Hand-Picked Daily GUN DEALS, and Exclusive Coupons Codes >>>

Best .308 Ammo & 7.62×51 [Target Shooting, Plinking, & Hunting]

There is no more popular long-range cartridge in the world than the 7.62×51 or .308 Winchester.

Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr
Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr

Whether on the shelf in its .308 Winchester flavor, or the 7.62x51mm version, this cartridge has been in use since the 1950’s and it has carved out an enduring reputation with hunters, target shooters, the military, and law enforcement.

But does it do the best job?

Really, with things like 6.5 Creedmoor and .224 Valkyrie on the scene, do we really need the .308 Winchester anymore?

You bet your ass we do.

This legendary little cartridge still offers the same excellent ballistics, and is still available cheaper and more readily than any other round in its class.

Popular .308 Winchester and 7.62x51mm Ammo
Popular .308 Winchester and 7.62x51mm Ammo

We’re going to go over a little history, followed by some of the most popular .308 (7.62×51) weapons, as well as some ammo recommendations and how to choose a factory load for those of you looking for the best way to feed your .308.

Table of Contents


History of the .308

At one point in time, the equally venerable .30-06 was the rifle of choice for civilian hunters and distance shooters, as well as the US military.  

This cartridge helped our grandparents defeat the Nazis, but problems quickly became evident in the close-in jungle fighting of the Korean War, especially when it became evident that .30-06s on fully-automatic were basically uncontrollably fired from the shoulder while standing up.

bf1 BAR
Spraying a BAR one-handed from the hip might look cool in video games, but in real life the .30-06 recoil would cause the barrel to dislodge some teeth.

Also, there’s the simple logistical nightmare of having troops carry large amounts of very heavy ammunition through dense brush.

To combat this problem, the US government went on a search for a smaller, lighter cartridge that could be carried en masse, while retaining most of the desirable ballistics of the .30-06.

Popular Rifle Calibers, Part II
Popular Rifle Calibers, Part II

The 5.56×45 we all know and love would eventually come out of this, but the good ole 7.62x51mm NATO, first known as the .308 Winchester, came first. 

You can read all about this process in the AR-15 vs Ar-10 discussion I did a while back.

Eventually, the standard M1 Garands were phased out, and the M14 was in, the 7.62×51 predecessor to the M16.

The US adoption of the M14, as well as the widespread use of the cartilage around the world in things like the FN FAL meant that the 7.62x51mm NATO was here to stay, and its enduring popularity as both a military and civilian round is in no small part because of this.

Modern .308 Usage and Recommended Rifles

Modern .308/7.62×51 is one of the most popular rounds available.  I’ve personally used it to harvest deer, bighorn sheep, and feral hogs, as well as to punch holes in paper and ring steel at all the way out to 800 yards (though wind drift is a huge factor at that range, so switch to something else if this kind of shooting will be your norm).

As far as the pro’s go, many pro shooters on the competition circuit use a .308, and it is the preferred caliber for the Heavy Metal 3Gun division, as well as a popular choice at Precision Rifle Matches.

PSA AR-10 Gen 3
PSA AR-10 Gen 3 in .308

Military and police snipers still rely heavily on this cartridge, the Marine M40 and other Remington 700 .308-chambered variants are popular as scout weapons, and with SWAT units across the country.

Popular civilian rifles include:

  • Remington Model 700: an old standard, this immensely popular rifle is the basis for several military weapons and is popular with hunters and LEO snipers as well.
  • Savage 111: the Savage 111 is one of the best mid-range rifles on the planet, especially in the .308 chambering.  It is an excellent start for those looking to get into longer range shooting or hunting.
  • Ruger Precision Rifle: quite possibly the best out-of-the-box precision rifle available in its price range, this rifle has been making waves as one of the best $1000 guns in its class.
  • Aero M5E1: Aero is known for their great AR’s and precision manufacturing, and this DPMS-style AR-10 rifle is no exception.  Available in stripped receiver form, or as a completed rifle, this M5E1 is an ideal choice for those looking for a semi-auto .308.
Aero Precision M5 AR-10
Aero Precision M5E1 AR-10 Complete Rifle

What Makes the .308 So Great?

First of all, the .308 Winchester is absurdly popular because of its popularity.

Don’t think about that too much, you’ll give yourself a headache.

What I mean is that the .308 beast is sort of self-sustaining at this point.  It’s available everywhere because everyone uses it, and everyone uses it because its available everywhere.

vicious cycle fat bastard
.308 is here to stay.

