Poor 308 Winchester. The 308 was THE gold standard cartridge for the precision rifle/LE/military crowd for decades. Everyone I knew always considered a “good” heavy-barreled 308 an essential part of the well-equipped gun guy’s collection. In the past couple of years it has given ground to some flashy new cartridges that have left the 308 labeled the 3-0-HATE!
I know the 308 well. I’ve built a myriad of rifles chambered in it; reviewed many factory rifles, conducted barrel length experiments, formulated hundreds if not thousands of loads for it and even built a 6″ long pistol chambered in it. Sometimes I think of the 308 as an aged prize fighter whose best days are in the past, but guess what? Everything that made the 308 a great cartridge for all those years still holds true today. The 308 Winchester is a respectable cartridge that can hold its own just about anywhere!
In Why not 308? The battle between 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, 260 Rem, 243 Win, 6BR, 6×47 Lapua, and 6 Creedmoor, I made a strong case for abandoning the 308 Winchester in favor of one of the more modern 6 or 6.5mm cartridges, mostly within the realm of precision shooting. In this post, let’s look at what has made, and continues to make the 308 Winchester a great choice.
The way I see it, there are a few big advantages of 308 Winchester.
308 Winchester is standardized throughout the shooting industry
You can walk into nearly any gun store, anywhere in the free world and find ammunition for your 308 Winchester; this is a big deal if you don’t reload or you travel to hunt.
Imagine getting on a plane to hunt Africa with your 330 Dakota and 257 Weatherby. The hand loads you spent months loading suddenly turn up lost when you arrive at the airport. What are the chances your PH is going to have ammunition for either gun lying around? While this may seem like an extreme example, bags do get lost and sometimes you need to find ammunition if you are on the road. Common cartridges like the 308 Winchester are easy to find. While newer cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor are becoming more popular and available at gun stores, the 308 Winchester still overwhelmingly out represents it at every gun store I walk into.
The same conditions hold true for the shooter who doesn’t reload. While you can get some of these exotic match cartridges loaded from you by smaller custom ammunition manufacturers, your choices tend to be limited and the cost can be quite high as soon as you venture into the more esoteric cartridges.
Most manufacturers make rifles in 308 and most data books come with generic 308 tables. The availability of guns, ammunition and data is unmatched.
308 Winchester ammunition is everywhere
Not only can you buy 308 Winchester ammunition in most stores, but the selection of factory loads are impressive. Light bullets for varmints, heavy bullets for big game, bonded bullets to penetrate bone on game animals and specially bonded bullets for glass. You can walk into most gun stores and find a factory load to meet your need and if you can’t, you can undoubtedly order one.
308 Winchester Bullets, bullets, bullets
Most hand loaders love to mess around with different bullets. It is one of the most rewarding parts of the hobby. Build a .277″ wildcat for a match rifle and you’ll quickly see the options are limited at best. Move to a 308 Winchester, flip open any bullet catalog and you’ll be flush with bullets for every imaginable application. A quick trip to the Sierra Bullets website will show you 22-different bullets that work for every application from match, varmints, big game hunting and plinking. The 30 caliber truly rules supreme when it comes to bullets selection.
308 Winchester is the jack of all trades and master of
The 308 Winchester, especially in a bolt-action rifle, truly is the one-gun solution for most needs. Are there better dedicated match rifles? Sure. More powerful hunting rifles? Absolutely. Less recoil? Yep. Flatter shooting cartridges that buck wind better? Plenty. But can you find a cartridge that can perform well from all aspects of the recreational shooting sports and armed professions? No. There is a reason the 308 caught on, it is kind of like the MacGyver of cartridges.
308 Winchester hits steel with authority
A few of the places I shoot have steel targets on the range 24/7. Since they are shot a lot, they tend to be VERY HEAVY. Often, they’ll be 1-1.25″ plates. When you first start banging these heavy silhouettes past 500 yards with your 6mm or light 6.5mm you start to notice a downside of the cartridge. They don’t hit the steel very hard. Swing over to the good old ubiquitous 308/175 SMK and you can remind the steel who the boss is!
308 Winchester is easy to load for
The ease of load development in 308 Winchester should not be overlooked. The cartridge works well with a wide variety or powder, bullets and brass. Speaking of brass, brass is available from nearly all brass manufacturers; cheap brass, expensive brass, good brass, bad brass, you can get nearly any kind of brass you want to feed your 308.
Why 308 Winchester?
It is still a great cartridge. While there are certainly better cartridges for specific applications, the 308 Winchester can still hold its own in most applications. I still own and shoot a bunch, and quite frankly, I think they are more fun to shoot than some of my more specialized rifles.
Why not 308?
Why not 308? The battle between 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, 260 Rem, 243 Win, 6BR, 6×47 Lapua, and 6 Creedmoor
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