My trusty old Ruger 77 MKII .308 Winchester – a wellworn, and well-proven rifle – had come along for this afternoon’s hunt. I was sitting with a buddy in a small patch of woods, trying to test some new ammunition; he had a tag for a buck, and I had a doe tag in my pocket, so whatever we saw first would dictate who shot.
With the exception of the camaraderie, it was an uneventful afternoon; the squirrels kept us mildly entertained, but the deer activity was lackluster, to say the least.
It was 10 minutes before legal time was up when a single deer crossed about 60 yards out in front of us. My buddy grabbed the rifle, settled the cross hairs for the only shot he had available – a straight on shot – and broke the Ruger’s trigger. The small buck folded to the shot, not even twitching.
The ammunition we were testing was Norma’s new BondStrike, the third in the Strike series, and I’m happy to report that it’s very good stuff. In the preparation for deer season, while going through the normal sighting-in process, I had the opportunity to test the new Norma stuff. Now, that rifle I mentioned – my early 90’s Ruger 77 MKII – is one I know very well.
It has a trigger that is, well, less than desirable – why I haven’t replaced it with a Timney yet, I do not know – but I know how it shoots in spite of the factory. Nonetheless, the new Norma ammunition shot very well from my rifle. You see, this gun will rarely break 1 minute-of-angle (mostly due to the 6-pound trigger), but the Norma BondStrike printed a three-shot group measuring 0.8 inches, which is more than accurate enough for almost any hunting scenario.
Velocities came very close to matching the advertised figures; the box indicated that the 180-grain bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2,625 feet per second, and my 22-inch barrel gave a muzzle velocity of 2,608 fps on my Oehler 35P chronograph.
BONDSTRIKE COMES ON THE heels of TipStrike, the cup-and-core, flat base, polymer tip bullet, and then EcoStrike, Norma’s chrome-plated, monometal polymer tipped bullet.
As the name indicates, this is Norma’s bonded core bullet, and as of this writing, it is only available in .308 Winchester, in the 180-grain weight, though I am assured many other common calibers will be available in 2019, with popular bullet weights.
Bonding a bullet’s core helps to maintain the structural integrity during the terminal phase of its flight, especially when the bullet has a boattail. The standard cup-and-core bullets have a propensity to demonstrate jacket and core separation upon impact, especially when bones are struck.
This phenomenon occurs more often with boattail bullets, so the cure was to chemically bond the copper jacket to the lead core. The process isn’t new, and certainly not new to Norma; their Oryx bullet has the rear portion of the jacket chemically bonded to the core, allowing for reliable expansion at the front of the bullet, and deep penetration because the rear of the bullet can’t come apart.
Our particular buck took the BondStrike bullet on a downhill angle, to the base of the neck, and as I reported, he dropped to the shot as if the “off switch” had been pulled. The bullet hit the spine and (uncannily) traveled down the bone for over 7 inches, with the hydraulic shock of the impact ruining that length of the delicious tenderloins. Quite obviously, any standard bullet would’ve broken into pieces under that type of strain (I probably couldn’t replicate that shot with a thousand opportunities), but the BondStrike held together rather well.
We recovered the bullet within the left back strap, smashed and flattened. Upon weighing the recovered bullet, I recorded its weight at 73.2 grains out of the original 180; however, having recovered dozens of projectiles from a large number of species globally, I can attest that this retained weight figure is not indicative of the potential of the BondStrike bullet. Traveling longitudinally down a spine – quite obviously one of the toughest bones in a deer’s body – will take its toll on any expanding projectile.
Did the BondStrike do its job? In my opinion, absolutely. That buck,
simply put, died without ever having known what hit it, and for a bullet to demonstrate straight-line penetration within the spine of a deer is a testament to its integrity.
I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to test it on another deer – the season was marked with inclement weather and the duties of a traveling hunter – but I feel confident saying that this design would invariably exit on any broadside shot on deer.
I’ve used all three of Norma’s Strike bullets on a variety of game, and have been pleased with the performance. They have all proven to be accurate, as well as lethal, and I deem them a worthy investment. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the BondStrike load in my .308 on bears, elk, or even moose.
