Before we go any further, there is one small issue that should be cleared up, namely the difference between .308 Winchester and 7.62 NATO. The internet is full of people having very loud and sometimes entertaining arguments over the two rounds.
Now it is true that the 7.62 NATO is a slightly modified .308, and that .308 is often loaded hotter than the 7.62 NATO, the two rounds are interchangeable in modern .308 chambered rifles.
Some might dispute the interchangeability on surplus arms built for 7.62 NATO, but such distinctions are beyond the scope of this article, as we are looking at the best .308 rifles available today, all of which will handle either round just fine.
Having gotten that traditional bit of controversy out of the way, let’s go back a few decades and look at the history of this wildly popular round. The .308 Winchester was born from modifying the .300 Savage, which was designed to work in the popular Savage Model 99 lever action rifle, and have similar ballistics to the .30-06 Springfield.
Following WWII, Winchester, in conjunction with the US Army were working to develop a .30 caliber cartridge that would have similar power to the .30-06, but would be shorter.
Sound familiar? Modifying the .300 Savage, the end result was the .308 Winchester, which was introduced to the public in 1952. Two years later, the 7.62 NATO was born from the same research and experimentation. Today, the .308 Winchester (and 7.62 NATO) are if not the most popular rifle round in the world, one of the most popular rifle rounds.
Capable of taking many big game species, the .308 is found around the world, anywhere where civilian ownership of guns in that caliber are possible. It is wildly popular for match target shooting, hunting and even tactical and sniper rifles. Many Americans have a .308 rifle of some sort, and everything from single shot break action rifles, to tricked out AR style .308’s can be had.
The market for .308 rifles ranges from affordable blue collar truck guns, to high end precision bolt action sniper and match target rifles. In between, there is a rifle for every use and every budget.
Gun makers like Savage and Ruger offer entry level and high end target rifles, while Henry Repeating Arms offers an affordable .308 lever action rifle, and a nice single shot. Colt and other manufacturers are flooding the market with AR style .308’s that continue to be sold at ever lower and lower price points, while venerable old favorites like M-14 style .308’s are also still made.
No matter what you are after, from a cheap deer rifle, to a military grade sniper rifle, we’ve found and categorized some of the best .308 rifles on the market today!
Top Best .308 Rifles Comparison Table
What Makes a Good .308 Rifle?
This of course is a highly subjective and loaded question.
What is good for a trained sniper, is simply pointless for a once a year good weather deer hunter, while a long distance match shooter may choose a different type of gun than the sniper.
Personal taste, tradition, local culture, end use, budget, and so much more all must be considered when choosing a rifle. However, there are a few things that are generally considered must have features on a .308.
For starters, 18-22” barrels are the norm, although rifles made for long range shooting may have longer barrels still. Under 18” and you start wasting powder and don’t develop the full potential of the .308 round. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for 16” .308’s, in fact my first .308 AR was a 16” rifle, and I built it to be easily carried in the brushy woods of Western Washington State. However, this is a case where an extra couple inches really can make a difference.
The .308 Winchester is a long range round, capable of making accurate shots well past 500 yards (how far is something of a debate among long range shooters), which means the best .308 rifles will be able to mount a scope. Even if you choose to operate with iron sights, being able to install an optic is important.
A good trigger is a must as well. After all, a stiff, gritty trigger is no fun, and will have a negative impact on your accuracy. And the trigger must be considered in regards to the purpose of the rifle. A feather light trigger is to be desired on the bench, but may be a safety liability on a hunting rifle. As with anything, there is rarely a one size fits all choice. However, each of the rifles we look at here have excellent triggers that are more than suitable for their role.
We see that key components of a rifle are important, as are the sights. What remains, is to bring them all together into a single unit, mated with a quality stock that is comfortable and promotes accurate shooting.
Therefore, we can see the ideal .308 rifle will have a sufficiently long (and well made) barrel to develop accuracy and the full potential of the round, as well as a comfortable stock, suitable trigger, and either well made iron sights or a quality optic.
