338 Win Mag vs 338 Lapua Mag

I’ve found a lot of people finding my site when searching for differences between the 338 winchester magnum and the 338 Lapua Magnum and I wasn’t too pleased with some of the other results, so I thought I’d lay out all the differences in one spot.


The primary difference between the 338 Win mag and the Lapua is in performance. With 250 grain bullets, the Win Mag is pushing 2650, while the Lapua is just short of 3000 fps. That’s splitting hairs for on-game performance, but makes a pretty big difference for long range shooting. Wind drift and drop are both less critical with that extra speed. Alternatively, you can run 300 grain bullets in the Lapua for amazing BC’s and better 1000+ yard performance. With 300 grain bullets, the win mag throws them at ~2300 fps, while the Lapua sends them downrange at 2550 – 2600 fps. The performance comes at a price though, both of these rifles will burn through a barrel in relatively few shots, with the Lapua doing it much faster.


One of the interesting differences between these two is the types of brass available. Both are expensive, but Lapua brass for the 338 Lapua mag is right up there; $3 each new or $1-$2 for once fired brass. The quality is there though, that Lapua brass lasts an incredibly long time and is very uniform. The Winchester branded 338 Winchester Magnum brass is no steal anyways at $1/each, because it’s not like you’re getting tremendous quality for the premium price. The Lapua’s 338 brass will last multiple times longer than Winchester branded brass.


So, the 338 Lapua is faster, a bit more accurate and better. So why isn’t it more popular? Well, one big reason is that it needs a beefier rifle than standard. A much bigger barrel, a muzzle brake, potentially modifications to the magazine, bolt, etc. Some rifles adapt well, others not so much. That translates to more expensive rifles. Most rifles chambered in 338 Lapua mag are in the $2000 range, but there are a few in the $1000-$2000. To be fair, they’re usually really nice, accurate rifles but inexpensive versions simply do not exist. In comparison, there is much better selection and availability of 338 Win Mag rifles. It’s straightforward to adapt a normal bolt action rifle to 338 Win Mag, so there are lots of them out there. There are many 338 win mag rifles in the $500-$1000 range.


When it comes down to hunting, the answer is obvious; unless you’re doing your hunting at 1000 yards, the 338 Win mag is a better choice. More inexpensive ammo, more standard rifles, no muzzlebrake required, and still enough energy to kill anything you need to. The 338 Lapua is a better round, but the availability and cost of both the rifles and ammo are too high.

  • Frosty

    Great answer and practical advice tks

  • The best comparison I have read yet on the .338 debate.nnnAnd if the lapua cost about the same as the Winchester, I think we might see a lot more people hunting with lapuas.nnnWaynenLuvsiesous.com

  • Gordo

    Can the .338 Winchester mag round and the lapua round be fired out of the same rifle.

  • No, they’re completely different.

  • Mikee

    In terms of reaching out and touching a target @ 1000 yards, would you go for a 300 Win. mag or a 338 mag? Thank you

  • Son of Liberty

    Quite honestly, I see little to no difference in the performance of the two, given equal parameters. Allow me to explain. The Win Mag rifles tested are (most of the time) off the shelf factory models with standard magnum length barrels of 24″, while the Lapua barrels are most often in the vicinity of 28″ to 30″ barrels. This alone will account for a velocity differential of between 100 fps (min. of 25 fps per inch) and 240 fps (max. of 40 fps in a 30″ barrel). The tests I have reviewed have not accounted for the simple difference in barrel length.

    Additionally, the .338 Win Mag will handle the 300 grain bullets quite well when pushed down a barrel with a faster twist rate than the typical production barrels. A 1 in 10 twist rate works satisfactorily.

    This simple difference adds ‘weight’ to the consideration of the .338 Win Mag vs. the .338 Lapua when the cost factor is added in. A re-barreled .338 Win Mag will still cost less than most Lapua’s that are set up well. Additionally, the cost of powder will be less (less powder used per case/shot), brass is much less costly, and the dies are less expensive, though bullet cost will be the same.

    I hope this adds a little light (and not heat) regarding the .338 Win Mag vs. Lapua discussion.

    Blessings on us all; we’ll need it the way the world is going.

    For Freedom and Liberty, Son of Liberty

  • Barry Nicholson

    I have shot a Browning 338.Wm with a Boss for more than 20 years. It is a round that is unequaled in knockdown close and far. The boss, once tuned in can shoot amazing groups out to 1200 yrds and kill elk.
    I use a 200gr Nosler Ballistic tip and have NEVER lost an animal. A IOR 3×9 x44 with 5mil and 10 mill hash marks and can hit most anything at all distance. I horseback hunt ,tote it on my back and know that when my chance happens its all me if I miss. The absurd idea of barrel ware and costly ammo is not true. If you kill almost everything you shoot, what is the concern. More than a 1000 rounds have been thru this gun and no issues.
    I am interested in the 338 L but only as a secondary sit on a bench rifle, for hunting the 338 will be my round.

  • 300 Win Mag still has enough stank at that range to hit a target but unless you’re using heavy bullets, it’ll be a bit light on energy for deer/elk.

  • The cases are way too different to safely run the same speed. I found some load data that had both cartridges tested with the same barrel length at Nosler’s website: Loaded with a 300 grain bullet, the 338WM holds 70 gr of water and kicks a 300 grain bullet out at 2432, while the 338LM holds 98 gr of water and kicks that same bullet out at 2750 with the same length barrel (24″ tested). You can’t (safely) get the same speed out of a case that’s better constructed AND holds 40% more volume. To put that into context, the 300 Win Mag with a 180 grn bullet holds “only” 28% more volume than a 30-06. No one’s claiming they can safely load their 30-06’s to the same speed as a 300 Win Mag, and no one should be claiming that they can safely pull more speed out of a 338WM compared to a 338LM.

