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Close-Range .308 Loads

18 Dec 2016
@ 03:40 am (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Hello everyone,

I should say that I really don't do any long range hunting. I primarily hunt whitetail deer, usual weights are 160 lbs. to 220 lbs. The most common distance for shots is probably 75 yards, with some as close as 20 or as long as 150. I'm intending to work up a hand load at my uncle's place, he has offered to show me how to reload. I'm going to try and come up with an ideal .308 load for my rifle, a Browning X-Bolt Micro Hunter. I'm wondering if anyone could offer some advice on powder, bullet, and primer combinations. Here's what I'm thinking so far:

Load #1 - Sierra Pro Hunter 150 grain round nose, a max load of Winchester 748 powder, CCI magnum large rifle primers. This would be specifically for deer, I wouldn't use this on anything else except the occasional coyote that I see in the woods from time to time.

Load #2 - Nosler Partition 170 grain round nose, a max load of Winchester 748 powder, CCI magnum large rifle primers. This would be used on the deer, but I would think it would also be fine for black bear. The black bear here can be anywhere from 200 lbs. to an incredible 700lbs. (I'm not kidding, there are some very large bears around here) This load is something I would like to develop as the single round I can use for anything I might hunt with my .308. This particular bullet is intended for .30-30 rifles, I'm thinking I should be able to push it to at least 2,500 fps. I'm concerned that I wouldn't be able to get hydrostatic shock at these velocities though, I would be very interested to hear what you all think of this bullet from a 20" barrel .308

As I said, ranges are not very long. I don't see myself doing any hunting at ranges over 250 yards, and that would be quite a rare shot in the environment I hunt in. The rifle wears a Leupold FX-II 4x33mm with a German #4 reticle, Leupold standard low rings.

A quick aside about the rifle itself, it's excellent. Glass bedded from the factory, a very crisp and creep-free trigger, and the stock/recoil pad makes the .308 especially soft shooting in the relatively light weight rifle. It weighs right at 7 lbs. with the scope, unloaded. It's a 20" barrel and a 13.3" length of pull. In my view, it's an excellent all-around rifle/scope combination for the ranges I shoot and the game I kill. It should be adequate for anything I might hunt, given proper bullet choice. I tend to be very selective and careful of the shots I take, so I would feel ok with using it on anything up to moose-size animals with broadside shots.

Replies

18 Dec 2016
@ 05:40 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Both those loads will do what you want. If you are only after Whitetails the Sierra load will do just fine as long as you hit them where it counts.
The powder I use in my 150 Grain Sierra .308 loads is mainly IMR 4064.
The Prohunter works fine for me as well and is surprisingly accurate.

Your ideas on the Nosler are fine as well, but not needed quite so much unless you want to hunt black bear in the same areas.
18 Dec 2016
@ 02:16 pm (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Thanks Bryan, I appreciate the input. At this point, I'll likely just go with the Sierra bullets. They're just a lot cheaper, which would make it easier on the wallet to develop an accurate handload specifically for the deer.


[url=https://postimg.org/image/noqq99hj3/]

This 165 lb. whitetail (weighed after field dressing) was shot this year with a Winchester PowerMax Bonded 150 grain hollow point. The shot was broadside, about 50 yards, and slightly downhill. The exit wound was about three inches lower than the entrance wound. He collapsed instantly, you can actually see the blood spray on the snow from the exit wound. I don't have pictures of the internal damage but I will say that there was a fair amount of fragmentation, which I was happy about, and a pretty wide wound channel clear through the animal. In the past, at longer ranges, this bullet has produced no (or at least very little) fragmentation at all but instead just evidence of very wide expansion. I'm not sure if I would recommend the PoweMax .308 ammo for deer unless you're only shooting at about 75 yards or less. For factory ammo, the the best I've found so far for deer has been the Hornady Superformance SST 150gr.
18 Dec 2016
@ 03:42 pm (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
The 150 grain Hornady SST is a good bullet and consistently performs well. It could treat you to good longer range shots as well as long as your loads are accurate enough from your rifle.

