The venerable .308 Winchester is one of the most popular centerfire rifle cartridges currently used by North American hunters. Here are a few of the best 308 ammo options that will serve you very well on your next hunt.
Formally released in the 1950s around the same time as its 7.62x51mm NATO cousin, the .308 Winchester quickly developed a reputation for being a very well designed, efficient, and sweet shooting cartridge. The .308 Win has long been a favorite of hunters who want a short action cartridge that offers a good balance of accuracy, a relatively flat trajectory, moderate recoil, and adequate killing power on medium and big game.
Not surprisingly, the .308 Winchester cartridge quickly caught on with North American hunters and eventually approached and maybe even surpassed the legendary .30-06 Springfield in popularity. The cartridge remains a favorite to this day and still consistently ranks among the Top 3 best selling centerfire rifle cartridges in the United States each year.
For that reason, just about every big ammunition manufacturer like Aguila, Barnes, Berger, Black Hills, Browning, Buffalo Bore, Federal Premium, Hornady, HSM, Norma, Nosler, PMC, Prvi Partizan (PPU), Remington, Sellier & Bellot, Sierra, Swift, and Winchester produces several different variants of .308 ammo for hunting deer, elk, black bear, moose, and many other big game animals.
While the .308 Winchester excels on deer sized game, it can also be and extremely effective cartridge for use hunting bigger game like elk and even moose when using premium ammunition loaded with controlled expansion bullets.
It’s important to realize that different hunting situations necessitate the use of different kinds of .308 ammo for best results and using the wrong ammunition can lead to disastrous performance.
For instance, a mild recoiling load that’s ideal for use on whitetail deer at short range requires would be a terrible choice for use on really big game like elk.
The .308 Winchester can be quite a very effective cartridge for hunting elk and even moose. To be perfectly honest, the cartridge is a little on the light side for really big game like that though. The .308 is absolutely capable of getting the job done, but it’s important to use proper bullets if you plan on using the .308 for elk.
Fortunately, hunters now have access to a great selection of controlled expansion bullets that perform very well on really big game like elk and moose.
Lightweight 125 grain bullets are great for deer hunting, but hunters who use those lighter bullets on larger game will very likely experience issues with poor penetration, especially on steeply quartering shots. For this reason, I strongly recommend using premium quality controlled expansion bullets that are 165 grains or heavier (ideally 175-180 grains) if you plan on using the .308 Winchester for hunting really big game like moose and elk.
Keep all of this in mind when you select .308 ammo for an upcoming hunt.
Additionally, while they can be very accurate and are certainly capable of killing big game animals, I don’t recommend using bullets designed for target shooting or marketed as match ammo like the Sierra MatchKing or Hornady A-Max and ELD Match for hunting.
This is because target or match bullets usually aren’t designed for optimum terminal performance on big game animals and you may run into issues with poor penetration.
By the same token, it’s a really bad idea (and often illegal) to hunt with full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets. FMJ ammo (especially Lake City surplus ammo) is usually very inexpensive and is great for plinking or target shooting. Just don’t hunt with that stuff.
Instead, it’s best to stick with .308 Winchester ammo specifically designed for hunting that uses soft point, jacketed hollow point, or similar hunting bullets.
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of .308 factory loads specifically designed for just almost any big game hunting situation. So, regardless of whether you’re using a bolt action a Remington Model 700, a Ruger Hawkeye, a Winchester Model 70, or some other hunting rifle, there is pretty much guaranteed to be something for everyone on the list below of the best .308 ammunition for hunting.
In this article, I’m going to provide recommendations for the best .308 ammo for hunting deer, feral hogs, pronghorn, black bear, elk, moose, and all sorts of other big game. I’ll also go over the strengths and weaknesses of each individual load and so you can select the right ammunition for your specific needs.
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Nosler manufacturers a loading that uses a 165 grain AccuBond bullet as part of their Trophy Grade line. This is perfect for those in need of some quality .308 ammo for deer, bear, or elk hunting.
Just like the name says, the AccuBond is a bonded bullet where the lead core is chemically bonded to the jacket, so you don’t have to worry about the bullet “grenading” or expanding too rapidly upon impact. It’s not quite as tough as the Nosler Partition, but these features make the AccuBond a much better choice for an elk hunt than typical cup and core bullets.
AccuBond bullets are pretty darn aerodynamic and will reliably expand at lower impact velocities. All things considered, this ammunition is tough enough for close range shots on big game while at the same time providing very good extended range performance.
