.308 Winchester is to this day one of the most widely used cartridges across the globe for its accuracy, versatility and hitting power. Good for medium to large game.
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The .308 Winchester (7.62 NATO) is to this day one of the most widely used cartridges across the globe for its accuracy, versatility and hitting power. The 7.62 NATO has been around since 1952, primarily as a military replacement for the 30-06 Springfield, offering similar ballistic performance in a short action (cheaper to make primarily). Needless to say the civilian variant of the 7.62 gained major traction, due to the number of compatible rifles.
Definition of the .308 Winchester
The .308 Winchester is the commercial name for the military equivalent round, being the 7.62×51 NATO. As mentioned above, the NATO round was developed in the early 1950’s, with the commercially available .308 Winchester available soon-thereafter. Today the .308 Winchester is widely used (still) in both military and civilian applications.
The .308 Winchester - Use cases
The versatility of the .308 Winchester is exactly why it was my first rifle purchase was chambered in it. “I wanted something with enough stopping power to take down my feral of choice, economical to shoot and be able to scratch my itch of long distance accuracy. At the time it seemed obvious. (check out the pic of my first ever rifle below (.308 Howa 1500, Heavy Fluted Barrel, Bell & Carlson Stock, 20MOA rail, Meopta 6-18×50))” Anyway, enough from me, onto the researched use cases:
- Medium to large size game (and small game if you want to obliterate it) are in trouble with the .308 and it’s a popular choice because of these reasons. Its accurate as you like and flat shooting for its size and recoil.
- For similar reasons listed above, plus the projectile weight, the .308 Win is very popular among target and sport shooters (I argue today it’s very much outdated, but it still shoots bloody well!), which is why competition shooters around the globe are still winning long range trophies with it.
- As I mentioned earlier in the article the .308 is still used in military and law enforcement situations because of its hitting power and accuracy, particularly effective in urban environments.
The bottleneck design of the .308 Winchester was designed to tolerate fairly high pressures, typically chucking 150 to 180 Grain projectiles down range at speeds of around 2600 to 2900 fps (variable pending barrel length and load).
The Cartridge dimensions are as follows:
- Bullet Diameter: .308 inches (7.82 mm)
- Neck Diameter: .343 inches (8.71 mm)
- Shoulder Diameter: .453 inches (11.51 mm)
- Base Diameter: .470 inches (11.94 mm)
- Rim Diameter: .473 inches (12.01 mm)
- Case Length: 2.015 inches (51.18 mm)
- Overall Length: 2.8 inches (71.12 mm)
If you’re looking into a .308 Winchester, check out our article on Basic Cartridge Selection for what game you can expect out of this old-faithful.
The .308 Winchester, also known as 7.62x51mm NATO, is a popular rifle cartridge that has a rich history dating back to the mid-20th century. Here’s an overview of its history:
- Development and Military Adoption:
- In the early 1950s, the U.S. military was looking for a new, standardized rifle cartridge to replace the older .30-06 Springfield cartridge. They wanted a shorter, more efficient cartridge that could still deliver comparable performance.
- The development of the .308 Winchester began as a civilian project by Winchester Repeating Arms Company. They took the .300 Savage cartridge and modified it to create a new cartridge that met military specifications.
- In 1954, the U.S. military adopted the resulting cartridge as the 7.62x51mm NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) cartridge. It became the standard rifle cartridge for the U.S. military, replacing the .30-06 Springfield.
- Civilian Adoption:
- Winchester introduced the civilian version of the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge as the .308 Winchester in 1952, a couple of years before its adoption by the military.
- The .308 Winchester quickly gained popularity among civilian shooters and hunters due to its accuracy, reliability, and versatility.
- Sporting and Hunting Use:
- The .308 Winchester became widely used for hunting various game, including deer, elk, and other medium to large-sized animals.
- Its manageable recoil and flat trajectory made it a popular choice for long-range shooting and precision shooting sports.
- Military and Law Enforcement Use:
- The 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, while primarily a military round, has also seen use by law enforcement agencies and special operations units in various firearms platforms.
- It has been used in battle rifles, sniper rifles, and machine guns, demonstrating its versatility in a wide range of combat scenarios.
- Popularity and Availability:
- Over the years, the .308 Winchester has remained one of the most popular and widely available rifle cartridges in the civilian market.
- Ammunition and firearms chambered in .308 Winchester are produced by numerous manufacturers around the world, ensuring its continued availability.
- Variants and Modifications:
- Various modifications and enhanced versions of the .308 Winchester have been developed, including match-grade and hunting-specific loads designed for improved accuracy and terminal ballistics.
The .308 Winchester’s enduring popularity can be attributed to its versatility, excellent accuracy, and the wide array of firearms chambered for it. It has become a standard cartridge for many civilian and military applications, earning a place in the history of firearms and ammunition.
Rifles that chamber .308 Winchester - a selection
Pros and cons
- The .308 is great for big game as well as medium game hunting.
- Take-down power, flat trajectory and accurate over range due to good ballistic coefficients.
- The recoil is not horrible considering its power.
- Plenty of rifles to choose from as everyone and their dog seem to make a 308 Win.
- There is a good selection of off the shelf factory made ammunition available in most gun shops across the Australia. For hand loaders, there is usually a good variety of projectiles and powder available.
- The price is cheaper than others in the class like the 30-06.
- It tends to be less prone to jams due to the shorter cartridge.
- While the trajectory is flat, with heavier projectiles the drop off is more marked beyond 300 meters when compared to a 7mm Remington Magnum or 300 Win Mag. Flatter trajectories coincide with projectiles of 150 grains or less.
- This means also that the .308 Win has less terminal performance over longer ranges. The lower the energy a projectile presents at the intended target can result in a less than clean kill.
- Due to the high barrel pressures and velocity the 308 can take a toll on the barrel. This leads to the need to replace the barrel more often than when using other cartridges.
- A final note on travel with this cartridge. It is considered a military round by some countries and may have restrictions on its use. Worthwhile doing a bit of homework on that before you head off.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
The .308 Winchester is suitable for mid to long-range target shooting, as well as medium to big game hunting.
|0 yds||0.00 sec||-1.5 in||0 in||2,810 fps||2,627 ft-lbs|
|100 yds||0.11 sec||0.0 in||0 in||2,576 fps||2,208 ft-lbs|
|200 yds||0.23 sec||-3.7 in||0 in||2,354 fps||1,843 ft-lbs|
|300 yds||0.37 sec||-13.8 in||0 in||2,142 fps||1,527 ft-lbs|
Rifle gunshot in decibels:
- Average rifle: 158 dB
- .22: 140 dB
- .308 Win 156.2 dB
- .30-06: 163 dB
- 7mm Magnum: 166 dB
The .308 is slightly quieter than the average rifle and not as loud as most in its class.
The .308 is a high-power, medium-recoil cartridge that is good for hunting everything from medium to big game. It is also a good target shooter at mid to long ranges.