Calibers for Beginners: .308 Winchester Rifle Ammunition

.308 Win Winchester Ammunition Ammo Rifle Hunting Target

Following hot of the heels of .223 Remington (see my earlier post here) in terms of general popularity is .308 Winchester. The .308 has enjoyed a reputation of excellence for decades and deservedly so. Most shooters that grew up before and even during the AR revolution that wanted a do-all cartridge went with the .308 because of the large increase in power and myriad available bullet options. A good 9mm, .45 ACP, .223, and .308 Win was often what most people ended up with, or some combination thereof.

Unlike the nearly universal, plug-and-play AR-15 platform, the .308 hasn’t seen the same level of standardization. Many manufacturers out there are prone to having their own proprietary designs as far as AR-style rifles chambered for .308 (the so-called AR-10) and the same goes for generational differences in bolt actions. That said, there are plenty of great stand-alone options.

So what does the .308 Win offer a new shooter? In my previous (and contentious) articles on 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and .380 ACP, I detailed many direct comparisons between them and riled up the normally civil and completely unbiased folks in the audience.

The comparison between pistol rounds was necessary as they all essentially occupy the same purpose and share an effective range of only a few yards at best. Their benefits are a matter of limited perspective and it’s important for a beginner to see the advantages and disadvantages among roughly comparable rounds. Rifle is a different ballgame.

As I’ve said, virtually all pistol rounds compete in basically the same niche, each having its own features and advantages. When it comes to pistols, we’re talking the difference between sparrows and chickadees. When we talk rifles, we’re talking about the difference between kestrels and eagles. There’s a huge difference between .223 and .308 and it is not at all a fair or similar comparison. The beginner should keep that in mind when making a purchase or deciding on a use for their rifle.

For the new shooter the .308 offers some of the following benefits:

  • Available everywhere and anywhere. The .308 is one of the most common and trusted rifle rounds in the country and it’s easy to find good, accurate ammunition.
  • Ample power for virtually all North American game species. The .308 is a powerful cartridge and can handle bullets over 200gr, although most hunting can be accomplished with lighter bullets.
  • Ammo options span a range from import junk for range fun to state-of-the-art long-range match loads costing several dollars each. If you have a question, there is a .308 load out there with an answer.
  • Easy and proven handload information, should you get that far. The .308 has a long history of match shooting and competition use. As a result there are volumes published on good, accurate combinations of brass, powder, and bullets.
  • Reliable and proven weapon platforms. Many of the best .308 rifles have a military heritage. The legendary Remington 700 has seen use as a sniper rifle since the Vietnam War and that use continues to this day.

Some of the possible disadvantages to the .308, especially for a beginner, include:

  • Most .308 rifles tend to be larger and heavier than other contemporary options, but they’re getting lighter every day. POF’s Revolution is a .308 that’s the same size and weight as a comparable 5.56mm option, a truly amazing feat of engineering to be sure.
  • Greater recoil. The .308 is in the same recoil category as rounds like .30-06 and 7.62x54R. These rounds don’t have fearsome recoil, but they can be more than some new shooters can handle right out the gate.
  • The .308 is a bit more expensive than smaller rifle calibers and the cost can add up, especially in high volume. The rifles themselves can be very comparably priced to others in their peer group, but there’s usually a significant price difference between an AR-15 and an AR-10.

Ammunition can be had from virtually any company that makes ammo. The list is incredibly long, but I’ll name a few new and not-so-new ones just to give you an idea of what’s out there.

  • Match loads. Yes, there are dozens available and almost all of them are pretty damn good. Some of the best factory match loads can be had from Hornady, Lapua, Federal, and HSM, and Black Hills.
  • Hunting ammo is arguably the most widespread type available in .308. Because it’s one of the most popular deer and medium game cartridges of all time, it enjoys a huge following. Winchester, Remington, Hornady, and Barnes make some excellent products in this category.
  • Bulk loads. There’s a great deal of military surplus and new production military ammo available from a number of sources. Cost-effective ammo comes from makers like Wolf, Tula, Lake City, Bear, PMC, Federal, and Prvi Partizan.

When it comes to rifles chambered in .308, there are many different types and they all do slightly different things.

  • The AR-10 is a bit of a weird thing. There isn’t really a set standard for these so there are differences within this class of rifle. There are several large ‘families’ of the AR-10, with the main ones being the shape of the lower and the magazines it uses. The SR25/DPMS style is the most accepted, with the Armalite type taking different mags. There’s a lot more to it, more than I can get into here. Great rifles come from Savage, POF, SIG SAUER, LMT, Mega Arms, Larue Tactical, and many others.
  • FN SCAR 17S. This is a rather interesting rifle that’s in current military use and has a number of advantages over the AR-10 family, including a folding stock, gas piston operation, and a reversable side charging handle. This rifle is among the most expensive on the list at about $3,500 MSRP.
  • Bolt actions. The most popular in this category is probably the Remington 700, which is a rifle that just about every serious hunter and target shooter has used at some point in their lifetime. The .308 is very much at home in a bolt action rifle and it is a very good long range cartridge with the right setup. Some of the most accurate and rugged bolt actions you can buy come from Remington, Savage, Ruger, Mossberg, Howa, CZ, Bergara, and Winchester.
  • Springfield M1A. This rifle is essentially a modern version of the military M14, but without the full-auto switch. These rifles have been around for decades and enjoy a variety of uses across the shooting spectrum. They are most commonly seen today at target matches and out hunting.