You can find it anywhere firearms and sporting goods are sold, from your local Walmart to sporting goods stores and outfitters in any country that allows hunting with centerfire rifles, and that level of availability has ensured that the round has stayed popular ever since it was adopted by various militaries as a service cartridge…hence the 7.62x51mm NATO designation.

This popularity means that .308 rifles are probably the third most common on the market after .22LR and 5.56 options, and as long as people keep wanting them, manufacturers are happy to churn them out by the thousands.

Second, there’s the versatility of the round.  

It was originally chosen as a service cartridge because it excels at typical combat ranges (inside 500 yards), carries a significant amount of energy to the target thanks to the larger bullets that are possible thanks to the .30 cal chambering, and finally it’s relatively light recoil that makes it an incredibly shootable cartridge.

While 6.5 Creedmoor and .224 Valk have their advantages, and there are a million and one other rounds that do this or that better than the old .308, it’s still the most popular round in the world for a reason, and there’s something to be said for being able to pick up factory loaded ammo cheaply and easily.

You can also find cheap 7.62x51 cases
You can also find cheap 7.62×51 cases

Choosing .308 Ammo

So, how do we pick from all those options?

Simple, we follow the Matthew Collins Patented System For Ammo Selection, or MCPSFAS (Help me come up with a better name in the comments).

Popular .308 Winchester and 7.62x51mm Ammo
Popular .308 Winchester and 7.62x51mm Ammo

Step One: Choose a Bullet Weight Based on Your Barrel Twist Rate

Step one, you have to look at your rifle.  It’s important to match your bullet weight to your rifle, specifically the rifling in the barrel.   This is measured as “twist rate” and will be expressed in a ratio like 1:15.

This means that the rifling in the barrel will complete one full rotation every 15 inches of barrel, and will thus impart one full spin to the bullet in that distance.

Now, if you’re just plinking at dirt clods with a service-grade Garand, I wouldn’t worry too much about this.

plinking at stop sign.
Tin cans, dirt clods, soda bottles, and government property dont care about bullet weight. Not that we recommend using the latter for target practice.

At a certain point, .308 is .308 and bullet weight doesn’t matter.  

That said, if you’re looking to put lead down range accurately, here’s a general guideline for matching your barrel’s rifling to the ideal bullet weight.

  • 1:15 twist: up to 150 grains
  • 1:14 twist: 150 – 168 grains
  • 1:12 twist: 168 – 170 grains
  • 1:10 twist: 170 – 220 grains
  • 1:8 twist: 220 grains or more

Again, this is just a general guideline, but it’s certainly a good starting point.  

Sticking to this will ensure first and foremost that your rifling is “fast” enough to stabilize the size of projectile you’re using, and will also make sure you’re getting the most out of your barrel by using the largest projectiles it can reliably stabilize.  

Of course, using a smaller bullet (which will be cheaper) in a faster twist rate than what’s listed is totally fine…you can’t exactly over-stabilize a bullet.  

Most .308 barrels are 1-10 twist for this reason.  Bullets over 220gr are rare, and the 1:10 twist means the rifle will stabilize almost all factory bullets.

Step 2: Choose a Bullet Type Based on Your Desired Activity

Are you shooting steel targets at 800 yards?  You’ll probably want Open-Tip Match (OTM) ammo and a projectile that does a good job of balancing weight and velocity to combat things like wind drift and bullet drop.

Hunting?  There are a huge number of hollowpoint hunting loads out there and it’s important to pick a load for the game you’re going after.  This means researching bullet type (hollowpoint, polymer-filled, etc) as well as the recommended energy for the game you’re hunting, at the ranges you expect to be shooting.

Deer hunted with 6.5 creedmoor
If you’re a hunter, terminal ballistics are going to be more important than if you were just shooting at paper or steel targets.

Almost all factory hunting loads will have velocity and energy numbers on the box, but a ballistic calculator can help if not.

If you’re not going after any game other than steel targets, or you just want to punch holes in paper at close ranges, choose a good mid-range FMJ, or if you’re shooting steel at close range try and hunt down some frangible rounds online.

These rounds explode into metal powder on impact, and are much safer than other bullet types on steel…but still very much lethal.  In fact, some folks recommend them for home defense because of the low risk of over penetration and ricochets.

Of course, you’ll notice a very conspicuous lack of “Home Defense Ammo” recommendations in this article for a reason…leave the .308 in the safe during a home invasion unless it’s literally all you have.

Finally, if you’re just going to be ripping through mags at the range or plinking at bottles and dirt clods, I’d suggest going with a cheap military surplus FMJ.  You can get military-grade (not a synonym for quality, in this case) .308 like Wolf WPA Military Classic for around $.50/round, which is perfect for when you aren’t worried about accuracy, or you have a non-shooter buddy who wants to try your gun.

