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

  • http://luvsiesous.com/ el_guero2000

    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.

  • http://www.huntinggearguy.com/ Adriel

    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.

  • http://www.huntinggearguy.com/ Adriel

    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.

  • http://www.huntinggearguy.com/ Adriel

    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

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