For this cartridge comparison, the 7mm-08 vs .30-06, we are looking at two cartridges that often find themselves being compared to one another. While both have their suitors for multiple shooting applications, they are more often compared within hunting circles.
While both the 7mm-08 and .30-06 possess the velocity and range for long range competitions, they are lower on the totem pole for competitive shooting cartridges. Where both of these cartridges, in the modern day, find the most use and popularity is in the hunting world. Because of this, a lot of the discussion in this article will be geared towards hunting applications, though we would be remiss not to bring in functionality on the competition field as well.
Like other cartridge comparisons we have done on this site, picking one cartridge over the other and crowning it the king of the cartridges, as some comparisons like to do, is not something that we believe is helpful or correct. By looking at the performance numbers and other characteristics of a cartridge, we want to just better understand what situations and shooting applications each cartridge might be better suited for. We might see that one cartridge is better suited for one application or it might be that specific rounds for each cartridge can get the job done equally well while other specific rounds for each cartridge would fail miserably.
Shooting is not always black and white and in this article, we hope to make the gray areas a bit more clear between these cartridges in this article.
A Brief History
While the 7mm-08 does not have the long and storied history as some other cartridges, it has been around the block a time or two and proven its capabilities. The 7mm-08 Remington did not take off in popularity as soon as it was introduced, but over time people, specifically hunters, began to see some of the benefits that it brought to the table. Mainly, with the 7mm bullet, you could achieve some of the better terminal ballistics of .30 caliber bullets without the heavy recoil that was often associated with them.
The 7mm-08 Remington was introduced in the 1980’s as a way to replicate the performance of the older 7×57 Mauser in a modern caliber and cartridge. The 7mm-08 was derived from necking down the .308 Win and allowed it to accept the smaller diameter 7mm bullet.
The 7mm-08 provides an excellent hunting cartridge for medium to large game. It was intended to provide lighter recoil while maintaining heavy enough bullet weight and velocity to effectively reach out and kill game efficiently. While the 7mm-08 has a loyal group of users, it’s popularity is not at the same level of other hunting calibers. Even so, it has a variety of bullet weights, mostly within the 120-150grain weight although there are heavier rounds available that are closer to the common hunting rounds of the .308. The 160+ grain weight bullets are highly favored by competitive shooters.
The .30-06 is one of the oldest cartridges that is still widely popular in the modern day. It was developed in 1906 and throughout the years saw modifications, especially to bullet design and also saw combat in several wars until it was replaced in the late 70’s by the NATO version of the .308 Win.
Though retired from military service, the .30-06 is a well-known hunting cartridge that is sought after for its velocity, power, and flat trajectory to take down medium to larger game cleanly up to and beyond 500 yards when modified.
The .30-06 is widely available in just about any retail store that sells ammunition. It has a huge selection of bullet weights as well as designs that allow to .30-06 to be used in a variety of hunting situations. The .30-06 can also be an extremely hot load when hand loaded, increasing its performance greatly.
|7mm-08 Remington||.30-06 Springfield|
|Parent Casing||.308 Win||.30-03|
|Max Pressure (SAAMI)||60,000psi||60,200psi|
Looking at the bullet and case specifications, we start to see some differences between these two cartridges right from the start. The .30-06 Springfield uses a larger caliber bullet that is generally heavier than the 7mm-08 as we talked about earlier when looking at the histories of these two cartridges, though there is overlap in bullet weighs possible with these two cartridges. While larger, the .30-06 cartridge can hold more powder which allows these bullets to be sent downrange with a significant amount of velocity and power.
Though there are differences in the overall cartridge specifications, both the 7mm-08 Remington and the .30-06 Springfield are popular in a lot of the same shooting applications suggesting that they possess similar ballistic and other performance characteristics. To examine this, we have selected five popular rounds of each cartridge, some for hunting purposes while others are better geared towards range shooting. With these ten rounds we will look at the data for each for several categories to see if we see any trends and if we can better sort out which cartridge is better suited for specific applications. The ten rounds are listed below.
- 7mm-08 Nosler Trophy Grade AccuBond 140gr
- 7mm-08 Federal Vital-Shok Nosler Partition 140gr
- 7mm-08 Federal Power-Shok JSP 150gr
- 7mm-08 Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 140gr
- 7mm-08 Hornady Superformance SST 139gr
- 30-06 Federal Vital-Shok 165gr
- 30-06 Hornady GMX 150gr
- 30-06 Federal American Eagle FMJ 150gr
- 30-06 Nosler AccuBond 200gr
- 30-06 Federal Gold Medal 168gr
There is a good possibility that some of you have looked over our selections several times and are now scratching your head as to how we could have possibly left off your favorite hunting round or your favorite long range round. There are quite a few factory loads available for both of these cartridges. Your selections might be a little different than ours, and that is fine, There are plenty of excellent options out there, but we have to cut it off at some point to keep the article from getting too muddled. Bring in hand loading, and we could publish a small encyclopedia of the options for each cartridge.
