Among the most useful, versatile, and powerful all-round sporting rifles is the 308 Winchester bolt action. These rifles are accurate, reliable, and can take on small to big game in many hunting conditions. When married with a good optic and in competent hands, they are well suited to take a 200-pound target at 200 yards and beyond, as a rule of thumb. The chambering is a joy to use and fire, compared to hard-kicking magnums, and offers plenty of recreational value. The bolt-action 308 is also a useful tactical rifle in many situations, and the round is widely used by law enforcement across the country.
We recently took a hard look at four bolt-action rifles chambered in 308 Winchester, with a special emphasis on looking for affordable options. So we chose two used rifles and one lower-cost new rifle and compared them to a rifle in a higher price range to ensure we weren’t missing something that more dollars could provide. These rifles included the now-discontinued Mossberg ATR, the Remington 783, the Remington 700 SPS, and the Savage Axis. In this quartet, we shot three loads for accuracy testing and another load in offhand fire to gauge the accuracy of the rifles. As it turns out, the economy combination rifle that comes from the factory with a bore-sighted scope is a good deal. Though the Remington 783 was the most accurate rifle, we also liked the Remington 700 SPS a lot. Overall, however, the Savage Axis combination seems a best buy. Let’s look hard at these rifles and delve into why we made these choices and to see if you agree with our assessments.
308 Winchester Range Data
|Win. Match 168-gr. Hollow Point Boattail S308M||Marlin M100 ATR||Savage Axis XP||Remington M700 SPS||Remington M783|
|Average velocity||2590 fps||2660 fps||2450 fps||2623 fps|
|Muzzle energy||2501 ft.-lbs.||2639 ft.-lbs.||2238 ft.-lbs.||2566 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2 in.||1.3 in.||1.3 in.||1.2 in.|
|Largest group||2.6 in.||2 in.||1.7 in.||1.5 in.|
|Average group||2.3 in.||1.6 in.||1.5 in.||1.3 in.|
|Hornady American Whitetail 150-gr. Interlok Spire Point 8090|
|Average velocity||2700 fps||2776 fps||2611 fps||2739 fps|
|Muzzle energy||2427 ft.-lbs.||2566 ft.-lbs.||2270 ft.-lbs.||2498 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.9 in.||1.7 in.||1.6 in.||1.8 in.|
|Largest group||3.5 in.||2.1 in.||2.1 in.||2.2 in.|
|Average group||3.2 in.||1.9 in.||1.9 in.||2 in.|
|Black Hills Ammunition Factory New 175-gr. Match Hollow Point Boat Tail|
|Average velocity||2545 fps||2480 fps||2370 fps||2505 fps|
|Muzzle energy||2516 ft.-lbs.||2389 ft.-lbs.||2182 ft.-lbs.||2437 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest group||2.4 in.||1.4 in.||1.2 in.||1.1 in.|
|Largest group||3.2 in.||1.7 in.||1.7 in.||1.4 in.|
|Average group||2.8 in.||1.6 in.||1.5 in.||1.3 in.|
|To collect accuracy data, we fired three-shot groups off a benchrest. Distance: 100 yards. We recorded velocities with a Competition Electronics Chrony Chronograph with the first screen set 10 feet from the muzzle.|
Mossberg 100 All-Terrain Rifle (ATR) #27230 308 Winchester, $200 (Used)
GUN TEST GRADE: C
This line was discontinued in 2014 and evolved into the Patriot series. The Mossberg’s big rail offers easy scope mounting. The rifle was not as smooth as the others, but may be purchased for just over $300 with a credible scope. The rifle did not misfeed. We liked the cheek rest. The primary problem was accuracy.
|ACTION||Bolt; blued machined steel|
|OVERALL LENGTH||42 in.|
|BARREL LENGTH||22 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT w/ SCOPE||7.4 in.|
|LENGTH OF PULL||13.25 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||6.75 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||8.1 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||7.8 lbs.|
|BARREL||Blued steel, button rifled, free floating|
|MAGAZINE||Box, no floorplate|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||2.5 lbs., adjustable LBA system|
|WARRANTY||2 year limited|
We found this item for only $200 used. We also located new versions of it at retail for $284 at TombstoneTactical.com without a scope and $304 at the same vendor with an unspecified 3-9×40 scope. The Mossberg ATR, discontinued in 2014, evolved into the Patriot line, which has a similar rifle (Patriot Synthetic #27864 in 308 Win.) that lists for $396. Our test rifle included a Weaver-style rail for mounting optics, a black synthetic stock, and a detachable magazine. The stock features molded-in sling attachments, a cheek rest, and light checkering on the forend and grip. The bolt handle is elliptical in shape, and the cocking knob is serrated. We found lift and ejection action to be adequate. It wasn’t difficult to cycle the action and then to fire the rifle and get a fast follow-up shot. The lever-style safety was positive in operation. The rail was handy in mounting an optical sight. We mated the rifle with a Vanguard RS 41240 BDC ($359.50 from OpticsPlanet.com.) If you’re looking for the lowest all-in price, you wouldn’t pick a scope in this price range, but for our purposes of needing a proven optic to let the rifle shine, it worked out well. The Vanguard wasn’t difficult to quickly sight in using the box method at 50 yards. Loading the rifle wasn’t particularly difficult, but the magazine follower seemed prone to tilting. There is no magazine floorplate, so unloading is accomplished by running the cartridges through the action, which isn’t ideal. We never did so during the test because we fired the rifle to empty.
