View Full Version : .308 for big game

June 26, 2009, 03:22 PM
I have a Savage 99 in .308 win cal. W/24inch barrel, rotary mag, pistol grip stock, 4 power one inch scope. I have taken deer with no problem, but i would like hunt larger game - Elk, caribou ect. without buying another rifle. I have some 180gr sp hornady and some RWS 184gr ammo. Any comments appriciated. Thanks for your time.

June 26, 2009, 03:54 PM
Your 308 in a model 99 should work just fine on any of those animals. I would go with 165 gr well constructed bullet and up. Just make sure your rifle will accurately shoot the bullets. Shot placement is the key with any game regardless of the caliber, but even more so with larger, heavier boned animals.

June 26, 2009, 04:20 PM
I'd be curious to know when is a .308 ever not appropriate for a mid-sized game hunt, but another .30 caliber rifle would be?

Assuming an ethical shot of 100 yards at "some mid-sized critter" for instance:

Which "critter" would a 180gr .308 be inappropriate, but a 300winmag or 300 RUM would be appropriate?

I understand increasing weight and diameter for even larger game as you transition to the big bears, moose, buffalo and african game... 375 H&H, .45-70, .450 Win Mag and the list of exotic big game cartridges.

The .30 magnums certainly can seat heavier and deeper bullets, but at what point does .30 diameter penetration cease to matter and you really need a bigger hole rather than a deeper one? 200gr? 220gr? And I understand also that the .30 magnums allow for flatter and longer shots for folks willing to take those types of shots, but that same bullet up close at 50-100 yards might then fragment upon impact, wouldn't it?

To the OP: My M14 loves Speer 180gr Hot Cores. I don't shoot a lot of them since they are kinda heavy for the gas system, but it shoots them very consistently out to 300 yards. That was my elk load up until I got a .450 Marlin this year.

ETA: I know you didn't specifically mention the .30 magnums... the thought just kinda came into my head thinking about "when is .308 NOT enough? And what then IS enough?"

June 26, 2009, 04:43 PM
Hundreds of elk are killed every year with 243s, 25-06s, 270s, 308, and 30-06s. Elk are tough and move fast, but they are not bulletproof. Poke one above the elbow with a 180 gr bullet and it will just lay down.

I have been told that moose and caribou are not particularly tough to kill, lots of them are taken with 30-30s and such. Your 308 will do just fine, there is no need for anything else.

June 26, 2009, 05:29 PM
Use that 99 and don't look back. Unless you really want to buy a new rifle, but the .308 will handle anything you listed witout much fuss.

June 26, 2009, 05:51 PM
I've been hunting elk (and stuff) with my .308 Weatherby Vanguard for 7 years now. I think it's plenty. I've put down 4 elk, a mulie and a black bear last year with it, all with either 180gr Barnes XLC, or 180gr Fail Safe.

I've had one elk get away wounded and never recovered - 8 hour track abruptly ended with a vanished blood trail (180gr XLC) - and had one cow that took 4 shots to put down. This one was my fault, first two hits were not well placed, and she had heart. She wouldn't give up, and it's a kill I'm not proud of and learned a lot of lessons on that one.

I had one elk drop, falling towards me and up hill, at about 70 yards with a 180 Fail Safe. DRT. Another I shot at about the same distance running full bore from right to left, she crumpled - double lung.

One thing to bear in mind with this round, of all the game I've taken with it, none of the lethal, put down shots, have been through and through. Short range coupe de grace shots, yes. I have recovered bullets from one elk and my only black bear kills. Both 180s (one XLC, one Fail Safe) expanded nicely and penetrated to the opposite side of the animal. But unlike the rest of the guys at camp shooting 7mm mags, my rounds don't leave exit holes.

I mention this because a lot of hunters seem to think two holes are better than one - and I'm not saying I disagree, only that with the .308 on elk, if pass throughs are important to you, you may want to reconsider.


June 26, 2009, 07:54 PM
While I have never shot an elk with a 308 Win, I have shot many with a 30-06. The 308 can do anything a 30-06 can do with the 30-06 having @ a 100 yard advantage in distant shooting. However keep your shots inside 300 yards and you will have no problems as long as your aim is good and you use top quality bullets. I prefer Nosler Partitions. I have never had a failure with one of these. I do have a fair knowledge on elk as I was an elk guide for 9 years and have shot way more than my share.

