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As a relative newcomer to the shooting/hunting world, I am looking to buy my first big game rifle. Now, I know what rifle I want, just not what caliber to get it in.

The two calibers that I am left with after reading up on the subject are .308 and .30-06. So, what are their relative advantages?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

.30-06 is a much more powerful round with flatter trajectory and greater impact energy. That said, for shots on mid-sized game (like deer) at ranges out to 300 yards, it makes no difference which of those two rounds you use, only that your shot is accurate. Both rounds are plenty powerful enough for those common hunting scenarios. For long range shots or very large game (large bears, elk, African game, etc.) .30-06 is a much better round. Being a good marksman and only taking responsible shots (that you know will kill instantly with one shot) is by far the most important thing.

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I personally don't think there's that much difference between the 2 calibers, they both use similar weight bullets. I'd use either on most game in North America. So I'd approach it from this angle, what caliber ammo can I find readily available in your area?

Now if you're talking primarily very large game such as bear, moose, bison, etc. I'd probably go bigger such as the larger 30 calibers (338, 375, etc) or into the 40 caliber rounds.

If you're basically talking deer, elk, hogs, either of those rounds are fine.

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Both .308 and 30-06 can chamber from 125 to 180 grains. That is where the .308 stops. The 30-06 can go up to 220 grains. Therefore, with the 220 grain 30-06 you can take heavier and larger game such as elk, moose, black bear and though considered minimum at 220 a brown bear. The benefit to you is one rifle is more versatile with 30-06.

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The two rounds are essentially the same. To a newcomer, the differences are not going to matter.

If you are picking between these two calibers of the same model rifle, I would just get whichever has cheaper ammunition.

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Although it might not make a difference for a newcomer, it would be great if you could elaborate on what the differences are and what effects they would have. – Benedikt Bauer Nov 2 '13 at 17:48

I have owned, reloaded, and hunted with both 30 caliber rounds and have to say that they are both very effective and capable for almost all hunting applications. The first comparison I can offer is felt recoil, the 3006 is a little bit more than 308 in this area. So For new shooters still getting use to shooting with a scoped rifle 308 will probably be the best option. Secondly I have to mention the cost factor. In today's market 3006 is primarily sold for hunting purposes only, this is not the case with 308 win,there is a large variety of military surplus ammo cheep and plentiful. This cost advantage gives you the benifits of being able to shoot more ammo, so more practice is being done at the range. The 308 cartridge operates at a lower barrel pressure so a typical barrel 308 can last 5000 rounds before accuracy decline is noticeable, where as a 3006 is typically half that ammount. 308 win has a good balistic coefficient so it is accurate and stable bullet. If you reload for 308 or 3006 the options of bullet types and powders avaliable are rediculous. Either round is very good and will serve you well but I think 308 is the best option for almost any thing you can use it for.

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