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Best .30-06 Ammo: Feeding the Warhorse

The .30-06 Springfield is well past its 100th birthday, and while there are plenty of younger, faster cartridges on the market, this centenarian is just as popular as ever. 

Advancements in ammo technology and production (and a healthy dose of nostalgia) have kept this cartridge not only relevant but also a top option for big game hunters and long-range shooters. 

Benefiting from better propellants, primers, and cutting-edge projectiles, today’s .30-06 loads cruise faster, fly straighter, and hit harder than anything available even a decade ago. 

If you think the .30-06 is little more than an outdated warhorse, you couldn’t be more wrong. Feed your rifle any one of these top-notch factory loads, and you’ll see just how well the old racehorse still runs. 

BEST .30-06 AMMO FOR HUNTING

Federal Premium Nosler Partition

John Nosler revolutionized big game loads with the invention of his famous Partition bullet. Legend has it that in the fall of 1946, Nosler had a perfect shot on a large Canadian bull moose. Despite flawless shot placement, the bull refused to go down. So John started tinkering, searching for a bullet design that would perform reliably, no matter how big, burly, mud-caked, and stubborn the target might be.

Federal Premium Nosler Partition 180gr
Federal Premium Nosler Partition

The result of his tinkering was the Nosler Partition, a dual-core bullet with a monolithic partition. The front lead core is designed to expand violently upon impact, while the partition preserves the rear core to retain weight and drive deep through soft tissue. 

The Nosler Partition was the first bullet to appear in the Federal Premium line, so these loads are basically the original gangstas. If you’re hunting big game with deep set vitals, like massive bull elk, moose, or large African game, this load works like magic.

Sierra GameChanger

While Sierra is best known for its tack-driving MatchKing bullet design, the company brings the same show-stopping consistency to its factory hunting loads. 

Sierra GameChanger
Sierra GameChanger

Perfect for pursuing game from Alaska to Africa, these stellar .30-06 loads feature Sierra’s Tipped GameKing bullet. GameKing features the same boat tail design as their famous MathKing, only this version also has a polymer tip seated inside a top-notch copper-jacketed hollow point. 

The polymer tip increases the bullet’s aerodynamic performance, but it also drives rearward upon target impact to initiate violent expansion in soft tissue. It isn’t every day you find a load that offers match-grade accuracy from a deep-penetrating, expanding bullet, but Sierra GameKing definitely delivers.

Buffalo Bore Supercharged TTSX

Buffalo Bore Supercharged TTSX .30-06 loads are designed to drop everything from pronghorn to water buffalo. Topped with a monolithic Barnes TTSX bullet, the Supercharged line is loaded hot. 

Leaving the muzzle at a blistering 3288 fps, TTSX delivers double-diameter expansion and up to 30 inches of penetration. If you want a bullet that can smash through a thick shoulder and still carve a massive wound channel on the other side, the TTSX comes in clutch. 

Buffalo Bore Supercharged TTSX

These things will easily blow straight through a whitetail. Still, they also do a number on larger game and deliver better terminal ballistics at ranges farther than the average hunter has any business shooting. 

Remington Core-Lokt

More venison has made it onto family dinner plates thanks to Remington Core-Lokt than probably any other hunting load in history. Although this might be the loads your Granddad fed his .30-06 deer rifle, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with loading it in yours. As Granddad used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” These loads are putting just as much meat on the table today as they did three or four generations ago.

Remington claims Core-Lokt is the “original controlled expansion bullet.” It is a basic, affordable design that features a thin copper jacket, “locked” to a softer lead core. No bells. No whistles. Just simplicity that’s about as reliable as spring rain.

Sure, you can spring for more expensive, “cutting-edge” designs that boast better weight retention or tack-driving long-range accuracy. However, at the end of the day, if you want a deer on the back of the tailgate, these loads have more than proven their ability to put them there.

