The Citizen Unconventional Rifle Squad: Arming with .308?

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    • #109691


        I know, you saw .308 and you were reflexively going to scroll all the way down to comments without reading the article? I hope I’m wrong….I know it only applies to some…

        This is going to be a hard article to write, because there are nuances to it. This is not intended to be the 5.56/.308 endless debate. However, there is so much invested in that debate, and so much prejudice, that it is going to be hard to do what I am going to try and do, which is move beyond that and talk about the subject at hand, which is arming the citizen unconventional rifle squad, and potential options and considerations.


        One of the stated purposes of MVT is to bring tactical excellence and discussion. Here we go.

        Let’s start with where I am coming from (premises) with this:

        1) I am a fan of 5.56. I am far from being a hater of the 556.

        2) I am looking at potential options for arming the citizen unconventional rifle squad, which is without support weapons. If the balloon went up tomorrow, you will be without support weapons. Tongue in cheek, if the Chinese started parachuting in around your town tonight, you are going to be without support weapons until you can acquire some.

        3) This is for a trained citizen infantry squad who has worked hard on tactical fitness and tactical training. This is for the sorts who can pass the MVT Rifleman Challenge and achieve a better standard of training. These are not entry level suggestions. In my mind, it is your duty as a citizen to be tactically fit and capable in order to operate as part of a rifle squad if the need ever arises.

        4) The nature of this post means that it will drag out every ‘retreat sniper’ there is who is sure he will kill everyone with his .308 at 1100 yards. I call BS. I grind my teeth in frustration when I hear that the .308 will “turn cover into concealment.” Yes, this will be discussed below, and is part of the argument, but this usually comes from types who can’t even maneuver their torpid corpse around a training area, so they have more to worry about than what caliber they have. Better yet: carry something you can carry, and do some more PT.

        So frankly, don’t come to me with caliber BS if you can’t even make a basic infantry standard of shoot, move and communicate.

        I have written these posts which act as a good background to this:

        The Flank

        More on the Squad and the Assault Cycle

        The Squad: Size and Organization

        Rhodesian Cover Shooting (The Drake Method)

        So let’s take a look at this. First, some thoughts on the 5.56 and .308/7.62 x 51 calibers (not an exhaustive list):

        Note: this post is about semi-automatic magazine-fed battle rifles firing this ammunition, not bolt-action rifles or specialist ammo. We are talking the use of standard ammunition types.



        – Ease of use.

        – Lighter ammo leading to greater ammo carriage capacity.

        – Low recoil. As part of ease of use, this allows the training of smaller body types, including smaller women and teenagers, without inducing fear of recoil.

        – Lower rifle weights allow ease of target acquisition. Those less fit/strong can carry these rifles for longer and remain alert.

        – Lower recoil allows fast shot groups and follow up shots. Rounds on target fast.

        – Availability of ammo and pick-up weapons in the same caliber.

        – Flatter trajectory out to range.


        – Less force on target at range.

        – Increased effects of wind at range.

        – Less penetration of cover at both at close and longer ranges.

        – The ease of use of this rifle is also a disadvantage in term of the ‘pew-pew’ factor and square range craziness. A lot of that craziness would not happen if shooters had to grow up and shoot like an adult, dealing with recoil. The lack of recoil can also lead to bad habits which become apparent when shooters move to a heavier caliber.

        .308/7.62 NATO


        – Better force on target at range.

        – Less wind effect at range.

        – Better penetrating power/effect on cover. If you have seen 7.62 x 51 fired from a machine-gun chew up an enemy position, you will appreciate what I am saying.

        – Use during the ‘cover shoot/drake method.’ This drill involves putting rounds to the left, center and right of cover, in order to kill potential enemy hidden behind. A standard 2 magazines (40 rounds) would be expended as an initial RTR drill using this methodology. .308 is far more effective at this technique, and the Rhodesians used the 7.62 FN FAL to great effect at this.

        – Better accuracy as a designated marksman (DM) rifle in the right hands. (Despite what some shooters are doing with 5.56 at Camp Perry using bolt action rifles…..).

        – The ‘bigger bang’ factor. If you read Grossman ‘On Combat’ he talks about this as a factor. It is psychological factor of your weapon having a bigger bang and harder hit, perhaps at longer range, than those going pew-pew with their 5.56. However, that is negated if you don’t have the skill or tactical acumen, where any number of competent fighters with 5.56 will roll you up and shoot you in the face.


        – More drop at range – less flat trajectory. This is really just a factor with little relevance, you simply account for this as a shooter. It is easier to deal with drop than wind effects.

        – Heavier rifle and ammunition. I don’t necessarily see this as a problem – if I have to carry a heavier weapon system to be more effective I will. For example, just look at a 240 gunner! Also, something like an AR10 or SCAR does not have to be THAT heavy. However, it does have an effect with smaller shooters, or those whose PT is lacking. .

