Different guns have different strengths and weaknesses. That’s a given. Consequently, there will always be certain tasks that some guns are better suited to than others, and ability to perform on these tasks is often an easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to picking a gun.
In terms of survival value, for example, one rifle stands above the rest. It’s arguable the best and most versatile survival rifle ever made, and every prepper should consider owning one if they don’t already.
Can you guess which rifle we’re talking about?
Off the Grid News has the answer:
It’s got a great power-to-weight ratio both in firearm and in ammunition, great flexibility in custom loading and commercially available cartridges, tons of platforms, and an excellent supply of military surplus rounds. It can take animals ranging from a sheep to a small grizzly without too much alteration or planning and can be used accurately out to 175+ yards for hunting and protection. In a world where choice pretty much trumps everything else, maybe the time has come to ask the question everyone who has held a rifle has asked in their head before:
Is .308 the perfect rifle round for all-around utility and hunting?
Ask any expert which rifle caliber will give you the most versatility, and they will invariably have to settle on the .308 as the clear choice. Taking into consideration the availability and price of ammunition, the load customization capabilities, the power and speed of the projectile, the various manufacturers who make weapons in the caliber, the terminal ballistics as a defense round, and the reliability of the guns and cartridges in this caliber, it seems the answer is clear.
No other round can compete with it on such a wide range of attributes and potential uses. The .308 can be an excellent choice for a rifle system or rifle portfolio to be built upon.
For all the benefits of the round, you must know its limitations as well to properly use the round:
- For aggressive and massive game where you aren’t completely comfortable making a shot, this round may not offer the proper ballistics for the job. At close range on a grizzly bear, for example, this round can’t be considered a true one-shot kill with any specific certainty. It will serve you better than a .223 in this situation, but it’s not going to drop a bear in a stressful situation with any guarantee. Similarly, in longer ranges for bear hunting, it is not responsible to use the .308, as it cannot guarantee humane and clean kills on such tough animals.
- It is overkill on smaller game like varmints (coyote, etc.) unless you are using specific light loads with higher velocity, like plastic-jacketed penetrator rounds (think .223 projectile housed in a breakaway plastic case which is the size of a .308 projectile).
- You cannot reasonably expect a military surplus round to take out a long-range elk in the .308 caliber, as it simply doesn’t have the long range terminal ballistics to guarantee a clean kill at super long ranges. You will need to custom build or buy rounds made for the specific scenario you expect to encounter.
You can reasonably expect to cleanly take down the following animals with a .308 (with specific load characteristics listed after the animal):
- Varmints: Using specialty ammunition with high velocity and low grain weights and a barrel capable of sending out a flat trajectory (rifling).
- Pronghorn or similar-sized animal: Though the size is a bit small perhaps for the normal grain weight, look for a good mix of penetration and projectile heft to avoid causing overkill. Typically a .260 or .270 would be about ideal for this sized animal, so plan accordingly with your grain weights and powder charges.
- White tail and mule deer: These can be easily taken with a .308, but look for a flatter shooting projectile weight and faster bullet velocity to bring the conditions as close to perfect as possible.
- Caribou and large sheep: These should be just about right for a .308, but look for a faster, flatter round within the .308 builds.
- Large mountain goats: These will be in the range of even good quality military surplus rounds ballistics. Any normal .308 load should be efficient for an animal for this size.
- Elk: Because they are a bit on the larger size, you will want to take shots from under 100 yards with heavy bullets and be precise with your placement on the animal to ensure clean kills. The flatter and heavier, the better. High quality loads will make the difference here.
- Moose: Think the same as elk. Look for heavier bullets, shorter distances, and try to find a flat-shooting premium round to ensure success.
- Black bears: These can be taken using proper tactical or heavy-penetration rounds and with good placement. Look for closer ranges, and try to shoot the heaviest high-penetration rounds you can. Don’t fool around with light, fast loads here; go for maximum impact and penetration of a heavy projectile.
- Grizzly bears: Make a good responsible shot with premium ammunition that has penetration and heavy bullet weights. The dense body and bone composition of the grizzly bear will challenge the ballistics of the .308 without proper planning. It’s almost too much animal for this round. It’s not responsible to try with substandard loads at long distances. If you feel you can’t follow these guidelines, look for more gun/caliber when dealing with these animals. You could shoot a grizzly with a .375 or a .338 and still have concerns about proper kill certainty. These animals are tough and aggressive, so be prepared to follow up your initial shot, even with excellent ballistics.
