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Published May 20, 2022 12:17 PM

The .308 Winchester turns 70 years old in 2022, and despite being rather long in the tooth, this round still ranks among the most popular hunting and shooting cartridges in the world, especially for hunting rifles. There’s no doubt that newer cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor and PRC and Winchester’s new 6.8 Western have some ballistic efficiencies over the .308, but that hasn’t eroded the .308’s mass appeal. If you’re looking for a short-action cartridge that offers ample punch for most big game animals combined with moderate recoil, and you want plenty of factory hunting loads from which to choose, then the .308 is still a solid bet. Here’s a list of the best .308 hunting rifles that I’ve used in the field or on the range.

Things to Consider When Buying a .308 Hunting Rifle

Action

With its overwhelming popularity and 70-year history, there are plenty of options for those who want to hunt with a .308 rifle. There are so many options, in fact, that picking the best .308 can be a challenge. But determining what type of action you want is a great place to start. Most .308 hunting rifles come in bolt-actions, and there are many great options. If you’re familiar with semiautos, then the AR-10 platform is perfect. But if you prefer something lighter and more classically styled, Browning’s BAR rifle combines the classic look of a hunting rifle with the convenience of a semiauto. Lever guns like Browning’s BLR and Henry’s Long Ranger utilize box magazines and, therefore, will work with the .308 cartridge. But there are also single shots like Ruger’s vaunted No. 1.

Accuracy

Almost all modern rifles, regardless of price, have suitable triggers and offer reasonable accuracy. Some, like the Ruger American, blend superb accuracy and exceptional value. 

Weight

Weight savings in the form of carbon fiber stocks and carbon fiber-wrapped barrels come at a price, so if you plan to carry your .308 on high-altitude, leg and lung-burning hunts, those weight savings might offer you a better chance of success in the field. A pound or two of weight adds up over time, especially in the thin air altitudes where elk, goats, and sheep thrive.

Threaded Barrel

If you’ve invested the time and money to purchase a suppressor then you’ll want a threaded barrel (preferably one that matches your thread pattern—adapters are widely available but easy to lose or forget) that is short enough so that the overall length of the rifle is still manageable. The Springfield Waypoint 2020 .308 rifle I used for a pronghorn antelope hunt in the fall of 2021 came with a 20-inch carbon fiber pipe, but with a suppressor in place overall length increases by as much as nine inches. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate shorter barrels because I exclusively hunt with suppressors when that’s an option, but short barrels also make a rifle much easier to maneuver in dense forest or in a blind or treestand. Thankfully, .308 rifles perform well with short barrels.

Ammunition

Ammo selection is critically important to wring the best in-field performance from your .308 rifle. There are light .308 loads available with bullets under 150 grains, but these are typically designed for varmint hunting or reduced recoil loads. As with other .30-caliber rounds, you can stuff 200-grain bullets in a .308 case, but velocities are so low that I’ve never seen 200-grain .308 ammo as a viable option. If you want a hard-hitting .30-caliber, 200-grain bullet, there are lots of great cartridge options including the .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 WSM, .300 Weatherby Magnum, 30 Nosler, and .300 PRC, all of which gladly handle heavy .308-inch bullets.

Best Overall: Browning X-Bolt Speed Suppressor Ready

Browning

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Key Features

  • Three-lug X-Bolt
  • Adjustable gold-plated Feather trigger
  • Removable rotary magazine
  • Short (18 to 22-inch) barrel with 5/8×24 threads
  • Weight: 6.2 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

With its Smoked Bronze Cerakote finish and new OVIX camo stock, the X-bolt Speed Suppressor Ready is an awesome-looking rifle with extreme versatility. 

Pros

  • Sweet looks
  • Lightweight 
  • Reasonable price considering the quality and accuracy

Cons

  • Stubby barrel steals a bit of muzzle velocity
  • Requires X-Bolt specific mags and scope bases

Product Description

With a suppressor, the overall length of this gun is manageable but without one, this gun has an overall length of just 38-inches, which makes it perfect for a blind or tree stand. And while there are plenty of great options in the X-Bolt family, I believe this one is the handiest of the lot.  

In my experience, X-Bolt rifles are real tack-drivers, and I’ve never had one that didn’t shoot well. Browning doesn’t plaster promises of sub-MOA accuracy all over their website, but it’s reasonable to expect these guns to shoot under an inch with ammo that the rifle likes. And a shooter who knows what they’re doing won’t hurt either. With a can, a good scope, and a dialed-in load, this gun is perfect for most any game in any terrain.

