There are quite a few calibers in use by the modern deer hunter. Large portions of these hunters swear by the .308 rifle and will show a deep loyalty to it when chasing whitetails.
It’s a tried and true whitetail stopper with decades of evidence to back it up.
You might be thinking that there are plenty of other calibers just as effective at dropping whitetails, so why the extra attention for the .308?
In this article, we will take a look at the origins and properties of the .308 caliber to determine why it is so popular with whitetail hunters as well as examine and discuss five of the best rifles that chamber the .308.
By the end, we hope to have persuaded you as to why the .308 deserves its own article.
So, let’s take a look at the .308.
- 1 The .308 Rifle
- 2 5 Best .308 Deer Rifles For The Money 2017
- 3 Conclusion
The .308 Rifle
The origins of the .308 caliber date back to the 1950’s with the production of the 7.62×51 NATO round to be used with the M14.
While issues plagued the M14 in the field and were quickly replaced with the M16, ammunition manufacturers in the states saw the positives the caliber offered and began producing today’s .308. And it has remained a staple for the US deer hunter.
What the .308 caliber has become over the years is a fantastic all use caliber that can take down just about any game animal, including whitetails.
So what exactly about the .308 makes it such a popular caliber for deer hunting?
For starters, ammunition for the .308 is also readily available from multiple manufacturers and in a multitude of grains and bullet designs that allow you to have the perfect cartridge for hunting situations you plan to put yourself in.
The .308 for hunting purposes is most often used in heavy wooded areas or shots that occur within 250 yards. Both are characteristics of most whitetail hunts. At these ranges, the .308 has incredible stopping power and accuracy. In the distances, most shots are taken for whitetails, and there is not a caliber that outdoes the .308 regarding accuracy.
The heavyweights of the .308 give it fantastic stopping power at ranges withing 250yards. For the majority of whitetail hunts, shots that bring down deer almost never get out of this range, so a flat shooting long range caliber is not needed.
.308 calibers are also known to have manageable recoil. While most hunters do not mind a little kick, the reduction of it with the .308 makes the second shot much easier to line up and take if the first shot does not land.
There are also a huge amount of rifles that are available in chambering for the .308, giving you a lot of options to pick a rifle that will fit your hunting needs and leads us into our list for the best .308 deer rifles.
It would be near impossible for us to pick out the best rifle chambered for a .308 to bring with you out into the woods. There are just too many great options.
What we can do is look at five of our favorite models and discuss what makes them the perfect instruments for hunting and deadly accurate with a .308 caliber cartridge.
Even picking just five is a tall task, but here are five deer rifles chambered for the .308 that we feel would be worthy of taking out on any whitetail hunt and will bring home the meat.
Read more: What is the Best Scope For .308 Rifle?
5 Best .308 Deer Rifles For The Money 2017
These rifles are workhorses and can stand up to a lot of rugged hunting situations often encountered in the deer woods. The small ejection port and cylindrical receiver also provide extra rigidity and durability to the 783 model.
The 783 is the newest model in the 700 series, and it retains all of the great durable characteristics while including some improved designs.
This rifle is available in scoped options including a 3-9x40mm bore sighted scope. For the price and out of the box capabilities, this is a fantastic firearm for those looking to get into deer hunting.
Like most deer rifles on the market today, the 783 chambered for .308 is a bolt action firearm with a cylindrical receiver.
The weapon can hold 4+1 .308 cartridges that are fed through a detachable metal box magazine that site flush with the stock beneath the receiver.
This firearm has an overall length of 38 5/8″ with a 20″ barrel. The barrel length for the 783 is a few inches shorter than other barrels on this list and might reduce its accuracy at a distance slightly, but for most shots taken in the whitetail woods, the difference would be negligible.
The 783 has a carbon steel barrel with a matte blue finish. The nylon fiber, the synthetic stock has a matte black finish, and the total weight of the gun comes in at 8.25lbs. Two sling studs are molded into the stock making adding a sling to your gun simple with no extra mounting required.
For a centerfire, at this price, it has incredible accuracy and groupings at 100 yards. Its consistent accuracy comes from the double aluminum pillar making the barrel free floating.
The Crossfire trigger allows you to adjust the pull weight, the trigger seems a little heavy, but nothing too egregious.
This is a deer rifle that anyone can afford. Though inexpensive, it performs admirably in the field and can find a place in anyone’s hunting arsenal.
Ruger American Rifle All Weather
The free floating barrel is stainless steel with a matte steel finish with a length of 22″. It also attributes to the precision and accuracy of this firearm.
The stock is synthetic with a matte black finish with gripping serrations that provide better handling in wet and damp hunting conditions often encountered in the winter months. Sling swivels are also molded into the stock.
The 4 round box magazine on this rifle sits flush with the stock. Some hunters might not like the plastic housing of the rotary magazine, but it functions well and provides smooth and flawless round feeds into the chamber.
The American rifle comes out of the box with a patented Ruger adjustable trigger that allows you to adjust the pull between 3-5lbs. The trigger on the American Rifle is incredibly smooth with little creep.