Humans are another animal which can reasonably be taken down with a .308, but it is slightly outside the scope of this article. Know this: The .308 is a battle-proven long-range capable and terminal caliber when used against human beings. It has been thoroughly tested and proven on battlefields around the world in conditions far exceeding those you can reasonably be expected to take a shot in on a normal day. It is a widely used caliber for police and military sniper activities, and should not be discounted as an anti-personnel round.
Bullet weights come in 55, 110, 130, 150,155, 160, 165, 168, 170, 175, 178, 180, 185, 190, 200, 208, 210, 220, and 225 grain for the .308, which will allow for almost unlimited tailoring to your specific situation.
Safe powder capacity stands at around 48 grains, which allows for further load customization.
Every major rifle manufacturer makes a weapon in the caliber, from bolt actions to autoloaders, and even single shot “benchrest” guns. A huge variety of military builds are available, including the FN-FAL, the HK G3, and the M1A1/M14—all decades-old proven battle rifles.
The author’s hunting and protection weapons include the following .308’s:
- A Custom short-action bolt-action built for 300 yard+ target shooting
- A Remington 700
- A Browning A-Bolt
- A HK G3 with short barrel
- A FN-FAL Paratrooper
- An M1A1 from Springfield (New version)
- An M14
All of these weapons serve different purposes and allow further customization of the round. This caliber forms the basis of the author’s biggest weapon/caliber pairing.
If one had to pick the most versatile round for off-the-grid living, the .308 would definitely be among the top three, and it would likely take the top spot because of its amazing versatility, long-standing reputation, and the relative ease of finding ammunition and add-ons, not to mention the terminal capabilities of the round. It is certainly worth the exploration if you are considering a new rifle this hunting season, as it can serve you outside of the hunting season as well.
What do you think? Is there any other rifle that could possibly match the survival utility of the .308?
Give us your thoughts in the comments.
I agree almost 100%. But I have two Mosin Nagants one converted to a Monte Carlo stock and another that I will be converting to an Archangle stock. Same knock down power but so much cheaper to shoot.
I have the Archangle in stock.
Great article. The same is said about the venerable 30-06 of which the .308 is the child of. Humans are not animals, however, this may be a theological point, but humans possess spirits, the animals do not. Humans, like the animals, are creatures in that they have a common creator or God.
I beg to differ regarding whether animals have spirits. Spirits are what makes an animal, like humans, a live. Without a spirit, an animal is just as dead as is a human. I have seen many animals die as well as humans die, and at times there isn’t much difference from humans. Animals aren’t much different from humans, except humans have the ability to reason. And some animals, such as dogs are more human than some humans.
I read an article several years ago that promoted the 30-06 as the best “do everything” rifle. That article said the 30-06 with proper loads would be suitable for every animal in the Americas.
I think you sell the range capabilities of the .308 short. I use a 165 gr Barnes X ( or Nosler partition) for just about everything. This bullet shot through a large Shiras moose including the off shoulder blade and came to rest against the hide. ( This was only at 80 yds ) My cousin has cleanly killed at least three elk I know of at an honest 300 yds. I have taken antelope and deer at that distance , the bullets expanded perfectly resulting in clean,one shot kills. With these two loads I have killed wild pig, a large black bear, all three main deer species, antelope, elk and the moose. I zero for 230 yards which means 3″ high at 100 ,3.2″ maximum ordinate,1.5″ low at 250yds and 6.5″ low at 300yds . My load only has a MV of 2608FPS; yet still has almost 1600lbs energy at 300yds.
What advantages has the .308 over the .30/06? I’ve always rather been sold on the latter for versatility and as an all-around hunting round. I fail to see any great difference and there are a lot of great resale market hunting rifles chambered for it.
Advantage of .308 vs 30-06 is primarily 30-06 is a long action round, .308 is short action round, the 30=06 round can push 200 plus grain bullets slightly faster with hand loads. You do burn more powder per velocity and bullet weight with 30-06. Have shot both a lot and have had more accuracy luck with .308, but that is just me.
Although a great round. I do not see any advantages it has over a 306 and for all the same reasons. In fact there may very well be a lot more 06 ammo around for buy or trade.
I read these types of articles with the mindset that is What If I Could Only Have One? I like the versatility of the .308 as you have stated it, but if I could only have one, it would still be a 12 gauge shotgun, it adds in the smaller game while only needing to close the distance for the larger game
I have used a .308 for my whole hunting career. It will cleanly kill anything I care to shoot, and actually is capable (Now) of accurately shooting further than I care to shoot. I have taken Texas whitetail at every range from near point blank to 300+ yards. If I do my part, there’s venison to process every time. And they seldom wander far after the hit. I know how to track, but I much prefer not to. With the .308, I seldom have to.
