In this cartridge comparison, we are going to take a look at two cartridges that have been staples on the shooting and hunting circuit for some time. The 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06 brings up some interesting talking points when diving into their ballistic and other performance characteristics. These two cartridges overlap in many hunting and shooting areas, and many users find themselves debating between the use of one over the other.
In this article, we are not setting out to pick one of the two as the best cartridge. Instead, we will take an in depth look at several performance categories and tease apart how these two cartridges differ. With this information, we hope that you have a better resource for picking out a cartridge that best suits your needs. We think both the 7mm Remington Mag and the .30-06 Springfield are more than deserving of your time and either one can be successful when in the right hands.
A Brief History
7mm Remington Magnum
The 7mm Rem Mag has become over recent years, one of the most popular magnum rounds on the market for hunting purposes as well as use on the range. The 7mm Remington Magnum was released to the civilian market in 1962 and quickly gained popularity in the hunting world due to its performance. This cartridge was able to match and even excel in several ballistic categories compared to the .30-06, one of the most popular long range, big game cartridges at the time and the second cartridge we will be looking at.
Not only did users see an increase in several categories, but they also realized they were not sacrificing too much in the recoil department, which is a common side effect of shooting magnum rounds, making it an extremely manageable round for the performance it provided. As you can imagine, it made it one of the most popular magnum rounds to date.
The 7mm Rem Mag is a flat shooting round that is available in a good selection of bullet weights, though maybe not as many as the .30-06 Springfield. The majority of bullet weights used for the 7mm rem mag rounds fall between 150 and 175gr though there are outliers of lighter and heavier bullets if you need them for specific hunting or shooting purposes.
The .30-06 is one of the oldest and most storied cartridges in the world and is still widely popular in the modern day. It was developed over a hundred years ago in 1906 and throughout the years saw several design 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. While it is an old round, do not think that it has lost its flair and effectiveness in today’s world, far from it.
Though retired from military service, the .30-06 has been and will be a mainstay in today’s firearm community. It is a well-known, proven, and extremely popular hunting cartridge that is sought after for its velocity, power, and flat trajectory to take down medium to larger game cleanly up to 500 yards and even further when modified.
The .30-06 is widely available in just about any retail store that sells ammunition due to its popularity. 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 and competition situations. The .30-06 can also be an extremely hot load when hand loaded, increasing its performance greatly. Overall, the options for .30-06 load outs are much greater than the 7mm rem mag, especially when it comes to bullet weights.
|7mm Rem Mag||.30-06 Springfield|
|Parent Case||.375 H&H Magnum||.30-03|
|Max Pressure (SAAMI)||61,000psi||60,200psi|
If we take a look at the cartridge specs of the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06, we see that there are some key differences that are going to influence how these rounds behave. The .30-06 is, as the name implies, a 30 cal bullet with a .308” diameter bullet while the 7mm Rem mag is slightly smaller at .284”.
The case length of these two cartridges only differ by .006″ but the 7mm Rem Mag has a much wider base than the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. This allows the 7mm Rem Mag to take a generous more amount of powder than the .30-06 case. This extra case space and increased powder charge of the 7mm Rem Mag that is shooting similar sized bullets as the .30-06 should improve a lot of the ballistic categories.
To see if this is the case, and to also examine other performance characteristics, we have selected five rounds of each cartridge to compare to each other. Those rounds are listed below.
- 7mm RM HSM Trophy Gold VLD Berger 168gr
- 7mm RM Hornady Superformance SST 162gr
- 7mm RM Federal Nosler Ballistic Tip Vital-Shok 150gr
- 7mm RM Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range 168gr
- 7mm RM Nosler Trophy Grade AccuBond 140gr
- .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
All of the rounds that we have selected for this comparison are rounds that can be found in most major retail stores. We tried to stay away from harder to find cartridges. We want this to be as useful as possible so we tried to stick with the factory loads that a lot of people use rather than deviate into more obscure, albeit still effective rounds for each cartridge.
The five rounds that we have selected for each of these cartridges are only a small sample size for the options out there. While we would love to include many more rounds, we have to draw the line due to limited space for discussion. Your favorite round might not be included, and that in no way means we are considering it ineffective or not worthy of our time. Our selections are based on the popularity of the rounds and also our own experience with them. We do think this selection still provided an accurate look at how these two cartridges will stack up against each other.
To compensate for only using such a limited number of rounds, we compiled a larger sample set. Though we are not going to be graphing these rounds, we will present the averages for the full set at the end of each section. This gives us some more to talk about and it also improves our confidence that the numbers and the trends that we will see are an accurate reflection of the two cartridges. Without giving too much away, there is going to be a lot of similarity between these two cartridges and ten rounds alone is just not enough to make accurate conclusions. The full list of rounds can be found at the end of the article.
And one final note before we jump into the meat of the article. Our numbers are generated from data presented from the round’s manufacturer’s website and also from reliable ballistics calculators. While computer generated data is more than valid for comparing two cartridges, we want to be clear that the numbers you might get firing these rounds from your rifle can vary. Each rifle has its own personality, so velocities, recoil energy, and other categories might be a little higher or lower than the computer generated data shows. Even so, the differences shouldn’t be too significant, and it doesn’t influence our comparison. It’s just something we thought might be beneficial to you when making your decision.