During the firing stage, we sighted the rifle in with the Winchester White Box FMJ load, which we carried over to the others as well, using five to 10 cartridges. Next, we fired 20 rounds in each rifle with the Winchester USA 147-grain FMJ load ($19/20 rounds @ CheaperThanDirt.com) off hand, firing at 50 and 100 yards. We also fired five rounds from the prone position. This measured the handling and off hand comfort of the rifles. We liked the ATR’s cheek rest during these firing strings. We also settled down for bench rest testing at 100 yards. We used three loads, the Winchester 168-grain Match round ($41/20 from Brownells.com), the Hornady American Whitetail 150-grain Interlok ($29/20 from Hornady.com), and the Black Hills 175-grain Match ($31/20 from LuckyGunner.com) as a heavy-bullet target-grade loading. The Mossberg was smooth enough in offhand fire; however, it wasn’t as smooth in operation as the Remington 700 or the Remington 783 and on par with the Savage rifle. Accuracy was the poorest of the rifles tested. We tightened the stock and checked the scope rings to be certain all was in good order, but this rifle simply wasn’t very accurate. We liked the nontraditional rail, however, and the rifle was only adequate for deer-sized game at 100 yards or a little more.
Our Team Said: A rifle with this simple design shouldn’t offer problems, even at this price point. It wasn’t smooth to operate, offered only pedestrian accuracy, showed poor finish execution, and lacked a floor plate for easy, safe unloading. We can’t think of a good reason to chase an ATR in the used, like new, or even new-in-the-box market when there are better choices below.
Remington Model 783 #85847 308 Winchester, $340
GUN TESTS GRADE: A (Best Buy)
The Remington 783 is usually sold as a combination complete with an entry-level rifle scope, but we bought ours used (and perhaps unfired) for $200 without the factory optic. This was the most accurate rifle tested. This is a big plus, and there were no demerits to topple the 783 from the top of the totem pole. While the Remington 700 SPS is smoother, it costs a lot more money.
|ACTION||Bolt; matte blue carbon steel|
|OVERALL LENGTH||41.6 in.|
|BARREL LENGTH||22 in., 1:10 RH twist|
|OVERALL HEIGHT w/ SCOPE||7.2 in.|
|LENGTH OF PULL||13.4 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||7.4 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||7.7 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||9.2 lbs.|
|BARREL||Matte blue carbon steel; button rifled|
|STOCK||Black synthetic, SuperCell recoil pad, dual pillar bedding, free floated|
|STOCK LENGTH OF PULL||13.4 in.|
|STOCK DROP AT COMB||1 in.|
|STOCK DROP AT HEEL||1.6 in.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||3.5 lbs., CrossFire adjustable|
|SIGHTS||Factory 3-9×40 scope; rings, bases, bore sighted|
|WARRANTY||2 year limited|
We purchased the rifle alone for $200 at a pawn shop. It appeared to be unfired, but was stripped of the glass. It sells for $399 MSRP with the factory 3-9×40 optic, bases, rings, and bore sighting. Slickguns.com recently listed the rifle alone for $343. Cabelas.com recently listed the combo for $340, so it pays to shop around for the best deal.
The Model 783 is an economy gun intended to give better accuracy than the Remington 770 and also greater pride of ownership. We feel that Remington succeeded. The stock is comfortable with light pebbling at the contact points. We did not like the squared trigger guard, but looks do not make for good shooting. One of the raters commented that the trigger guard gave the rifle an air-gun look. The adjustable trigger was welcome, as we tried to set all the rifles at 2.5 pounds for accuracy and comparison. We rated the Remington 783 trigger equal to the Remington 700 and better than the other two rifles. There is no cheek rest molded into the stock. We like the detachable magazine. It is difficult to load the chamber through the comparatively small ejection port. When testing single loads or handloads at the firing range, this may be a concern, but then the detachable magazine was handy enough when firing for accuracy.
We mounted a Meopta rifle scope to test the rifle. This 3-9×40 scope costs more than the two economy rifles put together ($500 @ EuroOptics.com). The owner of the Remington 700 intended to replace the Redfield mounted on the Model 700 with the Meopta, but has been dragging his feet because the Redfield has given good results.
