300 Win Mag vs 308 – A 2022 Comparison

The .308 Winchester is the civilian version of the 7.62×51 mm NATO cartridge that changed the path of military cartridges after WWII. It is one of the most versatile cartridges present today and is insanely popular among the masses. Ten years after its introduction came the .300 Win Mag which offered a magnum round inside a standard action cartridge. 

While both these cartridges use the exact same caliber bullet, comparing the differences and choosing one over the other can be a task more tedious than it seems. The answers to this deep unresolved comparison are weaved into this guide and I’m sure it will help you understand when to choose either of these. 

300 Win Mag vs 308

A quick overview of the pros, cons, and the best uses for these rounds will give you an idea of their capabilities

300 Win Mag

.308

Pros

300 Win Mag

Significant range of load options

Also used by some military snipers

Suitable for any big game roaming North America

Powerful and flat shooting cartridge great out to 1,500 yards

Fits standard/long action chambers. Doesn’t need a magnum chamber

308

Wide range of rifle/ammo options

Readily available an inexpensive ammo

Tolerable recoil and hard-hitting .30 cal power

Extremely popular and versatile. Used by military snipers

Balanced round suitable for either short or long range use

Short action design suitable for semi-auto rifles. Opens space for customization

Cons

300 Win Mag

Ammo is expensive

Recoils like a 12 ga shotgun

Chews up barrel fast and is quite noisy

Mostly suitable for heavy bolt-action rifles with long barrels

308

Inferior ballistics to comparable rounds

Not an ideal long range round. Better options are available out there

Best For

300 Win Mag

The .300 WM is a very accurate long range round and carries enough power to kill an elk even at 600 yards. Great for competitions, mountain hunting, and big game hunting.

308

The .308 is a very versatile cartridge that can be used for anything from long range competitions, medium/big game hunting, and tactical uses.

300 Win Mag Overview

The .300 Winchester Magnum is a rimless, bottlenecked, long/standard action magnum cartridge that fires a .308 inch diameter bullet. It is a necked down and swelled .375 H&H magnum case that was introduced on the market in 1963. 

By that time, many magnum cartridges (especially those made for short actions) were already present on the market. In fact, the .300 Win Mag is a slight modification of the .338 Winchester Magnum cartridge introduced in 1958. Due to the modifications, this cartridge features a neck that is smaller than the diameter of the bullet and requires the bullet to be seated deep inside the case.

Photo credit: wikimedia.org

This has been and still is an insanely popular .30 caliber magnum cartridge among hunters, competitive shooters, law enforcement departments, and some military units. The availability of this cartridge in popular rifles like the Winchester Model 70 and Remington 700 was a good factor that added to its popularity. 

Another unique feature that makes the .300 Win Mag still standing and popular is the ability to be chambered in standard/long action rifles. Despite being a magnum cartridge, it does not need a magnum chamber which helps reduce the size and weight of the rifle. 

It is especially popular for competitions and taking down Class 3 big game animals like elk and moose with exceptional precision. 

308 Overview

The .308 Winchester is a civilian version of the 7.62×51 mm NATO cartridges and is loaded at a slightly higher pressure. It all goes back to the 1940s when the U.S Military was experimenting with ammo to create a shorter cartridge than .30-06 but with similar ballistics. The new experimental cartridge known as the T65 stemmed out from the .300 Savage and .30-06 cartridges and was later adopted by the military in 1950 and came to be known as the 7.62 NATO. 

Photo credit: wikimedia.org

The .308 Win was introduced by Winchester in 1952 on the civilian market and it quickly gained a lot of traction because of its power and short action design. In fact, it is the most popular, short action big game hunting round across the world and is also preferred by non-military users for competitions and tactical uses. 

This round is very suitable for hunting big game like elk with the right selection of bullets and rifles. Additionally, the short action design makes it usable in semi-auto rifles as well which opens up a lot of options. The .308 Win has also served as a parent case for some very popular hunting and long range cartridges popular today. 

300 Win Mag vs 308: Cartridge Specs

Check out this table for a quick side-by-side comparison of the dimensions and specs of these two cartridges. 

