This is the last of a series of four posts on caliber. Today we’ll look at hunting and old military calibers.
Remember caliber refers directly to the diameter of the bore, but also is now referring to the round. For instance, a .38 special is not .38, it’s .355 (and so is a .357 Magnum). Some rounds are referred to by the caliber and year, like the first round we’ll talk about today.
The 30-06 (Pronounced Thirty aught Six) is an old military cartridge. The .30 is the caliber while the 06 refers to 1906; the year the US military started using it. This is a .30 Caliber with a huge case. Originally fired out of the Springfield 1903 rifle and then the M1 Garand during WWII. The .308 Winchester was designed to replace it and really does the same thing with a shorter case. It’s considered a long action because the case is so long.
A couple smaller calibers for hunting are the .243 Winchester and .270 Winchester. Both are light recoiling, have been around forever (or at least it seems that way), and every major gun company makes a rifle for them. If you are looking for a first deer rifle, or just something that has the old bolt-action looks, these are fun calibers to shoot.
The 30-30 (pronounced thirty, thirty) is an old cartridge and was the first to be mass-produced with smokeless powder. Before the 30-30 everything was true black powder. Black powder was hard to store, heavier, and explosive. The smokeless powder is safe to store and more efficient in firearms. Smokeless powder is actually used today in all firearms. True black powder is explosive and highly regulated by about a dozen government agencies. The first 30 refers to the caliber and the second 30 is for 30 grains of powder that went into the original load. Most commonly these went into lever-action guns. The 30-30 round has probably taken more game in North American then anything else.
The 45-70 (pronounced forty-five, seventy) is named the same way the 30-30 was. It’s a .45 caliber bullet sitting on 70 grains of black powder. This was a much bigger load then the 30-30 and has quite the recoil. It was originally developed in 1873 for the US Military and put in the trap door rifles of the day. It fired a huge and heavy 500 grain bullet during its peak. Now there are hunting loads in the 300 to 400 grain range. These are still really heavy (the .308 fires a 168 grain bullet) and recoil quite a bit. But another great piece of American history and still used to hunt big game in North American.
You can also find a couple old military rifles with odd ammo. The M1 Carbine from WWII was a great little rifle that fires the .30 Carbine round. It’s like a stretched 9mm round and fires the same bullet, only a lot faster then any handgun. It’s a great rifle for fun, hunting deer sized game, and home defense. All you have to do is find one, they are getting rare and expensive. Sometimes you can find an old Mauser for sale. They were a German made rifle originally, but later produced everywhere during and after WWII. The Mauser is a cool piece of history and was chambered in lots of different calibers.
Another old military rifle you will find is a Mosin-Nagant. These old Russian (originally) rifles fire a 7.63 x 51R. These can still be found as they were the longest and most issued military rifle in history. They started being made in 1891 and continued until about 1965. It’s estimated that 37 million of these where produced by Russia alone. Even America produced some for the Russians during WWI. They are a great bolt-action, magazine-fed rifle and can be found for cheap. I still see them for $150 (I found one a couple years ago for $75). The rifles are moderately accurate, balanced superbly, but kick like a mule. You can hunt just about anything with one.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list. These were just my favorite calibers. Ask a lot of people before you buy something. Everyone has a favorite. Find what you like and shoot it a lot.