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Published Nov 14, 2022 6:39 PM

Although we still haven’t climbed out of the ammo shortage, there’s good news if you hunt with a .308—many retailers have a variety of .308 hunting ammo available. The previous ammo shortages hit the .223 and .308 ammo stocks hard, while having less effect on stalwart hunting cartridges like the .30/06 and .30/30. This time, it seems that manufacturers have been able to stay on top of .308 hunting ammo production and hunters at least have something to buy.

Still, it’s a strange time, and there are both surprises and disappointments in the ammo market today (not exclusive to .308). Some ammunition has excelled, and some factory offerings that typically delivered excellent accuracy don’t seem to shoot as well as they used to. Some types of ammo seem to be everywhere, and other loads are scarce.

This year, I have tested and reviewed 11 different rifles chambered in .308 Win. I shot many types of ammo through these guns, testing it in affordable budget rifles, but also in mid-priced rifles. I’ve shot a variety of .308 Win. in specialized rifles like the Christensen Ridgeline Titanium FFT and the Howa M1500 HS Carbon. Through all this shooting, I was able to see what shot well, what didn’t, and hopefully help you pick the best .308 hunting ammo for deer or whatever your game is this year.

Things to Consider Before Buying .308 Ammo for Hunting

Game and Bullet Construction

As with any hunting ammo, you want to choose a load and bullet that will suit the game you intend on hunting. The .308 Win. is an extremely capable (and oft underrated) cartridge, and is suitable for large game like elk, moose, and even brown bears. If you’re hunting heavy game, pick a bonded or monolithic bullet and keep your shot distances under 300 yards. However, most people are hunting medium-sized game with the .308 and just about any medium-weight expanding bullet will do. Luckily there’s plenty of good, affordable .308 ammo for deer that can still be found on store shelves.

Accuracy

Each .308 ammo offering listed here will have both five-shot average group accuracy and standard deviation. It’s always great to maximize accuracy, but keep in mind that each rifle will like a different load. If you can’t try several loads, pick one with a small standard deviation. That means that across all the rifles tested, the accuracy of the load didn’t very much, and there’s a good chance it will shoot similarly in your .308.

Cost

Ammo is expensive, and premium ammo is even more expensive. If you need top-end bullet construction or are shooting at distances that require best-in-class accuracy, it’s worth the extra cost. However, if you’re hunting deer-sized game at distances under 200 yards or so, less-expensive ammo is usually sufficient.

Interpreting the Data

To test each of these types of .308 hunting ammo, I fired and measured five-shot groups through a variety of rifles. I recorded a minimum of five groups for each type of ammo (based on my inventory), but I was able to record between 15 and 30 groups for most offerings.

Keep in mind that average group size is with five-shot groups across all rifles tested. Some rifles shoot better, some worse. The standard deviation is the average variation in group size across all rifles tested. This data only reflects the rifles tested. Accuracy, obviously, varies from rifle to rifle. I experienced a couple of loads that would shoot four-inch groups in one rifle, and one-inch groups in another.

Remington 150-grain Core-Lokt Tipped

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Award: Best Overall

Average Group Size: 1.54 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .46 inches

Why It Made the Cut

Remington’s 150-grain Core-Lokt Tipped features a mechanically fastened jacket and was the most accurate and consistent .308 ammo tested across all rifles. It’s seriously good stuff.

Key Features

  • 150-grain polymer-tipped bullet
  • Jacket and core are mechanically fastened
  • G1 B.C.: .415
  • Velocity: 2840 fps

Pros

  • Best-in-class accuracy
  • Dependable expansion and weight retention
  • Shoots consistently in many different rifles
  • Excellent all-around hunting bullet

Cons

  • More expensive than original Core-Lokt

Product Description

I first reviewed Remington’s (new for 2021) Core-Lokt Tipped ammo late last fall and wasn’t sure what to expect. This was, after all, one of Big Green’s first post-bankruptcy launches. I found that the green-tipped bullets shot well in my .30/06 and performed well on a caribou. How would the load do in .308 Win. though?

The bullet is a boat-tailed projectile with a core that’s held together by a rib on the jacket. It’s tipped with a green-polymer nose and has a thin jacket up front that promotes expansion—much like the original Core-Lokt. The 150-grain bullet doesn’t have a remarkable B.C., but it’s better than its lead-tipped counterparts.

Accuracy of this .308 ammo was excellent in several rifles, but what was most impressive was that it shot well in almost every rifle tested. Across a spread of rifle/cartridge combinations, the Core-Lokt tipped was the lone standout as ammo that would shoot well in any rifle I tried.