These are of course the same things that make for a good rifle regardless of caliber, but the power and accuracy potential of the .308 make selecting the correct combination of features more important than say, picking out a .22 for casual plinking.
That said, let’s look at some guns!
The Best All Around .308 Bolt Action Rifle
This is a highly subjective category. After all, any .308 rifle review is bound to leave out somebody’s favorite gun, and it is also going to rely on a set of criteria that are unique to the reviewer, which they also hope will appeal to the readership. Because the .308 is such a popular cartridge, there are many different “best” guns, and here, for a general purpose, .308 bolt action rifle, we are weighing cost, quality of construction, overall value and more.
For price point, we considered more than just the price tag. There are cheaper guns than the ones chosen here, and they are perfectly fine, but we are after guns that ship with greater added value than simple bare minimum. With that in mind, we were after guns that offered a bit more than others.
Things like an adjustable trigger, or features more commonly found on higher end guns. Too, we considered how readily the gun owner could modify their .308 rifle, and what accessories might be available. We also wanted to see what guns would appeal to the casual shooter.
After all, a gun owner who takes their rifle out a couple times a year is still as relevant a consumer as one who buys a rifle to shoot every weekend. We wanted these rifles to appeal to first time and novice shooters, as well as long time expert gun owners.
Bolt action rifles are both affordable and capable of great accuracy. With that in mind, we wanted to find two different .308 bolt action rifles to review- one general purpose hunting or casual target rifle, and a purpose designed target rifle that is good enough for a skilled shooter, but approachable to a novice or casual shooter.
We’ll get to tactical rifles and more dedicated match target rifles later. These two guns, are working class guns, and we hope you agree that they are among the best .308 bolt action rifles for your money.
- 22” barrel
- Removable 4 round box magazine
- Adjustable AccuTrigger
- Weatherproof composite stock
- Ships with a factory boresighted scope already mounted.
It is rare that you can buy a rifle straight from the factory with an already installed, bore sighted scope, and an adjustable target trigger for under $500. The Savage Axis II XP is just such a gun though.
An ideal general purpose .308 bolt action rifle, this gun is perfect for the person who just needs a basic rifle, with a basic scope, that shoots a basic caliber.
It is a rifle for the common person, and just at home in a deer camp, as it is locked in a safe for casual shooting.
And because it is a Savage, you know the quality of manufacturing will be superb.
While many lower priced bolt action rifles ship without sights or a scope, Savage factory mounts a Weaver 3-9x40 scope on the Axis II XP, and then boresights it, leaving you to only do a final sighting in with your preferred ammunition.
While the 22” barrel and all-weather composite stock make for a handy package, what makes the Axis II XP stand out is the Savage AccuTrigger.
This target grade adjustable trigger is just what you need to make that “perfect” shot.
Adjustable from about 1.5 to 6 pounds, the Savage AccuTrigger brings match quality performance to to common shooter.
All in all, Savage has packed a whole lot of rifle into not a lot of money. It’s not pretty, but it’s got an awful lot going for it.
- 22” barrel
- Highly customizable. Uses AR-15 stock furniture
- Uses common removable magazines
- Adjustable match target trigger
Now we were torn on where to put the Ruger Precision Rifle. Certainly no .308 rifle review should be considered complete without one of the most popular 308 rifle - the Ruger Precision Rifle.
However, where to place it is another question, as it could go into several different places. Ultimately we chose to put it in the best all around .308 target rifle category for several reasons.
While it is a precision target rifle, it could also serve as a tactical bolt action rifle, or even a sniper rifle for law enforcement or security professionals. It also is a great hunting rifle.
However, we placed it where we did, because it is also an insanely affordable rifle. Ruger has long mastered the careful art of creating a high end product at an affordable price, and the Ruger Precision Rifle is no exception to that.
