The .308 is by far the most popular sniping round, and for good reason. The .308 is not punishing to shoot, has excellent terminal ballistics, behaves predictably in the wind, and perhaps most important is that it is consistent. While there are many cartridge choices that outperform the .308 in ballistics, there are few that perform as consistently as the .308 and as we know consistency is accuracy. The .30 cal bullet has long been a good performer and is very popular, which leads to more research with the .30 cal than perhaps with other calibers. While the .308 may over penetrate in some cases at shorter ranges (especially with FMJ styles bullets such as the old M118) the .308 is still used by a majority of Law Enforcement agencies. It is accepted that if you do your job and put the bullet where it counts, you can count on the .308 to do its job and incapacitate the target. The US Army preaches an 800 meter maximum effective range for the .308, the USMC preaches a 1000 yard (915 meter) max effective range. While we have made hits at 1000+ meters with the .308, we tend to agree with the Army and indicate that 800 meters is about the max limit for RELIABLE hits in all but extreme weather conditions. After that the .308 is dropping like a rock and can become inconsistent. With recent developments in ammo this range is being stretched and the 308/7.62×51 can reliably stretch that range. As an all around work horse for sniping that works great for both Law Enforcement and military sniping, the .308 is hard to beat.
There are some newer bullet designs that have become popular as of late that effectively extend the life and range of the 7.62x51mm NATO/308 Winchester even further. The heavier weight and newer designed 175gr Sierra Matchking with better designed boatail shape has helped the 308 perform better past 700 yards where transonic velocities had proved problematic. The US military has adopted the M118LR as their standardized sniping round which uses this excellent bullet. Another trend has been to moving to lighter high BC bullets such as the new Sierra Matchking VLD 155gr bullet and the Lapua 155gr Scenar, and launching them fairly rapidly, up around 2900 fps. This has proved to be a successful combination with competitive Palma shooters and can prove effective for sniping use as well.
Recommendation: The .308 is acceptable for both military and Law Enforcement use, and is very capable of 800+ meter hits on a human size target. If you are a Law Enforcement sharpshooter, keep in mind the penetrating power of the .308, especially with full metal jacket rounds like the old M118.
For a comprehensive review on available match ammo, visit the Match Ammo Comparison page.
Note: We have listed the military standard M118LR, with its Mk316 Mod 0 and Mod 1 siblings, as obviously being suitable for military sniping. The Federal, HSM, Blackhills, Corbon and other 175gr match loads that use the same bullet would also be suitable as well. Also listed is a HSM 155gr Sierra Matchking (new VLD design) which shows good promise of being an effective long range sniping round. The the old M118 round is outdated, but we have left it on the list only because it is a classic and the information is not available in many places and we didn’t want to lose it.
- M118 = M118 Special Ball – 173gr FMJ-BT (2550fps)
- M118LR = M118LR Special Ball – 175gr HPBT (2580fps)
- HSM 155gr = HSM 308-37 .308 Win 155gr HPBT (2860fps)
Bullet Drop (Inches)
|100y 91m||200y 183m||300y 275m||400y 366m||500y 458m||600y 549m||700y 641m||800y 732m||900y 824m||1000y 915m|
Energy (Muzzle – M118 – 2605Ft-Lbs., M118LR – 2586, HSM 155gr – 2815)
Wind Drift (Inches) 10 mph Crosswind
Law Enforcement Applications:
Note: The Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr load has for a long time been the standard for law enforcement use and for good reason, it has always been a very accurate factory loading and it has served well. The Sierra Match King bullet used in the Federal GMM load, and many other factory match loads, does tend to fragment on impact with the jacket separating from the lead core and then the lead core tends to penetrate fairly deep. This needs to be kept in mind when planning your shot and insure there is a suitable backstop behind the target.
Because of the fragile nature of the Match King bullet, the FBI conducted some tests a while ago and concluded that the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet was the most suitable bullet at that time for punching through glass and a factory Federal loading using that bullet has been included in this list as well. This load is not a match grade load but is still loaded to high commercial standards which typically will yield sub MOA performance from precision rifles. Keeping some of these rounds on hand for glass busting is a good idea, though routine confirmation of zero adjustments will need to be implemented.
The polymer tipped bullets are designed to expand rapidly, and lend themselves well to situations where over penetration is a concern, which for Law Enforcement can be quite often. We have included a HSM load using the Hornady 155gr Amax bullet which will deliver high energy with a bit less penetration which may work in these scenarios. Of course, extensive testing of any load should be conducted before adopting it as an agency standard.
- F-168gr : Federal Gold Medal Match .308 Win 168gr HPBT (2600fps)
- F-TBBC : Federal Premium .308 165gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw (2700fps)
- HSM Amax : HSM 308-12 308 Win 155gr AMAX Match (2875fps)
Bullet Drop (Inches)
Energy (Muzzle: F-168gr = 2520 Ft-Lbs., F-TBBC = 2670, HSM Amax = 2844)
Wind Drift (Inches) 10mph Crosswind