The .308 Winchester is one of the most popular rifle rounds of all time. The short-action rifle cartridge was originally designed with military purposes in mind. However, it has proven to be a real powerhouse for hunting. While this round may seem dated to some, it is a proven workhorse. Whitetail deer, black bears, and even elk have been successfully harvested using the .308. Add in the fact that the ammo is cheap and readily available practically anywhere guns and ammunition are sold, and you've got a great option for an all-around hunting rifle. Today we'll briefly touch on the ballistics capabilities of the .308 and then give some of our top picks for the best .308 Winchester rifles on the market today for hunting purposes. We'll even give our recommendations for the best scenarios and budgets where these rifles fit. Whatever you choose, you'll find it's hard to go wrong with choosing a .308 Win as your next hunting rifle.
Ballistics and Specs of .308 Winchester
There is a lot of confusion out there about the .308 Winchester cartridge. Mostly because this round was later developed into 7.62x51 NATO that is now almost the standard for military weapons the world over. This has resulted in rather heated arguments in gun circles on if these rounds are one and the same or not. We'll set the record straight for you, they're basically identical. The .308 is basically the civilian version of the 7.62 and the difference is a minute difference in the case that most hunters won't be able to see with the naked eye. That said, the two are not interchangeable, so don't try to chamber a 7.62x51mm in a .308. It's just a safety issue.
In any case, this short-action, centerfire rifle cartridge can produce muzzle velocities of nearly 2,800 feet per second depending on the firearm, bullet weight, and ammunition type. Something like the 150-grain Hornady Custom is doing about 2,600-fps at 100 yards and hits with about 2,252-foot pounds of energy. Other options, like the 165-grain Nosler Partition, does about 2,578-fps and hits with 2,435-foot pounds of energy.
As far as trajectory, the .308 stays flat out to about 200 yards. You can push it further, but for most North American big game, it's probably best to keep your shots in that 100 to 150-yard range. Most factory ammo has zero drop at either 100 or 150 yards. Once you get out to 300 yards, the .308 starts losing significant speed and energy, it also starts to drop quite a bit. So, it's not the best super long-range option, but for most hunters, the .308's range is going to be perfect.
Browning X-Bolt Max
The X-Bolt is a great choice for hunters concerned about ergonomics. Browning built some nice features that make this rifle more comfortable to shoot than some of the others on this list. The X-Bolt features an adjustable comb and length of pull spacers to fit the firearm perfectly to your frame. The barrel length is 26 inches, and it is fluted and stainless steel to stand up to the elements. This gun has a muzzle brake with threads for a suppressor straight out of the box. It also has studs for a bipod and has a magazine capacity of four rounds, but you will likely only need one. This gun would excel on big game in extremely open country where long shots are not just an option, but a necessity. This gun gets high marks from users for its accuracy and crisp alloy trigger. The rifle is pre-drilled and tapped for you to mount the optic of your choice. The MSRP on this rifle is about $1,370, so it's an investment. If you're looking for quality though, the X-Bolt has it in spades.
For hunters who have a major backcountry hunt planned for elk, bighorn sheep or mountain goat, you need a rifle that is light and easy to handle. The Winchester fits the bill at just six pounds, 12 ounces and an overall length of just 39 ¼ inches. This gun has a 22-inch barrel length. If you're worried about the elements, go with the gray perma-cote finish to help protect against rust and corrosion. The magazine and trigger guard are designed with the idea that you are likely going to be wearing gloves on a tough elemental hunt. As a result, both are significantly easier to operate than they are on other rifles. The stock is a tough polymer so you can set this rifle on stumps and rocks without worry about scratching it up. The bolt is also Teflon coated to help with durability. We really like the XPR as a budget option. Mostly because it is hard to believe they start at only $479, and it can sometimes be found on sale for much less than that.
