In common usage, .308 refers to the .308 Winchester cartridge. Although there are other rifles with this bore designation, .308 Winchester is by far the most common. Introduced in 1952, the .308 Winchester was designed to have the same power as the .30-06 Springfield in a shorter cartridge case, using more advanced propellant technology.

.308 WINCHESTER VS. 7.62X51MM

The .308 Winchester was introduced as a commercial design based off of the T65 experimental cartridge which became the 7.62X51mm NATO cartridge. They are almost, but not entirely identical. In many cases they can be interchanged.

As a safe rule of thumb, always use only the ammunition marked on the firearm or suggested by the manufacturer. Most 7.62X51mm guns will shoot .308 Winchester just fine, but some firearms designed for commercial .308 Winchester ammo will struggle with the thicker case of 7.62X51mm ammunition.

WHY USE .308?

.308 is one of the most popular calibers in the US, and in many other parts of the world. It is a good all-around cartridge with good power, lots of bullet selection, decent long-range ballistics, and not too much recoil. There are probably more options for .308 than any other caliber because of the popularity.

.308 works in short action rifles which can be lighter and quicker to cycle, and works well in semi-automatics without having to have a huge receiver or magazine. It has the right amount of power to be very good for hunting, sporting, and tactical uses. These are some of the reasons it is so popular.

BEST .308 RIFLE CHOICES

1. THOMPSON/CENTER COMPASS

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a good .308 hunting rifle. The T/C Compass offers good quality and features at a very reasonable price.

The action of the Compass uses a three-lug bolt with a 60-degree lift which is quicker to cycle and leaves room to mount a scope closer to the receiver. The trigger is adjustable for the shooter’s preferred pull weight.

For an inexpensive rifle, the Compass offers good accuracy by paying attention to important details. The action is aluminum pillar bedded into the stock for consistency, and the 5R barrel is also free-floated.

This rifle feeds from a detachable 5-round magazine. The receiver is drilled and tapped, and Weaver scope mount bases are installed from the factory to accept the rings and scope of your choice.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Good accuracy out of the box
  • Adjustable trigger

Pros

  • Very basic and utilitarian rifle

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

Somebody who wants a good, basic .308 bolt action rifle for the money. We live in times where it’s not impossible to find an accurate, capable and reliable .308 bolt action rifle under 500 dollars. This rifle would be ideal for basic target shooting and hunting for the shooter that has a tight budget and needs a basic 308 rifle for hunting.

2. BROWNELLS BRN-10

Before there was an AR-15, M16, or M4, there was a prototype rifle known as the AR-10. The rifle was designed by Eugene Stoner using an aluminum receiver - new technology at the time - and a gas operation system with a rotating bolt.

Although the AR-10 in its original configuration was never widely adopted, it became a unicorn gun for gun lovers and collectors. The design was scaled down and would eventually become the AR-15 for sporting uses and the M16/M4 for military uses. It should be noted that although any .308 AR rifle is sometimes referred to as an AR-10, it is a different rifle than a true AR-10 reproduction.

Brownells has reproduced the original AR-10 in incredible detail, yet improved it with modern manufacturing techniques such as an enhanced nitride finish. Their attention to detail offers collectors a chance to have a functioning reproduction of the original AR-10 without the extraordinary price that that would normally require.

Pros

  • Accurate reproduction
  • Good accuracy
  • Enhanced with modern manufacturing techniques

Pros

  • Lacking modern features such as rails
  • On the heavy side - up to 9 pounds depending on model
  • Does not accept Magpul PMAGs.

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

Anyone who wants a cool, historically correct .308 semi auto rifle. It’s not the lightest for hunting or the most modern for other uses such as self defense. However, high quality components make the rifle very accurate. It would be a great target rifle, especially for a shooter who wants to take part in competitions such as Service Rifle matches which use traditional rifles such as this one.

3. RUGER GUNSITE SCOUT RIFLE

A .308 scout rifle is an idea that has been around in several forms for a while, but has not grown widely in popularity. Ruger’s Gunsite Scout may be one of the most successful attempts at producing such a rifle for the mass market.

