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Forty Plus Years With the .308 Winchester: Part 1. The Early Years

By Grandpa Mac

Sometime in the mid 1970’s I walked into the long-gone Carlton Sports Shop in Hastings and purchased my first new centrefire rifle. It was a Remington 700 ADL in .308 Win. I paid $243.00 for the rifle and the chap behind the counter chucked in a couple of boxes of CAC cartridges to clinch the deal. This started a long and interesting time loading for the .308 Winchester, some of the highlights of which will be presented below.

 

EARLY LOADS

I had been reloading for the .303 so a set of .308 Winchester dies and a shell holder was purchased and I was good to go. Early loads were middle loads of AR2201 behind Norma 180gr flat point projectiles taken from Cyril Waterworth’s book Reloading Simplified.

 

A small pig opened the .308’s score and, later, a 2.5x Tasco scope was added. About this time thoughts turned to how I might load some cartridges that I could shoot hare’s with from my then one centrefire rifle.

 

Some 100gr Speer Plinkers and some 190gr cast lead gas checked projectiles were tried but these shot well above or well below point of aim for the 180gr projectiles even at 30 yards. From late in 1979 records and targets were kept.

 

A variety of .308 Winchester projectiles. First on the left is the Speer 100gr Plinker. Fourth from left is a 150gr salvaged M2 projectile. These are from WW2 surplus .30-06 ammo. Last on the right is the Norma 180gr Flat Point later called the Alaska’. These are from the late 70's and the jackets are soft steel plated with gilding metal and cupro nickel. They are as effective as they look.

 

I have often wondered where I got the NL4831 cast lead load from until I was reading an article by Mike Venturino in the latest Handloader.

 

Mike talked of using surplus 4831 for cast lead loads in the .30-06 in the 1970’s. It was not the best powder, but it was cheap, about $1 per pound in the US. I remember that in New Zealand NL4831 cost $4.50 per pound compared with $10.50 for AR2201 and $15.00 for the IMR powders.

 

I got about the same results as Mike. These days either AR2206H or Trail Boss would be a better powder for light or cast loads.

 

Early .308 Loads
Projectile Powder Charge Velocity Notes
Norma 180gr Flat Nose AR2201 37.0 grains About 2,300 fps CAC case. CCI 200 primer. Accurate.
Speer 100gr Plinker AR2201 40.0 grains About 2,800 fps CAC case. CCI 200 primer. Inaccurate. Shot high.
Lee 190gr cast lead with gas check NL4831 42.0 grains About 1,900 fps CAC case. CCI 200 primer. Accurate. Shot 100 mm below 180 grain at 30 yards. Dirty.
Note: This last load is below the 45gr start load for NL4831 (H4831) and not recommended.

 

 

THE SEARCH FOR A GOOD LOAD

By late 1979 I had developed an interest in handloading and ballistics and the search for a good load for the .308 started. A subscription to Handloader was taken out and more handloading manuals purchased. These included Lyman no 45, Speer No 9 and Pet Loads by Ken Waters.

 

Initially a test series was loaded with Norma 180gr spitzer and 41.5, 42.5 43.0 and 43.5 grains of IMR4064, the last proving most accurate.

 

Later a test series was loaded with the Norma 150 grain semi pointed and 45.0, 46.0 and 47.0 grains of IMR4064. The last two loads were accurate. Later, lots of powder were a little faster and eventually 46.0 grains became my standard good load. It still is.

 

.308 Good Hunting Loads
Projectile Powder Charge Velocity Notes
Norma 180gr Spitzer IMR4064 43.5 grains About 2,500 fps. WW Super case. CCI 200 primer. Accurate. Velocity from Speer Manual.
Norma 150gr Semi-point IMR4064 46.0 grains 2,800 fps Norma case. W120 primer. Accurate. Chronographed. Later powder lot.
Norma 150gr Semi-point IMR 4064 47.0 grains 2,840 fps Norma case. W120 primer. Accurate. Chronographed. Later powder lot.

 

SPECIALTY LOADS TAKE 1

Once the 150gr hunting load was decided on and the rifle zeroed for 180 metres the idea of loads that shot to point of aim at 90 metres returned.

 

The 150gr load shot quite a bit higher than the earlier 180gr one so perhaps the lighter projectiles could be manipulated to suit. 100gr Speer Plinkers and 110gr Speer Varminters were tried but both shot left, high or both compared to the 150gr standard load. I gave up on the idea for now.

 

Specialty Loads Take 1
Projectile Powder Charge Velocity  Notes
Speer 100gr Plinker AR2201 44.0 grains About 2,900 fps CAC case. CCI 200 primer. Inaccurate. Shot 120 mm above 150 grain at 90m.
Speer 110gr Hollow Point AR2201 40.0 grains About 2,700 fps CAC case. CCI200 primer. Accurate. Shot 60 mm left of 150 grain at 90m.

 

 

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LOADS FOR A SECOND .308 AND TARGET SHOOTING

In early 1981 a second .308 appeared in the cupboard. It was a Winchester Model 88 lever action and I fitted a 2.5 power Lyman scope. 180 grain loads and projectiles left over from the M700 were adopted for this rifle.

 

Some of these loads were used by a friend to smack over a couple of Reds. Penetration was excellent, expansion not so much but both wound up in the freezer.

 

Also, about this time I started participating in the local Deerstalkers Club target shoots. The Wilkinson Shoot at that time was shot over 100 and 200 yards.

 

A selection of reloads. On the left is Grandpa Macs 150gr Norma load which he has used for almost 40 years.

 

Yet another attempt was made to find a light load that would shoot to a 100 yard zero with the hunting loads zeroed at 200 yards. 125gr, 130gr and 150gr projectiles were tried.