In offhand fire, our raters said they liked the balance and smoothness of operation of the rifle. The Remington 783 is noticeably smoother to run than the Mossberg ATR and slightly superior overall to the Savage Axis rifle. In offhand fire the rifle’s balance and heft, which are hard to quantify with measurements, suited the raters better than the other budget rifles. The hold was better than the other rifles, save for the Remington 700, and we liked the trigger action better than the economy rifles.
Firing off the bench, we achieved excellent results. With the Black Hills Ammunition loading, the Remington 783 turned in a three-shot group average of 1.25 inch. The smallest group with the Winchester 168-grain Match load was 1.3 inches, and the Hornady turned in good accuracy for a hunting load. The groups fired were probably the limit of the ability of the trained shooter who fired the majority of the groups.
Our Team Said: We were well satisfied with the performance of this rifle and the price. While the quality optic had a place in this performance, optics cannot make an inaccurate rifle shoot well. The Remington 783 turned in an excellent performance by any standard, and for only $200. If you have an optic already available, it would be hard to beat this rifle on value.
Remington 700 SPS 85538 308 Winchester, $655
GUN TESTS GRADE: A-
The Remington 700 SPS delivered excellent performance. While the price was twice that of some of the economy guns, the Remington, fitted with a middle-of-the-road riflescope, gave excellent results. It was clearly the smoothest rifle tested. While velocity was less than the other rifles, choosing a longer-barrel SPS variant (the 20-inch-barrel #84207) would solve that, but at the expense of faster handling. We like this rifle, but the Savage Axis or Remington 783 would be plenty for hunting at a much lower price. However, if you’re looking for a more maneuverable choice, there’s nothing else in this test that’s nearly as handy.
|ACTION TYPE||Bolt; matte black oxide, carbon steel|
|OVERALL LENGTH||36.25 in.|
|BARREL LENGTH||16.5 in., 1:10 RH twist, heavy contour, 5/8-24 threaded muzzle|
|OVERALL HEIGHT w/ SCOPE||7.5 in.|
|STOCK LENGTH OF PULL||13.4 in.|
|STOCK DROP AT COMB||1.25 in.|
|STOCK DROP AT HEEL||1.5 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||8.75 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||10.3 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||10 lbs.|
|BARREL||Matte black oxide, carbon steel, pillar bedded|
|STOCK||Hogue OverMolded, SuperCell recoil pad, semi-beavertail forend|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||2.5 lbs., externally adjustable X-Mark Pro|
|WARRANTY||2 year limited|
This was the retail price for which we purchased the M700. MSRP is $788 MSRP for the Special Purpose Synthetic stocked rifle. This is a standard Model 700 short action placed into a well-made Hogue OverMolded stock. We saw that the Hogue stock would have added $170 to the price of a standard Remington 700 at Cabelas.com.
The rifle features a 16.5 -inch barrel, the shortest of the test. There is a 20-inch-barrel version available. The Remington 700 features a smooth trigger action we liked the best of the test. We also felt the bolt action was the smoothest, with the most comfortable bolt throw. If you fire one rifle one day and then the other the next day, it isn’t quite as noticeable. In side-by-side fire, it felt like night and day, and the M700 is smooth.
Also, we felt more secure with the Remington 700 bolt design. The Remington rifle loads through the open bolt, and the ejection port is open enough to allow easy loading. However, half the raters like the box magazine-type better. In a hunting rifle, there is no real advantage to either. If you lose the box magazine, you still have a single shot.
We noticed the rigidity of the action, and there simply wasn’t any slop in the Remington 700. However, the Savage Axis felt as tight, but not as smooth.
As for optics, we used a set of DNZ Game Reaper mounts ($51 @ MidwayUSA.com) to mount a Redfield Battlezone 3-9x42mm rifle scope ($294 @ MidwayUSA.com). With the mil-tac reticle, this is a versatile and affordable rifle scope. We have had no complaints while testing this scope on several rifles. It is a good buy for less than $300. We had an advantage in that the owner had the rifle perfectly sighted in for the Hornady load, so we were able to forego sighting the rifle in for that load as a starting point.
At the range, we found the trigger was crisp. We shot the SPS offhand with the same Winchester USA ammunition as the other rifles. Firing quickly and working the bolt, we found we could make good hits more quickly with this rifle than with the others. When going to rollover prone, we found the shorter barrel really handled more quickly. When firing off the benchrest for maximum accuracy, the Remington 700 rifle delivered. Accuracy was around 1.5 MOA on demand with all loads and very consistent. The Remington 700 was more accurate than either the Mossberg ATR or the Savage Axis rifle. However, the Remington 783, the less expensive stablemate for the Remington 700, was more accurate. This may have simply been the luck of draw among different rifles, but then the owner has a lot of time in with the Remington 700, and even with that edge, he found the Remington 783 to be the better shooter. In practical terms we liked the smooth action of the Remington 700 better and also the short barrel, but the targets don’t lie.