Ruger American Rifle Predator
Ruger's American rifle line has proven immensely popular thanks to how affordable and reliable they are. This makes it another solid budget option and there are several different options in .308. However, we like the predator for most hunting scenarios. This rifle has a 22-inch barrel with a 1:10 rate of twist. It weighs just 6.6 pounds thanks to the synthetic stock. This makes it easy to lug around anywhere from the open plains to the most mountainous terrain. It has a capacity of four rounds and uses AR-style magazines for quick reloading. This one can usually be found for just under $500.
Tikka T3X Lite
Tikka has a great reputation for reliable, ultralight hunting rifles that are great for heading deep into the backcountry. The T3X Lite is a true joy to carry afield since it weighs just 6.4 pounds. The 22.4-inch barrel provides a 1:11 rate of twist. The single stage adjustable trigger can be quickly set between two and four pounds, so it's good for anyone who is picky about their triggers. Tikka makes a bold claim with these guns. They guarantee one-inch groups at 100 yards with this rifle. At $679, this is a solid mid-priced option for anyone looking for a precision shooting hunting rifle that does not cost an arm and a leg.
Savage Axis 110 Apex Hunter XP
For hunters looking for a solid rifle/scope combo package, the 110 Apex XP package is a great choice to get out hunting faster. This rifle comes mounted with a factory bore-sighted Vortex Crossfire II scope with a "Dead-Hold BDC" reticle to help make shots at longer distance. This rifle has a 20-inch carbon steel barrel with a 1:10 rate of twist. The receiver is also made of carbon steel and the synthetic stock comes in a matte black finish. This gun is great on the ergonomics front too. It features the Savage AccuTrigger and AccuFit systems which make it things like trigger pull and length of pull adjustable to a user without gunsmithing tools. When you also consider the $600 price tag, this rifle is a great package for the hunter who just wants to quickly sight in their gun and then go hunting.
For hunters on a fixed budget who want options, the Patriot is the bolt action rifle to consider. It features a fluted, 22-inch barrel and a generous 5+1 capacity. The one pictured here is available in a classic blued and walnut hunting rifle configuration. Although Ruger also offers synthetic stocks that helps reduce the weight slightly. Ruger probably makes more variations of the .308 Patriot than any other hunting rifle in their lineup. One thing we really appreciate is the bolt of this rifle was specifically designed for handling while wearing gloves. That's why it's a great option for colder climates where one may need to get a follow-up shot off quickly. This gun also features a trigger that can be adjusted from two to seven pounds. The best part is the price. Depending on the specific variation you choose, you're looking at sub $500 to just under $1,000. Ruger makes it easy to find exactly what you're looking for. Want a camo stock? They've got that. Want a shorter 18-barrel, or a longer, 20-inch one, they've got those too. It's easy to pick and choose exactly what you want in a .308 with the Patriot.
Weatherby VGD Modular Chassis
If you are looking for a higher capacity and unbelievable accuracy, you have found it. The Weatherby has a 10+1 capacity, and the company guarantees sub-MOA groups at 100 yards straight out of the box. This rifle has a two-stage, match-grade trigger that is adjustable. The cold hammer forged barrel is 22 inches long and it has a 1:10 rate of twist. The chassis of this rifle is an anodized aluminum, and the buttstock is fully adjustable to any shooter's frame. The front sling stud provides a spot to mount a bipod for even more accuracy. Whether you just want to out-shoot your friends on the range or want to reach out and put down hogs at a distance, this rifle will do it for you. The only other consideration is the price. It's a precision rifle, so it's not cheap with an MSRP of $1,519.
Remington 700 SPS
It's hard to go wrong with the classic action of a Remington 700, especially since Ruger purchased them and the company is starting to put an emphasis on quality again. The SPS comes in at a little over seven pounds thanks to the special purpose synthetic stock. Remington gave the .308 version a 24-inch carbon steel barrel. It should handle the elements of a rough backcountry hunt quite nicely. Although this is a great option for anyone who wants a middle of the road .308 without breaking the bank. They usually go for around $650 new. This is a major upgrade over the 700 your grandfather carried.
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