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The Most Versatile Rifle for Off-the-Grid Living

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.

©2011 Off the Grid News

© Copyright Off The Grid News


  1. This works only if the government lets you keep your guns. But don’t worry my Warriors won’t allow it to confiscate our weapons and most likely help protect you when you don’t have a gun.

    • Im gonna keep my guns no matter what! They can pry them outta my cold dead hands!!!

    • I’m on active duty, and will not confiscate weapons, lots of us feel that way too. Just dont shoot at me….. I am touchy about that and when rounds hit around me, I tend to react forcefully.
      Be nice, be respectful, and dont shoot at us in uniform…..
      the Col

  2. my wife and i both have rem mod742s in 308win we are shooting 150gr hornady bullets that i reloaded in them my gun is printing 1.5 inch 3 shot groups and hers is shooting 1.75inch 3 shot groups at 100 yards so i feel good about takeing a shot at any deer out to 250 yards with these guns if i need to shoot farther ill take out my 7mm rem mag or my 30-06 they are both bolt action and with my reloads i can keep 3 shots inside .75inch at 100 yardbut up here in the areas we hunt most of the time our shots are well under 100 yards anyways my wife is saying that this season shes wants to use my sks for deer hunting ive got it scoped and remington soft point factory ammo my wife is keeping 3 shots inside 3 inches at 100 yards so that is plenty good enuff as long as she keeps the shots under the 100 yards that she is used to shooting at

    • Gerald, please learn how to write.
      You’re an embarrassment. Try using punctuation marks at least.
      Either that or let your wife do it.

      • @Winn: Internet etiquette assumes English as a second language, typos or low typing skill. He made his point. In the world with texting shorthand, rules of grammar just don’t apply. No reason to be a jerk and try to demean a person. It says more about you than it does him.

  3. How does a .270 stack up? I don’t know much about guns and I am hesitant
    About learning about them but k ow I have to… I am considering a nice .270
    From a local dealer for about $400 bucks…. Think this is. Good gun for my farm and hunting?

    • The .270 would be a really good gun for the farm.

    • I have a couple of thoughts to share with you about your question Keith, first off the 270 is a really fine caliber and has accounted for a lot of game, both large and small, the problem I have with the 270 is not ballisticly(sp?) but avalibility of ammo come SHTF, in a lot of areas of this country if someone only has one high powered rifle it will be either 30/06 or 308, and if said person had numerous rifles the chances are even higher that you will find 30/06 or 308. The other nice thing about them is that you can find decent surplus ammo for cheapish, and here the 308 takes the honors as far as availibility goes, I just picked up 250 rounds of 149 gr. for $125! and it even came with a nifty ammo can and on a belt ready for the machine gun! The other thing I would suggest is that if you really do know nothing about guns is to learn and study gun handleing and safety befor you buy any gun!!! please do this, talk to this dealer and ask him if either he or someone he knows will take you under their wing, go out shooting to see what you like and are comfortable with before you decide, hope this helps, Chuck.

  4. I too have .308 (7.62 NATO) in my battery of arms and reload up or down accordingly to the task at hand. If you reload regardless of catagory you will have more options then over the counter. We are loading up on reloading supplies, I figure they will next to be removed or restricted.

  5. I’m in afghanistan and locked down because of terrorist actions, so I am bored and writing to all of you again,
    This is all from memory, so if I make a mistake somebody correct me:
    .308 caliber is roughly the same as a 7.62 milimeter, so russian or chinese bullets (the portion that fires out the end of the barrel) will be reloadable into any of the following:
    30-30 (Must be a flat nose or clipped and sanded flat on the tip)
    7.62 x 39/54/57 or any variation
    .300 Winchester
    .300 Weatherby
    .300 H&H mag
    .30 Cal Carbine
    Ruger mini 30 ranch rifle
    M60 Machine gun or any variant
    That is good to know if the US govt outlaws ammo, because then the chinese will provide that bullet on the black market, also the ammo boxes can be stolen or bartered from US troops in .308 still.