This has the added benefit of handicapping them if you’re target shooting and using better ammo for yourself…can’t have the newbies outshooting us experienced hands after all.

Step 3:  Know Your Budget

Alright, this last one is optional but it’s important to note that good, factory match .308 ammo can be damn expensive.

money meme
How it feels walking by the ammo section of our local sporting goods store.

Like, $2.50/round expensive.  But most shooters aren’t going to need something like that.  If you’re really trying to reach out to the limits of what the .308 can do, you should probably be handloading anyway, and with cheap brass and a variety of bullets available wherever reloading supplies are sold, handloading can be a great way to save money and get better performance.

Choosing Factory .308 Ammo

If you don’t want to get into all that reloading/handloading stuff, you still have tons of options for great factory ammo.

So many options in fact, that it can be quite difficult to choose, especially if you don’t have the time/money/energy to test multiple .308 offerings to find the best one.

That’s where I come in.  I’ve tried about fifty flavors of .308 over the years, it is one of my favorite and most frequently used calibers, and these are the ones I recommend.

Best .308 Ammo For Hunting

Federal Premium Vital-Shok – 165 Grain Trophy Bonded Tip

Editor's Pick, Best Hunting .308
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Federal’s Premium Vital-Shok line is one of the most popular game rounds around and for good reason.  The .308 Vital-Shok offering comes with a 165gr Trophy Bonded bullet with a polymer tip for superior aerodynamics and controlled expansion.

I’ve gotten two big whitetails and numerous hogs with this round, and I’d trust it for any medium game.

Remington Core-Lokt – 150gr Soft Point

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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 most of the time.  The 150gr SP round is perfect for mid-sized games at close to mid-range, and is relatively accurate, even without the polymer tip.

It’s also a good bit cheaper and can be found on sale for under $.70/round at times.

Best .308 Ammo For Serious Target Shooting

Hornady Match 168gr

Best Long-Range .308
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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.  This is my go-to factory load if I need to quickly pick up something for some range time where I actually care how I do.

I get sub-MOA groups out of this with a good rifle, and I would be happy to use it in a match if I didn’t have any handloads.

Federal Premium Sierra Match King Gold Medal

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

One of the best match loads on the market, Federal uses Sierra Match King bullets to make an outstanding factory loaded round.

I’ve been about to get half MOA groups with this ammo, that is mighty nice ammo for off the shelf!

What’s your take?

Readers' Ratings

4.97/5 (626)

Your Rating?

Best .308 Ammo For Plinking

Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr
Assorted 7.62x51mm (MEN 147gr, PPU 165gr, PPU 180gr, Gold Medal 168gr

Wolf Military Classic 168gr

Cheapest .308 Ammo
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Wolf Military Classic 168gr is a good approximation of a standard NATO military round found all around the world.  This is a reliable round that is easy to buy cheap and stack deep. I have…way too much of this stashed in my apartment.   

It’s a great round for the price and can be used for hunting, plinking, or target shooting depending on your needs.  It’s a good practice round and the SP tip means it’ll do alright against soft targets as well.

Lake City 149gr FMJ 7.62x51mm

Best Mil-Spec .308
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you want real mil-spec ammo though, this is for you. Overrun ammo from Lake City can go up and down in price depending on military needs, but it’s normally decent price and is always great ammo!

Prvi Partizan Match 155gr HPBT .308

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

This is decidedly better than normal plinking ammo and is much closer to the good match grade stuff, but at a price that is still affordable. If you want to practise your match shooting, but not spend match shoot prices, this is a top choice!

PMC Bronze 147gr

Cleanest Budget .308 Ammo
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

PMC makes solid ammo in almost any caliber and their .308 stuff is no different! Great for plinking and holds good groups for its price.

MEN/Magtech 147gr

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Solid ammo, but not impressive groups. Goes bang every time and is normally decent priced for brass, non-steel, non-bimetal. However, if you’re looking for tight groups from your plinking ammo – this might not be the best pick.

Parting Shots

That’s all she wrote folks.  These .308 rounds are more than good enough to get you started.

We tested a lot of these ammo choices when we did our Aero Precision M5 Review, so if you want real-world shooting of these .308 rounds, take a look!

If you try any of these, make sure you let me know in the comments below! And if you have another factory load you prefer, make sure to drop that in the comments as well.

