308 Winchester Ballistics
308 Win Trajectory
Origin of the 308 Winchester
The 308 Winchester was initially released as a military cartridge, the 7.62mm NATO. The inherent accuracy and versatility of the sporting version, the 308 Winchester, released in the early 1950s, saw it gain widespread popularity with both target shooters and hunters.
Hunting & Shooting with the 308 Winchester
The 308 Winchester’s origin as a compact military round meant that it could be readily chambered in medium length sporting actions. Able to handle a great range of bullet weights, the 308 Winchester is popular and effective on a wide range of game and in various competitive shooting applications.
The 308 Winchester by Peter MacFarlane
My first shooting experience with a ‘big’ rifle was a shaking, jerky, flinch-ridden attempt at a two foot piece of railway track, suspended a couple of hundred feet away by soft wire from the remains of an old four-barb cattle fence.
I had my Father’s old Brno pulled in hard against my skinny shoulder, and with the recoil and blast I lost my sight picture, but I hit it, and the rusty metal was still swinging by the time I walked to it. And I took some pride in the huge grey splat mark left by the 150 grain Remington Core-Lokt as it disintegrated on impact. Try doing that with a .22!
It has been some years since that day, but I still make sure I always have a 308 in my locker, ready and sighted in with a good 4-power scope, for when I need an efficient, accurate and authoritative calibre.
For those of us that are used to handling modern, over-bore sporting cartridges, the 308 cartridge can look a bit odd; one of my mates quipped that any half decent deer would be able to outrun 308 bullets!
How can such a modest case possibly launch that rotund .30-calibre projectile at anything like high velocity? But it does, and this efficiency is one of the reasons I am such a fan.
Like a small number of current sporting cartridges, the 308 Winchester began life in the armed forces, as the 7.62 x 51, the standard NATO round for many years.
As with all military cartridges, the 308 was the result of a great deal of development and testing, much more, I would expect, than is ever applied to new sporting calibres.
It was designed to be efficient, versatile and accurate; not just as a point of difference to sell new rifles. When these qualities are combined it comes as no surprise that practically all new production rifles are available 308 Winchester, and ammunition is as common as muck and about the same price.
The beautiful fallow buck in the picture was taken with, of course, a 308 – this one was the workmanlike Ruger M77 Mk II. A 130 grain Hornady spire-point did not disappoint at 160 metres. On a rear-quartering chest shot, the bullet passed right through to lodge under the hide on the off-side shoulder, destroying the vitals en route, and demonstrating near-perfect terminal ballistics.
I find the 130 grain bullets in the 308 have just the right mix of expansion and penetration on game such as this, and they shoot nigh-on as flat as a 270.
These days I am also using my 308 with a twist; loaded with Trail Boss propellant and cast lead projectiles it makes an interesting medium range wallaby rifle. The 165gn flat nosed bullets have outstanding knock down power on light game, and muzzle blast and recoil are practically non-existent, as is barrel cleaning.
Low velocity also keeps meat damage to a minimum. It is a bit like hunting with a ‘giant’ rimfire, and very satisfying as range limitations mean that game must be carefully stalked. I am in the process of developing 130 and 180 grain 308 loads that shoot accurately to the same point of impact at 150 metres…how is that for versatile? A small deer/big deer combination from the same barrel!
The 308 is truly the ubiquitous high-powered rifle cartridge. It achieves all that is ever asked of it with so little fuss that it almost goes unnoticed. One does not often hear other hunters talking loudly of this humble cartridge, in the way that they often do about their latest mega-magnum, but do not let that sway you. The 308 Winchester – is there anything it cannot do?
The 243 Win and 308 Win are two of the most popular hunting calibres. A good comparison of 243 Win v the 308 Win can be found on the SWGGun web site.
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