This first article covers a topic that I field a lot of questions about. When I say "a lot," I'm not kidding you at all (average runs 15 to 20 request for help/information per week). Regardless of how many other great match cartridges are out there (and there are quite a few), the venerable .308 Winchester still reigns as the premier "go too" match cartridge.
The subject matter below is a bit dry and technical so, grab your favorite beverage, belly-up to your computer and hang with me! Also, as the title states, this is "old school." No modern powders need apply. Here we go!
You’ve decided to handload for your accurized, match-grade .308 Winchester bolt action or M1A (civilian M-14 style) service rifle. Safety, accuracy, and consistency are your primary concerns. You’re not sure where to start and, don’t wish to spend a small fortune on components (by the way, powder prices have increased again averaging $30.00 per pound retail plus tax) or, all your time on the shooting bench load testing. Well, the following .308 match loads have worked extremely well for me in competitions over the past 35+ years.
GM-Federal Gold Medal Match Primer
H-Hodgdon Powder Company
IMR-Improved Military Rifle Powder (formerly Dupont, now owned by Hodgdon)
LC-Lake City Arsenal
OAL-Over All Cartridge Length
RL-Reloder Powder (Alliant Powder Company)
SMK-Sierra Match King Bullet
WCC-Western Cartridge Company
- Unless otherwise noted, the following loads assume that you’re utilizing Lake City Arsenal (LC) or Frankford Arsenal (FA) Military Match brass. Any of the FA or LC Match brass is great for use in these loads. The most consistent and, therefore, most desirable of the "old school" brass would be FA 63 Match, FA 64 Match, LC 64 Match, LC 64 NM, LC 66 Match, LC 66 NM, LC 72 Match or LC 77 Match.
- If you’re lucky enough to lay hands on either WCC 58 or WCC 60 match brass (the Holy Grail of .308 Winchester match brass), save them for the long distance loads referenced below. This brass has the best internal case capacity and wall thickness consistency of any .308 brass ever fabricated. They are very coveted and amazing to work with!
- If you decide to switch from military match brass to civilian brass, I’d recommend utilizing Winchester, Remington, Federal, Norma, Hornady Match, RWS Match or Lapua Match. When utilizing civilian brass with loads that were developed in military match brass, you can increase the powder charge by ~1.0 grain to closely match pressures and ballistics achieved in the military match brass.
- Cartridge OAL can be set to 2.80” or extended to .002” off the rifling lands (if you plan on single loading).
- Recommend the use of RCBS, Redding or Forster-Bonanza full-length sizing and associated seating dies for the majority of these loads. Exception would be the M1A service rifle...utilize small-base, full-length sizing dies.
- These loads assume the use of 1 in 10” or 1 in 11” rifling twist. If your rifle utilizes a 1 in 12” rifling twist, check your target (at distance) for accuracy and bullet key-holing.
- You can substitute the Federal 210 GM or Win 81/2-120 (currently designated WLR - Winchester Large Rifle) primer for the Federal 210 primer.
- The distances referenced below come from the discipline of NRA High Power Rifle Silhouette.
- .308 match loads for use in AR-10 style rifles will be covered in an future article.
Disclaimer (got to make the lawyers happy):
Since I have no control over variations in components, reloading tools or reloader’s procedures, the individual is solely responsible for any changes in ballistics that may occur using this data. Users assume all risk, responsibility and liability whatsoever for any and all injuries (including death), losses or damages to persons or property (including consequential damages), arising from the use of any product or data. I do not assume any liability in conjunction with the use of any product or data.
99.9% of the time, you’ll find that one or more of these loads will create that “one-hole group” or at the very least sub MOA group that you’ve been looking for. Have fun and enjoy! Steve
.308 Match Loads Effective out to 200 and 300 Meters
The primary (accuracy) powder charge for each load is noted below. A range of powder grains is included for load tweaking purposes.
168 gr. SMK, 39.0 gr. (37.0 to 39.0 gr.) IMR 3031, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
168 gr. SMK, 39.0 gr. (38.5 to 40.5 gr.) IMR 4895, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
168 gr. SMK, 40.5 gr. (38.5 to 40.5 gr.) IMR 4895, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
168 gr. SMK, 40.0 gr. (38.0 to 40.0 gr.) H-4895, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
168 gr. SMK, 40.0 gr. (39.5 to 41.5 gr.) IMR 4064, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
168 gr. SMK, 43.0 gr. (41.0 to 43.0 gr.) Win 748, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
.308 Match Loads Effective out to 375 Meters
168 gr. loads above will work like a champ at this distance as long as the wind isn't too bad. The primary (accuracy) powder charge for each load is noted below.
175 gr. SMK, 37.5 gr. IMR 3031, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
175 gr. SMK, 39.0 gr. IMR 4895, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
175 gr. SMK, 39.0 gr. H-4895, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
175 gr. SMK, 40.0 gr. IMR 4064, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
175 gr. SMK, 42.5 gr. Win 748, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
.308 Match Loads Effective out to 500 Meters
If the wind is blowing like no tomorrow, the 175, 180 and 190 gr. loads will help you stay on target with a minimum of windage adjust required. The primary (accuracy) powder charge for each load is noted below.
175 gr. SMK, 41.0 gr. IMR 4064, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
180 gr. SMK, 42.0 gr. Win 748, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
180 gr. SMK, 40.5 gr. IMR 4895, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
190 gr. SMK, 40.0 gr. IMR 4064, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
190 gr. SMK, 41.0 gr. Win 748, LC Match, Fed 210 Primer
Long Range .308 Match Loads – Effective past 500 Meters
These loads are on the stout side but, I’ve never had pressure problems while utilizing the Remington 700 Special Purpose or Heavy Varmint barrel rifle. These loads also assume the use of Redding or RCBS full length match dies, Redding Competition Seating Die and a 2.80” overall cartridge length.
175 gr. SMK, 43.4 gr. (42.0 to 43.4 gr.) IMR 4064, Remington or Federal Brass, Fed 210 Primer
175 gr. SMK, 42.0 gr. (40.5 to 42.0 gr.) H-4895, Remington or Federal Brass, Fed 210 Primer
175 gr. SMK, 45.5 gr. (44.0 to 45.5 gr.) Win 748, Remington or Federal Brass, Fed 210 Primer
175 gr. SMK, 43.4 gr. (42.0 to 43.4 gr.) RL 15, Lapua Match Brass, Fed 210 Primer