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.308 Winchester (7.62 NATO)
HistoryToward the end of his second term as President of the United States, George Washington announced his intention to retire in his farewell address, given in 1796. Passing on the wisdom of his years to the young country, Washington, as part of his address, advised the American people to maintain trade but not become entangled in European rivalry, seeking neutrality at all times. This became a core value of the American people and policy makers. It was this policy that in 1914 influenced America’s decision not to enter Europe’s War. Nevertheless, in February 1917, British Intelligence intercepted a telegram from Germany’s foreign Minister to his Ambassador in Mexico suggesting an allied attack on America. America officially declared war on April the 6th 1917, committing American forces to battle until the war’s end in 1918.
Due to industrialization, the First World War was dramatically different to all those before it. The main cause of casualties came from the widespread use of artillery. The second greatest cause of casualties came from the use of machine guns, based on Hiram Maxim’s design. This new style of warfare forced millions of troops to dig trenches running parallel to their enemies. These trenches stretched some 473 miles across Europe.
After witnessing this new warfare, the American military was resolved to make improvements to infantry ordnance, beginning research during the 1920’s. Of particular interest was the effectiveness of the machine gun compared to the bolt action .30-06 Springfield rifle. The downfall of the machine gun was that it had to be fired from a static position however if it could be scaled down into a rifle sized weapon it would give a squad of twelve men the power of a 40 man platoon.
Employed by the US ordnance department, firearms designers John D Pederson and John C Garand began work on prototype rifles capable of semi-automatic fire, a compromise between rapid fire power and economy of ammunition. While John Garand was having success with designing a rifle, Pederson had become convinced that the .30-06 cartridge generated too much recoil to allow reasonably accurate aim of the rifle during repeated fire. To this end he designed his own cartridge, the .276 Pederson (7x51) featuring a very tapered, smooth feeding case capable of firing a 140 to 150gr 7mm bullet at around 2400fps.
In 1932 the Garand rifle in .276 Pederson was presented to the US Ordnance Department for review resulting in it’s unanimous acceptance. However when presented to General Douglas MacArthur for final approval, MacArthur rejected the design finding favor with the rifle but not the cartridge. MacArthur stated that the new rifle should fire the .30-06 cartridge to utilize the tonnes of ammunition in stock from the previous war. Garand subsequently remodeled his rifle for the .30-06 cartridge and had the design approved and accepted in 1936, three years before the next World War in 1939.
Following the principles applied during the First World War, America initially refrained from involvement in this second European war. However far from complacent, a request from the chief of infantry for a light weight intermediate rifle for such soldiers as NCO’s, radiomen, engineers and paratroopers was put forwards to the Ordnance department gaining formal authorization in 1940.
During 1941 several US firearms companies submitted designs for an extremely compact, lightweight rifle and suitable cartridge. The .30-06 cartridge would generate too much recoil and require to long an action for this purpose however a suitable cartridge would have to have a greater effective range than the M1911 A1 service pistol and Thompson sub machine gun. The Thompson and 1911 were both chambered in .45 ACP, firing a 230 grain bullet at 850fps with an effective range of around 50 yards.
On October the 22nd 1941, the US Ordnance department approved and adopted the Winchester designed M1 Carbine, caliber .30 Carbine. At just 2.36kg (5.2lb) the M1 fired a 110 grain round nose bullet at1860fps. This became a very popular rifle with troops throughout the second world war, Korea and the early stages of the Vietnam war. Ideal for use at close ranges (inside 150 yards), the M1 did not fully bridge the gap between the infantry rifle and sub machine gun.
On the 7th of December 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, committing US forces to war in the coming new year. During this Second World War, allies witnessed the brutal effectiveness of the German soldier armed with the MP43 (1943), MP44 and Stg 44 fully automatic assault rifles. These weapons were chambered for a low recoiling scaled down version of the 8x57 cartridge, the 7.92x33 Kurz which had the firepower of the sub machine gun but a far greater effective range.
In 1944, one year before the war’s end, the US Ordnance Department under the direction of Colonel Rene R Studler, reopened infantry rifle cartridge research at Frankford Arsenal. The major goal was to develop a selective fire rifle chambered for a cartridge that would give controllable recoil during fully automatic fire as well as a useful and generous effective range. Experiments were conducted exploring the feasibility of a shorter version of the .30-06. Starting with the .300 Savage cartridge as a base design, several prototype cartridges were developed over the next few years before arrival at the final cartridge design, prototype T-65. The T-65 had less body taper than the .300 Savage, in order to increase powder capacity while the shoulder angle was reduced from 30 to 20 degrees for ease of production. The case rim was thickened for added reliability during extraction and a longer neck gave superior bullet grip as well as increased case capacity. Outwardly, the cartridge appeared to be a shortened version of the .30-06 however in essence, the T-65 was a subtle blend of both the .30-06 and .300 Savage combined with further modifications.
Along with military ballisticians, the U.S Repeating Arms company (Winchester) was heavily involved in the development of the T-65. Today, with the Winchester brand having changed hands several times since the development of the T-65, it is difficult to identify to what extent Winchester influenced the final design. What is clear is that in 1952, Winchester applied and was granted permission from the Office of the US chief of Ordnance to standardize the T-65 commercially as the .308 Winchester.
The American military was not alone in efforts to develop a selective fire rifle and cartridge. British ballisticians had been submitting prototype 7mm cartridges to the British Armament design establishment, beginning in 1947. In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed between the countries of the common wealth, several European countries and the U.S.A. As part of this alliance it was agreed that one military cartridge should be standardized for use by all parties. In 1950, Britain submitted for testing the .280-30 (7x43), firing a 140gr 7mm bullet at 2595fps. The rifles submitted for testing included the Belgian FNFAL and the radically designed EM2 Bullpup. The U.S submitted the T-65 cartridge in a John Garand designed prototype of the M14 rifle and while the Belgian FNFAL did prove to be effective, the U.S carrying much weight in NATO, insisted the T-65 was the superior cartridge.
Britain, supported by Canada, next offered the 7mm Compromise (essentially the 7mm-08). FNFAL went a step further and produced rifles for the T-65 cartridge. Final tests were concluded at the Pendine trials of 1953, held at the US Aberdeen proving grounds. After much debate the T-65 was accepted as the NATO cartridge, re-named the 7.62 NATO. Europe and the countries of the common wealth adopted and began production of the FNFAL in 7.62 NATO during 1954. The U.S adopted the selective fire M14, finally tooling up for full production in 1957. The 7.62 was also chambered in the US designed M60 belt fed light machine gun.
The M14 saw its first tentative tests in warfare in Vietnam during 1961. Capable of fully automatic fire, the M14 carried a 20 round magazine as opposed to the Garand’s 8 round clip which could not be reloaded easily until the clip had ejected after the last shot. The new rifle was effective and its cartridge very powerful.
Unfortunately, the M14 was viewed as having one major shortcoming - the 7.62 NATO cartridge. While the 7.62 was developed as an assault rifle cartridge, it was designed to give .30-06 performance and produced velocities of 2750fps with a 147gr bullet, only 50fps short of the original .30-06 150gr loading. The rifle was difficult to control during bursts of fully automatic fire and some believed the rifle to be too long and cumbersome for jungle warfare. The M14 was 1118mm (44”) in length weighing 4.5kg (9.9lb) unloaded compared to the Garand at 1103mm (43.4”) long, weighing 4.37kg (9.6lb) unloaded . Oddly, complaints did not appear to come from troops but instead, from higher above.
While the M14 was earning its keep in the field, the US Army began to conduct tests on Eugene Stoner’s AR15 rifle in 5.56. Eventually, US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara opened a full inquiry as to the effectiveness of the AR-15, demanding that it be tested in actual combat against the M14. After these tests were concluded, on the 23rd January 1963, McNamara announced that when that years M14 contracts were fulfilled, no more were to be built. The US was to adopt the AR15 (M16) rifle.
