450 Bushmaster vs 30 06: Heavy Recoil Hunting Cartridges Collide
The 450 Bushmaster and 30-06 Springfield are two hard-hitting centerfire rifle cartridges that are popular for big game hunting and target shooting.
The 30-06 Springfield is nothing short of a legendary cartridge in the shooting community, serving the U.S. military during both World Wars and through Korea. It is the cartridge by which all other big game hunting cartridges are measured by.
The 450 Bushmaster, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the hunting community and looks to transform the AR-15 into a rifle capable of taking down a whitetail in a single shot.
Although the 450 Bushmaster does an admirable job increasing the stopping power of the AR platform, 30-06 ballistics are simply better in virtually every category. For this reason, most hunters will stick with their tried-and-true bolt-action rifles chambered in 30-06.
However, for those hunters that live in Midwestern states like Indiana and Ohio that required a straight-walled cartridge for deer hunting, the 450 Bushmaster offers these shooters a semi-automatic option for putting venison in the freezer.
In this article, we will evaluate the 450 Bushmaster vs 30-06 Springfield to help you understand the differences between the two and give you a clearer idea of which cartridge is best for your shooting and big game hunting needs.
The main difference between the 450 Bushmaster and the 30 06 Springfield is in their case design and bullet diameter. The 30-06 uses a more traditional bottle-neck case design and fires 0.308” diameter bullets while the 450 Bushmaster is a straight-walled cartridge and fires wider 0.452” diameter bullets.
When evaluating centerfire cartridges, it’s a good idea to analyze the cartridge specs to gain more knowledge of each.
One of the major differences between these two rifle cartridges is the time period when they were developed. The 30-06 Springfield was released at the turn of the 20th Century in 1906 as the U.S. military’s answer to the 7mm Mauser round. It served the American armed forces from WWI all the way through Korea and parts of Vietnam before being replaced by the 308 Winchester.
In contrast, the 450 Bushmaster was designed by LeMAG Firearms LLC in 2007 following the Thumper Concept set forth by American shooting legend, Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper. The goal of a Thumper round was to increase the lethality of the AR-15 rifle to the point where it can take down a whitetail deer in a single shot.
To read more about the most popular Thumper rounds, check out this article: 450 Bushmaster vs 458 SOCOM vs 50 Beowulf.
One major difference is the caliber bullet each cartridge fires. The 30-06 Springfield fires the stalwart 0.308” diameter bullet while the 450 Bushmaster is designed to fire the heftier 0.452” diameter bullets.
The 30-06 can fire bullet weights between 110 and 225 grains with the 150, 165, and 180 grain bullets being the most popular. In contrast, the 450 Bushmaster can fire heavier bullets ranging between 158-300 grains while the 250 and 260 grain bullets are the most popular factory loads.
Perhaps the most obvious visual difference between the 450 and the 30 06 is the design of the cartridge case itself. The 450 Bushmaster is a straight-walled cartridge while the 30-06 is a more traditional bottle-necked cartridge.
The 30-06 towers over the 450 with a case length of 2.494” and an overall length of 3.34” for the old warhorse compared to 1.7” case length and 2.26” overall length for the 450 Bushmaster.
The 450 Bushmaster is constrained to a shorter overall length (OAL) due to the dimensions of AR-15 magazines that allow for a maximum OAL of 2.26”. On the other hand, the 30-06 was designed to fit into a standard action or long action rifle, so it has considerably more flexibility in terms of OAL.
Although the 30-06 is a taller round, the 450 Bushmaster is a bit wider with a base diameter of 0.5” compared to 0.471” for the 30 06. However, the massive disparity in case length means that the 30 06 Springfield will have a higher case capacity of 68 gr compared to 59.5 gr for the 450 BM.
The final difference between these two hunting cartridges is their maximum chamber pressures per SAAMI specs. The 30 06 can handle considerably higher pressures, rated at 60,200 psi compared to 38,500 psi for the 450 Bushmaster.
Recoil is an important consideration when purchasing a new rifle as a round with heavy recoil will be more difficult to control and will slow your rate of follow-up shots. The potential for flinching is also an issue for cartridges with heavy recoil.
Felt recoil will differ from shooter to shooter and is often dependent on firearm choice, stance, and your chosen factory ammo or handloads. However, free recoil is a more objective measure of how hard a cartridge hits based on firearm weight, muzzle velocity, powder charge, and bullet weight.