If you have ever had the misfortune to take a statistics class or have to learn some for the job, you know that there can be issues when trying to draw conclusions for a large population, or in our case, a large number of rounds for each cartridge, when using a small sample size. Because of this, we have compiled a lot more rounds for each cartridge. While we are not going to try and graph all these rounds, we have calculated and compiled all the same sets of data and we will present the averages at the end of each section. By doing this, you can get some more information on these cartridges and it will allow us to check the results from the smaller sample sizes to make sure we are not being misled. You can check out all of the rounds that we used which are listed at the end of the article.
Another brief note we want to address before moving on is the data we are looking at. These are factory loads, and the performance data we are looking at comes from several sources. They are taken directly from the manufacturer’s website, and they are also generated from well trusted and accurate ballistic performance calculators. While this is fine for comparing specific rounds, it doesn’t mean that the numbers are set in stone. Though most would never realize it, shooting these rounds from your personal platform, might result in slightly slower velocities or different trajectories. It’s common, and unless you have access to all of the cartridges, firearms chambered for them, and the instruments to take measurements, computer generated data is our best source of comparison and will be consistent from round to round. So take the specific numbers with a grain of salt.
For most experienced hunters, recoil is not going to be as high on the list of tradeoffs for one cartridge over the other. One reason is that most hunting cartridges used for the same game often have similar recoil patterns. And as most hunters know, when taking a shot at something in your crosshairs, the recoil feels like a flick on the shoulder. Still, recoil is a component we should examine. For younger or more inexperienced sportsmen and women, recoil might be a large factor in cartridge choice. Even for the more experienced, recoil plays a role in how fast you can get accurate follow up shots as well.
We have calculated the recoil energy (ft.lbsf) of the ten rounds we have selected for comparison. There are quite a few variables that go into the amount of recoil that is generated and playing around with these variables can yield different results. The weight of the firearm, as well as the powder charge in the cartridge, will affect the recoil energy. To account for this, we kept the firearm weight consistent for each data point, 7lbs, and we used a constant powder charge for each cartridge that was determined from looking at several well respected loading catalogues. We did not use the maximum powder capacity for these loads as most manufactures reduce the amount of powder in their ammunition. So while the trends we see in the differences in recoil energy between these two cartridges should be accurate, the individual numbers for each round can fluctuate up or down several ft.lbs of energy.
We are also looking at the actual recoil energy that is generated and not the “felt recoil” or the kick that you feel when firing the round. The felt recoil also depends on several factors including your rifle as well as your shooting form and stance. Still, increased recoil energy should translate to felt recoil.
When looking at the 7mm-08 vs .30-06 (Graph 1), we see that the .30-06 generates significantly more recoil energy when fired than the 7mm-08 rounds. When discussing the history of the 7mm-08 we mentioned that it was designed to provide some of the other terminal ballistic characteristics as rounds such as the .30-06 Springfield and the data here back that up.
All five of the .30-06 rounds generate more than 20ft.lbsf which is more than enough to throw off a wild shot in the hands of inexperienced shooters. It is also enough recoil for even the most experienced to cause a delayed reaction time in recentering back on the target. On the range, where speed might not be as much an issue, this might not matter, but when trying to make a quick follow up shot, it is quite significant.
While the 7mm-08 was much lighter in the recoil department, they still produce a little over 17ft.lbsf of recoil. Those few lbs might be a deciding factor for some, but we tend to lean more heavily towards the ballistics for making a decision.
Still, if you like to burn through a box or two on the range, those few lbs of difference in recoil energy can save you a lot of fatigue in the long run.
Let’s look quickly at the recoil energy generated by each cartridge when we bring in a more robust selection of rounds. The averages were calculated from data obtained in the same method we previously described.
Average Recoil (ft.lb)
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
We still see that the .30-06 is generating more recoil energy than the 7mm-08 rounds. From this data set, we are looking at just under six ft.lbs of difference. There is a bit of variance for both cartridges, but for the most part, the results we have seen are going to hold up when comparing most rounds from either cartridge.
