It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the new terminology when you get into firearms.
Many rounds are referred to using the same numbers. 7.62, for example.
Is that 7.62×39 Soviet? 7.62×51 NATO? 7.62×54? 7.62×38 Nagant?
I actually own firearms chambered for all of those 7.62 cartridges so I’m no stranger to keeping my calibers straight!
Helpfully, this confusion does not apply to .308.
.308 is the same as .308 Winchester. Both terms refer to the same caliber round, commonly referred to as .308. There is no such round as .308 Remington, despite this reference appearing frequently online. While derivatives of the popular caliber exist, there is only one true .308 caliber round.
What is .308? The Short Answer
Basically, whenever most people say “.308,” they mean “.308 Winchester.”
.308 Winchester is the only .308 caliber round people refer to as .308.
Okay, technically there’s the .308 Marlin Express, but .308 Winchester eclipses it in popularity by several orders of magnitude. .308 Marlin is a lever-action round.
This means that, for most people, there’s no difference between .308 and .308 Win.
.308 is actually the civilian version of the 7.62×51 NATO round used by militaries across the world.
Winchester released the round in 1952, two years before 7.62 NATO was officially adopted in 1954, though the round had been in development for almost a decade by this point.
This lead to several differences between the two cartridges, which I’ll get into later.
Still, some people refer to .308 Winchester and 7.62×51 NATO as the same round: .308.
Okay, but Is There a .308 Remington?
Given all the bullet sizes, calibers, and types out there, it’s easy to think there’s a cartridge named the .308 Remington.
After all, Remington has been one of the most prolific gun and ammo designers in America’s history. Remington even makes .308 caliber rifles!
But those .308 rifles are .308 Winchester rifles. There’s no cartridge called .308 Remington.
There are, however, .30 caliber cartridges designed by Remington.
You may have seen .30 Remington at the store. There’s also the .30 Remington AR, designed for use with AR-15 pattern rifles, and the .338 Remington Ultra Magnum.
None of those are .308 Rem, though!
Further muddying the waters is that Remington also designed the 7mm-8 Remington, which is effectively a .308 necked down for a 7mm projectile, slightly smaller than the 7.62mm projectile used in .308 bullets.
So, effectively, the difference between .308 and .308 Rem is that “.308 Rem” is a Remington-made rifle chambered in .308 Winchester.
And it’s probably a Remington 700, which made our list of the Best .308 Rifles!
Whether made by Winchester, Remington, Ruger, or Savage, any rifle chambered for .308 Win will take .308 Win. It doesn’t pay to discount one of the most popular cartridges just because it carries a competitor’s name.
Why Use .308 Winchester?
The wonderful thing about .308 Win is that it’s a very capable round while allowing for a shorter, lighter, stiffer action than larger cartridges such as the .270 Winchester.
You can hunt any big game in North America with .308, though it is sometimes considered underpowered for brown bear and moose.
Does someone want to argue with you about .308 Win’s hunting potential? Point out that the Canadian Rangers use .308 rifles against polar bears.
A shorter action saves you weight when you’re traveling long distances while hunting.
And a stiffer action helps minimize variation between shots, improving long-distance accuracy.
Finally, .308 bullets carry more kinetic energy than some other popular cartridges such as 7.62×39 and .223 Remington.
What Cartridges are Similar to .308 Winchester?
I’ve already mentioned some cartridges that share the same caliber with .308 Win and one which is based on .308.
It’s worth noting that there are many cartridges similar to .308 Win. One that causes extra confusion is 7.62×51 NATO.
7.62×51 NATO vs. .308
That’s because there’s very little difference between .308 and 7.62 NATO. They have almost the same specs!
What’s different, though, can damage your gun.
There are small differences in chamber headspace length and case wall thicknesses. Also, .308 Winchester is proofed to 62,000 PSI while 7.62×51 is proofed to only 60,191 PSI.
The result is that you can load a .308 rifle with 7.62 NATO without problems. However, the opposite may be dangerous.
Loading .308 into a 7.62×51 gun means you’re putting a higher-pressure round into a longer chamber, which gives the brass case room to expand and weaken, potentially causing a kaboom.
Remember: 7.62×51 in a .308 rifle is okay but .308 in a 7.62 NATO is not safe.
.308 Winchester Derivatives
.308 has proven to be a very popular round.
Still, people always want something slightly better. And the .308 Winchester’s case has proven to be quite the good parent case for both commercial and wildcat loads.
Here are some more cartridges based on .308 Winchester:
- .243 Winchester
- .260 Remington
- .338 Federal
- .358 Winchester
Oddly enough, though you can make 6.5 Creedmoor from .308 brass, it’s not actually derived from .308!
6.5 Creedmoor is a necked-down version of the .30 Thompson Center cartridge, which itself was supposed to be a slightly better .30 cal round than the venerable .308.
Of those, .260 Remington is my favorite.
It’s a 6.5mm caliber round, which means it has a good ballistic coefficient for bucking the wind without bleeding velocity. It also has a good sectional density and so hits the target hard.
The Difference Between .308 and .30-06
America’s old battle round, the .30-06 Springfield, is basically an outdated .308 Winchester.
It’s longer, with more case capacity, but has only slightly better performance.
.30-06 isn’t a bad round. It’s just less efficient than .308, which is why the US military pushed to replace their aging .30-06 rifles with 7.62×51 rifles.
Unless you’re hanging out on a lever-action forum, you can assume anybody who says “.308” is talking about the .308 Winchester cartridge.
It’s one of the most popular rounds for hunters and sports shooters because of its availability and good performance.
And, though you can get .308 Remington rifles, those guns are actually Remington rifles chambered in .308 Winchester.
People might talk about 7.62×51 NATO as .308, too.
Though the two rounds are quite similar, they are not the same, so don’t load .308 in a 7.62 NATO gun!