It’s worth noting that all of the rifles featured adjustable triggers that allowed the shooter to prepare the rifle for best accuracy results. There were no irregularities with any of the rifles, but the Remington 700, followed by the Remington 783 and the Savage Axis, had what we describe as good triggers. The Mossberg, less so. All of the rifles were set for 2.5 pounds with minimal difficulty during the trial period. All worked as designed, but the very picky will like the Remington 700 SPS trigger the best, we believe. The Savage was very nearly as good.
Our Team Said: If you’ve ever moved a rifle around in a tight box blind or tried to swing a long-barrel rifle quickly out of a truck cab, the SPS’s 16.5-inch barrel will be a revelation. The OverMolded stock resulted in a combination that weighed 10 pounds when set up, but we liked the balance, and that weight meant that felt recoil was the least of the rifles tested. Still, in the end, the SPS came in behind the less expensive, more accurate 783.
Savage Axis XP 19231 308 Winchester, $390
GUN TESTS GRADE: B
There was much to like about the Savage Axis. While you may opt for the more accurate Remington 783, overall we liked the Savage rifle. The safety is well designed and handy, the detachable magazine easy enough to use, and the rifle is affordable. Accuracy wasn’t the best, but accuracy was acceptable with the provided Weaver riflescope.
|ACTION||Bolt; blued steel|
|OVERALL LENGTH||43.9 in.|
|BARREL LENGTH||22 in.|
|OVERALL HEIGHT w/ SCOPE||7 in.|
|LENGTH OF PULL||13.26 in.|
|WEIGHT UNLOADED||6.5 lbs.|
|WEIGHT LOADED||7.7 lbs.|
|WEIGHT SCOPED||7.4 lbs.|
|TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT||2.5 lbs.|
Purchased new at retail, we found this rifle for as low as $390 at BudsGunShop.com. This was the sole combination rifle-and-scope gun purchased, though the 783 is offered that way as well. Depending upon the scope quality, these combinations may be a good buy. The scope here was marked Weaver. The rifle itself offers credible construction. The fit of the stock to the action could have been better; it was not up to the Remington 783’s fit, in our opinion, and seemed slightly better than the Mossberg ATR rifle. We have examined Savage Axis rifles with better fit. The action was smooth enough, however, and we rated the action smoother than the Mossberg. We also liked the trigger action of the Savage better than the Mossberg, but equal to the Remington. The stock gave good purchase when firing off hand. We like the handy tang-mounted safety. Several raters noted that they liked this safety better than the side-mount safety of the other rifles, but all the rifles featured safeties that were no problem to manipulate. When the rifle was test fired, it turned out the bore-sighted scope was right on the money for the Winchester 147-grain loading for windage even though the scope was slightly canted to one side. We did not fix this cant since it took just a few turns to get the elevation dead on the money at 50 yards, and we then moved to the 100-yard line. It’s a plus that the rifle comes bore-sighted and only needs fine tuning to get centered, but each shooter must be certain that the rifle is properly sighted for the individual load. The rifle was tested with four loads, one in offhand fire and the other three off the bench for accuracy. The rifle was reasonably smooth in offhand firing. Off the bench, the rifle gave very consistent results with an average of 1.6, 1.6, and 1.9 inches for the three loads. This compares to a lackluster 2.3, 3.2, and 2.8 inches for the Mossberg and not that far behind the Remington 700 at 1.5 in two instances and 1.9 in another. As a side note: At one point we took the Vanguard rifle scope and mounted it on the Savage Axis rifle. The scope was much clearer, and overall, was more enjoyable to use, but accuracy was not affected in benchrest testing.
The rifle was also the lightest tested. Just the same, recoil was not a problem. The stock design actually made the rifle as easy shooting as the heavier rifles. The Remington 783 was about the same weight as the Savage Axis, while the Mossberg ATR was heavier, but the Savage kicked the least of these three. (The 10-pound Remington 700 was easy to shoot as a virtue of weight.) Beside the stock, the Savage Axis has the advantage of a vented recoil pad, which none of the other rifles featured.
One concern: The bolt seemed more difficult to lock down after cartridges were chambered. While not an annoyance, this was noticeable, so we took the rifles to the shop and checked each one with a Forster headspace gauge from Brownells.com. While tight, the Savage was in spec, and so were the other rifles.
Our Team Said: Based on accuracy with the factory scope and its light weight for carrying ease while hunting, as well as the safety location, we felt the rifle is a good choice and a good value. Nits we had to pick included that its accuracy, while acceptable, was behind the two tight-shooting Remington rifles, and it lost a step on fit.
Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.