The .308 is a hard cartridge to go wrong with. Sure, there are some new calibers that do better at certain games, but the .308 is very hard to ignore for the beginner due to the fact that it can do almost anything required of a rifle cartridge while being wonderfully common and relatively affordable.

comments

  1. avatar GS650G says:

    Versatile enough to be used in bolt guns, AR patterns, and even light machine guns. I’ve got 3 .308 guns and standardized on it.

  2. avatar Bob says:

    You had me at M14….

    1. avatar frank speaks says:

      left out the HK-91…mine will match groups with any of my sporting rifles…and just begs for a scope…

      1. avatar Marty says:

        Yea, I used to have an HK 91. The only thing I didn’t like was how it treated the brass. Then Kalifornia put them on the ban list and the only way I could keep it was to register it, which I refused to do. Took it to a friend in AZ and did some trading.

  3. avatar Jack says:

    Is a piston system really an “advantage” over the AR10?

  4. avatar LKB says:

    Fail.

    Any article “for beginners” on the .308 needs to explain the slight differences between .308 Win and with the 7.62×51 NATO, just as an article on the .223 needs to explain the distinction with 5.56 NATO, and the potential issues (or lack thereof) of shooting one in a rifle chambered in the other.

    And . . . you mention the Springfield M1A, but ignore the L1A1 / FAL (all of which are chambered in 7.62×51 NATO)? C’mon, the L1A1/ FAL was only probably the most common battle rifle of the 1950-80’s (and is way better than the Springfield M1A)!

    1. avatar Stephen M says:

      Ignored not only the FAL but also the HK91/CETME clones fairly cheaply available

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      There’s not really any concern that the wrong ca rtridge will cause a potentially dangerous over-pressure situation with .308/7.62×51 as there is with with shoo ting a 5.56 in a .223 chambered ri fle, so I’d have to side with the author here, there’s no need to delve into the weeds in an article for beginners.

    3. avatar Cranky says:

      In the real world there’s no difference between 308 and 7.62×51. I’ve measured data on dozens of different headstamps (wall thickness and weight for all, volume for some). You’d never be able to tell which stamps where which since the variations completely overlap.

    4. avatar Accur81 says:

      If it can handle .308, it can handle the lighter 7.62 x 51 / 7.62 NATO. In other words, lighten up, Francis.

    5. avatar James in AZ says:

      Considering manufacturing tolerances among all kinds of commercial loads and all kinds of military loads around tbe whole world, what exactly is the real difference between 308 and 7.62×51?

      1. avatar LKB says:

        Good write up on the subject here:

        http://www.303british.com/id36.html

        Summary: Headspace on 7.62×51 is slightly longer (typically about 0.010″, but some weapons may be headspaced as much as 0.015″ longer) than .308. Brass on the NATO rounds is substantially thicker.

        From a practical standpoint,
        1. some 7.62×51 ammo may be tight or not even chamber in a .308.
        2. .308 ammo fired from a 7.62×51 chambered weapon will stretch/fire form the brass. If your 7.62’s chamber is significantly longer, there’s a risk of a case failure, especially with a hot .308 round on reloaded .308 brass.

    6. avatar CS says:

      LKB,
      You also failed to explain the difference between the nato version and commercial 308.
      The Nato Spec 7.62 is lower in pressure. If a gun can fire 308, then it can safely fire Nato but not the other way around.

      1. avatar Marty says:

        Yea, seems to me I read many years ago that when reloading 7.62 brass, you should reduce the powder load 10% and that’s what I have been doing. Never had a problem or any signs of high pressure.

  5. avatar Nanashi says:

    PSA is listed for 5.56 ARs but not 308. Something wrong with PSA’s 308 AR?

    1. avatar Loofa says:

      PSA’s AR10 is excellent on all counts and represents a great value, IMO. If I didn’t already own a DPMS AR10 and IWI Galil I’d buy one.

  6. avatar Rick says:

    Fulton Armory started making match grade M-14S’s (semi-auto). They also make an AR-10 style with great reviews.

  7. avatar TexTed says:

    .308 is to .223 like .45 is to 9mm. More powerful, bigger, harder hitting, and lower capacity. The stated advantages for 9mm over .45 (less recoil, cheap ammo, higher capacity, faster speed) are all the same advantages that .223/5.56 claims over .308/7.62×51.

    And, just like 9mm is a better beginner handgun, .223 is the better beginner rifle. And .308 kicks .223’s ass, just like .45 kicks 9mm’s ass, shot for shot.

