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Thread: .308 vs 6.5 for a general purpose lightweight rifle

  1. #1
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    .308 vs 6.5 for a general purpose lightweight rifle

    Looking to add a lighter hunting rifle, and discuss options with folks who have done similar. I will be adding this rifle to my existing heavier modified R700 factory rifle (it's an SPS left hand varmint in .308, sitting in a Manners T2A stock, 24" varmint factory barrel, Timney trigger). There would be *some* value in keeping same caliber for both rifles, but I'm open to upgrading to a lighter recoiling and flatter shooting option like 6.5 Creedmoor if there's a strong reason to. In my case, I don't see a strong reason to change from .308. I'm a minimalist and have pared down my bolt action rifles to only the 1 heavy R700, but want to add only one more, this lighter general purpose rifle that I can use for hunting, range plinking out to 600, or anything else. I live in Washington state, but am not a 'long range' hunter, and not interested in ever trying to take hunting shots beyond a max of 600 yards. If I ever did get interested in that, I'd upgrade to a better and more specialized caliber like 7mm Rem Mag or 300WM. Given my existing rifle is in .308, I don't handload right now and .308 availability is the best it's ever been, and that my use case is just a general purpose rifle within 600 yards, staying with .308 makes a lot of sense to me. The .308 has so much versatility letting you hunt anything from varmints with 110gr loads, all the way to 'big game' loads or even long range hunting using heavy loads like the Berger Juggernaut. That caliber versatility seems to fit well with a general purpose rifle.

    Here are the basic specs on this lightweight GP rifle:
    * Tikka T3x lite stainless lefthand in .308. I would like to keep the max total weight of the rifle (unloaded and unscoped) in the range of 6.5 - 7 pounds. With a light variable scope and mounts, and a 5rd loaded Magpul AICS mag, this should add in the range of 1.5 -2 pounds more, for a max total of 9 pounds.
    * Mark @ Short Action Customs is going to do 2 basic mods: cut barrel to 20" and fit an APA brake, and fit the factory stock for CDI bottom metal so I can run AICS mags. Yeah the brake makes for louder shooting, but I wear ear pro regardless, and have no plans to run a can on this rifle in order to minimize weight, cost, and ease of handling. So the brake is best option I can see to tame .308 recoil in a lighter rifle. APA believes their brake can prob reduce recoil 45-50% in a light .308 rifle.
    * Lightweight mounts (probably Talley) and a lower power illuminated optic, prob 1-6x or 1-8x, or 2.5-10x.

    A few questions:
    * Does the reasoning on sticking with .308 make sense? Are there other reasons I should considering changing to a lighter recoiling caliber like 6.5 Creedmor?
    * Does modding the Lite's factory stock to add AICS bottom metal make sense? CDI precision guy confirms it works fine and he has fit a lot of them. Yes, if there were a readily available aftermarket synthetic lefthand stock for the Tikka T3x that could be fit for CDI DBM, and would keep the weight down, I'd consider it. But all affordable aftermarket lighter synthetic stocks I found, like Hogue or Bell & Carlson, are right hand only offerings. KRG Bravo is a newer interesting option, but again RH only. You can go to a light chassis like MDT LSS that has lefthand options, but there, your chassis will inevitably be heavier and push beyond the weight boundaries by the time you add all the required pieces.
    * For optics: thoughts on best optic magnification ranges. I'm thinking a lightweight illuminated variable, and in the range of 1-6x, 1-8x, or 2.5-10x? What I'm really wondering is, on a GP rifle like this designed to work within 600 yards, what is the optimal magnification range for the optic? I've considered splitting the difference and finding a good lightweight option in a 1x - 8x. But maybe the 10x pays off more with shot placement at distance. I do think the 1x also adds some value for close work including brush/woods hunting in the area I live. And finally, do I want to go with FFP or 2FP?
    Last edited by maximus83; 06-12-19 at 12:47.

  2. #2
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    .308/2.5-10X, FFP.

  3. #3
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    I hunt with a Rem 700 5R in 308 topped with a Nightforce NXS 3.5 x 15 and love it. It's heavy though. Since 91 or so I've hunted with a 7mm08 and love the round. I still hunt with it now but mostly the Rem 5r. The 7mm08 is a Win Extreme Weather and weighs about 6 1/2 lbs. It's topped with a Leupold VX5 3.5 x 15. As far as versatile optics are concerned I've about settled on the 3.5 x 15 range of magnification. This would easily cover all you need out to 600 yards easy. Deciding between the 308 or a 6.5mm CM is completely different. My son has a Bergara 6.5CM and it is a very nice shooting rifle. He and I were shooting steel out to 600 meters this past weekend and there is a definite recoil difference between his rifle and mine. The 6.5 has noticeably less recoil. In a lighter weight rifle that felt difference would be that much more. Regardless I like both rifles and to me if I were going with the Tikka T3x I'd get it in the 6.5CM. Yes at this point the 308 has more bullet options but as far as a general purpose big game rifle It would be the 6.5CM.
    ____________________________________
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  4. #4
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    Thanks, both responses are good and reflect my internal debate over .308 vs 6.5. :-)

  5. #5
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    In my opinion, FFP is great until you go under 6x. At that point it really sucks. There are exemptions to this however. I have a Primary Arms 1-8 FFP and when itís on 1x, the reticle looks like a dot with a circle around it. Itís very quick and effective at getting on target. I like the scope but only use it on 1x or 6x-8x.

    I have an older USO 1.8x - 10x FFP scope. I wish it was a SFP. Anything under 6x and I canít make the reticle out worth a crap.

    Another thing to consider is low light. The scopes that go down to 1x tend to have a small objective lens which isnít very good at gathering light. You have to really dial it down at dusk. The 42mm objective on my USO does a darned good job in low light.

