PA-10

Best .308 Winchester Semi-Auto Rifles

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Be it long-range shooting, hunting, or getting ready for the end of the world as we know it, sometimes you don’t want 5 rifles for 5 roles when 1 can do the job.

But to do that, you need a cartridge that can keep up. Something not so powerful it blows you back into the bushes, but still has some teeth to it.

Thankfully, we have the .308 Winchester! And a great semi-auto rifle is the perfect platform for it. Find your next battle rifle!

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Why .308 Winchester?

If you want a classic cartridge that has been around for a long, long time and has a great reputation —  you won’t go wrong with .308 Winchester.

An American fighting cartridge for almost 70 years, .308 Winchester and 7.62×51 NATO have served dozens of militaries around the world in every kind of environment possible.

While I would never call .308 Winchester the perfect cartridge or even my favorite cartridge, it is a great jack of all trades cartridge.

great jack of all trades cartridges
(left to right) .22 Long Rifle, 9mm, .45 ACP, .38 Spl, .357 Mag, 7.62×39 Soviet, 5.56 NATO, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win/7.62×51 NATO, 12ga Birdshot, 12ga #4 Buckshot, 12ga 00 Buckshot, and 12ga Slug

With solid energy, good weight, respectable long-range capability, and not being too hard to control from the shoulder, this full-size cartridge is about as forgiving as they get.

What really makes it awesome though is the fact that so many nations around the world have fielded it for so long.

Because of this, the infrastructure is built and the ammo supply is flowing. While military surplus ammo is harder to find these days, you can still quickly find match ammo, training ammo, self-defense ammo, and hunting ammo at decent prices.

If you’re looking for a do-all cartridge, .308 Winchester is a strong contender.

What Is The Difference Between .308 Winchester and 7.62×51 NATO

Fundamentally they are the same thing, but some slight variations in exact specs can cause some real issues.

.308 Winchester is a civilian cartridge and is what is found in almost all “.308” sporting rifles. 7.62×51 NATO is the chamber spec used by NATO rifles, so surplus military rifles.

The NATO spec has the chamber slightly larger, about .006 inches longer. This might not seem important, but it is.

long chambers - Difference Between .308 Winchester and 7.62x51 NATO

Cartridges are built and designed for the chambers they are meant to be in, as such .308 Winchester normally has a thinner case wall than 7.62×51.

This is fine and expected when .308 Winchester is fired in a shorter .308 Winchester chamber but can cause the brass to overstretch and rupture if fired in the longer 7.62×51 NATO chamber.

Rule of thumb: 7.62×51 NATO is safe to shoot in .308 Winchester chambers, but you shouldn’t shoot .308 Winchester in 7.62×51 NATO chambers.

Practical Applications

Long Range Precision

I’m not a huge fan of .308 Win for long-range precision, there are simply too many other cartridges that are better.

But .308 Win isn’t horrible either. Reaching out to 1,200 yards isn’t un-doable with the right rifle and load, but ~800-900 is a much more reasonable expectation. 

The upside is that .308 Win has great barrel life, often in the 9-12,000 round ranges, and ammo cost isn’t horrible.

Hunting

Perfectly capable of taking any North American game, .308 Win is a decent all-around hunting round — especially with quality hunting ammo.

Soft-point .308 ammo and steel-cased ammo
(left) Soft-point .308 ammo is a great hunting round and fairly cheap. Or really save your pennies and shoot (right) steel-cased ammo!

You might want something larger if your main goal is elk or moose at maximum ranges, but for a few hundred yards and on normal-sized animals, .308 Win will get the job done.

Self-Defense

Not the best home defense option, .308 Win has a lot of punch at close ranges and will over-penetrate a lot in things like people or drywall. 

Much better as an SHTF option, you can count on getting more ammo for it even when the world is in short supply.

Plinking

With all of the cheap milsurp ammo in the world and the cheap plinking ammo that is made new for the goal, this is a nice cartridge for taking out and having fun with.

20 cartridges of .308 win 148 gr FMJ
Ammo like this German military surplus .308 Winchester is often cheap and really good quality!

Best .308 Winchester Semi-Auto Rifles

1. LMT MARS-H

My top pick for the .308 Winchester semi-auto world is the AR-10, hands down. And my top pick for an AR-10 is the LMT MARS-H.

Available in CQB short barrels, standard 16”, or DMR 20” barrels you have plenty of options to get the right rifle for you.

Best .308 Winchester Semi-Auto Rifles -LMT MARS-H

A fully ambi lower gives you the shooter all of the options you can hope for.

A monolithic upper gives unparalleled strength to the upper design and the custom LMT trigger gives you outstanding precision when needed.