So, let’s get into the fun stuff.
Depending on how much experience you have with big game rifles and their cartridges, recoil might or might be much of a factor in your decision making. It all depends on how much of difference there is between the two rounds. In this case, we will see that the recoil energies between the two cartridges are not hugely different and probably is not going to sway an experienced hunter or marksman’s decision.
Still, for the inexperienced, less recoil might be something they would be happy to have, even if it is only a couple ft.lb less. Regardless, recoil can have a lot of influence of the shot. For those not prepared for it, it can throw off a shot on its own due to a poor stance, it can cause the shooter to flinch while pulling the trigger, and it can make it much more difficult to get off quick and accurate follow up shots. For range shooting, heavier recoil can cause fatigue over the long run which can also drop the shooter’s performance. And yes, the more serious marksmen have tools to reduce this recoil, but that might not be the case for everyone so we will still give credence to any difference in recoil being a topic to address.
Because of this, we think it is important to look at the recoil generated between two rounds regardless of how small the difference.
For the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06, we are going to look at the actual recoil energy (ft.lb) is generated from firing these specific rounds. This is not the same as the felt recoil, more often known as the kick, but increased recoil energy is going to translate to more felt kick. The reason we have to make that distinction is that the kick that you feel is influenced by a lot more than just the cartridge you are firing such as your shooting stance and the components of the firearm.
Let’s first take a more general look at the recoil energies between these rounds (Graph 1).
This graph just shows a general recoil energy that is produced from both of the cartridges that we are looking at in this article. From this graph, we see that both of the cartridge types have well over 20ft.lb of recoil energy, which is a subjective marker for when recoil can cause discomfort to some and has a good chance of throwing off a shot. And that is not saying that much recoil is unbearable. The vast majority of us have shot rounds with that type of recoil and been successful. It’s just an arbitrary line that is commonly used to distinguish recoil that has a better chance of messing something up.
Before we make any large assumptions or try to draw any conclusions, let’s take a look at the recoil energy that is generated by the ten rounds we have picked to compare throughout the article (Graph 2).
Before we get into what we are looking at here, let’s discuss how we got these numbers. We stuck with a 7lb firearm for each round and selected the powder charge from Nosler’s hand loading database. We went pretty conservative with the powder load for both cartridges since we are looking at factory loads and they tend to load conservatively for safety purposes. With that being said, these numbers can change based on changing these variables up a little bit. Because we have kept everything uniform, it’s still an accurate comparison, but we do want to make sure that you understand these numbers are not set in stone. We’re not here to tell you exactly what’s going to happen when you fire any of these rounds from your rifle.
When we look at the recoil energy (ft.lb) generated from the ten rounds we see that the 7mm Rem Mag rounds show a few more ft.lb of energy generated during firing on average than the .30-06 Springfield rounds. There is definitely some overlap between the two cartridges, and both have more hard hitting rounds and more manageable rounds. All of the rounds we selected have over 20ft.lb of energy, and all of them are going to have some kick. A couple of the 7mm RM and .30-06 rounds have a little more hefty amount of recoil, but there is no reason why anyone could not adjust to either of these cartridges. And as we stated earlier, these numbers are not set in stone. With today’s modern rifles, the felt recoil is going to be very manageable.
One of the biggest draws of the 7mm Rem Mag is that it can match or excel in several ballistic categories when compared to the .30-06 while not bringing a significantly more amount of recoil to the table which is often the case when dealing with other popular magnum rounds. We have seen that the recoil is very similar but slightly higher for the 7mm Rem Mag, so let’s take a look at several ballistic categories next and see if this idea holds any truth.
In the table below, you will find the average recoil energy for both of these cartridges that has been calculated using our larger data set. We will have these tables at the end of each section throughout this article.
Average Recoil (ft.lb)
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm Remington Magnum|
We see the results from the larger set show the same trend that we saw from our graphed rounds. The 7mm RM rounds do have a few more ft.lbs of recoil energy when compared to the .30-06 rounds, there is still some overlap between the individual cartridges. What we mean by that is there are some .30-06 rounds that produce more or similar recoil energy to some 7mm RM rounds but the general trend is more recoil energy associated with the magnum rounds.
With the 7mm RM rounds, we should note that there are several rounds in the 29 to 30ft.lb range. That’s not anything to scoff at and is enough to mess up a shot. It’s something you can adjust to and many do. You can also whittle that number down if you have a heavier rifle
While it is important to keep these results in mind, most people are not going to base a decision on which cartridge they want to use based on recoil. Especially when we are only talking a few ft.lb difference.
Whether you spend more time using your rifle hunting or more time at the range testing your limits as a marksman, understanding the ballistics of your cartridge of choice is critical to maximizing your success as well as knowing your limitations. This information including velocity, the ballistic coefficient, and the trajectory of your bullet all provide you valuable information when it comes to making correct adjustments and putting the bullet where you want. We are going to break this section down into the three mentioned categories and compare the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06 for each of them. By doing this, we will begin to see the similarities and differences between these rounds and better distinguish in which situations one cartridge might serve you better than the other.