 

Success came with the 150gr salvaged M2 projectiles (salvaged from .30-06 military ammunition) for targets and 150gr Norma flat nose projectiles for goats.

 

Eventually the 180gr loads for the Model 88 ran out and a test series of 43.0 to 47.0 grains of IMR4895 was loaded behind 125gr Sierra flat base projectiles with the latter being adopted for goats.

 

Goat and Target Loads
Projectile Powder Charge Velocity Notes
130gr Speer Hollow Point IMR4895 43.0 grains About 2,680 fps DMW case. CCI 200 primer. Accurate. Shot level with 150 grain but 80mm left at 90 metres.
130gr Speer Hollow Point IMR4895 45.0 grains About 2,800 fps DMW case. CCI200 primer, Accurate. Shot 50 mm above and 80 mm left of 150 grain at 90 metres.
125gr Sako Spire Point IMR4895 47.0 grains About 2,860 fps DMW case. CCI200 primer. Accurate. Shot 50 mm above and 80 mm left of 150 grain at 90 metres.
150gr Norma Flat Nose IMR4895 44.0 grains About 2,660 fps CAC case.  CCI 200 primer. Accurate. Shot to point of aim at 90 metres with hunting load zeroed at 180 metres.
150gr salvaged M2 IMR4895 43.5 grains About 2,630 fps CAC case.  CCI 200 primer. Accurate. Shot to point of aim at 90 metres with hunting load zeroed at 180 metres.
125gr Sierra Spitzer Flat Base IMR4895 47.0 grains About 2,920 fps For goats with Model 88. CAC case. CCI200 primer. Accurate.

 

 

RIFLES COME AND GO

Early in 1984 the Winchester 88 had lost its appeal. The rifle needed to be cleaned from the muzzle and although I had taken some of the creep out of the trigger it was still mushy.

 

The stock also had a lot of pitch which emphasized the recoil through the hard-plastic butt pad. It is not a rifle you strip and clean in a hut if you drop it in a creek either. The rifle was sold and replaced with a second Remington 700 ADL also in .308.

 

A little earlier a Brno ZKK in .223 Remington had joined the other rifles in the cupboard and took over the hare and goat shooting duties.

 

NOTES ON OBSOLETE OR OLD POWDERS

All the powders mentioned are either no longer manufactured at all or are no longer manufactured by their original manufacturer so I thought some notes on them would be useful.

 

AR2201: During World War 2 Dupont set up a factory in Australia to manufacture small arms and other powders. This was done to provide a secure supply for cartridge manufacture in Australia and New Zealand during the war.

 

From around 1960, and possibly earlier, AR2201 was sold in bulk within the cartridge industry and was re packed for sale to hand loaders. In New Zealand this was done by CAC. AR2201 likely varied from lot to lot and it was suggested that it was close in speed to IMR3031.

 

Contemporary load data suggests it may have been a little faster. None of the loads listed exceed max for the contemporary AR2201 data or current data for Benchmark 2, Benchmark 8208 or IMR3031. These are the closest current powders, in burning speed to AR2201. AR2201 had a short shelf life especially in hot conditions and should not be used today.

 

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It was superseded by AR2206 (without the H) in about 1980. In turn AR2206 was superseded by AR2206H about 2000. AR2206H is slower than AR2206 and is marketed as H4895 by Hodgdon’s in the US.

 

NL4831: I am reasonably sure that this is the powder manufactured for Hodgdon’s by Nobel’s from about 1970 once the war time surplus 4831 ran out. It was sold in the US as H4831. This was also packed and sold locally by CAC. There seems to be a bit of this still around probably because it was so cheap. Use at your own risk.

 

IMR4895 and IMR4064: Both these powders are still with us, but they are on their third owner and second factory since my samples were manufactured around 40 years ago. Data has not changed much over those years, however.

 

I still have some AR2206 (reported to be the same speed as AR2201) and some of my original IMR4064 so will do some comparison loads with those with AR2208 and AR2206H and report in Part 2 of this article.

 

THE .308 WINCHESTER RIFLE

My main .308 Win rifle is a Remington 700 ADL manufactured early in 1975. It has the standard (at that time) 22” barrel. The throat in the chamber is longer than other .308 Winchester rifles I have measured.

 

Grandpa Mac's original .308 Remington 700 with 6x Pecar scope.

 

The crush length for the 150gr Hornady Interlock is 75.5mm so there is about 4mm of jump with cartridges that fit in the mag. How much of this is due to the about 900 rounds fired to date I do not know. Possibly due to the throat, flat base projectiles seem to shoot best.

 

Recently the original stock has been replaced with a Hogue stock that I found in the cupboard after my son had visited. Various scopes have been fitted over the years and currently a Bushnell 10x40 fixed power scope with target turrets is in place.

 

“As my fondness for the .308 Winchester seems to have been passed onto my son, we will have a look at some of his rifles and loads as well.”

 

A GAP YEAR IN HUNTING AND SHOOTING

Early in the second half of 1984 I became quite ill with an inflammatory type of Arthritis which took the better part of a year to recover from.

 

There are no entries in my handloading records from April 1984 until October 1985. While recuperating in early 1985 I had a bit of a sort out and my first .308 became my hunting rifle and the more recently purchased .308 was assigned range duties.

 

Target shooting and hunting started again, as did handloading. More .308 rifles came and went, and I now still have the original Remington, a Bergara break open plus a couple of old target rifles.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

At the start of this article I thought that it would all fit in one part. The more I tapped away at it the bigger it seemed to get so with Nik’s blessing there will be a part 2. In this we will look at later loads I developed for shooting targets and practice plus chorongraphing some of the older loads I still have components for.

 

As my fondness for the .308 Winchester seems to have been passed onto my son, we will have a look at some of his rifles and loads as well.

 

Grandpa Mac

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