Hands down, if you have the money — this is the AR-10 to get.

2. Palmetto State Armory PA-10

Okay, so not everyone has new-used car money laying around to throw on a rifle. For the more normal among us, Palmetto State Armory AR-10.

It isn’t fancy, it isn’t ambi, it isn’t the prettiest or coolest — but it works, it’s fairly cheap for a battle rifle, and it gives you all of the flexibility of an AR that you need.

PA-10 - Best .308 Winchester Semi-Auto Rifles

From rail options to optics, the PA-10 is a great platform that you can count on when you need it.

3. DS Arms FAL

A civilian copy of the FN FAL, DS Arms has brought the “Right Arm Of The Free World” back to the market and it is better than ever.

FN FAL - Best .308 Winchester Semi-Auto Rifles
The Canadian Army was a very early adopter of the FN FAL and made a long list of custom improvements to the design that would later be included in nearly all production FALs.

From pistol braces to sniper stocks, the DS Arms FAL comes in every flavor you can think of. The “standard” version is a 16” barrel battle rifle that is ready for some really hard use, just like the FN FAL saw throughout the Cold War.

Made with fully US-made parts, DS Arms is doing what no one else has by bringing this classic rifle back to life.

It isn’t the most modern, it isn’t the most expensive, but this is one very cool rifle to own and will turn heads everywhere you go.

4. PTR 109

Another iteration of a Cold War classic, the PTR 109 is a copy of the H&K G3. With the signature “HK Slap” what is most notable about the PTR 109 is the forward charging handle.

An 18” barrel on this model, but several others are available also, the 109 is a great jack of all trades rifle. The purest form of the battle rifle that PTR offers.

Available in both polymer and steel lowers, weight can range by a lot depending on the barrel and lower.

Generally, these are on the heavy side even for a modern battle rifle. They are also some of the most fun.

Most PTR models also come with a 1913 rail that has been precision welded to the top of the receiver so you can mount any type of optics you want.

This is a huge improvement over the original HK design. But if you want to be a purist, PTR has several models without the rail.

5. IWI Tavor 7

.308 Win power in a 16.5 barrel bullpup format using SR-25 magazines, the Tavor 7 is basically a 5.56 NATO Tavor but scaled up.

IWI Tavor 7 .308 Win power in a 16.5 barrel bullpup format

Something IWI knows how to make is a rifle that can do it all. A bullpup to make CQB easier but .308 Winchester so that you can hit far targets, the Tavor 7 is by far the most proven bullpup battle rifle you can get.

The design doesn’t have anything super fancy, but it is highly durable and reliable. 

6. FN SCAR-17S

One of the major contenders to be one of the best .308 Winchester semi-auto and the rifle of the free world after the GWOT is the FN SCAR-17S. This rifle has seen some hard combat in some nasty places. 

While I’ve never fought with one, several close friends of mine carried an FN SCAR-H in Iraq or Afghanistan and never had a harsh word to say about them.

US Navy SEAL training with his FN SCAR-H
US Navy SEAL training with his FN SCAR-H

With the approval of special forces around the world, it’s clear that the SCAR-17S is one of the beast mode rifles that just won’t quit.

Lots of options in barrel length and exact configuration, if you want a battle rifle you can have it. If you need a DMR, that model is ready for the taking. 

Just make sure you leave money in the budget for a really high-end optic. SCAR-17S rifles are known as optic killers if the optic isn’t very robustly made.

7. Desert Tech MDRx

The MDRx from Desert Tech has gone through several interactions and development. One of the huge driving forces for that was InRangeTV after they tested the MDR and noted several issues.

Since then, Desert Tech has been hard at work to improve the design and come out with some new accessories to boot.

After some work — they’ve really knocked it out of the park.

Desert Tech - Best .308 Winchester Semi-Auto Rifles
Although it hasn’t been adopted or (as far as we know) trialed by any military yet, that won’t stop the boys in marketing from dressing up!

A bullpup design with an eject forward system to make the rifle truly ambidextrous (rare and hard for bullpups), this is the absolute cutting edge bullpup on the market.

The MDRx is also easy to convert to other calibers like 300 BLK, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 5.56 NATO.

If you want a CQB rifle that can also punch out to 800 plus yards, it doesn’t get better than this.

Wrapping Up

That concludes our list of the Best .308 Winchester Semi-Auto Rifles!

.308 Winchester is a cartridge that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It might be a little long in the tooth in some areas, but it is a long way from calling it quits.

If you want the most practical .308 semi-auto rifle, a great AR-10 is your ticket. For my money, the coolest is a FAL or PTR 109. Classic Cold War rifles are just awesome in my book.

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