Short and Loud: The 16 inch 308 Win Precision Rifle

Short barreled 308 precision rifles are nothing new.  Even prior to the introduction of the DARPA XM3, 18.5″ 308s were in use with some forward thinking shooters.  GAP has marketed its popular 18.5″ 308, the Gladius, for some time.  Quite a few custom and factory guns come with shorter barrels.

Shooters seem enamored by the concept of a 16″ 308 bolt action rifle.  I wrote a few posts about them; Super Short Precision Rifles: Is there such thing as a 16.5″ .308 Tactical Bolt Action Rifle?,  Short Rifle, Long Range: Testing our 16.5″ 308 Remington 700 out to 635 yards and 16.5 Inch 308 Winchester Precision Rifle: Summary of a Short Rifle.  Those three posts were about the same rifle built on a Remington 700 action. This is the first 16″ 308 I built, however, I did build two others, that I would like to share with you.

Let’s take a look at the three 16″ rifles and see what parts were used to build each- I’ll show you these rifles in the opposite order they were built.  The actual barrel lengths are 16.25″, 16.5″ and 16,75″ inches, but I’ll refer to them as 16″ guns for the purposes of this post.

Each one of these rifles has been built on a Remington 700 short action.  I added a little bit of history to each of the guns and why I built them the way they were- basically one was built as a short rifle on purpose (#3) and the other two (#1 & #2) were built with a scrap or used barrel I had left over from another project.

16″ 308 Rifle #1

16.25 custom 308 HS3 chassis


Rifle #1 is my most recent 16″ 308 Winchester.  The barrel is a Shilen unturned blank I cut to 16.25″ in length and tapered to a DRAPA XM3 profile.  This is the same barrel I used for the 308 barrel length cutting experiment, and shockingly, it still shot well after that abusive experiment.

Here is the parts list:

The chassis system is a pre-production MDT HS3 (read a review of it here) and worked well with barrel and Magpul PRS stock.  The rifle handles, shoots and balances well.

16″ 308 rifle #2

16.75 308 rem 700 gun

A used Remington 700 Tactical 308 AAC-SD provided the action for the second 16″ 308 rifle I built.  I was actually building the rifle as a 243 Winchester and remembered I had a used 308 Shilen barrel that was recovered from another action (the barrel wasn’t cut very well, someone else did it).  I had been using the muzzle end to practice threading and installing muzzle brakes, but was inspired by the AICS AX chassis to make it a switch barrel.  I cut off the chamber end of the old barrel, threaded and chambered it for this rifle. I was shocked at how well it shot (that is a 5 shot group in the picture above) and how cool it looked.  Surgeon sells a production model similar to this (they use their own action).

I used the following parts from Brownells to build this rifle:

This rifle is a little heavier than the other two short 308s, but it shoots exceptionally well and and is a stout little gun.  The heavier stock and large Badger FTE work make for a light recoil impulse.

16″ 308 rifle #3

Finally the rifle that started my personal short-308 craze.  This gun started with a 20″ barrel in Custom Remington 700 Build: Our twist on a light tactical rifle.  At some point after that, I decided to chop it down and was glad I did.

custom 16.5 rem 700 308Here are the parts used to build this rifle:

The rifle was originally equipped with a Leupold Mark 4 in Badger Rings, but has since been upgraded to a Leupold Mark 6 3-18 scope in a Spuhr ISMS.  The rifle is quick handling and fast shooting.  I’ve shot it out to 635 yards and couldn’t be happier.

After 3 rifles and thousands of rounds fired, what’s the advantage of 308 Winchesters with 16″ barrels?

Weight and length; they are shorter and lighter than the longer guns.  This makes them faster to handle and easier to carry.  Offhand shooting is possible with these rifles.

Impressive accuracy can be achieved with the short barreled guns.  I’m a former Marine, and have never served as an LEO; but from my perspective, law enforcement snipers and designated marksman who typically shoot less that 200 yards, wouldn’t be losing much with a short barrel.

So what do you lose with a 16″ 308?

Velocity; and quite a bit of it.  If you are punching papers at shorter ranges,  this isn’t a big deal.  I attached the data I generated with my 22″ and 16.5″ guns using the same and load for comparison purposes below.  308 Winchester 16.5” versus 22” barrel drop in mils 175

Below is a table I generated for 168 grain Federal Gold Medal

168 GM barrel length table

If you’d like to learn more about how barrel length affects accuracy with the 308 Winchester cartridge, please read 308 Winchester / 7.62x51mm NATO: Barrel Length versus Velocity (28″ to 16.5″).

Anything else?

The shorter barreled guns aren’t as easy to shoot as longer barreled guns.  Maybe, if you had a suppressor, they would be.  I find shooting a 20-22″ easier than shooting one of these little guys.  Short barrels, especially with a brake, are LOUD (sorry, I don’t have a decibel meter, but you can really tell).  The shorter barrels are lighter and don’t point as well- that doesn’t mean they don’t shoot, they clearly can.  I’m just pointing out that the longer barreled guns tend to be easier to shoot.

For what its worth, if someone asks me for a suggested barrel length on their 308 precision rifle (or 223), I normally tell them no shorter than 20″.

If you are thinking about cutting your 300 Win Mag down to 16″, it is plain silly- ask me how I know? Does size matter? Custom Remington 700 16.5″ 300 Winchester Magnum follow up

A Remington 700, chambered in 300 Winchester Magnum with a 16.5" barrel and Surefire muzzle brake.
A Remington 700, chambered in 300 Winchester Magnum with a 16.5″ barrel and Surefire muzzle brake.

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