In this cartridge comparison, we are going to take a look at the .300 Blackout vs .308. Both of these cartridges take .308 caliber bullets but tend to hang out in different places.
This will be an interesting comparison because of how different these two cartridges are, and it is a great example of why you are better off running with multiple types of cartridges to fill different shooting needs.
We will take a look at these two cartridges and stack them up side by side to look at various performance specs. We will see pretty varied performances in multiple categories, and we will also see their performance makes both of them excellent options for certain shooting applications.
This is not your typical cartridge comparison where we will fool heartedly pick one cartridge as better than the other. Instead, by looking at their respective performances in certain categories, we will be able to determine in which situations, you might lean towards one cartridge over the other.
A Brief History
The .300 AAC Blackout was introduced in 2011 by the Advanced Armament Corporation. The idea behind the creation of the .300 AAC Blackout was to produce a round that could match the performance of enemy soldier’s firearms, particularly the 7.62×39 round, and still be used in a short barrel, AR platform with its standard capacity. For short range work, the 5.56×45 NATO just didn’t have the right performance characteristics such as high velocities and horrible noise and flash in close quarter environments. The military had been using a standard 9mm round, but special-forces units were sometimes dissatisfied with the performance of the round. The .300 AAC Blackout was the solution to these problems.
It’s quite remarkable how the .300 BLK has assimilated into so many corners of the shooting community from special ops, competition shooters, home defense, and even hunting.
When looking at 300 BLK ammunition, there is a wide range in performance. The 300 BLK is available in both subsonic and transonic velocities, as you would imagine, it means that the 300 BLK can serve several purposes. The bullet weights for these rounds can also vary pretty dramatically depending on their intended use.
The .308 Winchester is steeped in both hunting and tactical traditions. Introduced in in 1952 where it quickly became a staple in the American hunting world. Not long afterward, its performance specs were impressive enough to be adopted by the military, and it saw heavy use in Vietnam before being replaced by lighter loads.
Even though widespread use of the NATO version for infantry was short-lived (replaced by the M16/5.56 combo), the .308 Winchester has and will continue to have a loyal and dedicated market for the avid hunter. This is a larger bullet with excellent range, penetration, and stopping power. It’s a great medium to large game caliber and can be used for just about any large game animal in the world under the right conditions.
While the .308 has found its place in the hunting world, it’s performance has also proven reliable enough to find a spot in police and military sharpshooting units and with competitive long range shooters.
Because of the popularity of this caliber, which comes from its performance, there is a wide variety of ammunition with various bullet weights and designs making it easy to match your ammunition with your intended hunting or shooting scenarios. Most bullet weights fall between the 150 and 180-grain weight, but there are lighter and heavier loads available.
|300 AAC Blackout||.308 Win|
|Parent Case||.223 Rem/ 5.56 NATO||.300 Savage|
|Max Pressure (SAAMI)||55,000psi||62,000psi|
Both the .300 BLK and the .308 Win use a .308 caliber bullet, though that’s really where the similarities end.
Even if you quickly glance over the above table looking at the cartridge specs of these two cartridges, some pretty big differences should jump out at you. The casing for the .308 Win is significantly larger than the 300 BLK and can hold a considerably higher amount of powder and withstand greater pressures. As you have already guessed, and most of you probably already know, the performance characteristics of these two rounds are going to be quite different. And that’s fine; it just means they serve different purposes.
Below, we have listed the ten rounds that we will be using for comparison in this article. As we like to state in all of our cartridge comparisons, this is a small sample size, and there are many more options available and many of them well worth examining and trying out in the field. We are limited for space, so we have to cut the selection down, but we have selected popular rounds that give us a good look at what these cartridges can do in the field.
- 300 BLK Hornady A-MAX Black 208gr
- 300 BLK Hornady FTX 135gr
- 300 BLK Barnes Vor-TX 120gr
- 300 BLK Winchester Deer Season XP 150gr
- 300 BLK Remington Premier OTM 220gr
- 308 Nosler Ballistic Tip 165gr
- 308 Federal Vital-Shok Ballistic Tip 150gr
- 308 Winchester Super-X 180gr
- 308 Hornady BTHP Match 168gr
- 308 Federal Gold Medal 175gr
Another brief topic we want to address before moving on is the data we are looking at. These are factory loads and the performance data we are looking at comes from several sources including the manufacturer’s website and well trusted and accurate ballistic performance calculators.
