308 Ballistics

308 Ballistics

An in-depth look at 308 ballistics, including velocity, energy and bullet drop values for some of the most popular loads sold to American shooters.

In spite of its inferior ballistics to most modern hunting cartridges, the 308 Win’s massive popularity — and still perfectly serviceable accuracy and terminal performance — mean it’s not going away any time soon. So, let’s dive into this caliber and learn more about what it’s capable of with a look at 308 ballistics. Here’s where the caliber came from and what you can expect when shooting it.

What makes 308 Popular?

  • The 308 Win’s .308” bullet has an innately high ballistic coefficient but its power is often inadequate to stay on course very far downrange.
  • Although typically loaded to higher pressures than the 7.62×51, 308 Win ammo is similar enough to the NATO round that either can be fired interchangeably from the same firearm.
  • One of America’s favorite deer hunting rounds, and suitable for a host of other medium and large game as well.
  • Demand for a less powerful cartridge arose after WWI. The 30-06 was once considered “too hot” for a lightweight semi-automatic firing mechanism to handle. That proved not to be the case, however, so the 30-06 saw continued use well after the Korean War ended. Regardless, that perceived need set into motion the research that would eventually produce the 7.62×51 in 1954.

308 Ballistics Chart

Ammo Velocity (Feet per Second) Energy (Ft. Pounds) Bullet Drop (Inches) Ballistic Coefficient
 Barrel LengthMuzzle100 yds.200 yds.300 yds.400 yds.500 yds.Muzzle100 yds.200 yds.300 yds.400 yds.500 yds.Muzzle100 yds.200 yds.300 yds.400 yds.500 yds.(G1)(G7)Sect. Density
Tula - 150 Gr. FMJ24280026120.226
Federal MatchKing - 168 Gr. HPBT24265024602277210319361778261922571935165013981179-2.10-8.9-25.5-51.50.4690.2370.253
PMC - 147 Gr. FMJBT24278025752380219420181851252221641849157113291118-1.51.880-8.03-23.29-47.110.4530.2270.22
Remington - 168 Gr. MatchKing BTHP2426802493231421431979-26782318199817131460--2.20-8.6-24.70.4830.2430.253
Hornady Black - 168 Gr. A-MAX24270025132333216119961839271923552030174214861261-1.520-8.4-24.3-48.90.4830.2430.253
Federal Power Shok - 150 Gr. JSP2428202532226120071771155726482134170213411044807-20-8.8-26.3-55.20.3190.1620.226
Tula - 165 Gr. SP24262525240.248
Wolf - 168 Gr. FMJ24274528110.253
Federal American Eagle - 150 Gr. FMJBT24282025972385218319901808264822461894158613191089-1.80-8-23.3-47.20.4150.2090.253
Prvi Partizan - 168 Gr. HPBT24260824182236206118951738253821811865158513401127-1.52.20-9.2-26.6-53.80.4570.230.253
Federal (Lake City) - 149 Gr. FMJ XM80CS24279025912401221920451878257522211907162913831167-1.80-7.9-22.9-460.4630.2330.224
Remington UMC - 150 Gr. FMJ2428202533226320091774-26482137170513441048--20-8.8-26.20.3190.1610.226
Barnes VOR-TX - 168 Gr. TTSX24270025112330215619891831272023522025173414771251-1.520-8.4-24.4-49.10.4780.2410.253
Black Hills Match - 175 Gr. BTHP24260026270.264
Hornady Precision Hunter - 178 Gr. ELD-X24260024372281213019841846267223482056179215561346-1.52.20-8.9-25.5-50.90.5450.2750.268
Brown Bear - 140 Gr. SP240.211
Black Hills Gold - 168 Gr. Barnes TSX HP24265026190.253
Winchester Super-X - 150 Gr. PP242820251322271960171314922648210416511279977741-20-9.1-27.2-57.30.2990.1520.226
Federal Power-Shok - 180 Gr. SP2425702345213119291740156526402197181614861209979-2.40-10-29.5-60.70.3880.1980.271
Winchester White Box - 147 Gr. FMJ Q313024275025342329213219461770246820961770148412361023-20-8.4-24.4-49.70.4220.2130.221
Fiocchi - 150 Gr. FMJBT24289026582439222920301842278223541981165513731130-0.570-3.4-12.80.3980.226
Federal Gold Medal - 175 Gr. BTHP24260024272262210219491803262722901987171714761264-2.20-9.1-25.8-51.80.5130.2580.264
Hornady Match - 168 Gr. ELD24270025302367221020581913271923882089182115801364-1.520-8.2-23.5-470.5330.2680.253
Hornady Critical Defense - 155 Gr. FTX242785249922311980--2669215017131349-1.50-4.1-15.20.3190.160.233
Black Hills Match - 175 Gr. BTHP24260026260.264
Hornady Custom - 150 Gr. SST24282026012392219220031823264822521905160113361107-1.51.80-7.9-23.1-470.4220.2120.226
Black Hills Gold - 180 Gr. Nosler AccuBond24255025980.271
PMC X-TAC - 168 Gr. MatchKing OTM24270025032314213319601797271923371997169714331205-1.520-8.5-24.7-500.4570.230.253
Hornady Match - 168 Gr. BTHP24270025032314213319601797271923361997169714331204-1.520-8.5-24.7-500.4570.230.253

308’s Origins

Hornady .308 ammunition

Winchester had already introduced the 308 Win two years earlier, however, and it featured virtually the same T65 design that the 7.62×51 would as well. Winchester sought to excite the civilian market with a new short-action hunting round, and boy did they ever succeed: To this day the 308 Win remains one of the most popular hunting rounds in the world, as it still excels at dropping whitetail and even game so substantial as caribou.

.308 vs Other Rifle Options

The 308 Win delivers a slightly steeper drop than the larger and more powerful 30-06 or 300 Win Mag, yet its recoil is far more manageable thanks to its lesser muzzle velocity. The 308 Win’s .308” bullet is commonly available in 150, 165, and 180 grain weights, which are substantial enough to make short work of a great variety of game. In experienced hands it can hit a 1,000 yard target.

Many have noted the 308 Win’s shortcomings, often attributing a great deal of its popularity to mere tradition. (Any cartridge that sees widespread use in wartime is necessarily going to remain popular with those hunt in peacetime.) The 308 Win’s chief drawback is that it contains too little propellant for its bore size. Its case simply can’t hold the charge that its high ballistic coefficient bullet requires to remain effective downrange. Bullet drop, wind drift, and energy loss become increasingly pronounced the farther a 308 Win reaches. So, if you’re a long-distance shooter or hunter, you might seek more modern alternatives.

Still, for your average hunt or range session, the 308 Win will serve you quite well.

Other Attributes

An Armalite AR-10 rifle with ammo on a shooting bench

  • A short-action cartridge permits a more compact rifle, an invaluable perk during long hunts or treks through the brush.
  • While some disparage the 308 Win’s low power, others uphold its lower recoil as its primary benefit. It is a .30 caliber round that permits firing without flinching.
  • Doesn’t rapidly wear down a barrel.
  • Massive popularity conveys a huge selection of ammo, including military surplus, as well as decades worth of firearms to choose from.

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