Inarguably one of the most popular hunting calibers in recent history is the .308. It is a versatile, utility, and comfortable caliber to shoot with a dedicated group of devotees confident in its proven track record. However, finding the best .308 rifle for less than $1,000 is no easy task and choosing between the variety of rifles available can be difficult.
Summary: Top 5 Highest-Rated .308 Rifles
|-Low Cartridge Capacity||4.9|
|Ruger American Rifle||-Low cost|
-More recoil from light stock
|Savage 10/110 Trophy Hunter||-3-Position Safety|
|Remington 700 SPS||-Comfort|
-Proven Remington action
|-Possibly too heavy||5.0|
|DPMS Panther Arms .308 Oracle||-Large capacity magazine|
-Non-Traditional Hunting Rifle
-Long Distance Accuracy
Historic Use of .308 Guns
Historically speaking the .308 reaches back to the time period directly following the Second World War. Militaries around the world had been dealing with 30 caliber rifles for decades but were unhappy with the overall characteristics of the cartridges they were using. One popular 30-caliber cartridge the US military used extensively in WWII was the 30-06. Although the 30-06 was a great round in terms of performance and hitting power, it had a few disadvantages military leaders wanted dealt with.
For starters, the 30-06 arrived on target with plenty of penetrating power, but the excessive recoil made it difficult to fire with automatic or even semi-automatic firing rates. Secondly, 30-06 rounds are big and their size caused problems. The large rounds meant a man could carry less firepower with him. It also meant less could be loaded in a rifle, in a box, in a truck, in a semi, and in a plane. When you start analyzing the logistics when moving billions of cartridges around the world you begin to see how this inefficacy would cause some serious problems.
After some experimentation following the war, the US military eventually settled on the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge, otherwise known as the .308 Winchester in common nomenclature. Using the .308 addressed the beef military leaders had with the 30-06 including transportation and efficiency. Not only that but the new round still hit hard upon arrival and with less recoil than aforementioned 30-06.
Military Use Today
Today the .308 is widely used by both military and public police force personnel. It has proven to be one of the most reliable calibers for distance shooting, especially at distances of less than 800 yards. This track record has made the .308 the go-to round for snipers of both foreign and domestic servicemen. In fact perhaps the most famous sniper of recent time, or any time for that matter, Chris Kyle was a big fan of the .308. His favorite rifle after his time in the service was a .308 he had custom made. Another reason it is so widely acclaimed in sharpshooting circles is the versatility it offers in terms of ammunition selection. You can find ammunition for a .308 rifle in a wide variety of grain options.
While the .308 may have gotten its start as a military cartridge, it didn’t take sportsmen long to realize the benefits it offered as a hunting rifle. Due to the versatility of the ammunition available, some consider it to be a one size fits all caliber for nearly every big game animal you can hunt. Year in and year out hunters around North America successfully harvest animals from light skinned whitetail deer to heavier skinned game such as elk, and an even dangerous game like a grizzly bear. As long as a hunter competently pairs their ammunition selection with the game they are pursuing there is no reason a .308 can’t get the job on any critter you will hunt in North America.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing
If you are considering purchasing a .308 rifle for hunting or sports shooting, there are a few things you may want to consider before pulling the trigger. For starters are you looking for an exclusively big game hunting rifle or do you need a rifle for predator hunting as well? Although a .308 rifle is a superb rifle for hunting big game, it is a bit overkill for predators such as coyotes, fox, and bobcat. Sure you can kill them, but anyone shooting a furbearer like these may as well kiss their fur check goodbye. You’ll end up punching holes through these critters so big it will look like a cannon wound. If you are the type who hunts mostly deer and furbearers for cash you may be better off looking into a .243 or .270 caliber rifle.
Secondly, you’ll want to determine how far you would like your maximum effective range to be. As mentioned earlier most sharpshooting experts agree on the maximum effective range of a .308 lies somewhere in the 800-yard range. If your competition, hunting, or personal shooting requires shots past the 800-yard range you’d be better off looking into a .338 or 300 Win Mag. These calibers are more proven at really long range shooting. Although this will apply to a small number of talented shooters out there it is worth noting the majority of people will never outshoot their rifle at these ranges.
Last but not least you probably have budget concerns in mind when purchasing your new rifle. As with most things these days, new rifles aren’t getting any cheaper and plopping down the hard earned cash for one can put a lump in your throat. Like most folks, I personally can’t afford a private arsenal in my basement full of specialty rifles. Due to that fact, choosing a good rifle at a fair price is important to me. There are a number of .308 rifles currently on the market you can get into for less than $1000 that should last a lifetime.
Top 5 Best .308 Rifles Reviewed
If a .308 sounds like a caliber that would meet your needs and would get you out to the distance you need, you may be able to find one within your price range. That being said, here are the best .308 rifles for less than $1,000 in ascending price.
