My Choice For A Rifle System And Caliber

20 May, 2015

Been pretty busy of late. I’ll try to keep it a little more current.


“What rifle do you use?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I get via email or on FB. One of the reasons is probably due to the pics people see from different classes I’ve taught ( I regularly carry my M1A SOCOM, an AKMS, or an M4). Then comes the inevitable, “If you could only pick one, what would it be?” My answer is usually prefaced with “It depends on what your scenario/situation is, and it depends on YOU.” My choice for a Survival/Combat rifle is the M14/M1A system, and the .308WIN/7.62Nato chambering (yes, it was also available in 7MM08 and .243WIN).

Why this rifle type, and why that caliber you ask. It’s simple. The M14 is still in the US military inventory (unlike the FAL which I have owned several of and am a big fan of), and is still issued to troops for certain applications (SF uses the carbine a lot, and regular Army in the Designated Marksman role, but not as much as pre M110). The parts and mags are still readily available in mil storage, and are being manufactured on the open market. The .308 Winchester round will effectively kill (you have to do your part in shot placement obviously) whatever you might hunt with it in the continental US (just because you can kill it with a 5.56, or 7.62×39, doesn’t mean you should actively plan to hunt large, dangerous game with them) . The .308 will out power any other readily available “Combat” cartridge on the market, while still being available in a number of reliable, combat proven systems (M14, FN FAL, HK91). .308 semi autos will effectively shoot cast lead bullets (try that with your 5.56) I know, I know that falls under the “Mad Max” scenario, but it’s good to know what you can do with it, worst case, right?

To the 5.56/.223 fan boys, or 7.62N/.308 detractors I say this. Comparing the two cartridges, shot for shot on a living target is ridiculous, and just because you’ve “Seen it done”, doesn’t mean you should plan on “having to” if you have more effective means at you disposal, and you are able to effectively use it. I’ve killed a lot of deer in my time(I explain the reason for the deer analogy further down), and probably 95% of those deer were killed with a .223 or a .308. When I was younger, I used a .223 a lot, and the big difference I noticed in the two cartridges was this. To get a solid one shot kill with a .223/5.56, I had to get a good central nervous system hit (usually the neck). But to get a solid one shot stop with the .308/7.62N, only required a solid pulmonary or circulatory hit. “What’s the difference?” you say. The difference is this. it is easier to get the pulmonary or circulatory hit (larger target area) than it is to get the central nervous system hit.

Why would easier hits be important? Oh, I don’t know, you’re a Survivalist, and you’re 4 weeks into your trip to TEOTWAWKISTAN. You’re tired, hungry, maybe hurt, and on edge. If you had to make an effective one shot kill on a deer (food) or a threat, which would you rather be using? BTW, The reason I use the deer analogy is this. Being in combat doesn’t mean you do some morbid examination of the bodies after it is over to see how effective caliber X might have been (go ahead, tell me how you did a post combat autopsy when you were “In country”). I use the deer as an example, simply because after shooting it, I have to gut, skin, and butcher it, and I see exactly what kind of damage, or a lack thereof, those calibers and bullet types had on living flesh.

Is the .308 for everybody? HELL NO! In a Survival group, I advocate the 5.56 for women, children, and smaller statured and/or older men, simply because carrying a .308 battle rifle is more work (more bang for the buck though) than it is to carry an equal amount of 5.56 ammo, and a comparable 5.56 caliber combat rifle (can’t be an effective combatant if you can’t effectively carry your weapon).

If you are a leader in a patrolling element (NPT, or militia), and especially if you are the medic, or commo guy (there’s a reason the first guys in “Regiment” to get shorter, lighter M4/CAR15’s were commo guys) in the Team, you probably shouldn’t be carrying a .308, simply because you are dealing with leading your element (unfortunately that means more directing less shooting), or your specialty requires you to carry more gear oriented towards that task.

Of late, some have gotten on the .308 bandwagon that a few of us have been riding for years. No matter what their reasoning, it’s good to see they’ve “Come to the light”, and hopefully, more will advocate the use of rifles of that caliber. Although I would never recommend arming a whole Team/Squad with .308’s (that goes overboard on the typical “logistically practical” reasoning for everyone having 5.56 caliber weapons), I do recommend at least one, if not two .308’s in a six man NPT (Neighborhood Protection Team) for the more effective practical range and penetration it gives your group. If everyone else in the team or squad carries two mags for the .308 guys, their lack of “round count” will be negligible.