In fact, the Ruger Precision Rifle is a truly amazing rifle that shows considerable thought in construction. Using many off the shelf parts, and piling on features that normally are in the realm of custom built guns, Ruger created what may be the best .308 target rifle for mass consumption.
Designed to be readily modified using off the shelf AR-15 furniture, the Ruger Precision rifle features a unique folding stock with an adjustable comb and length of pull.
Because it fits a standard AR buffer tube, you can readily swap out the stock for something else if you are so inclined.
The free floating 22” barrel is covered by a KeyMod handguard with a 20 MOA rail, which allows for mounting oversized scopes suitable for the kinds of long range shots the .308 is capable of. A threaded barrel fits common muzzle brakes or even suppressors.
The rifle ships with two 10 round Magpul Pmag magazines, and 20 round magazines are also available.
Add in a removable oversized bolt handle knob which can be changed out to various different shapes and sizes, an adjustable match grade trigger, AR style pistol grip, plus so much more, and price it for around $1100, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a target rifle!
The Best AR Style .308
Before the AR-15, there was the .308 chambered AR-10. Today, the modern .308 AR style rifle isn’t properly an AR-10 as originally designed, but is a scaled up AR-15, and generally uses some common parts like the trigger group, pistol grip, buffer tube assembly and stocks.
Originally .308 AR’s were somewhat expensive and hard to get, but the prices have been rapidly falling as more and more shooters embrace the platform. Today, the AR style .308 ranges from inexpensive and entry level, to custom one off tactical rifles.
While there is no standard format for .308 AR style rifles, two competing standards have evolved. Those made by the modern incarnation of Armalite, and those compatible with DPMS pattern upper receivers.
The latter is by far the most commonly seen, and many companies build uppers, lowers, handguards and bolts which work with that pattern, making it the closest thing to a standard for .308 AR style rifles.
However, when assembling a .308 AR from parts, sometimes minor tolerance differences can make for an upper and lower that do not fit properly. This problem is solved by buying an off the shelf .308 AR such as the ones we review here.
We have elected to examine tactical .308 AR’s elsewhere, and offer for your consideration the best AR style .308’s for hunting and target shooting.
- 18” barrel
- Standard AR style furniture
- Can use common Magpul .308 Pmags
- Designed to use optics or iron sights
The Smith and Wesson M&P line is a series of firearms that in theory are marketed as suitable for law enforcement work, with the implication that they are also superior arms for private citizens.
The reality is they are quality firearms built for regular use either as duty arms or for hunting, sport shooting or self defense.
Because modern AR style rifles are so modular and also built to certain common themes, the differences in use often blur together. We chose the .308 M&P10 as a premium quality hunting rifle. While it is expensive at about $1400, it offers superior features not commonly found in less expensive .308 style AR rifles.
While many manufacturers advertise mil-spec rifles, Colt has a long history of actually building guns for military customers. This high quality is present in the M&P10.
Using high end components, Colt builds an 18” barreled .308 AR style rifle that combines the design of AR-15 carbines with the hard hitting power of the .308 round.
The flat top upper can mount a scope, or rear iron sight, while the forward gas block also features a small rail section for installing a front sight, making this a very modular rifle.
And of course you can replace the polymer handguards with any number of free floating rail system handguards.
For hunting, the M&P10 offers an ideal balance of usability and power. The adjustable stock allows you to quickly fit the rifle to whatever thickness of clothing you may be wearing in the woods, while the compact design and 18” barrel make it easy to carry all day.
And if you really need it to be, it’s also a decent tactical rifle. What it lacks in fancy features, it makes up for in Colt quality manufacturing and reliability.
- 22” stainless match quality barrel
- Custom handguard designed to lay flat for more accurate shooting from a rest or bench
- Magpul PRS stock that is adjustable for length of pull and comb height
- Lightweight 3.5 pound single stage trigger
- Rifle length gas system for maximum reliability
While this is advertised as a tactical rifle, quite frankly there is often little or no real difference between a tactical rifle and a quality target rifle, except what language you wan to use to describe them.
