The .338 Lapua Magnum and .308 Winchester are two popular rifle cartridges that have gained recognition in the shooting community for their distinct characteristics and applications.
The .338 Lapua Magnum, known for its exceptional long-range performance and stopping power, is favored by precision shooters and military snipers for engaging targets at extreme distances.
On the other hand, the .308 Winchester, with its versatility, moderate recoil, and widespread availability, has become a favorite choice for hunters, law enforcement agencies, and recreational shooters alike.
While both cartridges have their strengths, understanding their differences and intended uses is crucial in determining the most suitable option for specific shooting needs.
What is 338 Lapua Magnum?
The .338 Lapua Magnum is a rimless, bottlenecked, centerfire rifle cartridge. It was developed during the 1980s as a high-powered, long-range cartridge for military snipers. It was used in the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. As a result of this, it has become widely available.
The .338 Lapua Magnum is a powerful cartridge that can deliver a high-velocity bullet over long distances. It is capable of penetrating better-than-standard military body armor at ranges of up to 1,000 meters (1,090 yards), and has a maximum effective range of about 1,750 meters (1,910 yards).
The .338 Lapua Magnum is a popular cartridge for long-range shooting competitions and hunting. It is also used by military snipers and law enforcement agencies.
.308 Winchester is a rimless, bottlenecked rifle cartridge widely used for hunting, target shooting, police, military, and personal protection applications globally. It is similar but not identical to the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge.
The .308 Winchester was introduced in 1952 by Winchester Repeating Arms Company as a commercial version of the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge. It quickly became popular with hunters and target shooters due to its accuracy, power, and versatility.
The .308 Winchester is capable of taking a wide variety of game animals, from whitetail deer to elk. It is also a popular choice for target shooting and long-range shooting.
The .308 Winchester is a popular cartridge for military use as well. It is the standard rifle cartridge for the United States Army and Marine Corps. It is also used by many other militaries around the world.
The .308 Winchester is a powerful and versatile cartridge that is well-suited for a variety of applications. It is a popular choice for hunters, target shooters, and military personnel alike.
Quick 338 Lapua vs 308 Comparison Chart Table
|Metric||.338 Lapua||.308 Winchester|
|Cartridge Length||3.681 in (93.5 mm)||2.015 in (51.2 mm)|
|Bullet Diameter||.338 in (8.6 mm)||.308 in (7.82 mm)|
|Case Length||2.724 in (69.2 mm)||2.015 in (51.2 mm)|
|Bullet Weight Range||200-300 grains (13-19 g)||110-180 grains (7.1-11.7 g)|
|Muzzle Velocity Range||2,800-3,000 fps (853-914 m/s)||2,600-2,800 fps (792-853 m/s)|
|Effective Range||1,500-2,000 yards (1,370-1,830 m)||800-1,000 yards (730-914 m)|
|Commonly Used in||Long-range sniper rifles, military applications||Hunting, sport shooting, law enforcement|
|Availability||Less Common||Widely Available|
338 Lapua vs 308 Ballistics
When comparing the 338 Lapua and the 308, it’s important to consider the ballistics of each cartridge. This section will examine the trajectory, muzzle velocity, energy, and accuracy of both cartridges.
Trajectory is the bullet’s flight path to its target measured in bullet drop. Looking at the .338 Lapua vs .308 Ballistic Table, we see that the .338 Lapua has a flatter trajectory than the .308 Win. This means that the .338 Lapua will drop less over long distances, making it more accurate at longer ranges.
Muzzle velocity is the speed at which a bullet leaves the barrel of a firearm. The .338 Lapua has a higher muzzle velocity than the .308 Win. This means that the .338 Lapua will travel faster and maintain its velocity over longer distances, making it more effective at longer ranges.
Energy is the amount of force a bullet carries. The .338 Lapua has a higher energy than the .308 Win. This means that the .338 Lapua will hit with more force, making it more effective at taking down larger game or penetrating barriers.
Accuracy is the ability of a firearm to hit a target consistently. The .338 Lapua is more accurate than the .308 Win at longer ranges due to its flatter trajectory and higher muzzle velocity. However, the .308 Win is still accurate at shorter ranges and is a popular choice for hunting and target shooting.
338 Lapua vs 308 Ammunition Cost
When it comes to comparing the cost of ammunition for the 338 Lapua Magnum and the 308 Winchester, there is a significant difference.
338 Lapua Magnum
The 338 Lapua Magnum is a powerful and accurate round, but it comes with a high price tag. According to Ammoland, the 338 Lapua is one of the most expensive rounds on the market. Even compared to pricier rounds like the 300 Winchester Magnum and 6.5 Creedmoor, the 338 Lapua is expensive.