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Regardless of your shooting applications, the ballistics of your cartridge of choice should be known to you. How your bullet behaves in flight is critical to making the correct adjustments in the field and knowing the limitations of your round. In this section, we are going to look at several ballistic categories including the velocity, ballistic coefficient, and the short and long range trajectories of the 7mm-08 vs .30-06. Understanding how these two cartridges behave in flight will give us a lot of information about which shooting applications one might be better suited for than the other.
We look at the velocity of rounds because the velocity has its hands in many other terminal ballistic and other performance categories of the bullet. It influences recoil, it influences trajectory, and it even influences stopping power of the bullet. Just by knowing the velocity of the bullet and how well it maintains its speeds along its flight path can tell you a lot about the terminal ballistics.
As we did we the recoil, we have listed the velocities of our ten selected rounds and put them into graph form (Graph 2).
We are looking at the velocities (ft/s) from the muzzle out to 500 yards. All of this data was taken from the manufacturer’s websites, and as we have stated previously, the numbers can easily vary based on your firearm, but the general trends should hold up.
When we look at the velocities of all ten rounds several things jump out at us. The first is that we do not see a general trend of one cartridge having more velocity from the muzzle or for the entirety of the flight path out to 500 yards. We also see that all of these rounds remain supersonic throughout the entire flight path. Even at 500 yards, all ten rounds are still hovering around 2,000 fps, and that’s consistent with rounds that have flatter trajectories and goof BCs, as we will look into shortly.
The majority of the rounds, both 7mm-08 and .30-06, cluster up tightly out of the muzzle between 2,600 and 2,800fps. Granted, the .30-06 bullet weights for these rounds are slightly heavier than the 7mm-08 rounds which is one of the reasons why the recoil was a few ft.lbs higher than the 7mm-08. It will be interesting to see how the stopping power of these two cartridges compare later on.
Anyway, back to the velocity, though most of the rounds cluster up and stay relatively close to one another from the muzzle to 500 yards, there are a few rounds that show a decent amount more fps than the others as well as a few that show a decent amount less. What’s important for this comparison is that it’s not one cartridge over the other but different rounds between both. We think that’s an important concept. Regardless of which cartridge you might shoot, not all rounds of that same cartridge behave the same.
With the velocities being so close between these two cartridges, it will be interesting to see if this remains the same when we look at the averages from the larger data set in the table below.
Average Velocity (ft/s)
|Yards||.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
We can see from this data that these two cartridges are very similar in their bullet velocities. From the muzzle out to 500 yards, we never see any difference over 20fps. The 7mm-08 technically have the advantage in this category, but like our smaller sample set, the individual rounds for each cartridge are dispersed across the velocity range throughout the flight path.
Though these two cartridges are not used as often as others in long range shooting sports, we still want to look at how long they can remain in supersonic flight. Attention is given to this number because when bullets fall below supersonic speeds, they become a bit more unpredictable in their flight path because environmental conditions have more of an impact on them. So, the longer a bullet stays in supersonic flight, the easier it should be to calculate your shot.
So they say anyway. For most of us, a 1,000 yard shot is pretty unpredictable whether the buller is supersonic or not. Below, we have averaged the yard limit where each round falls below supersonic speeds.
Average Supersonic Limit (Yards)
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
When looking at the averages, there is not much difference between the two cartridges at all. On average, both remain supersonic just barely past the 1,000 yard marker. The .30-06, on average, remains supersonic for almost fifteen extra yards than the 7mm-08 rounds. Now, if you look at the rounds individually, you will find that there is a lot of variance between the rounds of each cartridge type. Both have rounds that can get into the 1,200+ range and both have rounds that fall short of the 1,000 yard marker.
The ballistic coefficient (BC) is a term that either has a lot of meaning to you or you have never heard of it. Most serious marksmen and hunters are well aware of the BC and understand its meaning. Still, for those who might not, we should briefly educate you.
The ballistic coefficient is a number that is generated from an equation with variable inputs related to the cartridge and bullet specifications. The physics and math behind the ballistic coefficient can get a little complex and us trying to explain it isn’t going to help anyone, including ourselves.
In the simplest way possible, a ballistic coefficient tells you how well a bullet is streamlined. The higher the BC, the better the bullet can cut through the wind, meaning it resists drag and wind drift much more efficiently than a bullet with a lower BC.
As you can see, this makes the BC a valuable means of comparison for two rounds that are presented as a long range option. We compiled the BCs for our ten selected rounds from the manufacturer’s website and compiled them here (Graph 3).