    1. avatar Just Sayin says:

      LoL
      I enjoyed that ^.

      Perhaps too much…

    2. avatar Nanashi says:

      5.56 has better range than 308?

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Not hardly. The max range of 5.56 is out to around 5-600 yards, while .308 can reach 1000 and maybe a bit more.

        1. avatar frank speaks says:

          not to mention it hits a lot harder….much better choice in the afghan….

        2. avatar Nigel the expat says:

          Well, those prairie dogs I’ve been killing with .223 will sure be happy they are out of range… Not to mention those 10″ plates at 800Y… 😉

          It may be anemic at those ranges, but it ‘can’ reach out. Wind sucks though 🙁

      2. avatar pwrserge says:

        Depending on the loads involved, it can.

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Except the .308 is over twice as powerful as the .223, whereas the .45 is exactly 0.000% more powerful than 9 mm.

      1. avatar TexTed says:

        You still can’t seem to grasp that not everything is about kinetic energy, can you?

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          No. Kinetic energy is what the bu llet uses to tear flesh. To some degree there are more and less effective ways to use that energy, but kinetic energy is the ‘no replacement for displacement’ of firearms.

    4. avatar timothy says:

      There’s only two reasons to say the .45 is that much more powerful than the 9mm is 1, you feel the need to compensate for some manly quality you’re lacking or 2, you genuinely don’t know how to read and comprehend studies about defensive gun use effectiveness.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Or don’t understand numbers. In their original mi litary loads, the 9 got 364ft/lbs (124gr @ 1150fps) from a 4″ barrel while the .45 got 369ft/lbs (230gr @ 850fps) from a 5″ barrel. Given a 25% longer barrel, I’d say if anything the .45 is actually weaker.

        1. avatar ironicatbest says:

          I don’t go on that ft pounds shit, it’s the wallop factor I go on. .45 wallops harder

        2. avatar TexTed says:

          Claptrap and nonsense, worshipping at the altar of foot/pounds. It’s like focusing on horsepower and ignoring torque.

          Foot-pounds is meaningless as far as “stopping power” goes. What matters is what damage the round does to the body. A little hole does not do as much damage as a big hole does, and a .45 makes a hole that’s over 50% larger than a 9mm even if they’re both unexpanded. An expanded .45 is bigger and cuts more tissue than an expanded 9mm does. And a .45 carries much more momentum (which is what carries it deeper in the body) than a 9mm does.

          9mm makes up for its shortcomings through capacity. But shot-for-shot, the .45 does more damage. It’s pretty much impossible for it not to.

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          As pertaining to rotational forces, torque is a measurement of force, while horsepower is a measurement of energy, i.e. force applied over time. The exact ratio is that one ft/lb of torque = one horsepower at 5252 rpm. If you double the rpms while the torque remains constant you will double the horsepower. So, in practical terms, imagine two engines – the first has 4 liters of displacement and revs to 5000rpm. The second has 2 liters of displacement and revs to 10,000rpm. Both engines work at identical combustion pressures and efficiency. Therefore, both engines produce the exact same horsepower. Now, gearing is torque multiplication, so given the same application and proper gearing they both work equally as well, just the smaller engine spins at twice the rate, but the vehicles accelerate identically.

          In contrast, with bul lets, ft/lbs is a measurement of energy. Here ft/lbs = horsepower, not torque. There are advantages and disadvantages to a heavier, slower slug and vise versa. The slow heavy slug will penetrate deeper (given the same expanded diameter), but the faster ligh ter slug will dispense more of it’s energy outwardly as the flesh simply has less time to get out of the way. In ballistics gel this is the difference between the ‘permanent cavity’ and the ‘temporary cavity’. Either way, the only way for flesh to absorb energy is through the destruction of said flesh. So, theoretically, the .45 will produce a smaller channel of utterly destroyed flesh while the 9 mm produces the same amount of damage but produces a larger area of damaged flesh and a smaller area of destroyed flesh. Like the engines, there is a lot of leeway through gearing. Despite the propensity of slow heavy slugs to penetrate deeply, if the .45 expands at the same ratio as the 9 mm, it simply won’t have the energy to penetrate deeply. Likewise, the faster, lig hter 9 mm slug won’t penetrate as deeply if the expanded diameters are equal. However the 9 mm almost always has a smaller expanded diameter, so it ends up being more or less a wash.

        4. avatar timothy says:

          “9mm makes up for its shortcomings with capacity”. Yup. A defensive gun use is not one where you are limited to just one shot. Follow up shots matter. The forty five makes bigger holes, the 9mm makes more holes and the end difference in the bad guy assuming room temperature is basically non existent.

          “I go by wallop factor”. Once more, there’s only two reasons to claim the forty five is that much stronger. 1, you’re trying to compensate 2, you don’t understand science or real world dgus. I guess the two aren’t mutually exclusive though.

