The legendary .30-06 Springfield has been one of the most popular centerfire rifle cartridges among North American hunters for over a century. Here are a few of the best 30-06 ammo options that will serve you very well on your next hunt.
First adopted by the United States Army at the beginning of the 20th Century, the .30-06 Springfield also quickly became a favorite among hunters soon after it was released. Providing a good balance of power, accuracy, a relatively flat trajectory, manageable recoil, and plenty of killing power on medium and big game, the .30-06 is still getting it done afield well into the 21st Century.
Even lost of other outstanding cartridges like the .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, and the .300 Winchester Magnum have hit the market in the intervening years, the .30-06 Springfield remains a favorite to this day and still consistently ranks among the Top 10 (possibly Top 5) best selling centerfire rifle cartridges in the United States each year.
Not surprisingly, virtually every single major ammunition manufacturer like Barnes, Browning, Buffalo Bore, Fiocchi, Federal Premium, Hornady, HSM, Norma, Nosler, Remington, Sellier & Bellot, Sierra, Swift, and Winchester produces several different variants of .30-06 ammo for hunting deer, elk, moose, bear, and many other big game animals.
While the .30-06 Springfield absolutely excels on deer sized game, it is also an incredibly effective cartridge for use hunting bigger game like elk and even moose when using heavy for caliber, premium ammunition loaded with controlled expansion bullets.
It’s important to realize that different hunting situations necessitate the use of different kinds of .30-06 ammo for best results and using the wrong ammunition can lead to disastrous performance.
For instance, a mild recoiling load that’s ideal for use on whitetail deer at short range would be a terrible choice for use on really big game like moose or elk.
Make no mistake, the .30-06 Springfield can be an extremely effective cartridge for hunting elk and even moose, but you do need to use proper bullets if you plan on using the .30-06 for elk.
Fortunately, hunters now have access to a great selection of controlled expansion bullets that perform very well on really big game like elk and moose.
Lightweight 125 grain and 150-grain bullets are great for deer hunting, but hunters who use those lighter bullets on larger game will very likely experience issues with poor penetration, especially on steeply quartering shots. For this reason, I strongly recommend using premium quality controlled expansion bullets that are 170 grains or heavier (ideally 175-180 grain bullets) if you plan on using the .30-06 for hunting really big game like moose and elk.
Keep all of this in mind when you select .30-06 ammo for an upcoming hunt.
Additionally, while they can be very accurate and are certainly capable of killing big game animals, I don’t recommend using bullets designed for target shooting or marketed as match ammo like the Sierra MatchKing or Hornady A-Max and ELD Match for hunting.
This is because target or match bullets usually aren’t designed for optimum terminal performance on big game animals and you may run into issues with poor penetration.
By the same token, it’s a really bad idea (and often illegal) to hunt with full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets. FMJ ammo (especially Greek or Lake City surplus ammo that’s still floating around out there) is usually very inexpensive and is great for plinking or target shooting. Just don’t hunt with that stuff.
Instead, it’s best to stick with .30-06 ammo specifically designed for hunting that uses soft point, jacketed hollow point, or similar hunting bullets.
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of .30-06 factory loads specifically designed for just almost any big game hunting situation. So, regardless of whether you’re using a bolt action Remington Model 700, a Ruger Hawkeye, a Savage Axis, a Winchester Model 70, or some other hunting rifle, there is pretty much guaranteed to be something for everyone on the list below of the best .30-06 ammunition for hunting.
In this article, I’m going to provide recommendations for the best .30-06 ammo for hunting elk, deer, feral hogs, pronghorn, black bear, moose, and all sorts of other big game. I’ll also go over the strengths and weaknesses of each individual load and so you can select the right ammunition for your specific needs.
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Additionally, I do not recommend using any of this ammunition in a M-1 Garand.
If you’re a “meat and potatoes” kind of hunter who wants some dependable and reasonably priced .30-06 ammo for hunting deer, elk, feral hogs, and black bear, then the Remington’s 180 grain Core Lokt soft point will probably work really well for you.
It’s not the latest and greatest stuff by any means. However, the Core Lokt bullet has been around for a long time and countless hunters have successfully used this ammo to take just about every species of big game in North America.
One of those bullets through the vitals of a black bear, elk, deer, or pronghorn will make for a very short tracking job. They don’t call it the “deadliest mushroom in the woods” for nothing.