Like the velocity, we do not see anything that points us to saying one cartridge has a higher general ballistic coefficient. Overall, all of the selected rounds have a BC that is over .4 which is a fairly good rating, especially for the general hunting round. We even see a couple of rounds for both the 7mm-08 and the .30-06 that are both around the .5 range. With a lot of long distance competition shooters throwing lead downrange with a BC in the .6-.7 ranges, neither of the two cartridges we are looking at here are eye-openers, but a .4 is going to help cover normal hunting distances and average range distances with the given factory loads and help cut down on wind interference.
Let’s take a look and see if there are any major differences between these two cartridges when we look at more rounds.
Average Ballistic Coefficient
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
Like the smaller sample size, the averages for these cartridges are just over 0.4. We do see that the .30-06 cartridge has a slightly higher average than the 7mm-08 rounds but when looking at individual rounds, we do not see them group along their cartridge lines. If you want a round with a high BC, you can find one with either cartridge.
Both the 7mm-08 and the .30-06 are heralded as long range hunting rounds, and even for competitive distance shooting to a lesser extent, so it obvious that we would look at some long range trajectory data. Still, especially for hunting, shots can also, and are often, taken at a much shorter range. Because of this, we are going to also look at the short range trajectory as well.
What any hunter, casual range guy, and competitive marksmen are looking for is a flat trajectory. This means the bullet does not drop a significant amount as it moves downrange. It’s inevitable that there will be drop in altitude along the flight path. It’s just not feasible to generate that amount of force in the chamber without risking the catastrophic failure. Still, we look to minimize that loss of altitude as much as possible.
Before we look at the short and long range trajectories, we wanted to provide a cleaner look at the trajectories of these two rounds before we muddy the water with our ten rounds. We selected two cartridges, one 7mm-08 and one .30-06, that are from the same manufacturer and have similar bullet designs and weights (Graph 4).
Both the Federal Ballistic Tip 140gr 7mm-08 and the Federal Ballistic Tip 150gr .30-06 show extremely similar trajectories from the muzzle out to 500 yards. There is very little separation of the two until they reach the 300-yard mark, and even then, the differences are minimal. At the most, you are looking at a 3” difference between the two with the .30-06 being slightly flatter. With this much of a similarity, most would look to other categories to decide on using one or the other.
Of course, that is only two examples. We could make the argument that using a slightly heavier 7mm-08 bullet could easily make up that difference and perhaps shoot flatter than the .30-06. That of course gets into hand loading. For now, let’s look at a larger sample size and see if the trend continues
Short Range Trajectory
First, let’s take a look at the short range trajectories of these two cartridges. We are looking at the bullet drop out to 300 yards with the rifles zeroed in at 100 yards.
We are looking at the bullet drop in inches from the muzzle out to 300 yards. The firearms are zeroed in at 100 yards.
At 200 yards, there is no significant difference between the two cartridges or any of the rounds. All of them are within two inches of each other at this mark. We do see the lighter Hornady rounds for both cartridges show a less pronounced drop and the heavier 7mm-08 and .30-06 rounds show a slightly more bullet drop. This trend is more evident at the 300-yard mark with the two heavy 7mm-08 and .30-06 showing around four more inches of a drop than the majority of the rounds while the two Hornady rounds show about two inches less drop than the next closest.
For the others, they remain relatively clustered, but the 7mm-08 rounds show close to one inch less bullet drop than the remaining .30-06 rounds. Again, it’s tough to conclude from this data, especially when looking for differences in cartridges as a whole. Both have a flat enough trajectory to take targets at these ranges with minimal adjustments, excluding other factors. Like everything else we have seen so far, minus the recoil, the cartridges overall are similar in their performance, and more attention should be paid to making decisions on individual rounds rather than the cartridge types as a whole.
Let’s see if the two cartridges still show similar trajectory when we add in some more rounds for each.
Average Bullet Drop (Inches) at Short Range
|Yards||.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
Well. if anything they look like they got even closer to each other when we add in more rounds. From 50 yards out to 300, these two cartridges are within an inch of each other. We even took this data set out to the 400 yard mark and even there, the averages are only one inch apart with the 7mm-08 rounds the flatter of the two.
With the amount of rounds we have looked at, we can be fairly confident that the short range trajectory is not the category you will be spending much time with if you are trying to decide between one of these two cartridges.
Long Range Trajectory
Since both of these cartridges are popular with hunters taking more shots at extended distances, let’s take a closer look at ranges up to 500 yards (Graph 6).