The velocity of a bullet is key for both hunting and range shooting purposes. It may not be directly involved in every category, but it is often involved in some way. The hotter the load, the more penetration you are apt to get due to the role of velocity in bullet momentum as well in the amount of kinetic energy generated, which is important for hunting purposes and having the correct velocity is key to getting the proper amount of expansion depending on the design of the bullet. Higher velocity, paired with the correct twist rate in your barrel, makes the bullets less susceptible to environmental influences. This is one of the reasons people key in on how long a round can remain in supersonic flight. This can also go the opposite way and having too hot of a load with incorrect rifling can cause instability. As you can see, understanding the velocity of your chosen round over a distance is something you should definitely take into consideration.
The bottom line is that velocity is a key component when comparing cartridges and should be looked at carefully with keeping in mind what you want the cartridge to do for you.
When we look at the velocities of the ten rounds we have selected for comparison (Graph 3) we notice that the 7mm Rem Mag rounds start off with significantly higher muzzle velocities.
We do see one .30-06 round that has similar or even higher muzzle velocities as the 7mm Rem Mag rounds, and we will keep an eye on it as we move down range.
From the muzzle out to 500 yards, we see a consistent trend of the 7mm Rem Mag rounds having a higher velocity than the .30-06 rounds. On average, the 7mm Rem Mag rounds show 300 more FPS velocity than the .30-06 rounds out to 300 yards and nearly 400 extra fps on average than the .30-06 rounds at 400 and 500 yards showing that they maintain their velocities at a better rate than the .30-06 rounds.
All five of the selected rounds for each cartridge holds well above supersonic speeds out to the 500-yard mark and will do so for several more hundred yards. We do see that the 7mm Rem Mag rounds maintain a significant amount more velocity than the .30-06 rounds. The one Hornady .30-06 150gr round does maintain a velocity comparable to the 7mm Rem Mag rounds but falls below all five rounds once it hits the 300-yard mark.
Now, should that extra 300 fps of velocity factor into your decision? We can’t answer that for you. A stable bullet with an extra couple hundred extra fps is probably significant when you are dealing with longer distance shots, say 500+ yards. For shots coming at shorter distances, which is most often the case with hunting, we don’t think a few hundred extra fps matters. You need enough velocity to get proper terminal performance, and that’s what we think matters most of all, besides a good shot of course.
Let’s take a look at the average velocity data when we include our extra rounds into the sample set.
Average Velocity (ft/s)
|Yards||.30-06 Sprg||7mm RM|
So, this is one of the reasons that we wanted to be sure to include these larger data sets in our discussions. While we still see the same trend with the 7mm Rem Mag rounds having higher velocity than the .30-06 rounds from the muzzle out to 500 yards, we do see the gap between the two cartridges shrink quite a bit. With more rounds factored in, we actually see the difference between these two cartridges stick around the 200fps mark throughout the full range.
This is a good example of how different rounds within a cartridge can behave. Depending on the rounds you look at, you and someone else can have very different opinions on the topic.
We have also calculated the average range where these rounds fall below supersonic speed and listed those numbers below.
Average Supersonic Limit (Yards)
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm Remington Magnum|
Though the supersonic limit of rounds is not as highly valued in the hunting community, where these two cartridges see the most use, it’s still a topic we want to cover for the sake of being thorough. A lot of marksmen are interested in when a bullet falls below supersonic speed because at this point, the bullet’s flight is a lot less stable which means shots at distances beyond this point are much harder to calculate.
When comparing the averages, the 7mm Remington Magnum has a limit that is roughly 240 yards further than the .30-06 rounds. There is quite a lot of variance in this range for both cartridges. There are 7mm RM rounds that remain supersonic out to 1500 yards and there are .30-06 rounds that can remain supersonic out past 1300 yards. While this might not be useful information to hunters, where shots like this are out of the question, it’s still interesting information and if you’re wanting to utilize one of these cartridges for long range shooting, it’s very valuable information. Of course, you should pay more attention to the numbers for the individual round rather than the average, but you will have more options with the 7mm RM for bullets with extended range at supersonic speeds.
The ballistic coefficient, in regards to how people think of it, can range from one of the most important factors for users to those who do not even have any idea what it is.
In the simplest of terms, the ballistic coefficient is derived from an equation using several bullets and cartridge variables. A few of these include the bullet design (spitzer, boat tail, flat nose, etc.) and the speed of the bullet. The ballistic coefficient gives you an idea of how streamlined a bullet is. The higher the ballistic coefficient, the better the bullet can resist wind drag and wind drift. A bullet more resistant to these factors is going to be less likely to be pulled off its flightpath and theoretically will be a more accurate round. A lot more goes into how the BC is calculated and its role in a bullet’s flight. While extremely interesting and we highly recommend you dive into the writing on it out there, it is beyond the scope of this article for the time being.