Header image from AmmunitionToGo.com
Debates between different cartridges superiority is always a big discussion for gun enthusiasts at every gun club. Sometimes views from die-hard .308 users or .223 followers can be too one sided to reason with. Both cartridges have valid points to support their case. Lets take a comparison perspective between the .223 and the mighty .308 and see what its good for. Just to let you know this comparisons is not to be technical for the gun nut but for the layman’s gun enthusiasts.
For the most part, the .223 Remington has a flatter trajectory than the .308 Winchester out to 500 yards. However, the typical .308 Winchester load has more than twice the muzzle energy than the .223 load.
Also, the heavier bullets with a higher ballistic coefficient used by the .308 retains more energy and velocity than the lightweight .223 bullets.
So basically, the typical .308 load usually has as much or more energy remaining at 400-500 yards as the .223 does at the muzzle. Which makes the .308 Winchester a much better choice for long range shooting.
With that in mind, the .223 Remington has a flatter trajectory at short range, and the recoil is less than the .308 Winchester. Felt recoil will vary from shooter to shooter and rifle to rifle, but free recoil energy is still a useful way to compare the two cartridges.
Both cartridges are used extensively in the military and police sniping operations because of its accuracies. Because its hard to choose an outright winner when it comes to accuracy between the two popular cartridges. Basically, for short range use the .223 and anything past 500 yards stick with the .308 heavier bullet. The .308 retains more energy and are less susceptible to wind drift.
Understanding what each cartridge is capable of helps us in choosing the caliber to go with and what we’re hunting. To simplify this the .308 is best used for taking down big game and the .223 can be used to hunt medium to large sized game.
Despite having less knock down power of the two, the .223 is perfect for varmints, coyotes, hog control and deer.
The .223 ranges is effective from 400 to 600 yards but with less energy and knock down power than the .308, the .223 is more useful at shorter ranges. With the advancements in cartridge innovation, the .223 can reach out to 1,000 yards.
Since the .223 has a lighter recoil than the .308, this may be the thing to have if your hunting situations requires lots of follow-up shots like feral hogs control.
In the military the US Army emphasizes an 800 meter maximum effective range for the .308, the Marine Corps preaches a 1000 yard (915 meter) max effective range. For most hunt you won’t have to shoot at these ranges but at 400 and beyond you’ll be able to bring down the big game without a hitch.
In summary the flat trajectory and lightly constructed bullets most common with the .223 Remington make it great for taking shots at small, thin skinned animals like prairie dogs, bobcats, and coyotes.
The .308 on the other hand shoots heavier, larger diameter, better constructed bullets, and the .308 Winchester has a clear advantage when hunting larger species like deer, caribou, elk, and red stag. The .308 may be light for moose and grizzly/brown bear, but it will work with good shot placement.
Home Defense & Target Practice
When it comes to home defense the .308 cartridges is suitable for its stopping power. Even if you go with the .223 there are many good semi-auto rifles with quality ammunition available at a reasonable price.
.308 – Using this heavy round for home defense is kind of expensive and not the thing to consider. But if your purpose is for target practice and you compete as an F-Class shooter, then you’ll be going through rounds by the thousands per month. For a quick tip on choosing the bullet weight consider what your barrel twist rate is, here’s a quick guideline:
.308 For Plinking/Target Practice
This is pretty good for plinking at bottles or dirt crap and consider cheap military surplus FMJ. This here is $39.42 at Sportsman Guide.
Hornady Match 168gr
Hornady Match ammo is one of the most popular target rounds out there, and the 168gr .308 offering is fantastic for stretching the legs on your .308. $30 at Lucky Gunner.
Federal Premium Sierra Match King Gold Medal
One of the best match loads on the market, Federal uses Sierra Match King bullets to make an outstanding factory loaded round.
.308 for Hunting
Federal Premium Vital-Shok – 165 Grain Trophy Bonded Tip
Consider one of the popular game rounds. The .308 Vital-Shok offering comes with a 165gr Trophy Bonded bullet with a polymer tip for superior aerodynamics and controlled expansion. $30 at Lucky Gunner.
Remington Core-Lokt – 150gr Soft Point
The 150gr SP round is perfect for mid-sized games at close to mid-range, and is relatively accurate, even without the polymer tip. Remington’s Core-Lokt line is a favorite of whitetail hunters, especially in the Southeastern US where we don’t have those long 400+ yard shots to worry about. $24 at Lucky Gunner.
