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Old November 12, 2012, 03:17 PM   #1
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.303 or .308?

I currently own only one centerfire rifle, a SMLE that was sporterized & scoped years ago by my grandfather. It's a decent shooter (2-3 MOA) with most factory ammo. I also like detachable magazines on bolt-action rifles. I have reloading supplies for it, but I haven't started reloading for it. I'm not planning for any active combat situations, but I would like a good shooter for any unforseen situations.

Considering current the current political and economic environment, would it be wise to invest in an inexpensive .308 rifle (Ruger American, Savage, used 70 or 700) or concentrate my resources more on stocking up on ammo and supplies for my SMLE? Or is there a third (non-semiauto) option I'm overlooking?
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Old November 12, 2012, 03:54 PM   #2
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A year or two back, I bought a Savage Weather Warrior in 30-06 and a Marlin 336 SS with 24" barrel in 30-30. The idea was the ammo is cheap, the '06 can be reloaded up or down more than about any other round, and if I'm in Bumjab Montana, needing ammo, and there is one box left on the shelf, it's likely to be one of those. While not the most powerful rounds, they will take any North American game I'll likely every shoot - if I stay withing the effective range for the guns and ammo.

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Old November 12, 2012, 08:24 PM   #3
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Hey, I am not very familiar with SMLE's, but if it is accurate, dependable, and has decent magazine capacity you wouldn't go wrong either way. It's tough to decide whether to buy new firearms or just stock up on ammo. I know it's tough but i'm in favor of both LOL.

I just got rid of a Kimber 8400 in .300 WSM because I never saw ammo for it anywhere but gun shops.

I feel best about sticking with more common ammo. I personally like 30-06, .308, and 270. I want a rifle for each of those calibers. So I have a 30-06 M77. I sold the Kimber and picked up a .308 Ruger Gunsite Scout last week (10 round magazine, flash hider, picatinny rail, mauser style action). Now I want a good 270 semi-auto like an AR, AK, or Mini. That's my plan FWIW. Just food for thought
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Old November 12, 2012, 08:32 PM   #4
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Since you already have the reloading supplies for the 303 I would keep it for sure. Go ahead and get a 308 also because ammo is and components are everywhere and a spare rifle for backup or a friend is always a good idea.
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Old November 13, 2012, 01:29 AM   #5
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An inexpensive bolt action hunting rifle won't work as well as the SMLE for your societal break down fears.

The ballistics of the .308 and the .303 aren't that far apart.
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Old November 13, 2012, 01:34 AM   #6
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Maybe you've read about the Spanish FR8. If not, be aware that it was built on the strong large-ring 8mm Mauser action.
The FR7, which is almost identical, was built on the older, much weaker small-ring 7mm action. Many full-length Spanish Mausers were converted 7mms, and are labeled 7.62 or .308. The FR7s are a shortened version of these.

The FR8s are strong enough for modern .308 ammo, as the actions were built for 8mm Mauser.
Many people are confused about by the so-called ammo issue: the Spanish built their own ammo version, the milder Spanish 7.62 Nato ammo for rifles they converted to 7.62 Nato barrels, using the weaker action of their old 7mm rifles. These weaker 7mm actions are why they downrated their Spanish Nato 7.62 ammo.

Anyway, many of the FR8s saw very little use by the Guardia Nacional, have very bright bores (no exposure to corrosive ammo), are easy to carry around and are often sold with the Cetme bayonets. Other than the magazine, notice certain features of the new, much pricier Ruger GSR which seem to be 'borrowed' from the Enfield #5 "Jungle" and/or the FR8.

Three of the FR8's rear sight settings are apertures for 200, 300 and 400 yards. It's a very solid, compact gun for about $425.

Last edited by Ignition Override; November 13, 2012 at 01:49 AM.
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Old November 13, 2012, 01:46 AM   #7
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Reloading the .303 has its own sets of challenges. I inherited an .303 sporterized Enfield Mark III and learned to reload since factory ammo was very expensive and hard to find. The only inexpensive factory ammo was corrosive surplus (nearly impossible to find) or Prvi Partizan ammo from Serbian (not very accurate in my rifle 4-5 MOA).

