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The word is out. The .30-06 Springfield is back in vogue.

Interaction with outdoors media organizations has taught me that coverage for themes and issues is often coordinated. This column isn't about the .30-06 as much as a commentary on the forces that drive the news.

Exhibit A is an article titled ".30-06 in Africa ... Still one of the most versatile choices," by Craig Boddington in the January/February issue of Safari, the official publication of Safari Club International.

Like all gun articles, this one opens with an anecdote about a successful safari with a .30-06, followed by a ponderous digression detailing the history of the .30-06 that serves only to pad the word count. A writer gets extra points if he slips in a reference to A.O. Niedner, and a double bonus for mentioning Townsend Whelen. Those names are not pertinent to the .30-06 story, but Boddington deftly plays a strong legacy hand with the Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark cards, with a Teddy Roosevelt card as trump.

Boddington then relives his exploits hunting African plains game, including leopard, with the .30-06. Photos show him with a large assortment of game he killed with various .30-06 rifles, including his favorite, a 1976 Liberty Model Ruger M77.

Like any of Boddington's articles, it is a good read about an old cartridge that is seldom mentioned anymore.

Exhibit B is a recent spread of .30-06 articles by Ron Spomer, a prolific writer from Idaho. He penned a similar piece in American Hunter that I read Tuesday in an office while waiting to attend a meeting. I was unable to jot down the title, but seeing two such articles published so closely together hinted that the gun industry's "star maker machine" was at work.

Surfing the internet, I found Exhibit C, yet another .30-06 fluff piece by Spomer published March 5, 2019, at

Why all of this love suddenly for an old, outdated cartridge that was surpassed decades ago by many other now obsolete cartridges?

Spomer explained it in the Outdoor Life piece when he wrote that "virtually every popular rifle maker chambers .30/06."

They also need to sell them. Being major advertisers, gunmakers convey their needs to editors who enlist veteran writers whose work appears in every issue of every gun magazine to create copy touting the venerable old .30-06 as a modern and effective big game cartridge. The target audience is Gen X and Gen Y hunters, the industry's growth demographic. To generate fresh copy, gunmakers and ammo-makers host the writers on safari and on American big game hunts.

As Spomer noted in both of his articles, Hemingway killed a black rhino with a .30-06 in 1933. Modern propellants and bullets rejuvenate the .30-06 into a modern, effective all-purpose cartridge.

These things go in cycles. The .30-06 made an earlier "makeover" tour through the hunting and shooting media from 2006-10. The time is right because the 6.5 Creedmoor, as fine as it is, has about run its course as a news item. There's nothing more to say about it, and it doesn't need saturated coverage to keep it moving.

Intense 6.5 Creedmoor coverage also spawned new interest in the 6.5x55 Swedish, which is even older than the .30-06. My Swede is also a Ruger M77. I wrote about it often until about four years ago, but resumed in 2019 when the Creedmoor made it young again.

As a side note, the M77 is a solid hunting rifle, but it has never been known for pinpoint accuracy. Exceptions, said Bill Pool, a Benton gunsmith, are those chambered in 6.5x55 and .358 Winchester. Pool said that Bill Ruger used the cheapest barrels he could get to make affordable rifles.

"Nobody made any cheap .264 (6.5mm) or .358 barrels," Pool said. "He could only get those in premium barrels."

Until somebody invents an interesting new 6.5mm or 7mm platform, the firearms industry will tap its 401k, which is invested in the .30-06 and other staid but blue-chip holdings. I suspect it won't be long before we start seeing similar coverage for the 270 Winchester. It's about time for the 7mm Remington Magnum to take a legacy tour in the firearms and hunting media in the near future, too.

The articles demonstrate that classic cartridges work better than ever thanks to modern components. It's fun to chart their paths back into fashion.

Sports on 01/16/2020

Print Headline: Classic cartridge back in vogue


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