Like the short-range trajectory, we are measuring bullet drop from the muzzle out to 500 yards. Data was taken from the manufacturer’s websites, and the firearms are zeroed in at 200 yards.
Like the short-range trajectory, we see just about the same trends and performances from the rounds. At the 300-yard mark all of the rounds are within three inches of each other with no advantage going to either of the cartridges. At 400 yards we again see the same trend. Most of the rounds cluster tightly around the 23” mark while the Hornady rounds for both cartridges fair slightly better and the two heavier rounds for each cartridge fall slightly lower than the main cluster. Still, we are only talking about 7” difference between the flattest and steepest trajectories.
At the 500 mark, the trend remains the same as at 400 yards, but more distinctive. The flattest shooting rounds show a bullet drop of right under 40” while the steepest dropping rounds have a bullet drop of 51 and 54″. Again, the trends are within specific rounds rather than with the two distinct cartridge types. If we averaged all of the rounds for each cartridge, then the 7mm-08 would have a little less than an inch of improvement over the .30-06 rounds. With this sample size, changing out a few rounds could easily swing that advantage the other way.
While this amount of bullet drop might seem pretty dramatic to shooters working with other long range cartridges, they are not as bad as a lot of other cartridges, especially when dealing with factory loads. For hunting, they are both more than manageable at ranges most shots are taken for medium to large sized game.
Before we move on to stopping power, let’s look at the long range trajectory with our some more rounds thrown into the mix. We have also extended the range out to the 1,000 yard mark.
Average Bullet Drop (Inches) at Long Range
|Yards||.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
We see a lot of the same trends that we saw with the smaller sample set when looking at the average bullet drop out to 500 yards. At these markers, there is not really a significant advantage to one cartridge or the other. It is when we get out to the 700 and 1000 yard range that we start to see some real separation between these two cartridges.
At the 700 yard marker there is around 7 inches of difference between the two cartridges with the 7mm-08 having the flatter trajectory. Even at this marker, there are still some .30-06 rounds that perform around the 7mm-08 average or even exceeds it. At the 1,000 yard marker is where we see a big difference between the two cartridges as a whole. Here, the .30-06 has, on average, 24 more inches of bullet drop than the 7mm-08 rounds. There are still .30-06 rounds with better performance, but overall, the 7mm-08 has the advantage.
Of course, we can talk about the trajectory as much as we like, but it’s not going to matter if the bullet doesn’t have the power once it reaches the target to bring it down which leads us to our next category.
There is not a single number that we can turn to when it comes to comparing the stopping power a cartridge brings along with. There are quite a few components that factor into the stopping or knockdown power, and some of those factors can be great for dropping some game and bad for dropping others. Too many people waste time arguing which metric is the best for determining a bullet’s effectiveness when it comes to stopping power. We think that instead of trying to pick one, the most accurate method is to take all of the different metrics together. They all play a role in the bullet’s stopping power.
A few of these factors include bullet design, bullet penetration, and the energy or force that is carried by the bullet down range. We will take a look at the latter two components for this section. For penetration, we will actually look at two different metrics, the sectional density and the bullet momentum. And we always like to mention that you can have a round with all the numbers pointing towards an effective round, but putting the bullet where it can do damage is paramount to the numbers meaning anything.
For hunters, this is as important as any ballistic category. Having a cartridge that you can be confident will bring down your prey quickly and humanely is a lot of stress off your back when you are in the field. No one enjoys tracking a wounded animal at night in the bitter cold, and the majority of hunts do not enjoy the thought of leaving a wounded animal to their own devices.
The energy that is carried by the bullet is a large factor in the rounds stopping power. You might wonder how this could be used to compare cartridges if the energy is associated with the bullet. As we know, different cartridges can take different sized bullets and can hold different amounts of powder. If the cartridge can send heavier bullets downrange at increased speeds than they should carry extra force.
This energy is transferred to the target on impact and can cause massive damage to the surrounding tissues and organs. This transfer is also affected by how the bullet reacts on impact but we will hold off on that discussion here. The amount of energy that is needed to cleanly take down an animal is debatable, and it changes depending on the animal involved. Most consider 1,000ft.lb of force to be safe for dropping a deer cleanly, though less can take down a deer with a proper bullet and a well-placed shot to the vital organs in the chest cavity.
So, let’s take a look at our ten selected rounds and look at their associated energies (ft.lbs) as they leave the muzzle and travel downrange to 500 yards (Graph 7).