That said, I don’t think this is the best choice of a hunting round for use on bigger game like elk or moose, especially really big bulls. The Federal .30-06 Springfield load using 180gr Nosler Partition I previously mentioned is my #1 recommendation for elk and moose.
However, Rem Core Lokt will absolutely work in that role and lots of elk and moose hunters use this ammunition successfully each year, especially on immature bulls or cow elk. This ammo is also cheaper and often more widely available than that Federal Load with the Partition.
Indeed, this ammunition has one of the lowest costs per round out of all the .30-06 ammo on this list. If you’re on a strict budget and can’t afford premium ammunition, then I’d suggest using the 180 grain Remington Core Lokt load above any of the other “budget” .30-06 ammo options.
- Bullet Type: Core-Lokt Soft Point (PSP)
- Bullet Weight: 180 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .383
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 feet per second
The .30-06 Springfield has a long and distinguished history of use for precision shooting at long range. It should come as no surprise then that Hornady includes the .30-06 in their Precision Hunter line of factory ammo.
Loaded with the extremely aerodynamic Extremely Low Drag eXpanding (ELD-X) bullet, this ammo line is designed for western hunters going after game like mule deer or pronghorn antelope who need the very best ammo for a long range hunting situation. Using a 178 grain ELD-X bullet, that load is a very good .30-06 ammo option for hunters looking to squeeze every bit of long range performance out of the cartridge.
Hornady advertises that the ELD-X bullet has the best-in-class ballistic coefficients over their entire trajectory and that their Precision Hunter ammunition also offers match grade accuracy (usually sub-MOA).
Though the ELD-X does not have a bonded core like the Hornady InterBond, the ELD-X does feature a thicker jacket and the Hornady InterLock ring to help increase weight retention, control expansion, and minimize the chances of core-jacket separation. For this reason, the ELD-X is still devastating on deer and pronghorn sized game, but it’s also a much better choice than their SST bullet for use on larger game.
That said, the ELD-X is still a little too fragile for my tastes. Many hunters use this exact ammunition on elk each year with a lot of success. Personally, I prefer a tougher bullet for elk sized game (like the Terminal Ascent also on this list). I think the ELD-X is perfect for deer sized game though.
Take all that for what you will.
Any way you slice it, this .30-06 ammunition is capable of delivering great terminal performance on a wide range of big game for shots at 400+ yards without dealing with the price or recoil of the big magnum cartridges.
- Bullet Type: Hornady Extremely Low Drag eXpanding
- Bullet Weight: 178 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .552
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,750 feet per second
Barnes produces a couple of .30-06 ammo options as part of their LRX and VOR-TX lines. Featuring their legendary copper Tipped Triple Shock X (TTSX) bullets or Long Range Expanding (LRX) bullets, Barnes ammunition is designed for rapid expansion, high weight retention, and deep penetration.
Available using 150 grain, 168 grain, or 180 grain .30 caliber bullets, Barnes offers three outstanding choices for hunters in their VOR-TX line regardless of what they’re after.
The 180 grain load is an excellent choice of .30-06 Springfield ammo for elk, deer, bear, and moose hunting. While it’s not designed for longer range performance, it’s great for shots at typical hunting ranges and retains over 1,500ft-lbs of energy out past 400 yards.
The load featuring a 168 grain Barnes TTSX will also work for larger game like elk in a pinch, but it’s much better suited for deer, bear, and pronghorn. The higher velocity 150-grain load is great .30-06 ammo for deer and pronghorn hunting.
Additionally, Barnes also offers 30-06 ammo as part of their VOR-TX Long Range line. This particular loading uses a 175gr LRX bullet. Designed for use at extended range, these bullets have a higher ballistic coefficient and are built to expand well at lower velocities.
Fortunately, even the LRX bullet is still very tough and will deliver great weight retention and deep penetration. You can also depend on it to perform well at close range. Not every hunter will need the extended range performance of the LRX, but it’s an excellent offering for those who want it.
All four loads are also 100% copper, which makes them an ideal choice of .30-06 hunting ammunition for use in states like California that that don’t permit the use of lead bullets.
I’m a big fan of the Barnes VOR-TX line and the TSX, TTSX, and LRX bullets in general. I’ve used this ammunition with a lot of success on both deer and pronghorn over the past few years. This ammo is also a favorite among many North America, New Zealand, and Africa hunting outfitters.