With a huge amount of new M14 rifles in service, the M14 remained the standard infantry weapon until the Vietnam war heated up in 1968. Orders were then delivered, stating that the M14 rifles were to be recalled and replaced. U.S troops were satisfied with the M14 and were somewhat shocked when in the space of days and weeks, most units had their rifles taken from them, replaced by the new M16. Unfortunately, due to last minute changes in the design of the M16 and its ammunition, the adoption of the M16 proved to be a disastrous exercise (see .223 Remington). The vast stocks of M14 rifles were immediately shipped back to the U.S and apart from a few units and sniper teams who continued to utilize the M14, most American soldiers had no choice but to continue using the M-16 until its feeding problems were finally overcome.
The 7.62 NATO cartridge did however survive within the U.S military, utilized in the M60 LMG for heavy suppressive fire and as a sniper cartridge. As a sniper cartridge, the 7.62 proved to be effective and was eventually standardized for all Allied sniper operations. In the U.S, the 7.62 was housed in the Remington bolt action rifle as the primary sniper weapon and utilized in the M14 as the secondary weapon, carried by the spotter within a two man team.
Although the infantry service life of the 7.62 NATO cartridge was short lived in the U.S, many commonwealth countries remained with the 7.62 NATO as late as the early 1980’s. Countries such as England, Australia and New Zealand remained committed to the FNFAL or obtained rights to its design, adopting the L1A1 SLR (Self Loading Rifle), capable of semi-automatic fire only. Eventually, the heavy FNFAL at 4.45kg (9.79lb) unloaded was replaced with rifles using the 5.56 (.223 Remington) cartridge.
Presently, the 7.62 continues to see use as a sniper cartridge. This cartridge has a huge following within the military and many incredible feats of marksmanship have been achieved with the 7.62 over the last 5 decades. The 7.62 is still used for heavy suppressive fire in LMG rifle designs but is these days considered less versatile than a squad automatic weapon (SAW) chambered in 5.56.
Since its adoption as a hunting cartridge, the .308 Winchester has become a best seller worldwide. The .308 has proven to be a powerful, effective game killer and combined with readily available sporting ammunition, cheap surplus military ammunition and rifles of every conceivable design, the .308 Winchester is one of the most popular cartridges of our time.
The .308 is a highly effective medium game cartridge, supported by a huge range of ammunition and projectile designs that enable it to achieve optimum performance at varying ranges and on varying body weights.
Loaded with conventional soft point bullets, many bullet brands lose the ability to produce hydrostatic shock at impact velocities below 2600fps and in such cases, dead running game can be a common occurrence when using the .308 at ranges beyond 50 yards. In fact with some bullet brands, its as if a magic button has been switched off right at the 2600fps mark. Several bullet brands do however have the ability to produce hydrostatic shock (instant collapse) of game down to velocities as low as 2400fps, depending on target resistance and relevant factors. Regardless, hunters can manipulate speed of killing by matching bullet construction to the job at hand and in this caliber, there are some excellent options, capable of extremely fast killing via wide wounding. The 2600fps parameter and the gradual reduction in shock with conventional SP bullets below this velocity is common throughout the small bores, up to the .338 caliber.
In the .308 (actually all bores 7mm and above), a simple rule of thumb for best results on deer is to use either a stout 150 grain bullet or a soft/ frangible heavy bullet, as a means to effect wide wounding combined with adequate penetration. This may seem an overly simple rule but it can be used with great success prior to load selection. Of course, tough game call for a different approach.
The .308 can be loaded with 110 to 130 grain bullets and used with great results on varmints and light bodied game however; heavier bullet weights can in many cases give better results than their lighter counterparts regardless of reductions in muzzle velocity. In this regard, light bullets are often better utilized, down loaded, for training new hunters.
Loaded with 150 grain bullets, the .308 is immensely effective across a wide range of game species. Hunters have a choice of fast expanding through to stout, deep penetrating projectiles. This bullet weight can be used to produce clean kills on medium game out to ranges of around and exceeding 600 yards.
The 165 to 168 grain bullet weight in .308 is, generally speaking, somewhat more effective on game weighing above 90kg, than on light bodied game. Performance of this bullet weight can be altered by matching bullet construction to the job at hand. Soft, frangible bullet designs work extremely well on a wide variety of game while the vast range of semi stout projectiles work well on tough animals. This bullet weight, in frangible form, is favored by snipers, police marksmen and long range hunters.
The 180 grain .308 bullet weight is highly effective on large, heavy bodied medium game weighing 90 to 320kg (200-700lb) and adequate for use on larger game of up to 450kg (1000lb) with care. Frangible bullet designs can also be used to promote fast killing on lean animals, adding a great deal of versatility to the .308.
The .308 is immensely effective when loaded with 200 grain bullets for use on large bodied game at close to moderate ranges. This cartridge is pushed to its limits on 450kg game (1000lb). On the largest of animals, readers must understand that the .308 caliber cannot produce wound channels as large as that of a wider bore, even though penetration is quite often outstanding. The .308 can be used reliably and with a great deal of satisfaction on game weighing as much as 600kg (1300lb), but produces best results with head and neck shots.
As a military snipers cartridge .308 Winchester is most definitely inferior to modern cartridge designs, the 7mm Remington Magnum being one example of a cartridge that tactically outclasses the .308Win in every way. The .308 Winchester remains the standard sniper anti personal cartridge of the military due to the heavy support structure that surrounds it. All sniper training including exterior ballistics and optical training is focused on the .308 Winchester cartridge, supported by volumes of research and training literature. The .308 also generates low recoil inertia to its bedding platform and to the shooter, optimizing accuracy. The .308 cartridge is not generally fussy, producing excellent accuracy without need of special attention to load development or idiosyncrasies of the tactical rifle.
One of the greatest virtues of the .308Win comes as a result of the carefully developed case design. The cartridge can be loaded to quite high velocities and without any great difficulty in obtaining accuracy. Initially the .308 was loaded with Win 748 ball powder which optimized performance in 20” military barrels. Sporting ammunition followed suit but only for a time. Today, factory ammunition features rather slow burning stick powders, limiting the performance of the .308 in 20” barrels. Hand loaders can obtain excellent velocities with or without W748, by careful load development.
The .308 is often compared to the .30-06 Springfield, specifically, the ability of the .308 to duplicate the larger cartridge’s performance. Using modern powders the .30-06 remains more powerful than the .308, producing 150fps greater velocity.
Although military ammunition works well in sporting rifles, using sporting ammunition in military rifles is usually not recommended. 7.62 NATO ammunition is loaded to a maximum average pressure of 50,000psi and proof tested at 67,000psi. For reliable feeding in the field, military 7.62 NATO rifles have over sized chambers and military brass is made thick to allow expansion to the chamber walls without cases splitting. Sporting .308 ammunition is made to the same sized outside dimensions as 7.62 NATO ammunition but lacks the thickness of brass to flow and fill a loose military chamber with the possibility of split or ruptured cases as a result. Commercial hunting ammunition can be loaded up to 62,000psi. Incidents of sporting ammunition rupturing in military rifles are rare, considering commercial ammunition is not usually loaded to high pressures, but incidents have been recorded.
Military surplus ammunition can be obtained throughout most countries of the world. Typical bullet weights include 144 and 147grains full metal jacket with the lead core exposed at the base/heel of the bullet. Velocities in 22” barreled sporting rifles tends to be around 2720fps and 2650fps in 20” barrels. Quality varies from country to country and as an example, Australian Defense Industries (ADI) take great pride in the quality of their ammunition which tends to be very accurate. In contrast, bulk surplus ammunition from one source in South Africa tends to be the worst on the market, producing velocities of between 1600 and 2750fps from shot to shot.
