When Uncle Sam when looking for a lighter .30-caliber round than the ‘Ought-Six they wanted similar ballistic performance in a smaller cartridge.
The Army’s T65 cartridge eventually landed at 7.62x51mm length, the NATO standard for both the semi-auto rifle and machine guns in 1954.
With the specs for the cartridge already commercially available, Winchester beat the Army to the punch and released it on the commercial market in 1952 as the .308 Winchester, chambered for their new Model 70 Featherweight bolt-action rifles and loaded with a soft-point hunting bullet rather than the military’s steel jacketed boat-tail.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Here is our selection for the best semi-auto rifles and bolt-action .308 rifles available today.
In This Article:
.308 Rifle Comparison
Below is my list of the best .308 rifles for 2022. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of .308 rifles.
|Most Classic: Browning BAR Mark III DBM|
|Best AR Option: Daniel Defense DD5 V4|
|Integral Buttstock Option: DSA SA58|
|Premium Option: HK MR762A1|
|Best Value Palmetto State PA10 Gen 3|
|Also Great: PTR91|
|Best Side-Folder: SCAR-H|
|Best SR25 Style: SIG 716|
|Best M14 Clone: Springfield Armory M1A|
|Best Value: Browning A-Bolt|
|Premium Option Daniel Defense Delta-5 Pro|
|Most Flexible: Ruger Scout Rifle|
|Best Craftsman Bolt Gun: Weatherby Mark V|
|Lightest: Winchester 70|
Semi-Auto .308 Rifle Reviews
1. Browning BAR MK3 .308 Rifle
Not to be confused with John Moses Browning’s classic M1918 automatic rifle of world war-vintage, today’s commercial BAR was a product of the inventor’s grandson.
First introduced in 1968 with the modern sportsman in mind, the rifle’s action was a natural for the .308. Today, the third-gen Mark III series with a detachable box mag (DBM) is the way to go — it gives you 10-rounds and the lightest configuration of Browning’s modern classic.
2. Daniel Defense DD5V2 .308 Rifle
Pretty much the top of the line in the modern AR-10/SR-25 concept while keeping a direct gas impingement system, the DD5 V4 has an 18-inch 1:11-twist S2W chrome-lined barrel with an adjustable gas block.
Using a DLC-coated bolt carrier group and serious attention to detail, this rifle is rugged.
3. DSA SA58 .308 Rifle
FN produced their FAL tactical rifle series for more than 30 years and was adopted by so many Western countries that the platform was known commonly as “The Free World’s Right Arm.”
Using the same metric-pattern FAL equipment that Steyr in Austria produced their guns on during the Cold War under license from FN, Illinois-based DSA today is the king of the hill for this classic.
Their SA58 series ranges from SBRs with 11-inch barrels, to 16- and 18-inch carbines, and 21-inch Belgium style FALO heavy barrel 50.41 models.
4. HK MR762A1 LRP .308 Rifle
Heckler & Koch’s first production firearm was a tactical rifle, the roller-locked G3.
Today, they have moved to “closed” short-stroke gas-piston AR models (HK416/417 series) in both 5.56 and 7.62, platforms that have been adopted around the globe by everyone to include the U.S. Army (M110A1) and Marines (M27).
On the consumer market, the semi-auto MR762A1 is the program of record, provided you have the scratch.
5. PTR 91 .308 Rifle
Speaking of the HK G3, while the rifle has been out of production in Germany for a minute, clones abound outside of the country.
Here in the States, South Carolina-based PTR made a similar deal as DSA and picked up surplus G3 tooling that the Portuguese military was retiring and went into the semi-auto HK91 clone business in 2000.
Today, they have worked out all the kinks and make a beautiful send up of this Teutonic battle rifle.
6. FN SCAR-H 20 S 7.62 Rifle
FN cut its modern teeth on 7.62 battle rifles and by 2004 had another trick up its sleeve. Answering a call from USSOCOM for a modular carbine that could go “light” in 5.56 or “heavy” in 7.62 with a lot of commonality between the two, the company came up with the concept today that is the SCAR or Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle.
