Today, March 8th, 2021 is an exciting excuse to go over one of the most popular and widely used cartridges in North America. The .308 Winchester cartridge designed all the way back in 1952. This admirable 30 caliber cartridge is a regular choice whether it is used for medium- to big-game hunting or even a cartridge variation found in a NATO group’s backstock of ammunition. Regardless of how you may feel about the established .308 Winchester today, we at The Firearm Blog thought it would be an excellent reason to shed some light on the history and some facts about the good old .308 Winchester cartridge. Happy 308 Day, everyone! Let’s dive right in!
Happy 308 Day: The .308 Winchester Origin Story
Just before the Korean war was over, there were talks of standardizing a NATO cartridge for smaller short action mechanisms. The US had been conducting tests and experiments involving the 30-06 Springfield cartridge that went with the current service rifles. M2 ball was thought to be outdated, large, and recoil heavy. This presented issues with future potential service rifle adoptions.
While experiments on scaling down the 30-06 in similar ways to .300 Savage, the 7.62x51mm was being born. Although, it technically existed before .308 Winchester, it was not on the market or chambered in many guns. Winchester took the 7.62x51mm cartridge design and marketed it as .308 Winchester and released it to the public in their Winchester Model 70 in 1952. Shortly after, NATO would adopt the cartridge and it paved the way for firearms such as the US M14 rifle or the FN FAL.
The .308 Winchester cartridge would quickly jump in its popularity as a versatile hunting cartridge capable of taking just about any big game in North America. It was accurate and its ballistic performance was similar to the 30-06 cartridge. To many, this new hip cartridge was better since firearms were often smaller and the recoil was more manageable than the 30-06.
Happy 308 Day: The .308 Winchester Specifications
Unlike 5.56x45mm NATO and .223 Remington, the .308 Winchester cartridge is arguably more recognizable in North America than that of its military counterpart. This is probably due to its enormous popularity as a hunting caliber as well as the US ditched the M14 and the 7.62x51mm cartridge fairly quickly in favor of 5.56x45mm NATO which is still in use to this day. The .308 Winchester also paved the way for many similar short action cartridges that shooters geek out about today. One such example that bears similar attributes would be the extremely popular 6.5 Creedmoor. Check out some more lineage as well as some specifications below:
- Designed: 1952
- Parent Cartridge: 30-06 Springfield
- Available to Public: 1952 in the Model 70, Model 88, and Model 100 rifles
- Cartridge Casing: Bottleneck and Rimless
- Bullet Diameter: .308 inches
- Primer Type: Large Rifle
- Common Grain Weight Range: 125gr – 185gr
- Lineage/Variants: .243 Win, .358 Win, .260 Rem, 7mm-08, .338 Federal, and many more!
Happy 308 Day: The .308 Winchester vs 7.62x51mm NATO Controversy
Just like 5.56x45mm NATO and .223 Remington, the .308 Winchester cartridge has to battle it out with 7.62x51mm NATO. The cartridges are extremely similar, but not interchangeable. As a rule of thumb, the 7.62 can be put in a .308 Winchester, but not the other way around. This is interesting because it is the opposite scenario with 5.56 and .223 as I mentioned in a previous article found here.
7.62x51mm NATO has thicker and very slightly longer case walls as well as decreased pressure in comparison to .308 Winchester which has thinner and very slightly shorter case walls and much higher pressures. These things matter when it comes to the chamber they are inserted into. If you fired a .308 Winchester in an older looser toleranced NATO chamber you run the risk of rupturing a casing and a whole host of problems stem from that including catastrophic failures!
Technically, modern chamberings may be made to compensate for these differences, but it is never worth the risk unless it is explicitly written that it is ok to swap all you want. It is recommended to only fire the cartridge that is marked on the barrel. I would say the same for .223 and 5.56.
Happy 308 Day: The .308 Winchester Today
The .308 Winchester is one of those that is just here to stay, a lot like its parent cartridge the 30-06. Today you can find an exuberant amount of variation in grain weights offered by the top ammo companies racing to make the best hunting cartridges. The .308 Winchester seems to always be on the list when someone develops a new cool bullet. The .308 Winchester has staying power and it shows!
I hope this article was informative and fun for all of you on 03/08/2021 – Happy 308 Day! What is your favorite rifle chambered in .308 Winchester? What grain weight is your favorite? Any .308 brand preference? As always, thank you for reading The Firearm Blog! Be safe out there, have fun while shooting, and we will see you next time! Also, let us know what you think in the comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.