Generally speaking, .308 FMJ projectiles produce extremely poor performance on game, drilling through shoulder muscle and bone, creating a caliber sized wound surrounded by bruising throughout the lungs. Bleeding is slow, game show no sign of a hit and unless the CNS is destroyed, animals run considerable distances before succumbing to blood loss. Exit holes may be up to an inch in diameter as the projectile finally loses stability and begins to yaw through offside muscle and bone. Hollow pointing the FMJ .308 bullet dramatically changes results, on impact the jacket is shed almost immediately and penetration can be extremely poor, at times capable of giving equally slow kills as when fully jacketed, on animals as light as 40kg (80lb). As a side note, increasing the speed of FMJ military projectiles to magnum velocities (3200fps) and shooting lighter medium game within 100 yards can actually decrease the size of the wound channel, rendering exit holes of less than .5”.
Current factory loads from Winchester include the 150gr PowerPoint at an advertised 2820fps, the 150gr Ballistic Silvertip at 2810fps and the 150gr E Tip at 2810fps, all giving true velocities 40-50fps below factory test barrel results. Winchesters heavy weights include the 168gr Ballistic Silvertip at 2670fps for a true 2630fps and the 180gr PowerPoint and Silvertip bullets at an advertised 2620fps both giving realistic velocities of around 2530fps.
The 150gr PowerPoint bullet is a traditional load popular with .308 users, perhaps simply because it has always been readily available. It has an extremely soft construction creating a broad wound channel but is not ideal for deep penetration and on larger game the size of mature red deer and mule deer the remaining fragments of this projectile will often be found against the offside skin from a broadside shot.
The 180 grain PowerPoint is equally soft and like the 150 grain bullet has a tendency to over expand. End to end penetration on light bodied game is inhibited as the PowerPoint develops a huge frontal area of around 19mm (.748”) although weight loss is not too dramatic, retaining around 110 grains. Besides the Silvertip the 180 grain PowerPoint was for a long time one of the few 180 grain .308 caliber projectiles able to readily transfer all of its energy on lighter game. The 180 grain PowerPoint is a good bullet for use in situations where game body weights vary dramatically. Due to .308 muzzle velocities, the 180 grain PowerPoint can produce slightly delayed (but clean) killing at ranges beyond 25 yards.
For close range work on heavier animals and where raking shots can be expected, the 180 grain Silvertip is a better performer than the PowerPoint design. On impact the Silvertip’s aluminum tip smashes into its core giving explosive expansion and excellent energy transfer followed by a reduction in frontal area enabling the projectile to give reasonably deep penetration. Like the 180 grain PowerPoint, this bullet is an excellent performer across a wide range of body weights but has a somewhat poor BC of .383 and is therefore best suited to hunting at close to moderate ranges.
For many years Winchester produced a 150 grain Silvertip projectile however at higher velocity and lacking the sectional density of the 180 grain bullet, the 150 grain Silvertip had a tendency to completely disintegrate when striking shoulder bones, giving fairly poor penetration. Today the 150 grain Silvertip has been replaced by the Winchester/ Nosler Combined Technologies Ballistic Silvertip. The BST produces less violent expansion than the original PowerPoint and Silvertip projectiles but is still a frangible bullet, offering superior aerodynamic performance. The BST is a true, open country hunting bullet and produces excellent results out at ranges of around 300 yards on light to mid weight game up to 80kg (180lb).
The 168 grain BST, also stouter than the PowerPoint, is best suited to game weighing between 80kg (180lb) and 120kg (265lb) if wide wounding is to be expected at ranges beyond 100 yards. On lighter game, this somewhat stout projectile tends to cleave to its momentum and can give slow kills, even with well placed shots. Although the 168 grain BST is a stout bullet, it is still frangible and therefore best suited to open country hunting. When used on game weighing between 80-120kg as suggested, the 168 grain BST fills a niche, performing exceptionally well.
The 150 grain Nosler E Tip is designed specifically for those states where lead core bullets have been banned to placate liberal environmentalist policies. This type of bullet design also enables more meat to be harvested from a carcass without fear of lead contamination. The E Tip is a fast killer at close ranges but as velocity falls below 2600fps, the E Tip loses its ability to produce fast kills on light bodied game although wounding is thorough and kills are clean. The 150 grain E Tip is very well suited to game animals weighing between 80 and 200kg out to ranges of around 300 yards.
Current 125-150 grain offerings from Remington include the 125gr Core-Lokt managed recoil load at 2660fps, the 150gr Core-Lokt at an advertised 2820fps, the 150gr Scirocco at 2820fps, the 150 grain core bonded Core-Lokt Ultra bullet also at an advertised 2820fps, all for realistic velocities of 2720fps in 22” sporting rifles and 2650-2670fps in 20” barrels.
Remington’s medium weight loads include the 165 grain Accutip and Scirocco bullets at 2700fps for a realistic 2600fps. Remington’s heavy weight loads include the 180 grain Core-Lokt (pointed soft point), the 180 grain Core-Lokt round nose and the 180 grain core bonded Core-Lokt Ultra, all at an advertised 2620fps but giving around 2500fps in 22” sporters.
The 125 grain Core-Lokt Managed Recoil load at around 2600fps in 22” is suitable for lighter medium game out to moderate ranges (250 yards). As can be expected, well placed shots through the autonomous plexus produce fast kills while rear lung shots produce slower killing. With proper guidance, youths/beginners can learn the fundamentals of game killing when hunting with the MR load, observing such factors as described above.
The 150 grain Remington Core-Lokt bullet is an extremely good performer on medium game, wound channels are wide and penetration adequate for use on game weighing up 125kg. Unfortunately the 150 grain .308 Core-Lokt has one major weakness, an extremely low BC of .314. The Core-Lokt loses the ability to produce hydrostatic shock at just 60 yards (2600fps). Wounding remains wide down to a velocity of 2200fps (200 yards) producing clean but often delayed killing. To this end the 150 grain Core-Lokt produces best performance when used at close to moderate ranges only.
The 150 grain Core-Lokt Ultra is a relatively deep penetrating projectile but again performance is limited by a low BC of .331. The wounding performance of the Ultra (as with all core bonded .308 projectiles) tends to fall off dramatically below 2600fps and especially at velocities lower than 2400fps. The 150 grain Scirocco has a much higher BC than the Core-Lokt Ultra but due to the limitations of the .308 cartridge falls below 2600fps at just 80 yards and due to its core bonded design, cannot be expected to produce fast emphatic killing with ordinary chest shots on lean bodied deer species at impact velocities below 2600fps. Nevertheless, this bullet works very well when used on tough, compact animals weighing between 60 and 120kg (130-264lb), producing deep and very broad wounding, resulting in fast kills.
Remington’s 165 grain Accutip produces fast killing on light or lean bodied game at close ranges. As velocity falls below 2400fps (100 yards), shot placement on light bodied game becomes more critical if fast killing is to be expected. The Accutip produces wide wounding on light bodied game down to velocities of around 2000fps (325 yards). Like the 150 grain Scirocco, this bullet is particularly well suited to game weighing between 60 and 120kg (130-264lb). Especially useful in open country hunting situations, the 165 grain Accutip can be used reliably out to around 450 yards providing care is taken with shot placement on lean bodied game.
The 165 grain Scirroco is a stout bullet, suitable for tough medium game rather than being an all-round bullet. This projectile comes into its own on game weighing above 90kg and up to 150kg (200-330lb), producing deep but very broad wounding. The velocities of the .308 limit the useful range of this load and beyond 100 yards, rear lung shots on large bodied Red/Mule deer can result in somewhat delayed killing.
Remington’s traditional 180 grain Core-Lokt performs extremely well on large bodied deer of up to 320kg (700lb) at close ranges, a reliable economy load for those on a limited budget. The round nose design is slightly faster in expansion than its pointed counterpart, ensuring wide wounding with rear lung shots at close ranges. The round nose bullet does not deflect brush more than the pointed bullet and while the round nose bullet will sometimes produce shock and instant collapse on light or lean animals, results tend to inconsistent. Nevertheless, the round nose bullet is clean killing, well suited to woods/bush hunting light through to large bodied medium game. Penetration with both designs is fair, giving end to end penetration on light bodied game, adequate for heavily quartering shots on large bodied game.