          If you want a forty-five for self defense, get it. It’s a proven round and will serve you well. Same for 9mm.But if you want to hunt big game with a 5.56, you might be breaking the law. Many states have caliber restrictions to ensure the ethical culling of game. That’s how I know the original comparison is garbage and/or grandstanding.

    5. avatar rip_vw32 says:

      Um… no, on the capacity comparison – I have 30 round mags for both. Bigger and Heavier sure, but not at a lower capacity cost.

      When the comparison between 9 and 45 was made, standard mags applied – so a 9 will hold more than a 45. With rifles, you can’t compare on this, a standard 10 round mag is standard on both platforms.

    6. avatar Goosey says:

      >”.308 is to .223 like .45 is to 9mm. More powerful, bigger, harder hitting, and lower capacity.”

      The .45 to the .223’s 9mm would be more like the .300 Blackout.

      A .308 vs a .223 would be more like a .460 Rowland vs a 9mm.

  8. avatar jwtaylor says:

    The 308 is really a spectacular round that does almost anything well. There is a reason why it has been adapted to so many platforms, and why there’s a PTR 91 in my truck all the time.
    Reloaders out there will attest to the fact that there are very few bad loads for the 308. Just good ones and great ones.
    It is the polar opposite of niche.

  9. avatar Just Sayin says:

    “The .308 is one of the most common and trusted rifle rounds in the country…”

    The .308 is one of the most common and trusted rifle rounds in firearms history.
    There, fixed it for ya.

    1. avatar frank speaks says:

      buddy of mine was matching me shot for shot at 400 yds…he was using a savage 99 in .308 while I was using a .264 mag in my sako…I was impressed to say the least…

  10. avatar The Rookie says:

    This one was by far the handiest of the CfB articles for me. I know next to nothing about rifle calibers and what rounds good for what.

    Other than knowing that .45-70 is an excellent choice for squirrel hunting, of course….

    1. avatar Marty says:

      The 45-70 for squirrel hunting, yup. I’ve got an original Marlin Guide Gun. Factory ported to lower the felt recoil. Yea right. Using the Hornady Lever Revolution, it will definitely kill any squirrel as long as the squirrel is on the recoil pad side of the gun. Holy shit, this thing kicks worse than any rifle I’ve ever shot, and I’ve shot a ton of rifles. Makes my favorite rifle, a 300 Short Magnum, seem like a 22LR. Bought the somabitch thinking it would be a classic buffalo gun. Yea, right. It will stay in by vault and my 300 short mag will do the job quite nicely, if I ever draw a Buffalo tag?

  11. avatar Joseph Constable says:

    .308 is not for beginners. Proof is the young man shooting Springfield M1A for the first time ending up with a very bloody ring around his eye from the scope. I berated his mentor for starting him out on a high powered rife.

    1. avatar Paul McMichael says:

      That was just poor coaching.

      1. avatar Big Bill says:

        Gunny was scope bit more than once, with those incidents being shown on TV.
        Sometimes the coach gets hit, too.

  12. avatar Samr says:

    As anyone who lives on a ranch in TX can tell you, hogs are the devil. I used to keep them at bay with my 5.56, but once I upgraded into my largely Aero Precision .308/7.62 NATO, I haven’t looked back. It is the ultimate swiss army knife type hunting cartridge, in my opinion, especially when combined with the modularity of the AR-style platform. Again my opinion, but if you have a 10/22, a 5.56 AR-15, and a .308 AR-10, and a 12 gauge, an outdoorsman of reasonable skill and morals should be able to humanely hunt 99% of native North American game animals.

  13. avatar Mark N. says:

    Alright, after you guys are done with the caliber wars, tyro edition, how about an article extolling the virtues of carbon steel barrels versus stainless steel barrels, and vice versa.

    I am gathering parts for an AR 10 and have to figure out which way to jump. My son was going to build a rifle, but he kind of got sidetracked, leaving me with an upper, a lower, and a Rise drop-in trigger. I just can’t seeing all that money going to waste.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Stainless will give you a slight improvement in barrel life. Both will/can shoot as accurately (precisely) as the other.

      NB that the stainless used for barrels (typically 416) isn’t as corrosion-proof as some people think, because most stainless steel you meet in everyday life is a 300-series stainless, which is more corrosion resistant. 416 is chosen for barrels because it machines more easily.

      4xx stainless steels can be blued, if you wish. It just takes the right salts and technique – but 4xx stainless steels will corrode, as I said, and blueing is basically corrosion…

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        As I understand it the stainless steels have the highest tensile strength, but carbon steel can be made harder. Not sure how the two relate to barrel life, but knife makers have to make the compromise between holding an edge and corrosion resistance with stainless steel.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Depends on the stainless alloy and the carbon steel alloy. It isn’t possible to make a blanket statement on the two families of steels like that.

          Where stainless is edging out cro-moly alloy steel (4140 and the like) is in the throat life. Stainless resists erosion just a little bit better. Other than that, you could have an excellent barrel out of either steel.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          I’m guessing that the cost of the am mo it takes to wear out the throat in either case will dwarf the cost of rebarrelling.