Though most would never realize it, shooting these rounds from your personal platform, might result in slightly slower velocities or different trajectories and these results can vary from rifle to rifle in your collection. Unless you have access to all of the cartridges, firearms chambered for them, and the instruments to take measurements, computer generated data is the best source of comparison and will be consistent from round to round. Still, though they may fluctuate from firearm to firearm, the general trends between cartridges and between rounds should remain the same.
While a lot of guys might scoff at the idea of recoil playing any role in their decision making when it comes to picking a cartridge, it is a factor that deserves some consideration. It might gain or lose importance based on the application. For a big game hunting rifle, recoil comes with the territory, but a home defense weapon, you don’t want the gun rising wildly after every shot.
We have generated data for each of the ten rounds we will be examining in this article. We have selected a 7lb firearm weight constant and have also chosen conservative powder loads for each cartridge as we are dealing with factory loads. We should also note that these numbers are actually the recoil energy (ft.lb) and not necessarily the felt recoil. Although, increased recoil energy should translate to increased felt recoil.
So, let’s take a look at our ten rounds and see how they stack up against each other.
As we would expect, the .308 Win cartridge shows much greater recoil energy generated than the .300 BLK cartridge. Though we will touch on the subject again, this makes sense given the applications these two cartridges are geared towards. The .308 Win is a long range sniping and hunting round that is designed to take down medium to large sized game at a distance. On the other hand, the .300 AAC Blackout is geared towards close range applications where multiple shots are going to be in quick order.
Given this, it makes sense that the .308 rounds have nearly 4x the recoil energy over the .300 BLK.
When just looking at the .308 rounds, they produce a significant amount of recoil, enough to influence shots, especially for younger or less experienced shooters. There are definitely harder kicking cartridges out there, but the .308 generated enough that you should have some experience with it before taking it out for the real deal.
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The ballistics section is going to encompass several different categories such as the velocity, ballistic coefficient, and the trajectory. Regardless of the application, you have in mind; you should have a firm understanding of how the cartridge performs and especially of how the bullet behaves when it leaves the barrel.
These categories are going to tease apart which applications these two cartridges would be best used for and they will also provide you an idea of their limitations in said applications.
The velocity is an interesting category because it tends to have a lot of influence on other performance characteristics such as recoil, accuracy, trajectory, and even stopping power. By just looking at the velocity, you can have a pretty good understanding of the full potential of the round.
With that being said, velocity walks a fine line between high performance and being out control or even dangerous, and is especially important to remember if you ever find yourself diving into the world of handloading.
With most cartridge comparisons, the majority of people are looking for more velocity. As we go through the velocities of our rounds, it’s important to remember the reason these cartridges were designed and put into use. More velocity, in this case, is not going to be what you are looking for depending on the shooting application.
So, let’s dive into looking at our ten selected rounds.
We are looking at the velocities from the muzzle out to 500 yards. Data was gathered from the manufacture’s website.
The results are pretty interesting because we see three distinct groupings of rounds with varying velocities. All five of the .308 cartridge rounds show well over 500ft/s more velocity than the closest .300BLK rounds.
The .300 Blackout rounds can be broken down into two groups. The first is supersonic rounds which maintain velocities above 1,125ft/s and the second is subsonic rounds. In the application section, we will dive into these two groups, but as you can imagine, they are used for different purposes and it shows the versatility of the 300 BLK.
When it comes to the ballistic coefficient, most people either put a lot of credence into it or they have no idea what it is. For hunting and long range shooting, and even tactical competitions the ballistic coefficient really deserves some thought. For those looking for a cartridge that is going to be used in close quarters situations such as home defense, the BC might not be as important as other categories.
Still, because we are dealing with cartridges and rounds that can be used for long range shooting, we would be remiss not to touch on the subject.
The ballistic coefficient (BC) is a number that is derived from an equation using several data points related to the cartridge specs, with the bullet design being a major factor. While the topic is quite interesting, the physics and math behind it are bit out of the scope of this article and we will leave you to dig deeper.
As simply as we can put it, the BC gives you an idea of how well the bullet is streamlined. A bullet with a higher BC means that it is more efficient at cutting through the wind and being less resistant to wind drift and drag. As you can imagine, this impacts both the trajectory and subsequent accuracy of the round.
We have compiled the BCs for our ten selected rounds from the manufacturer’s website and put the data in graph form.
This graph has some interesting points. You will undoubtedly notice the two .300 BLK rounds with the BCs of .648 and .7. These are the two subsonic rounds and both are fitted with some of the top bullets available. They are also a good deal heavier than the other rounds on this list. Though the BCs are great, these rounds are not going to be used for long range shooting as we saw with the velocities and given what we will see in later categories.