As noticed from the picture above, I have two M1A’s that I use. One is a SOCOM (16 inch barrel), and one is a National Match (22 inch barrel). Depending on what needs to be accomplished, one of these two rifles can accomplish it for me. The Load Out can be the same (it’s a system Load Out that fits either rifle. BTW, I prefer Match ammo for the NM rifle, but it will shoot Ball under an 1 MOA) for either rifle.

Primary differences between the two rifles are these. The SOCOM is more compact (33.5 inches-Sage stock collapsed) NM is 44.3. The SOCOM has a DBAL, Surefire Tac light, and a Millet DMS 1-4x illuminated optic, and I have an X Products 50 round drum for it. The NM has a 4-16x Horus Vision Raptor optic. I consider the SOCOM a 1-400 meter gun, and the NM a 50-800 meter gun (hey, I’m trying to give practical distances here).

Are they heavy? Sure, the SOCOM weighs 15 lbs. with a steel 20 rounder in it (A SAW weighs 18 lbs empty guys). Are they effective? Sure are, but who wouldn’t want to have a guy with a semi auto .308 supporting him in a “Break Contact” or an “Assault”, huh? Take the time and figure out if a .308 system is for you, then train and equip to effectively use it. And don’t forget to do more practical PT.




American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

45 thoughts on “My Choice For A Rifle System And Caliber

      • Well ppl buying shit because of Movies and Tv will never stop. Its part of our cut and paste copy cat culture. Other then it being a cautionary tale or jokes and banter, Its actually a moot point unless you got Hoot and his ever reliable safety switch showing up to muster at your survival group. “Others” are the others-its just how it is and buying shit because they saw it on the Tv and in a movie doesn’t apply to them……

    • No Mac/PC, Ford/Chevy here. I’d be pleased to have at least one semi-auto 7.62NATO in my small group, even if I carried a couple of their mags as shared weight. Titanium cookware to compensate. Here is where “diversity” works bettter than a .223 monoculture.

  1. Pingback: JC Dodge: My Choice For A Rifle System And Caliber | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. Roger that. Been there all along. Afghanistan taught me the truth of that as well. My company had the AR-10 with match barrels and triggers. Ran across some spec ops types at FOB Lonestar sporting different configurations of the LWRC in 7.62 x 51. So I ordered mine but in semi only. It was a nice item to return home to. But I do love my LRB and Enterprise custom M-14 rifles with US GI parts. And hell I am ancient and I pack them sooo for the younger crowd bitching about weight I just don’t understand.

  3. Good post! Have the right tool for the job and know how to use it! Took my heavy, ugly AR-10 to the range today and enjoyed hearing the “thwak” on the steel compared to my son’s “twang” from his lighter M4.

  4. The M1A is OK.
    My rifle system and caliber is the M1 Garand and 03A3 shooting the 30-06, National Match load and there are a few black tips around. Us old guys kind of like it and don’t count us out. Been doing butts and muzzles for many years. Warriors killed a lot of commies with it and assorted vermin during other wars. Deer hunters like the ’06 too, so I’m told.
    Accessible? I’ve got ’em both. Doesn’t everyone?
    Oughta start a neighborhood watch, and on the quietus make. All armed with the best rifle ever made, the M1 Garand.
    Semper Fi

    • Gungy, I love the Garand, but the key phrase here is “The .308 will out power any other readily available “Combat” cartridge on the market, while still being available in a number of reliable, combat proven systems (M14, FN FAL, HK91).” By this I mean to include the attribute of a detachable box magazine of sufficient capacity. The 30-06 is a great cartridge, but the .308 was designed to run better (more reliably) and more efficiently in automatic rifles. BTW, I own a 1903 also, it was my Grandfather’s rifle, and it still gets used.

      • Springfield Armory did manufacture some 7.62NATO chambered Garands (nope, not Navy sleeve either, REAL 7.62NATO barrels). Enbloc 8 shot clips still, same as originals. The Garand is still a heavy, long pig of a gun though. And scoping it can be a pita, scout scope seems to be best solution.

        Holbrook device is a worthy addition.