    The difference is in wieght of the bullet, and of course the shape of the Brass casing only which influences directly the amount of powder behind the charge. A .308 is 308 thousanths of an inch so about 1/3 of an inch. The smallest is probably the 30 Cal Carbine, its bullet weighs about 110 grains (a grain is a hundreth of an ounce) it is charged with between 30-40 grains of powder but is highly dependent upon the type of powder. You MUST check the tables (provided by the powder maker, to know how much powder to put behind a bullet or you risk blowing up the chamber when you fire. I like Reloader 17 or 19 as it has data that will reload anything from a .243 to a 300 H&H magnum about $100 for 5 lbs ( I have used the same 5 lbs for several years)
    .308 bullets are by far the most varied in sized from tiny ones 100 grains to massive 225 plus )
    For Hunting animals you want a “Partitioned” bullet with a hollow point that expands into a mushroom and a solid base that stays together through bone or armor for good penetration. The mushrooming kills the animal with massive shock to the site of impact, because only humans go into “shock” from being shot, and that is because they KNOW what has jsut happened to them, the animal doesnt.
    When you get what is called a “magnum” the brass is bigger and holds a Magnum measure of powder. Usually like in the weatherby’s case it is a necked down version of a 458 brass that has been tightened to hold a 308 bullet, and a reinforcing “belt” has been added to the base primer cup to handle the extreme pressures. 300 Weatherby, 300 Winchester, and 300 H&H magnums are not the same. Magnums are capable of extreme powder charges up to 90 grains, have incredible power behind them and kick like a mule with an iron shoe on them. My weatherby acutally forms shock waves in the sand in front of my position when loaded hot, and can push a 150gr bullet in excess of 3500 feet per second. What that means is I can shoot it through a beer bottle and it just punches a hole through it without breaking the rest of the bottle ie it is moooooving very fast. Why that is important? If you get hit with a bullet moving that fast, even with a vest, it is liable to go through it or at least break your ribs when it hits, the force is unbearable, and creates Magnum sized owies, that are not easily overlooked. Magnum loads also create insane head pressures in the chamber that if overloaded can explode in the chamber. Done right my .300 weatherby has taken an elk with one shot at 635 yards, with a 190 grain Interlock Hornady partitioned bullet, but I practice a lot and load my own ammo. I also have several 30-06’s which are very versatile, I do not hesitate to grab an 06 to hunt ellk. They can be loaded up and down to shoot flat and long like a .270 or up to knock and elk off its feet. I really like the 30.06 for an all around gun, but it does kick some. A ,270 is a very nice rifle for a woman who doesnt want to be kicked too hard. Alternatively a 300 Weatherby, without a muzzle break can kick you hard enough to shear the rear scope mount off when it hits you in the head (yes I have done that). A muzzle break is a ported addition that is screwed onto the end of the barrell and redirects the escaping gasses up and down to reduce the kickback into your shoulder. They really work.
    If you buy ammo out of the box, shoot about a 150 grain bullet for a 30-06 and it wont be too bad, most men will hardly notice a 165 grain bullets kick. A .270 can shoot a 135 to 140grain bullet and still not have much of a kick (devastating to deer).
    Remember the longer and or heavier the barrell the less recoil and the longer more stable range.
    A floated barrel is a barrell that does not touch the stock and therefore does not receive interference from the stock when fired, therefore the sine wave of the barrell is more uniform and the bullet placement is more uniform. To tell if a barrel is floated take a $1 bill and fold it under the barrell. Move it along the bottom of the barrell towards the bolt, if it slides right down between the barrell and the stock it is “Floating” that is a good thing.
    A really good rifle for the money is a Savage in 30.06 with a floated barrell and an accutrigger, and they are relatively cheap in pawn shops….. about $300-400, stainless a little more, but not much because it isnt really worth it. Really good rifles for the money!
    A good .270 is also available in the Savage line, but my love affair with winchesters influences me a lot.
    Browning A bolts are fantastic rifles but a little pricey when you can get a savage that will do everything it does for half price.
    For kids who might hunt deer a .243 is a great rifle (Once again I like winchesters for the same reason I like redheads…… just cause I do)
    For everyday survival, because most of what you eat everyday including deer can be head shot with ….. the venerable .22 long rifle, with a scope. I reccomend the ruger 10-22 as the top of the line in reliability, the only bad thing is the magazine loads from the bottom and can be lost if kids fiddle around with it. Then you have a single shot club. Marlin makes a great Tube feed .22 that is great for kids cause they wont fiddle around with the magazine and lose it. The tube stays in the rifle. The ruger is around $250 rough to $300 in good shape. The Marlin can be had as low as $69 to almost $225 brand new. The biggest problem with these marlins is people do not clean them, and a spray bottle of Brake cleaner followed by oiling will get you a great rifle. Marlin makes the same model and sells it as A Glenfield, Montgomery wards, a sears version, and of course the Marlin. All are the same gun, I have bought 4 in the last year from anywhere between $69 and $100, they are out there just keep looking, dont worry about the dirt, that is how you buy them cheap. Unscrew the stock and spray them out with Carb or Brake Cleaner then dry them and oil them or use a high pressure air hose and you are back in business.
    DO not take teh mechanism apart you will never get it back together unless you know what you are doing.
    Cant think of anything else. Hope that helps

    The Col
    SKS’s/AK.s and any variants are 7.62 mm (is a 30 caliber bullet) but the brass will not fit the chamber of anything made in america except for the Ruger mini 30 ranch rifle.