- Bullet Type: TTSX Boat Tail
- Bullet Weight: 150 grains, 168 grains, 175 grains, or 180 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .440 (150gr) .470 (168gr), .484 (180gr), .507 (175gr)
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,000 feet per second (150gr), 2,850 feet per second (168gr), 2,750 feet per second (180gr), 2,800 feet per second (175gr)
The .30-06 Springfield is one of the most popular cartridges used by deer hunters in the United States. For this reason, Winchester offers a .30-06 load as part of Deer Season XP line of ammunition. The Extreme Point bullet this rifle ammo uses is similar to Winchester’s Power Point bullet, but the Extreme Point has a large diameter polymer tip that’s specifically designed to produce a gigantic wound channel along with massive impact trauma.
This often results in a short tracking job and a very easy to follow blood trail (if the deer runs at all). Additionally, Deer Season XP ammo is designed specifically to compete with other popular whitetail deer hunting ammo options like Federal Fusion, Federal Power-Shok, Hornady American Whitetail, Winchester Super-X, and Winchester Ballistic Silvertip in terms of price, terminal performance, reliability, and accuracy.
In fact, the Winchester Deer Season XP line has one of the lowest costs per round out of all the .30-06 ammo choices on this list.
So, not only is this some reasonably priced .30-06 ammo, but it also has a solid reputation for producing a giant wound channel and minimizing the distance deer run after being hit. All things considered, this Winchester ammo is one of my top recommended brands of .30-06 ammo for whitetail deer hunting.
I do NOT recommend using Deer Season XP ammo for bigger game like elk or moose. That high velocity, rapidly expanding 150 grain bullet is certainly capable of getting the job done on bigger game, but I think it expands far too rapidly at the expense of penetration for use on big game like that.
So, don’t risk it. If you need a budget ammo option for hunting bigger game, go with the 180 grain Remington Core Lokt I previously recommended.
Finally, Winchester does manufacture a lead-free version of their Deer Season XP ammo loaded with their Copper Impact bullet in 30-06 for use with hunters who are prefer (or are required to) use lead-free ammunition.
- Bullet Type: Extreme Point
- Bullet Weight: 150 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .392 or .387 (Copper Impact)
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,920 feet per second
Berger bullets, especially the Berger VLD and Hybrid Hunter (which is less sensitive to seating depth than the Berger VLD) have long been favorites with handloaders. Fortunately, Federal Premium also offers .30-06 Springfield hunting ammunition loaded with the Berger Hybrid Hunter bullet as a factory load. So those bullets are no longer limited to those who use handloads.
These bullets are known for exceptional accuracy and for being extremely aerodynamic. In fact, this is one of the most accurate .30-06 ammunition options for many hunters.
Though they do quite often deliver match grade accuracy, the Berger Hybrid Hunter is not a run of the mill match bullet. Instead, it’s designed to provide devastating terminal performance on many species of big game.
Most hunting bullets start to expand immediately upon impact. However, Berger bullets are designed to penetrate several inches before expanding. Then, according to Berger, the Hybrid Hunter bullet will shed anywhere from 40% to 90% of its weight (depending on impact velocity) and send countless tiny fragments off into surrounding tissue.
This produces a massive wound cavity and dumps most, if not all, of the bullet’s energy into the animal.
Those features make this load an excellent choice of .30-06 ammo for longer range hunting situations, especially if do a lot of long range shooting and/or if you’re a proponent of the “energy dump” school of thought when it comes to selecting a hunting bullet.
- Bullet Type: Berger Hybrid Hunter
- Bullet Weight: 168 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .489
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 feet per second
Federal Premium’s line featuring the legendary Nosler Partition is my #1 recommendation for hunters who need the best 30-06 ammo for elk, moose, or bear hunting. Loaded with a 180 grain Nosler Partition bullet, this load is great for hunting really big game where it’s really important to use a heavy, well constructed bullet.
With that in mind, this is also perfect .30-06 ammunition for an African safari where really large or tough antelope like zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, or eland are on the menu. At the same time, this ammunition is not limited to really big, tough game either and will also work great on game like whitetail and mule deer.
The Nosler Partition is a very old bullet design, but it remains one of the best hunting bullets around and has a proven track record over the course of many decades and won’t let you down at the moment of truth. There’s a reason why it’s so darn popular with those who prefer to use handloaded ammunition as well as factory loads.
With proper shot placement, this ammunition will deliver excellent performance if it hits bone or soft tissue. Just aim for the vitals, do your part as a shooter, and the bullet will do the rest.
