From a hunting perspective, this is completely silly, but after I wrote my original article on 338 Lapua, I had multiple people contact me and ask that magical question, “what if you go bigger?”. Well, 50 BMG is about as big as you’re going to get, and while 338 Lapua is capable of taking all North American game animals at well beyond practical distances, the 50 does it bigger and better. It’s also a lot of fun to compare ballistics of the big 50 BMG to the smaller but still pretty big, 338 LM.
338 Lapua vs 50 BMG: Ballistics & Distance
Ballistics-wise, 50 BMG and 338 Lapua are somewhat similar, at least at sane ranges. Where they differ greatly is in 50 BMG’s much bigger, much heavier bullet’s ability to carry killing power far beyond the capabilities of the 338 Lapua. While the Lapua can only kill a deer at up to 1,800 yards, the mighty 50 BMG can do the same task at 3,300 yards. With a hilariously long flight time of 7 seconds, this is getting closer to field artillery skill than it is marksmanship.
338 Lapua Cost
Here’s where your wallet is really going to hurt. Neither of these platforms are particularly easy on the hunter on a budget. 338 Lapua rifles average around $2,000, but for that price you get a very ergonomic, accurate setup. With 47 ft-lbs of recoil, muzzle brakes are of course mandatory. Most 338 Lapua’s weigh in around 10 lbs, not too bad. Ammo cost is pretty horrific; unless you reload, you’re going to be looking at about $5 per round. Again, that $5 per round cost does come with some pretty high quality components. No core-lokt components here.
50 BMG Cost
Were those prices above hurtful? Wait till you get a load of 50 BMG costs. Remember the $5/round? Well, for 50 BMG, you’re looking at $11-$16/round for military surplus ammo. Not match ammo. If you’re looking at doing match ammo, you could be paying $5/round just for the bullet, nevermind the powder, primer, brass and other components. That all said, there are deals out there. TSE, for example, has 50 BMG ammo from PMC for the low low price of $5-$6, depending how much you buy. The rifles are also in a league of their own. A basic model like the CS-50 will run you just under $3000. A more advanced model will be higher. ATRS is a bit of a 50 BMG specialist, so if you’re in Canada, they’re your best option.
Hunting with 338 Lapua or 50 BMG
Hunting with the 338 Lapua is a lot more of a pain in the butt than with a regular rifle. The rifle is heavier, you can’t carry nearly the same amount of ammo in your pocket, and making standing shots is almost out of the question. However, I found packing around the Savage 111 LRH in 338LM to be fine. The long barrel tended to snag on a lot of things and cause the rifle to want to spin barrel down when in a sling, but otherwise I had no complaints. A rifle sporting 50 BMG is a bit of a different beast. While that Savage is 9 lbs, a simple 50 BMG like the CS-50 is just under 27 lbs. That makes handling around quads quite challenging, and long hikes could get painful. Hunting with either the 338 LM or 50 BMG requires robust hearing protection, and your hunting buddies will not want to hunt anywhere near you because of the fearsome blast. Firing while prone in snow or dust can cause a big cloud from the muzzle blast to obstruct your view (depending on the construction of your muzzlebrake.) All in all, hunting with either of these cartridges is a total pain in the ass compared to using tamer calibers.
- Reloading for the 338 Lapua
- 338 Lapua vs 338-378 Weatherby
- 338 Lapua vs 338 Win Mag
- 338 Lapua vs 300 Win Mag