Petzal: The Gilt-Edged .308

A friend of mine once told me that he had a pre-64 Model 70 in .308 that would not shoot … Continued

A friend of mine once told me that he had a pre-64 Model 70 in .308 that would not shoot accurately, and asked what he should do with it.

“Drop it in a deep lake,” I said. “Don’t let it breed. A .308 that won’t shoot* is a danger to everything we hold sacred.”

This savage flashback was brought on by an article in the most recent American Rifleman, in which the new Les Baer Tactical Recon rifle was tested. It was a .308, and turned in the same kind of eye-bugging groups as the T/C Warlord. Bayer guarantees 10-shot, ½-inch groups at 100 yards, and gets them.

While I’m uneasy with the idea that some cartridges are inherently more accurate than others, it’s hard to doubt the track record of the .308, or 7.62×51 NATO. The round became a U.S. service cartridge in 1954, and now, more than half a century later is still very much in use in the Army and Marine Corps sniper rifles, re-activated M-14s, and machine guns.

So accurate is the .308 that it was used by benchrest shooters in the 1950s and 1960s. It lost favor there not because of the groups it produced, but because its heavier recoil made it less practical than .224 and 6mm rounds.

And, of course, as a hunting load it will go anywhere and do anything. In the days when FN FAL 7.62mm assault rifles were common in Africa, people used these guns with military ball ammo to kill elephants. Not bad for a cartridge that can put ten rounds through a tumbtack a football field away.

*The rifle, as I recall, was a pre-64 Featherweight built in the early ’60s when Winchester was turning out a lot of garbage.