Best Budget: Ruger American Rifle Vortex Crossfire II Combo

Key Features

  • Includes Vortex Crossfire II 3-9×40 scope with Dead Hold BDC
  • Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger
  • Three-log bolt with 60-degree bolt lift
  • Power Bedding integral bedding block
  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • Detachable rotary magazine

Why It Made the Cut

This basic but functional hunting rifle setup has a crisp adjustable trigger, and it’s light enough for most hunting situations. Plus, you simply can’t beat Ruger’s accuracy to cost ratio. 

Pros

  • Accuracy matches more expensive rivals
  • Tons of value for the price

Cons

  • Austere look
  • Heavier than other options

Product Description

The basic rifle/scope combo is, well, basic. The Crossfire might not make it on the best rifle scopes list, but it’s more than capable for most hunting situations. And if you want to add some color to your hunting rig check out the Go Wild camo version.

I’ve tested several Ruger American rifles in various calibers and—no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with these guns—every one shot well. On a bear hunt in Alberta, I managed to harvest two bruins with this rifle, neither of which made it out of view before expiring. With an American rifle chambered in .308 you can hunt most of the world’s game. So do you really need a more expensive rifle?  

Best Lever Action: Henry Long Ranger

Key Features

  • Anodized aluminum receiver
  • Four round magazine capacity
  • Drilled and tapped receiver
  • Six-lug bolt locks into barrel extension
  • Weight: 7 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

With its two-piece oil-finish American walnut stock and rich bluing, the Long Ranger is a modern take on the classic lever-action hunting rifle.

Pros

  • Beautiful finishes
  • Accessible hammer design
  • Detachable magazine

Cons

  • Runs on the heavier side
  • Not as accurate as some bolt guns in this price range

Product Description

The .308 lends itself well to a variety of action types, including lever guns like the Long Ranger. And the rack-and-pinion system is smooth and fast, so you can deliver quick follow ups with this rifle. I’m glad that Henry used a transfer bar hammer instead of sullying the look of this gun with a manual safety, and the side-mounted push button magazine release is intuitively positioned.

When I tested this rifle I mounted it with a low-mount scope, and the Henry’s short, steeply-angled hammer stayed well out of the way. Accuracy wasn’t half-MOA, but this rifle certainly is accurate for a lever-action, and it even challenges some bolt-actions. Plus, there’s nothing like the feel of a lever gun.

Best Crossover: Springfield Waypoint 2020

Springfield Armory

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Key Features

  • Cylindrical receiver with integral machined recoil lug
  • AG Composites carbon fiber stock
  • Optional fluted steel or carbon fiber barrels
  • TriggerTech Trigger
  • Weight: 6 pounds, 9 ounces to 7 pounds, 11 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

The Springfield Waypoint is accurate enough for long-range target shooting yet light enough to carry in the field, which makes it the ultimate dual-purpose .308 rifle for hunting and competition.

Pros

  • Capable of .75 MOA accuracy
  • Feels like a custom rifle
  • Adjustable trigger

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited stock and Cerakote color options

Product Description

No part of this rifle has been overlooked, and the Waypoint’s bolt slips through the wire EDM raceway with surgical precision. This gun costs a couple grand but feels like it should be priced higher.

Of course, four-figure guns better come with precision and luckily, this Springfield does. The .308 I tested shot just over an inch for three rounds at 200 yards, and I had no trouble dropping a Wyoming antelope at just over 400 while hunting with Kody Glause of Heart Spear Outfitters. I trusted the rifle to make any reasonable shot and hated to see it go. And I’m still kicking myself for not buying that gun. 

Best Youth: Mossberg Patriot Youth Super Bantam

Mossberg

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Key Features

  • Adjustable LOP
  • Trigger is adjustable from 2 to 7 pounds
  • Detachable box magazine 
  • Fluted barrel
  • Includes a 3-9×40 scope on Weaver bases
  • Rifle/Scope Weight: 7.5 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

The Mossberg Patriot Youth Super Bantam is a durable and affordable gun that’s perfectly suited for small-statured or growing shooters.

Pros

  • Fits and grows with young hunters
  • Reasonable accuracy for the price
  • Budget friendly

Cons

  • Functional but not fancy
  • Bolt doesn’t lock

Product Description

This rifle comes equipped with a bore sighted 3-9×40 scope, so it provides a hunter with everything they need to start hunting at a bargain price. While this rifle is technically youth sized, the adjustable LOP(length of pull) means that hunters can grow with it.

There’s nothing particularly fancy about the Mossberg (save the Muddy Girl pink camo finish), but these are workaday guns that punch tags without pretensions. The LBA trigger is reliable and safe, and I’ve never seen a Mossberg Patriot rifle suffer from reliability issues. After carrying Patriot rifles while chasing Coues deer in Mexico, whitetails in Kansas, and ibex in Spain, I’m a fan of this purpose-built bolt gun.