Using an ultra-clean short-stroke gas piston system and outfitted with a distinctive side-folding boot-shaped adjustable buttstock, the SCAR Heavy is well-liked and often hard to find.
For those who enjoy controlling the heights, the 20-inch precision rifle variant, the SCAR-20S, is also an option.
7. Sig Sauer 716 Patrol Rifle
Another SR-25 style piston gun, Sig Sauer’s 716 series grew out of the company’s 5.56 NATO-chambered 516 model, only scaled up for .308.
This gun has proven to be an unexpected smash hit for Sig, who has sold thousands as patrol rifles for LE use and in recent years has landed contracts for more than 150,000 to equip Indian Army units facing off with China and Pakistan on remote mountainous border regions.
For those on a budget, a gas-impingement model, the SIG716i, runs a few hundo less.
8. Springfield Armory M1A Tanker
When the M14 went out of production for the U.S. military in 1967, replaced by the M16, much of the tooling went overseas and the historic U.S. Army arsenal at Springfield Armory was closed the next year.
Soon after, taking advantage of a glut of surplus parts and furniture, a Texas-based company picked up the SA brand and started making a semi-auto version of the rifle, dubbed the M1A.
With production centered today in Illinois under the Reese family, the M1A is still around but in much more variety than the Army ever envisioned and is a regular on the DCM/CMP match circuit.
Bolt-Action .308 Rifle Reviews
1. Browning AB3 Composite Stalker
Introduced in the 1980s to replace the Belgian-made BBR-series of bolt-action rifles, the Browning A-bolt is the company’s answer to the Winchester Model 70 and Remington 700.
Made today by Miroku in Japan– who also make Winchesters– the A-Bolt remains in limited production but can still be had in .308.
2. Daniel Defense Delta 5
Billed as “the most accurate sub $2500 production rifle in the world,” Daniel Defense’s new bolt action line has just about every goody in the world, right from the factory.
This includes a Timney Elite Hunter trigger, 20 MOA Picatinny scope base, a heavy Palma barrel, a fully adjustable stock for length-of-pull, preferred height, yaw and drift; and 17 M-LOK slots for bipods, monopods, and QD sling points.
Accuracy is guaranteed as 0.5-inch MOA, so no matter if you’re in the market for a hunting rifle or target shooting out to 1,000 yards or more, the Delta 5 won’t disappoint.
3. Ruger 6822 Scout Rifle
Building on Col. Jeff Cooper’s Gunsite “scout rifle” concept gun, Ruger introduced this model a decade ago and hasn’t looked back.
Utilizing a Model 77 action — which has largely been replaced by the Ruger American rifle today in most hunting calibers — the Scout Rifle runs a short 16.5-inch barrel.
It includes a 10-shot detachable mag along with the provision for an extended eye-relief optic, just as the Colonel intended.
4. Weatherby Camilla Mark V
A legendary California-based sporting rifle maker now relocated to Wyoming, Weatherby has been making beautiful bolt guns for generations.
Today, they have a number of their budget Vanguard series rifles available in .308 while the more top-shelf Mark Vs still evoke the sort of old-school craftsmanship the company still takes pride in.
5. Winchester Model 70 Featherweight
The first commercial .308 maker is still producing several models of the venerable Winchester 70 in the caliber today.
This includes classic 6.75-pound Featherweights, complete with pre-64 style short actions and 22-inch barrels, and more modern Model 70 Extreme Weather versions featuring all-stainless barrels and actions in a hand-laid composite stock rated for use from Alaska to Arizona.
The more things change…
While the U.S. Army first designed then adopted the .30-06 Springfield (7.62x63mm) cartridge in 1906 (hence the “aught-six” part of the title), and it went on to be used in the M1903 and M1917 Enfield bolt-action rifles of WWI, the semi-auto M1 Garand of WWII and Korea, and the ubiquitous M1918 BAR and M1919 machine guns, that doesn’t mean Uncle Sam was entirely happy with it.
