The .308 Win is undoubtedly one of the most successful calibres of all time. This has a huge amount to do with its being the military calibre of choice around the world, of course, but most hunters will encounter a .308 only a short way into their shooting careers, and many will go on to own one. Far less well known, however, is the other calibre that goes by the .308 title: the .308 Norma.
Norma’s version was introduced in the USA in the 1960s. It started life a couple of years earlier as the .358 Norma Magnum, loosely based on the .338 Win case. Today most calibre launches are done in conjunction with rifle manufacturers, but back then Norma had to rely on the calibre being picked up by interested gun makers. Two manufacturers took the plunge, with Schultz and Larsen as well as Husqvarna chambering models in the .358 Norma.
By 1960 Norma had taken the .358 and necked it down to accept the vast array of .308 bullets available, producing a new calibre to join the already well catered range of .300 Magnums on offer. It was very similar to the wildcat .30-338, which as the name suggests took the .338 Win and necked it down to .308. Comparison can also be drawn with the much older .300 H&H, which has featured in these pages before, and saw extensive use across the globe in its day, especially in Africa.
Cartridge dimensions allowed the .308 Norma to be re-chambered in any action that would fit a .30-06, while having slightly more case capacity than a .300 H&H. Advertised at 3,100fps muzzle velocity, this was later amended to 2,950fps.
Through the early 1960s it picked up steady momentum among shooters over the water, but began its decline before it had truly established itself. The .300 Win Mag was largely to blame, as it was soon picked up and chambered by Remington after its launch. Today the .308 Norma is rare, despite being an excellent calibre that is still well respected in the right circles.
As you would expect from Norma, this is a well designed cartridge whose performance makes it ideal for medium game. Just like the .300 Win Mag, it is a very flexible calibre, and can be used successfully across a wide range of game, making an excellent all-round calibre covering everything except dangerous game.
Talking of comparable performance is almost irrelevant because they are all so similar. The .300 Win Mag will push out the same bullet weight with marginally more velocity, but the difference is nothing to get excited about. This translates to slightly less drop down range – although this is not reflected in the graph because the data (below) uses slightly different bullet designs.
The bottom line is that it’s all but impossible to split the .300 H&H, .300 Win Mag and .308 Norma in any meaningful way. So why isn’t the .308 Norma more widely used? Well, given the lack of chamberings in factory rifles, the question really answers itself. With availability of rifles and ammo being an issue, I think I would stick with Winchester’s offering, even as interesting as the Norma would be as a talking point. BP