Shooting at humans is something I actually haven’t done with the .308. Hope I never have to. But if that day should come, I’m fully confident that the round will perform as well on a human animal as it has on everything else I’ve shot. The accuracy of the round, the range, the power, all say it is exactly what you described, and excellent compromise for just about any situation. There are others better for specific situations, but for the cluster that would be experienced in the SHTF situation, that compromise capability would be invaluable.
I like 168 grain Nosler Ballistic tips for whitetails, Usually handloaded to about 2700 fps. Something in a Barnes TSX or similar would be better for tougher game. If your rifling can stabilize bigger, longer bullet, then elk or moose are certainly within the rounds resume.
Some people say why the .308 over the 30-06. The 06 is faster, more powerful, and almost as common. Actually, it isn’t as common anymore, while it is very heavily stocked in most gun and ammo stores. The problem I have with the 06 is that in many cases, it’s really too much. Wastes powder, wastes meat, heavier(usually) to carry around. If I owned an 06, which I used to, instead of the .308, I likely wouldn’t go to the trouble to trade to a .308. THey are that close. But starting from scratch, I think the .308 is a better fit, for me.
I am ok with the 308. It is a nato approved round. I grew up on the 30.06 love it. Have a .17 for small critters. I dont hunt but im ready for the blue helmets and a black tipped 30-06 is sufficient. I have 20 rounds as sure I will die before I can shoot more than that.
I guess I’m pretty old fashion but I have used the 30 30 for every thing from black tailed deer to grizzly bear. I’ve reloaded for this round with a lot of success. You kids can tout your modern rifles but I’ll take my old 30 30.
I guess I’m an old timer too. Loved my 30-30. But duck hunting was more my speed with my 12 gauge out in the swamps.
Glad that somebody else thinks like I do, I have always thought that the 7.62×51/308 Win. was the best round for anything a normal person would need.
I have three rifles for the round, Springfield M1A Scout, Ruger GunSite Scout, and DPMS LR308, these three different models should work for any condition
that would come up.
I have a .30-06 so I am reminded to buy some more ammo.
I have been using a M1-A1 match with 168 HPBT with 47 gr IMR. I am able to hold a 10 inch or less group at 1000 yards match sights. I have made clean kills at 500 yards on white tail. 7.62/54 will snip out past 1200 yards if you have the rifle and glass,plus the skills.
.308 is a good round. I personally prefer .257 for any game here in the Continental United States. I do not flinch at all using a .257, where as when I target practice with a .308 I tend to flinch after five or six rounds. Bullet placement is very important.
Having hunted for nearly 65 years using many different calibers and rifles, my personal go-to hunting round is the .30-06. I think the .308 is a great round and it has much to recommend it. As you state there is an impressive list of bullet sizes it handles reasonably well and it can be made to be very accurate. The venerable .30-06 also handles the same variety of bullets, but because of its higher case capacity, in the right action can be loaded to significantly higher velocities and maintain extreme accuracy to much greater distances. I no longer load my own, but did for many years, both for competition shooting and for hunting big game in Alaska, where I used to live. With my .30-06 using .200gr bullets and custom loads I have taken a number of Alaskan moose out to 400 yards with one shot kills. I also took Dall sheep at up to 500 yards, again with one-shot kills. The shots on the sheep were up-hill, down-hill and peak-to-peak and I never lost one because I couldn’t get to it before it ran away. I don’t recommend those very long shots, but the terrain and skittishness of the species sometimes dictated the distances. The .30-06 was used in military competition for many, many years and was prized for its accuracy at all competition distances. The ability to load to high velocities is limited by the strength and design of the action and in particular, the strength of the ring and design and precision of the bolt face and locking lugs. My favorite rifle has a custom Mauser action and Douglas barrel and will shoot 3/4″ three-shot groups at 100 yards all day long.
Note, I have said nothing negative about the .308, because it is also a great round and it is easier to find more great rifles in that caliber today. It can also be made into a real tack-driver if you put the effort into setting it up right.
