Today we’ll compare two very interesting cartridges—the .300 Blackout and the .308 Winchester.
I must say that there’s no clear winner, but each has its own characteristics and uses, and there are very important details to point out when choosing one for your rifle.
They fly neck and neck when it comes to hunting, home defense, and competition shooting, and are similar in performance.
Both have their own strengths and weaknesses and this guide will help you decide which one suits your rifle best as well as what you could use it for.
We’ll take a closer look at the ballistics and their performance specs, what they excel at, where they flop, and I’ll also mention some interesting ammo boxes to spare you the hassle of browsing these cartridges.
This review is a shining example of why a seasoned sharpshooter should use multiple types of cartridges for different rifles and purposes, whether it’s a bolt-action rifle or an M4 carbine.
For those of you who don’t know, here’s how we classify our bullets.
How Do We Categorize Cartridges?
The ammo we use is categorized in diameter-to-length measurements. For example, the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge is 5.56mm wide and 45mm long.
Now, our system of measurement is the Imperial System, and we say .308 Winchester because its diameter is 0.308 inches (or 7.8 millimeters).
So, cartridges are expressed in diameter and length, but we just keep it simple and we just refer to them by their diameter in inches or millimeters.
Speaking of which, semi-automatic rifles and machine guns use the 5.56x45mm, and although it’s identical to the .223 Remington, it’s dangerous to mix up the two calibers because they are not fully compatible. This is important and overlooked, and we’ll discuss this safety issue more extensively below.
You can shoot .223 Remington ammo in a 5.56mm rifle, but you should never shoot 5.56mm ammo in a .223 rifle.
Not All Bullet Cartridges Are Interchangeable
Before I start with this review, I would like to point out a very important and overlooked problem; don’t ever use bullets in rifles with different calibers that aren’t designed for the bullet.
There is a reason one is chambered in .308 Winchester and the other in .300 AAC Blackout. They’re two different chambers and rifles.
The .300 AAC Blackout is a 7.62x35mm bullet that was developed for the AR short-action platform. It’s similar to the popular .223/5.56 caliber, but it’s extremely dangerous to use a .300 BLK round in a .223/5.56 chamber. The bullet is larger than the bore and you may risk damaging your rifle or seriously injuring yourself.
As for the .308 Win, it’s identical with the military 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges. However, the only one you can use in a .308 Winchester rifle is the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge. Using anything else is ill-advised.
So, you can use 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges in a .308 Winchester, but not the other way around. Always remember to organize and mark your ammo boxes carefully.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get right to it.
Overall Differences Between the .308 AAC Blackout vs. .308 Winchester
|Specifications/Model||.300 AAC Blackout||.308 Winchester|
|Range||Up to 500 yards with a 125-grain projectile. Close and medium tactical encounters.||Hunting cartridge. Full-powered rifle round. Good for up to 800 yards with excellent accuracy and stopping power.|
|Handling||Easy to control, less recoil, less muzzle rise. Built for lighter weapons that work with less pressure.||Bigger bullet velocity, heavy recoil, pressure, and muzzle rise. Bolt-action rifles are your friend.|
|Purpose||Purposed for tactical, close-quarters home defense and competition shooting with a tactical platform. Decent to use for small and medium game like deer and coyote.||Purposed for big game and medium game hunting and long-distance sniping. Good for some AR-10 platforms.|
|Firearm suitability||Best for AR-15s and M4 Carbines. I recommend using supersonic and subsonic loads.||I strongly recommend that you stick to bolt-action, and lever-action rifles, though the AR-15 platform uses this cartridge as well. Steer clear of .308 Win in AR-15 rifles.|
|Parent case||.223 Remington/5.56 NATO||.300 Savage|
|Case type||Rimless, bottleneck||Rimless, bottleneck|
|Bullet diameter||0.308 in (7.8 mm)||0.308 in (7.8 mm)|
|Overall length||2.26 in (57 mm)||2.8 in (71.1 mm)|
|Max pressure (SAAMI)||55,000psi||62,000psi|
|Velocity (fps; ft/s) (Ballistic performance with an example ammo box)||2,375 ft/s (724 m/s) with 110gr Hornady Black V-MAX .300 AAC Blackout||2,820 ft/s (860 m/s) with 150gr Nosler E-Tip .308 Winchester|
|Energy (ft-lbf) (Ballistic performance with an example ammo box)||1,377 ft-lbf (1,867 J) with 110gr Hornady Black V-MAX .300 AAC Blackout||2,648 ft-lbf (3,590 J) with 150gr Nosler E-Tip .308 Winchester|
|Overall average velocity||2250 ft/s||2680 ft/s|
|Overall average energy||1350 ft-lbf||2620 ft-lbf|
History of the .300 Blackout and the .308 Winchester Calibers
Here’s some history for you to better understand the nature and purpose of both cartridges.