The importance you place on the ballistic coefficient is going to increase with the distance you plan on taking shots at. For shots within 300 yards, with the velocities, these rounds have, wind drift and other environmental forces on your bullet are not near as pronounced as they would be at shots at 500+ yards. That’s not to say they are not still there. 300 yards with a 10-15mph crosswind is going to pull most bullets several inches. The higher the BC, the less pronounced the drift. When you have a bull elk in your crosshairs, I’d venture to guess most of us would want to shave as many inches off our shot corrections as possible.
Given that both of these rounds can be used for long range purposes and are extremely popular hunting cartridges, the ballistic coefficient is most certainly relevant to this article.
For the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06, we have compiled the BCs for all ten of the rounds we have been and will continue to use for comparison throughout the article (Graph 4).
At first glance, it is clear that the 7mm Rem Mag rounds have higher BCs than the .30-06 rounds with several of the rounds breaking the .6 mark. That is not to diminish the .30-06 rounds. While the majority of them stay below the .5, their BCs are more than sufficient for a lot of shooting scenarios. And as we have discussed earlier, this is a small sample size of what is out there. If you take the time to look or get into handloading, you can find yourself a .30-06 round that will compete with the given 7mm Rem Mag rounds we have presented here.
In our application section, we will discuss further how these differences in ballistic coefficients between the two cartridges might impact when you would rather use one over the other.
Let’s take a look at the average BCs when looking at our full data set.
Average Ballistic Coefficient
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm Remington Magnum|
We still see the same trend as previously between these two cartridges. The 7mm RM rounds, on average, have higher BCs. And as we stated earlier, there is a lot of variance between individual rounds. In a lot of cases, a really high BC is not even needed. So, while there are certainly more options for high ballistic coefficients for the 7mm RM, but there are plenty of excellent .30-06 options as well. Especially when used in the context of hunting situations. For extreme range shooting, the 0.6+ BCs that are available for more 7mm RM factory loads might have some sway on your decision.
The trajectory is what just about every hunter or competitive shooter of every skill level will be interested in when comparing two different cartridges. More importantly, we are interested in how flat a bullet flies over a given distance. The less a bullet drops during its flight, the easier it is to make adjustments for longer distance shots. It also gives a little more room for error, especially in situations where you might not have the time to gain the exact distance to the target as is often the case in hunting situations.
Before we dive headlong into looking at the short and long range trajectories, we wanted to give a cleaner picture at the overall trajectories of these two cartridges. We are only looking at two cartridges; both are Federal Nosler Ballistic Tip rounds for each cartridge types. Both of the rounds are using 150gr ballistic tip bullets, but the 7mm RM round does have a slightly higher ballistic coefficient. The bottom line is that these are very similar rounds and can give us a good idea of how these trajectories compare to one another (Graph 5).
When just looking at these two rounds, we see that the difference is minimal out to the 300-yard mark. From this point out to 500 yards, we begin to see the gap widen between the two rounds. The 7mm Rem Mag shows a slightly flatter trajectory than the .30-06 round with 10 inches difference at the 500-yard mark. Both of these rounds have the same weight and design of bullet, so the increased velocity of the round is the main contributor to the flatter trajectory.
Of course, the similarities in bullet designs, weights, and velocities are not uniform across the span of round options for both cartridges. Luckily, we have ten rounds that we can examine to see if the trend continues.
Short Range Trajectory
Let’s first look at short range trajectory which will simulate more hunting situations that a lot of us will find ourselves. That doesn’t mean long range trajectory is not applicable if you are interested in either of these two cartridges for hunting. We are looking at the bullet drop (inches) over a range of 300 yards with the firearm sighted in at 100 yards (Graph 6).
At the 200 yard mark, we see a negligible difference between the two cartridges at less than an inch difference between the two averages. At 300 yards, the gap widens between the two. At this point, the average for the 7mm Rem Mag is 10.5″ of bullet drop while the .30-06 Springfield rounds have an average of 13.8”. While the general trend is towards the 7mm Rem Mag rounds having a flatter trajectory, we do see a .30-06 round that has a similar trajectory, though it is a lighter weight bullet. Depending on what you are using the round for, the lightweight bullet may or may not be applicable.
While there is not an paradigm shifting difference between these two cartridges, a few inches of difference at 300 yards is influential. While there does seem to be an advantage when it comes to short range trajectory for the 7mm Rem Mag rounds, both it and the .30-06 are more than capable rounds at these ranges.
Let’s take a look at the average bullet drop at short range when we utilize a larger sample size of rounds. We have also extended the range out to 400 yards for these rounds.
Average Bullet Drop (Inches) at Short Range
|Yards||.30-06 Sprg||7mm RM|
The numbers from the larger sample size match up with what we observed from the graph. At 200 yards, there is less than an inch of difference between the two cartridges. As the rounds move downrange, we begin to see the .30-06 lose altitude at a faster rate than the 7mm RM. At 300 yards, the averages are still pretty close with right at 3 inches of difference between the two. At 400 yards, the gap widens further with the 7mm RM having 61/2 inches less bullet drop than the average .30-06.