Very well thought out. Yep, .308 is a great choice if you are to have one gun, but who can just have one gun? heh heh heh. A guy needs a shotgun,; I like 12 guage side by side with external hammers, but I’d get a new Mossberg with three barrels, 3 inch mag, of course. Then, a guy has to have the .22 long rifle. My most accurate was a Model 75 Winchester with a custom trigger and a 3X Weaver post reticle scope. For center fire, because of ammo availability, I go with a .308 AR10. My brother’s will drive tacks at 100 yards, and I dare any bear to come after me when I have a 20 round clip. Any bear of any size. If you get to place your shot, I’d take a neck shot at 300 yards with a .308. Up closer, behind the ear shot. Head on with a Kodiak? Well if he’s coming at me, a shot through the mouth or right under the chin will cool hist jets. If he raises up on his hind legs a .223 will put him down hard, one shot to the throat to hit his spinal cord. I do like the Model 70 in .243. Again, with the proper shot placement under 150 yards or so, it will kill anything. The key is shot placement. I blew the heart out of Colorado cow elk with 180 gr soft nose .30-06. It reared up like the lone Ranger’s horse, came back down, shivered and ran off. Half a mile away I found her dead. Bullet didn’t go through the skin on the other side, and the shot was perfectly placed. It was kind of tough to track. The other elk I shot down there were two head shots with the Ott-six at 75 yards or so, and a neck shot with the .243 at about 125 yards. The .243 blew a notch 6 inches deep a foot in front of the shoulders, and the ow went down like it was pole axed. Needless to say the head shot elk, died in their tracks, too. That’s the way I like it. I finally bout a .308. A Mauser that the Chileans bought new in 1895 and rebored to .308 (NATO) before selling as surplus. In my reading I think I discovered it was the first contract for Mausers and the serial # is only 2242. It has the old straight out bolt. I’ve fired those plastic practice rounds with it. Pretty accurate at 50 yards. My Old Betsy is a Model 760 Remington pump with a flip off scope, and I used a reloaded 125 gr, full jacketed hollowpoint doing 2970 fps. It pointed fast for me, and I have great kudos from my friends and brothers for hitting running white tails in the brush right through the heart with it when jumped by surprise up close (less than 50 yards). Ahh, I am reliving my youth. Pretty much done hunting unless I want to kill turkeys with an airgun at ten feet from the truck on my recreational tree farm. heh heh heh. But I like ’em around.
I’ve a lot of rifles from 308 to 7 mms and 7 mag and I’ve managed to provide meat for the table. But since escaping to the back country I depend on my 30 30 for everything from bear to varmint. And I reload several different rounds. You kids can
It still depends on what you are looking for in survival weapons. If you lots of .308 stashed, by all means, it will serve you well. But you could probably find Military .223 easier in an Apocalyptic scenario. And of course .22 Long Rifle has poached many a Game animal. No, .22 caliber weapons are not Bear Weapons. But given the situation, I would work hard to stay out of Bear Country. I would worry more about Two Legged Predators in a “Survival” situation. Elk/Moose hunting? Try the Native American tactic of hidden Tiger Pits, dead falls, stampedes off cliffs. Saves ammunition also. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and if we had a catastrophe that took out the power grid and some part o the Human Population. Deer, Rabbits etc would make a big comeback. Know what you are doing, you would have access to meat on the hoof. So, I say stock up on .22 ammo, some pistol ammo and some larger rifle ammo. A little pre-planning, no reason to limit yourself to one caliber, one rifle. Of course, jut one man’s opinion.
Check your ballistics book on rifle cartridges.. Nothing shoots flatter than a ,257 cartridge in a 115 grain weight.. Yes they do not have the knock down power of a .308 but how much knock down do you need to incapacitate a person? The .257 has very little recoil and thus the person firing does not flinch. bullet placement is very important.
While I agree that as a knock-off of the original ‘all purpose’ 30-06 round the .308 is definitely one of, if not THE most versatile round out there for a wide variety of circumstances and applications. But it still wouldn’t be what i chambered if I could “have only one gun”. Which is a highly misunderstood concept. It should always be qualified by asking…’If I could only have one gun FOR WHAT PARTICULAR KIND OF SITUATION? If you could only have ‘one gun’ in an environment where you’d rarely encounter humans but often had some pretty big critters seriously looking at you around dinner time, like in Africa, Alaska, or Canada, then, yeah, a good repeating .308 rifle would be a good start.
But if you could ‘only have one gun’ in a high speed low drag urban combat zone with .zombies. coming out of the woodwork like cockroaches in a ghetto appartment building, then it would NOT be a .308, but more likely a high capacity 5.56 AR PDW platform. I would like to minimize the ‘weight’ of carrying as much extra ammo as i could. If somehow i found myself then ‘teleported’ to the secluded wilderness of the Ozarks, where i had to shoot a deer for food, or fend off a bear or mountain lion, i could ‘stretch’ the firepower potential and make it ‘work’, if I had to.
But that’s just my opinion. And I don’t know Jack. All I had was about 50 years shooting experience covering training and combat experience and police work and competitions and high speed tactical instructing. Not much hunting experience when my ‘big game’ encounters were mostly bi-pedal. Besides, I like animals. But to quote Quigly down under, ‘It’s not that i don’t know how…it’s just that i don’t have any use for it.’
“If you can only have one gun” make sure you consider the likely situational expectations for your personal lifestyle.
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