As is fitting of a scout rifle, the Gunsite scout has a Picatinny rail attached forward of the receiver opening, for the mounting of a long-eye relief scope or red dot sight. It also has iron sights attached for quick and accurate shooting without or in addition to a scope. The receiver is also machined to accept traditional Ruger scope mounting bases.

One of the more unique features of the rifle is its 10-round detachable magazine. For a .308 bolt action rifle, that’s a pretty good capacity with the ability to quickly reload.

The action is based on the very reliable M77 action with a claw extractor. The rifle sits in a nicely figured black laminate stock which is resistant to environmental changes and also has a nice buttpad to reduce recoil impulse. The barrel is free-floated for accuracy and is threaded in a 1/2X28 pattern to accept common flash hiders, muzzle brakes, or suppressors.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy handling
  • Multiple options for mounting an optic
  • 10 round detachable magazine
  • Nice laminate stock
  • Reliable action

Pros

  • Short barrel - less range and velocity and more noise
  • 10-round magazine may not be legal in some places

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

As a .308 scout rifle, the Gunsite scout walks the line between a plain hunting rifle and a more tactical multi-use rifle. It certainly is an adequate hunting rifle, but is also well-featured for use for tactical purposes including law enforcement roles. Although a semi-auto or a shotgun is typically preferred for self defense, a scout rifle is much more capable in this role than many bolt action rifles. 

4. HENRY LONG RANGER

Lever action rifles are not very common in modern, high-pressure cartridges for a couple of reasons; one of the biggest being the risk of a pointed bullet setting off the primer of the cartridge in front of it in the magazine tube.

The Henry Long Ranger is one of the few options available for a .308 lever action rifle. They do this first by using a detachable box magazine instead of a magazine tube to eliminate the issue of primer detonation. The rifle contains the high pressures of modern cartridges by using a six-lug rotating bolt head.

At only 7 pounds, the Long Ranger is a light and handy hunting rifle with a 20” barrel. The rifle also comes with a nicely finished and checkered walnut gun stock with an attached recoil pad.

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

As a .308 scout rifle, the Gunsite scout walks the line between a plain hunting rifle and a more tactical multi-use rifle. It certainly is an adequate hunting rifle, but is also well-featured for use for tactical purposes including law enforcement roles. Although a semi-auto or a shotgun is typically preferred for self defense, a scout rifle is much more capable in this role than many bolt action rifles. 

4. HENRY LONG RANGER

Lever action rifles are not very common in modern, high-pressure cartridges for a couple of reasons; one of the biggest being the risk of a pointed bullet setting off the primer of the cartridge in front of it in the magazine tube.

The Henry Long Ranger is one of the few options available for a .308 lever action rifle. They do this first by using a detachable box magazine instead of a magazine tube to eliminate the issue of primer detonation. The rifle contains the high pressures of modern cartridges by using a six-lug rotating bolt head.

At only 7 pounds, the Long Ranger is a light and handy hunting rifle with a 20” barrel. The rifle also comes with a nicely finished and checkered walnut gun stock with an attached recoil pad.

Pros

  • A .308 rifle for lever action fans
  • Lightweight
  • Quick action
  • Nice finish and furniture

Pros

  • More expensive than many bolt action rifles
  • Has a transfer bar safety but no manual safety - personal preference

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

It would make a great .308 deer rifle, especially for somebody who is familiar with lever action rifles and likes the way they shoot. It has all the features of a classic hunting rifle, and is nice enough to become an heirloom firearm in your family.

5. SPRINGFIELD ARMORY M1A LOADED

As the M14 has served our country’s military for a number of decades in a variety of roles, there is naturally some nostalgia about the rifle. Although many true M14s cannot be purchased on the commercial market, the Springfield M1A is a nearly identical rifle restricted to semi-auto fire only.

The Loaded version of the M1A is built with features for highly accurate target shooting. The barrel is upgraded with an air-gauged National Match barrel with a 1:11” twist for shooting heavy bullets accurately. It also features an upgraded two stage trigger. The sights are fine, highly adjustable National Match sights in MOA increments.

