308 vs 300WSM: Detailed Cartridge Comparison

For shooting enthusiasts and hunters, the debate on cartridge preference never ceases. Today, we discuss the esteemed .308 Winchester and the potent .300 Winchester Short Magnum. We’ll be looking at common differences between these two cartridges, such as ballistics, use case, size, recoil, stopping power, and, for the budget-conscious, the price of ammo. By the end, you’ll better understand these cartridges and which might suit your needs best.

What Is The 308 Winchester?

The .308 Winchester is one of the most popular bolt-action, big-game hunting cartridges. It was introduced in 1952 originally as a military cartridge, but since then, it has become a popular hunting and competitive shooting cartridge.

The .308 Winchester is known for its incredible accuracy, reliability, and versatility. My .308 hunting rifle is one of my favorite choices for long-range hunting, especially for elk and moose.

308 Winchester

What Is The 300 WSM?

The .300 Winchester Short Magnum is a relatively new entrant to the hunting world, having been introduced in 2001. It’s designed to have similar ballistics to the .300 Win Mag but in a shorter, more compact case. This unique design gives it a more efficient powder burn, producing a more consistent velocity.

Because of this efficient powder burn, you can expect a flat trajectory, high velocity, and a lethal hit on basically any big game animal, given proper shot placement.

300 WSM

What Are The Main Differences Between 300 WSM vs 308?

While you might think these two cartridges are very similar, the opposite is actually true. Below, we discuss the main differences between these two cartridges.

1. Ballistic Comparison

The .300 WSM, with a 150-grain bullet, produces a muzzle velocity of 3,320 fps and a muzzle energy of 3,671 ft-lbs. It is much more powerful than the .308 Winchester, which only produces a muzzle velocity of 2,840 fps and a muzzle energy of 2,686 ft-lbs for the same bullet weight.

The .300 WSM also has a much flatter trajectory, with a bullet drop of only -9.8 inches (zeroed at 100 yards) compared to the .308s bullet drop of -13.1 inches (zeroed at 100 yards).

It should be noted that the .300 WSM outperforms the .308 Win across an array of comparable bullet weights. Therefore, the .300 WSM reigns supreme in the ballistic comparison. And just like we saw in our comparison of the 454 Casull vs 500 Magnum cartridges, ballistics are very important.

308 vs 300WSM

2. Use Case Comparison

Both cartridges are suitable for hunting all sizes of game. However, the .300 WSM is often preferred by big game hunters due to its higher energy output. The .308, being a military cartridge, is also commonly used by serious target shooters in long-range shooting competitions.

3. Size & Design Comparison

While these two cartridges have the same diameter bullets (.308), the rest differ quite significantly. For instance, the shoulder diameter of the .300 WSM is almost .8 inches larger than the .308s.

Additionally, the .300 WSM has an overall length of 2.86 inches, and the .308 is only 2.8 inches. This might seem insignificant, but it really translates into case capacity – the .300 WSM has a case capacity of 80.4 gr, and the .308 only has 56 gr.

This also allows the .300 WSM to produce more maximum pressure (63,817 psi) than the .308 Win (60,191 psi).

Finally, the .300 WSM has heavier bullets, ranging from 150 gr to 200 gr, whereas the .308 caliber bullets range between 125 gr and 185 gr.

4. Recoil Comparison

You can expect the .300 WSM to have more recoil energy with all that extra power. After all, it wouldn’t live up to its magnum designation if it didn’t tingle the shoulder a little bit. The .308 has a much more manageable recoil for the same diameter bullet, making it the better option for the novice or those sensitive to recoil.

5. Stopping Power Comparison

It’s safe to assume that given the .300 WSM’s higher velocities and more energy, it has superior stopping power compared to the .308. However, you shouldn’t discredit the .308 – it is more than capable of taking down any North American large game; shot placement is key.

6. Price Comparison

Given the .308’s mass adoption and popularity, you can find ammo fairly cheaply and abundantly. The price range for .308 ammo is between $1.3-$4.

In comparison, you will rarely find .300 WSM ammo under $2.7 per round. The .300 WSM average cost is around $2.8-$5.5 per round.

Which Cartridge Is Best: 308 vs 300 WSM?

For versatility, affordability, availability, and hunting medium to large game, the .308 stands out. However, for more energy and a flatter trajectory, especially for hunting large game, the 300 WSM is the better choice.

Should Hunters Use 308 or 300 WSM?

The .308 is better for hunting medium to large game, such as deer shooting and elk, at medium distances (200-300 yards). In comparison, the 300 WSM excels in long-range shots, so hunters should choose this cartridge if they want to hunt large game at distances exceeding 200 yards and up to 500 yards.

Should Competitive Shooters Use 308 or 300 WSM?

Unlike comparing the .45-70 and .308, this is a much trickier one. While the .308 offers superb long-range accuracy, the 300 WSM does have a flatter trajectory and just performs better against the wind. Then again, the cheaper cost per round fired and lighter recoil of the .308 are also attractive qualities.

Ultimately, if the recoil and cost are irrelevant, then the .300 WSM is definitely the better option for competition shooters.

Is The 308 or 300 WSM Better For Self Defense?

Neither is really adept at tackling self-defense; an AR-15 is much better suited for this job. However, if the situation arises and you need to pick one of these two cartridges, I would go for the .300 WSM. Yes, its recoil energy is much higher, but in a life-or-death situation, that extra stopping power can really be helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can both the .308 and .300 WSM cartridges be used for long-range shooting?

Yes, both these two cartridges are used for long-range shooting, but the .300 WSM is better than the .308 for long-range shooters because of its flatter trajectory.

Does the .300 WSM offer a flatter trajectory compared to the .308?

Yes, the .300 WSM has a flatter trajectory compared to the .308 due to its higher velocities.

Is the .308 Winchester more versatile than the .300 WSM?

Yes, the .308 Win is more versatile than the .300 WSM. Its wide adoption in both military and civilian uses allows its parts and ammo to be available at much higher rates and for much cheaper. It's also better for medium game hunting, as it won't cause the same extent of meat damage the .300 WSM does.

The Bottom Line

Both these two cartridges have their unique advantages. While I love my .308 Winchester and can shoot practically any sized animal, the .300 WSM does perform better in certain situations, such as long-range competition shooting and hunting a moose at 300 yards. So, the decision on which cartridge to pick comes down to personal preference, but I’ll stick go for the tried and tested .308 Winchester.

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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