The .30-06 vs .450 Bushmaster: Which is the better caliber for hunting?

We all know the shooting community leans towards different calibers for a bunch of various reasons. These may be the mass appearance of the specific game due to disruption in nature, new shooting disciplines, hunting regulations, trends or just fashion.

In this overview, we’ll try to provide a closer insight into two diametrically opposed rounds but at the same two numbers with few overlapping usages.

If you are trying to choose the best solution between the .450 Bushmaster and .30-06 Springfield, first, you should know what and where you will be hunting.

You have probably thought that looking at two rounds, one beside the other – it’s an easy decision. But it’s not. If you plan to shoot large animals up to a maximum range of 100-150 yards, both rounds will offer almost equal ballistic performance, but beyond 200-250 yards, all advantages go to the century-old .30-06.

However, if you hunt in Midwestern states, only straight-wall cartridges like .450 Bushmaster would be legal for deer and other large game.

30-06 Vs 450 Bushmaster

Here’s a chart comparing both cartridges’ dimensions, energy, velocity, recoil and drop.

Cartridge  .30-06 Springfield.450 Bushmaster
Bullet125 to 280 gr (8.1 to 18.1 g)245 to 300 gr (15.9 to 19.4 g)
Bullet diameter  .308” (7.8mm)0452” (11.48mm)
Case length2.494” (63.3mm)1.76” (45mm)
Maximum overall length3.34” (85mm)2.26” (57.4mm)
Rim diameter.473” (12.01mm).473” (12.01mm)
Max Pressure (SAAMI)60.000 psi38,500 psi
Muzzle Velocity150gr/ 2,910 fps250 gr/ 2,200 fps
Muzzle Energy150gr/ 2,820 ft-lbs.250 gr/ 2,686 ft-lbs.
            200yds Bullet Drop (inches)0.0”-9.1”
Powder load59 gr40.4 gr
Rifle Weight7.25 lbs.7.4 lbs.
Free recoil energy26.2 ft-lbs.24.24 ft-lbs.
Case capacity68.0 gr H2O59.5 gr H2O

.450 Bushmaster

One that gained traction from its introduction in 2007 to these days without a doubt is a .450 Bushmaster. Originally dubbed the .45 Professional by its designer Timothy James LeGendre of LeMag Firearms, the .450 Bushmaster cartridge is basically a .284 Win case necked up to take .452-diameter bullets.

Following the old saying “Bigger Is Better,” this mighty .45 caliber round is purpose-built to work in the AR-15 platform-style rifles and improve the stopping power of the standard 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge up to 300 yards.

Besides tactical uses, the .450 Bushmaster (BM) is gaining recognition as a sporting round providing one-shot kills on dangerous and big-game animals at short ranges.

The case design is the most significant difference between the .30-06 and .450 Bushmaster. Compared to the most classic bottlenecked cartridges such as .30-06 Springfield, .308 Win or .223 Rem, the .450 Bushmaster belongs to the currently popular group of straight-walled “big bore” AR-15 cartridges like .50 Beowulf and .444 Marlin.

This “handgun on steroids” fires 0.452″ pistol bullets out of a big bore rifle, reaching the same muzzle energy at 200 yards as a typical .44 Magnum handgun load at the muzzle.

The .450 Bushmaster is loaded with bullets in the 158 – 300 grains range, but the most popular is 250 gr and 260 gr loadings. In contrast, the .30-06 Springfield mainly fires bullets between 110 and 220 grains, with the best bullet grain of 180 gr loads being the most popular.

Even with its short overall length, the .450 Bushmaster is quite a powerful round for a straight-walled cartridge. Actually, it is perfect for large (Class 3) game, including hog, elk, and even black bears at 250-yards. After that, the .450 Bushmaster lost too much energy, dropping off very sharply to be practical.

It means the .450 Bushmaster lost about 70% of its energy (522 ft/lbs.) at 500 yards and has around 126 inches of bullet drop, while the .30-06 has around 54 inches of bullet drop and has significantly more energy remaining at 500 yards (1,474 ft/lbs.).

Definitely, the .450 is handicapped due to the big, heavy, and short non-aerodynamic bullets, whereas the .30-06 Springfield has enough power to take down a deer even at 1,000 yards.

But if you want to use your semi-auto AR platform rifle for hunting hogs or deer and are aware of .450 Bushmaster limitations, this would be your go-to caliber.

Although much has been discussed about its tactical purposes, the .450 Bushmaster is gaining recognition as a sporting cartridge, increased stopping power and one-shot kill on big-game animals at 250 yards.

.30-06 Springfield

The .30-06 Springfield or the .30 Gov’t ’06 has almost 120 years of existence, and after military service, it has recorded numerous hunting trophies and is an unforgettable experience for many hunters and sportsmen.

This bottlenecked cartridge is probably the most popular universal centerfire rifle caliber, with an ethical and practical range of up to 350 yards. However, don’t forget that ’06 long profiled .30 caliber bullet still has nearly 1,000 foot-pounds of energy at 1,000 yards, which is more than enough to take out the deer-sized animal.

As for external dimensions, in comparison to the short .450 Bushmaster, the .30-06 at 3.34” overall length is a significantly longer cartridge. While the .450 BM is purpose-built for an AR-15 action with a maximum allowed length of 2.26”, the .30-06 is designed mainly for bolt action rifles or bigger semi-automatics like Browning BAR.

The second major difference between legendary .30-06 and .450 Bushmaster is the bullet diameter that each round fires. The .450 Bushmaster fires a 0.452” bullet, while the ’06 fires the tried-and-true 0.308” diameter bullet.

Although the case capacity does not vary too much, the allowed maximum pressure of these two rifle cartridges drastically differs. Compared to the moderate 38,500 psi of the .450 Bushmaster, the .30-06 can handle a whopping 60,000 psi.

Speaking of felt recoil, neither the .30-06 nor the .450 are gentle. While the recoil of .450 BM can be described as a “thump,” it’s just a bit softer than .30-06 due to the semi-auto operating system of the AR-15.

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Final thought

From the ammo availability, in terms of rifles and ballistic standpoint, the .30-06 Springfield cartridge is a far superior caliber. However, it requires a barrel between 28 and 30-inches long for the best results, whereas the .450 BM is at almost full power in a 16-inch barrel.

It means a compact, short rifle that is much handier for the woods and bushes than a Browning Bar or bolt-action rifle chambered in .30-06.

On the other hand, the .30-06 Springfield has a considerably flatter trajectory than the .450 Bushmaster at longer ranges.

As we said earlier, the decision is yours, depending on what and where you are planting to hunt.

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