The chamber dimensions of the .303 Enfield rifles are much more generous than an unfired factory round compared more modern designs like .308 rifles. I think this was a battlefield hold over from the black powder days as reliability was most important to the British Military. Since the .303 was invented in the black powder era, fouled rifle chambers were a big concern and the .303 Enfield was designed with a very loose chamber so the guns would work in dirty battlefield conditions.

After firing a factory case, the brass expands significantly to the fit the large chamber of the rifle. If you don't neck size the .303 you will experience dangerous case neck separation or at the very least very short case life from stretching the brass back and forth.

.303 uses .311 or .312 size bullets which are more expensive and harder to find (mail order only for me) than .308 bullets which are available everywhere reloading supplies are sold. Reloading the .308 allows you to utilize the latest and greatest bullet designs like all copper hunting bullets or bonded bullets. .311/.312 bullet selection is much more limited.

Ballistically, the .303 (174 grain bullet at 2500 FPS) is probably closer in trajectory to the 7.62x39 (123 grain at 2400 FPS) AK round than the .308 inchester (168 grain at 2650 FPS or 150 grain at 2820 FPS). At longer ranges, the .308 is noticeably flatter. The kinetic energy of the .303 is much closer to the .308 than the 7.62x39.

Overall, I don't see much reason to stick with the .303. Its fun for nostalgia purposes and but I really see no advantage.

Acurate .308 rifles are common and inexpensive nearly every manufacture chambers a rifle in .308. Even entry level rifles are expected to shoot 1.5 MOA or better with the right factory ammo. Surplus .308, while not plentiful, is still readily available. Surplus .303 is nearly non existant outside of some unique places like Pakistan or Afganistan.

Last edited by Flakbait; November 13, 2012 at 02:00 AM.
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Old November 13, 2012, 10:13 AM   #8
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I have never had a service rifle that shot as well as my Savage bolt action .308.

I have a Savage model 10FP Law enforcement model that is over 2 years old.
The current version of the same rifle is the 10 FCP-K.
The accuracy of my rifle hasn't suffered after over 4000 rounds and I think the 10 FCP-K might shoot even better than mine, based upon a small sample shooting the FCP-K my son just bought.

I have 2 M1 Garands, a M1A Springfield, a 1903 Springfield, and also have tuned a .303 Enfield for a range buddy, so I have shot quite a few service rifles. They are great rifles, are fun to shoot, and have the advantage of being a bit of history.

But, the service rifles can't shoot anywhere near as accurately as my Savage bolt action.
The Savage averages under 0.5 inches at 100 yards with 25 different hand loads measured over 188 groups. The service rifles are all in the 1.5-2.0 MOA mark, at best, with the M1A getting around 1 MOA with a couple of ammo types (it is a national match version).

The Savage cost $700 and hasn't been modified.
The M1A cost about $1800.
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Old November 13, 2012, 10:39 AM   #9
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would it be wise to invest in an inexpensive .308 rifle (Ruger American, Savage, used 70 or 700)
I'm not a fan of SHTF or similar scenarios, BUT, any time there is a question as to whether one should buy a Model 70 or not, I vote YES.

Every Red Blooded American should have a Model 70 Winchester.
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Old November 13, 2012, 11:18 PM   #10
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What you need is not a 308, but an AR (or more accurately a 5.56 semi auto of which the AR is the most common)

Keep the 303 for hunting and fun shooting, its a piece of history sportorized or not (my dads fixed up 1903 Springfield is that and there nothing quite like shooting it both for the sentimental and the historical reasons).

I am not overly paranoid (or I don't think so) but Kartrina and the financial meltdonw got me into a piston 5.56 (Robinson XCR actually).

While it is unlikely, what you saw in London, the riots in the US back in the 60s as well as various disasters can lead to a short term social breakdown.

Unless you are well practiced as well as its likely to be short range work. Ergo the need to shoot quickly and with an SMLE it is a hard learned skill.
While the claims are great for it, they were for a veteran soldier with extensive training.

There are a lot of good inexpensive ARs out there (the XCR is not but it is an interesting gun). The Direct Gas Impingement problem in th AR is a myth as an issue in semi auto versions.

Part of the suite should be a good pistol as well. 9mm is as good as 45 these days with good SD ammunition.

