308 Pistols - Cover

The Best .308 Pistols

Michael Crites

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What is the best .308 caliber pistol available on today’s crowded market?

We a look at the best of what’s out there and give you all the help you need to determine which of these fire-breathing dragons is perfect for you.

.308 Pistol Comparison

Below is our list of the 10 best .308 pistols for 2021.

What to Look for in a Quality .308 Pistol

1. Name recognition

Saint 308 Pistols
Give the .308's significant power curve, make sure your range buddies or local gun shop have heard of the brand you eventually select.

Although the .308 Winchester and its equivalent 7.62 NATO half-brother are classified as “intermediate” cartridges, they far and away exceed the power curve of any traditional handgun calibers on the market, making even such stout rounds as 10mm Auto and .44 Magnum look downright puny by comparison.

Taking that into consideration, you don’t want to trust some oddball company’s .308 pistol build to go the distance. Look to gun makers that have been around for a generation or more, such as IWI, PTR, Nosler, and Springfield Armory.

Rule of thumb: if no one at the local gun shop or range has ever heard of the company or has good things to say about them, you may not want to buy a gun with their name on it.

2. Mature design

Be sure, when considering a .308 pistol, to look at models that rely on proven engineering. Most such guns of any quality on the market today fall into four categories when talking about semi-autos:

  • AR-308/AR-10 formats
  • HK G3/ HK91 variants
  • FAL variants
  • and the Galil.

Although their pistol versions have only been around for a generation, the rifles, and carbines they were based on have been in production as far back as the 1950s.

Likewise, many of the bolt-action and single-shot .308 caliber pistols on the market are essentially just Remington 700-style actions, ala the XP-100, in a handgun format, something that has been around since 1963.

Steer away from something that falls outside of these time-tested designs.

In terms of roller locked HK 51 clones, legacy Class III Flemings ($20K) and non-NFA Vector Arms (V-51P) models are floating around on the secondary market while South Carolina-based PTR Industries is currently marketing a very obtainable semi-auto variant of their PDWR pistol which has the same general flavor with fewer tax stamps.

For those with the dough, TPM Outfitters in Dallas is also in this game and makes some incredible semi-custom HK51 builds.  

The best .308 pistols made using an FN FAL system are by DSA.

3. Aftermarket support

Going together with selecting a mature design made by a reputable firm, one of the primary things to look for in a .308 pistol is that it is supportable.

When it comes to semi-auto models with split receivers of the AR-type, there are no true “AR-10” models, as they are either AR-308 (also seen as SR25, or M110) or early DPMS style guns. As DPMS faded away a couple of years ago, most of these are the AR-308 style, which is more supportable and even uses some AR-15 parts. Do your research to make sure your extra magazines, handguards, and other items are going to fit.

Speaking directly to the magazine interchangeability issue, most of today’s semi-auto .308 pistols come standard with Magpul’s LR/SR25 GEN M3 polymer-body mag.

4. Purpose

308-pistols-benchrest
A bolt-action .308 pistol will require a rest, bag, or tripod -- and isn't going to be particularly tactical. Source

Think about what your needs are when it comes to getting the right pistol.

There are two families of .308 pistols with two vastly different purposes: benchrest and tactical. Benchrest guns are typically single-shot, or otherwise, bolt-action pistols designed to be fired with bipods or from a rest/bag. These guns are used in silhouette shooting, target shooting, and sometimes in hunting.

For more tactical and practical use, semi-auto models, with easily swapped-out detachable mags, are ideal for home defense, 3-gun style competition use, and pest control such as managing feral hogs in thick brush.  

The Best .308 Pistols Reviewed

1. POF Revolution P308

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.3/5
Quality:
4.5/5
Value:
4/5
Overall:
4/5

Patriot Ordnance Factory has long been in the business of making AR-style modern sporting rifles and they have used that experience to create a sweet .308 pistol, the Gen 4 P308

Coming standard with a 12.5-inch 1:10 twist barrel inside an 11-inch modular M-LOK handguard, ambi controls, along with a clean and reliable gas piston operating system, it offers a lot in a 6.8-pound package.

