Cartridge of the Week: The .308 Winchester, 7.62×51 NATO, 7.62x51mm

By CTD Allen published on in Ammunition, News

If you hear the shot, it was not meant for you. If you run, you will only die tired. Reach out and touch someone. Ah sniper talk, guys from the high ground, I love it. Without this cartridge, the sniper story would be greatly diminished. From 1952, its design year, then 1954, when the U.S. military chose it as the rifle cartridge for their forces and up to the present it has been the cornerstone cartridge for the long-range warrior. That cartridge is the 7.62x51mm NATO or the civilian .308 Winchester.

7.62×51 NATO

The developers driven to find a military cartridge to replace the 30-06 Springfield, 7.62x63mm, without sacrificing the ballistics of the fabled 30 Government M06, came up with this storied cartridge. Needed was a cartridge with a shorter stroke, less recoil and smaller so more would require less space and weight. Weight and space are everything on the battlefield.

Launched from many platforms such as the Remington 700 BDL, or in the Military the M-24 Sniper Weapon System (SWS), the M60 Machine gun, the FAL, the CETME, and the M14 to name a few. More and more platforms continue to be in the works.

7.62×51 Ready For Launch, M24 Launch Pad

However, let us not back this cartridge into a corner. It has a place more than just on the battlefield. Winchester in its brilliance back then, piggy-backed on the fact that a round good enough for military purposes could have uses as a field cartridge for hunting. If the 30-06 was good for Remington then the .308 could be just as good for Winchester. Winchester was right on target.

The .308 Winchester is now a staple cartridge in North American hunting and may very well be in the world as well. Deer, hog, bear, elk – this cartridge will get it done. Today every major manufacture makes a rifle for this cartridge. Furthermore, every major manufacturer including two in Russia currently makes the cartridge.

For those out there ready to call foul on the two cartridges being the same, put your flags back in your pocket. While the two are not exactly the same as far as the Sporting Arms and Manufactures Institute (SAAMI) is concerned the two are interchangeable. You should, as with all your firearms, confirm with your manufacturer on the capabilities of your chambering requirements and limitations of your particular firearm.

Elk are well within the range of the .308 Winchester

What is so impressive about this cartridge, is that it has had over 30 different variations for military use in the United States alone. Other countries have made variations of this cartridge and thus it has become one of the most versatile cartridges ever employed for military use. It has seen the battlefields of Vietnam, the Falklands, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq to name a few.

Nevertheless, its true calling is as a long-distance sniper cartridge. In this capacity, it has reigned on the battlefield for over 50 years. While there are newer cartridges like the .338 Lapua Magnum (8.60x70mm), .300 Winchester Magnum (7.62x66mm), and the titan .50 BMG (12.7x99mm) that may replace it one day, it will be no time soon. This cornerstone cartridge will not go quietly into the night.

5.56x45mm vs. 7.62x51mm

7.62x51mm NATO

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Comments (19)

  • Dennis


    Use windex to clean rifles after you fire corrosive ammo = it nutralizes the chemical reaction! Then just brush swab and light coat of oil as with any other weapon!


  • Mitch


    Just buy some Norma Brand ammo for your 7.62x54R and that will end your corrosion issues and if not dawn dish liquid is your friend.

    Wish I still had my father’s 7.62 russian, shot 180 gr. ammo and 500 yards was flat.


  • Roger


    I inherited alot of 180 gr .308 ammo from my dad after his passing. I also got alot of 168 gr from my son while he was a Marine sniper. I bought some 150 gr nato stuff just to shoot. I have never had anything get up from a 180 or 168 gr well placed bullet. The 150 gr stuff shoots a little low at 100 yards. I wouldn’t trade anything for my .308. I have other guns and they’re fine but nothing beats a .308 in my humbel opinion.
    I do have a 7.62X54R but hate to shoot it because of it’s corrosive powder that it seems it never gets clean enough. If anyone has a tip on cleaning it I’d like to hear it.


  • JimB


    The 30-06 is currently available for loads ranging from the Remington Accelerator 55 gr. saboted round, through some 220 gr. sledgehammers. The reason that 7.62 X 51 (308 Win.) replaced the 30-06 in competitive shooting was the availability of mil-surp ammo and the growth in popularity of the sport, the same reason that the 5.56 is replacing the 7.62 X 51/308 round. Efficiency difference has as much to do with the speed of burn for which the standardized specs of the ammo have been developed. Almost ALL 30-06 ammo is within very close proximity to the M2 Ball’s internal ballistics, this is by intent. Some of the stronger actions can handle “light magnum” loads of the 30-06 which, once again, push the performance envelope far beyond the 308’s. Accuracy is more of a function of gun design and ammo tuning than design of ammo casing. A $6000 Remmy 700 will shoot more accurately with hunting ammo than an off-the-shelf hunting rifle with with match ammo, and there are 60 year old guns out there that shooting wacky loads better than some of the new guns. Ever seen a Sharps in .45-70 black powder perform? Personally, my Remmy 700 BDL shoots more accurately than my 300 Win Mag, and the 300 is purportedly, more intrinsically accurate.

