The Best .30-06 Rifles Available Today : 2018 Buyer’s Guide

Best .30-06 Rifle - Featured Image

The big game cartridge known as the .30-06 hasn’t always been just a game cartridge. The 1906 introduction of the cartridge was specifically geared towards the military use spectrum. It was quite effective for the use. It stayed on as an American classic, capable of taking most of the game in North America because of its versatility.

Partially because of the recoil profile (it’s mild compared to Magnum cartridges and yet, still performs admirably on larger game); and partially because of the large number of weapons and ammunition available, that was just varied enough to make something that everyone could get behind for their specific use.

The .30-06 is one of the most versatile large rifle cartridges on the planet (it’s technically not a “large” rifle cartridge) – we will touch on that later.

Finding the best .30-06 rifle is relatively easy as the gun has a pretty strict set of parameters it operates under. What isn’t so easy for us in this article, is to help you determine your best use case scenario – you will have to do that to make sure you are getting the best recommendation. Once you understand what you plan to use the .30-06 Springfield rifle for, we are confident that you can find a “best .30-06 rifle” for your needs – as there are plenty out there still and they are all viable given the right situations.

Best .30-06 Rifle Comparison

Rifle

Weight (lbs)

Capacity

Barrel length

Length

7.39

4+1

20.5"

41.5"

8

4+1

20"

42.2"

7.25

4+1

22"

49"

6.75

5+1

22"

42.75"

7.5

5+1

24"

44.5"

7.12

4+1

22"

42.75"

7.25

4+1

22"

43"

7.5

4+1

22"

43"

8.2

5+1

24"

44.7"

5.29

1

19.6"

32"

5.25

4+1

24"

43.75"

CZ-USA 557 Sporter

CZ-USA CZ 557 Sporter

The CZ 557 is an excellent rifle and well built to accommodate the needs of the modern .30-06 shooter. It is, once you calculate the price into the overall equation, among the more balanced guns on the market, given its capabilities, accuracy, the fit and finish of the gun and the classic styling.

The quality of materials used for the money offers a significant value with the opportunity to customize the gun as much as most .30-06 rifles which only rely on robust general accessory aftermarkets, and not specialized markets like the AR-15 or other modern sporting rifles.

Pros:

  • Quality that is unmatched at the price point from the domestic rifles

Cons:

  • No real CONS

This is best for:

Those who want the best value for the money. This means you are getting precision; fit and finish, true quality materials and build without sacrificing to hit a specific price point.

Ruger Guide Gun Bolt-Action Rifle

Ruger Guide Gun Bolt-Action Rifles

It’s a slightly heavy gun, but the performance because of the build quality and attention to detail in selecting materials and finishes makes it a heavyweight contender as the best .30-06 rifle on the market currently. The accuracy and precision are above average but the real story on this rifle is the weatherability and the ease of use in the field, despite the heavier weight build.

The stout build also contributes to the capabilities of the rifle. If you are going to be hard on your guns, this is an optimized choice for you.

Pros:

  • Laminate stock for strength and durability
  • Matte Stainless-steel action and barrel
  • Weather proofing and durability built in
  • Good recoil reduction planning

Cons:

  • Starting to get pricey

This is best for:

Those who need the ultimate in versatility for a frequently used field gun.

Remington Model 783 Bolt-Action Rifle

Remington Model 783 Bolt-Action Rifle

This is the entry level .30-06 and in a crowded field, it is actually quite a good value for those just wading into the market or wanting to stick to a strict budget. This is a fantastic entry level value and the compromises are minimal. You get a slightly lesser fit and finish level and a slightly less accurate gun, but most of it is negligible in the field, where both aspects can easily be re-compensated for, though good ammunition choice and a bit of elbow grease.

The included scope is also entry level but will drastically improve most new shooter’s performance on game animals under normal conditions over iron sights, without costing anything extra.

Pros:

  • Out of the box readiness for hunting
  • A fixed cost for the basic gun and optic
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Not the highest quality in this list

This is best for:

People who need the lowest cost of entry with the versatility of the .30-06 cartridge.