2. Adams Arms AARS P2

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.3/5
Quality:
4/5
Value:
5/5
Overall:
4.3/5

Florida-based Adams Arms has been around since 2007, spending all that time in the black rifle game. One of the first companies to branch out into large format AR pistols, they introduced the P2 .308 a few years ago and it has proved popular.

Featuring a 12.5-inch barrel with a low-profile adjustable gas piston system, it is reliable and includes an M-LOK handguard and SBA3 pistol brace.

3. Christensen Arms MPP

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.9/5
Quality:
4.7/5
Value:
4.7/5
Overall:
4.5/5
Christensen Arms MPP 308 Pistol
Christenson Arms MPP is both beautiful and lightweight at just 4.4 lbs.

With a weight of just 4.4-pounds, the Modern Precision Pistol from Christensen Arms is something of a unicorn when it comes to .308 pistols.

Built on a bolt-action chassis that uses standard 700 series optics bases, it comes standard with a 0-MOA optics rail, adjustable side-baffle brake, and a 12.5-inch 1:7RH twist carbon fiber-wrapped 416R stainless steel barrel.

Unlike many bolt guns in this chambering, the MPP uses an AICS-compatible detachable magazine.

4. Diamondback DB10P

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4.2/5
Value:
4.7/5
Overall:
4.5/5
DB10P 308 Pistol

Florida’s Diamondback Firearms has been making AR-10 style guns for a decade and, for most of that time, they have included a larger format pistol in the mix.

Their gun, the DB10P, uses a 13.5-inch 4150 CrMoV barrel with a 1:10 RH twist– one of the longer offerings in these types of pistols– and have recently been shipping with Gearhead Worx Tailhook braces installed on an adjustable buffer tube assembly.

However, the longer barrel allows it to generate more energy than 11- and 12-inch models. Overall length is 31 inches while weight is north of 8-pounds.  

5. DSA SA58 FAL Pistol

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4.2/5
Value:
4.8/5
Overall:
4.5/5

For fans of the FN FAL, aka “The right arm of the Free World,” DSA sets the bar in semi-auto FAL pattern guns.

Luckily, for FAL fans that want a dependable .308 pistol, DSA makes the SA58P. With a super short 8.25-inch barrel, you can bet this bad boy spits fire despite DSA’s WarZ series flash hider.

Still, using an efficient PARA operating system and accepting standard 20-round mags, this is one serious .308 handgun that only runs 20.75-inches overall length.

6. IWI Galil ACE

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.5/5
Quality:
4.4/5
Value:
4.6/5
Overall:
4.4/5

Based on the legendary Israeli Galil of the 1960s but updated for the 21st Century, the Galil ACE family uses a hybrid AK-style action with a closed rotating bolt and long-stroke gas piston to produce a clean and reliable autoloader.

Since it doesn’t have a buffer system like is needed with AR-style platforms, it can easily accept a side-folding pistol brace or go without to create a very compact platform. Chambered in .308 with a chrome-lined 11.8-inch 1:12 twist barrel, it ships with a Magpul SR25 mag.

7. Nosler 48

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.2/5
Quality:
4.3/5
Value:
4.4/5
Overall:
4.3/5
Nosler M48 308 Pistol
Backpacking with the Nosler 48

Located for over 70 years in Bend, Oregon, Nosler is a household name among those who hunt as their bullet designs have revolutionized the business.

Renowned for making the top-of-the-line ammo and components, they also make a lesser-known but no less accurate line of firearms. Interestingly, in 2019 they introduced their single-shot bolt-action Nosler 48 series including the NCH, or Nosler Custom Handgun, as well as the more off-the-shelf Independence.

Using a 15-inch stainless steel heavy contour barrel with a threaded muzzle, a one-piece billet aluminum stock, AR grips, and a choice of Cerakote finishes, the 6.5-pound M48 Independence is a benchrest gun that is ready for the field.

8. PTR PDWR

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.2/5
Quality:
3.9/5
Value:
4.5/5
Overall:
4.1/5

There aren’t a lot of roller-locked HK 91-pattern pistols on the market today that emulate the classic HK 51 concept, but one of the more obtainable models is made by South Carolina-based PTR.

Made almost entirely in-house rather than from surplus parts imported from overseas, the PTR 51P PDWR is a shorty boy for sure, using just an 8.5-inch bull barrel inside an MP5-style polymer handguard.

