308Win – Still the can-do-it all rifle?
Where does the 308Win stand among these older and new cartridge options?
Can the 308win still be considered as the can do-it-all rifle? In this article we shall explore some compelling reasons why the 308win in it’s various load formats has remained relevant till today and why shooters across disciplines and interests still opt to chamber their rifles for this cartridge be it factory or custom. I will then proceed to show you why I picked the 308win for this rifle project together with the handloading process to extract the maximum from this custom rifle. We shall go through it step by step including video footage to make it simple.
I must admit that my interest in high performance rifles is a living passion. Being inherently fascinated by high ballistic performance cartridges and the new high BC bullets that go hand in hand with them means I seek to build equally high-performance, often competition rifles. So why back to the old working dog – the 308win?
308 Win – main advantages
I do acknowledge however that there is a very real sense of convenience walking into your premium dealer and acquiring a few match rounds and head off to spend an afternoon with your lads or on your own enjoying 40 rounds of well placed shots on your favourite 600yard range with a cartridge that requires you to be a better shot and wind reader.
A ton of 308win brass shot at my rifle club ready to be reloaded again by the manufacturer. It’s still very popular as you can see..
I started with the ammo as one of the main advantages with standard factory chamber. You will always find quality factory match ammunition or premium hunting loads without having to bounce back between one and the next supplier scouting for munitions. On our trip to Coldbore range in Denmark last October, we could only fly 100 rounds of 300 Norma Mag with us but finding factory ammo for it even at a premium store was not possible. They did have 338Lapua which we sourced a few boxes of.
308win – find it everywhere!
The 308win is even more common whether you’re located in Europe, Asia, North America, Africa or the Middle East, you will always find ammo for it. At my favourite range at Bisley, they sell at least 5 types of match ammo for it. All ammunition manufacturers load at least for this round, the 9mm, 300Win and more recently the 338 Lapua. If you can’t find match, you can probably pull a few rounds apart, weight the charge and ensure all your cartridges have at least the same powder charge, a practice more common with 50cal shooters that pull apart delinked machine gun ammo to reassemble more uniformly. With Hornady cam lock bullet puller this is a walk in the park and the bullet does not get damaged.
Easy to tune your handloads
The 308Win has probably been loaded in the most varied of formats. From varmint bombs shooting light bullets in the 130grain class to popular palma target loads with 150 and 155gr bullets. Numerous manufacturers also load the 168grain loads popular with police and military shooters for under 600m engagements, a popular Ruag Swiss P load used by numerous militaries world wide. These are loaded by the majority of manufacturers. Lakecity m118 175grain sierra match king load has been popular for many years.
M118 lr ammo – Picture courtest of snipercentral.com
308win as loaded for FTR single shot 308win. Notice how far out the bullet is. (picture courtesy of @ballisticdaddy)
Fclass shooters have also tipped the balance using very heavy 200, 210, 215gr and even heavier projectiles from ultra long barrels with long throats to enable user to extract all the powder capacity of the cartridge in single shot formats (think 3.100 COAL with 48-50grains of powder in Lapua palma brass can clock 2650ft/s). Is there a more versatile cartridge?
First Surgeon action I had was the Surgeon XL 338 action with a 308bolt face. I built a 308win on it with a 30inch bartlein pipe.
First date with Surgeon short action in 308win
About a year ago I was scouting for a 308win rifle and in my quest, almost by fate a listing appeared for what seemed to be a pristine surgeon rifles short action in 6.5x47L. It was an identical copy of the M40A1 rifle popular with US marines in 1960’s and in its various formats is still in-service sitting pretty in a McMillan rifle stock. The 24″ 1.8 twist barrel sported a contour remarkably similar to that of the original Schneider barrels used by the marines however it was available in the more efficient 6.5x47L. It came with a CG 2 stage trigger and fully bedded with bottom metal for AICS magazines. Sweet start.