The Seekins Precision SP-10 is a high end match quality rifle with a 22” stainless steel barrel, lightweight single stage trigger, handguard designed to lay flat on a shooting surface, fully ambidextrous controls, and a special stock that can be adjusted to fit the end user for maximum comfort and accuracy.
What is nice about this rifle is that it really is a turn key, out of the box target shooting experience. Simply add the optic of your choice to it, and it is ready to go. Every aspect of it has been designed around highly accurate, long range shooting.
The Best .308 Sniper Rifle
This is going to be another highly contentious section, and for good reason. After all, there are a myriad of actual issued sniper rifles that can be purchased over the counter, and there isn’t much difference between a good target rifle and a good sniper rifle.
We recognize too, that it is highly unlikely any military buyer is going to be reading this article and choosing a rifle based on our observations. However, private citizens who desire a proven, accurate rifle, or law enforcement purchasers will find this of interest.
Our two choices were based on potential for long range accuracy, reliability, and historical performance.
In the case of the Springfield Armory M1A, this is a rifle that is both based on military issued weapons, but also has been purchased more recently as sniping platforms by government agencies.
The Howa KRG Bravo was chosen based on Howa’s reputation for building highly accurate rifles, and the fact they have furnished sniper rifles to Japan and other buyers.
Having hauled out a rather expensive semi auto rifle earlier when looking at target rifles, we also wanted to be a bit more budget friendly here. After all, not all of us can buy a rifle with a blank check signed by the taxpayers!
- Stock designed to mount popular accessories
- 24” barrel
- Removable magazines
- Threaded barrel
The Howa KRG Bravo is a superior quality .308 bolt action rifle that is more than capable of being used as a sniper rifle, but won’t break the bank. Out of the box, the buyer is presented with what appears to be a bare bones rifle waiting for your favorite optics, muzzle brake or flash hider (or suppressor), and whatever other tactical accessories you might desire.
However, looking a bit deeper, and we find this is a rifle sitting in a specially reinforced polymer stock which features both an aluminum bedding point, and reinforced spine. The butt features an adjustable comb, while the rifle itself sports a 24” match quality barrel and accepts common removable AICS pattern magazines.
Reasonably priced at under $1100, you’ll have plenty of money left over for things like precision optics and a bipod, making this a great bargain of a sniper rifle.
- Combat proven design
- Uses common M14 style magazines
- National Match Sights
- User configurable stock
The Springfield Armory M1A is a semi auto copy of the venerable old M14 rifle. Built to quality levels normally reserved for the civilian market and elite shooters, this 21st century incarnation of the M14 serves quite nicely as a sniper rifle, and echoes the many official and unofficial sniper variants of the M14 that have been fielded over the years.
Featuring a 22” barrel, flash hider, and National Match iron sights, plus a unique sniper grade stock with adjustable comb and length of pull, this version of the Springfield M1A is ready for the optic of your choice to be turned into a top quality sniper rifle.
As an added bonus, the aftermarket for M1A style rifles is extensive, allowing for additional customization beyond the factory configuration, which ensures that you’ll be able to trick this rifle out for your specific mission or needs.
The Best .308 Tactical Rifle
Of course the first question one might ask is “what is a tactical rifle?”
In fact it is a hard one to answer. We’ve looked at a lot of rifles with features commonly found on military rifles, but those same features are invaluable to the private citizen who desires a modular, flexible rifle that is readily customizable and adaptable to the needs of the shooter. In fact, there is a heavy overlap between the military and civilian firearms world, and sometimes the only real difference is that a civilian rifle may have a higher quality of finish, or look prettier.
With that in mind, tactical is as much a mindset as it is a type of rifle. With so many quality .308 rifles having features like adjustable or folding stocks, Picatinny rail systems, and AR style furniture, it is very difficult to point to a modern rifle and go “this is a tactical rifle” or “this is a sporting rifle”.