      2. avatar Mark N. says:

        Thanks! I know your opinion is one I can take to the bank.

      3. avatar Big Bill says:

        From a practical standpoint, which would outlast the shooter?
        Or, to put it a different way, does it make a practical difference? How many thousands of rounds do you have to shoot in each before you see a difference?

  14. avatar pwrserge says:

    I’m going to jump under the hate bus on this one…

    5.56×45 is objectively a better combat round than 7.62×51 in 99.99% of situations.

    1. Ammo weight matters. For the same weight of ammo, I can carry twice as much 5.56×45 as 7.62. Similarly, a weapon with a full magazine will be notably lighter just from the weight of the ammo alone.
    2. Recoil mitigation is a thing. 7.62×51 kicks like a mule and is nearly impossible to make reliable doubletaps with. (Don’t give me the “you don’t need to doubletap” garbage, doubletaps exist because no round short of 50BMG is a one shot stop.) Just this Saturday, I was doing 1-2-3 drills with my M4gery and a five round string into a single target landed before the first brass hit the ground. Good luck keeping any 7.62 rifle on target as effectively.
    3. There is no practical difference in effective engagement range between the two rounds. While popping nice white paper at 300 yards may seem easy, Take a steel target, paint it in a cammo pattern and throw it at the same range. Without some rather impractical (greater than 4x) optics, you probably won’t even be able to SPOT the target.

    In 2018 the .308 / 7.62×51 is a specialist round for specialist applications. For general use, most intermediate cartridges will simply do the job better.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I assume you count hunting, sniping and long range target shooting in the 0.01%.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        Two out of those three aren’t combat applications. As for sniping… definitely falls into the “specialist” category mentioned in my closing remark.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          OK, but you didn’t specify COMBAT situations.

          I’d agree that between the two, most infantry soldiers are probably better off packing the 5.56 due to the ligh ter weight = more rou nds carried. But you’re still going to want at least one .308 in every squad for longer ran ge / sharpshooting situations. So even for combat infantry I’d bump that number down to 95%. Personally I thought it was kind of a shame that the 6.8SPC didn’t take off, though.

        2. avatar pwrserge says:

          Um… Gov… might want to re-read the second line of my post… slowly.

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Point taken. But I’m still at 95%.

    2. avatar New Continental Army says:

      I dont think the article or anyone here is saying .308 is better as the common infantry round. 5.56 is the best round for That because of sheer volume. But, the military still uses .308/7.62 for desired applications where it does in fact outshine 5.56, in terms of distance and power. .308/7.62 is far more effective on vehicles and barriers. It is a far better machine gun round. That’s why the military uses and loves the 240B, and hates and is getting rid of the SAW.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        “Getting rid of the SAW”? I’ll believe it when I see it. Even the Marine Corps just used it as a pretext to field test a net general purpose rifle. There are few things more comforting than knowing that your fire team has a LMG handy and more than enough ammo to feed it.

        1. avatar New Continental Army says:

          Having been there and done it, the saw isn’t exactly comforting. The 240 is though. A .50 beats them all though.

    3. avatar MeRp says:

      How many beginners (the target audience for this article) are really concerned about combat application for their rifle?

      My guess would be lower than the number of combat applications where .308 is superior.

      While I see that the Gov is wrong about his disagreement with you, it is clearly because he was assuming that you were trying to comment with the same audience the original article had in mind; beginners.

      For them, combat applicability is, basically, moot.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        I’m going to argue that beginners generally fall into a few categories.

        People buying guns for self defense. – Combat capabilities matter A LOT.
        People buying guns for target shooting. – No real reason to start with an expensive round optimized for ranges you’re not ready to shoot at.
        People buying guns for competitive shooting. – All the same arguments as combat.
        People buying guns for hunting. – This one I’ll give to you.

      2. avatar john jason chun says:

        50 to 75% of Americans r concerned about mil itary caliber’s. Every shooting causes us to focus on upgrades

    4. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Not my combat experience at all, especially in Afghanistan. There, the initial engagement range averaged 400 yards. It got farther from there. M4s against RPKs and PKMs. We were grossly outgunned. Everyone that could run a 7.62NATO gun did.

      1. avatar frank speaks says:

        yeah, army panicked a little bit…started embedding sniper teams all the way down to the squad level….

      2. avatar pwrserge says:

        Let’s be fair JW… there are a few issues with your anecdotal example.

        1. You’re comparing a general purpose rifle to a SAW or GPMG… Let’s be 100% honest, no realistic rifle will let you feel evenly matched against a guy with a GPMG.

        2. 400m is well within the effective engagement range of the 5.56×45 cartridge. A deficiency in sighting systems and marksmanship won’t get fixed by throwing a bigger round at it.

        3. Afghanistan is a gross outlier as far as combat environments go. In most places on Earth, you can’t even SEE 400 meters from you.