Federal Non-Typical Whitetail 150-grain Soft Point

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Award: Best .308 Ammo for Deer

Average Group Size: 2.08 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .66 inches

Why It Made the Cut

Most deer hunters simply want dependable .308 ammo that’s affordable and shoots well out to a couple hundred yards. Reliable and affordable ammo has killed more bucks than anything, and that’s what you get with this .308 ammo for deer.

Key Features

  • 150-grain soft-point bullet
  • Concentric jacket for even expansion
  • G1 B.C.: .313
  • Velocity: 2820 fps

Pros

  • Reliable expansion
  • Quality brass and primers
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not the most accurate ammo

Product Description

Premium-line ammo has its place, but simple and affordable has been putting meat in the pot for generations. Like the basic do-all .308, Federal’s Non-Typical Whitetail line is an “everybody’s .308 deer ammo.” It’s a middle-of-the-road 150-grain soft point that will put bucks on the ground without killing your pocketbook.

This .308 ammo’s soft-point bullet will expand reliably, and it’s loaded into good quality brass. It’s not going to wow anyone with a high B.C. or nickel-plated cases, and accuracy isn’t anything to write home about. An average five-shot group size of 2.08 inches might seem outrageous to the precision rifle crowd, but for deer hunters who likely won’t be shooting over 150 or 200 yards, there’s not much reason to go with something that’s more expensive.

Across the field of .308 ammo that I tested, this stuff hits the sweet spot for performance versus cost, and the deer certainly won’t know the difference.

Barnes Vor-Tx 168-grain TTSX

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Award: Best Copper .308 Ammo

Average Group Size: 1.95 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .52 inches

Why It Made the Cut

Barnes bullets set the standard for copper hunting projectiles, and their factory Vor-Tx .308 ammo was the most accurate we could find.

Key Features

  • 168-grain TTSX boattail
  • Double-diameter expansion
  • G1 B.C.: .470
  • Velocity: 2700 fps

Pros

  • Consistent expansion
  • Excellent weight retention and penetration
  • Accurate
  • Lead-free

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Availability varies

Product Description

Barnes has long been an industry leader in monolithic copper bullets, and their TTSX is one of the best on the market. Loaded in their factory Vor-Tx .308 ammo, the 168-grain TTSX is an excellent choice for just about any game. In-fact, a friend of mine who lives on Kodiak uses it for everything (including brown bears).

The TTSX bullet is copper with a blue polymer ballistic tip that helps initiate expansion. Typically, these bullets expand into an X-shape with almost 100 percent weight retention and deep penetration. The TTSX certainly has some challengers, but it’s the standard that all other copper bullets are measured against.

Some rifles can be finicky with copper bullets, but this .308 ammo is generally accurate overall in a variety of rifles. Some like it, some just shoot it OK, but none seem to shoot it poorly. It’s a great option for .308 deer ammo but can also tackle bigger game.

Federal Premium 175-grain Terminal Ascent

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Average Group Size: 1.79 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .71 inches

Why It Made the Cut

This .308 ammo has premium components, is accurate, and has a high-B.C. bullet that will expand at a wide range of velocities.

Key Features

  • 175-grain bonded, High-B.C. bullet
  • Hollow ballistic tip initiates low-velocity expansion
  • G1 B.C.: .520
  • Velocity: 2600 fps

Pros

  • Expansion at low velocity
  • Bonded core for good weight retention
  • Accurate with .520 G1 B.C.
  • Nickel-plated brass

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Accuracy isn’t consistent across all rifles

Product Description

Federal Premium’s Terminal ascent bullet and load are designed to deliver accuracy and terminal performance at long or short distances. This 175-grain bullet features a bonded core and hollow “slipstream” ballistic tip that helps initiate expansion at lower velocities. The bullet also has relief grooves like those on monolithic copper bullets, and a long boat tail. The nickel-plated cases feed and extract reliably, and the quality of components is good.

I found the Terminal Ascent to yield somewhat mixed accuracy results, depending on the rifle. Some rifles shot it well, others didn’t. In the Christensen Ridgeline Titanium that I reviewed, this .308 ammo shot well, and I was able to reliably make first-round hits out to 600 yards.

If you’re hunting larger game like elk, or might be shooting beyond 300 yards, this load is an excellent option (assuming your rifle likes it). A bullet with a good B.C. like this will give you a better trajectory and buck the wind better than other bullets. Because it will still expand at lower velocities, it has an edge over some copper and other bonded bullets—especially in the relatively slow .308 Win.

