The .30-06 is a very powerful cartridge designed when 1,000 yd + (1 km) shots were expected. In 1906, the original M1906 .30-06 cartridge consisted of a 9.7 grams (150 gr), flat-base cupronickel-jacketed-bullet. After WWI, the U.S. military needed better long-range performance machine guns. Based on weapons performance reports from Europe, a streamlined, 11.2 grams (173 gr) boattail, gilding-metal bullet was used. The .30-06 cartridge, with the 11.2-gram (173-grain) bullet was called Cartridge, .30, M1 Ball. The .30-06 cartridge was far more powerful than the smaller Japanese 6.5 x 50mm Arisaka cartridge and comparable to the Japanese 7.7 x 58 Arisaka. The new M1 ammunition proved to be significantly more accurate than the M1906 round.
In 1938, the unstained, 9.8 grams (151 gr), flat-base bullet combined with the .30-06 case became the M2 ball cartridge. According to U.S. Army Technical Manual 43-0001-27, M2 Ball specifications required 835 meters per second (2,740 ft/s) minimum velocity, measured 24 meters (79 ft) from the muzzle. M2 Ball was the standard-issue ammunition for military rifles and machine guns until it was replaced by the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO round for the M14 and M60. For rifle use, M2 Ball ammunition proved to be less accurate than the earlier M1 cartridge; even with match rifles, a target group of 5 inches (130 mm) diameter at 200 yards (180 m) using the 150-grain (9.7 g) M2 bullet was considered optimal, and many rifles performed less well. The U.S. Marine Corps retained stocks of M1 ammunition for use by snipers and trained marksmen throughout the Solomon Islands campaign in the early years of the war. In an effort to increase accuracy some snipers resorted to use of the heavier .30-06 M2 armor-piercing round, a practice that would re-emerge during the Korean War. Others sought out lots of M2 ammunition produced by Denver Ordnance, which had proved to be more accurate than those produced by other wartime ammunition plants when used for sniping at long range. Commercially manufactured rifles chambered in .30-06 are popular for hunting.