For close in brushy type hunting areas however there is nothing wrong with your Sierra bullet choice, and their more reasonalble cost for reloading your own ammo will be a benefit.
18 Dec 2016
@ 05:22 pm (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
If I had regular shot opportunities at 150 - 250 yards, I would probably go with the SST or a similar bullet. It depends on where I am on my hunting property, but my usual location actually has a max distance of sight of around 120 yards, the hills cut off my view past that. There are one or two locations offering possible shots out to 200 - 250, but that's a rare shot that would require a non-moving animal and no sticks/branches obscuring the bullet's path. It's a very hilly mature hardwood forest, so it's quite difficult to make ethical long-range shots even if they do present themselves. This is primarily why I'm interested in the round nose bullets.

Here's a picture of the same deer, the zoom level has been adjusted to show everything in virtually the same proportion that I see it from my stand. The picture was taken from the position I was in when I shot it:

[url=https://postimg.org/image/qyrofv437/]
18 Dec 2016
@ 11:57 pm (GMT)

john feyereisn

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
I have had very good luck with my 308 with 150 grain bullets with varget
19 Dec 2016
@ 06:15 am (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
winchester factory 180 grn softpoints........enough said.
19 Dec 2016
@ 04:07 pm (GMT)

Luke Lahdenranta

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Hi Ryan. I think either of those loads would work well for your purposes. I haven't yet loaded the Sierra 150 gr rn(but I got a couple boxes), but I have shot some of the Nosler 170s and they have always proved to be very accurate and easy to load for. Hopefully Santa is bringing me a can of the Superformance powder for Christmas (and some new eld bullets) but I'm sorely tempted to try those 150 gr round nose bullets at around 3000 fps from my dad's old Rem760 pump 30-06, I think they could be a dynamite woods deer load, like a 30-30 on steroids! Let us know which load you try and how they perform, I for one would be interested in some updates.
19 Dec 2016
@ 08:14 pm (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
I would not load them hot Luke. It is not needed and bullet performance of those would be better at around 2700 to 2850 in the 30/06 for shorter ranges.
19 Dec 2016
@ 08:23 pm (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
This year I loaded some 180 grain Sierra Round nose bullets for hunting some
really thick bush areas for elk while calling them in. The idea was to get a bull bugling and if he kept out too far just run toward them and bugle a couple times while making the racket while moving. They figure a bull is coming in so are alert but stand there. Did this and shot a dandy at 25 yards and the 180 went into the shoulder closest to me and exited behind the off shoulder in a 2 1/2 inch hole and he dropped on the spot. No need for a final safety shot. The bush was very thick but no branches were hit, just the odd leaf.
20 Dec 2016
@ 02:17 am (GMT)

Luke Lahdenranta

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
That is a really good idea on the elk calling, to come into them while making noise. I'm going to remember that trick.

When I bought those 150 gr RN, I had thought they were for the 30-30 but noticed that Sierra offered a flat point as well. So I contacted Sierra and asked them and they told me the round nose was designed for the 308-300 mags up to 3100 fps impact velocity if I recall. I suspect a lot of people use them for the 30-30 anyways not making the distinction and no doubt they work fine. Reading through the knowledge base and Nathan's often quoted 2600 fps cut off for the 'off switch' for small bore bullets, my thought was to run them up to 2900-3000 fps to keep them above the cutoff out to 100-125 yards or so. I have a couple of real thick hunting spots for coastal mountain blacktails where anchoring them on the spot could be a big plus... although I am somewhat hesitant about the potential bloodshot meat damage wit that high velocity loading. But I guess you can't have it all, it'll be one or the other.

Incidentally, I used my 30-30 this year to take a nice 4x4 Mule deer at about 140-150 yards distance, I tried the recommended forward leg aiming point and the buck dropped pretty much where he stood, just kicking up a couple of times before collapsing. I'm going to continue experimenting with that shift in aim forwards to front of the foreleg.


Luke
20 Dec 2016
@ 04:14 am (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Quote:
I have had very good luck with my 308 with 150 grain bullets with varget


Do you mean with regards to velocity, accuracy, consistency, or another property? What specifically is good about it? Also, compared to what other powders? Thanks for the input, it's appreciated.

Has anyone noticed evidence of the round nose .30's expanding significantly faster/earlier than a pointed bullet of the same weight? I'm probably splitting hairs with the distinction, but that's half the reason I want to reload. I'm just a bit of a perfectionist. If performance can be improved, even very slightly, I'll likely be interested in trying to do it. Especially in winter, when there's time to kill and it's not comfortable outside without dressing like Ralphie from A Christmas Story.