Some of the more specialized .308 Winchester loads (which I’ll also cover in this article) offer better performance in specific circumstances. However, this 165 AccuBond load is an excellent all around choice for hunters who want a flexible and capable .308 hunting load.
- Bullet Type: Nosler AccuBond
- Bullet Weight: 165 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .485
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,850 feet per second
Barnes produces a couple of .308 ammo options as part of their VOR-TX line. Featuring their legendary copper Tipped Triple Shock X (TTSX) bullets, this ammunition is designed for rapid expansion, high weight retention, and deep penetration.
Available using 130 grain, 150 grain, or 168 grain .30 caliber bullets, Barnes offers three outstanding choices for hunters regardless of what they’re after.
The 168 grain load is an excellent choice of .308 Winchester ammo for elk, deer, bear, and moose hunting. While it’s not designed for longer range performance, it’s great for shots at typical hunting ranges and retains over 1,500ft-lbs of energy out past 300 yards.
The load featuring a 150 grain Barnes TTSX will also work for larger game like elk in a pinch, but it’s much better suited for deer, bear, and pronghorn. That high velocity 130 grain load is great .308 ammo for deer and pronghorn hunting.
All three loads are also 100% copper, which makes them an ideal choice of .308 hunting ammunition for use in states like California that that don’t permit the use of lead bullets.
I’m a big fan of the Barnes VOR-TX line and both the TSX and TTSX bullets in general. I’ve used this ammunition with a lot of success on both deer and pronghorn over the past few years. This ammo is also a favorite among many North America, New Zealand, and Africa hunting outfitters.
- Bullet Type: TTSX Boat Tail
- Bullet Weight: 130 grains, 150 grains, or 168 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .350 (130gr) .440 (150 gr), .470 (168 gr)
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,125 feet per second (140gr), 2,900 feet per second (150gr), or 2,700 feet per second (168gr)
Federal Premium’s line featuring the legendary Nosler Partition is my #1 recommendation for hunters who need the absolute best 308 ammo for elk, moose, or bear hunting. Loaded with a 180 grain Nosler Partition bullet, this load has over 2,600 foot pounds of muzzle energy and is perfect for hunting really big game where it’s really important to use a heavy, well constructed bullet.
With that in mind, this is also perfect .308 ammunition for an African safari where really large or tough game like zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, or eland are on the menu. At the same time, this ammunition is not limited to really big, tough game either and will also work great on game like whitetail and mule deer.
The Nosler Partition is not the most aerodynamic bullet out there. At the same time, the .308 Winchester doesn’t have the case capacity to generate high velocities with a 180 grain bullet.
These factors limit the effective range of this particular .308 Winchester load to a certain degree. Even so, this is still some outstanding .308 ammo for shots out to a couple hundred yards.
Like I said, I think this is the best .308 ammunition for moose or elk hunting. Just do your best to keep shots under 250 yards or so with it.
The Nosler Partition is a very old bullet design, but it remains one of the best hunting bullets around and has a proven track record over the course of many decades and won’t let you down at the moment of truth. There’s a reason why it’s so darn popular with those who prefer to use handloaded ammunition as well as factory loads.
With proper shot placement, this ammunition will deliver excellent performance if it hits bone or soft tissue. Just aim for the vitals, do your part as a shooter, and the bullet will do the rest.
- Bullet Type: Nosler Partition
- Bullet Weight: 180 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .474
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,570 feet per second
The .308 Winchester is a popular cartridge for new, small framed, and or recoil shy hunters. It’s an especially common choice for children to hunt with and I shot my first two deer with a .308 when I was a boy.
My dad is a handloader, so he made some reduced power loads that were very pleasant for me to shoot, but still deadly on whitetail deer at short range. Not everybody handloads though.
With this in mind, Hornady offers a reduced recoil .308 option as part of their Custom Lite line of ammunition. This is a reduced power load that uses a lighter bullet fired at a slower than usual velocity. This results in an exceptionally mild recoiling .308 load that’s still deadly on deer sized game at short to moderate range.
This ammunition is loaded with a 125 grain Hornady SST bullet. The Super Shock Tip bullet (SST) has a reputation for great accuracy and will also still reliably expand at low impact velocities. These characteristics make it a good choice for a reduced power loading like this one.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch though. This load delivers such mild recoil by firing a light bullet at a low muzzle velocity (just 2,675 fps). For this reason, I DON’T recommend using this ammo on bigger game like elk or taking shots on deer past about 200 yards with it though.
