A short while ago, we asked for input on our .308 build. Overwhelmingly, you all wanted a 16” barrel, so “Shorty” was born! Looking to compare velocities, I brought out my match .308 with a 24” barrel to compare the results with some Hodgdon pistol data! (Yes, .308 Pistol data.)
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Rifle Build Review
“Shorty” was built to be a high quality, compact rifle which would handle easily yet still deliver commendable accuracy. From the beginning we intended to run it suppressed. It was also built with the idea of showcasing some interesting components, particularly the BAT Igniter action, a fast twist Benchmark barrel, Triggertech Special trigger, Foundation Dominion stock, Hawkins DBM bottom metal and Hunter magazine as well as the Athlon Ares BTR Gen 2 scope and BANISH 30 suppressor.
Gavin cut the barrel to just over 16”, then chambered and threading it before using black Cerakote to finish the metal.
Rifle Build Highlights
Foundation Stocks are made of dense micarta, a combination of resin and denim which is extremely strong and durable. The team at Foundation is justifiably proud of their stocks, which are machined with great precision. The stock is advertised as needing no bedding or pillars, and Gavin just dropped in the BAT action and Hawkins bottom metal during the build. The resulting consistent sub ½ MOA accuracy has been gratifying.
The stock was designed for use in the field on a hunting rifle. After having put quite a bit of ammunition through the completed rifle, I think it fills that role nicely.
Hawkins Precision Hunter Mag + Bottom Metal
Popular and well respected in the industry, Hawkins Precision DBM bottom metal and their flush-mounting Hawkins Precision Hunter magazine were used on this build, resulting in a clean-looking and highly functional hunting rifle. This magazine sits almost flush, but leaves enough room for grip.
The CNC-machined, aluminum Hunter magazine is available in short, medium, and long action versions, capable of handling a wide range of cartridges from 223 sized cartridges up to the 338 Lapua.
The magazine release is located inside the trigger guard and must be pressed firmly to drop the magazine. The magazine stayed securely in place and smoothly fed our factory and hand loaded .308 cartridges.
A huge benefit to using the stubby 16” barrel on this rifle was to be able to use the BANISH 30 Suppressor and still keep the overall rifle length to 42”. This is still two inches shorter than my own .308 Winchester rifle! Available from Silencer Central, the BANISH 30 is lightweight, effective and versatile. According to Silencer Central, it can be used on cartridges ranging from .17’s up to the .300 Weatherby Magnum! (It reduces .308 muzzle blast by .34 db!)
I’ve long been fond of shooting suppressed firearms, having first done so in the Marine Corps decades ago. They take away a bit of the sting of recoil and greatly reduce noisy muzzle blast. All in all, shooting a suppressed rifle is quite pleasant.
The BANISH 30 is well made, reasonably lightweight and can be configured as either a 7” or 9” suppressor.
Athlon Ares BTR GEN2 HD 4.5-27×50 APRS5 FFP IR MIL
The Athlon Ares BTR Gen2 scope is well matched to this 16” .308 rifle. It’s reasonably sized at 13.8” in length, and weighs 27.3 ounces. The power range is impressive, from 4.5 on the low end up to 27x. Due at least in part to the 50mm objective, I found the optic clear and quite useful even in lower light conditions typical of dawn or dusk hunting.
Here’s our video highlighting this optic:
Hodgdon’s Pistol Data
I found Hodgdon’s PISTOL data long ago when I was contemplating a specialty bolt action pistol in .308 Winchester. I never built that handgun, but remembered that Hodgdon had researched and published many loads for different cartridges in 15” specialty pistols. I’ve occasionally turned to that resource to get a reasonable forecast of what sort of velocity to expect from a short barrel. Note that while this data may not always be published in the hard-copy Annual Manual, it is available at Hodgdon’s online Reloading Data Center.
We tested five different loads.
