22-250 vs 308: What Are the Differences?

A question faced by many hunters looking to purchase a rifle in a different caliber is, does one look for a caliber that is versatile or one which is designed to perform a specific function?

There are many advantages to choosing a caliber solely on versatility or choosing one to perform a specific function and this is the joy of having a variety of choices in rifle calibers.

Two calibers that offer such a choice are the .22-250 and the .308 calibers. The .308 well known for its versatility and the .22-250 holding the crown as the varmint specialist. 

Yet, what makes a caliber be classified as versatile and the other deemed to be a single-purpose caliber?

The .22-250

The .22-250 has earned the reputation as the go-to caliber for hunting varmints and for good reason.

An extremely quick bullet with good velocity out to distances of 200-yards while still holding its energy and trajectory is why this caliber is popular amongst those hunters who prefer to target the problematic and pesky critters.

One aspect of a varmint hunting rifle is that a hunter will invariably go through a lot of rounds of ammo from ensuring your groups are tight at various distances, to firing on the many different varmint species and this is especially true for those targeting groundhogs, feral hogs, coyotes, bobcats and rabbits. 

For a long time and even when compared to similar calibers such as the early Swift .220, those who have done more than their fair share of varmint hunting, praise the .22-250 for being a “little softer” on the barrel of a rifle, meaning you can put more rounds through the firearm before having to change out the barrel.

Let’s analyze the finer details of the .22-250 by looking at its ballistics.

Specifications

  • Bullet Diameter: 0.224 in (5.7 mm)
  • Neck Diameter: 0.254 in (6.5 mm)
  • Shoulder Diameter: 0.414 in (10.5 mm)
  • Base Diameter: 0.470 in (11.9 mm)
  • Case Length: 1.912 in (48.6 mm)
  • Overall Length: 2.35 in (60 mm)
  • Maximum Pressure (C.I.P): 4050 bar

Ballistics – From Three Recommended Hunting Brands

Velocity (Feet Per Second)

AmmoMuzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds
Hornady 35 Gr. Superformance4450370930802532
Federal 43 Gr. Speer TNT4000325226182065
Norma Oryx Remington 55 Gr. 360925402091

Energy (Ft. Pounds)

AmmoMuzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds
Hornady 35 Gr. Superformance15391069737498
Federal 43 Gr. Speer TNT15281010654407
Norma Oryx Remington 55 Gr.1591788534

Trajectory (Bullet Drop in Inches)

AmmoMuzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds
Hornady 35 Gr. Superformance-1.50.50-4.2
Federal 43 Gr. Speer TNT-0.40-1.8-8.9
Norma Oryx Remington 55 Gr.-0.60-1.1-8.0

The .308

If versatility is what you desire in your hunting adventures, then the .308 trumps most calibers in that regard. Popular amongst most North American hunters that look to target a variety of animals from coyotes and whitetails up to bears and elk, the .308 has come up against them all and won.

The history of the .308 and how it came to being is a testament to how versatile this caliber is, and the options it provides the average hunter. It’s safe to say there isn’t a hunter out there that does not own a .308 or at least fired one at some point because they are popular and readily available.

Weights for the .308 generally range from 150-grains to 180-grains and packs a hefty muzzle velocity of between 2,800 feet per second and 2,500 feet per second.  

Specifications

  • Bullet Diameter: 0.308 in (7.8 mm)
  • Neck Diameter: 0.300 in (7.6 mm)
  • Shoulder Diameter: 0.4539 in (11.53 mm)
  • Base Diameter: 0.4709 in (11.96 mm)
  • Case Length: 2.015 in (51.2 mm)
  • Overall Length: 2.800 in (71.1 mm)
  • Maximum Pressure (C.I.P): 60,191 psi

Ballistics – From Three Recommended Hunting Brands

Velocity (Feet Per Second)

AmmoMuzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds
Hornady 178 Gr. Precision Hunter2700251123302156
Barnes 168 Gr. VOR-TX2890265824392229
Federal 175 Gr. Gold Medal BTHP2700250323142133

Energy (Ft. Pounds)

AmmoMuzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds
Hornady 178 Gr. Precision Hunter2720235220251734
Barnes 168 Gr. VOR-TX2782235419811655
Federal 175 Gr. Gold Medal BTHP2719233619971697

Trajectory (Bullet Drop in Inches)

AmmoMuzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds
Hornady 178 Gr. Precision Hunter-1.520-8.4
Barnes 168 Gr. VOR-TX-0.570-3.4-12.8
Federal 175 Gr. Gold Medal BTHP-1.520-8.5

Direct Comparison

Head-to-head there are many differences and similarities that can be drawn between the calibers. 

The first thing that they have in common is their solid history and reputation built on performance and success. The .308 has earned its stripes in the world of big game hunting and the .22-250 being the problem solver for many ranchers having to deal with unruly animals.

Velocity really matters when it comes to calibers and the .22-250 has a ton of it. When compared with the .308 it is obvious that there is almost no competition and the .22-250 outpaces it every time.

The fact that the .22-250 is so fast, touches on the answer of choosing a caliber specific to one purpose. With smaller varmints generally being nervous twitchy animals and having a small kill zone, the bullet needs to move quickly with very little deviation, and the high velocity assists in achieving that.

Speed may win races but in order to hunt effectively you need power and this is where the .308 outperforms the .22-250.

A coyote standing at 300-yards and a bull elk standing at 300-yards may be within reach of both calibers but when that bullet arrives and how it performs in relation to each of those animals is very different.

The .308 is knocking both animals down 100% of the time, but it would be a big ask for the .22-250 to kill a mature bull elk at 300-yards. The .22-250 lacks sufficient energy at long distances to declare it a versatile caliber in the hunting of small and big game animals.

Trajectory is an interesting one, because the .22-250 holds it relatively well at 300-yards when looking at it on a piece of paper.

Apply those four-to-eight-inch drops onto a coyote, bobcat or groundhog and you are looking at the difference between a kill or a wounding. Yet the .308’s drop may be a little more forgiving when placed onto large game such as elk, moose, bear or mule deer.

Conclusion

If the overall objective is to fill your freezer every hunting season and take out pesky critters if the opportunity presents itself, then the .308 is the caliber for you. The versatility is there to be enjoyed.

If you are dedicated to bringing down the numbers of fawn killers and crop destroyers in your area and focus on nothing else, then the .22-250 is without a doubt the option for you but be prepared to pass on those larger animals and be cautious of distance.

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