270 vs 30-06 Comparison & Ballistic Data
The .270 and the .30-06 are the two most popular big-game cartridges among American hunters, and the 270 vs 30 06 debate can get heated!
Both cartridges are versatile workhorses that get the job done. Both are capable of bringing down the most popular North American big game – including whitetail, mule deer, elk, and black bear. Also, due to their popularity, the load selection is extensive, and there are plenty of factory model firearms chambered for each.
Before we get into the details of our comparisons, let’s take a look at the data. We want to share our caliber comparison dashboard. We have included 270 vs.30 06 data, as well as several other calibers for reference.
This dashboard combines 270 vs. 30 06, trajectory, velocity, and energy data ranging from Muzzle to 500 yards.
You can filter for 30 06 Springfield and 270 Winchester for this comparison, or you can compare the 270 Winchester or 30 06 Springfield to any of the other calibers in the list. You can also select specific cartridges/loads for a more detailed analysis.
.270 Winchester versus .30-06 Springfield: A Brief History
Developed by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, the .270 Winchester (or 6.8×64mm) was introduced to American shooters in 1925. Developed specifically for their bolt-action Model 54, the .270 is basically a necked down version of the .30-03.
The .270 Winchester gained popularity mostly due to outdoor writer Jack O’Connor, who sang the cartridges praises in the pages of Outdoor Life magazine.
Almost entirely a hunter’s caliber, the .270 has not been a popular cartridge for match competition. Although it delivers great long-range accuracy, there are few match-grade options available. However, the .270 Win. was designed for hunting big game, and it hasn’t been tainted by alterations or additions designed for other shooting applications.
In general, if you purchase .270 Win cartridges, you can rest assured they were designed for one thing and one thing only, to bring down big game effectively.
While the .270 has its background in hunting, the .30-06 (pronounced “thirty-aught-six”) cartridge has a military history. Introduced to the United States Army in 1906, the .30-06 remained the U.S. Army’s primary rifle and machine gun cartridge for half a century.
The military’s sweetheart for decades, this is the cartridge famed Marine sniper, Carlos Hathcock II, used both as his military sniping tool and to win the Wimbledon Cup. Hathcock is best known as the “White Feather Sniper” of the Vietnam War. Hathcock’s made the second-longest sniper shot (1,200 yards) with a .30-06 Springfield.
When it comes to hunting, the .30-06 is the number one choice for whitetails in the United States, although it has killed every big game animal in North America
.270 Winchester versus .30-06 Springfield: Performance
History is great, but how do these cartridges perform in the field against the most popular game animals in North America? Let’s break it down.
Recoil and Shootability
Recoil (sometimes called “kick”) is the rearward movement of the firearm when fired. Felt as impact on our shoulder when we shoot, the amount of recoil generated by any rifle load depends on several factors, including the weight and design of the rifle. Therefore, the felt recoil of any specific cartridge will vary according to the specific firearm used to fire the round.
Perceived recoil, or what the shooter feels, is purely subjective. For example, recoil is the last thing a hunter is thinking about when he has a big elk in his crosshairs. However, the amount of recoil felt affects second shot accuracy and the overall shootability of the firearm.
Most shooters agree the .30-06 generates more recoil than the .270. Generally speaking, the .30-06 cartridge is loaded with more propellant and is shooting a heavier projectile, so this seems to make sense. However, most .30-06 rifles tend to be heavier than their .270 counterparts, absorbing much of the recoil by the heavier weight of the gun itself.
Still, if you want cold hard facts, here are the numbers laid out for you to compare. Just keep in mind that the amount of recoil generated may not be what you will feel when you shoot, especially during the excitement of the hunt!
Rifle Recoil Table
|Cartridge||Rifle Weight||Recoil Energy||Recoil Velocity|
|.270 Win (130 grain)||8 pounds||16.5||unavailable|
|.270 Win (140 grain)||8 pounds||17.1||11.7|
|.270 Win (150 grain)||8 pounds||17.0||11.7|
|.30-06 Spfd. (150 gr.)||8 pounds||17.6||11.9|
|.30-06 Spfd. (165 gr.)||8 pounds||20.1||12.7|
|.30-06 Spfd. (180 gr.)||8 pounds||20.3||12.8|
The Ballistic Coefficient of a rifle bullet basically refers to how well it cuts through the air. When it comes to ballistic coefficient (or BC), the higher the number, the better a bullet will resist drag and wind drift, giving you more consistent downrange accuracy.
The shape of the projectile and the speed it travels will affect the ballistic coefficient. For example, a round nose bullet will have a lower BC than a Spitzer. On the back end of the bullet, a boat tail reduces drag, increasing the ballistic coefficient.
When it comes to 30 06 v. 270, there is little difference in the general ballistic coefficients of both cartridges. Both have a long, thin tapered design, which helps cut drag and stabilize the bullet in flight, producing impressive ballistic performance.
.30-06 cartridges are typically available in heavier grain weights than the .270. A heavier bullet is harder for a crosswind to push around, helping improve the general ballistic performance of the .30-06. However, the improvement is minimal, and there is no clear trend favoring one load over another, especially when comparing cartridges with matching grain weights.
Simply put, trajectory is the path your bullet takes as it moves toward your intended target. As your bullet leaves the muzzle and travels downrange, it is affected by both gravity and air resistance. Air resistance causes it to slow, and gravity pulls it toward the ground. With a loss of speed, gravity’s force increases, causing your bullet to drop more quickly.
