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Why is the 308 such a popular tactical rifle round?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by 98C5, Dec 15, 2009.

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  1. 98C5

    98C5 Member

    Mar 8, 2007
    SW Va
    I see so many rifles, especially tactical rifles in this caliber. Why is this round so widely used for sniper use? Is it the ballistics alone?
  2. blue_ridge

    blue_ridge Member

    Nov 8, 2009
    Efficient, first of all. Compared to 30-06, 300 winmag and most other big bore cartridges, it is efficient. Efficiency usuallu translates to both inherent accuracy and lighter recoil for a given amount of performance.

    Then there is availability. Reloading data, components etc. Large selection of factory and surplus ammo at decent prices.

    Compatability, if you are dealing with military situations, you will find 7.62x51 ammo all over the place. Related to compatability and military uses is the cartridge dimensions. These dimensions allow for use in short actions. It also means bulk 308 ammo weighs less. It also feeds more reliably than some of the bigger, fatter cartridges out of magazines.
  3. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

    Dec 29, 2006
    Also, the 308 shoots well. :D:D
  4. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

    Oct 27, 2006
    The .308 works well in semi-auto short action rifles. That is the primary reason it replaced the .30-06 which it was similar to.
    It was adopted by the military as essentially the .30-06 replacement, the 7.62x51mm. The .30-06 was considered the ideal battle rifle cartridge proven throughout World War 2 and prior, but was a little too long for an ideal acceptable weight and reliably full-auto rifle utilizing a box magazine.
    It was a matter of reliable cycling in an automatic at high rates of fire.
    The .30-06 is still more powerful in some loadings because of the additional case capacity, but it was close enough.

    But the 30-06 came from a day when shots at long range were taken by most troops in battle. That would become less common in modern warfare, and long range shots became a specialty filled by some rather than the typical shot for all infantrymen.
    This meant such long range ability was unnecessary as standard.
    With the adoption of select fire weapons and high round count even in semi-auto, limiting the amount of rounds that could be carried with larger long distances rounds seemed less ideal.
    So even though the .308 was used as the replacement for the .30-06, the role of such a round was no longer needed by most infantryman.
    (The adoption of body armor by most military forces may reverse this though. With additional power being necessary not for the same long range shots of the past, but to be effective against standard body armor of modern forces.)

    Then the rifle it was intended to be used by, primarily the m14 (and m-60 light machinegun) had a very short span as the primary armament.
    The US (and NATO) switching over to the 5.56x45 round in the m16.
    As a result the military had plenty of relatively new platforms in .308, or more specifically 7.62x51 left over. Not just the USA, but other NATO nations who had the FAL and the G3.
    From which most marksman rifles were produced.

    Yet the popularity of the round by the military also led to its popularity with civilians. For several reasons, including the same ones that cause people to gravitate towards the AR-15 and .223/5.56x45 today.
    Many fine civilian rifles became chambered in it.
    That popularity in civilian circles led to it even being used in many quality bolt action designs (ironic considering it was primarily adopted for cycling in semi-auto firearms). That use combined with already being a standardized cartridge resulted in it going full circle. Resulting in even such bolt-action designs being adopted by the military in the caliber. Like the Remington 700 being adopted as a sniper rifle.

    So no, it is not so much for its pure ballistics, if that was the case they would have been better never deviating from .30-06. Instead it was just a natural progression of ideas going back and forth between military and civilian. And the round already being a standardized NATO round. Which they try to keep limited for logistical purposes.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2009
  5. Maj Dad

    Maj Dad Member

    Dec 1, 2005
    Carolina Low Country
    For many of the same reasons the 30-06 is so popular: GI issue, or, 7.62x51 NATO, and all those military rifles. Plus, slamfire nails it - it's a great round.
  6. Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow

    Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow member

    Nov 14, 2007
    The biggest reason is inertia.

    But it got that inertia from a variety of factors:

    1. Adoption by many militaries (in turn because it IS a good efficient cartridge, and feeds well in autos, and had sufficient short-range thump to satisfy the military doctrine of the decades when it was standard issue).
    2. The .308, deserved or undeserved, developed a reputation as being inherently accurate.

    Beyond that, it was just inertia. #1 contributes tremendously to inertia.
  7. d2wing

    d2wing Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    In addition, Because it used by the military, both the round and rifles for it
    are used in competition and swat teams as well and so are the focus of development.
  8. Z-Michigan

    Z-Michigan Member

    May 19, 2008
    Efficient, moderate cost, does anything you would be likely to ask of a handheld weapon. Go larger and recoil, blast, and ammo weight go up considerably, and in most cases weapon size, weight and clumsiness also increase.
  9. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

    Feb 16, 2003
    Ft. Worth
    NATO adoption pretty much explains it.
  10. USSR

    USSR Member

    Jul 7, 2005
    Finger Lakes Region of NY
    In a word: logistics.

  11. Casefull

    Casefull Member

    Jan 30, 2009
    It is like the personal computor. There were much better pcs when IBM came out with there pc with microsoft operating system but that standardized everything and we are still stuck with it. For distance shooting why would anyone want to limit themselves to the 308 round...very limited bullet selection because you cannot push a long bullet with any decent velocity.
  12. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    all over Virginia
    ammo availability
  13. cracked junior

    cracked junior Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    Not really a tactical reason but it has killed my deer the last 2 seasons.

    chose it for lower recoil then 30 06 but almost as much power.

    When some people find out I have a 308 they get all scared because they think it is a evil round that only military snipers should have for 1000 yard shots.
  14. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

    Sep 8, 2005
    It's not ballistics at all.:)

    It's a standard NATO round. That's like asking why the local NG units drive Humvees to the grocery store down the street from my house. They drive Humvees because they're issued Humvees.:)

    A downloaded .30-06 also has lower recoil and less power...:D

    Why is it popular for hunting? Short-action light rifles, combined with inertia. .308 was the first round in its case size, available to the public, and it became the 7.62x51 NATO round at around the same time.

    Had the 7mm been the first bullet put in the case, the 7mm-08 would probably be the top short-action caliber.
  15. Fremmer

    Fremmer Member

    Oct 9, 2009
    Because ammo makers have spent considerable resources to develop powder & bullet combos that produce a very accurate round.

    Try shooting a 168 grain .308 round, and you'll see what I mean.
  16. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

    Sep 8, 2005
    That's true. I'd file that under "inertia", though. There 1000 yard records set with wildcats.

    "Inertia" isn't necessarily a bad thing.
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