The Remington 180 grain Ultra provides an extra margin of reliability over the traditional Core-Lokt. This bullet design can be a very slow killer when used on light bodied game, best suited to game weighing above 90kg and especially useful on game weighing around 320kg (200-700lb).
Federal have an overwhelming variety of factory loads for the .308. 150gr loads include the traditional soft point at 2820fps, the 150gr Nosler Ballistic tip at 2820fps, the 150gr Nosler Partition at 2840fps and the 150gr Barnes Triple Shock at 2820fps. These loads tend to produce velocities of around 2770fps in 22” barrels.
Medium weights from Federal include the 165 grain GameKing at an advertised 2700fps, the 165 grain TSX at 2650fps and the 165 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw with Polymer Tip at 2700fps. All three loads produce around 2600-2620fps in 22” barrels.
Heavy weight loads from Federal include the traditional 180 grain soft point at an advertised 2620fps, the 180 grain Nosler Partition at 2620fps and the 180 grain TBBC with polymer tip, again at 2620fps. All three loads generally produce between 2530 and 2550fps in 22” barrels.
Federal also produce three Fusion brand loads, a 150 grain bullet at 2820, a 165 grain bullet at 2700fps and a 180 grain bullet at 2600fps. The core bonded Fusion loads cannot do anything that the Federal/Partition loads cannot already do and it is a shame to see such marketing ploys water down an already sufficient factory ammunition line up.
Lastly from Federal are two target loads, the 168 grain Sierra MatchKing at 2650fps and the 175 grain MatchKing at 2600fps. The Federal 168 grain SMK load is used by allied snipers in the Remington M24 sniper rifle which features a 24” barrel. Factory velocities of the SMK are, like all Federal .308 loads, obtained from a 24” test barrel and in the 24” barrel of the M24, velocities duplicate factory data. As a killing bullet, the SMK is unpredictable in terminal performance. Sometimes it will fragment on impact, other times creating pin hole wounds. Impact velocities do not effect these results however target resistance does, a dense target ensuring full fragmentation.
Federal’s traditional 150gr Soft point is an acceptable budget bullet, producing adequate wounding on lighter medium game, it’s major limitation being a low BC. Duplicating Olin’s BST load, the 150 grain Ballistic Tip is a good lighter medium game open country bullet. The 150 grain Partition is as per usual for this bullet design, outstanding. The SD of this projectile is low therefore, care should be taken not to use the 150 grain Partition on large, heavy bodied game above 150kg (330lb) if full cross body penetration (exit wounding) is to be expected. This is a very good game bullet for light to mid weight game species, producing best results inside 320 yards. The 150 grain Barnes TSX is best suited to game weighing between 90 and 150kg (200-330lb) and is adequate for use on game weighing up to 320kg (700lb). On light or very lean animals, the TSX produces good shock down to 2600fps (70 yards). Beyond this range, shot placement on light framed game is critical as the TSX does not meet enough resistance to create immensely wide fast bleeding wounds. Like the E-Tip, this bullet is often favored for maximum meat recovery.
The stout 165gr Sierra GameKing is a poor performer on light bodied game yet, like several .308 caliber bullets, cannot be under estimated for its ability to produce outstanding results on deer weighing between 80 and 120kg (180-264lb) out to ranges of around 320 yards. The subtleties of this are very easy to overlook and misunderstand. The 165gr TSX has both a desirable balance of SD versus velocity making it particularly well suited to game weighing around 320kg (700lb).
Federal’s 180gr Soft point is a an adequate budget bullet. As with all .308 180 grain loads, a low muzzle velocity helps to minimize any undesirable bullet deformation during penetration. The 180 grain Federal soft point is best suited to game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb) with ordinary chest shots. The 180gr Nosler Partition is an excellent bullet, soft enough to produce clean killing on lean bodied game yet tough enough to be useful on Elk sized game (320kg). The Partition produces end to end penetration on light to mid weight game and excellent penetration on Elk sized game with all bar tail on shots. On extremely large game weighing around 600kg (1300lb) and above, the Partition is prone to tumbling through round ball joints, losing its rear core, regardless of this bullets reasonably high SD. Readers must understand that a 180 grain projectile really is just a speck, a mere pebble when held against game of immense body weights. Nevertheless, the Partition does produce very good results when neck and head shooting large game. With ordinary chest shots on heavy game, where the ball joints are avoided, the Partition is capable of cross body penetration with the projectile becoming lodged in offside muscle, hide or bone.
Federal’s 180 grain TBBC is a poor performer on light bodied game, coming into its own on game weighing above 90kg (200lb) and excelling on game weighing around 320kg (700lb). On heavy game weighing more than 600kg, the TBBC is more reliable than Federal’s 180 grain Partition load, producing deeper penetration and in many instances capable of exit wounding. Nevertheless, as with all 30 caliber projectiles, wound channel diameters on heavy game tend to be very narrow and the TBBC, producing slow bleeding and delayed killing. Like the Partition, when used on heavy game, the TBBC is best utilized with head and neck shots, regardless of its excellent qualities.
From Hornady, tactical loads include the 110 grain Tactical Application Police (TAP) at 3165fps, the 155 grain TAP at 2785fps and the 168 grain TAP at 2700fps. These velocities are taken from a 20” test barrel in line with the M700 Police rifle with its 20” barrel.
The 110 grain TAP utilizes the V-Max bullet, ensuring shallow but extremely violent penetration. The 155 and 168gr TAP loads are both extremely good performers although, as we are discussing medium game hunting, more comments about bullet performance can be found below, rather than within this paragraph and context.
Match loads from Hornady include the 155 grain A-Max at 2850fps, the 168 grain A-Max at 2700fps, a Superformance version of the 168 grain A-Max at 2840fps, the 168 grain BTHP at 2700fps and the 178 grain BTHP Superformance at 2775fps. These velocities are obtained from a 24” test barrel and in 22” sporters, velocity tends to be around 90fps below advertised with one exception, the Superformance loads. These loads tend to achieve exact stated velocities in 22” barrels. In 20" barrels, velocity loss is in the order of 150fps for standard loads and 30-50fps with SF loads.
The 155 grain A-Max match bullet is extremely useful for open country or dedicated long range hunting of light bodied medium game. The 168 grain A-Max bullet with its higher SD, has a light advantage over the 155 grain bullet with fragmentation occurring over a longer distance during the course of penetration. Ballistics gelatin is completely hopeless as a means of understanding the terminal performance of these loads. While the 155 grain bullet will occasionally suffer surface bullet blow up when used on tough animals, the 168 grain A-Max handles a wide range of body weights and densities, producing better performance on larger animals at longer ranges where velocity is down towards 2000fps. Hornady have done very well with the SF version of the 168 grain A-Max load and it is impossible to duplicate these velocities in most 20-22” barreled rifles. Furthermore, Hornady have an uncanny knack of creating highly accurate SF ammunition, a seemingly impossible task given rifle to rifle variations. Using a suitable rifle, suitable optics and basic training, all three A-Max loads, the 155 grain, 168 grain and 168 grain SF loads can be used with relative ease out to 600 yards and out to 800 yards with practice. Maximum game weights for the 168 grain A-Max as a long range load are around 80kg (180lb) for best results. These loads can be used for woods hunting however the hunter must adopt an acceptance of limitations with regard to penetration.
Hornady’s 168 and 178 grain BTHP match loads are not well suited to hunting due to unpredictable performance, as is often the case with traditional match bullets.