I think the 170 grain Partition is particularly interesting because I would imagine it would expand very easily and quickly, even at longer ranges/lower velocities, but would still drive through the animal and create two holes. Similar at really close range, it seems like it would be likely to expand pretty violently but it's obviously not going to break up completely because of the dual core design. Should push through and create two holes. By comparison, the Sierra has only a cannelure. That should be adequate to hold the bullet together for most shots, but it seems to me that the Partition would have a distinct advantage in any shots encountering bone, such as a quartering towards or front-on shot.
20 Dec 2016
@ 05:37 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
The Sierra Round Nose 150 as well as 180 grain bullet's strength are they perform very well on impact, mushrooming is nearly perfect in my 308 as well as the old 30/06 I used to use. These bullets tend to retain nearly half of their weight at .308 velocities. In my rifle the Gaming Spitzers, their boat tails as wellas both of these round nose bullets shoot into a half an inch and have never failed by bullet blowup even with elk at close range shoulder shots.

As for powder types in the .308 Winchester, Varget is one of the better all-round powders, my rifle loves it so I use it for a lot of different bullets. Some people tend to load everything hot most of the time, but these bullets like the Noselr Partitions are often seen to perform best with lower velocities such as is the case with the .308 Win and the 7x57 Mauser, two of my favourite rifles. Loading the Nosler partitions up really hot in a magnum often results in the bullet hitting the animal and tumbling, losing its mushrrooming and lead out the base with unpredcitable results. If you read the Knoledge bases here you will see nathan mention this in the 7x57 as well as the .308 articles as well.

Speer round nose bullets have also done well for me but for years those were harder to get up here so I tended to use the Sierras.

I think in Nathan's Knowledge base articels there are references to how well the Sierra round nose bullets perform as well and his comments mirror my experience.

For high velocity loads for my 7mm rem Mag when I get it back from the gunsmith, I plan to use mostly the 162 and 175 grain Hornady ELD-X bullets and use the .308 for close in bushy hunts like always...with the 150 or 180 gr Sierras like I always have done.
20 Dec 2016
@ 07:53 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
OK, I'll just add a bit to this as most has already been covered by others (thanks).

In your 20" barrel, Varget / 4064 loads will not reach book quoted speeds. You'll be down a good 100fps or more. In your short barrel, H4895 is the most effective and without pressure issues. You can use this with all bullet weights.

The round nose bullets do not always show great differences in energy transfer in this caliber. Some individual bullets do display better energy transfer than others but this is as a result of careful design, not meplat area alone. See comments in the KB regarding the .30-30, .307 and .308 for general info. I have found that differences in energy transfer based on tip style alone are more pronounced in .358 up- all other bullet design factors being equal.

As for deflection, the smaller trees in your photo would deflect any bullet, especially considering the distance between trees and deer (saplings nearest to the deer). Bullets simply deviate when hitting debris. But, the degree of yaw may vary depending on bullet weight, impact velocity and bullet design.

When speaking of woods loads, we need to be very clear. Some folk want a heavy bullet for 'brush busting' while others want to be able to take game from all angles or create a wide exit wound. The former is potentially flawed in theory. We can try, but deflection is always a risk. The latter has merit and with new bullets like the 200gr ELD-X, we can have our cake and eat it.
20 Dec 2016
@ 09:38 pm (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Quote:
I would not load them hot Luke. It is not needed and bullet performance of those would be better at around 2700 to 2850 in the 30/06 for shorter ranges.


The ballistic coefficient of the Sierra round nose at that weight is really low, they say .200 at the velocities he's looking for. Just due to the rate that that will loose velocity, I don't think it would be a terrible idea. Something I did yesterday was a simple comparison of the predicted velocities and resulting trajectories of the Nosler vs. Sierra (the specific two bullets I mentioned.) The Nosler (starting at 2550 fps) is actually going faster than the Sierra (starting at 2700) at 100 yards because the Nosler has a .474 ballistic coefficient. Despite starting out about 150 fps slower. I'm really leaning towards the Nosler 170's now because of that. The price looks to be worth it, and it's not like I'm reloading thousands of rounds right now anyway.
20 Dec 2016
@ 10:13 pm (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Nathan:

Quote:

In your 20" barrel, Varget / 4064 loads will not reach book quoted speeds. You'll be down a good 100fps or more. In your short barrel, H4895 is the most effective and without pressure issues. You can use this with all bullet weights.