Best Semiauto: Wilson Combat Tactical Hunter

Wilson Combat

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Key Features

  • Wilson Combat flat top billet upper and lower receivers
  • Rifle-length gas system with Lo-Profile gas block
  • Wilson Combat match grade barrel 
  • TTU trigger
  • Armor-Tuff finish
  • Weight: 7 pounds, 13 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

The Wilson Combat Tactical Hunter is a tack-driving AR-10 rifle that’s built with premium components. 

Pros

  • Exceptional accuracy
  • Dependable
  • Premium features
  • Optional upgrades

Cons

  • Super expensive
  • Heavy

Product Description

I’ve spent considerable time behind Tactical Hunter rifles chambered for .308 Winchester and Bill Wilson’s sorely underrated .300 Ham’r cartridge. I went on a hog hunt with Bill at his ranch in Texas and took a nice boar with one shot before shooting the Tactical Hunter out to 1,000 yards. 

Understandably, the Tactical Hunter is priced like a premium AR rifle, but there’s no better option if you’re looking for a semiauto .308 hunting rifle. And if you’re wondering why there’s no category for best .308 varmint/predator rifle, it’s because this gun wins that award, too.

Best for Elk: Kimber Hunter Pro Desolve Blak

Kimber

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Key Features

  • Kimber 84M controlled round feed action
  • Three-position safety
  • Reinforced polymer stock with pillar bedding
  • 22-inch sporter contour match grade barrel
  • Weight: 5 pounds, 9 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

The Hunter Pro Desolve Blak brings a new look to the Hunter line of rifles and at 5 pounds, 9 ounces, this gun is perfect for hunting the high country.

Pros

  • One of the most affordable rifles on this list
  • Accurate
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • More recoil than other rifles on the list
  • 7/16 x 28 muzzle threading requires an adapter to accommodate most muzzle devices
The lightweight Kimber Hunter Pro makes it a great rifle for hunting elk in the high country.
The lightweight Kimber Hunter Pro is a great rifle for hunting elk in the high country. Brad Fitzpatrick

Product Description

I own one of these guns in .308, which I purchased after an evaluation. Why did I buy it? I wanted a lightweight .308 rifle that I could use for anything, especially for hunting big game in the high country. And the Kimber Hunter Pro Desolve Blak fits the bill. My Kimber is a bit finicky about loads, but it absolutely loves Black Hills’ 152-grain Dual Performance. With that load, it would shoot under an inch at 100 yards for five-shot groups, and that’s my go-to rifle/load combo for big game hunting. With the light weight, you do gain a bit of recoil from this rifle, but it’s not unmanageable. But with this gun’s accuracy, if you’re lucky enough to pack an elk out, you’ll forget all about recoil. 

Best Truck Rifle: Mossberg MVP Scout Rifle

Mossberg

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Key Features

  • Push-feed action 
  • 11-inch extended top rail for standard or EER scopes
  • Utilizes Magpul P-MAGs (one 10-round included)
  • Polymer stock is pillar bedded and offers rails on right and left side
  • LBA Adjustable trigger
  • Weight: 7 pounds

Why It Made the Cut

With a forward-mounted scope and ten-round magazine this versatile Mossberg is the perfect rifle to ride shotgun in your pickup.

Pros

  • Relatively affordable price
  • Versatile
  • Picatinny rails for additional accessories

Cons

  • Not as accurate as some other rifles on this list
  • Dual lug design creates a bit of bolt slop

Product Description

The MVP is an affordable introduction to the world of Scout rifles. I’ve successfully hunted elk and mule deer with this rifle, but it’s also my go-to hog hunting weapon. And with subsonic loads it’s a super training and self-defense rifle. In fact, I probably shoot my MVP Scout rifle more than any other centerfire that I own. Is a Scout rifle ideal for hunting elk? Not under all circumstances, but my Mossberg placed a 165-grain Partition in the top of a bull’s heart from a couple hundred yards away and that, as they say, was that.

The side Picatinny rails make this rifle more versatile. For AR hunters who want a bolt gun that offers  them a place to mount all their swag, this is it. Because I shoot this rifle often I shoot it pretty well, and I believe Cooper was right when he said that the speed of a Scout rifle is unmatched by other bolt guns. 

Editors’ Pick: Nosler M21

Nosler

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Key Features

  • Weight: 6.8 pounds
  • Barrel: Stainless steel, 22-inch, 1:10-inch twist
  • Threaded muzzle

Why It Made the Cut

The M21 is designed to function perfectly in tough environments, balance well, shoot accurately, and it’s built with high-quality materials. It’s a dependable all-around hunting rifle that will last a lifetime.

