Analysis: .338 Lapua Magnum

Posted by David Henry on 2023 Jun 1st

Analysis: .338 Lapua Magnum

The .338 Lapua Magnum was developed in the 1980s as a high-power long-range cartridge for military snipers and saw a lot of use in the Global War On Terror. The .338 Lapua Mag intrigued me when I was younger due to its record-setting shots at long distances and my desire to hit targets at extreme ranges. Before we had the 300 PRC and the 300 Norma, the .338 Lapua Mag was a cartridge of choice. Let's look at the history and development of this unique cartridge.


Let's go back to 1983 when Research Armament Industries in the United States began developing a new long-range sniper cartridge capable of firing a 250-grain bullet at 3000 feet per second. They started with the 416 Rigby and necked it down to .338 so they could have all the case capacity needed to push that bullet at incredible speeds. The current .338 Lapua Magnum was developed in a joint venture between the Finnish rifle manufacturer SAKO, British manufacturer Accuracy International and the Finnish ammunition company Lapua. The .338 Lapua Magnum fills the gap between weapons chambered in standard military cartridges like 7.62x51 or .308 Winchester and the large, heavy rifles firing 50 BMG. The .338 Lapua Mag also offers exceptional barrel life, which is important to military snipers who tend to fire thousands of rounds a year. This was achieved by coupling a sensible case volume-to-bore area ratio with a simple space for loading relatively long slender projectiles that can provide good aerodynamic effect and external ballistic performance for the projectile diameter. Like other large magnum cartridges, the .338 Lapua has a stout recoil. Incorporating modern muzzle brakes helped to reduce the recoil problem, enabling the operator to fire more rounds before getting too uncomfortable to shoot accurately.


Photo courtesy of the Precision Rifle Blog.


Now let's jump to 2023-what's the .338 Lapua Magnum up to now? Due to its growing popularity, several high-end tactical manufacturers produce rifles for the civilian population. Many major manufacturers are building everything from lightweight hunting rifles to precision rifles. Suppose you happen to stop by your local Bass Pro Shop, Cabela's, or any other fine firearm retailer. In that case, you will likely see a few examples. There are even several companies that are outfitting them with some of the best chassis produced by MDT.

If you want to build a custom .338 Lapua Magnum, MDT has some great chassis options available. They build several long-action chassis, including the MDT ACC Premier, MDT TAC21, and the MDT ESS. Not only does MDT provide a great chassis for the Lapua Magnum, but they also offer box magazines so you can feed that beautiful custom beast you just built.

Savage Arms 110 Elite Precision chambered in .338 Lapua.

Savage Arms 110 Elite Precision chambered in .338 Lapua.

Next up, if you're not into building your own custom rifle, check out some of the factory selections from Weatherby, Christensen Arms, Ruger, Savage, and Beretta, to name a few. Several manufacturers out there build great factory rifles at a reasonable price for you to go to the range and make those ELR long-range hits. If you get a chance to throw your hands on the Savage Arms 110 Elite Precision, you'll notice that it's sitting in an ACC chassis by MDT. I think this is probably one of the best bargains you can buy in a .338 Lapua Magnum. With the ultimate adjustability of the ACC chassis and the ability to tune the balance with weights to help tame the recoil, this is a great way to jump into the LR game. OK, if you're not looking to spend that kind of money, they also offer one in the Savage 110 Precision with the great MDT LSS XL Chassis.

.338 Lapua Magnum


OK, enough about the rifles; let's talk about that cartridge. What is it capable of? How far can you shoot it? Is it an effective hunting round? What does this round mean in 2023? Well, as a long-range competitor, I think of it as an entry-level cartridge for ELR. Something you could go out and shoot a mile or a lightweight hunting rifle capable of taking the biggest game in North America or travel across the globe. The .338 Lapua Magnum is loaded by many factory ammunition companies, like Nosler, Berger, Hornady, Lapua, and Black Hills. The round is loaded with a variety of bullets, from ELD-X hunting bullets to ELD-M long-range match bullets. With weights ranging from 250 to 300 + grain bullets. It's a very impressive cartridge that can push a 300-grain match bullet over 2700 feet per second and even faster with some of the longer barrel rifles out there. It will allow you to reach out and touch targets at well over 2000 yards. If you want to extend your range, check out the .338 Lapua Magnum.



I have 20+ years in the automotive industry- first managing shops in the northwest for over 13 years and now as a factory rep for Hunter Engineering. I love my family, my faith, and my firearms. I've shot competitively in the PRS southwest region for two years. I also compete in long-range AR-15 competitions at least once a month and am an avid reloader. I have written for Ballistic Magazine's 'Ballistic Best' precision rifle edition for two years. My other hobbies include photography, videography, woodworking, and knife-making. You can find me on Instagram @davidinthesun


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