Hornady Superformance 150-grain SST

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Average Group Size: 1.88 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .49 inches

Why It Made the Cut

This ammo has an accurate, mechanically bonded bullet with good velocity. It would be ideal for deer-sized game.

Key Features

  • 150-grain mechanically bonded ballistic tip
  • Proprietary propellant delivers best-in-class velocity
  • G1 B.C.: .447
  • Velocity: 3000 fps

Pros

  • High velocity
  • Good expansion and weight retention
  • Low accuracy deviation

Cons

  • Not exceptionally accurate in any single rifle

Product Description

Hornady’s Superformance line is still on the shelves in .308 ammo, and its biggest selling point is speed. The powder used delivers a couple hundred extra feet per second of velocity without dramatic pressure increases compared to other commercial loads. Topped with a 150-grain SST at 3,000 feet per second, it’s a great option for medium-sized game and hunters who prefer to sight in using the maximum point-blank method rather than turrets or holdover reticles.

The 150-grain SST bullet is a simple but effective boat-tail-based, cup and core bullet, but the jacket is mechanically fastened to the core for weight retention. The polymer tip helps make it more aerodynamic and initiates expansion. It might not be as deep-penetrating as heavier bonded or monolithic bullets, but it would be ideal for deer, black bears, and caribou. It would work just fine on heavier animals such as elk and moose.

Although accuracy in my testing wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great. There weren’t any rifles with which the load really stood out. However, the standard deviation of the group size was pretty small, so you could reasonably expect this ammo to shoot well in most rifles.

Winchester Deer Season XP 150-grain Extreme Point

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Average Group Size: 2.43 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .57 inches

Why It Made the Cut

This deer-specific ammo is affordable and offers great terminal performance and expansion on medium-sized game.

Key Features

  • Large-diameter polymer tip to initiate expansion
  • Tapered jacket to aid with weight retention
  • G1 B.C.: .392
  • Velocity: 2820 fps

Pros

  • Good expansion
  • Great for medium-sized game
  • affordable

Cons

  • Accuracy is below average
  • Not bonded

Product Description

For the deer hunter who doesn’t need bonded, ultra-accurate ammo, Winchester’s Deer Season XP is a great option in .308. It’s a little over $30 a box and is ideal for deer-sized game. Its most noticeable feature is a large-diameter polymer ballistic tip. This is designed to initiate dramatic expansion, while the tapered jacket helps the bullet hold together.

The bullet itself isn’t bonded or fastened, it’s a flat-based cup-and-core slug that won’t win any long-range contests—but that’s not what it’s made for. The jacket is tapered to be thinner up front and thicker in the rear which helps it hold together and penetrate. The fast 150-grain bullet will deliver heavy blows to deer at normal ranges.

I didn’t find this ammo to be very accurate in any of the .308 rifles I tried, but for the average deer woods hunting situation, it’ll work just fine. I believe it would also make excellent black bear ammo. Deer Season XP is priced well and is certainly worth considering.

Federal Premium 180-grain Trophy Bonded Tip

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Average Group Size: 1.93 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .50 inches

Why It Made the Cut

This heavy .308 load is made for controlled expansion and bone-crushing penetration. It’s an excellent choice for large game.

Key Features

  • Bonded core and jacket
  • Skived jacket for reliable expansion
  • G1 B.C.: .500
  • Velocity: 2620 fps

Pros

  • Reliable expansion
  • High B.C.
  • Heavy-duty bonding for weight retention
  • Nickel-plating for smooth loading and cycling

Cons

  • Mediocre accuracy in test rifles

Product Description

The Trophy Bonded Tip bullet is a tough but streamlined projectile that’s meant for heavy use. The 180-grain .308 Win. load is a potent one, and appropriate for just about any game in North America. It’s only 80 feet per second slower than the .30/06 load with the same bullet, and most animals would never know the difference.

In addition to the bonded jacket and core, the bullet has a polymer tip that aids with consistent expansion, as does the scored jacket. Relief grooves and a boat tail give the bullet a good B.C., but its strength is in shooting tough game at closer distances. The nickel-plated cases and bullets help them load, chamber, and eject smoothly, and it uses Federal Gold Medal primers.

Accuracy of this .308 ammo was mediocre in my test rifles, but it was relatively consistent. It is noticeable that the nickel-plated cases load and cycle more smoothly, and it is excellent ammo for hunting larger game. Its strength isn’t long-range hunting, but were I taking a .308 after moose, elk, or grizzly bears, this is probably the load I would use.

Hornady Outfitter 165-grain CX

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Average Group Size: 2.54 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .82 inches

Why It Made the Cut

This monolithic copper ammo is loaded into nickel-plated cases, has a streamlined profile, and expands reliably with good weight retention.