June 26, 2009, 08:50 PM
A 308 for caribou is plenty. They are IMO one of the "softest" game animal I have hunted. You hit them just about anywhere,(and I have seen this with my own eyes) and they go down. So no need to question the 308 for the bou.

June 27, 2009, 06:10 AM
That .308 should work fine on the game you are planning on taking.

James R. Burke
June 27, 2009, 11:07 AM
I have taken lots of game with the .308. Like everyone is saying it will work just fine. Use a good bullet for the job, and have good shoot placement. Shoot placement is key in whatever you are hunting or using. Have fun, and good luck.

lt dan
June 27, 2009, 01:19 PM
come and visit s-africa i will introduce you to a couple of guys who have shot Eland with 150 grn shelf ammo.

some years ago a few hooligans got drunk and shot a eland giraffe gemsbok some other antelope and a white rhino with mil surplus 7,62 out of their 308.

they used surprisingly few ammo to do this.

i hate to repeat myself but shot placement and penetration is all you need

June 27, 2009, 04:31 PM
The 308 is a great round but If you just have to have a new rifle ?? Go buy that new T/C bolt riflefor under 499 and it will shoot 1/2" groups in 308 for a primary and have that great model 99 as backup but with todays bullets out there there is almost no need to shoot over a 165 and a 150 will do for deer even 125 for big varmets and antelope.

June 27, 2009, 07:19 PM
On anything bigger than rabbits I prefer using 40mm grenades.

June 29, 2009, 07:23 PM
By the way does any one know the barrel rate of twist of the Savage 99 .308 win?

Jack O'Conner
June 30, 2009, 04:33 PM


I've taken many cow elk and a few big bulls also with my Savage 99 in .308; none got away. Plain 180 grain Remington core-lockt ammo has worked well for me. I've also had great luck with Winchester 150 grain Premium ammo.

Sight in about 3 inches high at 100 yards and you'll be hitting right on out to about 225 yards or so.

Shoot the animal twice and it will topple quickly. Big mistake newbie elk hunters make: they shoot once and watch the animal gallop away. Always hit 'em twice. This is easier to perform with a lever, slide action, or automatic rifle. I've said it before and will state this again: the 300 Weatherby shooter has not even cycled his bolt yet while the .308 shooter already has his second well aimed shot into the animal. Which scenerio inflicts more tissue damege? TWO .308 bullets or just ONE 300 Weatherby bullet? Check ballistic tables and use your own common sense to acheive the correct answer.

Good hunting to you.


arizona hunter
July 17, 2009, 12:51 PM
That .308 and good 180 bullets is fine for elk. How old is the scop?

lt dan
July 17, 2009, 01:32 PM
every time i read one of these threads i have to remind myself that that what some hunters call "big game" on these threads is what we call plains game. asking if you can hunt these game with a 308win is kind of insulting.

saw an article in a very famous american hunting magazine in which the "pro hunter" author said that one cant hunt gemsbok with anything less than a 338 mag. this is nothing else than a lie.

i have been present where 35 gemsbok have been harvested in a morning with a 223.

some local hooligans went on a shooting rampage about 7 years ago and shot a tsetsebe 2x gemsbok a eland and a white rhino with a 308 using standard mil surplus ammo(7.62 nato)

now more often than not i have to read in us magazines about:" big bone thick skin game". these are supposed to be very difficult to shoot. in my opinion this is salesman talk. someone wants you to by a big bore rifle and are pitching you the sales talk b*s.

when i talk to visiting american hunters they all tell me that most of the articles one sees in american hunting mags about the ability of some cartridges are a bunch of lies. most of the big game in africa (ie the big 5)
have been taken with either the 7x57 or the 303 brit. keeping that in mind what is there in america that a 308win cant take?

having said all this it seems that the members of the firing line are not fooled by the press and about all the feedback you got here are correct.