The .300 AAC Blackout
First introduced in 2011 by the Advanced Armament Corporation for the War on Terror, the purpose of the round was to match the performance of the 7.62×39 round (a.k.a. “the Soviet” or “the Russian”) which was used in a shorter barrel with standard capacity platforms.
The reason for this was because the 5.54×45 NATO was too noisy and flashy and simply unsuitable for close-quarter combat. Too close for comfort, as I like to say.
So, the soldier’s dissatisfaction was quelled with the .300 AAC Blackout given how perfect it fits, how it feeds, and how it performs in close quarters chambered in an AR-15.
It quickly became popular and assimilated many AR-15 platforms that were used for military use, home defense, competition shooting, and even hunting around the 400-yard range.
Simply put, it’s a versatile cartridge that has a wide range in performance, and you can find various types of supersonic loads and subsonic ammunition that serve all kinds of purposes.
The .300 Blackout cartridge is a versatile, jack-of-all-trades type of bullet.
As one of the most reliable cartridges from the 50s, the .308 Winchester has deep roots in hunting traditions.
Its impressive specifications were soon implemented by the military and the cartridge saw a lot of action in Vietnam before it was decommissioned to make way for lighter loads.
Its main basis is the .300 Savage, and through multiple experiments and testing, the cartridge found its calling in long-range shooting.
The .308 Winchester, though short-lived in military use, still remains loyal to the everyday hunter with its unmatched stopping power, velocity, and energy for medium and large game hunting.
You can find the .308 Winchester cartridge ammo in bulk since it’s a very popular caliber and there are all kinds of ammo boxes for it.
The bullet weight for the .308 is around 150 grain and can go up to 180, but you can also find lighter loads.
Check out our buyer’s guide for .308 Winchester rifles if you’re looking for some decent hunting rifles.
Differences Between the .300 AAC Blackout and the .308 Winchester
The only thing that the .300 AAC Blackout and the .308 Winchester have in common is that they use a .308 caliber bullet.
That being said, the main visual difference is that the .308 is larger than the .300 and it holds a substantial amount of powder while also being able to convey greater pressure than the .300.
That’s why it’s a hunting round, in contrast to fast follow-up shooting via semi-auto AR-15s or M4 Carbines.
Before we dive in-depth into the differences, you must know that the performance data we’ve included comes from trusted ballistic calculators.
Every single bullet that is shot will always yield slightly different results, but they usually fall into average categories, and that’s what makes them reliable.
So, computer-generated data is always a trustworthy source for comparison, and though the results will vary from rifle to rifle, what we’re looking at here are trends in velocity, kinetic energy, recoil, accuracy, and stopping power.
I can’t stress this enough, but if the .308 has a greater velocity, trajectory, or energy than the .300, that doesn’t mean it’s a better round! It’s just obviously suited for different purposes, and the .300 performs with far superior results when it comes to lightweight, automatic follow-up shots and home defense.
Let’s start with recoil.
The .308 Has Higher Recoil Recoil Energy
Otherwise overlooked, recoil in cartridges deserves absolute attention.
The .308 Win cartridge has much greater generated recoil energy, and with that, greater felt recoil than the .300 BLK cartridge. The .308 Winchesters have nearly four times the recoil energy over the .300 AAC Blackout.
The .308 clearly takes the cake in the accuracy department, though, as tested around the 300-yard range, but the .308 has a more aggressive recoil than the .300 BLK.
The .308 is a sniping and hunting round that’s typically used for long-range game hunting, while the .300 BLK favors close-range applications where follow-up shots are always in quick order, usually from semi-auto or fully automatic rifles, hence, the lower recoil.
That being said, there are lots of cartridges that can kick even harder than the .308, like the very powerful .300 Win Mag cartridge. I would definitely recommend the .308 round for rookie hunters.
Check out our list of best .300 Winchester Magnum rifles of 2021 if you’re looking for some powerful hunting rifles.
The .308 Has Higher Velocity
Velocity is closely correlated to other factors like accuracy, recoil, stopping power, and trajectory. It discerns high-performance rounds and unpredictable, out-of-control, exploding-in-your-face type of bullets.
If you know about the velocity of a bullet, you pretty much summed the whole round up.
In the meantime, if you need some stability in your life, check out our list of best rifle bipods here.
The .300 AAC Blackout rounds have a velocity of about 2,250 feet per second (fps) while .308 Winchester rounds can reach a velocity of 2,680 fps, so the .308 cartridge has 500 fps more than the .300 at 500 yards.