        1. avatar New Continental Army says:

          Size does matter at those longer ranges because 5.56 is simply pin holing beyond 200-250 meters. It doesn’t have the speed or momentum for its beloved lore about hydra static shock or fragmenting. .308 and larger calibers are still at a fair speed, and the larger bullets are going to do more damage at those distances.

        2. avatar pwrserge says:

          I think you’ll find that the fragmentation range of the 5.56×45 varies greatly depending which rifle it’s fired out of and which particular flavor of 5.56×45 you’re shooting. 200-250m sounds like m855 out of an M4.

        3. avatar frank speaks says:

          true…but it’s where we’re currently deployed…and it is an issue…

  15. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    I’ve heard that .30-06 is the threshold where anything more powerful is not something just anybody can handle, and that may be true. But re coil fatigue sets in much faster with a .308 than even very modestly less powerful cart ridges like (from my own stable) the .303 British or the .260 Rem ington (the .260 achieves wallet fatigue long before it achieves rec oil fatigue). I can easily shoot twice as many ro unds out of my .303 before growing tired of it than the .308. If long ra nge sessions are in the mix you might want to look for something a step or two down, but for everything else it’s damn near the perfect cartr idge.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      It’s the amount of recoil.

      Generally speaking, once you get above 20 ft-lbs of recoil, you find that many shooters start becoming fatigued by the recoil, even if they can handle it well.

      The ’06, in a rifle that goes about 8 to 8.5 pounds, loaded with 150gr pills, will produce about 17 to 20 ft-lbs of recoil.

      Once you start getting into larger “magnum” rounds, the recoil starts going up. eg, a .338 WinMag produces about 33 to 35+ ft-lbs of recoil with 210 to 250gr pills. I can handle my .338’s recoil, but only for a few dozen rounds before it has worn me down. A .30-06, I can shoot for hundreds of rounds at a single go…

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        My thought was that 20+ ft/lbs of re coil can induce flinch, as opposed to the 16ish ft/lbs of rec oil from the .308 leave me looking for something else to shoot after 25-30 ro unds, whereas the 14ish ft/lbs I absorb from the .303 leaves me free to shoot 50 or 60 ro unds. And I could easily spit out a couple hundred rou nds of .223 at 3 or 4 ft/lbs re coil. Perhaps that’s just my own personal sweet spot, though.

      2. avatar Accur81 says:

        Light 12 gauges are also nasty on recoil.

        I’m a heavy gun fan.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Indeed. When I built my .35 Whelen and 9.3×62, I went for thicker barrel contours – like 0.75″+ at the muzzle, 24″ length. They’re heavy(ier) rifles, but they won’t need a brake for most people.

    2. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

      Gov. What are you shooting your .303 out of? A stock Lee Enfield? That goes about 9 pounds. What are you shooting your .308 out of?

      I’ve used the .303 smle and the no.4 and the .308 Ishapore 2a and 7. The full length rifles are pretty much a wash in the felt recoil. The 7, because of its ‘jungle carbine’ configuration, does jump a little more than the others.

      I haven’t used a no. 5 L-E since I was a snot nose. It seemed to have a stout kick, if memory serves.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        S,R&Co No.1. The .308 is a Remy 700 VTR that weighs about the same but with a heavier scope and bi pod (as opposed to a sandbag with the .303). The VTR also has an integral muzzle break, although I can’t really vouch for how effective it is. If I take one shot back to back I can’t hardly tell the difference, but after 30 rou nds I’m done with the .308 and barely half done with the .303. I think if I shot 60 rou nds through the .308 I’d probably have a headache for the next two days.

        I just think that the fatigue increases exponentially when you get into higher and higher recoiling ri fles. I’d like a No.1 in an African safari cart ridge (.375H&H is probably all I’ve got the guts to go with), but I have no delusions about extended ra nge sessions with it. It’ll be a couple ro unds and put it away for a year.

    3. avatar frank speaks says:

      not a problem with my HK…recoil is more like a soft push…very comfortable to shoot…even with sporting rds…

  16. avatar Kirk says:

    308 is okay but the only things it has going for it is a little more range and energy over 5.56. It isn’t a bad round, as I have a rifle chambered for it but rarely shoot it anymore. 600 yards with 5.56 is fun and 1000 yards is challenging, with far less cost and recoil 🙂

  17. avatar Mark says:

    “The AR-10 is a bit of a weird thing. There isn’t really a set standard for these so there are differences within this class of rifle. There are several large ‘families’ of the AR-10, with the main ones being the shape of the lower and the magazines it uses. The SR25/DPMS style is the most accepted, with the Armalite type taking different mags. There’s a lot more to it, more than I can get into here. Great rifles come from Savage, POF, SIG SAUER, LMT, Mega Arms, Larue Tactical, and many others.”

    Sig Sauer makes great rifles? Really? Average rifles at best, assuming they don’t break or are discontinued with no more customer support. Can’t believe you didn’t mention KAC as their SR-25 is top dog. Oh, and you totally forgot about the LWRC REPR as it is a top piston rifle and easily outclasses almost everything (except SCAR) …… especially obsolete crap like the M14/M1A.