For two cartridges that have shown pretty similar performance characteristics so far, the bullet energy is showing us some differences. Right out of the muzzle, the .30-06 rounds show a clear increase in bullet energy than the 7mm-08 rounds. The majority of the 7mm-08 rounds have around 2,400ft.lbs of energy except for the single Hornady round which has closer to 2,700. The .30-06 rounds show muzzle energies of 2,700 to over 3,000ft.lbs of force except for the Federal American Eagle FMJ 150gr round.
This trend remains relatively intact, though we do see the gap closing as the rounds move downrange. We still see a higher bullet energy for the .30-06 rounds at the 500-yard mark, but they cluster much tighter with the 7mm-08 rounds. We also see that all of the rounds except for one 7mm-08 round still have over 1,000ft.lb of force at this range.
One interesting pattern that we see from this graph is that the .30-06 rounds to tend to bleed off energy at a faster rate than the 7mm-08 rounds. Even so, the .30-06 rounds still had an overall higher amount of energy than their counterparts. And while taking shots at game out past 500 yards starts to get pretty dicey with these rounds, we are curious to see if things would even out between these two rounds another 100 yards out.
Before moving on to our next components of stopping power, let’s examine the kinetic energy associated with these rounds with a larger data set.
Average Bullet Kinetic Energy (ft.lbs)
|Yards||.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
Again, we see that the .30-06 rounds carry more kinetic energy with them downrange than the 7mm-08 rounds and this is the case at each yard marker. We do still see the .30-06 rounds bleeding off kinetic energy at a higher rate than the 7mm-08 rounds but even so, there is still over 200ft.lbs difference at the 500 yard mark.
Penetration (Sectional Density)
The ability of a bullet to penetrate to hit vital organs is another factor that goes into stopping power. There are several components that go into a bullet’s potential penetration characteristics including velocity, the caliber of the bullet, the weight of the bullet, and the bullet’s design. For the latter, we are referring to how the bullet reacts on impact. Does it fragment heavily, does it expand rapidly, or does it push clean through? We will not focus on this particular factor as the same bullet designs are used for each cartridge.
For our comparison, we are going to look at the bullets caliber and weight, which when combined, give us the sectional density (SD) of the bullet. Sectional density correlates with the amount of penetration. A higher sectional density means deeper penetration. As an example, let’s take two different bullets of the same design traveling at the same velocity. Both bullets weigh 100gr, but one has a diameter of .308” while the other has a diameter of .284”. The sectional density of the .284″ round is going to be higher, and it should penetrate deeper than the .308″ round. This is because more of the energy driving the bullet is localized to a smaller area effectively pushing it further with less resistance than a larger diameter bullet would impose. That’s the simplest way of thinking about SD and penetration.
More penetration is not always the best. The amount of penetration that a bullet needs is going to depend on the type of game you are hunting. For deer, which have pretty thick skin and hides, do not need as much bullet penetration to reach the vital organs. For a bull moose, you’re going to need a bullet that has a lot of force behind it and can get through the thick hide and muscle to reach the organs. A bullet that penetrates cleanly with no expansion also poses to risk of not bringing down game quickly.
Let’s take a look at our ten rounds and see how their SDs compare to one another (Graph 8).
The 200gr .30-06 round can throw you off quite a bit. While the diameters of the bullets are not too far off in size, the 200gr bullet is much heavier than the other rounds on our list and gives the increased SD. It’s a good example though of how certain individual rounds can vary quite dramatically within a cartridge type for certain characteristics.
If we take out the 200gr .30-06 round, we see that there does tend to be more of a trend towards higher SDs for the 7mm-08 rounds but not by much. The heavier bullet weights of the .30-06 rounds tend to even it out. If you were to take a round from each cartridge with the same weight bullet, the 7mm-08 would theoretically provide more penetration. Of course, that is taking all of the other factors out of consideration.
Let’s take a look at the average sectional density of these cartridges with more rounds.
Average Sectional Density
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
With a difference of only 0.002 in the average sectional densities, it is pretty safe to say that it will not provide a lot of information in regards to situations one of these cartridges might be better suited.
The second metric that we will look at to get an idea of how well these rounds can penetrate is the bullet momentum. Now, if you look at the units of momentum, it may seem like we are measuring how far the round is going to fling the target after impact. You have to remember though, that we are looking at bullet’s which are small and designed to penetrate targets. Because of this, momentum actually gives us an idea of how well a bullet will remain moving forward when it encounters resistance. The higher the momentum, the better the round can move through resistance without coming to a stop.