Thanks, I'll see if he has some of that powder on hand, otherwise I'll buy some and use that as a baseline for other possible powders. Much appreciated.


Quote:

The round nose bullets do not always show great differences in energy transfer in this caliber. Some individual bullets do display better energy transfer than others but this is as a result of careful design, not meplat area alone. See comments in the KB regarding the .30-30, .307 and .308 for general info. I have found that differences in energy transfer based on tip style alone are more pronounced in .358 up- all other bullet design factors being equal.


So then, if I'm understanding you correctly, the hardness of the core, jacket thickness and taper, etc. will likely have a greater influence on terminal performance than meplat shape. At least in the .308 diameter.

Quote:

As for deflection, the smaller trees in your photo would deflect any bullet, especially considering the distance between trees and deer (saplings nearest to the deer). Bullets simply deviate when hitting debris. But, the degree of yaw may vary depending on bullet weight, impact velocity and bullet design.


I'm not interested in 'brush busting' at all. I have no problem passing on shots if there are things obscuring the bullet's path. I just don't feel comfortable shooting at an animal if I'm not confident that I can make a clean, well-placed hit. I actually kinda enjoy "threading the needle" by putting bullets through a small opening to make a hit.

I'm really looking for something that expands quickly, loses a fair amount of weight from fragmentation, but will be able to reach vitals at all angles except for tail-on shots.
20 Dec 2016
@ 11:09 pm (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
By the way Nathan, it's really nice to see a source of information on ballistics and shooting that seems to be firmly grounded in science/actual knowledge. It's quite refreshing, and I appreciate your time and effort in putting this all together.
21 Dec 2016
@ 02:07 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Yes to all Ryan. And thanks.

If you want to, try the 200gr ELD-X if you get a chance. This will allow you to obtain what you are wanting to achieve and you can explore heavy bullet usage without sacrificing anything. The 200gr pill is really a very wide HP bullet. But do use the faster burn rate and do try a full range of charges if you decide to go this way.

But, as others have said, your other choices are quite fine.

I have avoided high velocity (hydrostatic / nervous shock) as a consideration here as it can be hard to obtain consistency with this cartridge and barrel length, especially if the person asking questions is leaning towards round nose bullets. That said, we still want maximum nervous trauma in addition to a wide internal wound. We want the brain to select 'shut down' from its three primary options (fight, flight, shut down). So to achieve this, we maximize the speed of energy transfer (not speed of the bullet - within reason), then have this continue throughout the wound path. A round nose bullet can help, but bullet construction is the key. We can also use the heavy bullet on angling woods shots and are for the most part, assured a blood trail.
21 Dec 2016
@ 03:37 am (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
Nathan:
Quote:

I have avoided high velocity (hydrostatic / nervous shock) as a consideration here as it can be hard to obtain consistency with this cartridge and barrel length, especially if the person asking questions is leaning towards round nose bullets.


That makes a lot of sense. I hadn't really considered it in that way, but it does seem almost pointless to pursue the 2600fps cutoff point with my current setup. It'd probably be more productive to focus purely on bullet design.

I tend to be a bit cynical when it comes to new shooting equipment and components, especially with all the "tactical" crap that's been going on in the last few years. Having said that, I just looked into the ELD-X bullets that Luke and Nathan brought up. They definitely seem to be an actual improvement (or at least a new direction in design philosophy) in bullet design over a wide range of velocities. I was also quite surprised by the relatively low price. I'm going to try them out, hopefully they show decent accuracy in my 1-12" twist barrel. Thanks everyone.

21 Dec 2016
@ 05:24 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Close-Range .308 Loads
I loaded up a box of the 178 grain eld-x as well as part of a box of the 208 gr eld-x for my Rem 700p ltr with its 20" barrel and 1:12 twist.

The 178 grain bullets shot 5 shots into .3 inches at 100 yards and accuracy held out to 700. The 208 grain bullets did not do nearly as well with this rifle but none are completely the same so always good to try.

I still like those 150 and 180 round nose Sierras Nathan. heh heh.
 

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