After all, it is still in the living memory of many people when Mauser style bolt action rifles were both front line combat arms and also hunting rifles, with the only real difference being the stock and type of sights. We are back in that same situation today, where the differences between a military rifle and a civilian rifle are largely philosophical.
But our philosophy tells us that the best .308 rifles are awesome no matter what label you put on them, and having meditated on the problem, we believe these are two .308 tactical rifles.
- Adjustable 2 stage trigger
- Modular design
- Readily upgradable
- Folding stock with adjustable comb and length of pull
Sometimes the name of a rifle tells us a lot about it. In this case, the Tikka T3X TAC A1 is clearly meant to be sold and used as a tactical rifle.
Loaded down with practical and tactical features like a folding adjustable stock, removable magazine, free floating barrel with an AR style M-Lok handguard with full length top Picatinny rail, 24” barrel, match grade adjustable trigger, and more!
Tikka designed this rifle to be modular and modifiable with off the shelf components. Because the AR-15 is one of the most popular and upgradable rifles in the world, it is only natural that the T3X TAC A1 use AR-15 furniture, allowing for easy replacement of the stock, pistol grip, and handguard if desired. Plus the M-Lok handguard allows for ready installation of accessories or rail sections as needed.
The adjustable match grade trigger allows for superior accuracy when paired with the precision enhancing 24” barrel. All in all, this is one heck of a tactical rifle, and should be as much at home with a SWAT team as it would be in the hands of a discerning shooter who desires a rifle for self defense, hunting, or for farm and ranch use.
- 16” stainless barrel
- Magpul furniture
- Accepts common 10 and 20 round magazines
- Muzzle brake is also a suppressor mount
We chose the DPMS GII for several reasons. For starters, DPMS played an important role in creating the market for .308 AR style rifles. For another, it is just a really nice rifle. While the 16” barrel is short in the .308 world, it is ideal for a tactical rifle, and gives the operator a hard hitting, easy shooting full power rifle in a package about the size of a regular AR-15.
Clearly not a long range rifle, this carbine is perfect for engagements at shorter ranges where the greater power of the .308 is important.
Along with the 16” barrel, the DPMS GII features Magpul MOE stock and pistol grip, a carbine length quad rail, and flip up iron sights.
Ready to shoot out of the box, you can also choose to install an optic and any number of tactical accessories like a vertical foregrip, flashlight and laser.
Advertised as one of the lightest .308 AR style rifles, the GII is an ideal carbine for somebody who wants more punch than is delivered in a 5.56 carbine.
The Best 308 Semi Auto Rifle
We’ve already looked at a lot of different semi automatic .308 rifles, and these are the last two we will be looking at:
Is this the ultimate .308 AR style rifle? You be the judge. Daniel Defense has long been known for building custom grade rifles, and the Highlander is no exception. Designed for hunters who want the best .308 rifle available, the Ambush is painted in a unique camouflage finish that is both attractive and effective.
Featuring an 18” chrome-moly barrel, wickedly amazing Geissele 2 stage precision trigger, special KeyMod handguard, special slick finished bolt carrier group, and unique twin extractors, plus so much more, all of which combines to form what quite likely is the finest .308 AR style rifle sold to hunters today.
While the Daniel Defense Ambush is an expensive rifle at about $2800, it is also an incredible rifle, built to the most exacting tolerances for the most demanding shooters.
Normally if you want an H&K G3 style rifle, you have to buy one built out of surplus parts of various levels of quality, and assembled on new made receivers with equally variable skill. Quality of these builds range from top quality to questionable. However, PTR Industries of South Carolina has been building high quality, American made copies of the G3.
The PTR (Precision Target Rifle) 91 is both an authentic copy of the G3, but also a subtly refined, modernized version of it. Featuring an 18” barrel, synthetic G3 style furniture, top receiver Picatinny rail, and another mounted on the bottom of the handguard. As an added bonus, the PTR-91 uses inexpensive and common surplus G3 magazines, which can sometimes be had for under $5 each.