At 400 yards, only 24.5 inches of bullet drop for the 7mm RM is quite impressive for factory loads. From a hunting standpoint, and from my own experience, 400 yards is around the mark where I start to really hesitate to pull the trigger, but this type of trajectory gives a little more confidence. And the .30-06 cartridge brings pretty impressive numbers as well.
When looking at individual rounds, we do see some overlap at this range but there are only a few .30-06 rounds that are as flat as the steeper dropping 7mm RM rounds. For the most part, at this range, the individual rounds tend to group with other rounds of their respective cartridge.
Long Range Trajectory
Both of these cartridges are known long range hunting rounds and as well as F-class cartridges. Because of this, let’s take out the range a bit further. We are still looking at bullet drop but out to 700 yards in this instance. Firearms were zeroed in at 200 yards (Graph 7).
As with the short range trajectory, we see the same trend towards the 7mm Rem Mag being the flatter shooting cartridge. As we have mentioned, all of these ballistic categories go hand in hand, and the differences in velocities, as well as BCs, pointed us in the direction of this difference in trajectory being the case.
At 300 yards, there is no difference between the two cartridges. While the averages show around 1.5” difference between the two cartridges, both have rounds that overlap one another. This changes as the rounds move out to the 400-yard mark. Here, and through the rest of the distance, all of the 7mm Mag Rounds shoot flatter than the .30-06 rounds. Only the Hornady GMX 150gr comes close to the 7mm RM rounds though it still falls short of all five. The difference in the average bullet drops between the two cartridges is 5.3” (400yds), 11” (500yds), 21” (600yds), and 34.8” (700yds).
As you can see, the difference is quite noticeable between the two cartridges, especially out at 500 yards and beyond and will play a major role in choosing between these two cartridges for specific applications.
Let’s see if this trend holds us when we examine more rounds from each cartridge. We have also extended the range out to 1,000 yards for those aspiring F-class marksmen.
Average Bullet Drop (Inches) at Long Range
|Yards||.30-06 Sprg||7mm RM|
The numbers we see for these two cartridges reflects what we saw in the earlier graph. There is slightly flatter trajectory for the 7mm RM at the earlier yard markers and then we see the gap between the two cartridges widen as they move downrange.
With over 30 inches less bullet drop at the 700-yard mark and with over 100 inches less bullet drop at 1,000 yards, there is an obvious advantage in trajectory for the 7mm Remington Mag at these extreme distances. At the earlier yard markers, not as much at the 500-yard mark, there is some overlap between rounds of each cartridge. Once you move out to the 500 yard marker and beyond, the overlap between the individual rounds lessens to a point where all of the 7mm RM rounds have flatter trajectory.
We have looked at several ballistic categories, but for a lot of potential users of these cartridges, it doesn’t do us any good if the bullet doesn’t have the knockdown power once it reaches the target.
While competition shooters might not be as interested in stopping power as hunters, it’s an important factor that we can’t afford to leave out. For hunters, stopping power is important for several reasons. The first is safety, especially if you are hunting larger predators coming up on a wounded animal can be a dangerous situation, and a well placed shot with a bullet with the right stopping power negates this danger. Secondly, most hunters want enough stopping power to be able to make a clean and humane kill of the animal with causing unneeded suffering. We are as far from PETA’s stance on hunting here, but we also respect the game we hunt. Finally, a clean kill means you are not going to have to track a wounded animal a couple hundred yards and possibly in the dark and cold.
We don’t have a single set of data we can look at to determine stopping power. You will find the argument floating around various forums, but in our opinion, stopping power is a culmination of several factors including bullet energy, penetration, bullet expansion, and shot placement. In this section, we will take a look at bullet energy and penetration for comparing the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06. For penetration, we will look at two different metrics, the sectional density and the bullet momentum. While it is only three factors that go into stopping power, they are the best for comparing two cartridges besides comparison in the field, which is the fun part that we leave to you.
When a bullet is fired from the barrel, it carries kinetic energy that upon impact is transferred to the target. This large amount of force is very destructive to surrounding tissue and organs. As you can imagine, the bigger the game, the more energy you are going to need to cause enough damage for a clean kill. The energy is only part of the equation to stopping power, but it is an important one to examine nonetheless.
Let’s take a look at the bullet energies (ft.lb) of our ten selected rounds out to 500 yards (Graph 8).
Interestingly, we see almost the same trend that we have seen with the trajectories between these two cartridges. Out of the muzzle, we see an increase in muzzle energy for the 7mm Rem Mag rounds, but we do see the 200 gr .30-06 round match all but the top performing 7mm Rem Mag round. The 7mm Rem Mag rounds on average have between 300 to 500 more ft.lb of energy than the .30-06 rounds as they travel downrange. Also, like the trajectories, we do see a 200gr .30-06 round that has similar properties as the lower 7mm Rem Mag rounds although slightly lower.
Even so, all five rounds from both cartridges carry over 1,000ft.lb of energy out to the 500-yard mark. That is enough energy to take down most medium sized game with proper shot placement. And it’s important to keep in mind that although the averages show the 7mm Rem Mag cartridge to have higher bullet energies when we look at individual rounds, there are higher and lower capabilities.
