The US Army adopted the .30-06 in 1906 to stay abreast of the advancing technology of firearms and ammunition. The U.S. military based its primary battle rifles on this cartridge for the next half century. Although created for battle, the .30-06 was also rapidly accepted by civilian shooters.
It was the Spanish-American war that revealed major differences between the rifles of the U.S. Army and the rifles of other countries, both in cartridge and caliber. The most common military cartridge of the time, the .30-40 Krag, was being outdone by faster, farther reaching bullets with spitzer points that retained accuracy and energy at greater ranges.
The .30-06 arose from this need, which was an improved version of the .30-03. The new cartridge, with designation M1906 fired a .30 caliber bullet weighing 150 grains and traveling 2,700 feet per second. The M1906 cartridge was built to regularly engage targets as distant as 1,000 yards, and it was lethal to a range of 3,400 yards if the muzzle was elevated to approximately 45 degrees.
The M1906, including the variations that followed, were used as the primary cartridge for rifles and machine guns in the U.S. military until being replaced in 1954 with the 7.62 NATO cartridge.
As the official cartridge of the U.S. military, the .30-06 was chambered in rifles that came to be well-known, including the M1903, M1917 and M1 Garand. Machine guns which fired the .30-06 include the M1917, M1919 and the BAR. The military even re-chambered some its Gatling guns to fire the .30-06 also.
The civilian market embraced the .30-06. Virtually every major firearms manufacturer has produced at least one rifle for this cartridge. It is available for sale in all common rifle action configurations, and is even chambered for a pistol as well.
The .30-06 remains arguably the most used round for hunting in the United States. It will easily harvest all game animals in the Continental U.S. The competitive shooting community has also made the .30-06 popular, competing with it from gun ranges at Camp Perry to local venues. The .30-06 can meet most shooters' needs.
The .30-06 is loaded many different ways. Commonly available bullets weigh between 100 and 220 grains, and types of bullets run the gamut from Exergy to FMJ and SP. Major manufacturers make a point of offering their newest hunting and match bullet technologies in .30-06, since demand for this cartridge has been solid and steady for more than a century.
The .30-06 continues to be popular and widely available, ensuring that it will probably continue to be among the most common choices for hunters and sport shooters who want a cartridge with long range accuracy and power.