Browning X-Bolt Stainless Stalker Bolt-Action Rifle

Browning X-Bolt Stainless Stalker Bolt-Action Rifle

Given the spartan build weight, you get a lot for the money and the weatherability and ease of implementation make this an obvious choice for the hunter who is walking a lot on uneven terrain who still needs top tier performance and accuracy. The Browning bolt guns are legendary for harmonizing lower weight profiles with premium accuracy and capability.

This is a very good choice for those who need premium weather durability and long-range accuracy without the heavy weight of other competitors.

Pros:

  • Stainless steel and composite stock build
  • Great weight and balance without the heavy recoil usually associated with lighter weight builds

Cons:

  • No real CONS

This is best for:

Hunters who need lightweight firepower that can handle bad weather.

Weatherby Vanguard 2 Synthetic Bolt Action Rifle

Weatherby Vanguard 2 Synthetic Bolt Action Rifle

This is the bargain Weatherby, and interestingly it’s not a Weatheby Magnum of any sort. Instead, of grabbing a top end Weatherby with a proprietary cartridge, you can get the same attention to detail and high end craftmanship I the more budget, more versatile composite stock Vanguard 2 synthetic Bolt action rifle. This 24” barrel Weatherby isn’t the classic looks of a Weatherby hunting rifle, but it does offer the workmanship and the innovative design features like the overbuilt bolt, and the sub MOA guarantee. This is a great gun for the money, considering the accuracy and build quality.

Pros:

  • Fit and finish are very high end for the money
  • Great weight and balance without the heavy recoil usually associated with lighter weight builds

Cons:

  • No real CONS

This is best for:

Those who have coveted a Weatherby but just cannot rationalize a pricier model.

Browning AB3 Hunter Bolt Action Rifle

​Browning AB3 Hunter

For the money you will spend on this rifle, you are getting more from it than you will from others at the same price point. With the possible exception of the earlier mentioned CZ bolt action rifle, this is among the best harmony of the guns on this list once you factor in the price point. Browning will also occasionally run a $100 off rebate for their guns as well – making this a ridiculously good value for a shooter that wants to be in the Browning game, without spending twice what a Remington base model costs (or more).

Pros:

  • Low price point for Browning quality without a ton of corners being cut
  • Still relatively lightweight

Cons:

  • Not Browning’s best offering

This is best for:

Hunters who want into the Browning ecosystem while paying half price.

Browning BLR Lightweight Rifle

Browning BLR Lightweight Rifle

For bear country where fast follow up shots can be needed, this is the go-to .30-06 in our opinion, where you can reliably expect performance in a fast, time restrictive environment like when an angry animal has surprised you. In all reality, you will need to factor more than just fast follow up shots to be confident in a situation like that.

But this gun will get you the similar accuracy, performance and fit and finish as most of the guns on this list with less off-target mechanical action needed by the shooter to get to a second shot.

Pros:

  • Proven lever action design
  • Browning quality
  • Fast follow up shots

Cons:

  • The lever guns are not as accurate as some bolt guns

This is best for:

Hunters who need the fast follow up shots and want a top-quality build.

Browning BAR Mark II Safari Rifle

Browning BAR Mark II Safari Rifle

A classy, refined approach to the modern semi-automatic hunting rifle, the Browning BAR Mark II is a classic choice with modern engineering and a robust build quality. It is unmatchable for the reliability in the larger, typically bolt-action cartridges. It is also one of only a handful of makers who focus still on building these guns – part of the reason is that Browning simply outperforms most competitors by a wide margin.

You will probably wonder why you see a few Browning rifles on this list and all will likely be the BAR – it’s not because we are fanboys, it’s because they are that good, and when you want the best, the best sometimes all come from a given maker because they are specializing in those segments.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous finishing on the firearm
  • Top quality materials
  • An all-in design that doesn’t disappoint for hunting

Cons:

  • Slightly pricey

This is best for:

The hunter who wants one of the most versatile guns on the planet for big game. Given the right ammunition or handloads, this is capable of taking a massive range of animals.

Winchester Model 70 Super Grade Centerfire Rifle

Winchester Model 70 Super Grade Centerfire Rifle

This is a legacy rifle you’ll want to pass onto the next generation with the beautiful build quality and the proven design the AAA grade maple stock gives a great juxtaposition of colors and textures onto the deftly finished action and barrel. The mechanical attributes of the rifle are beyond reproach for the .30-06 Caliber.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous stock and checkering make this a presentation piece as much as a hunting rifle
  • Proven action design

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • This rifle may be too “delicate” for some hunters

This is best for:

Those who recognize the benefit of the Winchester pre-64 action style and want a top tier finish on a legacy gun.

