When it comes to the scholarly debate about the iconic rifle cartridges of the Cold War, the 7.62x51mm NATO (308 Winchester) and the 7.62x39 Soviet are always omnipresent in the discussion. One became a staple NATO round and the most prevalent big game hunting cartridge in North America, while the other became a symbol of pure, unadulterated ruggedness and dependability.
Both are excellent cartridges and will serve you faithfully, but which is the better choice will depend mostly on your intended purpose.
The 7.62x39 is a Russian designed cartridge that is most famously chambered in the AK-47. Having seen conflict on multiple continents, the 7.62x39 has cemented its legacy as one of the most innovative intermediate rifle cartridges of the 20th century. It is extremely popular today in the AK-47 and SKS platforms and has seen some integration into the AR-15 as well. Hunting with 7.62x39 has become more popular as well since the terminal ballistics of the round are similar to that of the 30-30.
The 308 Winchester is America’s 30-caliber cartridge. Developed after the Korean War, the 308 Win draws its lineage from the 30-06 Springfield that carried us through two World Wars and Korea. Although the 308 Winchester closely mimics the ballistics of the 30-06, it was quickly discovered that the 308 was too big for a frontline battle cartridge and was eventually replaced by the 223 Remington/5.56 NATO. However, the 308 still remains one of the quintessential long range cartridges and has won multiple shooting matches and is one of the most versatile hunting cartridges available on the market today.