    Watch your pawn shops for rifles an SKS is a very accurate rifle when using foreign ammo, a ruger mini 30 is a little tempermental with foreign ammo, but with practice you can hit deer with it an knock them down. An AK can be good or bad, they may have been in use since korea or before and be in pretty bad shape. Also other countries forces who I am now observing DO NOT clean them or care for them, they can be in pretty bad shape. But the beauty of them is the simplicity of the operation, they WILL work.

  6. I really don’t see how you can say that “the 308 is the clear choice”. What does it do better than the 30-06. There’s this myth that the 308 is cheap and widely available. The fact of the matter is the 30-06 is more widely available and about the same price. Its a superior rifle cartridge. I don’t understand why people always hype up the 308 round so much. I find it pointless as a hunting cartridge. Its on the light side for large game and in my opinion has more recoil than is required and lacks the flat trajectory of superior deer cartridges.

    I really don’t see why people think it’s ballistically similar to the 30-06. The 30-06 launches a 180 gr bullet at the same velocity that the 308 launches a 165 gr bullet. The 308 is pretty anemic with the heavier 180-200 gr bullets.

    A grizzly with a 308? Come on dude. Even the 30-06 is considered marginal for that. The 30-06 and 270 are the most balanced mainstream rifle rounds. They are right at the edge of Magnum power but have recoil that most people can tolerate.

    I know some people will come back with saying the 308 is similar in power to the 30-06. In muzzle energy that is somewhat true but like I said, the 30-06 launches heavier projectiles at the same velocity that the 308 does with lighter loads. Similar velocities but the 30-06 simply does better with heavier loads and therefore more versatile. I think the 30-06 and 270 are vastly superior cartridges and should be chosen based on need. The 270 is as flat shooting as you’re going to get in a non-Magnum rifle.

    The 30-06 is just a proven rifle cartridge that has withstood the test of time. A handloader can really get a lot out of the 30-06. You won’t improve upon factory performance of the 308. The 30-06 is loaded pretty conservatively from the factory.

    • I agree. The .308 is a versatile round for North American mid-sized game, but it’s real strength lies in its ability to accommodate shorter/semi-auto/full auto actions at a more reasonable weight and faster rate than longer cartridges like to 30.06.

      For sure, the .308 is a good, low cost and lighter all around cartridge in a dystopian/apocalyptic scenario where the ability to source and carry ammo becomes a critical factor. However, as the most versatile hunting cartridge in North America…to me it’s got to be the 30.06. No other standard cartridge delivers the same bang for the buck, with so many Off-the-Shelf solutions (from varmint to moose), as the 30.06. The .270 is a slightly flatter shooting cartridge (beyond 300 yds)…but IMO loses to the 30.06 on the versatility front.

  7. Your writeup on Elk makes no sense. You said to keep shots to under 100 yards. I don’t know what Elk country you’ve ever visited but you’re severely limiting yourself if you need to keep shots under 100 yards.

    You also said that the flatter and heavier the better. That there lies the crux of the problem. The 308 simply isn’t an Elk gun. It can be used for Elk hunting but you yourself acknowledge that it presents some drawbacks. The tough heavy bullets desirable for Elk hunting simply don’t generate enough velocity out of the 308. Another issue is that the premium bullets don’t perform well at 308 velocities unless to short range shots. They are designed for flatter shooting cartridges.

    I just really fail to see anything in your writeup about what makes the 308 a more practical choice than the 30-06. This tends to happen with a lot of 308 proponents. People get caught up in the mystique of the 308 due to its military service, particularly that of its sniper background. In the grand scheme of things its just another 30 caliber rifle bullet. The 30-06 and 300 Win Mag simply outperform it in the field. I also have never felt hindered by toting a long action rifle. We’re talking 1/2″ in rifle length and relative to the length of a rifle that’s nothing really.

  8. The thing is, a 308 is great off the grid, but if you are reading this, you are not off the grid.

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