  18. avatar Mick says:

    Everything you say is true except it’s not a good beginner round.

    Why? Recoil. My 788 kicked like mofo, left my shoulder black and blue the next day. My M1A was really to heavy to lug around, nice range toy though.

    A way better”beginner” round is .243 Win.

  19. avatar MeRp says:

    I disagree with everyone saying that recoil is a serious issue with .308. But my disagreement is with a huge asterisk; namely that it really depends heavily on the gun.

    I’ve had the pleasure of firing a reasonable amount out of a PTR-91, as well as my own DPMS/SR25 style AR10. Firing the PTR-91 is fairly punishing (not as bad as my old Mauser M48), and I would not recommend it to a beginner until they’d had a chance to kinda build up to it. But, my AR10 is a total pussycat. IT barely kicks more than a typical AR15. Honestly, the only thing about it that turns newbies off is the noise. But the recoil no one has had a single complaint about, and, if someone wanted to sink a load of money into ammo, they could fire it all day without feeling punished.

    And .308 beats all of the other beginner rounds that people have listed (except .223) for the simple reason of price; it is cheaper than the .243 Win (which can’t even be used to hunt in my state), the .303 British, or the .260 Rem. Basically, once you get off the mil-surp reservation, the ammo prices go up pretty fast. Best to stay on that reservation if you are a beginner, because otherwise the wallet fatigue will turn you off.

  20. avatar John McCorkle says:

    Great article and thank you. Used the 308 for years, and new cartridges come out all the time for specific performance increase but there is always a helpful “general purpose” “it’ll do 95%” of anything you need it to do. Much like it’s grandpappy the glorious 30 06 it fits the bill of a catch all round (especially if you can reload and cast…whole new world from cat sneeze 90 grain 1000fps for small game to 200 grain barn busters for big game)

  21. avatar Paul McMichael says:

    .308 a beginner round. Hmmm. Depends on the beginner. When my son was 10 he got his first CF rifle. Remington Mod 7 243 w/Leupold 4X scope. No problem, but, honestly, he wasn’t really a beginner. .308 is not a heavy recoiling rifle. Anyone that thinks it is needs to go home and put on his big boy pants. It’s a medium caliber. You want recoil? Go pattern your your 12 ga with some 3 1/2″ loads. Way outclass my 375 H&H Mag. A pathologist couldn’t tell you if the wound was delivered by a 308, 30-06, 270, 7-08, etc. I’ve asked them.

    That said, 308 is my primary cartridge, but it a matter of logistics. I have a H&K 91. My M-1 is rebarreled to 308. My primary hunting rifles are a pair of stainless Winchester model 70s. One sports a Shilen barrel, HS Precision stock, etc. The other converted to scout rifle configuration by Jim Brockman. Highly recommend his work. There are nearly 10,000 rds of 308 stacked in my ammo closet. Ball and soft point. These, and a couple of others, go with me when the zombie apocalypse hits. Everything else is left behind. One other thing. Remember this. Often what is cover from a 223 is only concealment from a 308.

    1. avatar Samr says:

      Agree, depends on the beginner. As a kid I was introduced to deer hunting with a bolt action .243 youth model that didn’t have a recoil pad or a muzzle break and kicked like a mule. My 308 AR with a magpul stock makes that old .243 feel like cruel and unusual punishment. But I learned the fundamentals on that mule, so now things like buffer tubes and better ergonomics are an asset rather than a crutch.

      Also, recoil is subjective. What scares one person doesn’t bother another. You can’t say a 308 isn’t a beginners caliber simply because some people can’t handle it. With the proper rifle fit and shooting techniques, people would be surprised the caliber they can handle.

  22. avatar Paul McMichael says:

    Oh, Mick! If that 788 is 16 incher I’ll take it off your hands any day.

  23. avatar Paul McMichael says:

    18″, I meant.

  24. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Actually the first sniper rifles in Nam were Winchester model 70’s and 03’s both in 30-06, nobody wanted the 03, later on the Military switched to Rem700’s also in 06. Ironically the snipers complained that the 700 would not reach out as far as the Winchester. , Personally I’d take an M 14 over any of Stoners contraptions. But you all like that platform and that’s okay. That M16 left a couple of my buddies over there because their jamming pieces of shit, and to me they’ll always be jamming pieces of shit. Thumbs up on a .308

    1. avatar frank speaks says:

      pretty much uncontrollable on full-auto, though……

  25. avatar luigi says:

    “When it comes to pistols, we’re talking the difference between sparrows and chickadees. When we talk rifles, we’re talking about the difference between kestrels and eagles. ”

    ok but what kind of gun is an arctic tern

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      A noisy cricket.