300 Win Mag 308
Bullet Diameter0.308 in (7.8 mm)0.308 in (7.8 mm)
Neck Diameter.339 in (8.6 mm)0.3433 in (8.72 mm)
Base Diameter.513 in (13.0 mm)0.4709 in (11.96 mm)
Case Length2.62 in (67 mm)2.015 in (51.2 mm)
Overall Length3.34 in (85 mm)2.800 in (71.1 mm)
Case Capacity93.8 grains56 grains
Max Pressure (SAAMI)64,000 psi62,000 psi
Typical Casing MaterialBrassBrass or Steel
Typical Bullet Weight (gr)160-220 grains150-180 grains

Both these cartridges use the same .308 inch diameter bullet and that is about the only major similarity between these two in terms of dimensions. The .300 WM is a long action round with an overall length of 3.34 inches compared to the smaller 2.8 inches of the .308 Win. Additionally, the .300 WM also has a slightly bigger base diameter but a shorter neck diameter. 

This difference in the size of these cases obviously points that the .300 WM will have a larger case capacity and requires a bigger chamber and bolt. With almost 1.5 times the amount of powder and with the same caliber bullets, the .300 WM offers an advantage in terms of bullet weights, hitting power, and range factors. I’ll elaborate more on that in the upcoming technical sections. 

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The .30 WM is a slightly less tapered cartridge compared to the .308 Win pertaining to its easy use with straight mags. The .30 WM fires heavier bullets and is loaded at a slightly higher SAAMI approved pressure which is understandable due to its magnum design.

The best bullet weights for .308 Win range from 150 to 180 with bullets as heavy as 220 grains also available. On the other hand, the .300 WM fires heavier bullets with a commonly used weight range of 160 to 200 grains.  

300 Win Mag vs 308: Ballistics

Ballistics refers to the performance of a bullet when fired and over a specific distance. It is measured in terms of trajectory, wind drifts resistance (ballistic coefficient), and speed & kinetic energy at a specific point in its flight path. 

The ballistical data helps determine the performance of a bullet and what to expect from it. This helps decide if a round is good for long range or short range and its best suited applications. Different weights and designs of bullets for the same cartridge can have different ballistic characteristics, which makes bullet selection important. 

300 Win Mag vs 308: Trajectory

Here is a quick compilation of trajectory data for both these rounds out to a range of 1,000 yards. Since both these rounds are suitable for long range applications, it is better to compare their performance at long range. 

300 Win Mag

24” barrel/BC 0.398/165 grains Barnes Triple-Shock X Bullet 24” barrel/BC 0.507/180 grains Nosler Accubond24” barrel/BC 0.608/200 grains Edge TLR
100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 0 “ Drop
200 yds: 2.9 “ Drop200 yds: 3 “ Drop200 yds: 3.4 “ Drop
300 yds: 11 “ Drop300 yds: 11.2 “ Drop300 yds: 12.3 “ Drop
400 yds: 25.5 “ Drop400 yds: 25.3 “ Drop400 yds: 27.4 “ Drop
500 yds: 47.3 “ Drop500 yds: 46.3 “ Drop500 yds: 49.6 “ Drop
1,000 yds: 344.2 “ Drop1,000 yds: 300.3 “ Drop1,000 yds: 301.8 “ Drop

308

24”barrel/BC 0.408/150 gr FMJ Boat-tail24”barrel/BC 0.489/168 gr Berger Hybrid24”barrel/BC 0.536/175 gr Edge TLR
100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 0 “ Drop
200 yds: 3.6 “ Drop200 yds: 4 “ Drop200 yds: 4.4 “ Drop
300 yds: 13.5 “ Drop300 yds: 14.4 “ Drop300 yds: 15.5 “ Drop
400 yds: 30.6 “ Drop400 yds: 32 “ Drop400 yds: 34.2 “ Drop
500 yds: 56.3 “ Drop500 yds: 58 “ Drop500 yds: 61.5 “ Drop
1,000 yds: 405.5 “ Drop1,000 yds: 384.2 “ Drop1,000 yds: 392.5 “ Drop

Mentioned above is the general ballistics data for the trajectory of both these cartridges over a distance of 1,000 yards. The 165-grain bullets for the .300 WM are good for medium game, whereas the 180-grain bullets are considered ideal for big game. The 200-grain EDGE TLR is exclusively a long range bullet and great for competitions. 

Talking about the .308 Win, the 168-grain bullet is the most versatile and the 175 grain is good for heavier targets.