The Nosler Partition is not the most aerodynamic bullet out there. Even so, this is still some outstanding .30-06 ammo for shots out to a couple hundred yards. Just do your best to keep shots under 250 yards or so with it.
As you’ll see here next, I recommend the 200 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw for use on extremely large game like moose over the 180 grain Nosler Partition. Truth be told, there’s a lot of overlap in their capabilities and both will work great on deer, bear, elk, and moose.
That said, I give the edge to the Partition with elk (even on a really big bull) and as a general purpose hunting bullet and to the Bear Claw for use on extremely large and/or dangerous game like moose or brown bear.
Finally, Nosler produces a virtually identical load with a 180 grain Partition as part of their Trophy Grade Partition line. For all intents and purposes, I think it’s practically interchangeable with this Federal load (links to each are below).
- Bullet Type: Nosler Partition
- Bullet Weight: 180 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .474
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 feet per second
Federal’s Terminal Ascent line is another good option of .30-06 hunting ammo for hunters looking for really good extended range performance. This ammunition uses the new Terminal Ascent Bullet, which is also extremely aerodynamic and accurate. It’s not quite as aerodynamic as the Hornady ELD-X, but it still has a relatively high BC and is also much more robustly constructed.
With those things in mind, I personally tend to lean more towards the Terminal Ascent over the ELD-X for hunting bigger game like elk with the .30-06 Springfield. This ammo is another great option for hunters going after game out west like mule deer or pronghorn who need excellent .30-06 ammo for a long range hunting situation.
If this ammunition shoots accurately in your rifle, this is my #2 recommended load (behind the 180gr Nosler Partition) for hunters who need good .30-06 ammo for elk or moose hunting. Terminal Ascent ammo has better long range performance than the Nosler Partition, so this is the stuff you should use if a shot past 250 yards is likely on an upcoming elk hunt.
- Bullet Type: Terminal Ascent
- Bullet Weight: 175 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .520
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,730 feet per second
Nosler manufacturers a loading that uses a 180 grain AccuBond bullet as part of their Trophy Grade line. This is perfect for those in need of some quality and extremely versatile .30-06 ammo for deer, bear, or elk hunting.
Just like the name says, the AccuBond is a bonded bullet where the lead core is chemically bonded to the jacket, so you don’t have to worry about the bullet “grenading” or expanding too rapidly upon impact. It’s not quite as tough as the Nosler Partition, but the AccuBond is still a very robustly constructed bullet and these features make the AccuBond a much better choice for an elk hunt than typical cup and core bullets.
AccuBond bullets are also pretty darn aerodynamic (much more aerodynamic than Partition bullets of the same caliber and weight) and will reliably expand at lower impact velocities. All things considered, this ammunition is tough enough for close range shots on big game while at the same time providing very good extended range performance.
Some of the more specialized .30-06 Springfield loads (which I’ll also cover in this article) offer better performance in specific circumstances. However, this 180 gr AccuBond load is my #1 recommendations as an excellent all around choice for hunters who want a flexible, yet still extremely capable .30-06 hunting load regardless of whether you’re hunting deer in Idaho or elk in Colorado.
- Bullet Type: Nosler AccuBond
- Bullet Weight: 180 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .507
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,750 feet per second
It’s not new, trendy, or flashy, but this Federal Power Shok loading with either a 150gr or a 180gr bullet is really good 30-06 ammo for deer hunting. In addition to being very effective, this ammunition is also normally very reasonably priced and has been one of the easier 30-06 ammo options to find during the past few years.
While I think this is outstanding feral hog and deer hunting ammunition, I do not recommend using Federal Power Shok ammo for hunting bigger game like black bear, elk, or moose with a 30-06.
Instead, use one of the other loads I recommend later in this article like the Barnes TTSX, Federal Terminal Ascent, or Nosler Partition.
In addition to being effective on deer sized game, this ammunition has one of the lowest costs per round out of all the .30-06 ammo on this list. All things considered, it’s tough to go wrong with the Federal Power Shok line if you want some great 30-06 ammo for deer hunting.
- Bullet Type: Jacketed Soft Point
- Bullet Weight: 150 grains or 180 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .313 (150gr) or .385 (180gr)
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,910 or 2,700 feet per second
Federal Premium’s line featuring a 200 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw Bullet is my #1 recommendation for hunters who need the absolute best 30-06 ammo for moose, bear, or elk hunting. As they say, really big and tough game needs a really big and tough bullet. I think the 180 grain Nosler Partition (or the Swift A-Frame) is fantastic for elk, but I think the 200 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw is a really tough and heavy bullet that’s a little better for bigger and/or more dangerous game.