Although the 450 Bushmaster and 30 06 are very different cartridges in terms of maximum pressure and case capacity, both rounds have nearly equivalent free recoil.
Even though the 450 Bushmaster was designed for use in the AR-15, several rifle makers offer the cartridge in a bolt-action option such as the Ruger American and Savage 110.
For the purpose of this comparison, we will consider the budget-friendly Ruger American which is offered in both cartridges and weighs 6.6 pounds. The rounds selected are popular for deer hunting and are the Hornady 250 gr FTX traveling at 2,200 fps for 450 BM and the Winchester Super-X 165 gr Power Point traveling at 2,800 fps for the 30-06.
Given these parameters, the 30-06 will have a free recoil of 24 foot-pounds compared to 27 foot-pounds for the 450 Bushmaster. To put these numbers into context, both rounds have roughly the same recoil as a 1 oz. 12 gauge shotgun slug.
The 30-06 technically has slightly less recoil for this particular load, however if a higher bullet weight like a 180 grain bullet is used, the free recoil is virtually identical.
Often 450 Bushmaster rifles will come equipped with a muzzle brake from the factory to help tame the recoil of the round. The use of a muzzle brake on a 30-06 rifle is considerably less common as shooters will often want to conserve muzzle velocity for longer range shots.
Although the 450 Bushmaster has slightly higher recoil than the 30-06, most shooters will not be able to tell the difference between the two.
If you frequent any shooting or hunting forums, you are likely aware that proponents of the 30 06 proclaim that the round is perfect for all your shooting needs (just ask them). On the other hand, 450 Bushmaster supporters like to point out the round's low recoil and amazing short-range terminal ballistics.
To evaluate these claims, we will compare four of the most popular factory loads on the market and see how they stack up against each other!
Four popular hunting cartridges were selected for this comparison. For the 30-06 Springfield we chose the Hornady Superformance 150 gr SST and the Winchester Ballistic Silver Tip 180 gr factory load. For the 450 BM we selected the Hornady 250 gr FTX and Federal Power-Shok 300 gr jacketed hollow point (JHP) hunting ammo.
Looking at the ballistic data, we can see that the 30-06 outperforms the 450 Bushmaster in every category.
In terms of muzzle velocity, both bullets for the 30-06 left the barrel at a considerably higher speed than the 450 Bushmaster with the 150 gr SST being the fastest at 3,080 fps and the 180 gr Silver Tip clocking in at 2,750 fps. For the 450 BM, the 250 gr FTX had a muzzle velocity of 2,200 fps while the 300 gr JHP left the barrel at 1,900 fps.
Not only does the 30-06 have higher muzzle velocity, but it conserves its velocity much more efficiently at range than the 450 Bushmaster. At 500 yards, both 30-06 bullets were still supersonic (speed of sound = 1,125 fps) while the 450 BM had gone subsonic around the 250-350 yards.
In terms of muzzle energy, the 30-06 continues its dominance as both bullets selected had over 3,000 ft-lbs of kinetic energy when they left the barrel. The 450 BM is no slouch when it comes to kinetic energy, as the 250 gr FTX round had 2,687 ft-lbs of energy while the 300 gr JHP hit with 2,405 ft-lbs.
Like muzzle velocity, the 30-06 was more efficient at conserving kinetic energy at range than the 450 Bushmaster. At 500 yards, both 30 06 loads were well above the 1,000 ft-lbs threshold needed for harvesting a whitetail. On the other hand, the 450 BM loads dipped below 1,000 ft-lbs around 200 yards for the 300 gr JHP and 250 yards for the 250 gr FTX.
In terms of bullet drop, the 450 Bushmaster cannot even hold a candle to the 30-06’s flat trajectory. Even at 300 yards the 30-06 simply dominates the 450 with almost two feet (24”) less bullet drop, and the disparity only gets more dramatic the further downrange these bullets travel.
Looking at this ballistic data, what conclusions can we draw?
The 30-06 Springfield ballistics clearly show how the round was designed long distance shooting. The 30 06 has a very flat trajectory and uses projectiles that are effective at retaining their kinetic energy and velocity at distance. This gives the 30 06 a longer effective range than the 450 BM.