Looking for a lighter .30-caliber round that produced similar results but in a smaller action, the Army began experiments with the .300 Savage (7.62x47mm) cartridge in the late 1930s. The thing is, the .300S was designed as a cartridge for lever-action rifles, such as Savage’s Model 99, and the Army decided to better tweak it for use in autoloaders.
With that, the experimental T65 “lightweight” cartridge was quickly designed by the Army at Frankford Arsenal in Pennsylvania. At 7.62x49mm, it was just slightly longer than the .300S it took cues from while still being shorter and more compact than the old .30-06, which it approached ballistically. The first gun designed specifically to fire the T65, the Army’s T25 trials rifle, was constructed in 1948.
Weighing in at just 7.5-pounds, the magazine-fed T25 could rock and roll on its T65 cartridges at over 700 rounds per minute, blowing away anything else the Army had in the field or on the drawing board.
Moving on from the T25, which in turn was beat out by Mr. John Garand’s T20 rifle to become the T44 which– after fighting off a competing design from FN in Belgium (the FAL)– the successor would be adopted as the M14 in 1957, replacing the U.S. military’s infantry and automatic rifles. Along the way, the T65 cartridge was tweaked to a 7.62x51mm length, which was established as the NATO standard for battle rifles and machine guns in 1954– three years before the M14 was adopted.
However, with specs for the cartridge already commercially available, Winchester beat the Army to the punch and released it on the commercial market in 1952 as the .308 Winchester, chambered for their new Model 70 Featherweight bolt-action rifles and loaded with a soft-point hunting bullet rather than the military’s steel jacketed boat-tail.
As the Army originally intended in the 1940s when they started work on the design, as well as Savage Arms before it, the .308 offers performance akin to “God’s Caliber,” the .30-06, but in a smaller package.
With a myriad of factory bullet loads ranging from as light as 79- to as heavy as 200-grains, the .308 is a high-velocity round capable of taking everything from medium-sized predators such as coyotes out to the dream list of North American big game.
This same flexibility carries over for its use in personal protection as well as by military and law enforcement customers, able to “vibe check” most individual armor plate short of Level III SAPIs while remaining much more barrier blind than, say 5.56 NATO.
Further, innovative new bullet designs promise to keep it relevant for decades to come. There is a good reason why the round is still a NATO standard.
Is it 308 or 7.62 NATO?
Although they evolved on the same timeline, contrary to popular belief .308 Win and 7.62 NATO are not entirely interchangeable.
While they are the same size and can utilize the same bullets, 7.62 is commonly loaded to a lower pressure, 50,000 PSI. On the other hand, commercial .308 Win loads can run as high as 62,000 PSI, nearly 25 percent higher, and still be in spec.
While SAAMI does not list the interchangeability between the two cartridges as being unsafe, it is best to remember to stick to the chambering written by the manufacturer on the barrel just to be sure.
An alternative rule of thumb is that 7.62 NATO is safe to fire from a .308 Win-chambered rifle or pistol, while the reverse cannot always be said due to the potentially higher pressure of commercial loadings. When in doubt, consult a gunsmith.
Bolt or Battle Rifle?
Evolution of the Battle Rifle
Soon after the cartridge became NATO standard in 1952, the 7.62x51mm was widely adopted across Europe and North America for a new generation of autoloading rifles.
These “battle rifles” developed along national lines and included the Spanish CETME 58, the FN FAL, the Swiss-made SIG SG 510-4, the West German HK G3, Italy’s Beretta BM59, as well as the already-mentioned M14 and AR-10. These guns replaced the WWII-era bolt-actions of and, although in large part phased out by even more compact 5.56 NATO carbines, remain in military service around the world to one degree or another. Further, commercial variants, often incorporating Cold War-era military surplus parts kits, are extremely popular with consumers.
The first commercially available .308 anywhere in the world was Winchester’s Model 70 Featherweight, debuted in August 1952.
Building on the concept of the new “lightweight” cartridge with .30-06ish ballistics, the rifle weighed just 6.5-pounds, which was a full 1.5 pounds lighter than the traditional M70.