We keep mentioning this, and we are sure you are tired of hearing it, but we can’t just forget about bullet design here. If two rounds have similar momentum, you can’t automatically think the round with higher momentum will penetrate deeper. If the round with high momentum has a bullet design that fragments, it’s not going to penetrate as far as the bullet with less momentum, but has a bonded jacket. Because the majority of these rounds are designed with hunting or shooting in mind, they usually have bullets that will remain relatively intact to give controlled expansion. Still, it’s important to keep in mind when making any decisions for a factory load you are wanting to use.
We have calculated the bullet momentum for our selected rounds over a range of 500 yards and graphed them below (Graph 9).
From this data, we see a pretty clear advantage for the .30-06 rounds. We also see that the 7mm-08 rounds group pretty tightly together while the .30-06 rounds tend to be a little more distanced from each other. The problem this presents is that we are unsure if the high momentum rounds are outliers or if they are the norm for these rounds while the lower performing round is an outlier. Because of that, we are going to hold off on drawing any conclusions until we look at the averages of the larger data set below.
Average Bullet Momentum (lb/ft.s)
|Yards||.30-06 Springfield||7mm-08 Remington|
With more data available, we can be more confident now in stating that the .30-06 rounds carry more momentum downrange than the 7mm-08 rounds. The difference between the two cartridges constricts as the rounds move downrange, but even at the 500 yard mark, there is still around seven more lb/ft.s of momentum for the .30-06 rounds than the .30-06.
And while there are some 7mm-08 rounds that carry a little more momentum the average, they all tend to group pretty tightly around the average.
Personally, we go through phases where we tend to dig a little deeper into accuracy and other times where we want to skip right over it. Right now, we are somewhere in the middle.
You can find arguments for accuracy on countless forums, websites, and divided homes on which cartridge is more accurate. Most never seem to have any hard evidence to back them up except for exaggerated tales of their success back one frigid December morning. Sometimes people do present their grouping data, and that’s fine, but in our eyes, accuracy, more so than any other category, rests nearly exclusively with the shooter. And two marksmen of similar experience can have dramatically different groupings from each other on any given day. A lot of other variables can influence accuracy and can’t be accounted for.
Best case scenario would be testing done in a large indoor arena, with multiple shooters through the course of multiple days on a myriad of firearms. With that data, maybe we could get some information on accuracy.
Still, it’s something everyone worries about and sure, some of the other categories we have discussed have a role in accuracy. So, let’s just recap some of that information and see if we think any of those conclusions would influence accuracy.
Higher velocities often correlate with increased accuracy if the bullet is stabilized once it leaves the barrel. From our inspection of the velocities between these two rounds, both behave very similarly. The trajectories of the two cartridges also followed the same trend as the velocities. While there were better performing rounds, it varied from round to round rather than from cartridge to cartridge.
The ballistic coefficient is another factor that can go into accuracy, especially when taking shots that are up to and beyond 300 yards. We again did not see a trend towards one cartridge having a great BC than the other. Both had specific rounds that presented with more viable BCs for long range shooting.
So, without your grouping data on the range, it’s difficult to say which cartridge has an edge in accuracy. The .30-06 does have more recoil than the 7mm-08 though, for single shots in the hands of an experienced shooter, this doesn’t affect accuracy either. Perhaps for quick follow up shots the 7mm-08 might bring better accuracy only because it might be easier to re center the rifle.
All in all, from the data we have looked at for these factory loads, there nothing makes us lean one way or the other.
Price & Availability
For the price, we have taken the average of several prices we have found through online retailers. You might be able to find some cheaper boxes somewhere, but generally, the prices of this ammunition will fall somewhere along these lines. And it also important to keep in mind that price goes hand in hand with the demand. We all know from the last ten years how wildly ammunition prices and availability can fluctuate so this section is fluid. Regarding the 7mm-08 vs .30-06 prices, they, like so many other categories, are pretty similar and there is not enough of a difference between the two cartridges to warrant picking one over the other based on price alone.
