During World War II, the United States Army started altering cartridges by making them shorter. This would allow an infantryman to carry more ammunition than the standard 30-06 cartridge. The .300 Savage was utilized and was quickly rejected. The neck of the .300 Savage is just too short to hold a military combat bullet.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Ordinance Department of the United States Army developed the cartridge (7.62 x 51 mm NATO) that was officially adopted by the nations that made up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1952, Winchester was granted permission by the U.S. Ordinance Department to introduce a civilian version of this cartridge, and the .308 Winchester was born.
At first, the .308 Winchester did not have very much appeal with big game hunters. The popularity of the 30-06 Springfield was well established. Ballistically, it is well known there is nothing the .308 can do that the 30-06 cannot do. This is because of the larger powder capacity of the 30-06 casing. However, when the public realized the accuracy of this cartridge, the popularity of the .308 steadily grew.
The .308 Winchester is the most popular national match cartridge in use today. It is also an excellent cartridge for all North American big game with the exception of large bears. To make a long story short, the .308 Winchester is accurate, efficient, versatile and hard hitting.
This cartridge is also the parent cartridge of several other popular cartridges currently on the market. Among them are the .243 Winchester and the 7mm-08 Remington. These are necked down versions of the .308 Winchester. The .358 Winchester is a necked-up version of the .308.
The .308 Winchester has a long barrel life. It is common for high quality .308 barrels to deliver more than 6,000 rounds of accurate service with factory-loaded ammunition.
The cartridge works well with all types of rifles. It does not matter whether it is an expensive hunting or target rifle or an inexpensive model. The .308 Winchester will usually deliver more than satisfactory results.
Several years ago, a friend I worked with won a statewide bench rest shoot match with a .308 Winchester. His rifle was a budget-priced Remington Model 788. I do not remember whether he used factory or handloaded ammunition.
When comparing the factory advertised ballistics of the .308 to the 30-06, check the table listed below.
125 grain bullet, 3,050 feet per second-3,140 feet per second
150 grain bullet, 2,820 feet per second-2,910 feet per second
180 grain bullet, 2,620 feet per second-2,700 feet per second
Most gun writers agree that the velocity difference between the two cartridges is insignificant. In most cases, the .308 will deliver better accuracy.
Below are two good hand loads for the .308 Winchester:
1. Case Winchester
Primer CCI-200 (large rifle)
Powder & weight IMR 4064; 46.0 grains
Bullet 125 grain Sierra Pointed Soft Point
Note: Good starting varmint load
2. Case Remington or Winchester
Primer CCI-200 (large rifle)
Powder & Weight IMR 3031; 41.8 grains
Bullet 150 grain Speer Round Nose Bullet
Note: This load also works well using the Sierra 150-grain pointed Soft Point Bullet. I have taken three deer with this load.
The reloader should always remember when reloading military cases to reduce the maximum load by two full grains. G.I. or military brass is thicker and cannot be handloaded with as heavy a powder charges as civilian cases.