  5. Reblogged this on Arctic Specter and commented:
    A good post from Mason Dixon Tactical discussing the merits of choosing the right weapon for you and your situation. I tend to agree thoroughly on his selection of a battle rifle over a carbine if you can pack it. Bringing that firepower to the fight can be a game changer.

    • I am and have always been a big fan of the FAL (I’ve owned about 6 of them). Finding parts for an FAL will be harder than finding them for a weapon still issued and in the inventory. A big reason is that I’m a lefty, and I can run the SOCOM better (a pistol gripped M14 is set up for a lefty) left handed than I can run the FAL.

    • Remember when NIB Euro-Metric FAL steel magazines were $5 each? Still kicking myself for leaving with “any” money from that gun show, even though my pack was crammed with mag’s for a weapon I didn’t have. How about the IMI-made boxer-brass 7.62 NATO with M80 bullets 1000 in ammo cans $115 pp ? More not-stacking regrets.

      The FAL dust-cover scope rail is rock-solid, if a bit expensive for a good one.

      I was drooling in envy at the looters pulling out vintage Belgium select-fire FAL’s in original packaging from Kaddafy’s armories. I’d give a 1/2 oz of gold for that….
      The Right Arm of the Free World, back then.

      • One comment from one who has to wear glasses, when firing the M14 in the rain the bolt throws water and oil on to your glasses, and after a while you can not see or clean them quickly; that and having short arms (28 in) it was difficult to shoulder it in sitting IAW the “Army way” with the fore-arm under the magazine. (Couldn’t have it along side the magazine, had to be under it and nose to thumb on the trigger hand.) Ever with all the contortions I still fired expert in both left and right hand.

        The reason why I went with the FAL Para, and the LMT MWS, I can shoot it in bad weather and still see. (the bolt is covered and the FAL has an adjustable gas regulator.)

        • I2a3,
          One of my M14’s is a Springfield Scout. A great way to make it more compact with a USGI stock on both ends is remove the flash-hider and install an SEI vortex. Remove the metal butt-plate setup and cut stock at end of hinge plate. Install a thin grind to fit Limbsaver.

          Another thing I’ve done is install carbon fiber arrow shafts in forend to stop twisting. Then install sling attachment on left side of fore-end as well as right side of butt stock. Makes it much easy to carry at the ready with a 2 point adjustable sling.

          This setup lacks a pistol grip of course but makes it compact and quick (for an M14). The shorter LOP works great. (and I’m a regular sized guy). Rifle is also a bit lighter. Some might think its sacrilege but its more functional imo.

          For spraying there has got to be a shell deflector that would stop that. Another of my M14’s has a Ti Sadlack mount with U channel. Blocks top of receiver opening obviously yet still allows iron sight usage… and its light weight.

          Can’t go wrong with your other choices however !

  6. I really appreciate the thought process here. I too admire the M14 platform, however, the muscle memory of a .308 AR platform cannot be ignored either.

  7. Curious as to how many mags/rounds you choose to carry and the type of web gear you use to do so. How ’bout a post on that….

  8. Like many I have both, 5.56 and 7.62, hands down my go to is a .308.

    Both have their place of course but the one angle I rarely see brought up with the 223/308 caliber debate is Rhodesian cover shooting.

    This is a HUGE consideration and often “wonder” why it doesn’t generally enter the debate.

    • Although I teach that in my courses, I haven’t really spoken about it on the blog. I have talked about the general brush penetration superiority of the .308, and that is a good example of specific reasoning behind using that cartridge.

  9. You’re spot on, I’d add for the “16” barrels on .308’s make them lose too much velocity” that at 200 yards the .308 out of my SOCOM 16 is carrying more energy than the 5.56 leaving your barrel.
    It’s a shame the recent Executive Order shut down the .308 Vepr pipeline. While expensive to make ergonomic for tactical use (922r compliant) I found it was still cheaper than what I put in to my SOCOM in a Vltor chasis and while reliability on both rifles are comparable and outstanding the Vepr is noticeably more accurate. The one trade off is parts availability if repairs were needed.

  10. Scar 17. Lightweight with .308 ACOG with BDC Reticle. Cant find a place to shoot it, but the reticle is for 1200 yards when the crosshair is zero’d to 100 yards. Piston driven so it stays clean-er. Great weapon. In the right hands can be a sub-MOA rifle.

