Looking into resolving the shortcomings the US Army experienced during World War II, firearm manufacturers raced to create a better version of the .30-06 Springfield, which performed relatively poorly, especially in adapting to semi-automatic rifles. In the early 1950s, these experimentations led to the development of the T65 series, thanks to the .300 Savage as the base platform. Around this time, Winchester saw the potential of this newly developed cartridge and thus began production for the civilian market, introducing the.308 Winchester in 1952. The US Army released its version under the 7.62x51mm NATO two years later.

Following the successful commercialization of the .308 Winchester, notably popular among the hunters, the firearm manufacturer also released its Model 70, Model 88, and Model 100 rifles designed to chamber the new cartridge.

Since then, the .308 Winchester rose to prominence in the short-action, big-game hunting rounds worldwide. Consequently, it has created a considerable debate among the hunters and gun owners community on which bullet is stronger between the .308 Winchester or the .30-06 Springfield, or often against the 7.62x51mm NATO—like that golden cousin of yours that your parents always compare you to. However, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute (SAAMI) consider loading a .308 Winchester into a 7.62x51mm NATO-dedicated weapon unsafe since the former usually packs high pressure than the latter service rounds.

comparing 30 caliber bullets
From left to right: 9.3×62mm, .30-06 Springfield, 7.92×57mm Mauser, 6.5×55mm, and .308 Winchester cartridges. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Aside from hunting, the .308 Winchester is also typically used for target shooting, military sniping, and police sharpshooting.

A bullet of .308 Winchester measures 7.8mm, 8.72mm, and 11.53mm, in bullet, neck, and shoulder diameters, respectively. Contrary to popular belief, it has less brass wall thickness than the 7.62x51mm NATO casings, which means the latter’s interior has less space for powder than the twin-like .308 Winchester has. The 30-caliber Winchester has an overall length of 71.1 mm and weighs an average of 160 to 170 grains each.

side by side photo of 7.62 and .308
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

.308 Winchester Standard Specifications

  • Parent case: .300 Savage
  • Case type: Rimless, bottleneck
  • Bullet diameter: 0.308 in (7.8 mm)
  • Neck diameter: 0.3433 in (8.72 mm)
  • Shoulder diameter: 0.4539 in (11.53 mm)
  • Base diameter: 0.4709 in (11.96 mm)
  • Rim diameter: 0.4728 in (12.01 mm)
  • Rim thickness: 0.0539 in (1.37 mm)
  • Case length: 2.015 in (51.2 mm)
  • Overall length: 2.800 in (71.1 mm)
  • Case capacity: 56 gr H2O (3.6 cm3)
  • Primer type: Large rifle
  • Maximum pressure (C.I.P.): 60,191 psi (415.00 MPa)
  • Maximum pressure (SAAMI): 62,000 psi (430 MPa)
150 grain FMJ of .308 Winchester
A 150-grain FMJ.308 Winchester bullet photographed at ultra-high speed with an air-gap flash. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

What gives the .308 Winchester its unique edge from its counterparts is its short case that was intentionally made to adapt for short-action rifles. This works because once loaded, this cartridge expands, boosting its capability for high terminal performance. The affordability likewise contributes to why .308 Winchester remains a favorite cartridge among avid hunters, as well as its availability in stock across the country.

A Reliable Hunting Pal

According to an article review, the .308 Winchester is more than capable as a hunting cartridge that could easily take down any “game animals from varmints to moose.”

“Yes, the 150-, 165- and 180-grain bullets are the most popular choices in the hunting fields (same can be said for the .30-06) but I’ve had great success with 125-, 130- and 200-grain handloaded bullets.”