As far as availability for today goes, the .30-06 has a much greater following than the 7mm-08. Because of this, you are likely to find much more .30-06 ammunition and a wider variety than the 7mm-08. This also includes components for hand loading. Still, you are not going to be out of luck in most major retailers when looking for 7mm-08 ammunition. You might have a harder time finding specific rounds in store, but the internet has made it much easier for you.
|Ammunition||Price (20 Rounds)|
|7mm-08 Nosler Trophy Grade AccuBond 140gr||$37.79|
|7mm-08 Federal Vital-Shok Nosler Partition 140gr||$39.99|
|7mm-08 Federal Power-Shok JSP 150gr||$28.79|
|7mm-08 Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 140gr||$31.99|
|7mm-08 Hornady Superformance SST 139gr||$24.49|
|30-06 Federal Vital-Shok 165gr||$37.79|
|30-06 Hornady GMX 150gr||$35.49|
|30-06 Federal American Eagle FMJ 150gr||$24.99|
|30-06 Nosler AccuBond 200gr||N/A|
|30-06 Federal Gold Medal 168gr||$37.99|
As we close this article out, we want to take all of the information we have examined so far and begin to draw conclusion as to which hunting and shooting scenarios one of these cartridges might be better suited. We have also added all of the average tables to this section for quick access.
For 7mm-08 vs .30-06 applications, we see both of these cartridges used in a lot of the same situations. Both of them have seen use in competitive shooting circles, especially in long range precision competitions, though they are not as popular as several other cartridges that are available. None of the ballistics data we looked at really gave an advantage to one cartridge over the other but instead showed that specific rounds for both cartridges provided enhanced ballistic performances compared to the other rounds. It might come down to availability and recoil. A lot of range shooters might enjoy the 7mm-08 more as it produces less recoil which might limit the fatigue when sending a lot of rounds downrange.
Where these two rounds are most often used is in some hunting capacity. Both cartridges are more than capable of bringing down hog and deer sized game, and they can do so within normal hunting shot ranges (within 500 yards) with the standard factory loads. All of the factory loads that we examined had more than enough energy associated with bullets to drop deer cleanly and their velocities at these ranges are going to be enough to cause the terminal performance of the bullet to go as designed giving expansion and efficient energy transfer.
Where the .30-06 might be a little more versatile than the 7mm-08 is that the increased stopping power and heavier bullets make it more suitable for game larger than deer. While there are hand loaders out there that can bring a 7mm-08 to the table for large game, we lean towards the .30-06 for elk and moose when dealing with factory loads. And our reasoning for this is what we saw when looking at the kinetic energy and bullet momentum data. The .30-06 on average just had more than the 7mm-08 consistently. And again, the 7mm-08 was not completely out of the game in these categories and we have no misconceptions that it cannot be effective in these scenarios.
Before we close out this comparison, we like to go back and take a look at our selected rounds and briefly discuss one from each cartridge that we think is s good fit for certain applications. We do not mean to imply in any way that this is the best round, just one we like. There isn’t a round on this list that can’t get the job done for somebody out there.
Top Hunting Round
While the top hunting round might change depending on the actual game we are chasing; we like the .30-06 Federal Vital-Shok 165gr. It’s affordable when compared to a lot of .30-06 hunting rounds out there and we don’t think the performance lags at all. It has more than enough energy and velocity to take down deer at any conceivable hunting range and can even be effective on larger game, albeit, at closer distances.
For the 7mm-08, we are all for the Nosler Trophy Grade AccuBond 140gr, and while it is only our opinion, we think it’s one of the best 7mm-08 hunting rounds out there. It is a fantastic round for medium sized game and can even drop larger muleys and elk out to 300 yards. The AccuBond bullet has tremendous penetration, and you will have no issue getting down to vital organs and delivering maximum energy with the rounds controlled expansion.
Top Target/Range Round
For doing some long distance target shooting, we suggest the 7mm-08 Hornady Superformance SST 139gr. The recoil might be a tad bit more than other 7mm-08 factory rounds, but it has an incredible BC, it holds its velocity well down range, and the trajectories for both short and long range were some of the best of our rounds. For really long distances, most people go with handloads to increase the performance, but these rounds are a great place to start getting use to quality range cartridges.
In this article, we compared two cartridges that are built to perform in a lot of the same arenas. And we hope that we have shown, that while there are some general trends in performance that lean towards one cartridge over the other, in the end, both have options that are going to take care of business in the field.
There will always be back and forth between users of both rounds arguing the merits of their chosen cartridge. It’s a part of the shooting world, and we hope that we brought an unbiased look at the 7mm-08 vs .30-06 for you to help base your decision on.
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Huston is a hunting enthusiast who believes your success in the field is directly correlated to the amount of preparation at home. With a degree in Microbiology and several years of doctoral work manipulating bacterial genes, he attempts to merge the rational and unbiased thinking of scientific research with the passions of hunting and fishing. With two decades of chasing all manner of upland game, hooved mammals, strutting gobblers, and any small game that can fit in his Dutch oven, he hopes to offer new ideas and viewpoints on hunting and firearm concepts and traditions.