Pros

  • High-quality components 
  • Intuitive design
  • Top-level accuracy for a production hunting rifle
  • Bolt features tool-less takedown for field maintenance

Cons

  • Expensive

Product Description

The Nosler Model 21 is a fantastic hunting rifle, and it won Editor’s Choice in our 2022 rifle test. It’s a medium-lightweight, well-balanced rifle meant to take on any hunt. Though it’s an expensive rifle, you get a high-quality, long-term piece of equipment for the price.

The M21 isn’t ultra light, but it’s light enough to take on a mountain hunt and substantial enough to be easy shooting. It features a bolt that’s fluted to minimize receiver contact and utilizes an M16-style extractor.

The Triggertech trigger is user-adjustable, and the rifle is suppressor-ready. I really appreciate the bolt’s tool-less takedown feature. And the action is designed with user-friendliness in mind. If you want a rifle that can handle anything, consider this one. —Staff Writer Tyler Freel

Best Value: Winchester XPR

Winchester

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Key Features

  • Weight: 6.75 pounds
  • Barrel: 22-inch, Perma-Cote steel, 1:12-inch twist
  • Detachable magazine

Why It Made the Cut

The Winchester XPR is an affordable but rugged and accurate hunting rifle. I’ve hunted with the XPR quite a bit and have found it to be a great value.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Accurate and dependable
  • Good weight and balance
  • Corrosion-resistant finish

Cons

  • Fit and stock aren’t what they are on high-end rifles

Product Description

The Winchester XPR represents a great value for a hunting rifle and is one of the better “budget-priced” guns on the market. It features a no-frill synthetic stock, coated barrel and receiver, and a detachable single-stack magazine.

For the price, the XPR is typically a performer, and I’ve had the opportunity to hunt with several of them, including .308, .300 WSM, .338 Win Mag, and 6.5 Creedmoor. They’re almost all very accurate for their price and hold up to the elements well. The XPR is a simple, affordable rifle, but you don’t have to feel like you’re sacrificing performance. -Staff Writer, Tyler Freel

FAQs

Q: What grain bullet is best for 308?

Bullets from 150 to 180-grains are the best option for .308 hunting rifles. The 150-grain bullets are perfect for most medium-sized game and are one of best deer hunting calibers, and there are several affordable options available. One of my favorite .308 150-grain(ish) loads in Black Hills’s 152-grain Dual Performance bullet, which offers superb accuracy and devastating expansion, but I’ve also had good luck with Barnes’s 150-grain TSX and Federal’s 150-grain Fusion loads as well. 150-grain loads also tend to produce less recoil than heavier loads.

For most game, 150-grain .308 loads work fine, but I shoot .308 hunting bullets between 165 and 180-grains almost exclusively these days. These bullets offer higher ballistic coefficients than lighter bullets, and that equates to reduced wind drift and sustained kinetic energy.

Q: What is the best grain bullet for a 308 rifle for elk hunting?

I typically hunt elk with .308 bullets that weigh 165 to 180 grains. Bullets in this weight range with high BCs offer better terminal performance on big game, especially when shots are potentially long. If I’m going to shoot a bull elk across a canyon with a .308 Winchester I want the bullet with the flattest trajectory and best retained energy, and that means high-BC bullets.   

Q: Which rifle is the best for hunting, the 308 or 30-06?

For decades the .30-06 had been the most popular centerfire big game hunting cartridge, and the .308 is often considered the ‘06’s smaller, weaker cousin. It’s true that the .30-06 manages about 100 fps more than the .308 with 165-grain ammunition, but it does so at the price of more recoil and a longer action (which means more gun weight). And while the .30-06 is more powerful than the .308, I haven’t noticed much difference between the two in terms of performance on game. Also, the short, efficient .308 rifles tend to be more accurate than ’06 rifles on the whole. The .308 is mild-mannered and can be built into lighter rifles, but if I wanted something with more punch I’d skip over the ought-six and go directly to the .30-caliber magnums, which offer 300 or 400 more fps than the .308.

Methodology

For this review, I compiled a list of the best .308 hunting rifles that I’ve personally used at the range or hunting. I considered factors such as, price, accuracy, weight, and the quality of materials and components of each rifle for determining which ones made this list.

Final Thoughts

It’s no accident that the .308 has been so popular with hunters for seven decades. Today’s rifles and ammunition are better than ever, and that brings out the best in an already outstanding hunting cartridge. So finding the best .308 hunting rifles to fit your own needs shouldn’t be a problem. In the future the .308 will only face more competition, but this classic hunting cartridge isn’t going to disappear from American game fields anytime soon.