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.338 Lapua Magnum vs .338 Win Mag

Updated on June 8, 2015

.338 Win Mag

This blog is dedicated to everyone except haters.

I am growing bored with standard assault rifle ammunition. It may be the cheapest and most efficient method money can buy, the cream of all things wonderful about ammunition as astronomers are to the Milky Way. And the great and lovely grandson of the formidable battle rifle ammo. But we've had enough now, thank you very much.

When Winchester Repeating Arms announced to the world in 1958 that they'd make a shorter and cheaper version of the insanely powerful .375 H&H Magnum, people thought that they'd make a bullet for all; the ultimate rifle round. And bullet for all, it is. It seems that Winchester really was endeavoring to provide a better bullet for every single one of the world's hunters and guides. In fact, it's so successful that today, it's now the first choice for professional Grizzly and Brown Bear hunting guides in Alaska when massive stopping power was required to stop a charging bear. And you probably already know that Alaska has a large population of bears. Another thing is that bears can charge about 100 feet in a second. At least, what I've heard and read.

Did you know? The .338 Win Mag has the same case length as the delightful .30-06, except, with a larger 8.6mm bullet instead of the 7.62. And even the popular Browning BAR was rechambered from .30-06 to this.

This round is also the first choice for medium bore guns in all of North America. Although, the cartridge was originally intended for big game hunting in Africa. When Winchester made this bullet, it's sort of something like painting bison or rhinos on the side of your cave one day and the next day, you're talking on the phone with your wife on the other end, listening to the radio and have already had 5 large game kills from half a mile away. This bullet was practically a God send.

And all that was thanks to 3 gentlemen (Charles O’Neil, Elmer Keith and Don Hopkins) firing .333 ammunition in the late 1940's. It was given 3 bullet weights, 200 grains, 250 grains or 300 grains. As I've stated before, cartridge case is highly important to achieving high velocity but given the short ranges in hunting game, the 8.6mm bullet had massive instant energy only at close range. Highly effective, indeed. Just don't attempt a long-range precision shot. I reckon 800 yards is all you'd get from a 64mm case length and a 200 grain bullet.

The contestants

.338 Lapua (Left), .338 Winchester (Right)
.338 Lapua (Left), .338 Winchester (Right)

.338 Lapua Magnum

And now, we go to a bullet that has more power, more range, more accuracy yet contains the potency of achieving a one-shot-kill even through thick wool in the cold of winter. It was developed by Accuracy International for use exclusively for the Arctic Warfare Magnum. It was also developed for military, law enforcement and occasionally, civilian use. This bullet has proven itself a mighty foe in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan; a force to be reckoned with.

It is a dual-purpose, anti-personnel and anti-materiel bullet capable of penetrating old-fashioned, improvised or even better-than-standard body armor at ranges of 1 kilometer or more and has a maximum effective range of 1,750 meters. However, that was not the case as, just recently, a British sniper, Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison made a new record for the longest confirmed sniper kill in combat, at a range of, believe it or not, dear readers, 2,475 meters (2,707 yards)! That's about a mile and a half! And if you've been watching Future Weapons, you're probably familiar with the Barrett M99 and the Barrett .416 capable of reaching out to 2,500 meters. The .416 is the closest thing to come close and it has yet to prove itself at long range. The .338 Lapua Magnum, on the other hand, has already proven itself in 2009.

It has the same lethality as the .338 Win Mag and is now replacing the Win Mag but it's power against large game, such as Bison, Buffalo, Rhinos and Elephants is disputed. And although this round comes standard with 250 grain bullets, it sure has the power to go far beyond the Win Mag equivalent. And when I say farther, I mean about 1,000 meters or more farther.

You could argue that this was copied from Win Mag. It certainly seems that way. Same bullet diameter, different case lengths. As I've suspected in my last review about .30-06 vs .300, I do believe that powder propellant is the defining factor in the Lapua's success. The cartridge case is only 6mm shorter than the Lapua but the Lapua can reach out, spread it's legs and touch someone as far as the eye can see.

The Question

Make your choice.

See results

Versus......

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Don't stop me now

If you'd like, however, you could purchase 200 or 175 grain bullets for the Lapua. I'm just not sure if they'd have the same penetrating power as a 250 grain bullet. I'm sure the powder used was a special supersonic mix and the bullet designed from scratch to rip through the air with as little drag as possible with the least amount of effort thus capable of reaching out to it's legendary distances. In fact, the distances it's capable of reaching are astronomically, biblical.

So biblical, that I'm suspecting that Accuracy International isn't using gunpowder at all. Rather, forgive me for saying this as this may end up as a conspiracy theory, Accuracy International may well be using Aluminum Powder. And in case you're wondering why anyone would use that, I have a surprise for you, dear readers.

Not a single rocket or missile uses gunpowder. It's too weak, even if highly compressed, to propel the apparatus forward or upward. Aluminum powder, on the other hand, is so powerful, that two, side-placed solid fuel rockets can lift NASA's space orbiter up in space. Powdered Aluminum has an immense power to weight ratio that during launch, the two solid fuel rockets alone generate 17,000,000 pounds of thrust.

So, if you'd like to use supersonic or even, God forbid my crazy mind, hypersonic ammunition, use proper propellant powders like powdered Aluminum or even a plastic explosive like C-4. That ought to spice things up a bit, wouldn't you agree?

Because. Lapua Magnum.

The Chart

Brand
Weight
Energy
Velocity
Winchester
200 grains
3,866 ft·lbf (5,242 J)
2,950 ft/s (900 m/s)
Winchester
250 grains
3,914 ft·lbf (5,307 J)
2,655 ft/s (809 m/s)
Winchester
300 grains
3,962 ft·lbf (5,372 J)
2,360 ft/s (718 m/s)
Lapua
250 grains
4,893 ft·lbf (6,634 J)
3,000 ft/s (910 m/s)
General reference only

And again

.223, .308 and .338
.223, .308 and .338

Absolution

If you'd like to stop anything, and I mean anything with 4 legs or 2 legs at close ranges, then my advise would be to use the .338 Winchester Magnum. It's a quick choice, really.

If, however, you'd like the same power as the .338 Win Mag but want high velocity, precision shooting, you're better off with the newer .338 Lapua Magnum.

Oh, and if I were to choose? Well, it'd take the Lapua, of course.

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