This load has over 2,800 foot pounds of muzzle energy and is perfect for hunting really big game where it’s really important to use the heaviest and most well constructed bullet possible. This is especially important for situations where you might need to use your hunting rifle on dangerous game, like a brown or grizzly bear on a hunt in Alaska.
Heavier bullets with a higher sectional density (like this 200 grain bullet), tend to penetrate pretty well, especially if they are a premium quality controlled expansion bullet like this one. The fact that this ammunition uses one of the heaviest bullet weights available in factory .30-06 ammo and the fact that it’s a bonded bullet means that this is some of the best ammo for use on the biggest and toughest game you’d conceivably hunt with a .30-06.
This is also really good .30-06 ammunition for an African safari for the bigger species of plains game like kudu and eland are on the menu. I tend to lean a little towards the 180 grain Nosler Partition for that sort of hunting, but the 200 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw is also an excellent choice. At the same time, this ammunition is not limited to really big, tough game either and will still work great on game like whitetail and mule deer.
The Trophy Bonded Bear Claw is not the most aerodynamic bullet out there (even less aerodynamic than the 180 grain Nosler Partition). Even so, this is still some outstanding .30-06 ammo for shots out to a couple hundred yards.
- Bullet Type: Trophy Bonded Bear Claw
- Bullet Weight: 200 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .395
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,540 feet per second
Also Available at: Sportsman’s Warehouse
Nosler also offers a .30-06 Springfield loading using a 125 grain Ballistic Tip bullet. This bullet is also an outstanding choice for hunting thin-skinned game like deer and pronghorn.
However, this load shoots those little 125 grain Ballistic Tip bullets quite a bit faster than than the 150 grain Extreme Point bullets used in the Winchester Deer Season XP load. Even though they’re lighter and not quite as aerodynamic, this Ballistic Tip load still has a flatter trajectory than the comparable Winchester Deer Season XP load.
Ballistic Tip bullets are also designed to deliver devastating terminal effects to game upon impact. Nothing is guaranteed, but these bullets often deliver instant, knock down results on deer sized game.
All things considered, Nosler Ballistic Tip .30-06 ammo is better suited for longer range shots on game like mule deer or pronghorn than the Winchester Deer Season XP. It will also work extremely well on that same sort of game at closer range.
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Those lightweight, high velocity bullets expand rapidly and deliver incredible shock upon impact, but they don’t penetrate very well. This isn’t usually an issue with deer-sized game, but I do NOT recommend using Nosler Ballistic Tip ammo for bigger game like elk or moose.
Instead, stick to game like whitetail deer, mule deer, and pronghorn with the 125 grain Ballistic Tip. You’ll probably be very happy with the results if you do that.
- Bullet Type: Nosler Ballistic Tip
- Bullet Weight: 125 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .366
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,100 feet per second
While the .30-06 Springfield isn’t usually thought of as a great hunting cartridge for new, small framed, and/or recoil shy hunters, it’s certainly capable in that role with the right ammo. Indeed, the .30-06 is such a popular hunting cartridge that it shouldn’t be surprising that Hornady offers a reduced recoil .30-06 option as part of their Custom Lite line of ammunition.
This is a reduced power load that uses a lighter bullet fired at a slower than usual velocity. This results in an exceptionally mild recoiling .30-06 load that’s still deadly on deer sized game at short to moderate range.
This ammunition is loaded with a 125 grain Hornady SST bullet. The Super Shock Tip bullet (SST) has a reputation for great accuracy and will also still reliably expand at low impact velocities. These characteristics make it a good choice for a reduced power loading like this one.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch though. This load delivers such mild recoil by firing a light bullet at a low muzzle velocity (just 2,700 fps). For this reason, I DON’T recommend using this ammo on bigger game like elk or taking shots on deer past about 200 yards with it though.
It will deliver good terminal performance on deer sized game. Just don’t expect a complete pass through (even on a broadside shot), especially on bigger bodied animals.
With all that in mind, this is great .30-06 deer hunting ammo for recoil shy hunters. So if you need an accurate and mild recoiling .30-06 ammo choice for your child to deer hunt with, then Hornady’s Custom Lite .30-06 ammo is just about perfect.
- Bullet Type: SST
- Bullet Weight: 125 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .305
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 feet per second