Common ammo, I don't count on it. Have an adequate supply (500-1000 rounds for each)

A bolt action gun against people armed with even high capacity pistols at short range is a loosing proposition, ergo the semi auto is a force multiplier.

308 is a fine gun and caliber but its not the best option now.
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Old November 14, 2012, 03:35 AM   #11
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Do you see the .303 ammo cost (lack of cheap surplus-if any) issues as a main reason why the common Enfield #4/Mk.1 rifles seem to have had fairly stable prices in the last few years?

RC20: Your insight linking those multiple riots in English cities to possible future unrest here, also occurred to me back then.

People who live in some of our cities (in CA etc) might someday soon experience an unacceptable cut in govt. benefits in bankrupt states, or as a group, simply take advantage of the reduced budgets for police protection and response.
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Old November 17, 2012, 12:11 PM   #12
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I think the .303 Enfield is a great piece of history akin with the 30'06 Garand and Springfields and 8mm mausers.

I think 8mm rifles will share the same fate as the .303 once the surplus supply of Yugo 8mm runs out (get it while you can!).

Unfortunately, the lack of surplus ammo has probably forever stablized the prices of surplus .303 rifles since very few folks have the time or energy to reload. Only the few dedicated collectors will bother.

Perhaps someone will find a hidden stash of ammo in Pakistan or India but I don't forsee the .303 being popular again.
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Old November 17, 2012, 12:29 PM   #13
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It is always a good idea to have rifles in the more common calibers ie: .223, .308, 30-30, and pistols in common calibers such as .38 Special, .40 S+W, 9mm etc. In any situation where regulation or some other event cause supplies to dry up you have options as well as trading stock.
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Old November 17, 2012, 05:20 PM   #14
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The problem is in deciding which comon rounds you want to match.

In Alaska the most common rifle is probably 30-06 i (West Virginia I would guess 30-30). However, you can't count on the people attacking you to be cooperative and carry what you do even if its the most common, 270, 7mm, 300 WM are all common as well.

Probably the most common pistol in semi auto is 40 caliber but again you are looking at people who could be armed with 357 or 45 and they may have revolvers.

I continue to think the best situation is where you have a decent amount of your own ammo for your gun and in all probability that will be more than enough to see you through.

More important is to form an immediate alliance with reliable neighbors and know who they are so you have a group for self defense. If you have extra guns you can "issue" to them and or share ammo or run reloads (in our case two of our reliable neighbors hunt and I would have no qualms about them carrying one of my 223s while on watch). It may not be the gun they use but they know how to use guns and a short education is all that is needed.

Typically if thugs encounter resistance they go elsewhere. They are not interested in dying and the residents are defending their families and property are willing to do so. Its not likely to take too much shooting to establish a safe zone.

In our case I would sacrifice the pickup to create a block so we do not have a through street. No one is moving that easily!

If you are not so lucky then plan accordingly but it is more difficult.

If it goes past that, we are probably in beyond deep trouble that no amount of guns and ammunition will get you out of (food, water and medicine becomes crisis issue inside a couple of weeks. )
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Old November 17, 2012, 07:42 PM   #15
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I have a 303 Enfield original. I love to shoot it. When Ammo was available and cheap I bought a case. Still have about 500 rounds.

I also have a 308 Ruger M-77T which I love to shoot. Ammo is relatively cheap and components readily available.

Keep them both and enjoy.

PS my son took a nice fork horn buck in WV a couple years back. 175 yards with open sites. the rifle was a stock Enfield.
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Old November 18, 2012, 08:02 AM   #16
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Rimfire5 believes:
But, the service rifles can't shoot anywhere near as accurately as my Savage bolt action.
There are M1 and M1A 7.62 NATO service rifles rebuilt with all the right stuff then put together the right way that'll shoot darned near 1/4" at 100 yards. And no worse than 4" at 600 yards. All with good lots of commercial factory .308 Win. match ammo.

And the Brits have tuned their .303 SMLE's to shoot good lots of their Radway Green Arsenal's ammo into about 1/2" at 100 yards and about 7 inches at 600 yards.

Will your Savage do that?

