The old 30-30 vs 308 ammo or gun argument is endlessly fascinating and fun to debate. They’re both go-to options when you prefer to hunt in a deeply forested area and prefer the extra punch of a larger round.
Both cartridges are the same size, as far as diameter goes. However, 308 ammunition is longer and similar in shape to a 270 or even a 556. There are several factors worth evaluating between the two rounds.
Despite their similarities in terms of diameter, both cartridges hold a very vocal fanbase. Some will insist on the superiority of one round over the other, and that’s perfectly fine. We’re just here to point out the differences and drop our own opinion at the same time.
30-30 vs 308 ammo
The primary differences between the two cartridges are what they are frequently chambered in. The 30-30 is often found in bolt-action and lever-action rifles. The 308 is also chambered in bolt-action rifles, but it extends to machine guns and short-action rifles as well.
Over fifty years of history separate the two cartridges as well. The 30-30 was introduced in the late 1800s, while the 308 came around in the early 1950s. Both are rimmed and bottleneck case types and share a 7.8mm diameter.
The 308 is the longer round, however, at 71.1mm vs the 64.8mm 30-30. The 308 cartridge has a higher pressure and velocity, at 62,000 psi and 2300 fps at 200 yards. The 30-30 has a pressure of 42,000 psi but drops to 1,959 fps at just 100 yards.
Energy and Trajectory
The 308 wins both of these battles as well and quite easily. At 200 yards, a 30-30 round will have over 800 foot-pounds of energy while the 308 will have 1,600 +, a staggering difference between the two cartridges.
Trajectory is also not an issue for a 308, at least within 200 yards, and especially at ranges close to 100 yards. The round just refuses to drop. While the 30-30 is pretty accurate at 100 yards, 200 yards is a lot different, with an 8” to 10” drop.
Specifications of the Two
Bullet specs are endlessly fascinating and though they only reflect performance, characteristics, and capabilities in a bubble, specs are very informative and provide shooters with a good idea as to how the round will perform. We listed the above diameters in metric, but the below specs are reflected in English.
- Diameter: 277”
- Length of Shell case: 015”
- Size of the Bullet: 3”
- Muzzle Energy: 2,650 ft. lbs.
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 fps
- Brand: Winchester
- Diameter: 277”
- Length of Shell case: 029”
- Size of the Bullet: 308”
- Muzzle Energy: 2,040 ft. lbs.
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,400 fps
- Brand: Winchester
Comparison of the Two
It’s easy to gather from the above information the strength and superiority of the 308 cartridge. Of course, not everything is as cut and dry as that. Not only does the 308 have a higher velocity, but it also has a higher muzzle velocity.
Though the shapes of the rounds are different from one another, the 308 reigns superior in stopping power as well. The 308 is the better choice for mid-size to large game as well, thanks to the aforementioned stopping power.
So long as you’re talking around 100 yards, there is little to separate the two rounds from each other. Both are highly accurate at that range and experience little to no drop in ideal weather conditions.
The farther you pass the 100-yard mark, the more the 308 dominates, with little to no drop at 200 yards, depending on wind and atmospheric conditions when the round is fired. The 308 cartridge also has the advantage of more bullet weights to go with.
The 30-30 is limited to FP and RN factory loads at 115 to 170 grains while the 308 ranges from 125 to 185. Despite the power of the 308, it’s a smaller and lighter cartridge overall, translating to more recoil. The 30-30 is lighter on the recoil side.
As far as effective range, with the right adjustments, you can push a 30-30 round out to 600 yards and still hit your target. At 800 yards, it’s possible, but you would have to spend a ridiculous amount of time fine-tuning.
In the U.S. Marine Corps, snipers primarily fire 308 cartridges, designated 7.62 NATO. Sending rounds down range to the tune of 1,000 yards is fairly common and straightforward with the 308. That’s not to say you should take that shot at a deer with a civilian rifle.
There’s a difference between capable lethality and ridiculous risks, where a deer ends up dying slowly or handicapped for the rest of its life.
Honestly, will a 30-30 knock down a bear? Sure. So will a 308. A 308 will just do it harder and better. The 308 serves a better purpose for hunting out in the open, where long-distance shots are common and practical.
A 30-30 is better in the woods, where you need a bullet that has enough velocity and bull-nose stubbornness to knock aside a stray twig or leaf en route to the deer’s heart. Also, it is highly unlikely that you will fire beyond 100 yards hunting in the woods.
A 308 will also serve you better for large game in general, such as moose, bear, elk, and similar-sized animals. A 30-30 will do the trick on all of the above as well, just at much shorter distances and with less stopping power.
This one is fairly easy and simple. The 308 cartridges created more recoil than the 30-30. It’s a lighter cartridge overall, but it features a high velocity, and you’ll experience a tad bit more recoil with it than you will a 30-30.
308 Pros and Cons
- Stopping power
- Better penetration
- Better trajectory and aerodynamics
- Lighter cartridge
- Better velocity
- Higher recoil
30-30 Pros & Cons
- Heavier cartridge/round
- Easier to find the ammo
- Good short-range accuracy
- Ammo is cheaper
- Lower recoil
- Lower aerodynamics
- Inferior power and penetration
The truth is, the 308 is better in almost every way. There is a reason this round has been adopted by every first-world country’s military around the world, even if it’s on a limited and specific basis.
While the 30-30 is an outstanding round, especially for hunting in the woods where there is always the possibility of a stray twig or two. It’s excellent for short-range and under 100 yards, a 308 is simply overkill.
However, when it comes down to raw power and range, the United States Marine Corps prefers the 308, and that should be good enough for anyone.