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.30 Cal Vocabulary for Hunters and Shooters

by Adam Scepaniak

If you are new to the shooting sports or a seasoned veteran, it can be confusing at times differentiating between the numerous rounds out there and their plentiful pseudo names. Is .308 Winchester bigger than .30-06 Springfield? Numerically speaking it’s bigger in terms of the name I provided, but in metric terms the picture becomes more clear. The .308 Winchester cartridge is actually 7.62x51mm versus the .30-06 Springfield cartridge which is 7.62x63mm. The waters get muddied so to speak because they are both .30 Cals, but when we express each cartridge metrically it becomes obvious that .30-06 Springfield is a much larger cartridge. We will try to explain some of the common .30 Calibers out there that you may see in gun shops for target shooting and potentially hunting.

A lot of firearms jargon can leave people perplexed, bewildered, or bamboozled. Like what does W.S.M. really mean when it follows the name of so many cartridges? Or what the heck does S.T.W. mean? To not leave you in the dark, WSM stands for Winchester Short Magnum which a lot of rounds got labeled by Winchester when they were inventing short-cased magnums. While STW stands for Shooting Times Westerner when in 1979 the 8mm Remington Magnum was necked down to a 7mm bullet.

Most calibers will give credit to the original inventor like S&W for Smith & Wesson or describe the bullet diameter like .300 Savage which actually tells you the bullet diameter and pays homage to the original inventor; Savage Arms. A lot of the American vocabulary for cartridges will credit the inventors with bullet diameters making deciphering through rifle cartridges pretty difficult. When it comes to the category of .30 Calibers, viewing their size visually definitely helps.

Rounds Visual

If you were to just read their names, without any previous knowledge, it would be near impossible to know which is the largest and smallest. This is where it can come in handy to know metric names for calibers. Metric designations will state the bullet diameter first followed by the length of the brass. This makes things easier because when bullet diameters are all the same the size of the cartridge can be identified without a picture or actual round. So, if you know the names of calibers and can understand where they came from, the only thing left is to pick one if you are shopping for a new firearm!


When it comes to .30 Caliber firearms, some people are of the mindset that you need a huge caliber or only certain calibers will do the job. If you are hunting whitetail deer, shot placement is the most important factor in humanely and quickly downing your game; not the sheer amount of Foot-Lbs of energy or recoil you sustained from firing your firearm. What a lot of people are forgetting is that once you pull the trigger and the bullet leaves the barrel, the same sized bullet (in varying grain weights) is coming out.

I traditionally suggest people purchase cartridges that they already own, for simplicity of buying ammunition, or a round that is readily available in regards to finding ammo. My brother always gives the example of: “If you are in the middle of nowhere hunting, and you stop at a tiny gas station or gun shop, would they have your ammo?” If you purchase or own a .308 Win., .30-06 Sprg., or .30-30 Win. they likely would. If you have a more uncommon caliber like .300 Wby. Mag. or .300 A.A.C. Blackout, then they may not. All these calibers do have utility though, but you have to decide… what am I hunting… what environment am I hunting… what is the cost of ammunition… and will I be able to find this ammunition in the future? The 30 Nosler can kill any animal in North America; whereas, the .300 A.A.C. Blackout was adopted as a modern sporting rifle cartridge which is great for hunting wild hogs and other medium-sized game in the United States.

A couple questions to ask yourself when buying a new rifle, and potentially a new cartridge are: What cartridges do I already own? Is it a fairly common one to find? If not, am I prepared to reload it and does this unique round have a good intended purpose? Sometimes the only reason you need to dive into a new round is because it is fun! You simply need to be honest with yourself. And if your rifle and the new round you choose is not shooting up to your standards, you can always drop it into a Boyds Gunstock to improve the accuracy. In sum though, truly knowing your rifle cartridge’s size and what it would likely be used for can greatly affect your satisfaction when buying a new firearm and investing in a new cartridge. As always be safe, happy shooting, and let us know all of your thoughts via email or social media! We always appreciate your feedback.