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.
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.
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 manufacturer 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.
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.