TTAG recently tested the ArmaLite AR-10 using a wide variety of Remington 308 (7.62 NATO) rounds. In terms of practicality, the AR-10 only weighed a bit more than an AR-15 chambered (as you know) in .223 (5.56 NATO). So why not buy a slightly bigger gun that fires a bigger, more powerful, longer range bullet? It’s a question Bushmaster answers with a new 308 chambered carbine, “another step in the continuing evolution of the AR platform” . . .
The $1395 Bushmaster 308 ORC (Optics Ready Carbine) comes complete with two ½-inch scope riser blocks (for aftermarket optics), a midlength gas system and a milled gas block mounted to a heavy-profile, 16-inch 4150 Chrom-Moly Vanadium chrome lined barrel and chamber, capped by an A2 style birdcage flash hider. The heavy oval hand guards are heat-shielded and a six-position telescoping stock gives up to 4 inches of adjustment for the length of pull. For non-ARificianados, it’s all good.
Having owned an FN-FAL, I am deeply skeptical of any. 308 battle rifle in a ‘tactical carbine’ configuration. .308s produce real recoil, and even the heavy M-14 was a failure as a general-issue infantry rifle for this reason. The successful FN had a better stock configuration which mitigated recoil and muzzle climb (somewhat) but it was heavy and bulky: nobody would call it a ‘tactical carbine’.
The semi-auto .308, in various configurations, excels as a designated marksman rifle, but while I still lust over this rifle I don’t think its the new .223.
I love my .308 M1A, but when Keltec gets the bugs out of its RFB, it will be the "tactical carbine" of choice for me and many others.
To your question, I say "no" for a couple of reasons:
1. Recoil, as has already been mentioned. You can break the laws of man, but you can't violate the laws of physics. A 165gr bullet being pushed out by ~50gr of smokeless powder is going to kick a hell of a lot more than a 62gr bullet on top of 20gr of powder. And the smaller and lighter you make the weapon (which improves its handling) the worse the recoil, no matter how creatively or ergonomically the stock is designed.
2. Ammo availability. .223 is cheap and is being manufactured by the boatload. .308 never really caught on as either a military rifle cartridge or a commercial hunting cartridge. .308 A/K/A 7.62mm NATO is a great medium machine gun cartridge, and a decent (if not spectacular) sniper rifle cartridge, but those are specialist applications – AFAIK all of the countries that once used the 7.62mm for their battle rifles have given them up over the past 20 years and all of those countries use the new NATO standard cartridge, 5.56mm NATO A/K/A .223 Remington.
Not that I wouldn't mind seeing some competitively priced .308 caliber ARs out there, but I don't think they'll overtake the popularity of the .223.
.308 is the most popular hunting cartridge in the world.
Scandinavians use it for moose, apparently.
Martin Albright wrote:
"2. Ammo availability. .223 is cheap and is being manufactured by the boatload. .308 never really caught on as either a military rifle cartridge or a commercial hunting cartridge. "
Do you know why the FN-FAL is nicknamed "The Free World's Right Arm?" Something like 93 countries adopted it as their official service rifle, is why.
Are you aware that Col. Jeff Cooper specifically chose the .308 for his "scout rifle" concept because it is a caliber that can be found, literally, on every single continent on Earth?
I have personally used up entire cases of military surplus .308 ammo from Venezuela, South Africa, and Portugal, as well as commercial ammo made in Russia, Serbia, South Africa, and Mexico.
That includes South America, Africa, Europe, and North America.
I currently own rifles that shoot .308 ammo that were manufactured in China, India, the US, and one .308 rifle made out of parts from Brazil, Austria, USA, and South Africa.
A .308 (or 7.62 NATO) ‘carbine’ makes more sense than does one in .223 (or 5.56 NATO). The whole problem with the 5.56 M4 carbine concept is that it absolutely kills bullet muzzle velocity, and therefore downrange energy of the 5.56 round. And velocity, or potential velocity, is about the only thing the 5.56 has going for it in terms of tactical effectiveness, IMO.
With the 7.62, even with lower carbine velocities, 3x higher bullet weights vs. the typical 5.56 round help it better retain downrange energy when shot out of a shorter barrel rifle. Recoil effects can be managed through good stock design (the M1A’s achilles heel), but really isn’t that outrageous with most .308 rifles per se. despite what some may opine (IMO, recoil effects on a shooter are subjective). Note: The inherent in-line stock and recoil buffer design of the AR10 really helps in this regard.
Cooper’s ‘scout’ rifle concept is fully realized in the M1A Scout rifle, which you tested recently, and which to my mind (and personal needs) is a superb compromise between shorter-barrel handling, and longer-barrel accuracy and power. Spend some extra $$ for a modern stock (e.g., Sage EBR, Vltor, JAE) and you’ve got the best of all worlds, IMO.
A compromise that answers both the need for a 30 caliber bullet without excessive recoil plus affordable ammo is the 7.62×39. Tons of cheap ammo for practice plus good hunting loads available for a about the same as other popular hunting ammo. Many accurate alternatives to the reliable AK47 are available. I have a CZ 527 bolt action that will shoot 100 yard 1 inch groups with cheap Tula ammo. I also have a semi-auto M10X Elite that will shoot 1.5 inch groups at 100 yards. The latter is a very reliable, short piston operated 7.62×39 tactical rifle from M&M. I’ve had it about five months and so far, it has never malfunctioned. I also have a .308 Remington 700. Yes, it is even more accurate and more powerful, but it is much heaver than the CZ carbine and yes, it does kick, plus ammo (even cheap steel case stuff) cost about twice as much. I also have a .300 Blackout, but don’t shoot it much due to ammo expense.