By 1965 in Vietnam, commercial Winchester 70s and Remington Model 700s in .308 were being outfitted with Redfield optics and shipped to provide U.S. Army and Marine snipers with their first new marksman rifle since the troublesome M1C/D of the Korean War.
For the Model 700, it went on to set the bar for short-action sniper rifles, with its modified action being adopted first in the M24 and then the M40, the latter a platform that is only now being phased out.
Why a .308 Rifle
Rifles chambered in .308 have a lot of benefits, but we want to focus on two main ones here.
- Long-Range Performance. First and foremost, the .308 performs well at an extended range compared to 5.56mm, the other major round used by NATO forces. So, if you plan on shooting past 500 yards, then the .308 is likely the choice for you. For the past half-century, the .308 has been one of the go-to choices for hunters, sharpshooters, and snipers worldwide, and even though there are new, arguably better rounds, the .308 is still an excellent choice. A .308 Winchester caliber is fantastic for hunting and long-range shooting. Large and mid-size game such as deer, elk, moose, and bear can all be hunted successfully with a .308 rifle. In addition, the .308 round is a solid distance performer – with capable shooters able to hit targets at 700 yards and beyond.
- Stopping Power. Second, the .308 or 7.62mm NATO is known for its stopping power. This is one of the reasons, for example, that the military has pulled the M14 out of mothballs and has begun using the FN Scar in Afghanistan. When you need to make effective hits at extended ranges and maintain as much terminal velocity as possible, the .308 is an excellent round for most people’s hunting and range shooting needs. The round hit hard enough that it’s still used for long-distance shooting today when the Army needs to punch holes in cover at long ranges.
- Weight Savings. While the .308 is certainly larger and heavier than intermediate rounds like the 5.56 NATO, when compared to other long-distance-oriented cartridges, such as the .30-06, the .308 gives similar performance while reducing the weight of each round. For reference, 20 rounds of .308 weigh in at 17 ounces, whereas 20 rounds of ’06 in the same bullet weight (180 grain) weighs 19.5 – an almost 15% weight savings. This allows users to trim ounces without sacrificing ballistics, remaining both practical and lethally viable out to 800 yards.
Types of .308 Rifles
Many .308 rifles are bolt actions. While nowadays that puts them well in the realm of hunting rifles, for decades, the go-to sniper rifle for many militaries and law enforcement agencies was some variation on a bolt-action .308 rifle. These tend to be exceptionally accurate rifles that help get the most out of the velocity and accuracy of the cartridge.
Bolt action rifles give you a much slower rate of fire than other kinds of action but are ultimately the most accurate choice for a .308 rifle for hunting or shooting range.
Second, the .308 has also been a popular cartridge for semi-automatic rifles. Most of these are some variation on a magazine-fed gun, though the operating systems vary.
Many older semi-automatic rifles use a long-stroke piston system, such as the M1A, whereas others, like the AR10, use a gas impingement system. Others, such as the G3, make good use of a roller-delay system that makes them exceptionally smooth rifles to shoot, even if there is some increase in maintenance. However, as far as the user goes, what matters is that one round leaves the chamber with each pull of the trigger on all of these designs.
Difference in Action
Most modern semi-automatic rifles were designed as what we would now call battle rifles. These semi-automatic rifles fire a full-powered rifle round such as the .308.
These were in heavy use by most NATO nations during the Cold War and have now fallen somewhat out of favor, with many states going with something smaller, in 5.56mm or the like in more recent decades. For a lot of collectors, a Cold War battle rifle is a seriously cool firearm.
Others, such as bolt action rifles, are now meant more as designated marksman weapons. These are not sniper rifles in the truest sense of the word: where a sniper would often have a high magnification scope and a rifle tuned to shoot out to an extreme distance, a lower-powered optic and sniper rifle give a squad the capability to engage targets at ranges greater than those possible with a 5.56mm.
You can get the same benefits using a .308 rifle at the range or in the field.