On the other hand, the 450 Bushmaster seems to excel at shorter ranges, as it has over double the kinetic energy of a 5.56 NATO round but lacks the long-range capabilities of the 30 06. However, the 450 has the added benefit of being fired from the semi-auto AR-15 carbine while the 30 06 is typically fired from bolt-action rifles. This means that follow-up shots will generally be faster from a 450.
Ballistic coefficient (BC) is a measure of how aerodynamic a bullet is and how well it will resist wind drift. Sectional density (SD) is a way to evaluate the penetration ability of a bullet based on its external dimensions, design, and weight.
The 30-06 Springfield was designed to fire longer, more aerodynamic Spitzer bullets while the 450 Bushmaster must fire short, chunkier bullets to meet the overall length requirement of 2.26” of AR-15 mags.
This means that the 30-06 will generally always have a higher BC than the 450 BM despite the 450 firing heavier bullets.
Given the bullets analyzed in the previous section, the 150 gr SST and 180 gr Silver Tip 30-06 bullets will have a BC of 0.415 and 0.507, respectively. On the other hand, the 250 gr FTX and 300 gr JHP for 450 Bushmaster will have a BC of 0.210 and 0.203.
This massive difference shows how important bullet design is when calculating ballistic coefficient. The 0.308” caliber bullets fired by the 30-06 are more effective at fighting against wind drift and air resistance than the heavier bullets fired by the 450 Bushmaster.
In terms of sectional density, the difference between 30-06 and 450 BM is considerably closer although the 30-06 edges out the 450 again.
Typically, smaller diameter bullets will have higher penetration potential, as they can focus all of their kinetic energy into a smaller cross-sectional area. This holds true in the case of the 30-06 and 450 BM as the 150 gr SST has a SD of 0.226 compared to 0.175 for the 250 gr FTX.
When it comes to hunting, deciding between the 30-06 and 450 BM primarily comes down to your state and local laws as well as the expected engagement ranges.
The 30-06 Springfield is the big game hunting cartridge that all others are measured by, so if you can use a 30-06 in your area then it will often be the better option. The 30-06 simply has longer effective range and better terminal ballistics than the 450 Bushmaster.
However, all those advantages are irrelevant if you aren’t allowed to hunt with the 30-06 in your area.
If you live in a state like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois that have a straight-walled cartridge requirement for deer hunting, then clearly the 450 Bushmaster is the better option since the 30-06 is not a choice at all.
However, the 450 Bushmaster has some other benefits that you might not have considered.
Although the effective range of the 30-06 is well north of 500 yards, in thick brush or heavily wooded areas, you might not get a shot that is any further away than 250 yards. This is right in the wheelhouse for the 450 BM as the round is more than powerful enough to take deer-sized game animals at those ranges.
Another benefit of the 450 Bushmaster is its adaptation to the AR-15 carbine. Having a light weight hunting rifle with a 16 inch barrel makes for an easier time navigating over rough terrain or thick brush. This was an area in the hunting world that was previously held by something like a Marlin lever action rifle but is quickly being taken over by the lightweight AR platform.
Although a heavier rifle with a standard action and longer barrel length might be ideal for hunting at greater distances, it is a pain when you have to carry it on an all-day stalk or through the brush.
Another benefit of the 450 Bushmaster is its semi-automatic capability with the AR-15. This allows for faster follow-up shots when engaging multiple game animals when hunting hogs or when calling in coyotes. Plus, there’s no denying that a semi-auto AR-15 is a straight upgrade compared to something like a muzzleloader when it comes to multiple shot engagements.
This is not to say that there are not viable semi-automatic options for the 30-06. The M1 Garand and Browning BAR are two extremely popular options for semi-auto fire with a 30-06. However, they are very heavy, bulky rifles where the AR platform is considerably lighter and easier to handle.
The late and great Jack O’Connor said it best when he described the 30-06 Springfield as the most versatile hunting round in the world. Most hunters will prefer the power the 30 06 offers as it has taken down countless whitetail, elk, pronghorn, and black bears.
However, if a 30-06 is not a legal cartridge in your area for deer hunting, then the 450 Bushmaster offers you almost double the kinetic energy of the 44 Remington Magnum and 1,000 ft-lbs more than a smaller round like the 350 Legend.
When it comes to factory ammo availability and rifle options, the 30-06 Springfield is clearly the superior option.
As the 30-06 has been on the market for over a century, there are obviously a lot of different factory loads available for the cartridge. Being a two-time World War champion also hasn’t hurt the round’s popularity and after it was phased out of military service, the 30-06 transitioned perfectly into the big game hunting world.
