The .30-06 is one of the most widespread mid-power rifle cartridges in the world. It is most popular among hunters of mid to large-sized game. But, it started its life as the cartridge of choice of the US military.
The “06” in its name comes from the year 1906. That is when it replaced the .30-40 Krag and the .30-03 cartridges. These had been in use by the American armed services until then. It was introduced at a time when other militaries around the world were adopting cartridges suited to faster, flatter bullets. They were also making a move to a spritzer. Those are pointed bullets instead of the round-nosed variety.
The .30-06 was brought in to meet these requirements and introduce a rimless cartridge, The M1903 Springfield rifle was the first service rifle chambered for the .30-06. It would see action in World War I. The cartridge would remain in service in machine guns and the M1903’s successors.
When NATO adopted the 7.62x51mm cartridge, the 30-06 was side-lined by the military. It has never lost popularity as a hunting cartridge. It is popular in the states for deer. It isalso a great cartridge for large deer, elk, and boar in Europe. You can even use it for smaller plains game in Africa.
The M1903 served in the sniper rifle role through the Second World War, Korea, and Vietnam. It is now considered obsolete as a military round. For that reason, we will only be considering scopes suitable for hunting here.
Yes, the cartridge will perform at range and could be pressed to use out to 1000 meters. There are better cartridges for that now, though. You won’t find many people doing serious target shooting with a .30-06. The only ones that do enjoy using collectible firearms. That doesn’t mean it isn’t capable. There are more popular cartridges today.
Its popularity for use in hunting has never waned. The cartridge is very capable on larger deer, elk, and even moose. It is commonly loaded with bullets between about 150 and 220 grains. It can produce muzzle velocities up to almost 3000 feet per second. A 180-grain core-lokt soft point round, for example, would be an excellent choice on an elk. That will produce 2913 ft/lbs of energy.
Given the power of this cartridge, you will need a robust scope. Make sure that you rule out rim-fire scopes straight away. They just won’t survive the recoil of the .30-06. Also, consider the ranges you will be shooting. Also, remember that the .30-06 really isn’t a varmint caliber. With calibers like the .204 Ruger and others so popular now, the varmint market is saturated. The .30-06’s niche is really more traditional hunting.
Below you will find all the information you need to pick out Top 9 best .30-06 scopes for traditional hunting.
- Choosing a .30-06 scope for traditional hunting
- Top 10 Best .30-06 Scopes for hunting Reviews
Choosing a .30-06 scope for traditional hunting
Hunting on foot has been the mainstay of subsistence and recreational hunting since the dawn of time. You hunt this way by using calls to lure your quarry. You also need to move stealthily and be vigilant to spot your targets. We have relied on our ability to hunt in many circumstances. One of the most satisfying styles of hunting is getting out there on your own, though. It doesn’t matter if you are hunting with a bow, modern rifle, or muzzleloader. The .30-06 is a cartridge you can rely on when hunting alone. It is also powerful enough that it will give you confidence in a chance encounter with a dangerous predator.
For solo hunting you can often dispense with the more powerful scopes. More than about fifteen power won’t give you any considerable advantage. Complicated range finding reticles and lots of subtensions will not help either. They might be great for precise target shooting or varmint shooting at long range. You don’t need them for shooting mid to large-sized deer at ethical ranges. In fact, a smaller, rugged scope will be far more useful in rugged terrain you will be traversing while you hunt.
Illuminated reticles might be useful on a scope. Larger objective lenses will also be a benefit to gather light at dusk and daw. Otherwise, the fewer features the better.
Top 10 Best .30-06 Scopes for hunting Reviews
1. Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm Rifle Scope
Leupold is one of the best choices for world-class optics. Their lineup includes products suitable for all types of hunting and tactical applications. This particular member of the VX line features 3.5-10 power variable magnification. That is adequate for hunting out to a few hundred yards.
A lot of people overestimate their ability to shoot at 300 meters. At that distance, though, it’s easy to forget how much energy a bullet loses. The weighty projectiles of the .30-06 don’t suffer from this as much. It can certainly still be lethal up to 1000 meters under the right conditions. Yet, it’s not fair or ethical to take a large deer much beyond that 300 meters.
The lower end of the magnification on this scope is ideal for close range shots. I would leave it set around six for most situations. The duplex reticle is great for normal hunting situations. It allows for some range estimation and offers at least one useful additional aim point.
It isn’t too badly affected by the second focal plane. Second focal plane scopes with complicated reticles are almost worthless. The scale of the reticle changes as you zoom in and out. This means they only accurately represent their intended intervals at one magnification setting. A duplex, though, is so simple that zooming shouldn’t throw you off too badly. The lower duplex is also a great point of aim. While mine is set on six power, the distance between the crosshair and duplex is twelve inches. That gives me an almost perfect holdover point for a 300-yard shot.
The simplicity of this scope is what makes it perfect for this task. The supreme Leupold quality helps too.
2. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Multi-X
Another 3-9x50mm scope, this offering from Bushnell is a great choice to top your .30-06 rifle. The 3-9×50, or x40, has been a popular specification for hunting scopes forever. The 50mm objective offers a slight advantage over the 40mm .It gathers more light. The bigger front end, however, means the scope is higher above the bore. That makes it slightly less stable, harder to get a cheek weld, and heavier. I would normally consider that sacrifice worthwhile.
This Bushnell also offers side focus adjustment. That is a great feature often reserved for more expensive scopes. It is a perfect companion to budget rifles such as the Remington 783 or Savage axis.
