In 1906, the U.S. Army adopted the .30-06 to stay ahead 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. And 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. Arising from this need, the .30-06 was an improved version of the .30-03. This new cartridge, designated M1906, was built to regularly engage targets as distant as 1,000 yards and 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, was the primary cartridge for rifles and machine guns in the U.S. military until being replaced with the 7.62 NATO cartridge in 1954. Until then, the .30-06 was chambered in rifles that came to be well known, including the M1903, M1917 and M1 Garand. Machine guns that fired the .30-06 include the M1917, M1919 and the BAR. The military even re-chambered some its Gatling guns to also fire the M1906.
The civilian market embraced the .30-06, which is why 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. .30-06 ammo remains arguably the most used round for hunting in the United States, as it will easily harvest all game animals in the Continental U.S. The competitive shooting community has also contributed to its popularity.
The .30-06 is loaded in many different ways. Common 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.
This round continues to be popular and widely available, ensuring that it will likely continue to dominate among the most common choices for hunters and sport shooters wanting a cartridge with long-range accuracy and power.