Let’s take a look at the average kinetic energy between these two cartridges when we bring in more rounds.
Average Bullet Kinetic Energy (ft.lbs)
|Yards||.30-06 Sprg||7mm RM|
We still see that the 7mm RM carries more kinetic energy, on average, than the .30-06 and the difference between the two cartridges is pretty consistent throughout the entire range. We do see the 7mm RM maintains energy at a slightly better rate than the .30-06 Springfield.
If we just look at individual rounds, we do see several .30-06 Springfield rounds that get up there in KE with some of the lower performing 7mm RM, and we only mean low performing in the sense of lower KE. Overall, the 7mm RM is going to provide more KE.
Even so, both of these cartridges bring the requisite amount of kinetic energy to meet guideline marks for just any North American game within normal hunting ranges. Obviously, some of these rounds are not designed with hunting in mind but just from an energy standpoint, we see that both of these cartridges average over 1,200ft.lbs at 500 yards.
Penetration (Sectional Density)
Another factor that goes into stopping power is the penetration of the bullet. To be effective, a bullet must be able to penetrate through sometimes very thick hide and bone to reach vital organs. Of course, how much penetration you need is going to depend on the game you are hunting. A bull moose needs a bullet that can hold together and penetrate deeper than a bullet that is going to be used for whitetail.
And this is simplifying the topic since we are leaving out expansion, which is also going to play a role in penetration, but for simply comparing two different cartridges, we are going to omit it for the sake of clarity.
Ballistic gels are a great method for measuring penetration as is not only visual but also takes into account the bullet design, but unfortunately, we do not have the equipment to test all of the rounds we have been looking at. Still, by looking at the sectional density (SD) of the rounds, we can get an idea of how well these different bullets can penetrate and gives us a basis for comparison.
How sectional density can be linked to penetration is the diameter where force is applied and the weight of the bullet. These two components are what make up the sectional density. Heavier bullets with the same diameter are going to penetrate deeper than lighter rounds with the same diameter. If we have two bullets with the same weight, but different diameters, the smaller diameter localizes the force to a smaller area and gives you deeper penetration.
Let’s take a look at the sectional densities of our ten rounds and see how they compare (Graph 9).
We see that here, the 7mm Rem Mag has four out of five rounds over the .25 mark while the .30-06 rounds only have two and also have the two lowest sectional density rounds of the ten. We know that the .30-06 cartridge holds larger diameter bullets than the 7mm Rem Mag, but both use similar weight bullets so this result should not be surprising. We do see how weight can change the SD when we look at the 200gr .30-06 round which has the highest sectional density of the ten rounds here.
There is a lot more that goes into penetration besides the sectional density. As we have discussed, how the bullet reacts on impact affects penetration which is also influenced by the velocity. Still, this gives us an idea of how the two stack up next to each other regarding penetration. Another factor that influences penetration is bullet momentum, which is a metric that we will take a look at shortly.
In the field, sectional density alone does not give you the full picture that you need. It along with the velocity and expansion properties are needed to let you know if you have what you need for the specific game you are chasing. So just because one cartridge or one round has a higher sectional density, it alone doesn’t mean it’s the best round to use. And that really goes for every category that we look at.
Before we move on to bullet momentum, let’s take a look at the average sectional density for these cartridges when we include more rounds.
Average Sectional Density
|.30-06 Springfield||7mm Remington Magnum|
When looking at these numbers, we see the same results. The 7mm RM has a slightly higher sectional density than the .30-06 Springfield. Both cartridges utilize bullets in the same weight range but the 7mm rounds have a smaller diameter which leads to the cartridge having a slightly higher sectional density.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of overlap in the sectional densities between these two cartridges. The .30-06 rounds with higher sectional densities are going to be using heavier bullets to get the same type of numbers as the lighter 7mm RM rounds.
The second method that we will use to compare the potential for penetration between these two cartridges is from the bullet momentum numbers.
Momentum is defined as the ability for an object in motion to remain in motion. In the context of a bullet and its potential penetration, how well does the bullet overcome resistance and remain moving forward. For tactical situations, how well can the pullet punch through obstacles.
When we are discussing the differences in bullet momentum between cartridges that are relatively similar, it’s important to keep in mind that whatever two cartridge you are dealing with, most are going to penetrate a target and not bounce of or be stopped an inch inwards. So, if you have a cartridge with 60lbs/ft.s of momentum and another cartridge with 68lbs/ft.s, both are going to punch through just about any game in North America. What we are trying to say is that this comparison in particular is not so much in an effort to distinguish what game can or cannot be taken with these rounds. We are simply using it as another method of comparison for how these two cartridges are similar or different from each other.
While you can get a sense for which might be better for punching through tough and thick hide and bones, most of your larger .30 cal cartridges and other magnum rounds have the capacity to do so. And while momentum is important to factor into the equation, the bullet design can either negate the amount of momentum or support it in deep penetration.
