Reconsidering Rule .308 – Part 1, by Tunnel Rabbit

The situation in the near future will dictate a course of action (COA) or tactics, and your choice of rifles. My perspective is predicated on a remote rural forested setting with occasional mid-range shots that might exceed 700 yards. Many miles of lonely county paved roads, and dirt Forest Service roads are possible opportunities for an extended layered defense that we may need to use during a WROL situation. Bubba and the Backwoods Boys who hunt out here are a serious concern as they have been killing big game all their lives, and they could use game trails to come at us. We need to deny them entrance to our area, so they can not use the game trails. Our threats and terrain could be radically different from each other, and so should our methods differ.  Thinking in terms of only two domains would be a constrictive paradigm of either this or that limits our options from the onset and may steer us toward an unfortunate end.

As an example of an impractical choice that would have bragging rights and a grin attached, I might boast that this is the rifle of my choice as it best fits what I might want in a Battle Rifle, if it could handle a high pressure cartridge and have a 1:10 twist that is ideal for .30 caliber 200 grain bullets. Check out BCA’s HUNTMASTER. This baby could give one fire superiority.  Alas, it is only an ideal and a figment of my imagination.  We must be pragmatic and do the best with what we got, or might have in the future.

A .30-06 AR platform is plain just cool yet only a fantasy for me, on my budget. .30-06 has an advantage over .308 Winchester when shooting heavy-for-caliber bullets from 180 to 210 grain .30 caliber bullets, at maximum pressures. It will duplicate 6.5 CM trajectories with 200-grain high ballistic coefficient bullets, and delivers much more energy at 1,000 yards. I have lots of .30-06 brass. However, spare magazines for this rifle are $100 each. If you have to ask about the price of the rifle, then you do not need it. Here is another ‘fantasy round’, another example of outrageous expenditure of fiat currency that only make us weaker, but it is a cool idea, even if only a marginal improvement.

The U.S. Army’s New 277 Fury (XM5 SIG) Versus M80 and .308 Winchester

I ran the numbers through a ballistic calculator for this assessment. The mid-range rise at 500 yards is virtually the same, with a slight advantage to 277 Fury (6.8x51mm), but it delivers 150 pounds less energy at 500 yards. This new hot rod ammo is a slight improvement over M80, yet it will burn up barrels at least twice as fast and resupply is not test dispersed throughout the country as is the case for M80 that is a common caliber and cartridge, and kissing cousin to .308 Winchester that is even closer to 277 Fury performance.

The 113-grain 277 Fury all-copper bullet has less mass and higher a ballistic coefficient relative to a lead core bullet of the same mass.  It is lighter and more compact for carry — allowing one to carry more ammo. It does deliver more hydrostatic shock at closer ranges however, an that is a big plus. With the improved bullet construction of solid copper projectiles, a lighter round can combine higher velocities with a higher BC to duplicate M80 trajectories, yet overall, it is not a superior round, in fact, it is an inferior round if all factors such as logistics are considered.

Load up a .30 caliber bullet with a lower in density yet higher ballistic coefficient such as a 130 grain Barnes solid copper bullet at .308 pressures to produce 3,000+ feet per second (fps), and .308 Winchester rules if all aspects are considered including trajectory. As it is, standard .308 Winchester ammunition is superior to 277 Fury if the trajectory and energy on target are included in the analysis.  Parity can easily be found with the Army’s newly-adopted round.

The cartridge that is third in terms of availability CONUS, and thus is a sensible second choice is .30-06. It can be loaded to outperform 277 Fury (6.8x51mm).  The .270 Winchester would also match or exceed, and better yet would be 7mm Winchester Magnum.  And there are many other legacy cartridges with a deep supply developed during the last century that modern cartridges can not match. However, the marginal improvement of modern cartridges, because of a lack of availability renders them mostly impractical.

7.62 Cartridges, Versus .223/5.56 NATO

Use the best tool for the job. 7.62 x 51 NATO is the best all-around cartridge for North America, however your location can dictate which rifle and cartridge is ideal. BTW, do not use high pressure .308 Winchester ammunition in your semi-auto rifles, the excessive pressure can beat up and ruin the action over time, or in the case of the M1A, in very little time.

For ranges beyond 500 yards, I can do much better with a bolt rifle in .30-06 versus 7.62 NATO or .308 Winchester by using modern 180 grain or heavier bullets that have high ballistic coefficients that almost duplicate 6.5 CM trajectories. 200 grain bullets in .30-06 are like bread with butter and hit like a freight train.  This can also duplicate 6.5CM and delivers much more energy and damage, and an ability to penetrate cover if a tough FMJ bullet is used. 150 grain FMJ BT projectiles at maximum pressures and velocities near 3,000 fps are ideal for 500 yards and under and duplicate .270 Winchester and outperforms the new 277 Fury for flat trajectory inside of 500 yards that almost makes a BDC reticle scope unnecessary.

