Just as a foreword: this is a totally bunk comparison. 300 Winchester magnum and 338 Lapua magnum are both more than capable of taking down any game animal in North America at most any distance you’ll see them at. I just thought it’d be fun to compare and contrast the two of them. And while both these cartridges are being tested by the US Military as a sniping round, I’m just comparing the two for hunting purposes below.
When you look at the two cartridges together, you think to yourself, “well that’s not that far off. Sure the 338 is just a tiny bit wider and the bullet is just a tiny bit bigger, but does that really make a lot of difference?” If you were to ask a deer shot at typical distances of 100-200 meters, the answer would be a definitive NO. But where that extra powder and weight come in handy is at extreme distances. Muzzle energy is usually measured in ft-lbs (even here in Canada), and a typical rule of thumb is that you should be hitting a deer with at least 1000 ft-lbs on impact. They’ll die with way less than that, and a heavier bullet will still over-penetrate, but a slow non-expanding bullets through the lungs is not going to mess them up like I’d want to and that might mean tracking a wounded deer into the bush. If you read bullet manufacturers manuals, most of them recommend more than 1000 fpe to reliably expand and do what they’re supposed to on game. So where does that leave our 338 Lapua and 300 Win Mag? If we use that 1000 ft-lbs of energy as our benchmark, a lowly 30-30 will still kill that deer dead out to 200 yards with most bullets. It’s 2200 ft-lbs at the muzzle isn’t much, but neither is 200 yards when you’re talking about long rang shooting. The 300 Winchester Magnum is in a class way above the 30-30, and with a 180 grn pill, will provide over 1000 ft-lbs of energy just up to 900 yards. The 338 Lapua kicks things up a notch. With 250 grain bullets, it’ll hit 1300 yards before crossing the 1000 ft-lb mark and with heavy 300 grain bullets, it’s good to 1600 yards. That’s totally ridiculous. Even with a super rifle capable of .5MOA, you’re talking about a grouping of 8″ at 1600 yards. That’s outside the 6″ vitals that you should be able to hit every time to make a clean kill. Heck, that rule of thumb gets passed at 1200 yards. With a more accurate rifle and a knowledgeable experienced shooter, even 1600 yards is doable.
They’ll both launch a bullet at 2950 fps. The difference is that the 300 win mag will do it with a 180 grn bullet, whereas the 338 lapua will do that with a 250 grain bullet. That weight makes a big difference in ME with the 300 win mag doing 3500 ft-lbs at the muzzle compared to the 338 lapua’s mighty 4832 ft-lbs. That’s approaching safari rounds.
No question, the 300 win mag is the more practical round. You can get it in almost any long action rifle, you can buy a box of ammo at the local store, and you might even have a buddy that fires the same thing. 338 Lapua Magnum is only offered in select (expensive) rifles, $90 for a box of 20 rounds is normal, and NO ONE in your hunting party is going to have it. In fact, your loud muzzle brake is going to keep most of your hunting buddies miles away. It’ll also keep your ears ringing long after the hunt is done (if you forgot hearing protection). If you want to shoot 338 Lapua, you HAVE to reload to avoid the ridiculous $5/shot that you’ll be paying with factory ammo. With reloading, you can keep costs to much reasonable levels. On the brass front, oh boy, you’re going to pay. Better Lapua brass costs $3 per case for 338, BUT you can make it last well into 20 reloads if you’re careful. With 300 Winchester Magnum, you’re playing with much cheaper brass, but the belt can be a bit annoying when reloading.
So there you have it, the mighty 300 win mag and the mightier, but more ridiculous 338 lapua. If you just want to hunt anything, look no further than 300 win mag. If you want the biggest, baddest round in your hunt camp, the 338 lapua is your only option beyond the insane 50 BMG.
- Reloading for the 338 Lapua
- 50BMG vs 338 Lapua
- 338 Lapua vs 338-378 Weatherby
- 338 Lapua vs 338 Win Mag