When looking at the other rounds, we do see a higher BC for the .308 than the 300 BLK. Most of the .308 Win rounds are well above the .4 BC mark which is not a bad BC to go into the field with.
While the .308 Win has the capability of being a long distance cartridge, the .300 BLK falls pretty short in that category. For that reason, we are not going to take the time to look at distances over 400 yards. We will just go ahead and tell you that the .308 greatly outperforms the .300 AAC BLK at those ranges.
If we look at the short range trajectory, we can see a major difference between these two cartridges. The data was compiled from the manufacturer’s website and with the use of ballistic calculators when needed. The firearms are zeroed for 100 yards.
We notice right off the bat that the two subsonic .300 BLK rounds drop nearly 25″ more than the remaining 300 BLK and .308 Win rounds at the 200 yard and nearly a 100″ more at the 300 yard. As we said, this doesn’t mean they are inferior rounds; it simply means they are not designed for long range shooting.
If we look at the supersonic .300 BLK rounds, they behave much more similarly to the .308 Win rounds at 200 yards though they do show around 4-5 more inches of bullet drop at this range. This gap does widen as the bullets move out to the 300-yard range with the bullet drop of the .300 BLK rounds dropping 15-20″ more than the .308 Win rounds.
This category definitely shows us how differently these two cartridges behave and will be a major factor in the applications these two cartridges should be used.
Long range precision shooters might skip over this section, but for hunters and tactical users, especially for home defense, stopping power is a critical component in your choice of cartridge as well as specific rounds.
The reason for its importance is pretty obvious. You want to drop game quickly and humanely, saving it from injury and unnecessary pain, and you want to stop an intruder or someone meaning you and your family directly in their tracks.
There is no one data point that is going to give you a definitive answer for how much stopping power a cartridge or a particular round has. There are several factors that influence stopping or knockdown power. Some of these include bullet design, bullet penetration, and the energy or force that is carried by the bullet down range. And of course, the placement of the shot matters a great deal as well.
In this section, we are going to look at two components of stopping power; the bullet energy as well as the penetration potential and see if we can spot any trends from the 308 vs 300 Blackout.
The energy that is associated with the bullet as it travels downrange is only one aspect to stopping power, but we think that it is an important one. On impact, the energy is transferred to the target and causes massive damage to the surrounding tissue and organs. This transfer of this energy is also affected by how the bullet reacts on impact, such as expansion which also relies on velocity, but we will leave that topic for another time.
The reason we feel comfortable using this for a cartridge comparison is the energy associated with the bullet, and the bullet itself relies on several components of the cartridge. We know that F=(m)(a), so a cartridge that can take heavier bullets and can be loaded with hotter powder loads, should generate a lot more energy.
How much energy needed to cleanly take down a target is debatable and relies on the target. An intruder at 50 yards is not going to need as much force to drop bull moose. A general guideline for hunting is 1,000ft.lb for deer, 1,500ft.lb for elk, and slightly more for moose. We think that the bullet energy plays a large role in stopping power, but we can’t stress that the velocity you have when you reach the animal, shot placement, and penetration/expansion are equally important.
For home defense, you do not need near as much energy as you do in the hunting world. The main reason is over penetration. Shooting a high velocity, high energy bullet as close ranges is going to pass through the target and possibly even surrounding walls, making a dangerous situation for others in the area. So, while we might see a big difference in bullet energies, it doesn’t mean one cartridge is better than the other. They are just different and better suited for other applications.
If we take a look at the bullet energies (ft.lb) of our ten selected rounds we again, see a very distinct difference between these two cartridges.
The .308 rounds are leaps and bounds above the 300 BLK rounds with over 1,000ft.lb more energy than the highest 300 round and this trend continues from the muzzle out to 500 yards.
You will also notice that the 300 BLK supersonic rounds have a much higher muzzle energy than the subsonic rounds, which makes sense. It will make even more sense once we begin talking about applications of the two different categories of 300 BLK ammo. It is interesting though, how the subsonic rounds maintain their bullet energy down range at a much better rate than the supersonic rounds, which bleed of bullet energy as they move to the 500-yard mark where they are clustered tightly with the subsonic rounds. Still, for medium to longer range shots, the supersonic rounds are going to be more advantageous than the subsonic rounds.
There are several components that go into a bullet’s potential penetration characteristics including velocity, the caliber of the bullet, the weight of the bullet, and the bullet’s design. The caliber of the bullet, as well as its weight, can be used to determine a bullet’s sectional density (SD).
