303 British vs 30 06 – Which Cartridge Is Best?

These two cartridges are arguably two of the most renowned cartridges in the world. Both have decorated military services and are capable of hunting medium to big game. How do these cartridges compare in terms of practicality and overall performance? In this article, we analyze and discuss these two cartridges and ultimately decide which is the better hunting cartridge – so buckle up and let’s dive in!

Main Differences Between 303 British vs 30 06 Ammo

picture comparing british 308 vs 30 06 ammo

1) Ballistics Comparison

For this comparison, we will use some of the heavier bullets these two cartridges have. For the 30-06, we use Remington’s Core-Lokt Tipped 180-grain hunting ammo, which has a ballistic coefficient of .383. In our review of the 10mm & 357 rounds we saw how important ballistics can be. To make the comparison more reliable, we also use Remington’s Core-Lokt 180-grain with a ballistic coefficient of .247 for the 303 British:

Velocity (fps)


  • Muzzle Velocity – 2,700
  • 100 Yards – 2,469
  • 200 Yards – 2,2250
  • 300 Yards – 2,041
  • 400 Yards – 1,844
  • 500 Yards – 1,663

303 British:

  • Muzzle Velocity – 2,460
  • 100 Yards – 2,125
  • 200 Yards – 1,818
  • 300 Yards – 1,545
  • 400 Yards – 1,314
  • 500 Yards – 1,138

Energy (ft-lbs)


  • Muzzle Energy – 2,913
  • 100 Yards – 2,436
  • 200 Yards – 2,000
  • 300 Yards – 1,666
  • 400 Yards – 1,360
  • 500 Yards – 1,1105

303 British:

  • Muzzle Energy – 2,418
  • 100 Yards – 1,805
  • 200 Yards – 1,321
  • 300 Yards – 954
  • 400 Yards – 690
  • 500 Yards – 518

Trajectory (inches)


  • 100 Yards – 0
  • 200 Yards – -4.2
  • 300 Yards – -15.3
  • 400 Yards – -26.2 (zeroed at 200 yards)
  • 500 Yards – -54.2 (zeroed at 200 yards)

303 British:

  • 100 Yards – 0
  • 200 Yards – -6.2
  • 300 Yards – -23.2
  • 400 Yards – -42.5 (zeroed at 200 yards)
  • 500 Yards – -91.8 (zeroed at 200 yards)

It is evident that the 30-06 just dominates the ballistic performance. The 30-06 can maintain its velocity much more efficiently than the 303 British – it also has a higher muzzle velocity. We saw in our comparison of the 25-06 & 30-06 rounds that it had superior velocity. The most notable difference is kinetic energy – the muzzle energy of the 303 British is equivalent to the 30-06’s energy at 100 yards.


Both cartridges have a relatively flat trajectory up to 200 yards. However, the 30-06 has a flatter trajectory beyond that distance. These results are obtained at all comparable bullet weights. Therefore, it is safe to say that the 30-06 is the clear winner in the ballistic performance category.

2) Size & Design Comparison


  • Parent case – .30-3 Springfield
  • Case Type – Rimless, bottleneck, brass
  • Bullet diameter – .308 in
  • Land diameter – .300 in
  • Neck diameter – .340 in
  • Shoulder diameter – .441 in
  • Base diameter – .471 in
  • Rim diameter – .473 in
  • Rim Thickness – .049 in
  • Case length – 2.494 in
  • Overall length – 3.34 in
  • Case capacity – 68 gr H2O (4.40 cm3)
  • Rifling twist – 1-10″ (254 mm)
  • Primer type – Large rifle
  • Maximum pressure (SAAMI) – 60,000 psi (410 MPa)

303 British:

  • Case Type – Rimless, bottleneck, brass
  • Bullet diameter – .312 in
  • Land diameter – .3003in
  • Neck diameter – .340 in
  • Shoulder diameter – .401 in
  • Base diameter – .460 in
  • Rim diameter – .540 in
  • Rim Thickness – .064 in
  • Case length – 2.222 in
  • Overall length – 3.075 in
  • Case capacity – 56.2 gr H2O (3.65 cm3)
  • Rifling twist – 1-10″ (254 mm)
  • Primer type – Large rifle
  • Maximum pressure (SAAMI) – 49,000 psi (337.84 MPa)

The 30-06 is a larger cartridge than the .303 British, with an overall length of almost .3 inches longer. This allows the cartridge to have a higher case capacity and shoot higher loads. Additionally, the 30-06 shoots at levels of 11,000 psi more than the 303 British. Finally, the 30-06 also tends to have a more pointed bullet than the classic .303 ammo – giving it a slight edge in terms of aerodynamics and penetration. We compared the 30 06 vs 7.62 x54r rounds and put the 30-06 to the ultimate test.

All these design factors contribute to the notable difference in performance between these two cartridges.

3) Stopping Power Comparison

picture of 3006 vs 308 british

Stopping power is a great measurement of a cartridge’s effectiveness in taking down a target. The stopping power is determined by the sectional density, a method for determining how easily the bullet can penetrate the hide, as well as the kinetic energy of the bullet.

The 30-06 has much higher kinetic energy at any given range. Additionally, the 30-06’s bullets have a higher sectional density than the 303. Therefore, the 30-06 has a higher stopping power than the 303 British. Just like we saw in our comparison of the 308 Win vs 303 British, there are many rounds with more stopping power than the 303.

4) Cost & Availability

You can easily find both these cartridges’ ammo in any online store or local gun shop – so they’re pretty equal in terms of availability. But what about cost? A 30-06 round can cost you anywhere between $1.8-$4 per round. In comparison, the 303 British is slightly cheaper, general ammo costs in the range of $1.5-$3, while premium hunting ammo with accurate powder loads can cost $3+.

