The .308 Winchester

By Chuck Hawks

.308 Win.
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

The .308 Winchester is one of the world's most popular hunting and target shooting cartridges. It is also one of the four cartridges on the "short list" of all-around rifle cartridges. My article The .308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO) on the Rifle Cartridges page gets more page views than any other article. The .308 is one popular rifle cartridge!

Because of the diversity of loads and bullet styles, it is hard to generalize, but the following are typical American factory loads for the .308 Winchester and are also probably representative of the majority of handoads. The 150 grain spitzer bullet is usually loaded to a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,820 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 2,648 ft. lbs. The figures at 200 yards are 2,263 fps and 1,705 ft. lbs.

The 165 grain spitzer bullet is loaded to a MV of 2,700 fps and a ME of 2,679 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the velocity is 2,194 fps and the remaining energy is 1,763 ft. lbs.

The 180 grain spitzer bullet leaves the muzzle at 2,620 fps with 2,743 ft. lbs. of energy. At 200 yards it is traveling at 2,178 fps and has 1,898 ft. lbs. of kinetic energy.

There are also premium factory loads that are loaded a little bit hotter. Many of the ammunition manufacturers now offer these loads. For example, Federal's Premium High Energy load for the 165 grain bullet has a MV of 2,870 fps and a ME of 3,020 ft. lbs. Their 180 grain load drives a Nosler Partition bullet at a MV of 2,740 fps and a ME of 3,000 ft. lbs.

Bullets used in the .308 generally weigh from 100 to 200 grains. The most common factory loaded bullet weights for the .308 are 150 grain, 165 grain, and 180 grain. These are the best bullet weights for almost all medium and big game hunting with the .308, so they are also the bullets most used by reloaders.

A number of powders work well in the .308 Winchester. Among those recommended are Varget, H380, H335, IMR 3031, IMR 4064, IMR 4895, RL-12, RL-15, and W748. I have used IMR 3031 for years with good results.

The Sierra 150 grain boat tail spitzer has a ballistic coefficient (BC) of .416 and a sectional density (SD) of .226. This is the bullet I use most in my .308. According to the fifth edition of the Sierra Bullets Reloading Manual, 42.8 grains of W748 powder gives this bullet a MV of 2600 fps, and a maximum load of 47.9 grains gives a MV of 2900 fps.

The Sierra 165 grain boat tail spitzer has a BC of .453 and a SD of .248. Sierra figures call for 40.8 grains of W748 powder for a MV of 2500 fps, and 43.5 grains of W748 for a MV of 2700 fps.

The Sierra 180 grain boat tail spitzer has a BC of .530 and a SD of .271. The Sierra Bullets Reloading Manual shows that 39.0 grains of W748 powder gives a MV of 2300 fps, and a maximum charge of 43.6 grains of W748 gives a MV of 2600 fps.

All of these Sierra loads used Federal cases and Federal 210M primers. They were tested in the 26" barrel of a Savage 12VSS rifle.

Note: A full length article about the .308 Winchester can be found on the Rifle Cartridges page.

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Copyright 2004, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.