The Beginning: A Tale of the .30-06 Springfield Cartridge
Well, it seems our readers have grown exponentially after our previous two entries: "The Mesmerizing Tale of the 7.62x51mm NATO Cartridge" and "A New Standard: The Story of the 5.56x45mm NATO Cartridge." Okay, our readership has by no means grown exponentially, but those entries have proven to be quite popular. As such, I have decided to return to the series' roots by penning a prequel. After introducing the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge and following it up by shining a light on its replacement, it only makes sense to go back a few steps and highlight one of the United States' early stars.
I have already familiarized you with the concept of the sequel and even given you one to cherish. Today, we discuss the prequel. Then you get one – to cherish. Prequels are in many ways the opposite of sequels. A prequel is any narrative work whose story precedes that of a narrative originally presented in a previously released work. Whereas a sequel expands upon the backstory of the original narrative, a prequel lays the groundwork for what occurs in the original. Stay with me if you can – I realize this is some pretty dense information. Anyway, sometimes prequels are good, but many times they are terribly, terribly bad. Remember "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace?" What about "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones"? Of course you do. But fear not, my prequel will be more in line with glorious "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
If you recall, our story began in the 1950s with the development of the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge and its eventual adoption as the standard small arms cartridge for NATO countries in 1954. We then met its replacement, the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, which was adopted by NATO countries under Standardized Agreement (STANAG) 4172. Today, we go back to the turn of the 20th century and meet their predecessor – the .30-06 Springfield cartridge.
An Overview of the .30-06 Springfield Cartridge
Unsurprisingly, there is no background information to get into here. I am starting fresh from the beginning of the story. So without further ado, let us get to a short overview of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge and then we will soon be off to its development. Actually, before proceeding any further, I have to take a brief moment to make sure your pronunciation is on point. The way it is written has the potential to be confusing, but the correct pronunciation is "thirty-aught-six."
The .30-06 Springfield cartridge, also known as the 7.62x63mm cartridge, is a high-powered rifle cartridge that was designed by the United States Military in 1906 and saw service begin the very same year. It remained in service with the U.S. Army for nearly 50 years before being replaced by the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, but we all already know about that. Besides, its introduction retired a few cartridges in the process, namely the .30-03 cartridge, the 6mm Lee Navy cartridge and the .30-40 Krag cartridge. Regardless of its replacement, it remains a popular sporting cartridge to this day.
In terms of ballistic performance, the .30-06 Springfield cartridge was very similar to the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge that replaced it. It was originally designed for 1,000-yard shots with a 150 gr, flat-base cupronickel-jacketed bullet. This bullet eventually became known as the M2 ball cartridge and was incorporated into standard-issue ammunition until its eventual replacement. This configuration boasts muzzle velocities that have been observed to travel in excess of 2,900 fps and is known to expend over 2,800 foot-pounds of energy.
Though the formation of NATO came well after the introduction of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, I like to believe it would have been worthy of standardization. The cartridge is used in conjunction with several popular domestic and foreign rifles, including the M1903 Springfield, the M1917 Enfield, the M1 Garand, the M1914 Johnson, the Famage Mauser and the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).
Now that we know all about this recoil-riddled cartridge, we can move on to its development.
The Development of the .30-06 Springfield Cartridge
The development of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge came at a time when many militaries were adopting cartridges that utilized the new spitzer bullet, also known as a spire point bullet. Spitzer bullets are what many of us picture when we are asked to imagine a rifle bullet, which I cannot imagine is very often. They are pointed such that they take on aerodynamic properties during flight. Regardless, France was the first to adopt such a bullet in 1898, followed by Germany in 1905. The United States took bronze by adopting it third in 1906 with the introduction of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. The timeline here is quite interesting. As you may know, the .30-03 cartridge, which was quickly replaced by the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, was developed alongside the M1903 Springfield rifle. When the .30-03 cartridge was introduced in 1903, it was already outdated as France had already introduced the spitzer design. Luckily, the M1903 Springfield rifle was easily modified in order to accept the new .30-06 Springfield cartridge, which featured a shortened neck to accommodate a higher velocity bullet. Among the changes made to the rifle were a shortening of the barrel and a re-cutting of the chamber.
As you might imagine, the U.S. Military designed several variations of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. Among the most popular was the .30 M1 ball cartridge, which used a 174 gr, boat-tail gilding-metal bullet. This was developed after World War I revealed a U.S. weakness in regards to the effective range of their machine guns. Not only did the new .30 M1 ball cartridge provide for increased range due to an increased ballistic coefficient, it also cut down on fouling thanks to its gilding metal construction.
Unfortunately, we are nearing the end of this tale. As noted, the .30-06 Springfield cartridge remained in service as the standard rifle cartridge for the U.S. Military until 1954 when it was replaced by the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, a cartridge more suitable for fully-automatic fire. Nevertheless, the .30-06 Springfield cartridge remained in service throughout the Vietnam War and is now a popular hunting cartridge.
Keepshooting.com and the .30-06 Springfield Cartridge
Those of you who read my previous installments know exactly what to expect at this part of the story – a sales pitch. Unfortunately, we do not currently have any .30-06 Springfield ammunition in stock. Luckily, we do have entire sections devoted to its replacements. Check out both our 7.62x51mm NATO/.308 Winchester and 5.56x45mm NATO/.223 Remington sections today for an excellent selection of some of the industry's most popular cartridges.
And so ends my epic trilogy. It was a good one – certainly much better than at least one other trilogy. And who knows, maybe one day I will resurrect this beast and add on just a bit more.