5) Recoil Analysis

Recoil – hated by novice hunters and embraced by experienced shooters. Recoil is important as it can influence your accuracy as a hunter. Additionally, if you do not practice the proper aiming technique, it can lead to you obtaining an injury from a collision with the scope mounts and the scope.

Unfortunately, the 30-06’s extra case capacity and power come at the expense of higher recoil. The 30-06 produces a free recoil of 20.3 lbs. In comparison, the 303 British only produces 15.4 lbs of free recoil – we took both measurements with 180-grain bullets. We saw in our analysis of the 270 Win vs WSM rounds that recoil can make a huge difference.

However, it is important also to consider the difference between free recoil and felt recoil. Free recoil is typically higher than felt recoil, as gun manufacturers design rifles to absorb some of the recoil.

Military rifles typically have metal buttstocks and not much additional cushioning to absorb the recoil produced from the cartridge. Therefore, the common 303 military surplus rifles can often produce a felt recoil which is more than you would experience from a custom 30-06 bolt action hunting rifle.

6) Which Is Best For Hunting?

The 30-06 is the clear winner as being the best for hunting. It is capable of ethically hunting whitetail deer up to 500 yards. In comparison, the 303 British is limited to hunting whitetail deer within 250 yards. Just like we saw in our analysis of the 300 Blackout & 300 HAMMR, larger rounds often perform better for hunting.

Both cartridges are capable of hunting medium to big game. When you use heavy bullets like the 180-grains we used in this article, you will be able to hunt elk and moose up to 300 yards with the 30-06. However, to ensure an ethical kill, you should limit hunting big game within 150 yards with the 303 British.

As always, shot placement is important when shooting on live targets – it can be the difference between a clean kill and spending an entire day hiking after an injured animal.

History Of 303 British Ammo

The 303 British is probably the cartridge embedded with the most amount of history. This venerable cartridge served in more than 20 wars, including both the first and second World War.

The cartridge was designed in 1888 for use as a stop-gap black powder round in the Lee-Metford rifle. However, in 1891 the cartridge swapped black powder for smokeless powder. It was introduced as a military cartridge in Commonwealth nations for use in both rifles and machine guns. The most notorious of these rifles used in Commonwealth nations is the Lee-Enfield.

The 303 British is the world’s longest-serving military cartridge, followed by the 7.62x54R.

History Of 30-06 Ammo

Don’t think the 30-06 hasn’t seen a lot of military action – this cartridge survived two world wars and was the primary cartridge for American snipers in the second world war. The US Army introduced the 30-06 in the early 1900s. It served the military until the early 1970s before being replaced by the 7.62×51 NATO, commonly known as the .308 Win.

The “30” in the name is the caliber of the cartridge, and the 06 is the year it was released (1906). Before the 30-06, the .30-03 6mm Lee Navy and .30-40 Krag cartridges were the standard military cartridges. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular sports and hunting cartridges.

Who Is The 30-06 Best For?

The 30-06 is best for anyone who wants an intermediate-high cartridge in terms of power. This cartridge is capable of hunting any North American big game. It also provides excellent long-range accuracy – which makes it a great choice for long-range hunting and sport shooting.

Of all the calibers I have, I find the 30-06 the easiest to perform cartridge reloading with – so that is also something to consider if you want to hand-load your rounds with custom loads.

Who Is The 303 British Best For?

The 303 British is a great round for anyone who appreciates history and wants to mix it with their hunting expeditions. While it is cool to hunt a whitetail deer with a 303 British, the cartridge does not have the capabilities to hunt deer beyond 300 yards.

If you enjoy plinking, then the 303 British is a great option. You can find 303 British military surplus ammo abundantly at a fraction of the price you normally pay for hunting ammo.

Other Similar Rounds

The .308 is a cartridge that has a very similar performance to that of the 30-06. For the 303, rounds very similar include the 7.62x54R, 6.5 Creedmoor, the 6.5 Grendel and 300 Blackout,

Frequently Asked Questions

What is more powerful a 303 or 30-06?

The 30-06 is more powerful - producing more kinetic energy and velocity at any load and test barrel length.

What is a 303 British equivalent?

The 303 British is equivalent to the 6.5 Creedmoor at the bottom end and to the 30-06 and 308 at the top range.

What is the effective range of a 303 rifle?

The effective range for medium game is 300 yards & 150 yards for large game.

Is a 303 the same as a 30 caliber?

No, the 303 is a different caliber than the .30 caliber. The 303 is a different size than the .300 Winchester model - they are not interchangeable.

Is 303 British ammo still made?

Yes, 303 British ammo is still widely produced by independent ammo manufacturers specifically for hunting and sport shooting purposes.

What replaced the 303 rifle?

The 303 rifle was replaced by the in the British Army and by the Colt Canada C19 used by Canadian rangers.

Can you shoot a 308 in a 303?

No, the cartridges differ in size and are therefore not interchangeable and should never be attempted.

The Bottom Line

Although both cartridges provide excellent shooting capabilities, they still have noticeable performance differences. The 30-06 is overall a better performing cartridge, providing the hunter with the option of hunting deer up to 500 yards with high accuracy.

In comparison, the 303 British is good, up to 300 yards, but personally, I enjoy shooting with the 303 British because of its war history and reputation. Also, because I love plinking and 303 military surplus ammo is very cheap.

Therefore, I think when you decide on which cartridge you want to use, you should base your decision more on the fact of what is your use case with this rifle – the 30-06 for hunting and sports shooting and the 303 as a connection with history and past wars.

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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