        – Recoil – making it harder for smaller and less competent people to shoot accurately, and harder to get rapid follow up shots. More skill required. The .308 is definitely not a caliber to start new trainees on.

        – Cost of ammo for training.

        On reflection, to simplify, it would seem that using .308 you are getting better accuracy and effective range in the hands of a competent shooter, and more hitting power at both short and long range, balanced against the need to more competent shooting skills, heavier ammo, and a more unwieldy rifle. Less pew-pew factor.


        This is where we get to what my real point is. From looking at the above it is obvious that equipping your rifle squad with .308 is probably not an entry level option. It is easier and cheaper to equip people with 5.56 and this leads to good inter-operability solutions. It is easier to train everyone in the use of 5.56. In fact, I would never say don’t have 5.56. It is clearly a first step and something you want available for operational needs. One of the useful things about the AR15/AR10 family is that muscle memory learned on one applies across to the other. Also, taco pouches will fit either 5.56 or .308 magazines, so there is no need to change your battle belt over. With some chest rigs, you need to have one for each caliber. Have your rigs pre-loaded and ready to go for each rifle type.

        The idea of a .308 equipped rifle squad is in my mind something to be considered if that squad has reached a level of training competency where they can effectively employ the weapon system. I am a little loathe to consider equipping (for example) only one of your teams within the squad with .308 and the rest with 5.56, because I feel that your teams , as per the assault cycle in the linked posts above, must be able to fulfill any role, from SBF to assault. They need to be able to rotate through. You don’t necessarily decide which team gets engaged and which one will assault. However, despite that, having a dedicated support fire team is something that could be considered.

        But let’s not get stuck on the long range argument with .308. With the cover shooting method and reaction to contact, in any environment where there may be trees or walls that need shooting through, it is a good idea to be armed with .308. That’s not to say 5.56 won’t get the job done, but .308 has that definite 7.62 capability. So to say: it’s not all about range with .308, it is also about short range hitting power. The Ranger battalions are going to the SCAR in 7.62m in various versions from CQC short barrel, medium battle rifle, to sniper support rifle, and they are having good results.

        Because remember, part of the point here is that you don’t have support weapons. You don’t have a medium machine gun that bolsters the limited range and effect of your 5.56 M4. Part of the designated marksman (DM) thing is that barely anyone can actually shoot anymore. The DM is just at the level of an old school rifleman. Really, everyone in your squad should be at DM level, and armed with .308 you can generate some devastating fire.

        You have to consider that the rifle is not too specialized into the DM role, if you do indeed have a whole squad equipped in .308. It has to be a battle rifle with a magnified optic that can still acquire and switch targets rapidly at closer ranges. A x4 ACOG would be ideal.

        If you have rifles with better range, hitting power and accuracy, theoretically you can reach out and touch people who cannot do the same to you, if the terrain allows you the range to do so. A lot of this however hinges on competency. A more competent squad with 5.56 will beat a less competent one armed with .308. So competency is the key. Competence with the rifle and good tactical sense. Because much of the argument that 5.56 is as good a round as .308 at range is moot given that the competence of those employing it is lacking. They are not going to shoot it effectively, and thus they will not reach you at range. The poor military marksmanship standards as they currently are require employment of DM’s and support weapons to effectively reach out and touch the enemy. As a civilian unconventional squad you don’t have that luxury, and have to go back to the days of rapid firing accurate riflemen. When the Germans were battling the BEF (The Old Contemptibles) on the retreat to Dunkirk at the opening of the First World War, they thought they were up against machine-gun battalions, so accurate, rapid and withering was the fire from the old British .303 Lee Enfield rifles.

        However, another consideration is that an unconventional squad, lacking support weapons and the ability to call for fire, will have to consider keeping the enemy close while engaged, before bugging out (tactical fitness and a realistic combat load being important for the latter). You may be able to reach out and hit perhaps Russians carrying 5.45, Chinese with whatever 5.something they have right now, or police state tyranny run amok carrying 5.56, but if they are hammering you at range with .50 cal, 7.62 belt feds, and 40mm auto grenade launchers, it’s a moot point, right? However, this is where use of ground, cover and concealment, and good old infantry skills comes into play, to make the hit and bug out before air assets are called.

        If you are not facing first world equipped military/paramilitary police units, you may be facing gangs of criminals or looters. Your use of withering accurate fire at maximum stand-off possible will certainly add to the defense of your property. However, you still have to be able to make fast hits at close ranges, given that most engagement ranges tend to be at less than 100 meters, unless you can set it up where you have stand-off. But let’s not be wimps – soldiers have fought carrying 7.62 for the longest time. It’s not that it can’t be done, right?

        There is certainly an argument for at minimum the employment of a DM group in .308. This is a more flexible option because it allows the carriage of 5.56 in a perhaps less well trained and less fit rifle squad, supported by a couple of competent guys who fulfill the DM role. As I wrote in the post linked above ‘The Flank‘ it is useful if the squad or platoon leader has a small group, which can either  be a machine-gun team or DM team, that he can use to influence the battle with some serious support by fire.