We have calculated the momentum data for our ten rounds and we have graphed those numbers from the muzzle out to 500 yards (Graph 10).
From first glance, we see that there are a lot of similarities between the rounds of both cartridges. One of the main differences is that we see some variation in how rounds of the same cartridge perform. From the averages, the 7mm RM rounds carry around 2lbs/ft.s from the muzzle and this difference increases slightly as the rounds move downrange where we see a 5lbs/ft.s difference between the two cartridges.
With that, it’s clear that both cartridges have rounds that provide more or less momentum. We see a .30-06 round (200gr) that groups with the 7mm RM rounds carrying momentum while we also see the 150gr round carrying a clear reduction in momentum from the rest of the field. The rest of the rounds that we see hanging out in the middle of the graph are also a mixture of .30-06 and 7mm RM rounds.
Momentum is derived from simply the mass of the projectile multiplied by its velocity which explains the trends that we see between these rounds. There are a lot more rounds out there so let’s look at the averages from our wider selection of rounds.
Average Bullet Momentum (lb/ft.s)
|Yards||.30-06 Sprg||7mm RM|
When we take the averages for bullet momentum with our larger data set, we do see the general trends as previous with the 7mm Remington Mag carrying slightly more bullet momentum than the .30-06 Springfield.
We do see the differences between the two cartridges merge closer than with our smaller sample size. From the muzzle, the two cartridges are near identical and less than 1lb/ft.s at the 100 yard mark. The 7mm RM’s edge in bullet momentum continues to increase as we move downrange with right at 3lbs/ft.s more momentum, on average, than the .30-06 Springfield.
If we were to graph the momentum numbers for the individual rounds you would not see any trends emerge as there is a lot of deviation and overlap between the rounds of both cartridges. This certainly seems to be a category where you can get the performance you want from either one of these cartridges.
Accuracy is a tough topic to approach from our standpoint. In our eyes, a lot of accuracy has to do with the person pulling the trigger though we do think some ballistic characteristics of the rounds come into play when we start talking long range shooting. In the case of the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06, we do see some differences that warrant some discussion when it comes to the topic of accuracy.
The first is recoil. While there is not a huge difference in the recoil when just looking at the two cartridges in general, there is a slight increase in recoil energy of the 7mm Rem Mag cartridge. For most people deciding between these two cartridges, it’s probably not a big enough difference to even give it a second thought. The increased recoil might affect some people’s shot, especially after a full day of shooting, but in our opinion, it’s subjective and varies from shooter to shooter.
As far as the other ballistic properties go, the 7mm Rem Mag might have an advantage over the .30-06 when it comes to long range shots. While there are rounds for both cartridges that better than others, the 7mm Mag rounds, in general, had better velocities, BCs, and trajectories with it most pronounced as the rounds moved downrange. And we don’t want to make it seem as the .30-06 is not a capable round. We know there are plenty out there who can be effective with that cartridge. There were rounds that had excellent numbers backing them up. From the viewpoint of looking at these factory loads, the numbers simply back up the 7mm Rem Mag in these categories. And since this is a cartridge comparison rather than a round comparison, we have to look at the broader picture.
We also saw that the 7mm RM had a longer average supersonic flight than the .30-06. There were some .30-06 rounds in the 1300+ yard range, but overall, you had a lot more 7mm RM rounds in this category and none that fell below the 1,000 yard mark. This might help out your accuracy at these extreme ranges, though most do not rely on factory loads for 700+ yard shots.
Again, this conclusions and estimates are based solely on the factory loads we have examined here and strictly by the data that accompanied them. We do not doubt that you can take either of these cartridges and drive some nails with them.
Price & Availability
When comparing the price of a box of cartridges between the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06, we see that there is not much of a difference. The 7mm RM rounds might be a couple of dollars more expensive on average, but it comes down to the specific round you want. Both cartridges have their more affordable and more expensive options. Barring all of the other performance specs and since there is no significant difference in price, it might come down to which cartridge you can get your hands on with the least amount of headache.
While both of these cartridges are popular, the .30-06 is definitely more heavily used and thus, more available. You are going to be able to find 7mm Rem Mag rounds in just about any retail store that carries ammunition. Your options might be more limited in the exact round you are looking for, especially when compared to the .30-06, but with the internet at our disposal, you can get just about anything you are looking for with both of these cartridges.
|Ammunition||Price (20 Rounds)|
|7mm RM HSM Trophy Gold VLD Berger 168gr||$47.99|
|7mm RM Hornady Superformance SST 162gr||$32.29|
|7mm RM Federal Nosler Ballistic Tip Vital-Shok 150gr||$36.79|
|7mm RM Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range 168gr||$43.99|
|7mm RM Nosler Trophy Grade AccuBond 140gr||$58.00|
|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||$59.00|
|30-06 Federal Gold Medal 168gr||$37.99|
We have covered a lot of topics in this comparison and now we want to take all of that in and use it to discuss what application one of the cartridges, both of these cartridges, or neither of these cartridges might be useful. We have also included the average tables in this section for reference as go along.