Hunting loads from Hornady include the 150 grain BTSP Interlock at 2820fps, the 150 grain SST at 2820fps, the 150 grain SST SF at 3000fps, the 150 grain GMX SF at 2940fps (untested at this time), the 165 grain BTSP Interlock at 2700fps, the 165 grain SST SF at 2840fps, the 165 grain InterBond SF at 2840fps and the 165 grain GMX SF (untested) at 2750fps. Again, standard ammunition tends to produce lower than advertised velocities in sporting barrels, the 150 grain SST for example, producing 2750fps in 22” barrels and 2650-2675fps in 20” barrels. The Superformance loads do not display these more dramatic variations in velocity.
Hornady’s 150 grain BTSP is an acceptable economy load. There was a time when this was the go too bullet for hand loaders but Hornady’s latest designs have overshadowed the traditional Interlock. Along with this, it seems that the 150 grain BTSP of today, may not be treated with the same rigorous quality control of earlier years as jacket core separation and shallow penetration is more common with recent batches than those of old. Nevertheless, this is a good light game bullet, doing its best work on game weighing around 60kg (130lb).
The 150gr .308 SST is an extremely good bullet. Factory loads really only achieve the stated 2820fps in 26” barrels and as stated 2750fps is a more common MV associated with this load. At point blank ranges,the SST jacket and core stay together and wounding is extremely violent and of adequate depth for use on medium sized deer species. At longer ranges, where raking shots are taken, jacket core separation occurs at the later stages of penetration. In this sense and when the SST is matched to appropriate game weights, its killing performance is flawless. The SST can be used out to 600 yards, continuing to produce wide wounding at the low impact velocity of 1600fps, quite a feat for a controlled expanding bullet. The SF version of this load at 3000fps is simply an exceptional performer when used on light to mid weight deer species, up to 80kg (180lb) and out to 700 yards as a practical maximum.
Hornady’s 165 grain Interlock BTSP is of the perfect weight and construction for game weighing right around 80kg (180lb) with forgiving performance on both lighter game (40kg/90lb) and heavier game (150kg/330lb). The Interlock is soft enough to promote wide wounding and reasonably fast killing on light game, though slightly delayed at long ranges, yet has a construction and SD suitable for adequate penetration on larger animals. This economy load should never be overlooked as it has quite a niche, a cross over bullet, having great versatility where a wide range of game body weights are to be encountered.
The 165 grain SST and SST SF loads are more expensive than the traditional Interlock BTSP load however wounding is much more dramatic, often resulting in faster killing and the costs justified. Like the BTSP but even more so, the 165 grain SST is very well suited to game weighing between 80kg and 120kg (180lb-264lb) and is likewise, very versatile, creating excellent wounding on both lighter and heavier animals. On light bodied game, the standard 165 grain SST load produces slightly delayed killing at ranges beyond 100 yards (2400fps), showing a noticeable drop in killing performance (though kills are clean) at around 320 yards. The SF version of this load extends these performance thresholds to 150 yards and 440 yards respectively. On more heavily bodied game (80-150kg), the SST produces very dramatic wounding down to velocities as low as 1600fps. The 165 grain InterBond is a stout bullet which can be used in conjunction with the SST load. This load works extremely well on game weighing above 90kg (180lb), is ideal for game weighing around 150kg (330lb) and is adequately suited to Elk sized game.
The .308 is one of the simplest cartridges to work with and the choice of reloading components is endless. In 20” barreled rifles, fast burning powders such as H4895/ ADI 2206H are far better performers than the more traditional powders. Win 748 ball powder is also very good, after all, it was designed for the .308 and short military barrels. In longer barreled rifles (24-26”), IMR 4064/ ADI 2208 (Varget) burn rates come into their own.
Working velocities are best listed in table form due to the current variations in barrel length. The velocities listed below are averages and most rifles produce best accuracy at either the velocities listed or within 50fps of list velocities:
Hunting projectiles from Sierra include, the 110 grain HP Varmint, the 125 grain soft point, the 135 grain single shot pistol, the 150 grain GameKing, 150 grain Prohunter, 150 grain round nose, 165 grain GameKing, the 165 grain GameKing HPBT, the 180 grain GameKing, the 180 grain Prohunter, the 180 grain round nose, the 200 grain GameKing and 220 grain round nose, though this last bullet weight is not well suited to .308 win velocities. Sierra also produce a huge range of match bullets however these are not very well suited to hunting applications. On top of all of this, are the .30-30 range of projectiles which can be used with ease in the .308.
The light weight 125 and 135 grain Sierra bullets can be used to create light recoiling loads, ideal for beginners. The 135 grain SSP is definitely the pic, fast expanding and clean killing on light bodied game. The one trap that hunters are urged to avoid, is to use these light bullets driven at high velocity as an attempt to increase wounding potential on light game, especially at longer ranges. Put simply, light weight .308 bullets lose velocity quickly and lack the sectional density required to render deep, broad, emphatic wounding.
The Sierra 150 grain GameKing is a highly frangible bullet. This is a very inexpensive, accurate, fast killing bullet, suitable for light bodied game up to around 70kg and 80kg (180lb) as a safe maximum. This bullet is very predictable in performance, producing best results at impact velocities of 2000fps and above. The stouter 150 grain Prohunter is designed to produce deeper penetration, ideal for the same body weights but more reliable in woods/ bush hunting situations where raking shots are too be taken. Likewise, the 150 grain round nose is designed to retain around 50% of its weight, as opposed to the GameKing which has no such requirement.
Both the 165 grain GameKing and GameKing hollow point are tough bullets. Both expand readily on light bodied game but kills are often delayed, especially at impact velocities below 2400fps, differing somewhat from the Hornady and Speer 165 grain bullets which are more flexible. Nevertheless, the GameKing bullets have their strengths and when used on game weighing between 80 and 100kg and up to 150 kg as a safe limit, the GameKing bullets deal a traumatic blow. The subtleties of this can be difficult to explain but for those who have hunted game averaging 100kg (220lb), there may be some familiarity with the challenge of finding a bullet that is neither too soft, too stout nor too light or too heavy.
The 180 grain GameKing is exceptionally stout for a bullet intended for open country use yet it is well matched to its traditional roles. The 180 grain GameKing performs exceptionally well on game weighing between 90 and 180kg (200-400lb), more so when utilized in a .300 Magnum. In the .308, the GameKing is best used out to a range of around 180 yards. The 180 grain Prohunter is tougher still, ideal for close range work on large bodied non dangerous game weighing up to 320kg (700lb). The 180 grain round nose is a great bullet for close range work on a wide variety of body weights, adequate for game up to the size of Elk. The 200 grain Sierra GameKing is not well suited to the .308, designed primarily for the magnums.
The 220 grain Sierra round nose is not well suited to .308 velocities, not due to its bullet design or construction but more because of potential muzzle velocities. The 220 grain round nose excels in killing performance when driven at velocities of around and a little above 2400fps. The .308 can only drive this bullet weight at 2150fps and problems such as over expansion (failure to reduce frontal area) due to loss of velocity during penetration, tend to produce counterproductive results, though on medium sized game, killing is clean.
Speer hunting bullets include the 110 grain SP, the 110 grain HP, the 125 grain TNT HP, the 125 grain SP, 130 grain HP, the 150 grain BTSP, the 150 grain Hotcor SP, the 150 grain round nose Hotcor, 150 grain protected point Mag Tip, the 165 grain Hotcor, the 165 grain BTSP, the 180 grain Hotcor, the 180 grain BTSP, 180 grain Mag Tip, the 180 grain round nose Hotcor and the 200 grain Hotcor. Speer premium bullets include the Grand Slam range of bullets along with Speer's new Deep Curl projectiles (untested at this time).
The light weight Speer bullets are suitable for youth loads, expanding well at lower velocities, ideal for down loading to 2600fps and this is as much as should be expected from low SD .308 bullets.
The 150 grain Speer BTSP and Hotcor bullets are almost identical in performance on game to the GameKing and Prohunter 150 grain Bullets, so much so that it is difficult to tell any difference. That said, at longer ranges, beyond 300 yards, the Speer BTSP does show its merits, its lighter jacket ensuring violent wounding down to velocities of 1800fps.