If you chart your bullet’s path through the air, it will resemble an arc or a parabolic curve.
When it comes to long-distance shooting, the flatter a bullet’s trajectory, the less the shooter must compensate for distance, and the more accurate those long range shots will be. When we say “flat,” we are referring to the parabolic curve. A bullet with a flat trajectory will have less drop in altitude as the bullet travels distance.
When comparing .270 and .30-06 rounds of similar weight and design, we see almost no difference in short range trajectory. However, we start to see a small difference once we move out past 400 yards.
The .270 has flatter trajectory options compared to the .30-06. However, unless you are shooting out past 600 yards, you aren’t going to see a significant difference.
The accuracy of any given round is hard to determine. Besides the specific cartridge being used there are many variables, including wind conditions, the specific firearm, and the individual shooter.
When it comes to long range shots, the .270 may have a slightly flatter trajectory than the .30-06. However, the heavier weight of the .30-06 will be slightly more resistant to crosswind. The differences in the two are negligible, and certainly not enough to qualify one as being more accurate than the other.
As far as recoil goes, the .30-06, as we mentioned earlier, has slightly more recoil energy than the .270. Although the exact numbers of felt recoil vary, for some shooters, this could initiate a flinch response, potentially affecting accuracy, especially on those follow-up shots.
All these factors create only minor differences in the accuracy of these two cartridges. When the rubber meets the road, the cartridge that delivers better accuracy is likely to be the one being used by the better shooter.
Accuracy is an important factor in any cartridge selection. But for the hunter, terminal performance is even more important. The amount of stopping power your ammunition delivers is largely what puts meat on the table.
Even the most perfectly placed shot will be ineffective if that shot doesn’t deliver enough expansion and penetration to provide a clean kill.
Both the .270 and .30-06 cartridges were designed to travel long distances and still pack enough punch to drop a big game animal. Carving an effective wound channel to deliver a quick and humane kill is largely determined by the individual bullet design and its terminal expansion.
With so many loads available, today’s big game hunter has plenty to choose from when it comes to how a bullet expands once it hits the target. There are projectiles that mushroom or fragment upon impact and those that are designed to pass cleanly through with no expansion.
With so many variations, it is impossible to cover them all. Instead, we will focus this article mainly on energy transfer and penetration.
Once a projectile leaves the muzzle of your gun, it carries kinetic energy. Generated by the force of the gunpowder and the bullet’s weight, this energy is transferred to the target upon impact.
The force of the impact causes some effective organ and tissue damage regardless of penetration. It doesn’t take bullet penetration to cause serious damage. Blunt force trauma can devastate. For example, being hit by a truck can be pretty catastrophic.
When comparing similar grain weights, there is little difference in energy transfer between the .270 and .30-06 loads. On average, both cartridges will deliver enough kinetic energy to take down larger game.
Regardless of which cartridge you choose, be sure to look for a load that delivers at least 1,000-foot pounds of force. This is the minimum force necessary to take down most big game effectively. If you are in pursuit of larger game, including elk, bear, or moose, you may want to look for a load that delivers an even harder impact.
However, keep in mind that kinetic energy is just one variable in the equation. Tissue disruption and penetration also play vital roles in how effectively and humanely an animal is harvested. And of course, nothing is a substitute for a well-placed shot.
When hunting large game, you need a round capable of penetrating through tough thick hide and still keep traveling far enough to reach deep vital organs.
There are several factors that determine how well a given round will penetrate, including the bullet’s diameter and weight, the velocity it is traveling, and the bullet’s design. Bullets with a higher density, traveling at a higher velocity, will usually deliver deeper penetration.
However, as with most things related to ammunition, penetration is slightly more complicated. For example, a highly bonded projectile will penetrate more deeply than one that mushrooms or fragments upon impact.
In this case, deep penetration doesn’t necessarily equate to higher lethality. In general, bonded bullets with deeper penetration create less tissue disruption and are less effective, especially when used on the largest game animals.f
Conclusion and Recommended Applications
After laying the performance of each cartridge type out for comparison, I think we can all agree the differences between the .270 and .30-06 are minimal. Both cartridges are an excellent choice for hunting big game. With the proper bullet weight, both cartridges are capable of humanely harvesting whitetails, mule deer, wild hogs, and even elk.
For hunting moose, bear, and other larger game, the .30-06 may have a slight advantage. The .30-06 is available in bullet weights capable of delivering higher energy transfer and more effective killing wounds. A .30-06 cartridge loaded with a 180 grain bullet is going to be more effective against a big moose than a .270 loaded with a 130 grain bullet.
On the other hand, the lighter grain weights typical of the .270 round make it more practical for smaller game (including whitetails) where you might not need the stopping power or recoil of a .30-06 round.
While there are a few differences between the two, both the .270 and the .30-06 are capable of excelling in most North American big game hunting situations. Choosing which one will work best for you is best discovered on the shooting range. If you have the opportunity, try shooting several different loads of both. Ultimately, the “best” cartridge is the one you feel most confident shooting.
It is easy to understand why the 270 vs 30 06 debate is often so heated. They are both great cartridges for big game hunting. Choosing which one is “best” is really just a matter of personal opinion.
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