.223 – If you like to shoot many rounds and you’re a range rat then .223 is the way to go. the price of these .223 rounds is quite affordable for home defense and target practice. Here are some .223 ammo to try out for target practice or competitive shooting:
Very affordable and the brass is great for reloading. Low end recoil so you can practice shooting for target and/or competition shoot. $7.45 at Lucky Gunner
Reload galore, may be the best bang for the buck! $7.40 at Lucky Gunner
Federal Gold Match 69 gr
This costs a little more but if you’re a competitive shooter, get these for $22.75 at Lucky Gunner.
Tula .223 55 gr
Just heads up, this is Russian made these rounds may not be as accurate, but if you’re looking to save more money, these come in at $5.95 at Lucky Gunner. Oh yeh, you can’t reload these.
308 Home Defense Ammo
Yes, we mentioned that using 308 for home defense is a little pricy, but for the die hard .308 users maybe you’ll be sporting an AR10 Pistol and here’s a pretty good hitter.
308 Win 155 gr Critical Defense
Designed for short-range defensive situations, a new breed of FTX® bullets are at the forefront of the Critical Defense® Rifle ammunition line. The bullet’s patented Flex Tip® not only helps keep the nose cavity free from clogging as it passes through heavy clothing but also helps the bullet expand at low velocities.
.223 Ammo for Home-Defense
These are hollow/soft point used by law enforcement, which is great for self-defense.
Hornady Critical Defense 55gr
This will set you back at $21 at Lucky Gunner.
Speer Gold Dot Duty 55 gr
A good go-to brand for self-defense but less in price at $12.75 Lucky Gunner.
We can go on and on with this comparison but the bottom line is what are you going to use these cartridges for? We’ll just recap with the main Q’s and answer.
Do you want a cartridge well suited for hunting big game like deer, elk, or bears? Get a .308 Winchester since it’s much more powerful and there are lots of great ammunition choices designed for that sort of hunting.
Are you looking for a cartridge to hunt predators and small game animals with?
Both will work, but the .223 Remington is the better choice here because it has a flatter trajectory, ammunition is cheaper, and there are many types of .223 ammo specifically designed for predator and varmint hunting.
Are you very sensitive to recoil? Go with the .223 Remington as the recoil that cartridge produces is virtually non-existant.
Since the difference between them (223 vs 308) is pretty big in certain respects, each cartridge is better suited to specific situations than the other.
Here’s an entertaining perspective from Demolition Ranch’s Version
Sentiments from The Firing Line Forum on this subject
threegun – I periodically rethink my self defense weaponry from the ground up. My handgun and shotgun are good to go however I’m questioning (in my head) my AR-15’s in 223/5.56MM. Not the platform, as I’m very satisfied with the weapon itself, but the caliber.
I’m seriously thinking of adding the AR in 308 to my stable with intentions that it replace the 223 as my primary go to rifle. I would like your opinions pro and con on why I should or shouldn’t switch.
jmorris – What are you defending yourself against? How Many? Where at? For how long? At what range?
Creature – I would say that for self-defense, an AR chambered for .223 is a better choice for CQB (ala “self-defense”) than one chambered for the .308. The 308 to me is more of a “reach out an touch someone” kind of cartridge, whereas the 223 is an “in your face” kind of round. I may be the last of the Mohicans for thinking and saying this, but I consider the 223 to be just fine for CQB and short-medium range engagements. I consider the .308 better suited for medium to long range engagements, which in my opinion are NOT self-defense distances.
dalegribble – I agree with creature. Adding a 308 won’t replace your 223. They are 2 different cartridges for 2 different purposes. Look to the military and see the number of guns deployed in each caliber, the 223 far outweighes any other caliber in the number of guns issued.
If you feel the need for a 308 (as I do) then add it to your system, I’m sure you will be glad you did. Only you will be able to determin if it will replace the 223 as your goto caliber.
overkill556x45 – I would lean toward the .223 because ammo and magazines are cheaper than .308 ammo and AR-10 mags. The AR10 will get expensive fast, as mags go for $30-$50. In addition, cheap 7.62nato surplus is drying up fast (all surplus is drying up fast). If you’re going to reload (which is fun in and of itself), both can be affordable, but the .223 will be pretty cheap in comparison.