Key Features

  • Copper alloy construction with polymer tip
  • Relief grooves in bullet
  • Nickel-plated cases
  • G1 B.C.: .440
  • Velocity: 2610 fps

Pros

  • High weight-retention
  • Nickel-plated cases for smooth cycling
  • Sealed case mouth and primer for additional weather protection

Cons

  • Accuracy is poor in rifles tested

Product Description

Hornady’s Outfitter line is designed for hard use in inclement weather conditions, and uses their latest mono-metal bullet, the CX. Like Hornady’s previous iteration—the GMX—the CX is a controlled expansion, high weight-retention copper bullet with a ballistic tip, relief grooves, and a boat tail. It’s ideal for both medium and large-sized game out to about 300 yards. Beyond that, it drops below 2,000 feet per second, and expansion will diminish.

This ammo comes loaded in nickel-plated cases with both the case mouth and primer sealed to prevent any stubborn moisture from contaminating the powder. In addition to corrosion protection, the nickel plating is a harder surface that provides smoother loading and cycling.

I’m a believer in the effectiveness of mono-metal bullets like the CX, and in a recent brush bullets test, they proved to be much less prone to deflection than lead-core bullets of similar shape. Their performance on game is also excellent. Accuracy can sometimes be an issue though, and none of the rifles I tested really cared for this Outfitter load. Accuracy was good enough for hunting at close ranges, but I’d like it to be better.

Federal Premium 165-grain Swift Scirocco II

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Average Group Size: 1.99 inches

Standard Deviation of Group Size: .96 inches

Why It Made the Cut

The Swift Scirocco II is a high B.C., bonded bullet that’s built to expand reliably at low velocities, but hold together up close.

Key Features

  • Polymer ballistic tip
  • Bonded jacket and core
  • Controlled expansion at low velocities
  • G1 B.C. .470
  • Velocity: 2700 fps

Pros

  • Controlled expansion at high and low velocities
  • Good B.C. for longer distance shooting
  • Bonded jacked and core for deep penetration

Cons

  • Accuracy was finicky

Product Description

The Black-tipped Swift Scirocco II is an excellent bullet for medium and large game at a variety of distances. It’s a premium bonded bullet that’s designed to expand at low velocities but retain weight and penetrate at high velocity. It has a high B.C. for a .308 hunting bullet, which translates to a better trajectory and resistance to wind.

The Scirocco II is a popular bullet with handloaders, and the 150-grain Scirocco loaded in the .30/06 is my uncle’s favorite moose combination. It can be very accurate, but in this loading, many rifles didn’t like it. One rifle printed four-inch groups with this load, while the Tikka T3X Lite and Kimber Hunter Pro Desolve Black reliably printed the first three shots of their groups under an inch with it. Whether you’re looking for .308 deer ammo or something to hunt everything with, this load is a good one if your rifle likes it.

FAQ’s

Q: What is the best .308 ammo for deer?

There are lots of excellent options for .308 deer ammo, and all the loads covered in this test would work well. If you’re on a tight budget, the Federal Non-Typical Whitetail or Winchester Deer Season XP would be the go-to. Otherwise, go with the Remington Core-Lokt Tipped.

Q: What is the best .308 ammo for long range?

If you’re hunting at longer distances, you want a high-B.C. bullet that is accurate in your rifle and designed to expand at lower velocities. The .308 isn’t a hard-hitting cartridge at distance, but it can perform with the right bullet. Federal Premium 175-grain Terminal Ascent or Swift Scirocco II loads would be good ones to use.

Q: What is the best .308 hunting ammo for elk?

Elk are big, tough animals, and the most important factors in killing them cleanly are shot placement and bullet construction. Bullets that will expand but maintain their weight are usually the best choice, and the Barnes TTSX or Federal Premium Trophy Bonded Tip would both be great options.

Final Thoughts on .308 Hunting Ammo

Although many of our favorite hunting cartridges are still scarce on store shelves, it’s a breath of fresh air to see .308 hunting ammo in relative abundance—and I do mean “relative.” There are options on most store shelves and at online retailers, and some good ones at that. The .308 Win. is an excellent all-around cartridge, and almost all the ammo performs well enough to hunt at average distances.

If you simply need .308 deer ammo, the Federal Non-Typical and Winchester Deer Season XP are great options, and if you want something more well-rounded, choose a load with controlled-expansion bullets. The one standout in the test was Remington’s Core-Lokt Tipped which was consistently accurate and has a good bullet. It’s a step in the right direction for Big Green.