        It is telling that on my ranges, I prefer students to use 5.56 because it simply does less damage to my target pits, and cuts less dirt off the lips of the hole, with less potential damage to the expensive electronic pop-ups in the holes. Training is cheaper with 5.56 anyway, and it is not as if you are not going to have a 5.56 rifle – you need the option for both. If you can master the AR15, then consider getting an AR10 or similar .308 rifle.

        rifleman patch single

        With the MVT Rifleman Challenge I am attempting to give the incentive and means for armed civilians to improve as rifleman. No, by rifleman I don’t mean competent long range static shooters, although that is a primary core skill. I mean well rounded infantrymen. That is what the term rifleman applies to. It is a totality of competence.

        Vanguard Patch

        As a civilian you have the opportunity, with training that is available, to become a highly competent unconventional rifleman.  For those that can gain the required tactical ability and physical fitness and form competent squads, there is a definite consideration for the employment of .308 rifles throughout the squad.

        In conclusion, this post has not been about bashing 5.56 or reopening the old caliber debate. The purpose has been to consider the potential enhancement to a ‘graduate level’ civilian unconventional rifle squad, of arming them with .308 rifles. This is not to hide behind phony arguments about superior caliber, or contemplate death on your porch clutching your .308 rifle, but to take a team that has already checked the boxes of tactical fitness and tactical training, and can ‘graduate’ to a heavier weapon system, that may in the end give them more punch.

        Comments may well be fun….;-)


      • #109692

          This is a good time to bump this very well thought out response in the old 556/308 debate given the MK27 debate on the marines ditching the belt feds.

        • #109693

            I don’t have the tactical experience to have an opinion that would count on the issue, but from a “how good am I with it” perspective I can attest that I can hit the man sized plate at 500 yards on my farm more consistently with my G3 than with my AR. However, if I run a couple hundred yards with my gear the hit ratio reverses. So all things being equal, for me it would sound like the assault team ought to be on 5.56 and fire support on .308? I know it sounds bad, but is it really so bad to have two different weapons platforms if they are specifically chosen to fulfill two different tasks? It seems that it’s better to use a hammer to drive nails and a screwdriver to drive screws rather than use the hammer do drive nails and screws.

            FWIW YMMV

          • #109694

              It makes a difference if your assault team is not. A squad has to be versatile to tasks in terms of the assault cycle. On patrol, you cannot always determine what role will be filled.

              Not that you couldn’t assault with .308, my point was that it is a ‘graduate level’ option if you had the PT for it.

              I generally believe that with the bubble of influence of a single squad, you are better off in general with 5.56. We are talking 300 meters to no more than 600 meters.

              If you have specific circumstances then maybe .308 is better, but I often think that many push themselves into these circumstances due to the eternally held ‘sniper’ fantasy. Yes, you may live in an area of open ground, but how true is that if you tactically use the woods / vegetation and the terrain? Static S&O position covering open approaches to a defended location situated on open terrain? Then maybe a precision rifle of whatever suitable caliber is better.

              I think that .308, if used at all and it does not have to be, is probably best in a specialized section such as an MSG.

            • #109695

                Agreeing with Max, there’s also something to be said for “being capable” of fighting with a 308 loadout vs “excelling” while fighting with a 308 loadout. What I’m trying to say is, a heavier load will always slow you down and it’s perceived benefit better be greater than the penalty it’s going to have on your mobility. Mobility/load requirements will obviously be situation dependent.

                There’s also the factor of your fitness level vs unit fitness level. If you’re the stud of your team, fitness-wise, a 308 loadout might leave your performance on par with the rest of your team.

                No one wants to be the guy holding their team back.

                EDIT: I got the chance to handle an AR10 the other day, and it’s really not that bad at all.

              • #109696

                  Quick question max? What would you consider acceptable accuracy from a 308 platform. The Rhodesian’s used the venerable fal with open sights and had great success. I have owned many fal’s and the best accuracy I have seen them produce is around the 2-3moa at a 100m. There are more accurate in the ar10. Most run of the mill AR-15 I have seen are around 1.5-2moa. Should accuracy be another factor to consider besides just weight, energy etc?

                • #109697

                    Not answering the question for Max.

                    2 MOA will open out to 10 inches at 500 yds. A man is 19 inches at shoulders. Is that accurate enough?

                    HEAT 1(CTT) X 3
                    HEAT 2 (CP) X1
                    FOF X3
                    OPFOR X2
                    CLC X2

                  • #109698

                      EDIT: I got the chance to handle an AR10 the other day, and it’s really not that bad at all.

                      I asked a local gun shop what I could get for a Springfield M1A and he gave a number a lot less then I paid. He explained the lower price due to the proliferation of AR10’s.

                    • #109699

                        ohh that is a great thread

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