Last edited by Bart B.; November 18, 2012 at 08:08 AM.
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Old November 18, 2012, 09:16 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by flakbait
I think 8mm rifles will share the same fate as the .303 once the surplus supply of Yugo 8mm runs out (get it while you can!).
8mm at least has a very large and dedicated cult following and there are umpteen million 8mm Mauser rifles of various types out there. New 8mm ammo is still manufactured en masse in Europe and it not uncommon among small manufacturers in the US, either. I think they will remain popular for quite a long time, with or without surplus. For me, the appeal of dirt cheap corrosive ammo is offset by the lower accuracy and the extra cleaning effort required when you can get full power S&B loads that are very nice and far less expensive than domestic caliber hunting rounds.

I have a small reserve of 8mm Norma and Nosler hunting rounds for sighting and harvesting only.
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Old November 18, 2012, 03:31 PM   #18
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I don't even shoot surplus ammo through my SMLE sporter for those reasons. I tend to stick to Euro factory ammo (S&B or PRIVI) or sometimes Remington SP's. Ammo is expensive, but it doesn't harm the gun.

I've even thought about getting an Ishapore .308....but I've heard quality is hit-or-miss....
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Old November 18, 2012, 07:33 PM   #19
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I would say keep the .303 because of the family history and because it shoots decently.

But I expect better than 2 or 3 moa out of a more modern bolt action. 1 moa or better is more to my liking. I would say that investing in a modern bolt action will be worth it. .308 is a good common caliber that can reach out a considerable distance. Its good for target shooting, taking medium to large game, and you can find ammo anywhere that sells ammo most likely.
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Old November 18, 2012, 08:26 PM   #20
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Based on your comment about the current political environment, I would suggest, as others have, getting an AR type rifle. If the cost is an issue you could at least get a lower receiver now, and build it as you can afford it. With an AR you also have the ability to use a .22 conversion kit for even lower cost shooting. I would also keep the .303 for sentimental reasons.

just my $.02
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Old November 18, 2012, 08:33 PM   #21
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308 would be easier to stockpile ammo for and such however there is little wrong with the 303. it is a great round that is great out to and exceeding 300 yards. 308 is just flatter shooting and has a lot more rifles chambered in it.
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Old November 18, 2012, 09:48 PM   #22
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Selling the SMLE Sporter isn't an option...that's always going to be Papaw's gun. I'm just deciding whether my money is better spent on a new gun or more ammo & components for the one I have now. I already have a bolt-action .22lr (Romanian understudy for the SMLE) and plan to get a 10-22 eventually.

Nothing against the AR rifles, but I never cared for them. If I'm going to carry a rifle, I tend to prefer bolt- & lever-action rifles. Just old-fashioned, I guess....
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Old November 19, 2012, 09:02 AM   #23
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Since you're already well acclimated to your SMLE, an Ishapore 2A or 2A1 would seem like a natural progression.
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Old November 19, 2012, 11:49 AM   #24
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The .303 is a good round and since it is your grandfather's gun, it should stay in your collection. Reloading for it is best option for ammo.

However, it would be unwise to not have a "popular" caliber rifle for scenarios of a survival nature. A bolt action is fine for hunting but IMHO refusing to use an auto-loading rifle for a defensive scenario is not a great idea.

In the past 100 years of combat, volume has beaten accuracy in almost every case. Reflect on every major conflict and pick which rifle you would want to be issued. The majority of times, it will me the rifle with the higher
ROF. The only exceptions to the rule would be if one had a more powerful round or better reliability than the one with a higher ROF.

My picks (and most other people):
WWI: Enfield rifle
WWII: Garand
Vietnam: M-14 (or the AK-47)

Most US wars beyond that rely less on small arms squad on squad conflict but even still...

Desert Storm: M-16A2 or AKM
Afganistan War: M-4 Carbine or AKM
Iraq War: M-4 Carbine or AKM

Basically, a bolt action rifle would not be the first choice of any general infantryman since WWI.
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Old November 19, 2012, 12:01 PM   #25
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In regards to which caliber, it depends on your geographic theatre.

5.56NATO is available everywhere in the lower 48 states.
.30-06 is popular in rural areas and still affordable.
.308 can be found in most places but is expensive.
7.62x39R is the most widely used cartridge globally.
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