Hornady Custom Lite

The .30-06 isn’t exactly famous for being a mild-recoiling cartridge. It can be a mule-kicker, especially in a lightweight rifle. While it’s easy to tell a recoil-sensitive shooter to either suck it up or opt for a milder cartridge, sometimes the shooting world isn’t quite so black and white.

What if you want to take your preteen daughter deer hunting but don’t have the money to invest in a whole new rifle? 

Do you think a seasoned hunter wants to give up his pride and joy when his shoulders start to weaken with age?

If you want to hold onto your favorite rifle but wish it wasn’t quite so brutal to shoot, Hornady Custom Lite is the answer to your prayers. 

Custom Lite is formulated to reduce both recoil and muzzle blast. It shoots a lighter 125-grain bullet at a milder velocity (2700 fps). Topped with Hornady’s signature SST bullets, these loads offer excellent terminal performance with enough energy to drop whitetails out to 250 yards humanely. 

BEST .30-06 AMMO FOR TARGET SHOOTING

Despite its age (and the introduction of hotter, flatter-shooting cartridges), the .30-06 is still a serious long-range performer. It wouldn’t be our first choice for long range target shooting, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do it.

Barnes Precision Match 

While the best long-range load will always be a handload, Barnes Precision Match loads are some of the most consistent factory loads to ever run through a chronograph.

These loads feature Barnes premium OTM-BT projectiles (open tip match boat tail), which are high-BC bullets that provide excellent in-flight stability. When loaded in a high-quality rifle held by a highly skilled shooter, these loads can deliver keyhole accuracy on long-range targets. 

Black Hills Gold

Black Hills Gold .30-06 loads may come in a plain old boring black box, but nothing is boring about these target loads. 

Handcrafted from top-of-the-line components, Black Hills puts every round through the wringer with one of the most stringent back-end inspection processes in the industry. Consistency is the company’s top production priority, which translates to unprecedented consistency in the field. 

FEEDING YOUR M1 GARAND

The M1 Garand is one of the most recognizable .30-06 rifles on the planet. Like the cartridge itself, the M1 remains insanely popular, despite being relatively long in the tooth. 

Although these rifles are definitely burly war beasts, they were designed for old-school .30-06 loads. You have to be careful running modern factory loads through these old warhorses. They aren’t built to handle the intense pressure spikes of hot, modern aught six loads. 

Although the subject of modern pressures and old-school Garands is up for debate, it’s probably best to play things on the safe side. Look for options that are explicitly rated for these classic rifles.

Federal American Eagle for M1 Garand

The Federal American Eagle line has been a favorite of American shooters for decades. This made-in-the-USA ammo is consistent, reliable, and priced for the working man. Thankfully, they have a .30-06 load engineered specifically for your M1 Garand

These loads are easy to spot because they have a picture of the old warhorse right on the front of the box.

Producing a slightly milder muzzle velocity (2740 fps) than the standard American Eagle .30-06 loads (2910 fps), this version is designed to protect older rifles from today’s hotter pressures. 

Hornady Vintage Match

Hornady Vintage Match is engineered to “replicate the original military performance specifications unique to many vintage rifles.” However, you shouldn’t let that tagline convince you that these are your Grandad’s .30-06 rounds. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

While Hornady Vintage Match might be loaded to lower pressures to protect your hand-me-down Garand, that’s where the comparison stops. Hornady brings these loads well into the 21st century by using low drag, high BC bullets. 

Hornady’s Match bullets feature their exclusive AMP (Advanced Manufacturing Process) jackets with almost zero variation in wall thickness. They also feature a precision swaged core and are made to some of the tightest tolerances in the industry. 

If you want handloaded precision from a factory load, this is about as close as you can get. 

LOOSE ROUNDS

Although the .30-06 Springfield has been around the block more than a time or two, this outstanding cartridge is far from worn out. It remains a versatile, well-balanced, and affordable option for putting food in the freezer or flexing your long-range shooting muscle. 

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