Working-Class Hero: The .308 Winchester

Updated on September 17, 2016
LJ Bonham profile image

LJ Bonham is an author, historian, hunter, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.

.308 Win. (L), .300 Savage (R)
.308 Win. (L), .300 Savage (R) | Source

Origins

What’s the most popular, yet least glamorous, hunting rifle cartridge? The .308 Winchester. Developed for the U.S. military to replace the time-tested .30-06, this wonderful, flexible round traces its DNA back to the .300 Savage.

Based on lessons learned from the German StG 44 and its shortened 7.92mm cartridge, the Army’s Frankford Arsenal wanted something that matched the .30-06’s ballistics with lower recoil, and fit into the new, trimmer service rifle in development at the time.

L-R: 7.62x51 NATO, 5.56x45 NATO, 9x19mm
L-R: 7.62x51 NATO, 5.56x45 NATO, 9x19mm | Source

From NATO to You

After close work with Winchester, the new cartridge debuted in the M-14 rifle and became known as the 7.62mm NATO or 7.62x51mm. It fired a 147 grain full metal jacketed bullet at 2750 feet per second from the M-14’s twenty-two inch barrel with an effective range over 800 meters. The round gained an instant reputation for superb accuracy, and Winchester sold it as the .308 Winchester to the civilian market

Replaced after less than a decade by the M-16 and its 5.56x45mm round, the M-14 soldiers on today with American snipers and special operations forces, while the 7.62mm NATO is used in medium machine guns such as the M-240. The M-14 and the 7.62x51 provide the long range punch the 5.56x45 lacks, and have proven invaluable for engaging targets across mountain valleys in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

U.S. soldier with M-14 Battle Rifle
U.S. soldier with M-14 Battle Rifle | Source
Middle and Right: .308 Nosler AccuBond, Sierra Game King bullets
Middle and Right: .308 Nosler AccuBond, Sierra Game King bullets | Source

One Cartridge to Rule Them All

The .308 is considered a deer cartridge by many, but with the right bullet, it can take anything from marmots to bears. It is perhaps the most versatile short-action cartridge ever made, and its case has been used for many other short-action rounds such as the .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 7mm-08, .338 Federal, and .358 Winchester. Bullet weights available for the .308 range from 110 grains to 208 grains, with 150 to 165 the most popular. Bullets heavier than 208 grains are not suited to the .308 due to limited case length.

.308  vs. .30-06 Ballistics
.308 vs. .30-06 Ballistics | Source

By the Numbers

From a twenty-four inch barrel, the .308 can fire a 110 grain bullet at over 3300 fps, perfect for varmints and small predators. The most common load, a 150 grain, leaves the muzzle at a nominal 2800 fps, and is used for deer and antelope-sized game. Heavier bullets such as 180 and 200 grains travel at 2600 and 2450 fps, respectively; either is suited to elk, moose, or black bear. The .308 has another great advantage; most ammunition companies offer low priced, 150-grain FMJ loads, which are great for inexpensive practice, and limit hide damage on fur bearers such as coyote and wolf. With match grade components, the .308 has won trophy after trophy in target shooting competitions.

Light Heavyweight

Loaded with a premium hunting bullet such as the Nosler Partition, Barnes TSX, or Swift Scirocco, the .308 hits harder than mere numbers would suggest. With proper bullet placement, it is not unusual for animals to drop in their tracks when shot with this mid-size round.

Source
Rifling
Rifling | Source

Easy on Your Gun

The .308 has another significant advantage: it is a low-overbore cartridge. Overbore is the ratio, expressed as a coefficient, between the barrel's bore area and the cartridge case's powder capacity. The smaller the bore and the larger the case capacity, the higher the overbore coefficient. Overbore is linked to barrel throat and bore erosion or wear. High-overbore cartridges tend to erode barrels at a much faster rate than low overbore ones. For example, the 7mm Remington Magnum which uses a 7mm, or .284 caliber, bullet has an overbore coefficient of 1326 and is notorious for eroding barrels after just a few thousand rounds in some cases. The .308's overbore is 751, almost half the 7mm's. A .308's barrel should last a long time with proper care and cleaning; something to think about if one can't afford to replace rifles or barrels often. A well-cared-for .308 should last a lifetime, perhaps even generations.

Results of using 7.62 NATO cases in .308 rifles

AR-10 Rifle
AR-10 Rifle | Source

.308 vs. 7.62 NATO Issues

In recent years the .308 has become even more popular as AR-type rifles have taken the civilian firearms market by storm. The original AR-10, which fathered the M-16 and its variants, was chambered for the 7.62mm NATO round, and most AR makers offer a model in .308. While the .308 and 7.62 NATO appear identical, internal and external case dimensions can vary due to military rifle chamber specification. It is important to not use military cases in rifles marked for .308 Winchester. Rifles with NATO spec chambers can use both 7.62x51mm and civilian .308’s as they have more generous headspace and overall chamber size.

Our Hero

The .308 Winchester: versatile, powerful, efficient, and gentle on shooter’s shoulders. A great, get the job done and go home cartridge which gains new popularity with each hunting season and serves the military with distinction. A true working-class hero.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 LJ Bonham

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://skyaboveus.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)