Speer and Sierra part ways at the 165 grain bullet weight. The 165 grain Speer BTSP is very soft and at .308 velocities, produces fast kills and wide exit wounding on light bodied game down to 1800fps is as typical of this design. The 165 grain BTSP is a very good performer on game weighing up to and around 150kg (330lb) and can be used on heavier bodied deer with care. The 165 grain Hotcor is a tough bullet yet it dumps energy in an emphatic manner. This bullet is best used on game weighing between 90 and 150kg (180-330lb). These two bullet designs and the potential velocities of this bullet weight are very useful.
The 180 grain Speer BTSP is, regardless of its weight, still a good performer on light or lean bodied game. Kills can be slightly delayed at impact velocities below 2200fps yet it is not unreasonable to ask this bullet to tackle lean bodied deer out to ranges of around 500-600 yards. Suffice to say, the 180 grain Speer BTSP expands at low impact velocities. This bullet is well suited to game weighing between 70kg and 180kg and is adequate for use on Elk sized game, especially as velocity drops below 2000fps. This is a bullet that can be put to good purpose. Furthermore, its BC is almost identical to the 175 grain Berger VLD, food for thought.
The 180 grain Hotcor is as can be expected, a much tougher bullet, best suited to close to moderate range work when used in the .308. Total penetration for this and the Sierra Prohunter average around 20” on game, to paint a picture - not enough for full crossbody penetration on bovines, nor suitable for creating exit wounds on Grizzly bear, but adequately suited to Elk. The same can be said of the 180 grain round nose, the only difference being that this bullet does produce faster kills on lean animals. All of the Speer and Sierra round nose bullets are a joy to work with.
The 200 grain Hotcor is a real bulldozer. Loaded as fast as possible and used at close ranges, this is a very economical yet high performing bullet for use on tough animals at close ranges. This bullet has both a high SD and fairly tough jacket in its favor. The Hotcor expands readily, shedding back its frontal area very gradually rather than over expanding, yet does not suffer excessive weight loss, often retaining around 70% of its original weight. Again, a very good, economical bullet for large bodied game at woods ranges.
The TBBC bullets produce reliable performance under the most difficult circumstances. These projectiles work best when used on medium sized yet stout bodied game such as wild pigs and large heavy bodied game. As is often the case with this type of bullet design, although wounding through vitals can be quite severe, kills are very often delayed at impact velocities below 2600fps. The 150 grain TBBC gives best performance on pigs weighing above 40kg (90lb) and on deer weighing between 90 and 180kg (200-400lb). The 165 and 180 grain TBBC bullets are best suited to immensely tough animals weighing above 90kg (200lb).
Much of the Hornady range has already been discussed in the factory ammunition section of this text. Nevertheless, for consistency, data is discussed yet again herewith.
Varmint bullets from Hornady include the 110 grain soft point and 110 grain V-Max. Light weight hunting bullets include the 130 grain soft point, 130 grain single shot pistol, the 150 grain round nose Interlock (.30-30), the 150 grain flat base soft point Interlock, the 150 grain BTSP Interlock, the 150 grain SST and the 150 grain InterBond.
Medium weight hunting bullets from Hornady include the 165 grain BTSP Interlock, the 165 grain flat base soft point Interlock, the 165 grain SST, the 165 grain InterBond and the 170 grain flat point (.30-30).
Heavy bullets from Hornady include, the 180 grain flat base soft point Interlock, the 180 grain BTSP Interlock, the 180 grain round nose Interlock, the 180 grain SST, the 180 grain InterBond, the 190 grain BTSP and finally, the 220 grain round nose Interlock.
A-Max target bullets from Hornady are made in the weights 155, 168, 178 and 208 grains.
The 110 grain V-Max is sometimes used by hunters for harvesting lighter medium game, for head and neck shots. In New Zealand and throughout the UK, neck shooting or head shooting Fallow deer is very common, a means to maximize meat recovery on these otherwise petite animals. The V-Max excels in this role, not just for fast expansion, but also due to the fact that any error of shot place is overcome via extreme wounding. A jaw shot with a 150 grain hunting bullet creates a cruel, slow killing wound while the V-Max decapitates game, resulting in the fastest possible killing for those who insist on using this point of aim.
The 130 grain Hornady soft points are extremely soft but not extremely violent. The SSP (single shot pistol bullet) is not required at rifle velocities, the rifle version is already a very soft projectile. Loaded to 3000fps and above, the 130 grain bullet is not a dramatic killer while penetration is somewhat poor, even on light game. To this end, the 130 grain soft point is best utilized as a light game training round for young hunters. Downloaded to 2600fps, the 130 grain bullet is an adequately clean killer out to 200 yards.
Hornady’s 150 grain BTSP and FBSP projectiles are inexpensive, adequate performers on lighter body weights. These used to be stock fodder for .308 shooters but have been superseded by superior bullet designs. Today, it is difficult to tell performance apart from the two bullet designs - was one designed to withstand magnum impact velocities, the other for .308 velocities? Who knows anymore. The current 150 grain Interlocks are best suited to game weighing less than 60kg (130lb) and up to 80kg (180lb) as a safe maximum.
The new 150 grain SST and InterBond bullets really are outstanding when used on medium game. Furthermore, while the SST and IB are sometimes finicky to load in the sevens regarding optimum accuracy, the 30 cal SST and IB bullets tend to produce outstanding accuracy, regardless of variations in throat leade angles and twist rates from rifle barrel to barrel. The 150 grain SST is a violent performer, fast killing and effective out to 700 yards - for those who can read the wind effects on the .308 out to that range. The InterBond does its best work at impact velocities above 2400fps on lean animals, adequate down to 2200fps on heavily built medium game. The SST is best suited to game weighing up to 80kg (180lb) but will tackle game weighing around 120kg (246lb). The IB handles body weights up to 150kg, producing best performance inside 300 yards. Used in an interchangeable manner, these two projectiles are very well suited to the hunter who encounters mostly lighter bodied game but may chance upon heavy bodied medium game.
The 165 grain Hornady bullets are best suited to game weighing between 80 and 150kg - but are flexible designs, meeting enough resistance to produce wide wounding on game weighing less than 80kg while producing adequate penetration on game weighing up to 180kg. The traditional 165 grain Interlock bullets are more reliable than the 150 grain Interlock bullets, due mostly to a better SD. Killing on light or lean game is slightly delayed, but nowhere near as slow as results produced with the Sierra and Nosler boat tail bullets. More dramatic is the 165 grain SST, producing very wide wounding on game of all weights up to 150kg. This bullet produces fast kills on light or lean animals at ranges inside 100 yards, showing a slight delay in killing at longer ranges - depending on shot placement/resistance. This bullet and the 165 grain InterBond are again, ideally suited to hunters who primarily target mid weight game species that are neither extremely heavy, nor light.
The 180 grain Hornady Interlock is one of the few 180 grain .30 cal hunting bullets capable of producing fast bleeding on light bodied game. Other designs include the 180 grain SST, the 180 grain Speer BTSP, the 175 to 190 grain Berger VLD “Hunting” bullets, the 180 grain Win PowerPoint and 180 grain Win SilverTip bullets. The 180 grain Interlock bullets do however produce delayed killing. This bullet is best suited to game weighing between 90 and 180kg (200-400lb).
The 180 grain SST produces wide wounding on light through to large bodied medium game. Penetration is adequate on tough animals weighing up to 320kg (700lb) however the SST is somewhat better suited to deer weighing between 90 and 200kg (200-440lb). It is worth noting that at magnum velocities, at point blank ranges, penetration of the 180 grain SST is quite poor. At magnum velocities (3070fps and above) the 180 grain SST is spectacular on light bodied game but often unable to produce exit wounding on game weighing 80kg and above. The muzzle velocities of the .308 aid this bullet greatly for use on large deer. On light bodied game, killing can be delayed at ranges beyond 50 yards with rear lung shots/ light resistance.