As far as hunting goes, both of these cartridges are a great medium to large sized game rounds. For medium sized game, all ten rounds we looked at had well over 1,000ft.lb of force out to 500 yards, which is more than enough to drop medium sized game. They have the velocity and the stopping power that is needed and can easily cover the ranges often seen with shots in the field.
For large game, both of these cartridges have rounds that are more than sufficient at ranges up to 400 yards without a problem. If you are going for long range shots on big game, we would probably lean towards the 7mm RM rounds just because of the extra energy, but if you put a .30-06 in the kill zone, it’s still got the force to take care of business. As far as penetration goes, excluding bullet design, these cartridges are also very similar. There is the very slightest advantage for the 7mm Remington Magnum rounds when looking at the average sectional density. It also has slightly greater momentum and maintains bullet momentum at a higher rate than the .30-06 rounds when looking at the averages. Of course, with averages so close, you know that there is a lot of overlap between the two in these categories. We also think the flatter trajectory is important for hunting. While modern firearm optics are incredible, sometimes the time you need for detailed adjustments just are not there, and a flatter trajectory can help you out in these situations where you estimated distance is slightly off.
When we talk about long range shooting for competition both of these cartridges can get the job done. Keeping the discussion solely on factory loads, the 7mm Rem Mag has a higher ballistic coefficient, though there are .30-06 rounds out there that can match it, and they also maintain higher velocities and flatter trajectories. This is especially true out past the 500-yard mark. With this information, the 7mm Rem Mag might be more appealing to some. Recoil is slightly higher for most of the 7mm RM rounds when compared to the .30-06 rounds, but for competitive shooters, they are going to have enough support to soak up much of this recoil.
We also saw that the 7mm Remington Mag rounds averaged around 150 more yards of supersonic flight than the .30-06. This put the average 7mm RM round maintaining supersonic speeds out to nearly 1300 yards while the average .30-06 round only maintained supersonic flight out to 1050 yards. And as we pointed out in the accuracy section, this is great, but the truth is that factory loads from either of these rounds have limitations in other categories that make them difficult for 700+ yard shots. Within the ranges that most are able to be efficient with factory loads, both cartridges maintain supersonic speeds.
Before we wrap up, we want to pick, from our selected rounds, our favorite for hunting and target shooting for both the 7mm Rem Mag and .30-06 cartridges. We hope that we have made clear that this is by no means a comprehensive list of the available rounds available for each cartridge. Don’t get too upset if your favorite round is not on this list; there are plenty of great ammo options out there.
Top Hunting Round
For the 7mm Rem Mag rounds, we are big fans of the HSM Trophy Gold VLD Berger 168gr round. We think the 168gr bullet is a great weight for hunting purposes as it has a manageable recoil. It has one the best muzzle velocities and BCs of all the rounds we looked at so you have excellent downrange ballistics, including a flat trajectory. It doesn’t have the highest amount of energy associated with it, but with the excellent Berger VLD bullet and velocity, you get more than enough penetration and expansion to take medium to large game at common hunting ranges.
Our favorite .30-06 hunting round is the Hornady GMX Superformance 150gr. While it doesn’t have the following like some other rounds, its performance is spectacular in the field. It’s fast, flat, and has incredible stopping power. If you’re chasing after larger game, you might want to step up to a heavier bullet, but this 150gr has a greater force than a lot of other heavier factory loads. For deer, hogs, sheep, and some elk applications, this is a fantastic hunting round.
Top Target/Range Round
While the 7mm Rem Mag is considered more of a hunting cartridge, there is a place for it on the target range. If you have followed with the ballistic characteristics, it has the potential for some accurate, long range shooting even with the factory rounds. We specifically like the Hornady Superformance SST 162gr round. It has an MV of 3,030fps and has a high rate of retaining this velocity downrange. The velocity paired with the high BC (.55), as well as one of the flattest long range trajectories on our list, make it an excellent factory load to have on the range practicing or even using in more casual competition settings. It is also a very affordable 7mm RM round.
Our favorite range round for the .30-06 falls on the Federal 168gr Gold Medal Sierra Matchking. Like the .308 round, this bullet stays supersonic out to and past 500 yards. Though it will need some heavy adjustments out past this range, the long range trajectory is decent for a factory load. It also has a fantastic ballistic coefficient and can cut through nasty cross winds as well as any other factory load on the market.
Though both of these rounds are pretty impressive, you can see from our previous sections that to get the type of performance at ranges upwards of 1,000 yards and more, you are going to need to look at loading your own cartridges.
When looking at the 7mm Rem Mag vs .30-06, we find ourselves comparing two cartridges that are most often utilized in the same shooting situations. From our look at this topic, we hope that we have taken an unbiased look at some of the properties for both cartridges and provided you with more solid information that can help you make your decision.
We didn’t set out to make claims over which cartridge is the best. We, like many of you, understand that at times looking at each individual round makes more sense, but when setting out to pick a rifle chambered for a certain cartridge, comparisons such as this are important. What we can tell you from personal experience is that whichever cartridge you choose to go with, both can be highly effective with a little practice and a little confidence.
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.