While ballistic gels give us a better visual representation of penetration and also bring bullet design into account, we don’t have that option here. Still, the SD does correlate with the amount of penetration.
A bullet with a higher sectional density is going to penetrate further than a bullet with a lower sectional density. Let’s use a simple example. We have two different bullets of the same design traveling at the same velocity. Both bullets weigh 100gr, but one has a diameter of .300” while the other has a diameter of .200”. The .200” diameter bullet is going to have a higher sectional density and should penetrate deeper than the .300” round. This is due to the energy driving the bullet being localized to a smaller area effectively pushing it further with lesser resistance than a larger diameter bullet would present. That’s the simplest way of thinking about SD and penetration.
Still, as with most comparisons trying to look at one specific component, we are leaving out other factors that influence a particular characteristic of a cartridge. In this case, we are not bringing the design of the bullet as well as the velocities that are behind the bullet at the point of impact. With that in mind, we still think looking at the sectional densities in a vacuum is a viable way to compare the penetration of the two cartridges. In the long run, you most definitely have to take other factors into account.
We calculated the SDs of our ten selected rounds and compiled them here.
So, we already knew that both of these cartridges use bullets with a .308″ diameter, so any differences in sectional density were going to rely on bullet weights. And that is exacly what we see here. The 200+gr weight 300 BLK rounds show the highest SD of all of the selected rounds, but if we brought in a 200 gr .308 round, it would show just as high a sectional density as the two 200gr .300 BLK rounds.
From this graph, there is no difference in penetration strictly from a SD point of view. Bringing in velocity, the .308 is going to have a lot more speed behind it driving it deeper. We also did not take into account bullet design (i,e soft point, FMJ, JHP, etc.) but those are not determined by cartridge type in any way.
Accuracy is always a tough category for any cartridge comparison and the same goes for the 300 Blackout vs 308 cartridges. Groupings and MOA measurements are the norm, but we are always wary of them because so many other factors can influence that data from day to day as well as from one shooter to the next. Even so, we can look at some of the previous performance categories we have been examining in this article and maybe draw some conclusions regarding accuracy.
If we’re talking distance, say anything greater than 200 yards, we would feel safe saying the .308 takes the cake in the accuracy department. The BC’s are higher than the supersonic .300 BLK rounds and the .308 rounds have a markedly flatter trajectory at the 200 and 300-yard ranges. While we didn’t carry out the trajectories any further, their advantage would only increase as the distance increases.
Now, with that, you can work with the supersonic .300 BLK rounds at those ranges and we are sure there are those out there and possibly yourself, who can handle those ranges. We are simply stating that it’s going to be easier with the .308.
Now, if you’re working in close quarters shooting situations, the game changes quite a bit. While the .308 can hit a target at these ranges, the recoil is so much greater than the .300 BLK that would be near impossible to get 5-6 shots off in quick succession with the .308 with any accuracy. The .300 BLK, on the other hand, is designed to be used in a short barrel AR platform and has significantly less recoil. The subsonic rounds are particularly well designed for this situation as it also cuts down on muzzle flash. Within 50 yards, where multiple shots are taken in quick progression, it’s by no means a stretch to say the .300 BLK is more accurate. Not necessarily from a ballistics point of view, but the other factors we discussed.
Price & Availability
When it comes to the availability of certain rounds, it can change from year to year. It all depends on supply and demand, but right now, it’s fairly easy to get your hands on just about any ammunition you want. With that, there is without a doubt more .308 ammunition out there than the .300 AAC BLK and more options regarding specific rounds. Of course, from what we have seen with the performance of these two rounds, availability should not be the reason you choose between the two.
As far as price goes, you see below some of the common retail prices for each specific round we have looked at through this article. From first glance, it would appear that the average .308 ammunition is a few dollars more expensive than the .300 AAC Blackout per case. And while this is true, you have to take into account of quickly you’re going to go through a case.
