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308 Winchester (7.62 NATO)

308 w

In the 1940s, Winchester began development of a replacement for the 30-06 for the U. S. Military.  The 308 Winchester was standardized commercially in 1955, after NATO acceptance as the 7.62 NATO, in 1954.

The new NATO round was adopted to a lighter battle-rifle in the U. S. and a new machinegun for use by all NATO allies.  During development this round was designated the T-65.  Through several years of experimental research, what had started with something resembling the 300 Savage, went through experimentation with shorter and longer cases along with designs using various body taper, shoulder angle, and neck length, before morphing into the final design.

The original Military loading entirely duplicated the original Military 30-06 load.  This was feasible by using superior propellants developed long after the 30-06 was standardized and ensured by adoption of a slightly higher pressure-standard.  Such loads leave some room for improvement and subsequent commercial 308 Winchester loads often exceed Military-load ballistics by 100-fps, sometimes more.


Loaded with the right bullet, the 308 Winchester is entirely capable for hunting any species in North America and has a flat enough trajectory for shots beyond 300 yards.  The best modern bullets extend useful and effective range significantly.

In the target-shooting world, the 308 Win has been wildly popular.  NRA Highpower shooters and others have found development of unusually accurate loads to be very easy.  In short-action rifles use of efficient bullets heavier than about 180-grains begins to limit usable case capacity.  When chambered in a longer action, it is possible to seat modern bullets, such as the 210-grain Berger, to longer overall cartridge length and thereby achieve long-range performance unimaginable a generation ago.  I know of folks using such loads to make tiny groups at 1300 yards and beyond.

With a 9-twist barrel and standard-length action with a longer throat, serious long-range accuracy with bullets such as the 245-grain Berger would astonish any shooter from a generation ago.  That bullet loaded to about 3.25-inches cartridge overall length used in a gun with a 30-inch barrel chambered for such a load can reach 2500 fps using Rl-26.  With such a load, shooting accurately at one mile is entirely feasible.

Heritage of this case dates to the 1870s with the introduction of the 40-70 Ballard case.


The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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