    Don’t believe all the marketing hype.


  • Ron D


    I’ve worked in law enforcement and have buddies that hunt. When I went to buy my first rifle, I did the research, talked to people, and my choice was the .308 bolt action Remmy 700. The round is accurate, though I’ve only shot out to 100yds at the range so far, and the recoil is not bad. Reloading for it is less expansive than the 30-06 and other .300 magnums and you have a TON of loadings to choose from from light target loads to heavy duty hunting loads. Most of the time, in the field, you’re usually not gonna be aiming at anything beyond the 300yd point and the .308 is up to that all day. For those awaiting the the zombie revolution, the .308 is entirely good out to 500 yds and by some Marine counts, up to 800 yds – that’s a good 1/2 maile away! Serioulsy, what else do you need???!!! Enjoy your rights to bear arms while you can – and stock up!!!


    • Elton P. Green US Army Inf. Ret.


      Actually, the .308 in 175 gr. Sierra Matchkings is good for around 900 yards before it goes sub-sonic, and accurate to around 1100, maybe more. One of the Army boys used it in the mil. version (7.62X51) for an incredible shot at an Iraqi sniper at over 1300 yards. I think it was 1375yds or so. The 30-06, however, has about the same recoil in the same weight rifle, and will push the same bullet at least 150 feet per second faster with the same barrel length. It is the rifle cartridge Carlos Hathcock used the most in Vietnam, and he used it well beyond 1000 yards. A .308 will launch a 180 grain bullet at around 2550 fps from a 22 inch barrel, while a 30-06 will launch the same round at around 2675 or 2700 fps from the same 22 inch barrel. That adds about 3 ftlbs of recoil, which you won’t feel if the stock is designed properly. Put this cartridge in a 24 inch barrel and it leaves the muzzle at 2750 to 2775 fps. This results in a (slightly) flatter trajectory, especially at long range, but the most important thing is it increases bullet energy and keeps the bullet supersonic longer. Also, the 30-06 in the slower burning powders is just as accurate as the .308, because the powder fills the casing better. I regularly shoot 5 shot groups in bolt action standard weight rifles that will go inside 1 inch at 100 yards, and when I’m really on, I can get inside 1 and 1/2 inches at 200 yards. 3 shot groups will generally go tighter. Also, if you hunt in Kansas, the Texas Panhandle, Colorado, Wyoming and several other Western states, your shot may range from 25 yards to 600 yards, depending on the terrain and game animal pursued. Antelopes are notorious for requiring long (beyond 300yd ) shots. So are elk in some areas. And with elk you need all the bullet energy you can get. This is where the .30-06 comes into its own over the .308. I reload both cartridges, and the cost difference per box might be as much as $1.50, if that much. I’ll pay that for the extra impact the 30-06 gives. I also have two .300 win mags, and the difference in cost for them is around $2.00 over the .308 for each box. If you can handle the recoil, this is a really great round, too, as is the .35 Whelen, which can duplicate the trajectory of the 30-06 when handloaded with either Sierra 225gr or Speer 250gr bullets. But it kicks like a .338 Win Mag.


  • Don Eyre


    It’s all I need a .308 rifle with lots of ammo, a 12 gauge shotgun ( only have 4 of them) and a .22. Oh by the way, lots of fishing gear and we’ll get by.


  • troy patrick


    the 762 round is the best round to be found . wether it is a 762.63 / 762.51 / 762.54 r / a 308 round has been used the early 1900s . by all milatery forces , around the world . and is the best round for all hunting conditions . from pigs to people , from deer , elk , moose , bear ….. and so on . it will reach out and touch some one . at 1500 yards . yes it is a favorit sniper rifle , as well . so wether you are looking to put food on your families kitchen table , or are wanting , to hunt big game , or are looking to protect the ones you love most . i would advise you to seek out this gun . nomatter who make it . in my experiance the 762.54r is the best investment , you can get them for around 200.00 all the way to 1500.00 . and you can get the ammo for 440 rounds through cheeper than dirt for 112.00 bucks . you cant even get reloads for that price . so the good since investment for the all around gun is by far the 308 , or the 762 cal . if things get bad you will wish you had one . and sooner or later its going to get bad . we have not had a war on our country in a long time . are you prepared to protect what matters the most to you if our country was invaded . becouse aint nobody going to protect you or feed you . that is the truth . think . just think about it ||||||||||||||||||||






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