I have to admit that I had a lot of fun doing this. I fired five-shot groups with three different factory loads and two proven handloads through both the 16” and the 24” barreled .308 rifles. There is about a 200 fps difference between the barrels, with velocities changing by about 25 fps per inch of barrel length with all the loads.
Hornady’s factory loaded 168 grain A-Max produced 2711 fps from my 24” barreled rifle, about what I’d expect from a typical 165 or 168 grain .308 Winchester load. It was also quite accurate in both rifles, shooting under ½ MOA.
I expected greater velocities from Hornady’s TAP 155 grain A-Max factory ammunition. It was only slightly faster than the Hornady 168 grain A-Max factory ammunition.
I also fired some military M118 7.62 long range with a 175 grain bullet. It was pretty-slow, but suitable for going long distances.
The two handloads are loads I’ve used many times over the years with my .308 rifles. I used the MEC Marksman press and Redding National Match dies to load the ammunition for this article. For the bullets, I selected blemished and bulk packaged 168 grain HPBT match bullets from Midsouth Shooters Supply. In comparison with current component prices, these blemished bullets are quite a bargain! They also load and shoot just fine. These bullets are overruns or blems from a major manufacturer which Midsouth can’t disclose. They’re available in bags of 250 bullets in a variety of calibers from .224” – .338” diameter.
For a lighter bullet and higher velocity alternative, I turned to the 125 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, which has impressed me in the .308 both for accuracy and for results on deer. It’s a light-recoiling load and a pleasure to shoot from our 16” barreled .308. This bullet launched at 2905 fps from the stubby barrel!
Both of our handloads sat in once-fired Federal Gold Medal brass, with Federal 210 match primers and Hodgdon’s Varget smokeless powder. Both the 125 grain and 168 grain bullets were loaded to maximum charges. Those loads should be carefully worked towards, starting lower and stopping when pressure signs indicate.
Best Bullets for a Short Barrel
The .308 Winchester is capable of handling a wide variety of hunting tasks from varmints and predators, to hogs, deer, bear, and even elk. With a 16” barreled rifle, lighter bullets are more desirable to maintain good muzzle velocity and take advantage of the resulting flat trajectory. Each of the major bullet makers produce good, lightweight hunting bullets.
Some good options include:
- Hornady 150 grain SST
- Hornady 150 grain CX
- Barnes 130 grain TTSX
- Berger 155 grain VLD
- Berger 168 grain Classic Hunter
- Sierra 125, 165 TGK
- Nosler 125 grain B-Tip & Accubond
While there is velocity loss with the 16” barrel, it has some upsides. A shorter, handier rifle can be terrific in some hunting situations. I could see “Shorty” being quite handy to have in my Jeep while roaming the hills or while hunting from a blind. I wouldn’t hesitate to hunt deer, bear or elk with this rifle, even if I could potentially be taking a 300+ yard shot. Looking forward, we’re considering subsonic .308 loads. We had a lot of fun shooting subsonic loads suppressed through a Henry .30-30 lever action.
Though the thrust of this project was to build and evaluate the 16” barreled .308 as a high quality, compact hunting rifle, I couldn’t help but look at it through my experience as a SWAT sniper either. For the 12 years that I was on the team, most of my call-outs put me in fairly short-range scenarios. This stubby and accurate bolt gun would have been great for those purposes.
Get the Gear
Short & Long Action Magazines – AICS 3 & 4 Round Magazine – Hawkins Precision
Hawkins Precision Hunter DBM Bottom Metal – AICS Pattern Magazine
Hawkins Precision Hunter Magazine
Athlon Ares BTR APRS5 Riflescope
30 Caliber .308 Diameter 168 Grain Hollow Point Boat Tail Target Bullet 250 Count (Blemished) by OEM Blem Bullets
MEC Marksman Single Stage Press
308 Winchester National Match 3 Die Set by Redding
Gold Medal Large Rifle Match Primer #GM210M (1000 Count) by Federal
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