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.308 Norma Magnum

History


Although the .300 H&H magnum introduced the American shooting public to the magnum concept, the trend towards belted magnums did not become fully popular until 1944 when Roy Weatherby produced his ultra high velocity .300 Weatherby magnum. Following this, in 1958 Winchester released the .338 Winchester magnum cartridge. The Winchester cartridge case design held much potential and many hunters and target shooters hoped to see a family of magnum cartridges based on the new case.
 
Immediately after the .338 Win was released, target shooters necked the case down to .30 caliber to produce the highly regarded .30-338 Wildcat. A year later, Winchester was still showing no signs of producing a .30 caliber cartridge based on the .338. In the same years, 1959, the Swedish ammunition company Norma, released the .308 Norma Magnum and .358 Norma Magnum cartridges, essentially utilizing the basic 338 Winchester Magnum case design.
 
Initially only available as unprimed brass, the .308 Norma Magnum was soon picked up as a chambering by rifle manufacturers Shultz & Larson. As rifles became available, Norma produced a single loading which featured a 180 grain bullet at an advertised 3100fps from the 26” barreled Shultz & Larson rifle. With a case length of just 64mm (2.52”) the .308 Norma also fitted and worked extremely well in rifles having .30-06 length actions and became popular as a custom chambering. The popularity of the .308 Norma remained steady through the mid 1960’s however it was eventually superseded by the .300 Winchester magnum released in 1963. The fact that a major American arms and ammunition manufacturer was producing economical rifles, brass and a variety of factory ammunition for the .300 Win mag ensured the long term survival and availability of the new cartridge, resulting in the gradual decline in popularity of the .308 Norma.
 
Today, the .308 Norma Magnum is a rare chambering, retaining a small following but with a great deal of respect. The .308 Norma continues to see use in custom rifles from time to time.
 

Performance

The .308 Norma is a powerful cartridge of sound design, ideal for medium game hunting and long range shooting. Like all of its .30 caliber magnum brethren, the .308 Norma displays great flexibility on widely varying body weights, producing fast kills on light game when appropriate bullets are chosen and clean killing of heavy bodied game with attention to both shot placement and bullet construction. Velocities fall short of the .300 Winchester Magnum by around 100fps, duplicating the performance of the .300 H&H.
 
150 grain bullets loaded to velocities of 3300fps in the .308 Norma produce fast kills on light or lean game, proving to be very effective on a vast range of deer, goat, sheep and antelope species.
 
165 grain projectiles achieve around 3100fps in the Norma and by utilizing a fast expanding bullet design such as the Hornady 165 grain SST, a wide range of body weights and game species can be tackled out to considerable ranges with a single load.
 
Loaded with 180 grain bullets of appropriate construction at around 3000fps, the .308 Norma is highly effective on tough medium game. For large body weights, 200 grain bullets can be driven at 2800fps while 220 grain bullets can be driven at 2600fps. Heavy weight premium bullets combined with head and or neck shots are the most reliable means of producing clean kills on heavy, bovine sized game.
 
Loaded with frangible high BC projectiles, the .308 Norma is capable of producing wide wounding for fast kills out to ranges of between 1000 and 1100 yards, remaining supersonic out to ranges of around 1400 yards. The Norma case design features a long neck at .318” (8mm), aiding bullet to bore alignment during ignition, optimizing accuracy for extreme range shooting.
 

Factory Ammunition

 
For over 30 years, Norma furnished the 180 grain bullet weight in two styles, a traditional soft point and Norma’s once popular plastic point expanding bullet. Although loads were initially advertised as producing 3100fps, these were later revised to 2950fps. In 1996 the excellent 200 grain Vulkan was added but following this, all loads were dropped, though brass for reloading continued to remain in supply. Around 2006 (when I did the first draft of this text), loadings were reinstated and included the 180 grain Swift A-Frame and Norma Oryx at 2953fps. 
 
Today (2011), the Oryx loading at 2953fps (26” barrel) is the sole surviving .308 Norma factory load. This is a tough bullet, best suited to game weighing above 90kg, both ideal and emphatic when used on Elk sized game out to moderate ranges (300 yards) with a tendency to be clean, but slow killing when used on game weighing less than 90kg (200lb).
 

Hand Loading

Norma continue to produce brass for the .308 Norma, usually manufactured and exported in single runs, as opposed to continuous supply. Hand loaders can also use .338 Winchester Magnum brass to form .308 Norma cases. Using powders in the 4831, RE22, N165 range and from a 26” barrel the Norma is capable of comfortably pushing 150 grain bullets at 3300fps, 165 grain bullets at 3100-3150fps, 180 grain bullets at 2950-3000fps, 200 grain bullets at 2800fps and 220 grain bullets at 2600fps. Occasionally individual rifles may produce velocities duplicating the .300 Winchester Magnum however, this is more a factor of individual bore tolerances. Also, the differences certainly become smaller when comparing 26” barreled .308 Norma rifles to 24” barreled Winchester Magnums.
 
For bullet performance, readers are referred to the .300 Winchester magnum text which serves as the base bullet performance text for the .30 caliber magnums. Readers are also reminded that the key factors to success and versatility when using the .300’s on game include - matching bullet weights to game weights and matching bullet construction to game weights and intended ranges.
 

Closing Comments

 
The .308 Norma may be rare these days but it is certainly not obsolete. Versatile and effective cartridges like this don’t pass into obscurity easily. This cartridge has been used worldwide and continues to see use throughout the world. The .308 Norma is highly regarded not just for the level of power it produces, but also for its compact design along with its adequately long case neck aiding bullet to bore concentricity for optimum accuracy. The .308 Norma is certainly a cartridge of many strengths.
 
 
 
Suggested loads: .308 Norma Magnum Barrel length: 26”
No ID   Sectional Density Ballistic Coefficient Observed  MV Fps ME
Ft-lb’s
1 HL 150gr SST/ InterBond .226 .415 3300 3627
2 HL  178gr A-Max .268 .495 3000 3497
3 HL 200gr Woodleigh PP Mag .301 .450 2800 3481
 
Suggested sight settings and bullet paths           
1 Yards 100 175 306 347 375 400 425  
  Bt. path +3 +4 0 -3 -5.6 -8.3 -11.3  
2 Yards 100 150 278 318 350 375 400  
  Bt. path +3 +3.7 0 -3 -6 -8.7 -11.9  
3 Yards 100 150 249 287 300 325 350  
  Bt. path +3 +3.4 0 -3 -4.2 -6.9 -10.1  
 
No At yards 10mphXwind Velocity Ft-lb’s
1 300 6.1 2604 2260
2 300 5.3 2480 2389
3 300 7.1 2213 2175
 
 308 Norma Magnum final.jpg
 
 
  Imperial Metric 
A .531 13.5
B .513 13.03
C 25 deg  
D .490 12.45
E .341 8.65
F 2.241 56.92
G .318 8.08
H 2.559 65
Max Case 2.559 65
Trim length 2.549 64.7
 
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