The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

30 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Richard Hoard


    August 29, 2021 9:02 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark B

    I’ve used the Remington 180 grain, Core Lokt BTSP load for years. I shoot a Tikka M55 Custom Deluxe I bought while stationed in Germany in 1984. Tried other loads through it, none have proved to be as consistently accurate. I took an 8 point MO whitetail 8 days ago with one shot at 260 paces from the ground blind. The buck crumpled, kicked once, and was done. Works for me.

    November 25, 2020 7:05 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I intend to hunt with with a bullet weight between 170-220gr (in accordance with your recommendations). How important is it for me to use that same bullet weight when zero-ing my optic?

    September 14, 2020 12:21 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      John lynch

      I’d not only use the same weight but the exact same bullet.

      August 4, 2021 10:37 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I have a 9.5” 308 pistol with a 1:7 twist and wonder if the 168gr IMI I use in my Mossberg MVP for hunting will be ok to use.

    August 25, 2020 7:10 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Randy Snavely

    I have a question,I bought am AR 10 308 1/10 twist with a 16.5 barrel,I've that a heavier grain is better for a shorter barrel, between 168 and 180,before I found this out I bought a few boxes of 150 grain,would it do anything to the barrel if I shot them to get rid of them

    August 20, 2020 12:01 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      The barrel will be totally fine! The 150gr ammo might not stabilize at longer range, but no damage to the rifle will occur.

      August 20, 2020 12:45 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Randy Snavely

        Thanks,so basically you should be concerned about the twist when it comes to the weight of the bullet no matter the length of barrel

        August 20, 2020 1:29 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          David, PPT Editor

          Technically speaking, it's the length of the bullet that matters most for twist rate. But for general use, weight is what people go by. It's kind of like how mass and weight are the same things in beginner science, but in higher science, it's totally not the same thing.

          Barrel length is not super important for stabilization, really a bullet only needs about an inch of rifled barrel to get enough twisting force.

          All of that said -- yes, weight is what you should be looking at when considering twist rate!

          August 20, 2020 3:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      John lynch

      The only reason u use heavier bullet out of shorter barrel is for better terminal ballistics. If ur just shooting to shoot then it’s fine

      August 4, 2021 10:48 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Steve G

    I am interested in drop pr feet. If I zero at 50 ft. what is teh rise at 100 ft then 200 then 300. We should be going down soon so what drop is at 400 to 600????

    August 15, 2020 5:04 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Whatever you shoot, I don't recommend Aguila .308 150gr FMJ. Scoped in two .308 rifles (RAP and a Savage Axis). The Savage indents seemed good, but MAY be a little light, but the indents from the Ruger all seemed like normal hits.

    February 15, 2020 9:04 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bull o' the Woods

    I'm not a hunter, but have been asked to advise a new shooter on the best round for elk (not deer) hunting in northern New Mexico. He bought a Ruger American in .308 and plans to take an elk next hunting season. I am merely helping with scope and ammo selection. Would any of you hunters object to Hornady Precision Hunter .308 in 178 gr ELD-X? The published statistics show it runs at 2,600 FPS and delivers 2,672 ft. lbs. of energy. He has limited funds and I don't want to spend his money trying a bunch of different loads to see which one his rifle prefers. My idea is to use the heaviest .308 round suitable for hunting. All comments, suggestions, and criticisms welcome.

    February 14, 2020 6:25 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dennis Courey

    Thank you for a great article. I just bought a Weatherby Vanguard 20" barrel. I noticed you never mentioned the Hornady SST. On another site I read where at close range they can blow up. Do you agree with that? I'll buy the Federal that was your first choice. From one of the other comments it sounds like the SST isn't the most accurate anyway. At least from his gun. Your thoughts??

    November 24, 2019 4:50 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      I love Hornady American Gunner, Black, ELD Match, and more - but I've never had their SST ammo do well for me. 6.5 Creedmoor, .308, 6.5 Grendel, none of those in SST have grouped well.

      November 24, 2019 7:52 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kai Howe

    “My Chosen Plinking Solution For All Situations”


    July 30, 2019 10:09 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Kai Howe


      July 30, 2019 10:11 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Douglas Catlett

    I have a PSA, AR-10 in .308 Win/7.62 NATO with a 20" heavy stainless barrel. After having shot five different brands of factory hunting ammo, all in 150 grain loadings, I have found Remington Core-Lokt to be the most accurate in my rifle. This ammo gives me sub-moa groups at a little more than 3/4". Next is Winchester Power Point and then PPU soft point. Both of these yield sub 1.5 moa 3 shot groups. Next was Federal Non-Typical which gives me right at 1.75" and, lastly, Hornady SST Superformance came in right around 2 inches at 100 yards. Also, for whatever reason, the Hornady ammo made noticeably bigger holes than all other ammo in the paper target. My barrel is 1:10 twist.