3. Bushnell Trophy Xtreme X30 2.5-15×50 Scope
Bushnell has already featured on this list, and for good reason. They are one of the world’s largest sporting optics manufacturers. Their scopes can be found on the shelves of budget stockists to the showcases of the finest hunting outfitters. Many of their models are purpose-driven. This scope is one of those, Its purpose is long-distance shooting.
It has fifteen power magnification and a bullet drop calculating reticle. This scope allows you to stretch the range of your shots if you need to. It also allows you to place very precise shots on smaller game and vermin.
It is a great scope for using in the field. Bushnell also makes it to a high standard. It has coated lenses and fog proof construction. There is also the added benefit of great customer service. The lifetime warranty will give you confidence in your scope.
4. Vortex Diamondback 4-16×42
I’ve already said that a 50mm objective gives a light-gathering advantage over 40mm front ends. It does so at the expense of weight, maneuverability, and a comfortable cheek weld. The perfect middle ground are scopes available with 42mm or 44mm objectives. That is offered by this Vortex Diamondback. It has a 42mm objective and variable 4-16 power.
The 30-06 cartridge is 113 years old and as effective today as ever. Vortex Optics, on the other hand, are young in the firearms industry. Since their establishment in 2004, they have become one of the most respected optics makers around. This scope from their diamondback range would be an excellent choice for your .30-06 hunting rifle.
5. Trijicon RS22 AccuPower
Trijicon might be best known for their tactical optics. They also have a varied range of scopes, including this Accupower. This range benefits from the same rugged construction as products aimed at military and law enforcement. It has a simplicity that makes them perfect for a traditional hunting rifle.
The massive 56mm objective on this scope will gather every available scrap of light. It also features a very low power option on its variable zoom. That can be useful if you are stalking through the close brush, scrub, and woodland.
One of the best things about Trijicon scopes is their supreme quality and ruggedness. Their construction pairs well with the rigors of travel and hunting in the backcountry while hunting.
It also features a range of options for your reticle. You can pick one with subtensions in MOA or mil-dot intervals or illuminated options.
6. Steiner GS3 Game Sensing Rifle Scope
Steiner scopes and optics have a fantastic reputation. Their GS3 scopes have options for any hunting scenario. The 4-20 power options would be great for targets and precise varmint shooting. My pick for pairing with a .30-06 would be the 2-10×42 or 3-15x50mm.
You receive all the quality you would expect from a maker with Steiner’s reputation. Plus, these scopes feature special CAT (color adjusted transmission) coatings on their lenses. That helps game stand out by amplifying contrast. Hence the “game sensing” element of their name. The S1 plex reticle features a few additional aim points. They make it one of the most complicated reticles in this lineup. It is still intuitive and not needlessly complicated like some others. The scope will give you a bit of extra help when adjusting for range and wind.
The great quality and rugged construction of Steiner Optics is backed up by their lifetime “Heritage Warranty.” There is no reason you won’t be able to pass this scope on to your kids.
7. Burris Fullfield II
This is another scope in the 3-9×40 range. It also offers the option for a ballistic plex reticle. That reticle is not too dissimilar from the one offered on the Steiner scope reviewed above. You won’t get the same quality or performance. It also won’t sting your wallet as much. That could be a great option if you are hunting on a shoestring budget. A .30-06 is a great choice for those on a budget. The ammunition is so readily available and cheap. It is certainly much more affordable than something like the .300 Win Mag or the 6.5 Creedmoor. This scope is a perfect companion to the .30-06.
8. Zeiss Conquest
Zeiss, Swarovski and Schmidt, and Bender produce some of the best scopes in the world. This model is just perfect for hunting. it would be the perfect companion to a .30-06 rifle. It offers both low power magnification for close shots and stalking through brush. There is also fast target acquisition and higher power for those longer shots on open terrain. It features an illuminated reticle and a huge choice of other reticles. You can pick the best one for your style of shooting.
Schmidt and Bender Klassik
Another Schmidt and Bender entry is the Klassik. It is one of the best scopes come out of Germany. In fact, we owe a lot of our modern scope conventions to companies like Leica and Zeiss. They have been around for well over a century. Yet, they still produce excellent optics.
The Klassic range from Schmidt and Bender are specifically aimed at hunters. They lack some of the extreme features of the military and tactical oriented models. This scope offers a great variable zoom range. There is also a 56mm objective and the L7 reticle. That is a great all-around hunting reticle. It has particular advantages when shooting running game such as boar.
Any of these scopes will serve well on your .30-06 for hunting. If money were no object, try the Schmidt and Bender or Leupold. I have used the fixed eight power model from this range for several years. Currently, I have a Leupold on my .243 Winchester. That rifle has taken more deer than I can count. Both scopes are fantastic. I have no complaints about either of them.
For the budget-conscious, the Burris or Bushnell products might be a better choice. For specific hunting styles the Trijicon RS24 would be hard to beat. Any of these scopes will serve well on top of your .30-06, though. Take your pick, get it zeroed, and get out hunting.
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Geoff has a background in professional game and deer management, he has put his years of experience to good use and now lectures at Hartpury College, one of the UK’s leading providers of land based education. He specialises in training game and wildlife managers who will go on to work in professional game management, conservation and other outdoor professions. He has been teaching at colleges for eight years and in that time has worked at some of the most prestigious land based colleges in Britain.
He has also worked in lead instructor roles at outdoor education centres and as manager of outdoor centres in Norfolk and Scotland and has also operated his own bushcraft and survival skills training companies for many years. He specialises in providing training in bushcraft, survival skills, wild food, and woodcraft.