|Middleton Tompkins 1958|
|Middleton Tompkins 1963 Highpower Bolt Gun Champion |
with Service Rifle Champion Kruk.
That long-ago summer day at Camp Perry changed NRA Highpower shooting forever; over fifty years of unchallenged .30-06 domination quickly came to an end. Eventually, in the mid 1980's, the NRA would drop the .30 caliber requirement altogether for across-the-course shooting, opening the door to the sub-caliber gamesmanship approach to Highpower. Those who adopted that view shifted from the .308 to the 7mm, 6.5 mm and 6 mm cartridges and began to dominate the top of the results sheets. The final slap in the face to us .30-06 shooters came a few years later when the NRA dropped the .30-06 as an eligible cartridge for Palma shooting. I shoot with Mid frequently and often jokingly remind him that the whole sub-caliber craze is his fault!
|Middleton Tompkins and German Salazar - April 1, 2011|
|Gilkes actions in .308 and .30-06 Match Rifles|
|Eliseo CSS Tubeguns with Borden actions - .308 and .30-06|
|Gilkes 6XC and BAT 6XC|
In NRA Mid-Range matches (500 and 600 yards), the average score and percentage of possible score for each cartridge was as follows:
.308 - 597-36X (99.5%) 960 rounds fired
6XC - 596-35X (99.3%) 1260 rounds fired
.30-06 - 595-31X (99.2%) 2580 rounds fired
Interestingly, the high X count (44X) was reached with all three cartridges. During the time period under review, I shot three scores of 600 with the .308, one 600 with the 6XC and none with the .30-06. Over the years I've shot 23 scores of 600, but only one was with a .30-06 and that was about 15 years ago.
If we look at the score averages, the .308 comes out on top at the Mid-Range distances. The average for the .308 is composed of a smaller number of scores because I tend to shoot the .30-06 more often, but I think it's a large enough sample to be reasonably accurate so the Mid-Range win goes to the .308 by 0.3% of the possible score. By the way, notice the the 6XC, as good as it is, simply straddles the .30 caliber cartridges, it is not the winner - that may surprise some people. When you factor in the shorter barrel life of a 6XC compared to the .30's, that becomes something to really consider when selecting a cartridge for Mid-Range matches.
I rarely shoot the .308 in matches that are only 1000 yards; most of my 1000 yard .308 shooting is done in Palma matches which include 800, 900 and 1000 yards. As most of you know, the .30-06 and 6XC can't be used in Palma matches. This creates a small difficulty in score comparisons because Palma matches have 15 shot stages and 1000 yard matches have 20 shot stages. To make the comparison useful, the Long-Range results are presented only as a percentage of the possible score and the 800 and 900 yard stages of Palma matches were not included in the comparison (although they are shown in the charts, they were not used in calculating the averages).
In NRA Long-Range and Palma matches, the average percentage of possible score for each cartridge at 1000 yards was as follows:
6XC - 98.9%, 360 rounds fired
.30-06 - 97.7%, 460 rounds fired
.308 - 97.3%, 490 rounds fired
As you can see, the .308 went from the top of the list at Mid-Range to the bottom at Long-Range. This isn't too surprising when one considers its limited case capacity for the bullet weights typically used in Long-Range shooting. They just run out of steam and dip perilously close to the transonic range as they approach 1000 yards of flight (see this earlier article for more information on transonic problems). The extra 150 fps or so that can be safely obtained from the .30-06 case really pays off at 1000 yards. Unsurprisingly, the 6XC which moves light, high BC bullets at an even higher MV than either of the .30's comes out on top. I used the 6XC to win the Arizona Long-Range State Championship a few years ago and remain confident that it is a top choice for NRA Long-Range competition.
A Few Concluding Thoughts
So how much do these differences matter? It depends a bit on your level of shooting. Many of the Mid-Range matches shown in the charts were won or lost by a point, plenty more came down to the X count. When you're fighting for the overall win at 500 or 600 yards, every point and every X makes a difference. However, all three cartridges are remarkably close; I believe this reflects the fact that ballistics are relatively less important than pure shooter skill in Mid-Range shooting. With the same shooter behind the buttplate for all three cartridges, the results are predictably close. As the charts show, I shoot the .30-06 a lot more than the other cartridges, the simple reason is that the extra challenge of doing it with the .30-06 makes the wins all the sweeter, so I keep at it.
In the Long-Range matches, the spread between the cartridges is a little bigger, reflecting the increased importance of ballistics when the range gets stretched to the maximum. So even with the same shooter firing all the rifles, the differences become more pronounced. Many modern-day competitors look down on the .30-06 as a long range cartridge, but I'll definitely say that if you want a good shooting cartridge with excellent barrel life and a huge choice of components, you can't do much better than the .30-06 for all around use.
The Logical .30-06
Accuracy Secrets of the .30-06 - Part 1
US National Match Ammunition
For more related articles, please go to the Articles Index
|Franklin Roosevelt shooting a 1903 Springfield at the Marine Corps range - 1917|