The drop characteristics for these rounds are quite similar to a range out 300 yards for comparable bullet weights.

However, beyond that, the gap began to widen and the .300 Win Mag established itself as the undisputed winner over a range of 1,000 yards. 

The .308 Win has almost 30% more drop at 1,000 yards compared to the .300 Win Mag. While the .308 Win is also considered to be an appropriate long range round in the right hands and with the right rifle, the .300 Win is an ‘absolute’ long range round that can deliver tighter groups with lesser adjustments.

The .300 WM also offers better wind resistance (BC) overall its selection of bullets, whereas the .308 has appropriate options to match that. 

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300 Win Mag vs 308: Velocity & Kinetic Energy

The velocity and kinetic energy characteristics describe how much speed and power a bullet carries over a specific range. A speed of 1,100 fps or more is considered supersonic and the longer a bullet can stay above that, the more predictable and accurate it can be. 

As far as kinetic energy is concerned, it is an important characteristic for hunters or snipers who can use it to further measure factors like penetration and stopping power. 

300 Win Mag

24” barrel/BC 0.398/165 grains Barnes Triple-Shock X Bullet 24” barrel/BC 0.507/180 grains Nosler Accubond 24” barrel/BC 0.608/200 grains Edge TLR
100 yds: 2,810 ft/s, 2,892 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,774 ft/s, 3,075 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,660 ft/s, 3,141 ft.lbs
200 yds: 2,582 ft/s, 2,442 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,595 ft/s, 2,692 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,514 ft/s, 2,806 ft.lbs
300 yds: 2,365 ft/s, 2,049 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,424 ft/s, 2,348 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,373 ft/s, 2,500 ft.lbs
400 yds: 2,159 ft/s, 1,707 ft.lbs400 yds: 2,259 ft/s, 2,039 ft.lbs400 yds: 2,236 ft/s, 2,221 ft.lbs
500 yds: 1,963 ft/s, 1,411 ft.lbs500 yds: 2,100 ft/s, 1,763 ft.lbs500 yds: 2,105 ft/s, 1,967 ft.lbs
1,000 yds: 1,197 ft/s, 525 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1,419 ft/s, 805 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1,520 ft/s, 1,026 ft.lbs

308

24”barrel/BC 0.408/150 gr FMJ Boat-tail 24”barrel/BC 0.489/168 gr Berger Hybrid 24”barrel/BC 0.536/175 gr Edge TLR
100 yds: 2,597 ft/s, 2,246 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,518 ft/s, 2,365 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,437 ft/s, 2,308 ft.lbs
200 yds: 2,385 ft/s, 1894 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,343 ft/s, 2,048 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,280 ft/s, 2,021 ft.lbs
300 yds: 2,183 ft/s, 1,586 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,176 ft/s, 1,766 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,130 ft/s, 1,762 ft.lbs
400 yds: 1,990 ft/s, 1,319 ft.lbs400 yds: 2,015 ft/s, 1,514 ft.lbs400 yds: 1,984 ft/s, 1,530 ft.lbs
500 yds: 1,808 ft/s, 1,089 ft.lbs500 yds: 1,860 ft/s, 1,291 ft.lbs500 yds: 1,845 ft/s, 1,322 ft.lbs
1,000 yds: 1,130 ft/s, 425 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1,239 ft/s, 573 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1,271 ft/s, 628 ft.lbs

Let us first evaluate the velocity of these rounds over a range of 1,000 yards. The ballistics data clearly shows that both these rounds stay supersonic out to 1,000 yards. The .300 WM maintains that speed out to about 1,250 yards on average, whereas the .308 Win does that out to 1,100 yards. Thus making both these rounds appropriate for long range shooting, but with .300 WM having an edge. 

The edge for the .300 WM can be credited to the larger case capacity, however, the .308 Win still catches up pretty close with almost half the powder and a shorter case. Hence, I will consider the .308 Win a slightly more hectic but capable cartridge to work with at long range. 

Photo credit: thefirearmblog.com

Talking about the energy characteristics, the benchmark for medium sized deer is 1,000 fpe and for elk and moose, it is 1,500 fpe. So technically, the heavyweight .308 Win bullets can take down an elk out to 400 yards and a deer out to 600 yards. 

