Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Is the .308 Winchester enough gun for North American hunting?

I was dinking around on the internet to kill a little bit of time.

I did a search on ".308 Winchester in Alaska" just to see what people were saying.
.308 Winchester on the left, .30-06 on the right.

Before I go farther I want to share that with advances in propellant technology, the .308 Winchester of today matches or exceeds the velocities of the .30-06 Springfield of 1950. And with modern bullet designs, the .308 Winchester easily out penetrates the 30-06 of 1950.

In 1950 the .30-06 was the go-to round for hunting brown bear and was even considered a fine round for hunting cape buffalo.

Today, the armchair hunters, internet experts and well-healed hunter will tell you that the .308 Winchester bounces off deer, moose, bears and is best suited for shooting coyotes and feral cats.

To take a bear, for instance, requires a magnum (defined as a cannon capable of flinging a small-block V8 at 3000fps) and depleted uranium projectiles.

What changed?

A hint
I sold a LOT of the MilSurp Israeli .308 Mausers up here in Northern Ontario....a lot of moose got killed with them by LOCALS!
The problem isn't with "How Big is the Gun", it's "How WELL you can Place the shot". My Native friend up here hunted forever with a 30-30 both in lever and bolt actions.
They know how to get to a moose and kill it at a 20 to 50 yard range.
The "modern" hunter need the big magnums to shoot across the lake or a clearing, since they have usually no clue how to get close!! Rightfully so, since the noise of the ATV or Bike will drive the game away
ANY .30 Cal will kill a moose as long as it is in the RIGHT range and the shot is placed right!
There are more moose killed with a 30-30 over the years then with any of the other kind of calibres.    Source

I have to agree that a ridiculous number of hunters, even young ones, ride ATVs to their deer stand even if it is a humble two-hundred yards off the road.

Another couple of shortcomings of the modern hunter are lack of patience and inability to track. They come charging after the wounded animal like they are going to run it down. The animal, which often laid down fifty yards from where it was hit, jumps up and runs for the county line.

One other attribute of the native hunter is that he isn't punching a time clock. If he sees an animal but it is too far away, he is likely to pass it up knowing that he might get another crack at it tomorrow. The "dude" is ever mindful of the fact that he only has a few days to bag that moose or elk.

That is not to say that there are NO natives who take crappy shots. Optimists abound everywhere. What I am saying is that there is less time pressure on the native.

.30-30 Winchester on the left, .308 Winchester on the right
In the 1970s Michigan slaughtered 30,000 dairy cows that had been contaminated with PBB that had mistakenly been mixed with their feed. Many of those animals were shot with .30-30s. Box-after-box of ammo were loaded into guns and, according to the people I talked to, the ones who shot their lever-guns until the barrels were smoking hot, every bullet was a pass-through and not a single, 1500 pound Holstein took more than one shot.

A moose is a lot more aerobic than a dairy cow, but it isn't much bigger. If a 30-30 can kill a Holstein then a .308 can kill a moose.

The only asterisk is that a .308 Winchester is plenty if you are hunting bear but you might be more comfortable with a bigger gun when the bear is hunting you.


  1. All things aren't the same. Pa Wilder used to reload. I had a .30-06, using his reloads when we were hunting antelope. Every (and I mean every) time I pulled the trigger on that rifle it bruised my shoulder - I even developed a flinch that I worked through by dry firing it a zillion times.

    Then I moved out. I took my trusty rifle, and bought some store ammo. I checked the sight on my rifle. I squeezed the trigger.

    What? No pain? You can shoot a rifle and . . . enjoy it???

    Turns out the old man had been maxing out (to max allowable) chamber pressure and slinging the largest slug that he could for his "elk loads."

    1. There was a story out of Idaho maybe twenty-five, thirty years ago.

      A man inherited a reloading setup from a trusted, older man. It came with a recipe, powder and bullets.

      The man thought nothing of it. He was a hunter not a "shooter". He used the old-timers load of surplus IMR-4895 powder and Sierra bullets without a second thought.

      The story-teller used that recipe from the mid-sixties until the late seventies and killed, literally, truckloads of deer elk and moose with his 30-06.

      He came into some money and bought a chronograph and shot his magic load over it to see what laser-like velocity it had.

      It clocked 2400 feet per second.

      He was conflicted. He could change powder and amp up the speed to 2900fps or he could keep shooting the load his gun was sighted in for.

      He ended up splitting the difference. He loaded the full speed loads for his kids but kept shooting the 2400 fps load in his -06.

      It ain't broke. It don't need fixing.

      Just for the non-hunters, the "advertised" velocities for a 150 grain bullet in an -06 is 2900 fps, 2800 fps for the .308 and 2400 fps for the 30-30 although measured velocities are up to 200 fps slower depending on the rifle.

  2. I shoot both 30-06 and .308. BOTH of them will take down anything in North America. It IS always about shot placement...

  3. The "er"/"ed" divide has been rather important from the days when you hunted them with a sharp piece of stone tied to a stick.

  4. I have taken moose with 7mm Remington mag and 444 marlin. I would not be afraid to use the .308 with 180 gr bullets. As far as bears go I would prefer to have the .444 if I were hunting one which I don't but just for giggles the long time record grizzly was taken by a native lady in the Yukon with a .22 long!

  5. Growing up I will never forget the day my dad and walt were going to butcher a steer. They repeatedly shot it in the head with the .22 to no effect. So when I brought Ferdinand to Dukes meat house to be dispatched I didn't get too excited when the dispatcher pulls out a youthsized bolt action .22. Shot placement is important, not just in the head, but, exactly where in the head. That 1000lb animal looked like you pulled the floor out from under him. God Bless the owners of Dukes southern alabama.

  6. I was a caddy all through high school, and I learned that most people can't use the 5% improvement that the newest hottest equipment gives them. That $3000 set of clubs would have bought a lot of lessons that would make their game way better than hitting a the ball 5 yrds deeper into the woods.

    Its the same way with shooters, because every article in every hunting magazine and website is designed to sell you the new hotness. If you buy the new hotness you'll be a better shooter, and all your friends will know how awesome you are. And if they don't you have to rag on them for using obsolete .308.


    Petzal claims 30-06 is a cannon. A .308 would be fine for me. Better ammo availability but 30-30 is better still.

  8. Most all talk about cartridges is marketing BS.


      This sums up a lot of the marketing.

  9. There are many variables in ballistics to account for in coming up with the best load. For me, I'm reloading for accuracy and my biggest surprise came from learning that some bullets in some guns do not gain anything by going faster. Bullet weight, barrel twist and length, velocity are the big three but a few more things have a big impact as well. None of that will matter if you can't hit the side of a barn while standing in it.


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