Merkel K3 Stutzen Single-Shot Rifle

Merkel K3 Stutzen Single-Shot Rifle

You don’t’ buy a Merkel because it’s the best fit for your hunt. Maybe back in the day in Germany or Austria on an alpine hunt where you pulled a once of a lifetime ticket from the lottery you might have, but you don’t do that now. There are plenty of showstopping rifles for half the price. There are thousands of cheaper guns even a majority of which are 1/5th the price or less, that are well suited to the exact type of use case that this Merkel Rifle is. No, you don’t buy a Merkel because it’s the best fit for you hunt, you buy it because it is completely handmade and tailored to you. You buy a Merkel because it will be in your family for generations.

Pros:

  • A work of Art
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Top quality
  • Comes with a Swarovski Scope
  • Fit and finish that is virtually unmatched
  • Compact

Cons:

  • It costs more money than some shooter’s cars

This is best for:

Those who can afford frivolity but understand the masterpiece that is a Merkel rifle and will actually use it in the field. Those who want to leave a hunting legacy to their family that has a custom feel to it.

​Kimber Mountain Ascent Bolt-Action Rifles

Kimber Mountain Ascent Bolt-Action Rifle

The Kimber is a factory “custom” essentially, offering the types of perks you wouldn’t normally get at the factory but at a slightly reduced price (the price is still premium level), and without the long wait times for a custom builder to get you one. The Kimber reliability and factory backing are also important. Any real issue will already be ironed out and the warranty and customer service will be better than most custom gunsmith’s offering similar build quality.

Pros:

  • Unmatched firepower in a hunting rifle considering the weight of the gun
  • Great camouflage finishes for a variety of terrains
  • Recoil reducing muzzle brake
  • Match grade barrel from factory

Cons:

  • Expensive

This is best for:

Those who hunt deep into the woods walking; who need the ultimate lightweight rifle and who are counting ounces on their gear.

General Information about the .30-06 

The cartridge was designed in 1906 to compete with the changes in engineering that the European infantry cartridges were undergoing at the time. This was an exercise in reducing infantry weight carried, not needing such long-range ammunition and wanting an overall lighter weight experience in general from ballistics to soldier carrying weight.

The United States opted out of the Western European offerings, and the .30-06 was adopted for use and guns modified to allow for it. It was later to be implemented in new firearm development until the 1980s roughly, in the military eco-system. In the 1950’s it was replaced in a major way by the .308 Winchester cartridge for most of what was used on a day to day basis in conflict for the U.S. Military. It wasn’t for another 30 years though, that it went out of the military arsenal completely

The original round was plagued with overstatement of the characteristics and performance of the projectile, which was later improved upon with the M1 load in 1926, which aided in improved accuracy and a more realistic effective range. The .30-06 was never bad, it’s just was an aggressively marketed product that needed no marketing after adaption into the military, but still got it.

Some of the more famous guns in the U.S. military landscape have been chambered in the .30-06 Springfield, including the following:

  • M1903 Springfield Rifle
  • M1917; M1918 and M1919 Browning Automatic rifles – some of the most famous machine guns in history
  • For 5 years roughly, the Army converted a lot of their Gatling guns to .30-06 Springfield (1906-1911)
  • M1 Garand
  • M1917 Enfield rifles
  • The M1941 Johnson’s

The changes in battlefield technology and the increasing desire to move away from hand to hand and shorter distance soldier on soldier conflicts to preserve more life and improve the effectiveness of money spent and tactics implemented, made the .30-06 a bit obsolete in the military setting.

With the 5.56x45mm and the .308 offering ballistics more well suited to the style of fighting the U.S. Military was engaged in, as warfare fighting techniques evolved over the past half century, the .30-06 just wasn’t needed as it once was. The smaller, lighter cartridges made more sense for more modern conflicts and offered more carrying capacity than the .30-06 for engagements where the military actually wanted to see shorter range soldier led strikes instead of deep intelligence gathering and airstrike driven conflict.

