Currently, the majority of rifles designed for long range hunting these days appear similar to that of military grade weapons in size, weight, and their configuration. These large rifles tend to feature tactical stocks, bipods, larger scopes, and tapered barrels. The majority of these rifles seem to have been configured directly from the factory to utilize .308 Winchester, a powerful round, but one that makes the hunter question whether or not such a cartridge is useful when it comes to tackling big game at long ranges.
Believe it or not, the term “long range” actually means many different things to hunters across the world, depending on where in the country you may find yourself. One of the big problems most hunters have with long range hunting is the ability to simply wound an animal instead of taking down your game with a single well placed shot.
If you are long range hunting, however, there are a few factors that need to be taken into account before ever squeezing the trigger on your rifle. Namely, trajectory, wind, velocity, and accuracy.
In terms of capabilities, the .308 is truly effective within its intended range and parameters. For example, one can tackle numerous game when within 250 yards or less. In this range, the rifle and round will shoot accurately and remains within the ethical limits most hunters tend to carry.
Outside of 250 yards, however, the performance of the .308 tends to come under scrutiny. As the distance of the shot begins to stretch, the accuracy and quality of the round appear to take a nose dive almost immediately. Some folks believe this is due to the cartridge’s low velocity and low energy.
Unfortunately, many who use the cartridge tend to ignore such limitations and stand by their choice in a bullheaded manner. Because the round is used by military snipers, some hunters feel it is more than enough to tackle a buck at 600 yards or more.
Just like the rifle firing the round, not all .308 are the same. In fact, some outperform their like-named counterparts with ease.
Most hunters will outright tell you that you should never buy factory bullets when using .308 for long range hunting. In fact, most will tell you to simply load your own rounds so you may tune each one to the specifications of your rifle, barrel, and chamber. There are little nuances in every single aspect of the rifle that can affect the outcome of every shot.
In terms of the brand of ammunition being used, many recommend Berger as being the most accurate for long range hunting. Their rounds tend to travel at distances of up to 1000 yards, have high ballistics, and maintain their velocity over long distances; everything the hunter seeks in a single round.
Another option is the Hornady A-Max, which will occasionally offer tighter grouping than even the Berger, a top-class round. Unfortunately, the Hornady does have its downfall in the form of not remaining as consistent over long periods of time.
The .308 is a truly capable round when chosen and used correctly. When it comes to accuracy, trajectory, and resistance against the wind, the round is more than enough to topple big game at long range. Out to 500 yards or less, the .308 is perfect. Any further, however, and an ethical discussion will come into play. The bullet may not be able to perform as efficiently, but will simply wound an animal that the hunter may not be able to track at a later time due to the extreme distance.