July 17, 2009, 09:08 PM
The recommended minimum energy for elk is 1300 ft-lb. You can check on Remington's sight for their loads energy information. You can also look in a reloading manual for the info if you reload. Most loads in a 308 will get you around 400 yards (DOUBLE CHECK THIS). In other words, you are fine with this round. You just need to pick a quality boat tail bullet designed for hunting with a high Ballistic coefficient. The higher the BC the more energy the bullet will carry at longer distances.

T. O'Heir
July 18, 2009, 01:49 AM
Work up a load using any 165 grain hunting bullet and you'll set for any game you care to hunt. What bullet are you using for deer?

July 18, 2009, 10:46 PM
The .308 is a great bullet - milder recoil and still packs a punch.

Think 165-180 grain Nolser partition or Barnes bullets. They stay together and penetrate well.

I agree with the keep shooting until they fall philosophy. I do that on deer. I shoot a bolt faster than a lever and almost as fast as a semi-auto. The kick is the aimed second shot.

The .308 is a proven 1,000 yard target bullet as well - so you have a proven shell.

Just get competent with it and don't take any iffy shots - whack 'em in the lungs and if they are still standing hit them again & again & again. I don't care what you are shooting.

Old Grump
July 19, 2009, 10:10 AM
Good on any animal in North America with exception of Grizzly Bear and I would prefer something larger on Bison but not to may chances for them. I use 180 gr bullets for everything but mostly because my gun shoots that weight bullet the most accurately.

July 19, 2009, 07:54 PM
The higher the BC the more energy the bullet will carry at longer distances.

WHAT?!?! BC has to do with resistance to air and trajectory - the higher the BC, the flatter the bullet will fly compared to a bullet with a lower BC, all other things being equal.

A quality 308, in a good rifle, with good glass and a practiced hunter, will do just fine on anything in the lower 48

July 19, 2009, 08:11 PM
BC has to do with resistance to air and trajectory - the higher the BC, the flatter the bullet will fly compared to a bullet with a lower BC, all other things being equal.
they shoot flatter because they retain more velocity as such they retain more energy.

July 19, 2009, 08:33 PM
Go into your reloading manual and look up the long range table for any two ballistic coefficients for example:

A bullet with a BC of .35 that weighs 150 grains:
Muzzle Velocity - 2800f/s
Muzzle Energy - 2611.5ftlb
500 yard Velocity - 1637 f/s
500 yard Energy - 892.5 ftlb

A bullet with a BC of .45 that weighs 150 grains:
Muzzle Velocity -2800f/s (SAME AS ABOVE)
Muzzle Energy - 2611.5ftlb (SAME AS ABOVE)
500 yard Velocity - 1862 f/s
500 yard Energy - 1155 ftlb

If you notice that they both have the same muzzle energy but the BC (Due to its ability to retain velocity also retains the energy. They are the same weight bullet but the one with the higher BC retains 263 more foot pounds at 500 yards when they are equal at the muzzle. I hope this helps. This is why getting bullets with a higher BC can extend your effective hunting range for a specific animal.
The recommended minimum energy for deer is 900 ft pounds and for elk it is 1300. You should check your bullets and know the range you can take this animal with before you actually hunt them and take a shot that isn't recommended. You should also practice at various ranges and only shoot what you know you can hit. It is only fair to the animal. I can't even say how many deer I see limping around and it is frustrating to see.

Good luck with everything!

July 20, 2009, 08:22 AM
:) As I have stated before, if I could only have one rifle (for every need), it would be a .308 caliber gun. Why, because it starts with being a .30 caliber bullet. Next, it's available in many different size bullets up to 220 grains. The 180 grain bullet will take any animal you care to hunt: Deer, elk, moose, etc. (almost any animal on the North American continent and other countries as well). Now I would probably use a more powerful rifle caliber I was after a more dangerous quarry, (such as Brown bears, Griz, etc). My particular .308 is a Blaser R93 model and is the most accurate rifle I have ever shot. I would take it hunting for any game I sought, (except Griz) and feel more than comfortable about having success....

James R. Burke
July 27, 2009, 06:42 PM
They are correct, your good to go. My best freind has the same set up. He tried a differnt rifle once, and went back to what he had. Just loved that rifle.