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.
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.
.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)
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.”
Fascinating results of this .30-caliber include turning a coyote inside out with the light 125-grain bullets. In contrast, a 200-grain shot would be a good choice for taking down moose, bear, and a massive wild boar—either way, the .308 Winchester has a wide range of ammunition options. Just take a pick.
“My rifles have printed excellent groups using the Federal 180-grain Trophy Bonded Tip load, and my wife’s Savage Lady Hunter prints nearly ¼-MOA 100-yard groups with the 150-grain Norma EcoStrike load.”
What’s more, is the power you get when handloading a .308 Winchester. The factory load of the cartridge is already “inherently accurate,” but for handloads, it can “split hairs,” well, at least according to the review. Additionally, anyone looking into trying it on their own might want to look to medium-burning powder options such as the IMR4064, Hodgdon’s VARGET, Alliant’s Reloader 15, H380, and IMR4166. Match it with an excellent rifle to light them up, and you’d be unstoppable in the wilderness.
Getting sub-MOA group cartridges is advisable for handloader beginners or those who want to dabble and experiment. The reviewer used Nosler’s Ballistic Tips, and Partitions, Swift Scirocco IIs, Sierra GameKing hollow-points, and Speer Grand Slams, among many others—set at .308 velocities and “all have performed very well.”
But what are your thoughts on this one based on experience? Is .308 Winchester a yay or nay? Let us know in the comments.