The supersonic ammo for the .300 has some average velocities of around 1,125 fps, while subsonic ammo has slightly lower fps.
Simply put, .308 bullets are most effective up to 800 yards, while the .300 Blackout bullets keep versatility to the maximum and work best for close-quarters.
The .308 Has More Energy
I wouldn’t waste your time with all the heavy-duty math behind this. Suffice it to say that a bullet’s energy is correlated to stopping power and how hard it hits the target, while energy transfer also relies on the velocity of the bullet. Here’s to you, Sir Isaac Newton.
How much energy the bullet transfers translates to how much it can damage the skin, tissue, and organs, and if we’re going hunting, we want nice, ethical, and clean kills. That’s why we need the proper rounds with different stopping power for coyote, wolves, deer, elk, and bear, at various ranges.
A cartridge that can hold heavier bullets with hotter powder loads can generate a lot more energy, and this also goes for pressure, among other factors.
The muzzle energy of a .300 AAC Blackout round has an average of 1350 ft-lb, while a .308 Winchester round goes around 2620 ft-lb, as tested on ballistic gel. Simply put, the higher the muzzle energy, the higher the stopping power.
You wouldn’t need as much energy to take down an intruder at 50 yards as you would a moose at 500 yards. There’s no need for the extra power to stop a burglar and shoot through your walls as well.
The rule of thumb for hunting is 1,000 ft.lb for deer, 1,500 ft.lb for elk, and around 1,550 ft.lb for moose. Bullet energy is important for stopping power, but velocity and shot placement are just as important.
The .308 Winchester, as we stated, is a long-range bullet with a higher trajectory with a better bullet drop rate than the .300 at the 300-yard range.
This doesn’t mean that .300 are inferior rounds. They’re specifically built for close-range shooting.
Check out our list of best deer rifles for 2021 here.
Popular Ammo Boxes for the Cartridges
Here are some .300 Blackout ammo and .308 Winchester ammo boxes with different grains for you.
Though the .308 is more expensive than the .300, you shoot more .300 bullets than single shots from bolt-action rifles that fire .308.
Here’s the .300…
And for the .308 Winchester…
- Winchester Super-X 180gr
- Hornady Precision 178gr
- Federal Gold Medal 175gr
- Nosler Ballistic Tip 165gr
- Norma Whitetail 150gr
- Federal Power-Shok Soft Point 150gr
- PMC Ammunition Bronze 147gr
Though you may agree that the .308 Winchester has higher ballistic stats than the .300 AAC Blackout, don’t ever fool yourself thinking it outperforms it as well.
The calibers have a similar shape, somewhat close specifications, and come from different times, but their purpose differs.
The .308 is simply a long-distance operator with enough force to drop a bull moose from 500 yards away. If you’re a long-range hunter, you can check out our list of best rifle scopes under $500 here.
The .300 is a lightweight, versatile bullet for standard magazine loading, competition shooting, and home defense. It’s perfect for quick follow-up shots from an AR-15 or M4 Carbine that can do bursts, semi-autos, and fully automatic unloading.
We especially like the subsonic round. Low muzzle flash, low noise, low recoil, and subsonic velocity all mean that you can get off multiple shots quickly and accurately.
These cartridges shine when used in different situations. Like I stated before, there’s no superior winner here, just different scenarios.
So, if you’re going hunting…
.308 Winchester Caliber
The .308 Win is for the win if you’re going medium-to-big game hunting. For home defense, you’re better off picking another rifle cartridge because these bullets have a high recoil and muzzle rise factor.
Though the math and terminal ballistics will never be completely exact, they tell us that the .308 has the right trajectory, velocity, and stopping power for long-range hunting up to 1000 yards, depending on the rifle, of course.
As for the .300 BLK…
.300 AAC Blackout
The .300 Blackout caliber has lower recoil, flash muzzle, and pressure statistics that make it a solid semi-auto and full-auto contender. It’s a military cartridge built for AR-15 rifles and the M4 Carbine.
It’s a versatile cartridge, but it’s best used for home defense and competition shooting.
It has enough force to keep your property safe, and the subsonic bullet velocity, as well as the stopping power, make sure that it’s not going to penetrate through walls, making this caliber a viable option for close-quarter combat.
It’s a very flexible bullet, and though you’d be better off with hunting calibers if you want something outdoorsy, it’s still a viable option for hunting medium game and clean kills around the 400-yard range.
Remember that this is just my honest opinion, and you should always keep your platform, ammo abundance, and purpose in mind. I hope that this cleared up any questions you had for these calibers.
Stay safe, shoot straight.