There’s nothing that beats coming back from a successful hunt with the mates and sitting around the campfire enjoying your favorite brew – alcoholic or non-alcoholic. As you brag about your spoils, one thing is always to be expected. Yes, you guessed it, a debate.
And not just any other debate, “the debate” – .300 Win Mag Vs .308.
As far as hunting rifle cartridges go, these two are among the most popular and for great reasons too, of which distance and efficiency are some of them. Let’s take these two cartridges apart and really look at their differences, shall we?
The .300 Winchester Magnum, fondly called the .300 Win Mag is a belted, bottlenecked magnum rifle cartridge introduced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1963. It is a magnum cartridge designed to fit in a standard rifle action.
Because it is very versatile, the .300 Winchester has been adopted by a wide range of users such as hunters, target shooters, military units, and law enforcement departments. Hunters, especially, find the cartridge to be an effective all-around choice since it has bullet options ranging from the flatter shooting 165 grain to the harder hitting 200+ grain selections.
If ever there is a cartridge that has won the hearts of American riflemen, it’s the .300 Win Mag.
The .308 Winchester, introduced in 1952, is a rimless, bottlenecked rifle cartridge. Being the commercial cartridge from which the 7.62×51mm NATO round was derived, many people swear by it as the most potent cartridge. The relatively short case makes the .308 Winchester well-adapted for short-action rifles.
Although there are strong similarities between the .308 and the military 7.62×51mm NATO specifications, they are not identical. And despite their interchange being considered quite safe by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI), there are special considerations that may have to apply.
And like the .300 Win Mag, the .308 Winchester also has a cult following, and thus the debate concerning the two is well supported on both sides.
But will understanding their differences quell the debate?
Let’s take a look at the major differences between .300 win mag vs .308. Our two cartridges and see if one is truly superior to the other.
Especially for new shooters, the issue of recoil is a major one, and sometimes a painful one. This is where one of the biggest differences between the .300 win mag vs .308 lie.
The .308 has far less recoil, around 12 ft-lbs, and should thus be the cartridge choice for newbies ft-lbs over the .300 whose recoil has nearly twice that much at 20 (or more) ft-lbs.
This is another area in which the .300 win mag vs .308 Winchester debate becomes heated, and yet also the difference being clearest.
The 300 Win Mag is well able to propel a 180-grain bullet at almost 3000 fps at a relatively flat trajectory while the .308 Winchester can only propel a 168-grain bullet at only 2,670. That makes the .300 the better one when it comes to bringing down prey from longer distances.
When it comes to a trajectory, tested at 500 yards, a 308 zeroed for 200 yards with a 165-grain bullet will need 47.7” of correction while the 300 Win Mag will only need 38.7”, again making the .300 Win Mag the better option in this respect.
The 308, at reasonable distances (inside 350 yards) is great for bear, moose, and elk. The 300 Win Mag, at the same energy level, can double that distance to bring down a target 600 yards away. On a smaller game like deer, the 300 Win Mag can produce enough energy (1000 ft-lbs) to bring them down at 700-800 yards while the 308, on the other hand, runs out of steam at 700 yards. For best results, it’s best to keep the 308 within 500 yards of the smaller game to keep the impact velocity above the 1800 fps recommended by most bullet manufacturers.
When it comes to buying a cheap rifle, most of them are not available in a .300 Win Mag, while inexpensive rifles are available in the 308 configurations. As pertaining to ammo, .308 Winchesters are cheaper than their .300 Win Mag counterparts.
In all fairness, both the .300 and the .308 have their merits and demerits depending on your requirements. But all things equal, the .300 Win Mag is probably the better cartridge.