    Cost is undoubtedly better with the 338WM, but performance goes to the Lapua.

    338 Win Mag data: http://www.nosler.com/nosler-load-data/338-winchester-magnum/

    338 Lapua Data: http://www.nosler.com/nosler-load-data/338-lapua-magnum

  • I am curious about what calibers are used on the TV show “Long Range Pursuit”. They use the Nightforce scopes on all their rifles and a rangefinder to determine distance to the target. I have seen them make “kill” shots on elk in excess of 1000 yds.! The company is called “Gunwerks” and is based in Cody, Wyoming.

  • Ross

    Can i make my 338 a bolt browning into 1000 yd.rifle with what scope

  • J. Neville Groff

    I saw on youtube the new AR500 armor plate with anti spall coating will turn a .338 RUM at 250gr and 50yrds but a .300 win mag 150 gr at 3200 FPS knocked a 6 gram piece of steel out of it. I never cared about that stuff until the recent durkas started wearing body armor ;[

  • Roy W. Holbert

    Was discussing .338 Win. Mag with some ‘know-it-all’, when it comes to guns & ammo. Told me that I was out of my mind and there was no such thing as a .338 Win. Mag. Go figure.

  • Miatch

    I’ve watch some of their YouTube’s and I believe they use 300 win mag in Remington rifles

  • Miatch

    I don’t ever understand the argument of cost of ammunition for hunting rifles. If you’re capable of spending $1000-$2000 on a rifle is $2 difference in brass really going matter to the average hunter? If you’re comfortable enough to shoot a caliber this powerful you should have sufficient skill to hit what you’re shooting at so won’t be wasting many rounds. So even with range time I’d say the average hunter might put 50 rounds through a gun like this in a year. So the $100 initial difference in price of brass doesn’t seem getting worth hung up on.

  • Bo carter

    About how many shots with the .338 win mag or the Lapua mag are we talking about before we have to change barrels? Thanks.

  • SheepdogMindset

    When you talk about burning through barrels, how many rounds are we talking? We recently acquired a Christensen Arms .338 Lapua with the Carbon Fiber barrel. I’m wondering what the life on something like that is.

  • 348wby

    i just got a howa 340 wby mkv im curious were that stands in the mix.it is a custom shop gun and has been factory magna ported and i will be hand loading for it.

  • Rey Leron

    The 338 Win is designed primarily for hunting and the 338 Lapua is really a special purpose ammo for sniper distance and as stated here accuracy.

  • Cole Vidrine

    THANKS I WANT A 338 LAPUA. Hey I love Winchester and have used Winchester and will continue to. I have been out for many years. I want long range clean shooting, greta grouping and most of all a great feeling after an impossible shot.

  • Cole Vidrine

    Yea if you got the bucks to do that what the hell.

  • You should find that in your owners manual. If not, call support.

    Wayne, Luvsiesous

  • If you can afford the ammo you put down range, you can afford a new barrel. IMHO.

    Wayne, Luvsiesous

  • Roy,

    Thanks for the laugh.

    I cannot respond to your post. No matter what I would write, it would offend a lot of people.

    PC has gone crazy!

    Wayne, Luvsiesous

  • The Chigger

    1,500 is a good estimate.

  • josh Hiegert

    I have talked to these guys and they run the 7mm REM MAG they like the high BC on the bullets and more availability of ammunition. The very flat trajectory of the 7mm is amazing.

  • Hot Tuna

    I disagree with the comment in the article that the .338 Lapua has a short barrel life. The Finnish Army conducted extensive testing on the Lapua Magnum before fielding the caliber as HTI rifle in Sako TRG platform. Their testing showed the Sako barrels would hold 1 MOA through on average 2600-3000 rounds before needing to change out the barrel.

    Chamber throat erosion is accelerated by cases that are disproportionately oversized compared to the case mouth diameter. The .338 Lapua having a large case is the reason barrel life is greatly extended, because we can ignite large amounts of powder and still maintain relatively low pressures. The .338 Win Mag will have lower barrel life because it’s case is smaller than the Lapua case.

    On the extreme end of the barrel life spectrum. We have the Winchester Short Magnums, Remington Ultra Mags, and the 26, 7mm, and 30 Nosler chamberings. These cartridges are the true barrel burners with barrel life being as low as 600 rounds in some cases. Huge case+little bullet= low barrel life expectancy.

  • Siucoharley

    Just my two cents on this: (Gunwerks can correct me if I’m wrong?) I believe Gunwerks has their proprietary chambering called the “7mm LRM” which is a non-belted, slightly wider case than the 7mm Rem Mag. With a 180 grain bullet it spits it out at just under 3100 fps. Also think the neck is longer and shoulder angle is different, could be wrong about the last two. They are awesome rifles! But up here in Canada they are over $12,000!

  • tknoerle1451

    Thanks…excellent explanations! Precisely what I needed to read!

  • Kyle Newman

    You just contradicted yourself. You say “Chamber throat erosion is accelerated by cases that are disproportionately oversized compared to the case mouth diameter”, but then you say the 338 win mag will wear faster than the lapua. The lapua has the greater disproportion than the win mag. The two have about the same pressure. There is no way the faster round will wear slower than the slower velocity round.

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