As far as application of force, your follow-ups can be faster with the .223. The .308 will obviously open up a bigger hole in your foe, and do it at longer ranges. However, on the civilian side (meaning not stuck with M855 ball ammo), the .223 can be loaded up with bullets like the Vmax and others that expand faster and should cause more catastrophic wounds than a standard ball round. Also, a .308, if used in a home defense situation, stands more of a chance of WAY over-penetrating (though more frangible rounds are available) and going through the BG, the wall, the exterior, down the street, etc. The .223 shouldn’t over-penetrate as much.
Really, it comes down to the intended use. Short-med range, I’d go with .223. Med-long, .308 win. Another consideration is how much money you want to spend. Either round is pretty versatile.
kraigwy – Ask me a few years ago I’d said the 308, having shot my M1A and have gone through and tought snipers schools using the M21.
However of late, I’d have to vote for the 223. Its beat all the 308 highpower records, even beating the 308 in Service Rifle 1000 yard matches.
The 223 is cheaper to shoot, both in factory and reloaded ammo. A good match AR is about a third the cost of a Heavy Match M1A and easier to shoot.
The 223 has allowed younger shooters and ladies to compete with us old folks.
At a small additional cost you can get an extra upper for shooting Mulit and3 gun matches without burning out your Match rifle.
If you want it for home defence you can get the shorter barrel of the M4 configeration. You want a varment gun you can get 50 grn bullets, you want a long range gun you can get 80 grn bullets. You dont have that versatility with the M1A.
Thats why its called AMERICA’S RIFLE.
2transams – Here’s my zero cents (it’s the internet,my opinion is not worth two cents) :
.223/5.56 is an extremely versatile round,and can be loaded with any and all types of bullets. Low recoil in a lightweight weapon make it excellent for CQB situations. Based on my observations of the layout of the town where I live and tales from friends and family who have seen combat in the Middle East,in any type of urban situation you will very likely not be making shots past 200 yards,where the 5.56 round is plenty ’nuff. But that’s already been discussed,moving on…
For me,even with a sling on the rifle the .308 is much harder to take faster follow-up shots. The recoil is harder unless you go to a heavier weapon,which to me defeats the purpose of a light-‘n-handy battle rifle. I really wouldn’t want to run around with a full-size M1A,and the SOCOM 16 puts that big ol’ thunderboomer pretty close to the face,I didn’t care for it,and I didn’t shoot well with it.
Now a good, heavy, accurate .308 seems to me would be great from a fairly secure position where you can take good clear shots,and you know you’re good for 100 yards on out. In that instance,bigger is better.
Just my zero cents.
Header image from AmmunitionToGo.com
Like a lot of you out there, I read a lot of gun magazines. Periodically, most magazines run an “everything old is new again” article about a particular weapon system or
round. You know the ones I’m talking about; articles with catchy titles like “Best Revolvers for Combat.” What? I like a nice wheel gun as much as the next guy, but its time as a primary sidearm for combat has long gone.
In limited circumstances, such as a hammerless .38 as a last-ditch backup, it still has a tactical role. But by and large, the revolver’s gun-fighting days are behind it (regardless of how fast you can speed load it).
I can also make an argument that anything with an exposed hammer is also yesterday’s
technology, but that’s a rant for another day. Another article that pops up from time to time is the utility of a stagecoach-style shotgun for home defense.
I’m not sure what person in their right mind would opt for a two shot weapon for home defense. Like the revolver, this seems like a great idea when you are at the range or
tinkering (i.e. playing) with your guns at home. It will seem like a terrible idea when some bad guy is throwing down large volumes of lead at you from a handgun or rifle and you can only respond with two to six shots at a time before needing a reload.
Sorry, folks, sometimes the truth hurts With all that being said, old doesn’t necessarily equal obsolete. Sometimes something appears to be the best at everything, until it’s supplanted or replaced by other items that do specific things better.
Such is the case with the much maligned .308 round. It has lost some popularity in recent years, but it is arguably the best all purpose rifle round ever designed.