Rifles in 6.5CM and 6.5×55 are good second choice for targets beyond 500 yards. Because of the mild recoil, the cartridge design, modern high BC bullets, and modern rifle construction the 6.5 CM is an excellent entry-level 1,200-yard cartridge that is the most consistent and scary accurate.  It is much easy to hit with a 6.5 CM or 6.5×55 than with M80 ball.  it is a much more accurate round than most other cartridges due to the nature of the cartridge, and because of the modern precision-made bullets and modern rifles that shoot it. However, the most common high-power rifle cartridges in my part of the country, in order of availability are, .223, .30-06, .308 Winchester, 6.5 CM.  In fact, .30-06 brass is so common up here that I was able to buy 900 cases for just $20 at a gun show.

Almost everyone in my neighborhood has a rifle in .30-06, but not necessarily one chambered in .308 Winchester.  As a reloader, I can disassemble 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester and reload the components into .30-06 brass, or other .30 caliber cartridges.  In most of the rest of the country, 5.56 NATO overwhelmingly dominates.  This fact could be advantageous if you own rifles in .223/5.56 and something other than and much more capable than 5.56 NATO as you could then have fire superiority.

Weapon Maintenance, Learn from the Mistakes of Others

The first four AR-15s and one AR-10 I ever attempted to use, all failed due mostly to a lack of maintenance. I’ve had two brand new AKs fail that I had to fix, but if an AK runs, it will continue to run, even without lubrication.  An AK is so tough that it will use the rust from its own parts as lubrication as other rifles might use graphite. Few actions are capable of running without lubrication, and no other is as reliable as AK are in wet/freezing temperatures and in extreme austere environments. See testing done by Garand Thumb  (on YouTube) that proves this to be true. However, if you live in wide open country, a rifle in .308 Winchester or 7.62 NATO is a minimum and overall the best choice. There are huge stockpiles of 7.62 NATO ammo out there.

Unfortunately, the AR-15 is dominant and we should have at least one example and learn how to properly maintain it for our particular climate, otherwise it will not be reliable. Lubricate the AR after every 500 rounds and stockpile all the small parts and springs.  And buy spare upper, since mass-produced and low-priced barrels wear out faster than military-grade barrels. Because of the ubiquitous AR-15, the very low cost of the rifle makes it a good backup, and a rifle to cache in quantity. 5.56/.223 is in massive supply, and 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester is a distant second in availability. 7.62×39 is in third place. And .30-06 is in third place in terms of availability in the high-power cartridge category. We would not want to run out of ammo, therefore have all four choices if possible and reloading dies for each cartridge even if you are not a re-loader.

The AKM Rifle

The reliability and utility of the AKM rifle should not be ignored. It is not perfect, however, it is the best action for untrained persons living in climates, and in terrain similar to heavily forested NW Montana where ranges are typically under 200 yards and for people who are not thoroughly trained to maintain a rifle, and whom may have little aptitude or interest in doing maintenance.  Another aspect not well appreciated is that fact in extremely harsh conditions, there may be little time or the resources to do maintenance on any rifle.  In these extreme conditions is where the AKM would be the most desirable to process.  My personal tests have pushed the AR-15 and the AKM to extremes not demonstrated anywhere else to my knowledge.

I will be using 154 grain soft point projectiles in 7.62×39. This projectile expands to .60 inches. It’s ability to put down deer with one round puts in another class in terms of effectiveness as compared to .223. and it will far out-penetrate .223 even as an expanding bullet. 7.62×39 FMJ penetrates almost as well (about 14 inches in pine) as M80 (16 inches in pine) through pine trees inside of 100 yards, so it is best to use a mix of expanding and FMJ bullet in the same magazine, every other round if you like. Much of the action will be inside of 150 yards, and most of it will be within 50 yards. Bolt action rifles have the accuracy and adequately fast enough cycle rate to keep the fight at 300 yards and beyond, if your terrain is suitable.

.223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO Ammo, The Long Range Problem

To marginally compete with high-powered cartridges, if you do not have a high-powered bolt-action rifle, this could give you the ability to reach out to 500 to 600 yards, as it has the same trajectory as 7.62 NATO M80 ball if a 20 inch AR barrel is used. There is about a 200 fps loss in velocity if using a 16 inch barrel that produces about 2,550 fps instead of the 2,750 fps that is possible with a 20-inch barrel. These rounds will not have a useful amount of energy past 400 for 55 grain bullet and 600 yards for 75 grain bullet.

If you do not have a BDC reticle, or a scope with turrets, then use a common 3x9x scope with crosshairs and are reaching out with a 75/77 grain .223 bullet, zero this scope with a hasty zero at 17 yards and confirm the zero at 300 yards and it will be zeroed at 300 yards. By aiming high, or at the top of the head of a target at 500 yards, the bullet will strike about 2 feet lower — at the belt line.  If using a 55-grain bullet, then zero the rifle at 25 yards and that will strike dead-on at 200 yards.  The maximum effective range would then be 400 yards.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)