I met the owner a few days later at Bisley to have a look at the rifle. The rifle was in immaculate condition with a few hundred rounds through the pipe, I knew this would serve me another 2000 rounds or so of barrel life. The crown was as nicely cut as a royal’s and with the pedigree of one of the UK’s top rifle smiths, Neil Mckillop, introduced to me a few years back by champion shooter Russell Simmonds, I knew it had the bloodlines to shoot and win. Could I make it ring?
The surgeon rifles 591 short action needs no introduction, it’s a better copy of the rem700 action sporting an integrated recoil lug as well as an integrated picatinny rail. I had its bigger brother some years ago in the form of the Surgeon XL, a huge action beautiful and firm and locks shut like Alcatraz doors, no doubt about that. The action cycles beautifully yet it’s a field action meant to function anywhere. Solid and smooth you can’t mistake it for a factory one.
A quick look at the stock and bolt to ensure there was no rust and ensuring the magazine cycled well convinced me that the rifle was after a good home, this time in the sun away from the damp conditions it was accustomed to in the UK and off to the Mediterranean. A quick look with a Chinese made borescope attached to my phone quickly showed the barrel had not seen much work. The owner had acquired a heavier tactical rifle and was selling this ‘lighter’ rifle. Before that however, it was bound for a short trip to my favourite British Gunsmith that would check all in ins and outs. In my view, still the only British rifle smith that can get you sorted in less than 3weeks, you get a build sheet, a price and straight forward business as usual going and while we’re here, why not make use of a made in England? I also wanted an extended picatinny rail fitted to the forend so that I could mount a tier one revolution bipod to it. This type of bipod requires a rail that it at the forefront of the forend.
308Win makes a comeback
I wanted a 308win barrel on this rifle not just to duplicate the original m40a1 but because I wanted a rifle that I could take and shoot anywhere without care to ammo logistics. This is not the case with my F-class rifle requiring meticulous preparation of ammo to specific chamber dimensions. Knowing what you don’t want in a rifle build is sometimes as important to guide you make the better choice.
It is almost a given that 42-45 grain of any of the main 308win powders under a 155 berger, 175 sierra or even 185 berger in Lapua palma brass will probably shoot better than you can with little care for all the stuff we pursue in other disciplines. I specified a Bartlein barrel 25 inches finished length, 1.10 with a medium weight profile and straight fluted for standard SAAMI spec chambering with 0.90” at the muzzle. This has enough meat on it to ensure I can handload for it as I please without having too thin chamber walls while also shooting all sorts of factory ammo I may feed it.
308Win Hunting reassurance
Another reason for the old dog – 308win was that this rifle was meant to double as my wild boar rifle. After my recent hunt in the Pyrenees, I knew I would be doing a few trips in neighbouring Italy where 308win will bring down anything like a stone. For wild boar especially running wild boar, the 6.5x47L may have lacked the sufficient knock down power to pull the plug on one of Europe’s most hardy and sought after game animals especially when in a driven frenzy mode dashing through the forest, bush or open fields like mad santa.
Question to our readers: Do you think the 6.5x47L can bring down a boar on the run?
A 178grain ELDX would do the job better than a 143gr eldx although I have little doubt that a well placed shot under 400m in the vitals on a still wild boar will shut down its CPU in no time but you can never have too much gun when facing wild boards. The 308win gives that certain level of reassurance. During my trip to the Pyrenees I witnessed the effectiveness of the Hornady 178gr ELDx bullet and I thought this must be the first bullet I will try out. The 178gr from my friend’s factory 22inch barrelled Browning Maral in 30-06 clocked 2619ft/s. If I could get my handload anywhere there, I know it would equal the 30-06 load. The marine’s M118 LR load reportedly shoots the 175grain Sierra match king at about 2600ft/s.
In the Next article, I will take you through the procedures of setting up the rifle and handload a few rounds for it with the 178grain. Even though I purchased it for convenient access to 308win ammo, doesn’t mean I will not try to extract the most out of this match barrel…!
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Over and out.