THE .308 HAS been around a long time. It was designed in 1952. It was the cartridge that powered the M14 Battle Rifle, the primary long gun for servicemen throughout the ’50s and well into the ’70s with National Guard and Reserve units.
It was the go-to round for sniper rifles, used extensively in every major conflict since Vietnam. It still feeds the military’s primary belt-fed weapon system, the M240, and is still the standard .30-caliber round for NATO.
So, what happened? Why did the .308 become the “old man’s cartridge”?
The .308 is really good at a lot of things, but other rounds are better in specific roles. Where the .308 is a jack of all trades, other rounds designed for one purpose have done a better job in the roles they were designed for. But none can fill all roles like the .308 can.
FOR MANY YEARS the .308 was the primary sniper caliber for military and law enforcement. Bolt-action Remington 700s were the staple of Army and Marine snipers for many years. I carried a long-barreled 700 as a SWAT team sniper and found it more than adequate for what I needed.
During the Global War on Terror it was found that engagements were at longer distances than previously encountered. The .308 had a hard time zapping targets over a grid square away. Weapons like the .338 Lapua came into their own.
A good .338 Lapua fired from a quality rifle can get hits at 1,500 yards and further. That’s 50 percent farther than .308. The .338 not only travels farther, but has a flatter trajectory. In a side-by-side sniper competition, the .338 Lapua is superior.
Where the .308 has an advantage is in flexibility and modularity. There is a limited number of semi-auto .338 rifles out there but they aren’t made in the same quantity, nor have they seen as much use in combat, as .308 rifles.
The old man M14 has been an active participant in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many Vietnam era weapons were dusted off and used in their old wooden stock configuration. Others were modified with high-quality adjustable synthetic stocks, married with high-quality optics, turning them into excellent sniper weapons.
AR platforms such as the SR-25 have been in the war since the beginning. Many snipers prefer them because they can double as combat rifle when needed, albeit one that’s a little ungainly due to weight and long barrel length.
A bolt-action gun doesn’t lend itself to building clearing or close-quarters gun fights with opponents armed with AK-47s. An SR-25 type rifle also prevents the need to carry multiple weapon systems.
Carrying a bolt gun in a drag bag on your back while using an AR platform to defend yourself, with incompatible rounds, does not result in an optimal tactical situation.
As mentioned previously, the .308 is the standard NATO round. In a pinch, a sniper could pull a few rounds of .308 off a belt of machinegun ammo and use it, with the understanding that it wouldn’t be as accurate as a match-grade round.
Traditionally, in the United Kingdom sniper ammo is in fact machine gunammo. The first round produced in the lot is reserved for sniping, while the rest are linked together and fed to machine guns.
Using nonstandard ammo like the .338 Lapua presents logistical issues as well. Anywhere the U.S. military goes, it brings .308 with it. It’s a common enough cartridge that it can be found in most other countries too. Try finding .338 Lapua if your logisticians haven’t forecasted the need for it and ensured it is well stocked.
There is no such thing as “overnight delivery” in many parts of the world.
The .338 Lapua isn’t going away, but it’s important to note that it’s a round designed for a particular type of combat. It really has come into its own in Afghanistan where almost all engagements are at a very long distance, unparalleled in previous American combat experience. So, in a way, it’s a round designed to fit a particular type of warfare (or war).
Which explains why the .308 was the preeminent sniper round up until that time.
Outside the tactical realm, .308 is a really good hunting round for medium to large game. It’s a safe bet that .308 (along with .30-30 and .30-06) has accounted for more North American game than all of the other calibers combined. I don’t think I’d go elephant hunting with it, but I’d feel confident using it on most large game.
So, despite its reputation as the old man in town, .308 is the best allpurpose round available. It works in every major assault weapons system, it is compatible with belt-fed weapons, it still functions well as a sniper weapon, and it can be found just about everywhere. So, this old man recommends it.
Story and Photos by Nick Perna
Editor’s note: Nick Perna is a sergeant with the Redwood City Police Department in northern California. He has spent much of his career as a gang and narcotics investigator. He served on a multijurisdictional SWAT team as an entry team member, sniper and team leader. He previously served as a paratrooper in the US Army and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco.
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.