  26. avatar MagicDave says:

    The .308(7.62×51) was The Pentagon’s choice for a more compact round for the traditional battle rifle. The studies conducted post WWII revealed that the 30/06 was much too powerful for “combat ranges.” The bozos at the Pentagon chose the .308 which is nearly identical to the 30/06. I own 2 308’s that have since had barrel swaps to 260 Remington (6.5×51 or 6.5-08 A-square) which has a superior ballistic coefficient and sectional density with much lower recoil. For beginners I would suggest the 260 Remington for beginners.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      My understanding is that the .308 was developed because the cartridge length of the 06 was too long for fully automatic rifles and would jam. The .308 is ballistically nearly identical but in a shorter package. Which makes sense, since the M14 is essentially a Garand with a removable magazine and a fully automatic function. (Even then, they had a huge task making the M14 function, and it was nearly impossible to control in full auto. Hence the Stoner rifle.)

      1. avatar frank speaks says:

        BAR worked pretty well…at least that’s what they told me….

        1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

          The BAR weighed 16 pounds. And wasn’t really a rifle.

        2. avatar frank speaks says:

          even though they called it that?

    2. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Yeah but you can find .308 anywhere, and what real world advantage does the 6mm series of rounds offer to the new or average shooter? It doesn’t. You 6mm fanbois rave about your ballistic coefficients all you want, but how many different 6mm series of rounds have we gone through in the last 20 years? A dozen? How many are still here? The original ones, like .270 are still here, because they gained traction back in the day. But all the new wizzbang 6.5 rounds haven’t, because they’re essentially the same thing. .308 will always be more popular and will always be sold everywhere. As it should be.

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Both .30-06 and 7.62×51 military rounds launched a 147gr bu llet at 2750fps.

  27. avatar stateisevil says:

    Shit round, but common and cheap and therefore often used and therefore people get attached. Bad ballistics, heavy recoil.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      It does not have heavy recoil, unless your a feminized liberal. And the ballistics are superior to many other rounds.

  28. avatar MICHAEL MCATEE says:

    An article about rifles for “beginners” should encompass people of all ages and should include single shot rifles, which is what many of us cut our teeth on. There are several choices for good single shots still being made ranging from inexpensive to high dollar and are perfectly suited for a ” beginner ” to the most experienced sportsman alike. While they may not have the appeal for the “black gun” fans who love to burn up ammo, nor a must have for bolt gun affectionado’s these rifles have their place in the shooting world.

  29. avatar Matthew says:

    I enjoy these articles, please keep them coming. I would like to see ( read ) articles on revolver calibers! Keep up the good work!!

  30. Take all of this bull”S” and throw it out. I was in Vietnam and my issue arms was a 1911A1 45 AND A M2 .30 caliber carbine. In real world situations ,(Ae combat) any weapon you have is adequate for the situation. I was just happy I had something with me to keep the bad guys far enough away to not have them get close enough to touch me. By the way I was a Navy Corpsman with the Naval Preventative Medical Unit, Danang. That accounts for the M2 I was issued. We wern’t considered combat unit. Our Armory had a bunch of old left over WW2 and Korea arms for issue, 45 Thompsona M1, M1 carbine, M2 select fire Carbines. That was 1966. 1967. I found myself up near the DMZ and being shot at a couple of times, Dong Ha, Cam Lo, Long Vey. over to and past the Laotian border. Be thankful in that or similar situations for the weapon in your hand. By the way i’ll be 75 on June 19, 2018.

  31. avatar Jackrabbit1957 says:

    So pistols are only effective out to a few yards?? I regularly take jackrabbits out to 100 yards with a .38 special. I have recently made a 70 yd shot with a black powder revolver. Last summer l nailed a rabbit with a 45 acp at 60 yds. Anyone who thinks a pistol is only for close up use is deluding themseves. Bill Hickok made a 70 yd shot on a bad guy with a .36 cal revolver and dropped him stone cold dead. Come on people, get to know what your stuff can do.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      I have a feeling internet lore on guns has recently eclipsed real world experience with guns on this blog. And to be fair, probably all gun blogs. I can make a 100 yard shot with a .45 out of a 4.25 inch barrel easily. But most people on gun blogs would probably consider such a shot impossible. It’s not by any means. And by no means am I some kind of high speed competition level shooter.

  32. avatar kap says:

    308 is just fine, a better round is the 7mm08 which is certainly better than the 6.5, the 6.5×55 Swede is probably better than any American 6.5, maybe even the Carcano with proper diameter bullets!

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      As I’ve said so often, the 6.5×55 is a spectacularly prescient round. With modern bullets, it is now a spectacular round.

      The one problem for the 6.5×55 is that the case head is about 0.480″ in diameter, whereas the .30-06, .308, etc and all derived rounds are 0.473″ in diameter. You can’t put a 6.5×55 into an American production gun without having a ‘smith open up the bolt face a bit to allow the rounds to feed up the bolt face and fit into the recess.

  33. avatar dta says:

    Like the 30-06, you can get it almost anywhere, too. It’s the AA battery of hunting rounds. You may love the .257 Weatherby, but try to find a box at a bait and tackle in the middle of nowhere.

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