When .223 Remington just won’t do it, many turn to the venerable .308 Winchester. The classic “battle rifle” is a term dedicated to semi-automatic rifles chambered in a full-power rifle caliber — typically the .308 Win. The .308 Winchester often offers the extra performance needed compared to the .223 Remington, and provides shooters with the upper hand.
Whether it’s for fun at the range or in preparation for a SHTF scenario, here are the top five .308 Winchester semi-auto rifles that you can bet your life on.
Why Choose a .308 Battle Rifle?
There are several reasons to choose a .308 Winchester semi-auto rifle over something chambered in a lesser caliber. The two main reasons being superior ballistics and increased effective range. For example, when looking at two comparable Federal loads with a FMJ BT projectile, we see that a 62-grain .223 Remington has a velocity of 3,020 fps and produces 1,255 ft/lbs of energy, while a 150-grain .308 Winchester has a velocity of 2,820 fps and produces 2,648 ft/lbs of energy. This means that, on average, your rifle chambered in .308 Winchester will produce over twice the amount of energy as your standard .223 Remington rifle.
Additionally, the .308 Winchester has a max effective range of roughly 1,000 yards according to the USMC, while the .223 Remington only has a max effective range of around 600 yards. This allows shooters, with proper marksmanship fundamentals and abilities, to put more distance between them and a threat.
In a SHTF or bug-out situation, you could also use a .308 rifle to hunt a wide variety of game. This could be beneficial for survival with the right skills and conditions in place.
Cons of Using .308
Though there are a number of reasons to choose a .308 Winchester semi-auto rifle over something chambered in 5.56 NATO, there are also some cons. The primary impairment will be weight — rifle weight, loaded magazines, and spare ammo will all be heavier. If you are going to be carrying a full loadout for an extended time period or distance, the extra weight exacts a toll on the body. It can also account for limitations on the amount of additional gear you would otherwise be able to carry.
The increased power of the .308 cartridge comes with an increase in recoil, muzzle blast, and report. This makes the rifle harder to fire accurately and can slow down follow-up shots. It can also have a negative effect on your vision or hearing when firing in certain environments, such as indoors or at night, due to the excess concussion and muzzle flash.
You will also have a reduced capacity compared to a 5.56 rifle, moving from a standard 30-round magazine to a 20-round mag. You can find extended .308 magazines, but you will still be dealing with the additional weight and lower capacity compared to extended 5.56 mags.
1. Smith & Wesson M&P10 Sport
Starting off the list as the most budget-friendly option, the Smith & Wesson M&P10 is an AR-10 platform .308 Winchester rifle. This provides shooters with good parts compatibility for upgrading or replacing accessories and components. Constructed of durable 7075-T6 upper and lower receivers, the M&P10 is capable of taking a beating. The 16-inch barrel provides excellent accuracy while keeping the rifle lightweight and maneuverable at only about 6.5 lbs.
The Sport variant comes with a standard A2 handguard, pistol grip, and stock, but the rifle is also available in different configurations depending on your preferences. Overall, the M&P10 Sport allows shooters to get into a quality .308 Winchester semi-auto rifle without breaking the bank.
2. DS Arms SA58 FAL
Introduced in 1946 and dubbed “the right arm of the free world,” the FAL is a well-known .308 battle rifle. The DS Arms SA58 provides an improved version of the original FAL with the inclusion of an M-Lok handguard for attaching accessories, top rail for mounting optics, adjustable side-folding stock, enhanced ambidextrous magazine release, and extended cocking handle knob. Additionally, the rifle features a 16-inch medium-contour fluted barrel and is equipped with an elevation adjustable front sight post along with a quick-adjust dual aperture rear sight.
DS Arms also offers a standard version of the SA58 with an 18-inch barrel and standard furniture that is more in line with a traditional FAL. All parts of the DS Arms SA58 are high-quality and made in the USA.
3. Springfield M1A SOCOM 16
The Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM 16 is the highest evolution of the trusted M1A/M14 series of rifles. The SOCOM 16 model features a 16.25-inch barrel for a more compact and maneuverable overall package. The SOCOM variant of the M1A also incorporates an optic mount, as well as an XS Sights tritium front sight post with an enlarged military aperture ghost ring rear sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation. The M1A includes a 10-round magazine, but 20-round magazines are available. If classic wood and steel is more your style, take a look at the standard M1A.
4. IWI Tavor 7
The IWI Tavor 7 is unique, in that it features a bullpup design. Bullpup rifles move the action to the rear of the firearm. This makes for a more compact rifle, even with the 16.5-inch barrel length. The Tavor is highly regarded as a durable and dependable rifle — partially due to the short-stroke gas piston design with a rotating closed bolt.
The Tavor 7 incorporates an ambidextrous safety lever, magazine release, and bolt catch. Additionally, the charging handle and ejection side can be reversed, making this a great choice for both right and left-handed shooters.
5. FN SCAR 17S
One of the most well-known .308 Winchester semi-auto rifles is the FN SCAR 17S. The .308 SCAR comes in two configurations, a shorter version with a 16-inch free-float barrel called the 17S, and a longer version with a 20-inch barrel called the 20S. Purpose-built for long-range shooting, the short-stroke gas piston system efficiently absorbs recoil for greater precision and faster follow-up shots.
The SCAR features an ambidextrous safety lever, magazine release, and a charging handle that mounts on the right or left side. Further, the SCAR utilizes a telescoping, side-folding polymer stock with an adjustable cheek piece allowing the rifle to be fitted to the shooter.
Honorable Mention: IWI Galil Ace
The Galil Ace is often looked at as a sort of modernized and upgraded AK-47. Typically chambered in 7.62x39mm, there is also a .308 Winchester version of the Galil. It features a 16.5-inch chrome-lined, cold hammer forged barrel and utilizes a 20-round magazine. When compared to the AK, the reciprocating charging handle has been moved to the left side of the milled steel receiver, allowing for weak hand operation.
The Galil features a closed rotating bolt, long-stroke gas piston system that makes it incredibly reliable. Additionally, the rifle features adjustable iron sights with a tritium front post and a two-dot tritium rear aperture. However, the Galil Ace also incorporates a full-length top rail to mount an optic. An adjustable, side-folding stock makes for easy storage and transportation, and allows the shooter to fit the rifle to the desired length of pull.
Conclusion: Best .308 Winchester Rifles
Sometimes having a full-power battle rifle is just what the doctor prescribed. They shoot farther, hit harder, and have a distinct feel that no standard AR-15 can match. So, if you’ve decided that a semi-auto .308 rifle is for you, any of the options on this list are sure to serve you well.