The .308 Winchester -- aka: 7.62 NATO
.308 Winchester was introduced by Winchester (duh) in 1952 and within 5
years received a huge benefit by being adopted as the NATO-standard
rifle and light machine gun calibre. The other NATO countries were
looking at smaller calibres, but the USA was the "Big Dog In The Fight"
and insisted on a "full-power .30 calibre rifle cartridge." In about 10
years the USA would reconsider. The two cartridges are not 100%
identical but they are interchangeable -- at least that's what the
Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) says.
1957 onward the .308 has been as popular as almost all other cartridges
adopted by major militaries. That's a BIG boost in popularity.
.308 was developed as a cartridge that would work in rifles with
shorter actions than the usual .30-'06 rifles. For some reason this was
seen as desirable. It was desired to have .30-'06 performance (or
nearly so) out of a shorter cartridge case. The .308 case is 12 mm
(about one-half inch) shorter than the .30-'06. The .308 never matched
the old .30-'06 in power, but it did come close. How close is actually
rather surprising. It is a rimless, bottle-necked case loaded with
.308" diameter bullets.
It is a good hunting cartridge. With the
right bullet selection it can even be used for moose, though most
hunters think that it is a little light for that. It has been chambered
in just about every type of rifle in existence as well as many light
and medium machine guns. Winchester actually made a rimmed version of
the .308 loaded with flat-point bullets and called it the .307
Winchester for use in the Winchester model 94 lever-action rifle.
Ammunition is as plentiful as any, and there is still relatively cheap
military surplus ammo to be had.
If you are looking for a good all-around hunting cartridge there aren't many better than the .308 -- unless you live in Africa!