matter if, with his 308, he was able to develop 20 different loads that shot a half inch or less. He will only be using one of them. With a 30-06, there may just be five loads that shoot in that half-inch arena. Doesn't matter; he will be using only one of them.
Three summers ago, a fellow known for being quite proud of his rifles and shooting ability had just taken possession of a custom-built 308 match rifle. The five-shot groups sent with it were about one-third of an inch, center to center. Within two weeks we met at the local range, at the 200-yard benches. I had a new Remington Custom Shop AWR II in 30-06 with me, wanting to sight in a freshly mounted Leupold VX-III in 4.5-14X40mm w/AO. This was a customer's rifle, and he was along. New Nosler brass was loaded with a known almost-always-good combination involving 175-grain Sierra MatchKings. The 308 was shooting between a half to three quarters of an inch five-shot groups. Not bad for the first time out. The skinny-barreled 30-06 was shooting right at three quarters of an inch three-shot groups. That was enough to send the 308 guy home and go to bed early without supper.
The 30-06 may not be the first choice for a match rifle anymore, and it may not be the most powerful club in the bag; but, for those with a sophisticated mind that begs for moderation, it is just about perfect.