On the other hand, the .300 WM with its heavy bullets carries enough power to kill an elk out to 700 yards and a deer out to 900 yards. Coupling that with its flat trajectory, you get an amazing sniper or mountain (if you don’t mind some extra weight) rifle. 

300 Win Mag vs 308: Stopping Power

The stopping power of a bullet is the indicator of how good it is at killing or incapacitating a target. In simpler terms, it describes how quickly a bullet can stop a target dead or incapable in its tracks. This power is respective to the size of the target and is evaluated by two factors which are momentum and sectional density.

According to the general notion, bigger caliber bullets will have more stopping power. For example, a .308 caliber round will have more stopping power than a .223 caliber round. However, that is not true in every case and depends upon the design of the bullet and some other factors. 

300 Win Mag vs 308: Momentum & Sectional Density

Take a quick look at the sectional density and momentum characteristics of these rounds. 

24” barrel/BC 0.398/165 grains Barnes Triple-Shock X Bullet
Sectional Density: 0.248
24” barrel/BC 0.507/180 grains Nosler Accubond
Sectional Density: 0.271
24” barrel/BC 0.608/200 grains Edge TLR
Sectional Density: 0.301
100 yds: 66 lb.ft-s100 yds: 71 lb.ft-s100 yds: 76 lb.ft-s
200 yds: 61 lb.ft-s200 yds: 66 lb.ft-s200 yds: 71 lb.ft-s
300 yds: 55 lb.ft-s300 yds: 62 lb.ft-s300 yds: 67 lb.ft-s
400 yds: 50 lb.ft-s400 yds: 58 lb.ft-s400 yds: 63 lb.ft-s
500 yds: 46 lb.ft-s500 yds: 54 lb.ft-s500 yds: 60 lb.ft-s
1,000 yds: 28 lb.ft-s1,000 yds: 36 lb.ft-s1,000 yds: 43 lb.ft-s

.308 Win

24”barrel/BC 0.408/150 gr FMJ Boat-tail
Sectional Density: 0.266
24”barrel/BC 0.489/168 gr Berger Hybrid
Sectional Density: 0.253
24”barrel/BC 0.536/175 gr Edge TLR
Sectional Density: 0.264
100 yds: 55 lb.ft-s100 yds: 60 lb.ft-s100 yds: 60 lb.ft-s
200 yds: 51 lb.ft-s200 yds: 56lb.ft-s200 yds: 57 lb.ft-s
300 yds: 46 lb.ft-s300 yds: 52 lb.ft-s300 yds: 53 lb.ft-s
400 yds: 42 lb.ft-s400 yds: 48 lb.ft-s400 yds: 49 lb.ft-s
500 yds: 38 lb.ft-s500 yds: 44 lb.ft-s500 yds: 46 lb.ft-s
1,000 yds: 24 lb.ft-s1,000 yds: 26 lb.ft-s1,000 yds: 27 lb.ft-s

The sectional density (SD) of a bullet is the ratio between its mass and cross-sectional area. The higher the SD of a bullet, the more penetration it will deliver. According to the general rule of thumb, an SD less than 0.210 is suitable for varmints, an SD of 0.220 to 0.270 is great for medium sized class 2 game like deer, and an SD greater than 0.270 is suitable for class 3 game like elk, moose, eland, etc. 

Looking at the SD values, the .308 Win will always be a great Class 2 game cartridge and a few heavy bullets can be suitable for big game animals at short range. The SD is also enough to penetrate through light armor.

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The .300 WM clearly has a better SD even with the same diameter bullet due to the heavy mass. The heaviest of these bullets can bring down the biggest of critters walking this planet. 

Another factor to analyze is the momentum of a bullet which describes the efficiency of energy transfer from the moving bullet to the target. The more momentum a bullet will have at a certain range, the better energy transfer and hence a bigger wound channel.

Surprisingly, the gap between the momentum values for bullets of comparable weight is not too much beyond 700 yards. However, the .300 Win is always a round with better momentum due to the heavier mass and higher velocity. 

300 Win Mag vs 308: Use Cases & Effective Range

This comparison will be incomplete without evaluating the best applications for each of these cartridges and if one excels over the other at some point. The .300 WM is a newcomer compared to the .308 Win, but can it really outperform it?

