The 308 is a workhorse, it has been around a very long time, and it’s hard to argue it’s history or merits. However, welcome to 2015, so consider updating your workhorse 308 with something new and ballistically superior.
To start, we are gonna stay in the short action family. By going with a short action caliber, the upgrade path is just a barrel change away. We understand we can easily move to a magnum or long action caliber rifle and get superior performance. The issue with these magnum choices; recoil and barrel life. One of the benefits with using a 308 is; you get great barrel life out of it. I have seen some of my personal custom made 308s hold sub MOA accuracy with more than 12,000 rounds through them. On the recoil side, staying with a short action caliber we have less recoil and a better user experience.
Our Recommendation: Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor.
The 6.5 Solution
We know the 6.5s have been around a long time. From 6.5x55 to the 260REM there is a long history there. Still, when you have a company working with present day technology, the end results speak for themselves. The 6.5 Creedmoor from Hornady is the perfect 308 replacement round.
Hornady talks about the 6.5 Creedmoor as a factory match cartridge built from the ground up. The idea, satisfy the needs of the competition shooter with an accurate and affordable round that delivers better ballistics when compared to your standard factory ammo offerings. Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor Page This also goes for those who want to use their rifles in a hunting context. You can easily take any North American game with the 6.5CM.
Sniper’s Hide is well aware there are other options out there. Lapua has the 6.5x47, Remington the 260, plus the wildcat variations that work exceptionally well ballistically. The biggest issues is; availability and cost. Aside from Lapua, you’re not gonna find the same solid factory match ammunition as Hornady offers with the 6.5 Creedmoor. There are smaller companies out there making match 260REM ammo, but the end results and the cost associated vary quite a bit. You can pay over $40 a box for small shop 260REM match ammo and your rifle might not like it. That makes for expensive trial and error to find a solid load you can depend on.
Did we mention it is factory match ammo that is also affordable. In most cases, cheaper than match 308. At a local shop like Mile High Shooting Accessories; 6.5CM 140gr Match Ammo is only $25.99 a box. 140gr Match Ammo Compared to Federal 175gr Match ammo at $29.99. 1Federal Gold Medal Match 175gr Ammo This saving might seem small, but consider the long term savings.
With the 6.5CM you get highly respectable barrel life too. Between 3000 and 5000 rounds depending how hard you push it. That is a huge plus over other options out there. More barrel life means more quality time shooting. Barrels are expendable, but why use a cartridge that only gives you a barrel life around 1500 rounds ? Especially when you gain very little in terms of the end results. Like the 308 we are looking for a good universal solution.
The Reloader’s Question
“But Sniper’s Hide, what about reloading ? “ Which is a great question. I answer this the following way:
If you are an accomplished reloader, doing it for years, and personally enjoy the process. Yes the 260REM is probably a better fit for you. However, if you do not reload or are new to reloading, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a better option. Doesn’t mean you can’t reload the 6.5CM every bit as effectively as the 260REM, just means you have a few more options. Both are so close to each other ballistically, it’s a wash when we factor in the reloading pro & cons.
Exceptions to the rule exist, but trust me on this, the easier road to success is with the 6.5 Creedmoor over most others. Here we did the homework so you don’t have to. As your skills progress the 6.5CM will grow with you. The honest answer is, they are so close to each other, it comes down to semantics. Do you want “X” Brand brass vs Hornady, bullet choice after all is the same. Any bullet you would use in a 260/6.5x47 will work in the 6.5CM. Hornady also offers other factory load options besides the mentioned 140gr AMAX. From the 120gr to 129gr Superformance. My personal pet handload uses a 130gr Berger VLD.
Ballistics Compared to your 308
Let’s look at the 6.5CM compared to the average 308 load. I am not even gonna address the 168gr bullet here. I have no interest in it, for your 308 it’s not the best choice. It’s old, and outdated. We will stick with the ballistically superior (to the 168) 175gr SMK. The most common factory match ammo, it comes from Federal. Federal Gold Medal Match is found just about everywhere. So we’ll use it’s results.
For comparison: the 175gr SMK going 2685fps and the 140gr going 2725fps. Both loads can be considered conservative. I know some who push the 140gr bullet over 2800fps. We can debate speeds and loads all day, everyone has their favorite. That argument is for the forums.
Before we start, we have to talk BCs. The Ballistic Coefficient for the 175gr is advertised at .505 G1, I personally use .496 due to my average velocity. For Reference; Bryan Litz gives the 175gr SMK a G7 BC of .243.
The 140gr AMAX BC is rated at .585 G1 and a G7 @ .299. Already we see advantages in just these numbers.
With higher BC numbers being superior, the upgrade path is becoming clearer. So let’s look at a sample chart for each showing us the drop and drift differences. Here we are using JBM to model each cartridge. JBM is a free online ballistics calculator and library. JBM Online Ballistic Calculator
The results speak for themselves. It is not only ballistically superior, but it also extends your max effective range. And as far as energy on target, you have more with the 6.5CM. The end results will of course depend on your rifle, but with a conservative example like this, we can easily see which is better.
What about the 6mm
Options everywhere, I also shoot the 6mm Creedmoor competitively. Many of the top competition shooters will use some variation of the 6mm. Everything from the 6XC, to a straight 243WIN. Pushing a Berger 105gr Hybrid at 3150fps is a formidable competition round. My only issue is, this can get expensive, in both ammunition and barrels. Also no real factory match ammo exists, at least not anything on par with the Hornady 6.5CM factory offerings.
Copper Creek 6mm Creedmoor Match Ammunition
How far you want to go and how much you want to spend is a personal choice I am not here to make that decision for you, I am simply shedding light on the demise of the 308.
It’s not all bad…
Now before you jump all over me about the 308, understand, I love the 308. I shoot a ton of 308, more than most. I think it’s a great round to learn on. It’s easy to find, and we have a lot of data thanks to the years of faithful service. No question, the Army uses it, but that is more about logistics than anything else. Don’t be surprised when I say, Special Operation guys are also exploring the 6.5. Whether or not it ever deploys is the question, but they are playing with it. And to shortcut the 6.5 Grendel crowd, NO, glad you like it, but it’s not the same.
Still, you can breathe new life into your old 308. We do have better bullets and powders today, and with a tight bore barrel you can push the velocity boundaries without having to lug around a rifle with a 30” barrel. I personally don’t own a 308 rifle with a barrel longer than 24” and most of them are less than 22”. To me that is the perfect balance for that caliber. There is nothing I can’t with a 22” 308. Debate at a later date.
One such example; my 22” Accuracy International AE MKIII. I have a load for this rifle using the Berger 185gr Juggernaut. With 46gr of Alliant 2000MR powder I can push the 185gr Berger out of my AE @ 2700fps. That gives me a leg up on a lot of loads out there. Alliant Pro Powders Page See the example as viewed through JBM.
There is a lot you can do. You can get into reloading and find that perfect pet load for your 308 rifle. You have a lot of new powders and bullets out there that will help keep you in the game. But, you'll be fighting the component shortages along the way. Or, my recommendation, update that old 308 to a new 6.5 Creedmoor this year and see the benefits immediately. Change the barrel, then open up a box of factory ammo and enjoy. Compete, hunt, plink…