Ever since the .30-06 was introduced more than 100-years ago, ammo makers have been working to develop cartridges that duplicate or surpass the performance of the venerable '06. Decades after its introduction, it was discovered that the .30-06 could be matched in many applications using the same bullets in a smaller cartridge case and the popular .308 Winchester was born. Today people still argue over which is the superior cartridge of the two and no animal closer than 300 yards will know the difference. The appeal of the .308 is that it delivers .30-06 performance with about 20% less recoil using the same bullet. It's also an inherently accurate round, though the '06 is far from a slouch in that category either. And now there's a relatively new loading for .30-caliber bullets that claims to deliver .30-06 performance from a shell even shorter than the .308 Winchester.
Thompson Center, well known for it's accurate rifle-caliber single-shot pistols, Encore rifles and muzzleloaders, embarked on a joint venture with Hornady, the Nebraska-based ammo maker, to develop the .30 TC. For comparison purposes the case length of the .30 TC is 1.92", the .308 case measures 2.015" and the .30-06 case is 2.494" long. So the .30 TC case is slightly shorter than the .308 but manages to hurl a 150-grain SST bullet downrange nearly 200 fps faster (2,820 fps for the .308 vs. 3,000 fps for the .30 TC). In fact the .30 TC shoots the 150-grain SST even a bit faster than the .30-06 (3,000 fps for the .30 TC vs. 2,910 fps for the .30-06). Loaded with 165-grain SST bullets the .30 TC still retains a 50-fps advantage over the .30-06 with a muzzle velocity of 2,850 fps, so with bullets up to 165-grain it is true that the .30 TC delivers energy and speed equal to or better than the .30-06 in a smaller cartridge. Pictured left to right are the .30-06, the .308 and the .30 TC.
The trend in ammunition over the last few years has been toward "short-and-fat" cartridges. Leading the popularity contest among the S&Fs have been the .325 WSM, .300 WSM and .270 WSM. It's now understood that gunpowder burns more efficiently in shorter cases with greater diameters. The .30 TC is a non-magnum, slightly shorter and fatter-looking round than the .308 and, in guns weighing the same, produces less recoil.
I recently spent some time at a range shooting a TC Icon rifle chambered for the .30 TC. The Icon was topped with a variable-power Leupold scope and I shot at a Birchwood Casey target 100-yards away.
There is no question that the .30 TC is a sweetheart to shoot. Recoil is mild and, with no scientific instruments to back up my claim, I'd say comparable to a .243 rifle. The .30 TC is also very accurate.
My first two shots were acceptable, but I'm finicky about accuracy and tinkered with the scope to get hits at 12-o-clock just above the bullseye. From then on the .30 TC shot into on ragged hole with MOA groups no problem.
The .30 TC is loaded with Hornady's SST bullet and will slam down a deer, antelope or caribou with authority. One fellow here at Cabela's has even taken a moose with the .30 TC. My hope is that Hornady will soon offer the .30 TC loaded with its powerful Interbond bullet in addition to the SST.
Time will tell if the .30 TC catches on and garners a sufficient following to survive in a crowded field of .30-caliber hunting options. It certainly has a lot going for it in terms of accuracy, modest recoil and performance on game, and I can easily recommend it based on those qualities. Right now the only factory-made rifle platforms chambered in .30 TC are the excellent Thompson Center Icon bolt-action and single-shot Encore Pro Hunter, but as more manufacturers discover the benefits of the .30 TC cartridge, perhaps more options will become available.