Better Long Range Shooting

Comparing these two cartridges for long range effectiveness will be a sharp edge-to-edge competition. You have already seen the ballistics data which clearly states that both these rounds are great for long range shooting. However, it is undeniable that the .300 WM was exclusively designed for a long range uses whereas the .308 Win is a more versatile round. It does match the .300 WM to some extent, but for dedicated applications like F-class competitions, the .300 WM will be a better choice (if you don’t mind a slight extra recoil). 

However, many people reading this will think that .308 Win rifles have won many records and are very popularly seen in long range competitions. We’ll that’s because the .300 WM is not that popular among the masses for competitions for a few different reasons. 

Big Game Hunting

Again, the competition here is very stiff with .300 WM having an edge. As far as big game animals are concerned, the .300 WM brings more surety to the table compared to the .308 Win. Especially when you are out on mountain hunting trips and have to take long distance shots. The versatility of the .308 Win can be effective, but then, it depends upon the situation and personal preference. 

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Short Range Effectiveness

As far as short range engagements are concerned, the .308 Win is a clear winner. It will offer a more lightweight, less recoiling rifle and will perform as good as the .300 WM on short range. Additionally, it will not prove to be overkill and will do many things on short to medium distances. 

Sniping and Tactical Use

It is a well-known fact that the 7.62×51 mm NATO is a very popular cartridge widely used by military snipers around the world. Since the .308 Win is technically the same, a large number of rifles have been chambered for these rounds and it is widely used by many armies and law enforcement agencies. 

The .300 WM has also been adopted in some capacity by our military and is an effective choice. However, unlike game animals, humans need very little energy to be eliminated and it is only a matter of choice. 

Survival or Prepper

IMHO the .308 Win will always prove to be a better survival rifle because of its versatility. It is easy to handle, readily available, can work with semi-auto, and is great at short range and good at long range. 

300 Win Mag vs 308: Costs, Availability, & Compatibility

Apart from performance, factors like availability, economics, customizability, and other factors play an important part in choosing a caliber.

Scanty and Pricey vs Abundant and Cheap 

The .300 Win Mag is a famous cartridge, but not so insanely popular that it keeps prices down. The ammo starts at $2.5 per round and can be as pricey as $6 per round. We all know what happened during the Covid-19 pandemic buying when even cartridges like the 9mm went bust and were overpriced. So if you choose the .300 WM, be ready to pay more and try to have some handloading options. 

On the other hand, the .308 Win is a very abundant and popular round and can be found at rock bottom prices on sale. It is highly unlikely that the market will ever run out of it, which is why I recommend it for preppers.

Rigid vs Customizable

The .300 WM is a magnum round and can be fired from a standard action cartridge. However, its features allow it only to be fired from bolt action rifles and that too with weights more than 8 pounds for optimal recoil mitigation. 

The .308 Win can come chambered in bolt actions, AR-10’s and a heck lot of other design options. It’s compatibility with the AR platform opens a ton of options for customization and upgrades. 

Photo credit: sportsmans.com

Bottom Line

The .308 Win was derived from the .300 Savage parent case in 1952 and is the civilian version of the 7.62 NATO round used by NATO military forces. It is a short action .30 cal cartridge with power similar to a .30-06. The short design allows it to be used in mag-fed rifles and makes it very versatile. 

The .300 Win Mag came out in 1963 and was derived from the .375 H&H parent case. It has superior ballistics, more case capacity, and uses the same caliber but heavier bullets than the .308. It is a perfect choice for long range engagements, especially competitions. However, the high recoil and limitation to be chambered in bolt action rifles can be a deterrent. 

Overall, the .300 WM wins on the grounds of flat trajectory, range, and power, whereas the .308 Win wins on versatility, balanced short/long range use, and popularity. 

People Also Ask

Check out a couple of facts and useful info about the .300 Win Mag and .308 Win cartridges to help you decide.

Is a 300 Win Mag or 308 More Powerful?

The .300 Win Mag is a more powerful round compared to the .308 Win. Although it fires the same diameter bullet, the larger case capacity and heavy bullets make it more powerful, especially when engaging targets at long range.

What Grain 308 Do Snipers Use?

Since the .308 Win and 7.62 NATO are almost the same cartridges, the .308 Win is used by police snipers and 7.62 NATO by military snipers. Police snipers prefer 168-grain boat tail hollow point bullets for .308 Win rounds


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