Editor’s Choice: Tikka T3
The first rifle on this list of best .308 rifles for less than $1,000 is the Tikka T3 Hunter. It boasts some features you will definitely appreciate. The folks at Tikka promote this rifle as a comfortable shooter with ergonomics in mind. Good ergonomics not only make a rifle easier to a shooter but also help to improve accuracy as well. Additionally, this rifle has been designed to accommodate larger variable power scopes. Shooters interested in testing the .308’s long distance shooting abilities may appreciate this feature as well.
At an 6.1 pounds the Tikka T3 falls into a comfortable weight range with a walnut stock to absorb excess recoil. One strike against the Tikka T3 Hunter is its cartridge capacity. It is 3 + 1 capacity gun which limits the insurance ammunition you pack with you. Despite the cartridge capacity drawback, we consider this to be the best rifle for the money.
- Pros: Ergonomics, Scope Accommodation, Weight, Appearance
- Cons: Low Cartridge Capacity
The Ruger American rifle might be the top choice for someone on a budget looking for a .308. Not only does it come with the respected Ruger reputation, but it also has many features shooters find appealing. For one the trigger on the American is adjustable from three to five pounds allowing for customization. Ruger also touts the new Positive Bedding system as another feature to really improve your accuracy with this rifle. This rifle does have a shorter 22-inch barrel which some shooters may find a bit too short. Finally, weighing in at just over six pounds the Ruger American is easy to tote around on an all day hunt, however, lighter guns tend to transfer more recoil energy to the shooter.
- Pros: Low cost, Adjustability, Accurate.
- Cons: 22-inch barrel, More recoil from light stock.
The folks at Savage also make a reputable .308 rifle in their Trophy Hunter series. The Savage 10/110 .308 rifle is another bolt-action rifle worth looking at to take to the hunting woods or on the shooting range. Similar to the Ruger American rifle, this Savage rifle has a 22-inch barrel and an adjustable trigger system. It also has a 3-position thumb controlled safety mechanism. Personally, I find safety systems like this very easy to operate and the most fail proof. Another benefit for the price conscious hunter is the fact the XP package comes with a Nikon 3-9x 40 mm scope already attached. One strike against this rifle for a hunter on the move is the weight of the gun. At 8.3 pounds it is the heaviest gun on this particular list.
- Pros: 3-Position Safety, Adjustable Trigger, Scope Included,
- Cons: Weight
Another .308 rifle retailing for less than $1,000 is the Remington 700 SPS. This specific rifle comes standard with Remington’s popular three rings of steel action. The three rings of steel address the construction of the action of this rifle having three points of contact on the cartridge. It has been touted as the safest action on the market and many out there seem happy with its design . The barrel measures 24 inches giving you a bit more speed downrange as the pressure within the barrel has more time to build up. Remington also included a SuperCell Recoil Pad on this rifle that makes this gun more comfortable to shoot. Although personally, I find the size of this rifle attractive, it does have the longer barrel and some may find it a bit too heavy for an all day rifle.
- Pros: Comfort, Longer barrel, Proven Remington action
- Cons: Possibly too heavy.
One flashy gun that may catch your eye on this list is the DPMS Panther Arms .308 Oracle. This compact rifle comes with several military carbine features shooters can appreciate. Its’ gas operated rotating bolt, semi-automatic action, and 19 round magazine would be ideal for somebody wanting to maximize their firepower. Although the Oracle would be an effective gun in some cases, it isn’t considered to be a traditional hunting rifle. With a barrel length of 16 inches, the Oracle is well suited for tactical purposes, but the short barrel length could impede long-range accuracy and bullet speed. Finally, weighing in at over eight pounds this gun would be noticeably heavier than other guns on this list.
- Pros: Large capacity magazine, Semi-Auto action, Tactical Barrel Length
- Cons: Heavy, Non-Traditional Hunting Rifle, Long Distance Accuracy
At the end of the day finding a rifle that fits your needs isn’t a one size fits all equation. Deciding upon rifle caliber, let alone rifle features has far too many variables for any one person to make too many definitive arguments. From my analysis, however, the Tikka T3 appears to be a great all around rifle. Not only does it have all the attributes of every .308 rifle, Its comfortable size, 22-inch barrel, and Tikka’s reputation would make it a great addition to anyone’s gun safe.
By understanding the history of the .308, general agreements of its strengths and weaknesses, and its ability, you can browse a few specific rifles to make the best choice. If you are looking of the best .308 for less than $1,000 the five aforementioned rifles might serve as a good starting point for your search. Not only do they offer a wide variety within the caliber, but they each chamber the renowned .308 utility cartridge.
Images Source: brownells.com.
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