    Lots of things to consider.

  6. #6
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    It's hard to make a "do all" rifle, although you can come close to getting what you want. Having had a few different set ups, some I wish I kept about, I offer my .02. Highlights

    I had an FN PBR DBM that SAC threaded and crowned, added a MRAD brake and ran an old school 3.5-10 Leupold M3-awesome, medium weight and ran it to 1k and hunted. Tad heavy for the latter.

    Tikka T3 Lite, cut barrel to 18" and ran in the MDT chassis and Vortex 2.5-10x44 PST--bottom line, I wish I kept this one.

    Tikka CTR in .260, removed barrel and sold to do a 6.5 and XLR chassis, ended up to heavy and sold it. I should've kept the standard weight barrel, regardless of caliber.

    Christensen Arms MPR, 16" .308-great little rifle, but to light of ended up removing any brake I tried and ran a standard birdcage. For what I wanted out of it, had to much money in it.

    What I have right now for a "do all" but not scoped Ruger Scout .308 synthetic. I just have a red dot on it. If I scoped it, would remove the rear sight and run a 1-6/8 SFP and not litter it with a rail and irons. The gun runs and is accurate.

    If I could only have one of the above, be a tuff toss between the Tikka T3 lite in the light chassis or the Ruger Scout. Money spent and value out/utility is very good in my opinion.
    Of course you can drop a crap of money on a custom gun, take pictures to make it look pretty and make venison cost $56. a pound and do it again to make it run 82 a pound.

    --I would leave the brake off if hunting and while I'm not your banker, get the Tikka. Decide on weight, Lite or the CTRx Low round count, I did not see the different in accuracy. Not a lot of recoil difference either, I vote for .308 as you can load that puppy to do most anything using H4895, especially reduced power loads for fun.
    Oh- Talley lightweight one piece, you don't "need" rings weighting 3 pounds and made of whatever. (for this type of rig anyhow)



    GET IN YOUR BUBBLE!

  7. #7
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    maximus83,
    You point out many of the same reasons I stick with 308. It's not that I am in denial for what the 6.5's have to offer, it's more a case of what they have to offer simply isn't significant enough to switch given factors that are relevant to me. Nothing wrong with the 308 and there are sill plenty of valid reasons for sticking with it.

    as for muzzle breaks and taming recoil... a 7 to 9 pound rifle is a VERY HEAVY rifle for taking to the field for hunting. If you have a good stock and pad and mount the rifle correctly, recoil is going to be very, very, very mild in that weight range. my two sense, you don't need the muzzle break to "tame the recoil". If you want one, want is sufficient reason to get one. But your aren't going to need one in my opinion.

  8. #8
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    A lot a good options these days. On optic, if you do 1-6 or 1-8 I prefer SFP, Higher mag go FFP. 308 or 6.5, I have both and like both. I used to prefer 308 because ammo availability, but that is no longer the case. Tikka makes great stuff. I wouldn’t bother to add a box mag to a hunting gun. I’d buy a Tikka and shoot it and see if anything needed fixed. You can always dump money into a gun to modify, and if it makes you happy, go for it.

    Keep us posted.

    PB
    "Air Force / Policeman / Fireman / Man of God / Friend of mine / R.I.P. Steve Lamy"

  9. #9
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    I still run .30-06 since it is the best all around sub magnum .30 cal hunting cartridge. In my estimation it's perfect for a lighter weight woods gun. Shooting relatively flat with 150gr loads while still being able to be worked up into the lower ranges of some of the magnum rounds while also having the ability to run 220gr for larger predator type game. I personally didn't care for certain reloading aspects that comes with running a belted magnum like .300 Win. I didn't care for the weight of the rifle necessary to offset the recoil of a .300 RUM even if compensated. I do like .308 but feel it's best in a semi-auto rifle. I don't really get into niche calibers so for me 6.5 Creedmoor would be a hard pass.
    Last edited by RetroRevolver77; 06-20-19 at 14:01.

  10. #10
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    So despite my original musing about .308, I decided to give 6.5 Creedmoor a try and picked up a lefthand T3X Lite stainless. Been curious about the 6.5 for a while and now's as good a chance as I'll get it to try it out with a quality rifle that's not crazy expensive. Tikka was an easy choice, I've owned first gen Tikka T3's before in .223 and .308, they were both excellent. Thing I love about Tikka rifles is they are nearly always g2g out of the box, you don't have to get one and immediately start upgrading triggers, stocks, etc., just to get to MOA. But I'll keep my R700 in .308 so I'll still have one rifle in each caliber.

    On customizing and specifically adding AICS compatible bottom metal, I hear ya PB--that's the wisest approach. Get it first and shoot it for a while. That's actually what I did with my R700 before I added the Manners stock, and glad I did. It saved me the expense and hassle of blueprinting/rebarreling, which it did NOT need, and let me focus on just mods I could do myself and added a lot to the rifle (Manners stock and DBM, plus a Timney trigger).

    Mark, thx for the pics and info on the MDT LSS. That seems like the most appealing option I've seen if I decide to upgrade to a chassis later. Interesting that they have a pretty good folding mechanism available for those stocks. Also I noticed the XLR Element chassis could be an option for LH Tikka rifles. And finally, I emailed with Grayboe stocks, apparently they're soon going to offer drop-in synthetic Tikka T3x stocks, including for lefties, with AICS bottom metal. So regardless, if I decided to upgrade to a chassis or synthetic stock after a while, there are good options available.

    Glass, haven't decided yet. For now, I have a 4-16x Vortex Viper to get by. Have more research to do, but yeah, seems like the consensus here and elsewhere is running mostly toward FFP.

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