Essential Features of a .308 Rifle
- Purpose Fit. First and foremost, when we’re looking for a .308 rifle, I look at the purpose of the rifle and determine the type of action from there. For instance, if moderate range and dependable accuracy are things that matter to you, then a semi-auto might be the way to go. On the other hand, if maximizing long-distance accuracy is your ultimate goal, then a bolt action is the way to go. Both actions certainly have their place, and I have a feeling that once you buy one kind of .308 rifle, another type is likely to follow.
- Barrel Quality. Second, the barrel is vital to get the most out of .308. Especially in older, used hunting rifles, verifying that the barrel is in good shape is key to ensuring that bolt action rifles or their semi-auto counterparts will continue to perform well over time. In new rifles, I prefer cold hammer forged barrels for the sake of both longevity and accuracy. Similarly, the longer a barrel is in a .308, the more accuracy you can expect to get out of the cartridge at greater distances. A short-barreled .308 is a fun, rowdy range toy but loses much of what makes the cartridge good in the first place with the cut-down barrel length.
- Materials & Durability. Durability is also a must here. A tactical rifle designed during the Cold War was meant to be a combat weapon, and most of them can take a beating and keep on firing. Especially in what might be a defensive rifle, this is a critical feature. One thing to look for on older models, especially used ones with wood or old polymer stocks, is that they can crack over time and require you to keep an eye on them. Make sure they’re not developing the kinds of issues that impact reliability or developing a catastrophic failure.
- Accessory Support. In more modern rifles, I like the idea of being able to add modifications such as foregrips and optics. While this could be done, for example, on an older FAL or M14 type design, it’s often a lot of work to get an optic mounted on these weapons, where a SCAR or an AR10 is likely to simply have some Picatinny rail sections that you can use to mount whatever you like. While the classic designs are still great rifles, the quick modification and personalization available in newer designs make them much easier to create or build into a custom rifle that will excel as a target shooting rifle, hunting rifle, battle rifle, or anything in between.
.308 Rifle Pricing
Generally, .308 rifles are bought by fairly serious shooters, and the market knows this: they tend to be a little on the expensive side.
- Under $1,000. For under $1,000, you might get lucky and now and again come across an old imported FN FAL or HK G3 type of rifle, often at local gun stores where the staff might not know or care much about historical firearms. These can be excellent deals. In terms of newer rifles, look to the big-name producers for approachable, sub-$1,000 hunting rifles and bolt action rifles from the likes of Ruger, Browning, and Weatherby. A budget rifle in this price range may be limited in action types and options/layouts, but they will be reliable performers using proven designs.
- $1,000 – $3,000. At about the $2,000 mark, you can get good examples of most of the rifles listed here, especially the M1a if you wait for a good deal at an online retailer. These are likely to be fairly basic target shooting rifles, but still excellent guns. You can also get into patrol variants of fantastic .308s used by law enforcement officers from Sig, Daniel Defense, and Browing’s BAR, our top selection.
- Over $3,000. For over $3,000, you can get a rifle set up exactly as you like. It’s in this territory that you’ll find M1a’s with an aluminum chassis configurations, a new-in-box FN SCAR, or even our premium selection, the HK MR762A1 set up any way you please. Generally, the more you spend on a .308 rifle, the broader set of features you can ultimately expect to get, and the closer you’ll get to the sniper rifle of your dreams.
While .308 rifles are generally on the expensive side when compared, for example, to an AR15, good examples of these excellent rifles can be found at a variety of price points.
A .308 Winchester caliber is fantastic for hunting and long-range shooting. Large and mid-size game such as deer, elk, moose, and bear can all be hunted successfully with a .308 rifle. In addition, the .308 round is a solid distance performer – with capable shooters able to hit targets at 700 yards and beyond.
A.308 rifle with a maximally effective barrel length of 24-27″ should enable capable marksmen to perform consistently at a range of 600-800 yards when paired with appropriate scope magnification.
A .308 rifle with a maximally effective barrel length of 24-27″ should enable capable marksmen to perform consistently at a range of 600-800 yards when paired with appropriate scope magnification.
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