The 180 grain InterBond is a tough bullet, well suited to tough game up to the size of Elk (320kg/700lb). As can be expected, killing on light game is very slow due to both low velocities and light resistance. For those who hunt difficult terrain where animals must be anchored on the spot, the 180 grain InterBond is not a versatile choice, this bullet needs a minimum of 90kg’s body weight for best performance. In the .308, the 180 grain InterBond gradually tapers off in wounding performance at impact velocities of 2400fps (0-25 yards) becoming worse at 2200fps (around 175 yards). If the 180 grain InterBond is to be used as an all range load (0-300 yards) on large bodied game (an entirely feasible proposition), shot placement is critical and shots must be angled into major muscles and bones to effect fast bleeding/ fast killing.
Hornady’s heavy weight 190 grain BTSP is designed for the magnums but can be used in the .308 with success. This bullet is best suited to game weighing between 90 and 200kg (200-440lb), out to moderate ranges. The 220 grain Hornady round nose, due to its meplat design and low muzzle velocities of the .308, has a tendency to over expand on impact. Penetration through flesh, bone and rumenous tissue is on par with the 165 grain Interlock BTSP.
Hornady’s A-Max bullets are simply outstanding when used for hunting. The 155 grain Amax is best suited to smaller deer/ light bodied game, effective out to and beyond 800 yards. The 168 grain A-Max produces excellent results on a wide range of body weights, though best suited to game weighing no more than 80kg. Wounding performance is interesting in that following a cross body chest shot (down to 1400fps impact velocity), fragments of the A-Max can be found in other vital organs including the liver and kidneys and the arterial system of the spine. Perforated bowels can also be expected from time to time. The Amax is very forgiving with shot placement though - it should never be expected to produce fast killing with poor shots as it is not 100% reliable in its ability to produce fragmentary wounding throughout. Carcass inspection is very important prior to meat retrieval.
The 168 grain A-Max is a reliable, wide wounding, fast killing bullet, down to velocities of 1400fps. From an MV of 2670fps at minimum, this equates to 800 yards. Nevertheless, generally speaking, it is difficult to ensure fast clean killing on game past 650 yards due to the effects of wind drift on the .308 Winchester cartridge. Using the .308 and A-Max past 650 yards requires great skill.
The 178 grain A-Max does not lack in trajectory or retained velocity in comparison to its 168 grain counterpart and where twist rate allows, should be chosen over the 168 grain bullet. This really is a violent bullet, producing large fragments on impact, rendering deep, wide wounds. The 178 grain A-Max can be used on large bodied animals up to the size of Elk, more so as velocities fall below 2200fps. Hunters must not expect the same kind of results as produced by controlled expanding bullets - the A-Max has its limitations on tough game and although follow up shots are seldom if ever required with these bullets on larger bodied game at low impact velocities, hunters should always cycle the rifle action and get back on target immediately after firing.
Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets are available in the weights 125 grain, 150 grains, 165 grains, 168 grains (Combined Technologies) and 180 grains. Nosler Partition bullets are available in the weights 150 grains 165 grains, 180 grains, 200 grains and a 220 grain semi point. Nosler Accubond bullets are available in the weights 150 grains, 165 grains, 180 grains and 200 grains.
The 125 grain Nosler BT is an extremely fine, light game open country bullet, this projectile is stouter than the Hornady and Speer light game bullets. The boat tail design of the BT helps it to retain down range velocity resulting, along with the stouter jacket, in somewhat more violent wounding than its like weight competition. Best suited to game weighing around 40kg (88lb) the 125 grain BT is most effective when used inside 350 yards. Violent wounding can also be expected when this bullet is down loaded to 2600fps and used inside 250 yards.
Nosler’s 150 grain BT is a very good bullet, doing its best work on game weighing up to 70kg (155lb) reaching its absolute limit on game weighing 80kg and slightly heavier. The Ballistic Tip is not a controlled expanding bullet design and this projectile can be expected to produce wide wounding down to velocities as low as 1600fps.
The 165, 168 and 180 grain BT bullets are very much like the Sierra GameKing designs, sometimes producing slow killing on light bodied game, though wounding through vitals is more than sufficient. The 165 grain and 168 BT bullets are best utilized on game weighing 80 to 120kg (180-264lb) and up to 150kg (330lb) as a safe maximum. The 180 grain BT is best suited to game weighing above 90kg (200lb), up to body weights of around 200kg (440lb), though this bullet has been used to take much larger game with success. Likewise, these bullets can be used effectively on light or lean game however, occasionally, slow bleeding leads to dead running game, something to avoid if hunting in difficult terrain. It must be noted that the BT (and GameKing) bullets are best suited to deer of the varying weights mentioned, not game with fangs and claws.
Nosler’s Partition bullets are extremely well designed and work very well at .308 velocities, in some ways showing superior performance than when loaded to magnum velocities. Again, the 150 grain weight is best suited to game weighing up to 80kg (180lb), but is more flexible and more reliable than the BT bullet design. The 150 grain Partition gets knocked around by wind, as do all flat base soft point 150 grain .308 bullets. To this end, it is not unusual for hunters to make large errors of judgment regarding wind drift at and around 300 yards, suffice to say, that although wounding is very good down to velocities of 1600fps, this bullet is best utilized inside 350 yards.
Nosler’s 165 and 180 grain bullets are fast expanding, violent projectiles. Driven at .308 Win velocities, any possibility of jacket core separation due to tumbling (an occurrence at Magnum velocities on the largest of game) is completely removed. Although wounding is wide at low velocities these projectiles do their best work out to moderate ranges of around 250 yards and when matched to appropriate game body weights, produce absolute satisfaction.
The 200 grain Partition is an outstanding performer in the .308 when used at close to moderate ranges. Like all Partitions, expansion is extremely fast and wounding remains broad right down to very low velocities of around 1600fps. That said, this bullet produces best performance in the .308 when used inside 250 yards and really shines when used in woods hunting situations, used on all manner of game, up to 320kg and 450kg as a maximum (Moose). The heavy Partition does not make the .308 a stellar killer of Bovine sized game, no combination is capable of this in the .308 and on the largest of game, neck and head shots produce the most emphatic results. The .308 simply lacks the ability to render wide wounding on 600kg game, resulting in animals traveling up to 300 yards before gradually succumbing to blood loss, over a period of minutes, not seconds.
The 220 grain semi point Partition is a little too long for optimum use in the .308 and in practice, there is no need to go beyond the 200 grain bullet weight, due to the excellent balance of velocity versus broad wounding versus deep penetration, produced by the Partition design.
Nosler’s 150 grain Accubond is a good all round lighter medium game bullet. Wounding is wide yet penetration is relatively deep. This particular projectile, having a somewhat poor SD due to its 150 grain weight and a tendency to shed mass upon impact, is quite fast killing at the 300 yard mark where velocity is down to 2200fps. For hunting out to 350 yards, on game weighing up to and around 80kg (180lb) and 120kg as a safe upper limit, the 150 grain Accubond is an excellent performer.
The 165 and 180 grain Accubond fall somewhat into the same category as the BT and GameKing designs, showing a definite improvement in performance when used on game weighing heavier than 80kg (180lb). The 165 grain AB produces good performance on game weighing between 90 and 150kg (200-330lb), the 180 grain bullet producing best performance on game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb). Although these designs can be used with great effect, to some extent, these are better utilized in the magnums. In the .308, the Accubond, like most core bonded designs, does not produce the violent wounding that can be obtained with the Partition. Powder cramping due to the long AB design can further inhibit performance. Powder cramping also dictates that the 200 grain Accubond (designed for the magnums) cannot be used with relative ease in the .308 if highest possible velocities are desired.
