If you are anything like me, a perfect day is getting out on the range and putting a bunch of lead on target. I love 30 caliber and one of my favorite rifles is my Remington 700 SPS chambered in .308 Winchester. I have enough time behind this firearm that it got me thinking of more affordable ammunition options. Since I am an avid reloader I began looking for a more affordable bullet choice as a start. I already use X-treme bullets in many of my pistol loads so it was an easy choice to start with their 150gr flat nose 30 caliber copper plated bullet.
I began searching the online forums for cost effective 308 loads and kept coming across information on reduced power loads. There were many reloaders talking about using small quantites of pistol or shotgun powder under cast or plated bullets and getting extremely good results. I used these recommendations in addition to published load data to start planning a reduced power 308 load.
The primary purpose of this load was cost savings, I wanted to put more lead down range for less money. I quickly learned that there were many more advantages to reduced power rifle loads than just cost savings. These are what I found to be the main advantages;
- Cost savings
- Reduced recoil
- More enjoyable to shoot
- Reduced barrel wear
- Extended brass life
The final load that I came up with is the 150gr X-treme Bullets flat nose copper plated .308" bullet over Alliant Red Dot powder with an overall case length of 2.600" travelling at approximately 1550 feet per second. The reason I chose Red Dot was because it is a fast burning powder with a relatively low density. The low density is the important part here because I am only using a fraction of the normal powder weight in the 308 case. The powder used needs to occupy as much space as possible to give a consistent powder burn. In my initial testing I tried using Hodgdon's Titegroup and found my velocity numbers to inconsistent because of its high density which occupied very little of the case volume. Red Dot occupies approximately 1/2 of the case volume and is adequate for consistent velocity numbers. Ultimately a powder like Hodgdon's Trail Boss would be perfect with its extremely low density but is a fair bit more expensive and can be harder to find. I am using processed military 7.62x51 brass, all trimmed to 2.005" and Winchester WLR primers.
So let's talk about cost savings. My typical target load is a more expensive 168gr tipped bullet over Varget or AR-Comp but for cost comparison sake I will use a standard 150gr FMJ bullet. Assuming you have your own brass already, here is an approximate cost break down;
Standard 308 target load
- Bullet: 150gr FMJ $0.25/rnd ($25/100)
- Powder: Hodgdon Varget $0.16/rnd ($28/lb, 41.0gr/rnd)
- Primer: Winchester WLR $0.03/rnd ($30/1000)
- Total: $0.44/rnd
Reduced Power 308 load
- Bullet: 150gr X-treme FP plated $0.095/rnd ($53/500)
- Powder: Alliant Red Dot $0.041/rnd ($22/lb, 13.0gr/rnd)
- Primer: Winchester WLR $0.03/rnd ($30/1000)
- Total: $0.166/rnd
Along with the huge cost savings the reduced recoil makes a much more enjoyable shooting experience. It is a great way to introduce new shooters to larger caliber firearms. I find it more fun to go out and shoot a bunch of the reduced power loads rather than the full power loads.
Brass life is also greatly extended. With less case pressure there is less work hardening of the brass leading to longer life. This is especially important if you do not anneal your cases.
I am sure you are wondering about accuracy with this load and it surpassed my expectations for this style bullet. I have been getting around 1.5" groups at 100 yards through my Remington 700. The SD (standard deviation) was under 20 feet per second. There is no trouble putting these on target out to 400 yards and probably farther.
This would not be complete without addressing some of the disadvantages to the reduced power load. First of all it will most likely not cycle the action in semi-auto rifles as the pressure is significantly less than a standard load. Secondly it tends to burn a little on the dirty side due to the lower pressures as well. This does not bother me in the slightest but I know it is a concern for some shooters. Lastly there is quite a bit more bullet drop out past 100 yards. I actually like this part, I shoot this load out to 400 yards and it is consistent every time. I have all my elevation adjustment numbers written down for this load so I can easily dial in my rifle for whatever my target distance is. It forces me to get my firearm dialed in for the load and it mimics shooting a standard load at much farther distances.
It is probably obvious that I am a big advocate for the reduced power 308 load and I hope it will encourage you to get out and try it for yourself. Please do not take my load data as actual published data, it is just what I have found to work for me. Treat it as any other new load and start low and work up.
Happy and Safe Shooting!