It will deliver good terminal performance on deer sized game. Just don’t expect a complete pass through (even on a broadside shot), especially on bigger bodied animals.
With all that in mind, this is great .308 deer hunting ammo for recoil shy hunters. So if you need an accurate and mild recoiling .308 ammo choice for your child to deer hunt with, then Hornady’s Custom Lite .308 ammo is just about perfect.
- Bullet Type: SST
- Bullet Weight: 125 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .305
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,675 feet per second
The .308 Winchester has a long and distinguished history of use for precision shooting at long range. It should come as no surprise then that Hornady includes the .308 Winchester in their Precision Hunter line of factory ammo.
Loaded with the extremely aerodynamic Extremely Low Drag eXpanding (ELD-X) bullet, this ammo line is designed for western hunters going after game like mule deer or pronghorn who need the very best ammo for a long range hunting situation. Using a 178 grain ELD-X bullet, that load is a very good .308 ammo option for hunters looking to squeeze every bit of long range performance out of the cartridge.
Hornady advertises that the ELD-X bullet has the best-in-class ballistic coefficients over their entire trajectory and that their Precision Hunter ammunition also offers match grade accuracy (usually sub-MOA).
Though the ELD-X does not have a bonded core like the Hornady InterBond, the ELD-X does feature a thicker jacket and a the Hornady InterLock ring to help increase weight retention, control expansion, and minimize the chances of core-jacket separation. For this reason, the ELD-X is still devastating on deer and pronghorn sized game, but it’s also a much better choice than their SST bullet for use on larger game.
That said, the ELD-X is still a little too fragile for my tastes. Many hunters use this exact ammunition on elk each year with a lot of success. Personally, I prefer a tougher bullet for elk sized game (like the Terminal Ascent that’s next on this list). I think the ELD-X is perfect for deer sized game though.
Take all that for what you will.
Any way you slice it, this .308 ammunition is capable of delivering great terminal performance on a wide range of big game for shots at 400+ yards.
- Bullet Type: Hornady Extremely Low Drag eXpanding
- Bullet Weight: 178 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .552
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,600 feet per second
Federal’s Terminal Ascent line is another good option of .308 hunting ammo for hunters looking for good extended range performance. This ammunition uses the new Terminal Ascent Bullet, which is also extremely aerodynamic and accurate. It’s not quite as aerodynamic as the Hornady ELD-X, but it still has a relatively high BC and is also more robustly constructed.
With that in mind, I tend to lean more towards the Terminal Ascent over the ELD-X for hunting bigger game like elk with the .308 Winchester. This ammo is another great option for hunters going after game out west like mule deer or pronghorn who need excellent 308 ammo for a long range hunting situation.
If this ammunition shoots accurately in your rifle, this is my #2 recommended load (behind the 180gr Nosler Partition) for hunters who need good 308 ammo for elk or moose hunting. Terminal Ascent ammo has better long range performance than the Nosler Partition, so this is the stuff you should use if a shot past 250 yards is likely on an upcoming elk hunt.
- Bullet Type: Terminal Ascent
- Bullet Weight: 175 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .520
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,600 feet per second
Berger bullets, especially the Berger VLD and Hybrid Hunter (which is less sensitive to seating depth than the Berger VLD) have long been favorites with handloaders. Fortunately, Federal Premium also offers .308 Winchester hunting ammunition loaded with the Berger Hybrid Hunter bullet as a factory load. So those bullets are no longer limited to those who use handloads.
These bullets are known for exceptional accuracy and for being extremely aerodynamic. In fact, this is one of the most accurate .308 ammunition options for many hunters.
Though they do quite often deliver match grade accuracy, the Berger Hybrid Hunter is not a run of the mill match bullet. Instead, it’s designed to provide devastating terminal performance on many species of big game.
Most hunting bullets start to expand immediately upon impact. However, Berger bullets are designed to penetrate several inches before expanding. Then, according to Berger, the Hybrid Hunter bullet will shed anywhere from 40% to 90% of its weight (depending on impact velocity) and send countless tiny fragments off into surrounding tissue.
This produces a massive wound cavity and dumps most, if not all, of the bullet’s energy into the animal.
Those features make this load an excellent choice of .308 ammo for longer range hunting situations, especially if you’re a proponent of the “energy dump” school of thought when it comes to selecting a hunting bullet.