    July 14, 2019 4:19 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    David McNulty

    Hi David - PPT Editor:
    Thank you for posting this very informative article.
    Please recommend the best plinking & defensive ammo for an AR10 Pistol, specifically:
    Sig Sauer:
    Item Number: P716-12B-PSB
    Caliber: 7.62 X 51 mm NATO or .308
    Overall Length: 30.2 in / 767 mm
    Rifling: 1 in 10" / 25.4 in 254 mm
    Number of Grooves: 6
    Barrel Length: 12.5 in / 317.5 mm
    Short stroke pushrod operating system with 4 position gas valve
    Precision Armament M11 Severe-Duty™ Muzzle Brake
    Thank you.
    Kind regards,
    David McNulty

    May 9, 2019 8:16 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Every rifle is slightly different, but I would start with standard Wolf Steel cased .308 for cheap plinking, or PMC Bronze if you want cleaner ammo and are willing to spend a bit more to plink.

      Defensive/hunting ammo I go with Remington Core Lokt.

      Hope that helps!

      May 9, 2019 10:13 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        David McNulty

        Thank you, David.

        May 9, 2019 11:27 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I shoot the Sako TRG M10 and really must mention the best rounds I've discovered for the 26" .308 barrel are Sako's own 168gr HPBT "Racehead".

    They can spread a little on very cold days so I just keep them in my jacket on the range, but if any greater than a very consistent 1/4-MOA spread at 100yds then I'm analysing why.

    March 1, 2019 6:02 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Great article. Learned a lot.

    Btw, no jungle in Korea.

    September 28, 2018 6:58 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dave Norton

    Great article - thanx... I'm nowhere nearly as experienced as you, but I've been having pretty good luck with bulk-buys of "IMI Systems" offerings (in other calibers too). [Midway, Palmetto, A+ Ammo] It's made in Israel (for a long time now), and anyone with any experience at all with products from Israel knows it's usually pretty good stuff even at the baseline. Might give it a try... I also just read an article (in G&A, I think) about a new "budget" .308 from Mauser that sounds very interesting for $700 list. Those on a budget (who isn't) in the market for a bolt .308 might want to look into it. Engineering, and its rationale, are impressive... Thanks again for the nice review...

    July 5, 2018 2:40 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John Cavanaugh

    I have a Precision 308 and shoot it frequently with the match 308 ammo.. I just need to find a longer range to see how well it will shoot at some distance. My M1A also shoots well with the same ammo. Pat

    July 4, 2018 8:22 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Not a funny trick to pull....I'm not even 1/2 way into my first cup of coffee this morning, so I could be wrong.....buuuuut..... The pic of the empty brass doesn't look like our beloved .308.

    July 4, 2018 3:30 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Good eye! 7.62x54r is in fact not 7.62x51. Corrected the image, thanks!

      July 4, 2018 8:23 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Almost any .308 bolt gun is good for 1 1/2 MOA with most factory ammunition. The round is uncannily accurate. And good .308 bolt guns are plentiful and cheap, their former owners lured to more exotic junk by hacks and merchants.
    The next step is learning to load for it to bring costs down and advance both rifle and rifleman’s capacity. “Soup can” plinker rounds are ideal for developing offhand skills at moderate ranges and can be made for a few cents a shot. Superb midrange target rounds can be made for less than a quarter and the developing rifleman will achieve 8-ring or better consistency from formal and impromptu positions out to five hundred yards. Point blank range with hunting loads good for any North American game short of really big bears is close to two hundred yards and killing energy is good enough for elk at four hundred.
    The point to all this is that the .308 is the 21st century “rifleman’s rifle” in all respects. The adage says, “beware the man with one gun”. For all the foregoing reasons, that’s the .308. Get yourself one, only one, and not some space age fire-power job. And learn it. Well. And become that rifleman you always wanted to be.

    July 3, 2018 11:19 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    My Remington 700 P loves Federal Premium Gold Medal March 168 gr. BTHP. Actually the rifle shoots better than I do! Lol. Sub MOA is routinely easy

    July 3, 2018 9:11 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Lamar Hale

    Just came across your web site while researching the AR .308s and have toughly enjoyed reading your articles. Can't add anything now but maybe later. Also, I have been shooting a Ruger M-77 .308 seems forever and is my go to rifle for any game animal in the contiguous US. Thanks

    July 3, 2018 5:13 pm