Pros

  • Highly accurate
  • Classic design 
  • Upgraded trigger, barrel and sights
  • Nice walnut stock

Pros

  • Heavy
  • Can be picky about ammo and maintenance

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

Anybody who wants a classic .308 semi auto rifle. These rifles are frequently seen at NRA and High Power shooting matches, where iron sights are used on paper targets at long distances for score. Because of the weight and maintenance required, these are probably best left as target rifles rather than for self-defense or stalk hunting.

6. FN SCAR 20S

Looking like something out of a futuristic war movie, the FN SCAR series has come to represent modern advanced weaponry. In particular, the SCAR 20S is nearly identical to a rifle being used by military special operations units - the Mk. 20.

The SCAR 20S uses a gas-piston operation system which can be adjusted for different ammunition types or use with a sound suppressor. The upper receiver is a monolithic aluminum piece with plenty of rail space for optics, grips, bipods, lasers, and other accessories.

The gun features a match-grade trigger to enable the shooter to make good shots. The stock is highly adjustable to fit an individual shooter. The rifle comes from the factory with flush-fitting 10 round magazines, but larger capacity magazines are available as well.

The 20” barrel ends in an attached flash hider, but this can be removed to install other muzzle attachments with the threads.

Pros

  • Modern rifle that meets stringent military specifications
  • Adjustable gas piston system
  • Designed to accept a full range of accessories
  • Match grade trigger and barrel
  • Highly adjustable to the shooter
  • Reliable

Pros

  • Expensive for the average user
  • Very heavy - especially with accessories attached
  • Requires high-quality optics - known to break cheaper ones

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

It’s a modern .308 tactical rifle for the shooter who wants high quality gear used by professionals. The price is high, and many rifles will accomplish similar goals. But, this rifle is designed for the rigorous use that demands the best quality available.

7. SAVAGE 10 BA STEALTH

Precision bolt action rifles used to be a very expensive or custom affair, when an ordinary hunting rifle had to be transformed piece-by-piece. Luckily, as shooting sports like Precision Rifle Series and other long range shooting becomes more popular, manufacturers have come up with more and more reasonably priced rifles loaded with these features.

The Savage 10 BA Stealth has all of the features necessary to get into long range and tactical shooting, without spending tons of money to get started. It starts with a blueprinted Savage factory action (machined to tighter tolerances for better accuracy). The rifle is put in an aluminum free-floated chassis with plenty of slots for attaching accessories.

The rifle’s chassis accepts AICS pattern detachable magazines, and the rifle includes a 10-round magazine from the factory. The factory Accu-trigger provides consistent, lightweight trigger pull with no creep. Since the chassis accepts standard AR-15 stocks and pistol grips, the user can easily replace them with a wide variety of aftermarket accessories.

The 20” free-floated barrel has a heavy contour for stiffness and accuracy under repeated strings of fire, but is fluted to reduce overall weight.

Pros

  • Fully featured to get started in long-range shooting
  • Factory blueprinted action
  • Good trigger and accuracy
  • Accepts standard detachable magazines
  • Stocks and pistol grips easily replaceable with AR parts
  • Very competitive price for the features

Pros

  • Heavy - more for target shooting than hunting
  • Factory stock and grip are not the most comfortable, but they can be changed easily

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

Someone who wants to get started with a long range .308 rifle with lots of features for the money. Because of the rifle’s weight, it’s not necessarily the best for hunting. However, the weight is actually an advantage in long range shooting where it will reduce recoil and help the shooter spot their hits and misses better.

Plus, this rifle is really great for the price. It’s hard to find a .308 rifle under 1,000 dollars that has all of the features this one does to get started in long range tactical and competitive shooting.

8. BROWNING BAR MARK III

Although it shares a name with the iconic automatic rifle from World War II, this is not the same Browning Automatic Rifle as many know and love. However, it is a great .308 semi auto hunting rifle for people who want something a little more refined.

At just 7 pounds, the BAR is a light and easy handling semi-auto hunting rifle. It holds a capacity of four rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber, and a 22” barrel to take advantage of extra velocity in the .308 round.