In most instances, it will be the .300 BLK, especially if you are using it in a range competition setting with a tactical platform. In this case, you’re going to be spending quite a bit more on ammo than a deer hunter using the .308 ammunition. For example, costs of 300 Blackout rounds range from $.60 per round to $2.00 per round. That gives it an average of $1.30 per round. In comparison, the .308 ammo costs range from $.35 per round to $1.50 per round with an average of $.90 per round. That makes the 300 Blackout about 45% more per round on average.
|Ammunition||Price (20 Rounds)|
|308 Nosler Ballistic Tip 165gr||$30.99|
|308 Federal Vital-Shok Ballistic Tip 150gr||$31.79|
|308 Winchester Super-X 180gr||$21.99|
|308 Hornady BTHP Match 168gr||$26.29|
|308 Federal Gold Medal 175gr||$25.99|
|300 BLK Hornady A-MAX Black 208gr||$21.99|
|300 BLK Hornady FTX 135gr||$22.49|
|300 BLK Barnes Vor-TX 120gr||$32.99|
|300 BLK Winchester Deer Season XP 150gr||$23.99|
|300 BLK Remington Premier OTM 220gr||$31.49|
Though we have touched on a lot of the points we are about to make below, it’s never a bad idea to reiterate. When looking at the only the performance data for the 300 Blk versus 308, it’s easy to think that the .308 is a better cartridge, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Both of these cartridges excel in different applications.
For medium to big game hunting, there is no reason to choose the .300 AAC Blackout over the .308 Win. The ballistics of the .308 outperforms the .300 AAC BLK in every category. The .308 is also far superior for long distance competition shooting and its long range performance can be increased even more with well-planned hand loads.
Now with that, there are some supersonic hunting rounds for the 300 BLK and we have looked at a couple of them. They do have the velocity, trajectory, and stopping power to be used for medium sized game, but are much more limited in their range.
For competition shooting such as 3-gun competitions or for applications such as self-defense, we would definitely lean to the .300 AAC. The reason is not only from its performance in the various categories we have looked but also because of the rifle platforms that can be used.
Lightweight, short barrel tactical rifles that can be loaded with the standard magazine size of .300 AAC BLK rounds is a huge advantage in these situations. We especially like the subsonic rounds. Low muzzle flash, low noise, and low recoil all mean that you can get off multiple shots both quickly and accurately. The energy and velocities of these rounds also mean that there is less chance of sending rounds into adjacent rooms that are still hot enough to severely hurt bystanders. Even so, they carry more than enough energy to drop or incapacitate intruders.
Before we wrap up this article, we want to look at the ten rounds we have selected and pick our favorite ammo for specific purposes. With the two cartridges we are dealing with, we are going to pick our favorite hunting and defense round. Like we have stated before, this is only our opinion and is our choice from the ten rounds we have been examining rather than our choice of all ammunition that is available.
Top Hunting Round
For hunting medium to large sized game, there are so many great .308 round options. But since we have to choose just one here we have to go with the .308 Nosler Ballistic Tip 165gr. It has the BC and the trajectories to make pretty significant long range shots, regarding the hunting world, and you will still have the velocity and stopping power to bring down any medium and a lot of large game.
For the .300 AAC Blackout, we are much more limited, not just from the selections in this article, but rounds on the market in general. From our list, we would go with the .300 BLK Barnes Vor-TX 120gr. It’s got one of the best trajectories of the rounds we have selected and the decent BC makes it a fine round for hunting shots coming in less than 100 yards. It’s definitely limited to medium sized game at shorter distances (less than 100 yards), but in those circumstances, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting clean kills.
Top Defense Round
From the ten rounds we have been looking at so far, for defense purposes, we like the 300 BLK Hornady A-MAX Black 208gr. Low recoil and low muzzle flash alone make it a great option to have in your home. What makes us turn to it as the best defense round though, especially for your home, is that it has more than enough force to penetrate and deter intruders, but the subsonic velocity is going to make it much less likely to pass through several rooms behind the shooter. This is an issue that a lot of homeowners have with higher velocity tactical defense rounds. The 300 BLK Hornady A-MAX Black 208gr solves this problem. Some might scoff at only 500ft.lb of force, but you can’t show us an intruder that can take multiple rounds of those bullets slamming into them and still be a threat.
The .300 AAC Blackout and the .308 Win come from different times and they are used for different situations. It doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other, in fact, we don’t see many situations where the 300 Blackout vs .308 would be competing at all.
These two cartridges are perfect examples of how trying to find the perfect cartridge can limit the scope of your shooting abilities. Pick up two rifles chambered for one and the other and watch your shooting horizons expand.
Huston is a hunting enthusiast who believes your success in the field is directly correlated to the amount of preparation at home. With a degree in Microbiology and several years of doctoral work manipulating bacterial genes, he attempts to merge the rational and unbiased thinking of scientific research with the passions of hunting and fishing. With two decades of chasing all manner of upland game, hooved mammals, strutting gobblers, and any small game that can fit in his Dutch oven, he hopes to offer new ideas and viewpoints on hunting and firearm concepts and traditions.