The Comprehensive Guide to 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum Ammunition

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338 lapua ammo

The 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum is a high-caliber, rimless, bottlenecked rifle cartridge that has become synonymous with long-range precision. Developed in the 1980s for military snipers, the cartridge offers exceptional accuracy and performance at extreme distances. Over the years, it has not only been adopted by various military and law enforcement agencies around the world but has also become a favorite among civilian long-range shooting enthusiasts. In this article, we will delve deep into the history, characteristics, uses, and selection tips for 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum ammunition.

Historical Background

Historical Background
Historical Background

The 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum cartridge was developed in 1983 by the Finnish company Lapua, in conjunction with the American firm Research Armament Industries. The project aimed to create a high-powered, long-range cartridge for military snipers that could bridge the gap between the .308 Winchester and the .50 BMG. The result was a cartridge capable of delivering very high velocity and precision at ranges over 1,000 meters.

Initial Development

The initial design was based on the .416 Rigby, a big-game cartridge, which was necked down to accept a 338-inch bullet. The choice of the 338-inch diameter was a compromise designed to maximize both ballistic coefficient and sectional density, which are critical for achieving long-range accuracy and terminal performance.

Military Adoption

The 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum quickly gained popularity among military forces. Its first significant use was in the 1990s during the Yugoslav Wars, where it was employed by Finnish and British sniper teams. Its effectiveness in combat helped to cement its reputation as one of the premier cartridges for long-range military applications.

Technical Specifications

The 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum typically fires a bullet ranging from 200 to 300 grains, with velocities ranging from 2,900 to 3,500 feet per second, depending on the bullet weight and specific load. The cartridge case is large and capable of handling high pressures, up to 60,000 psi, which contributes to its long-range capabilities.

Ballistics and Performance

One of the key reasons for the 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum’s effectiveness at long ranges is its exceptional ballistic performance. Bullets fired from this cartridge maintain a flat trajectory and are less affected by wind drift and atmospheric conditions compared to smaller caliber bullets. This makes it particularly useful in long-range tactical situations where precision is critical.



Military and Law Enforcement

In military and law enforcement contexts, the 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum is primarily used in sniper rifles. It provides snipers with the capability to engage targets at greater distances than traditional sniper calibers like the .308 Winchester. Its power and range also allow for better penetration of body armor and light vehicle armor, giving operators a significant tactical advantage.

Civilian Use

Among civilians, the 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum is popular for both competitive shooting and hunting. Its long-range accuracy makes it a favored choice for 1,000-yard and longer-range shooting competitions. Hunters appreciate the cartridge for its ability to ethically take large game at extended distances, minimizing the risk of wounding and losing animals.

Choosing 338 Lapua Ammo

Choosing 338 Lapua Magnum Ammunition
Choosing 338 Lapua Magnum Ammunition

When selecting 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum ammunition, several factors should be considered to ensure optimal performance, whether for tactical applications, competitive shooting, or hunting.

Bullet Type

  • Match Bullets: These are designed for maximum accuracy and are typically used in competitive shooting and precision tactical scenarios. Examples include the Sierra MatchKing and the Berger Long Range Hybrid Target.
  • Hunting Bullets: Designed for optimal terminal performance, these bullets ensure rapid expansion and deep penetration on game. The Hornady ELD-X and the Nosler AccuBond are popular choices.
  • Tactical Bullets: These are engineered for penetration and terminal effectiveness in tactical situations. The Barnes TSX and the Lapua Scenar L are examples of bullets used for such purposes.


Renowned manufacturers such as Lapua, Hornady, and Federal produce premium 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum cartridges. Each brand may have slight variations in cartridge specifications and quality, impacting performance. Choosing a reputable manufacturer ensures consistency and reliability.

Reloading 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum

Reloading is a common practice among 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum shooters, primarily due to the high cost of factory ammunition. Reloading allows shooters to customize loads to best fit their specific needs and rifle configurations.

Components for Reloading

  • Cases: Due to the high pressures involved, choosing high-quality, durable cases is crucial.
  • Powders: Slow-burning powders are typically used to achieve consistent pressures and velocities needed for long-range shooting.
  • Primers: Large rifle magnum primers are needed to ignite the large powder charges reliably.

Safety and Precision

Reloading should be approached with care, adhering strictly to established load data from reliable sources. Precision in measuring powder charges and seating depths is critical to achieving consistent and safe performance.


The 338 Lapua Ammo Magnum is a powerful and versatile cartridge that has set a high standard for long-range precision shooting. Whether used by military snipers, law enforcement, competitive shooters, or hunters, its impressive ballistic capabilities and adaptability to various shooting disciplines make it a top choice for anyone serious about long-range accuracy. With careful selection of ammunition or meticulous reloading practices, shooters can maximize the potential of this exceptional caliber.

Last Updated on May 4, 2024 by

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