As such, the 30-06 consistently ranks in the top three calibers on the market when it comes to variety.
Like the 223 Rem, 30-06 shooters enjoy a multitude of inexpensive ammo options like cheap FMJ practice ammo to military surplus ammo that can be had for even cheaper. As it stands at the time of writing, the 30-06 holds a nearly 7:1 advantage over the 450 Bushmaster in terms of factory loads.
Even though there are considerably more 30-06 ammo options available, both rounds are very close in terms of price.
On average, FMJ practice factory ammo typically runs around $1.40/round while top shelf hunting ammo goes for around $2-4/round for the 30-06.
Although the 450 Bushmaster is not nearly as popular as the 30-06, it has become one of the most popular Thumper rounds on the market and is SAAMI certified. This has allowed multiple ammo manufacturers like Federal, Barnes, Remington, and Winchester to pick up the 450 BM as an addition to their factory ammo offerings.
As of current pricing, inexpensive Remington UMC FMJ ammo can be had for around $1.40/round while hunting loads typically run around $2-3/round for the 450 Bushmaster.
When it comes to rifle selection, there are considerably more options available for the 30-06 then almost any other caliber except perhaps the 223 Rem.
Not only do you have access to virtually every modern bolt-action hunting rifle in production, as all of them are chambered in 30-06, but you also have access to military surplus rifles as well. The M1 Garand and 1903 Springfield are two amazing pieces of American military history that can easily double as a 30-06 hunting rifle.
For the 450 Bushmaster, the AR-15 is the primary rifle chambered in the cartridge. This means that any AR chambered in 5.56 NATO is a potential host for the 450 BM. All that’s required to perform a conversion is a barrel swap, a bolt change, and a single stack magazine follower.
However, given the cartridge’s rise in popularity, there are several bolt-action rifles available in 450 Bushmaster should your state not allow hunting with a semi-auto. Ruger, Bergara, Savage, Christensen, Howa, and CVA all have bolt-action 450 Bushmaster rifles available.
Reloading is one method shooters use to reduce their overall cost per round and increase the consistency of their ammo to sub-MOA levels. Furthermore, handloads can be tailored to your rifle to meet your specific shooting needs.
Handloaders have been reloading the 30-06 for decades, so there is a plethora of load data with numerous powder options available at your fingertips. Load data for the 450 is available but can be a little more tricky to locate.
In terms of reloading components, the 30-06 fires the ubiquitous 0.308” diameter bullet that is also used for the 308 Winchester, 300 Winchester Magnum, 300 Blackout, and 300 PRC. The 450 Bushmaster fires a 0.452” diameter bullet, which is the same as fired by the 45 Raptor or handgun rounds like the 45 ACP and 45 Colt.
All the major bullet manufacturers like Barnes, Hornady, Nosler, Sierra, and Federal have multiple bullet options available for both calibers.
Finding 30 06 Springfield brass is typically a relatively simple task, while 450 Bushmaster brass can be a little more difficult to source. As the 30 06 is a former military cartridge, there is considerably more brass cases available, just make sure that they are not Berdan primed before you run them through your dies.
To learn more about the differences between Berdan and Boxer primers, check out this article: Berdan vs Boxer Primes.
The 30-06 Springfield and 450 Bushmaster are two hunting cartridges can easily harvest whitetail and hogs with relative ease.
The 450 Bushmaster is a relative newcomer to the shooting world and offers hunters in cartridge-restrictive states access to a powerful round that is designed for use in the AR-15. Combined with a muzzle brake, the 450 BM offers hunters a lightweight, semi-auto hunting rifle that works extremely well at ranges under 250 yards.
The 30-06 Springfield is the sporting cartridge by which all other hunting rounds are measured. It is a great all-around option for deer, elk, caribou, and bears. Its powerful muzzle energy and flat trajectory make it ideal for close or long range shots and its 30-caliber bullets and ammo are easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
For all intents and purposes, the 30-06 Springfield is a better round than the 450 Bushmaster as the 30-06 offers improved ballistics with slightly less or equal recoil. However, for those hunters who need a straight-walled cartridge for deer hunting due to state laws, then the 450 Bushmaster is a great choice.
No matter which cartridge you choose, make sure you stock up on ammunition here at Ammo.com and I’ll see you on the range!
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