When finally replaced by the .308 Winchester, there was a large surplus stock of ammunition in the United States, which partially contributed to the large marketability of the rifle. Adding to that, the versatility of the round to be used for any number of game animals from very small to very large, depending on the load, made the .30-06 easily one of the most versatile cartridges in American history for hunting and general use.

The extreme versatility of the .30-06 Rifle

Because of the market for the .30 caliber projectile has been such an interesting concept to the American sport shooter (in part because of the robust .30-06 surplus market), there are myriad combinations of projectiles, propellants and loads available for anything from varmint hunting to the largest game in North America.

While it is certain capable of taking bear, moose, elk, large hogs and other animals in the size extremes, it isn’t perfect for everything. Just because a specific cartridge CAN kill something, doesn’t mean it is the best option. That said, there are many reasons why hunters and shooters still pick the .30-06 as a premium rifle platform for many tasks. One of these reasons is that the recoil is relatively mild in relative comparison to the other rounds it competes with ballistically.

It is also able to be handloaded to extreme ends of the size and grain weight scales, meaning that you can get excellent performance at the light and the heavy end of the spectrum.

This allows hunters to not have to buy multiple calibers, but instead to focus on modifying their loads to suit the task at hand, specifically regarding hunting uses.

A “saboted” 55 grain projectile can easily be loaded into a .30.06 Springfield to take out varmints, coyotes and smaller predators and other varmint game at extreme distances. It should be noted that even with a small grain bullet weight it can be significantly overpowered for most animals on the smaller size.

On the other end of the spectrum, a 220 grain bullet is also not unheard of (some other heavier weights can still be had with custom load workups – through to about 250-260 grain weights), which allows you to buildout a competent bear or large game gun under specific conditions. Why buy 3-4 guns when you can have one and outfit it right with ammunition and handloads? Many hunters and sport shooters have settled that question by buying a .30-06 rifle.

The sweet spot for the .30-06 Springfield is between 150 and 180 grains or so, with this range offering a legitimate solution to the most popular large game targets on the North American continent. With a 150 grain or similar load, deer are a perfect target; without too much meat destruction due to “overkill”. In 180 grains taking the heaviest caribou, moose, ram, elk and other larger game is a relatively simple practice.

Given the massive improvements in bullet engineering and propellent technologies in the past 35 years means your standard .30-06 Springfield round today is significantly hotter and more capable than the best of the previous 2-3 decades. You can reasonably expect to achieve moderate Magnum ballistics out of a run-of-the-mill factory .30-06 cartridge, compared to the magnums of the last two decades.

The .30-06 Springfield is perhaps a contender, because of all of its versatility, with the .300 Winchester Magnum on the short side of the spectrum as the most versatile cartridge in history for American sport shooters and hunters. The only other mainstream cartridge that offers the same kind of versatility is the .45-70 Government load, which is still a bit too far on the other side of the performance spectrum (heavier recoil profile and not as fast but offering better good gun use and powerful energy profiles).

For those who need the ultimate in versatility and impressive ballistics with only moderate recoil, the .30-06 Springfield is a legitimate choice. We have compiled what we believe, are the best .30-06 rifle contenders for you below. We believe we have included a good cross section, which, if it seems heavily weighted in the bolt action platform, don’t be too bothered, because it’s a truly spectacular hunting experience out of the guns that use a bolt.  

Our final thoughts

With this list of the best .30-06 rifle candidates, we feel confident that you will be able to find your next .30-06 rifle and get exactly what you want in a gun that utilizes the incredibly versatile, proven .30-06 Springfield cartridge, capable of taking any game on the North American Continent. That goes for its versatility abroad as well: the .30-06 is capable of taking almost all intermediate game in the world and many large game species, with the possible exception of some of the extremely heavy game and dangerous game animals in Africa.

The versatility and the easy to understand builds that are on this list give you a good set of options, but it will be up to you to determine what you actually want to use the gun for, on a regular basis. That information will be helpful in utilizing this list. We hope you will look at the list twice: once while reading and once after, to see if you can get a better feel for your desired attributes and needed specifications which will help this list to direct you to a capable and top-quality rifle on the .30-06 platform.

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