Although this rifle performs great, it doesn’t hurt that it’s also a finely figured rifle with great attention to detail. The wood furniture is Turkish walnut and finely checkered. The lightweight receiver features engraving, and the golden trigger breaks with the classic Browning trigger feel.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Long barrel
  • Crisp trigger
  • Fast follow-up shots on game
  • Recoil buffering system

Pros

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Limited magazine capacity
  • Not ideal for long range shooting

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

A shooter who wants a lightweight .308 rifle that’s designed towards hunting, without the extra tactical features. Quick follow-up shots can be a great advantage in hunting, especially at brush distances, but the Browning BAR delivers it in a lightweight and handy hunting rifle.

9. H&K M762A1 LR PACKAGE

Since the adoption of the M4 and M16 rifles, their operating mechanisms have remained relatively unchanged for decades. The outsides of the rifles - the furniture - and small features such as barrels have changed, but how they worked has remained the same.

One of the biggest attempts at innovating on the platform was put forth by German gun maker Heckler & Koch in the HK416 and 417 rifles. These exchanged the direct impingement operation system for a short-stroke gas piston system and other improvements such as a tungsten-weighted buffer. These changes greatly improved the capability for the rifle to operate in adverse conditions without malfunctions.

Recently, versions of these rifles have been adopted by parts of the US military as the M27 and G28 rifles. The M762A1 is the civilian version of these rifles, featuring the same technology and almost entirely the same construction. The barrel is hammer forged for accuracy and longevity, and the bolt carrier is machined entirely out of one piece for extreme durability. The bolt carrier swaps a traditional gas key out for an “anvil” surface which the piston operates, but the assembly will still be very familiar to anybody familiar with a .308 AR rifle.

Additionally, this package features a number of accessories and attachments to turn the rifle into a complete system.

  • Leupold 3-9 VX-R Patrol Scope
  • Larue Tactical Bipod
  • Ergonomic pistol grip
  • Blue Force Gear sling
  • OTIS cleaning Kit
  • Pelican Model 1720 Case
  • One 10 and One 20-round magazine

Pros

  • Nearly identical to military designated marksman rifles
  • Complete professional package to turn it into a long-range rifle system
  • Very reliable and durable action, proven in the most adverse environments

Pros

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy

THE IS GOOD FOR:

Professionals who need a .308 long range rifle that works no matter what. Meant for military and law enforcement to stand up to any condition. This rifle is good for the collector who wants the most high-end equipment, or the shooter who will push their equipment to the limits and is willing to spend the money to get the best and most modern equipment available.

10. D.S. ARMS SA58 FAL

The FN FAL has a legendary reputation for its widespread use in militaries around the world, and has even earned the nickname “The Right Arm of the Free World”. It is often seen as the main rival of the similar M14 and H&K G3 rifles, and many consider it to be the best .308 battle rifle ever made.

The FAL is not what one would typically consider a “fine” rifle. It is heavy. By many accounts, the recoil can be harsh compared to similar rifles. It’s not the fastest handling rifle, or the one that typically has the smoothest action.

What the FAL does have is a reputation for working in any condition, and providing reasonably accurate firepower while doing so. The short-stroke gas piston operation is famously reliable, and the gas setting can be adjusted to cycle the gun in almost any circumstances.

The DSA Arms SA58 recreates one of the most famous and sought-after variants of the FAL with American made and precision-manufactured parts.

Pros

  • Classic historical design
  • Highly reliable system with adjustable gas
  • Enhanced with modern precision machining
  • Commonly available magazines
  • 1:10” barrel for use with heavy bullets

Pros

  • Heavy
  • Not as accurate as other rifles
  • Limited options for attaching accessories

THIS RIFLE IS GOOD FOR:

Someone who wants a classic .308 battle rifle, and in particular one of the most popular and well-regarded in the world. It’s a great rifle for tactical style shooting, although it’s not as lightweight and ergonomic as some more modern rifles. It’s not going to be your run-of-the-mill hunting or target rifle, although it could be set up as a nice long-range marksman rifle.

CONCLUSION

The .308 Winchester is one of the most common hunting, sporting and tactical calibers in the world. Naturally, a .308 rifle is a rifle that many shooters will be interested in. Choosing the best .308 rifle for you can take a little bit of thought and research, but a little bit of knowledge will help you make the right choice.

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