- Bullet Type: Berger Hybrid Hunter
- Bullet Weight: 168 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .489
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 feet per second
If you’re a “meat and potatoes” kind of hunter who wants some dependable and reasonably priced .308 ammo for hunting deer, elk, feral hogs, and black bear, then the Remington’s 180 grain Core Lokt soft point will probably work really well for you. It’s also available with a 150 grain bullet, which is great for deer hunting.
It’s not the latest and greatest stuff by any means. Heavier bullets with a higher sectional density (like this 180 grain bullet), tend to penetrate pretty well, even if they don’t have a cutting edge design. Core Lokt has been around for a long time and countless hunters have successfully used this ammo to take just about every species of big game in North America.
One of those round nose bullets through the vitals of a black bear, elk, deer, or pronghorn will make for a very short tracking job. They don’t call it the “deadliest mushroom in the woods” for nothing.
That said, this would not be my first choice of a hunting round for use on bigger game like elk or moose. The Federal .308 Winchester load using 180gr Nosler Partition I previously mentioned is my #1 recommendation for elk and moose.
However, Remington Core Lokt will absolutely work in that role and lots of elk and moose hunters use this ammunition successfully each year, especially on immature bulls or cow elk. This ammo is also cheaper and often more widely available than that Federal Load with the Partition.
Indeed, this ammunition has one of the lowest costs per round out of all the .308 ammo on this list. If you’re on a strict budget and can’t afford premium ammunition, then I’d suggest using the 180 grain Remington Core Lokt load above any of the other “budget” .308 ammo options.
- Bullet Type: Core-Lokt Soft Point (PSP)
- Bullet Weight: 180 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .248
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,620 feet per second
The .308 Winchester is one of the most popular cartridges used by deer hunters in the United States. For this reason, Winchester offers a .308 load as part of Deer Season XP line of ammunition. The Extreme Point bullet this rifle ammo uses is similar to Winchester’s Power Point bullet, but the Extreme Point has a large diameter polymer tip that’s specifically designed to produce a gigantic wound channel along with massive impact trauma.
This often results in a short tracking job and a very easy to follow blood trail (if the deer runs at all). Additionally, Deer Season XP ammo is designed specifically to compete with other popular whitetail deer hunting ammo options like Federal Fusion, Federal Power-Shok, Hornady American Whitetail, Winchester Super-X, and Winchester Ballistic Silvertip in terms of price, terminal performance, reliability, and accuracy.
In fact, the Winchester Deer Season XP line has one of the lowest costs per round out of all the .308 Winchester ammo choices on this list.
So, not only is this some reasonably priced .308 ammo, but it also has a solid reputation for producing a giant wound channel and minimizing the distance deer run after being hit. All things considered, this Winchester ammo is one of my top recommended brands of .308 ammo for whitetail deer hunting.
I do NOT recommend using Deer Season XP ammo for bigger game like elk or moose. It’s certainly capable of getting the job done on bigger game, but I think the Extreme Point bullet expands far too rapidly at the expense of penetration for use on big game like that.
So, don’t risk it. If you need a budget ammo option for hunting bigger game, go with the 180 grain Remington Core Lokt I previously recommended.
- Bullet Type: Extreme Point
- Bullet Weight: 150 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .392
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,648 feet per second
Nosler also offers a loading that uses a 125 grain Ballistic Tip bullet. This bullet is also an outstanding choice for hunting thin-skinned game like deer and pronghorn.
However, this load shoots those Ballistic Tip bullets quite a bit faster than than the Extreme Point bullets used in the Winchester Deer Season XP load. Even though they’re lighter and not quite as aerodynamic, this Ballistic Tip load still has a flatter trajectory than the comparable Winchester Deer Season XP load.
Ballistic Tip bullets are also designed to deliver devastating terminal effects to game upon impact. Nothing is guaranteed, but these bullets often deliver instant, knock down results on deer sized game.
All things considered, Nosler Ballistic Tip .308 ammo is better suited for longer range shots on game like mule deer or pronghorn than the Winchester Deer Season XP. It will also work extremely well on that same sort of game at closer range.
I do NOT recommend using Nosler Ballistic Tip ammo for bigger game like elk or moose. Like the Extreme Point, I think the Ballistic Tip bullet expands far too rapidly for use on big game like that.
Stick to game like whitetail deer, mule deer, and pronghorn with the 125 grain Ballistic Tip. You’ll probably be very happy with the results if you do that.
- Bullet Type: Nosler Ballistic Tip
- Bullet Weight: 125 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .366
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,100 feet per second