While not available with a pre-mounted scope, a one piece lug bolt also comes mounted on top of the receiver for easy scope ring attachment.
The safety on the American Rifle is a tang style design on top of the gun directly behind the receiver for easy and natural engagement or disengagement when preparing for a shot.
The Ruger American Rifle All Weather model is a rugged and lightweight firearm that is great for carrying into heavy woods or hunting trips where you will be covering large distances and encountering harsh conditions that put a lot of stress on your firearm.
Savage 11/111 Trophy Hunter XP
This firearm has an overall length of 41.2” with a carbon steel, 22” barrel in a black matte finish.
Savage employs one of the most popular and acclaimed trigger systems on the rifle market. The Savage Accutrigger is as smooth a pull you are going to find with a deer rifle.
This model is also outfitted with a Weaver 3-9x40mm scope that is already mounted and bore sighted.
The Trophy Hunter XP is known for quarter sized shot groupings out at 150 yards. Its consistent accuracy can be attributed to the free floating barrel and zero headspaces between the receiver and barrel.
Like the Ruger AmericanRifle, the Savage 11/111 Trophy HunterXP is an out of the box ready and high performing deer rifle.
The Trophy Hunter XP employs a three point tang safety mechanism. There are a bolt and trigger lock setting, trigger lock, and open setting. The extra safety setting can be extremely useful when out in the field.
This is a beautiful and durable deer rifle that Savage has designed. The biggest asset of this weapon is not only its accuracy but the fluid motion of all its parts that make this a favorite of deer hunters.
Kimber Model 84M Classic
The 84M Classic model is 41.25″ in total length with a 22″ stainless steel barrel and receiver. It has an FDE composite stock with textured gripping surfaces.
This rifle weighs in at only 5lbs 10oz! The lightest rifle on our list. The 84M model is not available in left handed action orientation although it is so popular that many left-handed shooters will still deal with this inconvenience.
This is a controlled feed action with a Mauser claw extractor that pulls rounds from a 3 round removable metal box magazine that sits flush with the stock.
A high grain .308 cartridge with such as light rifle has a pretty noticeable kick as one would expect, but the 1″ thick rubber recoil pad does a good job at absorbing a good portion of energy.
For a higher priced rifle you expect and deserve incredible accuracy and performance. Kimber guarantees groupings of .99″ or less at 100yds. That’s a tall order, and the 84M Classic can deliver. The tight fit of the components and free floating barrel all contribute to its accuracy.
The 84M Classic uses a classic bolt wingtip, three position safety. Some hunters love the placement of this safety while others prefer a tang safety system. Regardless of your preference, it is an easy to adjust and reliable system.
Kimber is getting close to the upper price range of deer rifles, especially when compared to other rifles on this list, but it is well worth the price. If you like hunting light and killing deer, the Kimber 84M Classic is a perfect fit.
Mossberg PatriotThe Mossberg Patriot is a classic looking bolt action rifle that provides extraordinary performance for its value.
The Patriot model chambered for a .308 cartridge is available in several stock finishes and scoped options.
The Patriot can hold five rounds in a detachable box magazine that sits flush with the stock.
All models feature a 22″ fluted barrel in a matte blue finish. An interesting feature of this rifle is the recess crown muzzle that protects the muzzle from dings and scratching from heavy hunting in dense cover. This helps maintain accuracy for the Patriot after years of hunting trips.
The Mossberg Patriot chambered for .308 cartridges is available in a synthetic stock with various finishes as well as a beautiful walnut stock. All finishes have checkered gripping surfaces to aid in handling.
The overall length of all models is 42.57” with weights ranging from 6.5-8lbs depending on your stock material.
If you are interested in a pre-scoped model, the Patriot has a package for you. The Patriot is available with a bore sighted 3-9X40mm Vortex scope.
The Patriot has a fantastic trigger that is both crisp and smooth with very little creep. The pull can also be adjusted between 2-7lbs. This range is excellent for hunting in a variety of conditions where you may want a little more resistance such as hunting with heavy gloves.
The Patriot is a smooth functioning firearm with incredible accuracy. From the trigger to the bolt action, all parts are fluid and durable.
If you want a caliber that is known to bring down any whitetail, the .308 is your answer.
Of course, there are other calibers that will do the job, and we are not saying the .308 is the only choice.
A lot of hunting choices come down to personal preference. The rifle, the camo brand, the cartridge, the scope, etc., etc., etc.
What can’t be disputed are the properties and effectiveness of the .308 caliber for hunting whitetails and a variety of other game animals.
The .308 caliber will only be as effective as the rifle that is propelling it downrange towards your target. There are many excellent rifle options out there and a lot of bad firearms that would hamper your ability to be a predator for whitetails.
We hope that this article has both explained the reasoning behind the popularity of the .308 as a whitetail cartridge as well as provided you with five of the best deer rifles available for using the .308.
Don’t just take our word for it. Gear up and see the effects of the .308 for yourself in the whitetail woods.
Written by Huston Heatherly