Priced at about $1200, the PTR-91 competes nicely with similar AR style rifles, but offers the performance of a roller delayed blowback action, and the novelty of being a proper G3 copy.
The Best Lever Action and Single Shot .308 Rifles
Now we get into old fashioned traditionalism here. Sure, bolt action .308 rifles are classic, but what is more timeless than a lever action rifle, or even a well designed single shot?
While lever action rifles have the saving grace of being easy handling, fast shooting repeating rifles that also are a part of American mythology, why should we care about single shot rifles? Aside from the novelty factor, why should anyone care about shooting a .308 out of a single shot rifle?
Well, the answer is simplicity and tradition. We’ve looked at a lot of modern rifles, and classic rifles made for a modern market, but it is time to shift to a different pace.
Slow down a bit, look at the world through some rose colored glasses, and embrace the rifles of a different time and place. After all, anyone can buy the latest and greatest tactical whiz-bang rifle. But do you have the class to shoot one of these?
Henry Repeating Arms has mastered the traditional rifle market, and embraced the nostalgia and mythology that is part of our national heritage. These two fine .308 rifles fit neatly into that world, and allow the 21st century rifleman to take their place in that ever changing story of classic American firearms.
Available with or without iron sights, the Henry Long Ranger is a 20” barreled .308 lever action rifle with a four round removable magazine. Equipped with a lightweight alloy receiver, and free floating American walnut stock with laser cut checkering, this is a lever action rifle that not only pulls you back to the romance of the Old West, but also sees to the needs of modern shooters with modern ammo.
Equipped with a comfortable rubber buttpad, exposed hammer, internal transfer bar safety, sling swivel mounts, and an ageless design that has remained popular in the hearts and minds of American shooters.
The Henry Long Ranger .308 is suitable for most any hunting situation, and when fitted with a good scope, suitable for most long range shots.
Reasonably priced at under $1000, it is a premium quality lever action rifle that won’t let you down.
There are a lot of reasons to own a single shot .308. Aside from the simplicity of design, they are also great for training new shooters, and are less complex to operate than some other designs.
While you could buy a decent entry level bolt action rifle for the price of the Henry, you wouldn’t get as much quality.
And sure, there are some cheaper .308 single shots out there, but the price difference isn’t much, and you get a lot more bang for your buck with the Henry.
Once again, we are treated to high quality American walnut with laser cut checkering, and a stout, recoil absorbing buttpad. However, the 22” barrel Henry single shot has a lot more for us.
Suitable for left or right handed shooters, the Henry locking lever can be opened from either side. Extensive built in safety features ensure this gun can only be fired when the barrel is locked into place, the hammer cocked, and the trigger pulled. While the simple iron sights leave something to be desired, the addition of a scope allows you to tap the accuracy of the powerful .308 round.
We think the best thing about the Henry .308 single shot is that it allows gun owners to purchase an extremely well made rifle, with quality furniture for a modest price. If you want an heirloom grade rifle that is both affordable and accurate, this is it.
For almost 60 years, the .308 Winchester has served hunters, target shooters and military users around the world. It has been used in sniper rifles, battle rifles, long range precision target rifles, hunting rifles and general all purpose knockabout rifles. One of the single most popular cartridges in the world, it has been chambered in every common type of action available, and has proven capable of making accurate long range shots, and taking most common big game species.
Private citizens, law enforcement and military have an enormous number of rifles to choose from for their needs, ranging from inexpensive to many thousands of dollars. Regardless your budget, or end use, there is a .308 rifle for you. Selecting the best one is not a daunting task. Budget, type of action, and intended end use all simplify the selection process.
While you may not agree with all of our assessments, the task of selecting representative examples of various types and classes of .308’s was daunting. We hope you found this guide useful, and that it will help you in selecting your best .308 rifle. And even the one after that.