The Swift range of bullets include the 150, 165 and 180 grain Scirocco bullets along with the 165, 180 and 200 grain A-Frame bullets. The 150 grain Scirocco performs in a very similar manner to the 150 grain Accubond, though the designs are completely different in that the Swift has a much heavier jacket. This is a fast expanding bullet, well suited to game weighing up to and around 80kg (180lb) but able to tackle heavier bodied deer, up to 150kg (330lb) under ideal conditions. The 165 grain Scirocco is best suited to game weighing above 90kg (200lb) if fast killing is to be expected with rear lung shots. Again, this design is better suited to the magnums which retain much greater velocity at longer ranges, aiding bullet expansion and wounding. The 180 grain Scirocco is too long to be usable in the .308, loads must be severely reduced to obtain a desirable COAL, short enough for cartridges to be housed within the typical 72mm (2.834”) box magazine lengths of commercial factory rifles.
The Swift A-Frame .30 caliber bullets work very effectively in the .308. The A-Frames can be driven fast and like the Partition, but perhaps more so, are able to produce hydrostatic shock on lean bodied game at impact velocities below 2600fps, often displaying instant poleaxe on game at velocities as low as 2400fps. For a stout, deep penetrating design, this is exceptionally good performance. The slightly flat meplat of the A-Frame possibly helps in this regard, ensuring some target resistance will be met upon impact. While the 150 grain A-Frame is extremely effective on game weighing up to 100kg and the 165 grain on game weighing up to 180kg, the 180 grain A-Frame is a bit of a surprise. Rear lung shots on light bodied game produce on the spot kills and wide wounding. Wounding is fierce on all body weights up to the size of Elk. The .308 velocities greatly aid the A-Frame which at magnum velocities has a tendency to lose a great deal of its SD, resembling a musket ball upon recovery (though penetration seems unaffected). At 308 Win velocities, penetration of the 180 grain A-Frame is outstanding.
The 200 grain A-Frame maximizes penetration on heavy bodied game. Although the 180 grain bullet weight is a traditional heavy weight and extremely good to boot, it can be very productive to experiment with suitable 200 grain bullet designs such as the A-Frame, in woods hunting / large bodied game situations.
Barnes bullets include the 130, 150, 165, 168, 180 and 200 grain TSX bullets along with the 150, 165 and 180 grain MRX bullets (MRX untested here).
The Barnes 130 grain TSX is a good all around bullet for game weighing up to 150kg with relative ease - covering a huge cross section of game species. The 130 grain TSX, due to its weight and SD, meets great resistance on impact, resulting in fast killing out to and often beyond 300 yards (2200fps).
The 150 grain Barnes TSX shows a definite delay in killing at impact velocities below 2600fps with rear lung shots. This bullet is best suited to game weighing between 90 and 150kg (200-330lb) and is adequate for use on heavier bodied deer up to 320kg (700lb). Wounding is at its most violent at impact velocities above 2400fps on lean game, width of wounding at lower velocities becomes more dependent on target resistance.
The 165 and 168 grain TSX bullets are best suited to large, heavily muscled game. That said, delayed killing occurs at .308 velocities and to this end, shot placement becomes very critical if on the spot kills are to be expected. The heavy weight Barnes bullets produce wide wounding out to moderate ranges but not hydrostatic shock (see Game Killing). These projectiles are exceptionally deep penetrating bullets, capable of complete broadside penetration of Bovine sized game. The 180 grain Barnes is somewhat too long for optimum use (velocities) in the .308 Win.
(NB- this paragraph is supposition) The Barnes MRX is designed for long range hunting. Although this has a rear heavy core and should in theory be capable of tumbling on impact, the MRX is designed to remain stable and produce wounding via the normal means of expansion inherent in the X design. Unfortunately, this lacks an understanding of the fact that at low velocities (below 2000fps), disproportionate to caliber wounding is no longer achievable. At low velocities where wounding is proportionate to the expanded caliber, mechanical wounding is the only means of creating wide fast bleeding wounds. A 17mm mechanical, proportionate wound produced by the MRX cannot create fast bleeding. If Barnes were to tweak this design and create a dedicated tumbling bullet, they would have a winner, a bullet capable of both wide wounding at low velocities, as well as deep penetration, deeper than that which can be achieved using frangible bullets.
GS Custom (South Africa) produce an interesting 130 grain bullet of similar construction to the Barnes TSX. These are without exception, extremely accurate bullets. The GS is designed in such a way that it must be loaded faster than usual, in order to swage the projectile to the bore. Velocities tend to be 100fps higher than normal. The GS differs from the Barnes TSX in that all of the petals are designed to shed in order to maintain stability on impact, along with increased secondary missile wounding. The design works although it would be foolhardy to suggest this action is any more or less effective than the TSX. Ultimately, this is a clean killing bullet and is very versatile, able to tackle a very wide range of body weights up to 150kg, without fuss. Speed of killing remains fast down at 2200fps which for the GS, is around 350 yards and out to 400 yards depending on barrel length/MV. Delayed killing can be expected beyond this range, though wounding is quite adequate at low velocities. The GS gives end to end penetration on mid sized game, ideal for woods hunting. Although vital wounding is thorough, meat damage tends to be minimal, much like results obtained with the TSX.
Berger VLD hunting bullets are produced in the weights 155, 168, 175, 185, 190 and 210 grains. Up until 2011, these were highly frangible, excellent long range bullets. Recently however, the VLD has seen changes to its jacket thickness. To this end, the VLD is no longer quite so versatile on light or lean bodied game. However, there are contradictions to this.
The 155 grain VLD is an unreliable hunting bullet. Sometimes it will blow up on impact with almost zero penetration, sometimes it will behave perfectly. To this end, the 155 grain bullet is best avoided for hunting and realistically, the 168 grain weight is capable of doing everything the 155 grain bullet can do and more. Presently, the 168-175 grain weight VLD bullets are of such a nature, that they are better suited to game weighing between 80 and 150kg at extended ranges. Although it was a great thing to have these bullets produce explosive performance on 40-60kg game, the current situation can be used to the hunter’s advantage, the A-Max for light or lean game at long ranges, the VLD for heavier bodied deer - and this does work in practice, at least with the current VLD configuration..
The old 190 grain VLD was a grenade, even at .308 Win velocities it was spectacular, exploding into multiple fragments of around 7mm (.250”), one could have expected time dilation at the ‘event horizon’ and gravity to pull the hunter into the carcass. Again, this bullet has been revised. In truth, the 190 grain bullet weight is not well suited to long range hunting using the .308 and of the VLD line, the 175 and 185 grain bullets strike the balance, twist rate being the final deciding factor between the 168, 175 and 185 grain bullets. As has been previously mentioned, it is quite a challenge to shoot and kill game cleanly beyond 650 yards with the .308. The 175 grain VLD launched at 2600fps is down to around 1630fps at this range. Wounding is definitely tapering off at this velocity (current VLD design) and 850 yards (1400fps) should, for the sake of the animal, be considered absolute maximum for fast bleeding. It must be reiterated - target resistance is an important factor in this equation.
The .308 Winchester is an incredibly versatile cartridge for its size. Competitive shooters enjoy it, woods hunters can utilize heavy or premium bullets, capable of producing fast emphatic kills with raking snap shots. Open country and long range hunters also have access to excellent, fast killing bullet designs. Highly effective factory ammunition is readily available, hand loading components are abundant and the cartridge is easy to load for optimum accuracy. On top of this, recoil is mild, especially from medium weight platforms.
In more recent years, the .308 has seen a revival amongst civilian shooters, based on the fascination of the .308 as a military sniper cartridge. This new direction is, for the most part, positive in that it encourages good marksmanship. The .308 is certainly enjoying great popularity and will no doubt continue to remain popular for many years to come. And why not, the .308 Winchester really is a great cartridge.
Subsonic load (16" test barrel, 1:11 twist)
10gr Trail Boss
Federal 215 magnum primer
Average 1010fps MVNo special reloading procedures.
Load supplied by B. Cameron, NZ.
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