Bushmaster .308 Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 14th, 2004




Bushmaster Firearms in Windham, Maine has become one of the premier builders of quality AR-15 type rifles in the world. Their rifles are relied upon by many law enforcement agencies along with thousands of private citizens to resolve social situations in which a dependable and accurate semi-automatic rifle is the preferred weapon. Also, many varmint hunters and target shooters use Bushmaster weapons to pursue their respective sports. I have found no semi-auto varmint rifle that will perform better than the Bushmaster Varminter, and there is not a week that goes by without me receiving email from Gunblast readers who concur with my findings.

While Bushmaster makes more .223/5.56mm AR type rifles for civilian sales than anyone else, they were slower to jump into the .308/7.62mm AR market than were some of their competitors. AR-10 type .308 rifles have been available for a few years from other AR builders, and we have tested a few of the better ones here. At the 2004 SHOT Show, Bushmaster unveiled their AR-10 type rifle, and I immediately started begging for one. Finally, a production gun arrived about three months later, and I have been shooting it off and on since that time.

Bushmaster's .308 is offered in several different configurations, the difference in which is barrel lengths, stock types, and sighting equipment. The one sent to me for evaluation is the A3 type, which has no sights, but is equipped with a Picatinny sight rail atop the upper receiver. The A3 wears a full buttstock with a trapdoor butt plate, and has a twenty-inch barrel with a muzzle brake that closely resembles that of the Soviet AK-74 rifle. I at first thought this to be an odd brake for an AR-10 type rifle, but after shooting the weapon, I can certainly understand why Bushmaster chose this brake design. It is very effective at taming the recoil and muzzle rise of the .308 cartridge.

The A3 weighs in at nine and three-quarters pounds with an empty magazine, and the overall length measures forty-two and three-quarters inches. The trigger pull on the A3 measured seven pounds and ten ounces. I would like to see the Bushmaster .308 offered with the excellent target trigger from the Varminter as an option. It would greatly improve the practical accuracy of the weapon from a benchrest.

The Bushmaster .308 differs from the typical AR in a few of its controls. While the forward assist and safety are normal AR type controls, the bolt release is at the bottom front of the trigger guard, and is ambidextrous, having a mirror-image release on each side. This is an excellent design for the bolt release, and it is easily reached with the trigger finger of either a right-handed or left-handed shooter. The magazine release is in the normal AR position, but also has an ambidextrous twin on the opposite side of the receiver. The upper and lower receivers are forged, and are well-fitted.  The twenty inch barrel has a twist rate of one turn in ten inches. The gas block has attachment rails machined into the top and sides to accommodate sights and accessories.

One of the best features of the Bushmaster .308 is its magazine. Unlike most of their competition, Bushmaster is supplying its rifles with twenty-round magazines. They are able to do this because they designed the rifle to use the readily available, cheap, and reliable surplus FAL rifle magazines. Since our US Congress banned the manufacture of magazines with a capacity greater than ten rounds for use by anyone but the military and law enforcement, manufacturers of AR-10 type rifles have been shipping their rifles with modified twenty-round magazines, or with magazines of ten-round capacity.  Bushmaster chose to use the cheap and plentiful, but really durable, FAL mags, and the Bushmaster .308 can use either the metric or inch pattern magazines interchangeably. I have seen these magazine available at gun shows for less than seven bucks each! The engineer at Bushmaster who had this idea deserves a big hug and a bonus.  Even when our elected representatives to Congress try to give us the shaft, it is good that somewhere, like in Windham, Maine, American ingenuity prevails.

Shooting the Bushmaster .308 proved to be a pleasure. The weight of the rifle, the straight stock, and the excellent muzzle brake worked together to make the felt recoil very mild. The rifle was function tested with several different brands of ammunition, both military surplus and civilian. There were no failures to feed, fire, or eject any type of ammo tested. For accuracy testing, I mounted a Pentax six to twenty-four power target scope using a one-piece ArmaLite mount. The best accuracy was achieved with two different types of Winchester ammunition. The 168-grain hollowpoint boattail match ammunition proved to be capable of grouping into less than five-eighths of an inch at one hundred yards, and this was with a gusty crosswind at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico. The 168-grain Winchester Ballistic Silvertip hunting ammo did almost as well under the same shooting conditions.  With calmer winds and a lighter trigger, I know that I could have done better on my part, but the rifle still turned in an excellent performance.

For those in the market for an AR-10 type rifle chambered for the .308/7.62mm cartridge, I suggest that you have a look at the Bushmaster. It is reliable and accurate, and has the unique advantage of using the abundant supply of good, cheap, twenty-round magazines that are readily available.

Check out the Bushmaster .308 and other Bushmaster products online at:  www.bushmaster.com.

Jeff Quinn


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to:


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Author tests the Bushmaster .308 from the bench.



Ambidextrous magazine and bolt release are welcome features to a Southpaw such as Jeff.



Controls of the Bushmaster .308 will be familiar to shooters of AR-style rifles. Top-bottom: safety, brass deflector & dust cover, forward assist.



The Bushmaster .308 features an AK-style muzzle brake.



Gas block has rails for attaching accessories.



The Bushmaster .308's action features a rotating bolt head.



One of Jeff's favorite features of the Bushmaster .308 is its ability to use reliable, cheap and plentiful FAL magazines.



Winchester's 168-grain hollowpoint boattail match and 168-grain Ballistic Silvertip ammo proved to be the most accurate factory ammunition tested in Jeff's rifle.



While the folks at Bushmaster were not the first on the market with an AR-style .308, the well-designed, accurate and reliable Bushmaster .308 has proven to be worth the wait.