  11. What rifle do I use,well,have a few to choose from.Have 556/.7.62X39,am working on a .308 build funds permitting,oh,have a 300 Weatherby I inherited along with a lever action brush deer rifle 30-06.I say pick the rifle that works for you to get the job done,love the .308 at least as far as the few of I tried and time/funds permitting will do a build,have a basic start already.I have a ? to those perusing this article,you only have choice of one rifle,with .308 cartridge what would your barrel length be if only one choice and looking for a all around rifle to cover all situations the best one rifle could,in this case the barrel choice would be for the .308,interested in folks thoughts who have done some time with the .308,do realise that a lot of time practising with choices as important as the choices,enjoy the weekend all.

  12. Pingback: My Choice For A Rifle System And Caliber | From the Trenches World Report

  13. Oh my. The Controversy.

    Old SF chimes in.

    A table. Upon which is an M16/M4 and an AK47/AK74. Choice? AK. Next table; AK or FN. Choice? FN. Next table; FN or M14. Choice? M14.

    M14 without all the space gun crap.


    • Yup, that’s what they always told us. Although I remember one of the guys talkin’ about the first time he was given an IR laser to use with their NOD’s. He said his response was “Holy shit, ‘Buck Rogers’ in the dark!”

  14. One thing have thought a lot about is if(OK,when)things get very ugly in this country my guess is will be a lot of .556/7.62X39 ammo around as they are such popular cartridges,while I look forward to building a .308 if I really only had one choice might consider one of the aforementioned calibers,hope to have the time/funds to have both worlds,time will tell,enjoy the weekend all and no matter what your politics/view on history and war lets remember those who have died this weekend.

    • When it comes to popular US sporting cartridges, the .308 generally has the other two beat. Keep in mind that .308 is the primary belt fed machine gun cartridge used by the US and all countries not using combloc weapons systems.

      • OK,didn’t know that but will say what I see shooting with friends on ranges and just larger tracts of land is for rifles the 556/7.62 the most (excepting the popular .22)but that is just the few folks I shoot with in the northlands of New England.I have been lucky enough to shoot a few .308 platforms and thus my interest in doing a build,have a few basics to start and am consulting with friends who have them about their likes/dislikes and hope to shoot a few of theirs a few more times and see what I like/dislike.One thing will be a adjustable stock,remember reading a article here about a stock being slammed in the ground with bad results though owner had original as spare to continue training,hence recommendation of quality stocks to look into would be appreciated.Well,need to get ready for work as us builder types playing catch up due to extra snows this season,will put aside a few of the dollars earned this weekend to forward my build.

          • Thanks,can’t remember article but seemed some folks in that discussion thought mil spec not up to snuff,that said,at least at moment build limited to a degree budget wise,that said,do not want airsoft stuff(nothing against airsoft itself),will keep researching and buy as budget allows.

  15. The mix of 5.56 and .308 in the NPT scenario is very preferable, odd stocks and lots of ammo may be run across, and even a 7.62 x 39 in the mix might be a good idea, since current access to resupply may be limited. Having a “blend” of firearms that can ‘”eat” between them a variety of ammo types could be very useful. This is counter to the current trend for “standardization” but then much of current conventional wisdom is based on a foundation of combined arms combat with a HUGE logistical tail.(something that won’t be available to us)…That said I opt for .308….Thanks for the fine article.

    • I completely agree, and have an M4, AKMS, and my M1A’s for that very reason. They are the “go to” choices from a logistics standpoint for detachable mag semi auto’s, and have some of the better attributes of their type (AKMS is very compact, M4, compact, accurate, and the issue rifle in mil service, and the M1A is still in service, and I have a compact as well as long range version of that system). Since bugging out should be your last option The “C” or the “E” in the PACE plan), I believe prepping your “Bug in” location with these options just makes sense, as long as you’re not going too overboard.


    “If everyone else in the team or squad carries two mags for the .308 guys…”

    You had me until that line!

    • I’m curious. Are you laughing because those you’d be with are too lazy or out of shape to carry ammo for a heavy gun? Is it due to the reality of the people that you’ve seen are to out of shape to carry their own gear, let alone someone else’s? Or is it because you don’t see a need for others in a team to carry ammo for a heavier gun or guns?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s