Overall length is 23.5-inches, and it uses 20-round G3/HK91 style magazines, which are possibly the cheapest ($6!) and most available mags on the surplus market.

9. SAINT Victor

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.6/5
Quality:
4.5/5
Value:
3.8/5
Overall:
4.1/5

Over two decades ago, Springfield Armory had experimented with the stubby, folding-stocked M1A Bush Rifle and M1A-A1 Carbine in .308, ultimately following up on those concepts with their M1A SOCOM 16 series carbines after 2004.

Moving from the M14 platform to an AR-10, Springfield finally delivered a .308-caliber pistol to the market in 2020 with the SAINT Victor. Using a carbine length gas system with a 10.3-inch CMV barrel and a NiB flat GI trigger, the 8.6-pound Victor is ready to deliver.

10. T/C Encore Pro Hunter

Performance Scorecard:

Usability:
4.6/5
Quality:
4.5/5
Value:
3.8/5
Overall:
4.1/5

Thompson/Center has successfully marketed its unique line of single-shot break-action Contender pistols since the 1960s.

Updating the Contender design in 1983 with the updated Encore, today the company offers a variant of the Encore Pro Hunter chambered in .308 Winchester. Using a rubber pistol grip with a 15-inch 1:10 twist barrel attached to the frame, the Pro Hunter is extremely compact, running just 19.5-inches overall.

A strong design that has been around for generations, it is also affordable, with an asking price running usually under $800.

History of the .308 pistol

AR-10 vs AR-15 - 308 v 556 bullets
The .308 cartridge packs twice the powder as the smaller 5.56 NATO cartridge -- making for a rowdy pistol experience.

Introduced by Winchester in 1952 as a sporting round for use in rifles— two years before the adoption by America’s western allies of the U.S. Army’s T65E5 cartridge as the just slightly different 7.62 NATO– there were soon efforts afoot to use it in pistols.

By the mid-1950s, wildcatters were producing what was called the .44 Auto Magnum by loading cut-down .308 Winchester cases with .44-caliber revolver bullets.

Early in the 1960s, Max Gera of Sanford Arms, in Pasadena, California designed the recoil-operated pistol around the .44AM that was appropriately dubbed the Auto-Mag, a pistol that also used the .357 AM round which was also developed from the .308 case.

The .44 Auto Mag pistol used a cut-down .308 case.

In similar wildcatting, Remington also later marketed a version of their XP-100 bolt-action pistol in 7mm Bench Rest, another cartridge developed from a cut down .308.). This version had a 15-inch barrel and was sold as the XP-100 Silhouette.

RemingtonXP-100
Remington's XP-100 Pistol

Speaking to single-shot bolt action benchrest shooting and hunting Wichita Arms of Wichita, Kansas, developed their Silhouette pistol in 1978, chambered for the full-house .308, a first on the consumer market.

Like the XP-100 Silhouette, it featured a 15-inch barrel, no provision for a stock, and was meant for use with a bipod or bag. The short-lived Savage Striker and Model 700-CP (Chassis Pistol) of more recent vintage fit the same bill when it comes to bolt-action .308 pistols.

During the Vietnam conflict, at least two different 7.62 NATO battle rifles were converted in the field to de facto pistol length– the M14 and the FN FAL.

A cut-down M14 rifle
A cut-down, Vietnam-era M14.

While not a widespread occurrence, some American troops, primarily LRRP and Special Forces types to whom every ounce and inch were a hindrance on long-range missions on foot through triple canopy jungle where everything had to be carried by hand or rucksack, would whittle down any M14s brought along for the journey. This included cutting off most of the buttstock and, occasionally, the muzzle brake.

Likewise, some Australian and New Zealand SAS Recce commandos operating in Southeast Asia would perform “Beast” conversions on their inch-pattern semi-auto FALs (designated L1A1 in Commonwealth service), which included removing the handguards, cutting down the barrel past the gas plug assembly, and installing full-auto parts from an L2A1 machine gun to make a devastating counter-ambush tool.

In the case of such weapons, the heavy muzzle blast, especially when fired in full auto, yielded a serious psychological effect for those on both sides. 

Some U.S. troops in Vietnam cut down M14 rifles to make them handier in the field. Meanwhile, back in The States, engineers at U.S. Army arsenals brainstormed how to provide more compact versions of the big 7.62 NATO battle rifle, an effort ended with the adoption of the M16 and, shortly afterward, its XM177 little brother.

Meanwhile, here in the states in the 1980s and 90s, Oklahoma-based Fleming Firearms managed to turn the Heckler & Koch G3 design into what was fundamentally an HK MP5K submachine gun chambered in .308.

Fleming HK51
The Fleming HK51K concept.

They did this fully legal conversion by taking an original HK 91 semi-automatic rifle into an “HK51” short-barreled rifle or SBR, often with select-fire trigger packs to make them full auto. Using just 9-inch barrels (or even 4.7-inch barrels in the 51K model), these pistols could ostensibly be carried in a specially made shoulder holster under a cover garment such as a jacket.

Vintage Fleming Fireball ad
Fleming Firearms 15K ad feels pulled right from a Steven Seagal film.

These NFA guns, handmade by Bill Fleming, often popped up in the 1990s action flicks, with Steven Seagal using one in Marked for Death, among others.

Today’s crop of .308 pistols branch into single-shot and bolt-action silhouette guns on one side and more tactically-minded semi-auto magazine-fed models on the other.

But what about ballistics?

One thing you can bet on when firing a cartridge originally designed for use in a barrel with a 20-inch (or longer) length, is that if you run the same round through a barrel closer to 12-inches in length, you are going to lose a lot of velocity.

This is because the shorter barrel length doesn’t allow all the cartridge’s powder to burn away, imparting all its potential energy to the bullet.

Still, keep in mind that the average .308 Win/7.62 NATO will have sufficient velocity to deliver 1,600 ft./lbs. of energy at the muzzle when fired from a 12-inch barrel– more than twice the powder (750 ft./lbs.) as a .223 Rem/5.56 NATO from the same length barrel. Practical tests have shown these shorty pistols to still be very accurate at 300 yards or more.

Building your own?

In today’s modern firearms culture, if you haven’t “built” your own AR-15 from components in your garage workshop– or kitchen table– you may be in the minority. Much like the AR-15, AR-308/AR-10 builds are fairly easy to pull off, especially if using a pre-assembled upper that takes the finesse out of having to figure out headspacing.

Simply marry up the proper .308-compatible lower with the proper parts kit installed to the same caliber upper and you are cooking with gas.

CMMG, Diamondback, Next Level, Stag, Wilson Combat, and others make lots of commonly available AR-10 ingredients. As with everything in large format pistols, NFA rules apply.

HK51 style .308 pistols, likewise, can be made at home but typically require some extra skills, an HK91-G3 receiver flat (which are getting harder and harder to find), and a parts list that is more difficult to piece together than a visit to Brownell’s.

Homebuilding NFA-compliant FAL pistols are an even harder lift, primarily due to a shortage of pistol-acceptable receivers, proper length barrels, and the general confusing crush of matching up metric and inch format parts.

Shortcomings

No matter the enthusiasm, .308 pistols are not for everyone. While benchrest single-shot and bolt-gun models can be exceptionally accurate, they might not be practical for hunting in all areas, especially in states with strict regulations on harvesting game with a handgun.

Compared to your standard 9mm such as, say a Glock 19, the semi-auto .308 pistol variants can’t realistically be carried on an everyday basis without the use of a parka, backpack, or duffle bag. While compact enough easy use as a “truck gun” or in home defense scenarios, it’s possible that in some instances they may bring too much to the party in terms of overpenetration.

Continuing along this vein, without the use of a suppressor or effective muzzle device, they can also produce an out-sized blast with its associated negative effects on vision and hearing, especially in confined spaces.

Finally, most modern autoloading .308 pistols made in the past decade come fresh from the factory with a stabilizing brace fitted, items that the ATF is increasingly trying to regulate out of existence.

In summary

For a category that didn’t exist on the consumer market outside of a few custom builds just two decades ago, the modern .308 pistol is truly a product of the 21st Century.

Offering a lot more “thump” when compared to varmint-caliber benchrest or AR-15 pistols, they are attractive for those seeking to deliver more than a puny 55-grain pill at extended distances.

There has never been a better time for those who are a fan of super-sized large-format pistols than today. 

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