When it comes to hunting ammo, the cost is even higher. According to Ammo.com, premium 338 Lapua hunting ammo will run you no less than $8 per round, with match-grade options in the $10 per round range. This can add up quickly, especially for those who enjoy spending time at the range or hunting frequently.
The 308 Winchester is a popular and versatile round that is widely available and relatively affordable. According to Ammo.com, shooting 308 Winchester will only cost you about $50 in ammo, as compared to $220 for shooting 338 Lapua Magnum. That’s a significant difference!
Reloading can also help reduce the cost of shooting 308 Winchester. According to Sniper’s Hide Forum, you can get twice the loads in one can of powder in 308 Winchester compared to 338 Lapua Magnum.
Additionally, 500 pieces of 308 Winchester brass will cost you around $460 to $480 shipped, while 500 pieces of 338 Lapua Magnum brass will run you roughly $1500 shipped.
338 Lapua vs 308 Recoil
When it comes to choosing between the 338 Lapua Magnum and the 308 Winchester, one of the most important factors to consider is recoil. Recoil can affect both accuracy and shooter comfort, so it’s essential to understand the differences between these two cartridges.
338 Lapua Magnum
The 338 Lapua Magnum is a powerful cartridge that can produce significant recoil. Depending on the rifle and load, recoil energy can range from 35 to 40 foot-pounds.
This can make it challenging to shoot accurately, particularly for smaller or inexperienced shooters. However, with proper technique and practice, many shooters can learn to manage the recoil of the 338 Lapua Magnum effectively.
The 308 Winchester, on the other hand, has a much more modest recoil of about 20 foot-pounds of force. Most shooters will state that this recoil is manageable, and it will not bruise your shoulder after a long shooting session. The lower recoil of the 308 Winchester makes it an excellent choice for beginner shooters or those who are sensitive to recoil.
It’s worth noting that recoil can be affected by several factors, including rifle weight, stock design, and muzzle brake or suppressor use. Shooters should consider these factors when selecting a rifle for either cartridge.
Ultimately, the choice between the 338 Lapua Magnum and the 308 Winchester will come down to personal preference and intended use.
Shooters who prioritize long-range accuracy and power may prefer the 338 Lapua Magnum, despite its heavier recoil. Meanwhile, those who prioritize comfort and ease of use may opt for the 308 Winchester.
338 Lapua vs 308 Applications
Military and Law Enforcement
The .338 Lapua is widely used by military and law enforcement agencies around the world. Its long-range capabilities and accuracy make it suitable for snipers and marksmen. The .308 Win is also used by military and law enforcement agencies, but it is typically used in shorter-range engagements.
The .338 Lapua has been used in combat situations, and it has proven to be effective in neutralizing targets at long ranges. Its high muzzle velocity and energy make it capable of penetrating body armor and other barriers. The .308 Win, on the other hand, is not as effective at penetrating barriers.
The .338 Lapua is suitable for hunting big game at long ranges. Its high muzzle velocity and energy make it capable of taking down large animals such as elk and moose. The .308 Win is also suitable for hunting, but it is typically used for smaller game such as deer and antelope.
When hunting, it is important to use the appropriate ammunition for the game being hunted. Using a bullet that is too light or too heavy can result in poor performance and can be dangerous.
The .338 Lapua is a popular cartridge for long-range shooting competitions. Its long-range capabilities and accuracy make it a favorite among competitors. The .308 Win is also used in long-range shooting competitions, but it is typically used in shorter-range competitions.
When shooting at long ranges, it is important to use a cartridge that is capable of maintaining accuracy at long distances. Wind and other environmental factors can affect the trajectory of a bullet, so it is important to use a cartridge that is capable of compensating for these factors.
Q: Which cartridge is better for long-range shooting?
A: When it comes to long-range shooting, the .338 Lapua Magnum is generally considered superior to the .308 Winchester.
The .338 Lapua Magnum’s larger case capacity, coupled with heavier bullets, provides better retained energy and less wind drift at extended distances, making it a preferred choice for extreme long-range precision shooting.
The .308 Winchester, while capable of respectable accuracy at long ranges, is more commonly used for medium-range engagements.
Q: Which cartridge is more suitable for hunting?
A: Both the .338 Lapua Magnum and .308 Winchester can be used for hunting, but their applications differ. The .308 Winchester is a versatile hunting cartridge suitable for a wide range of game, including deer, elk, and smaller-sized animals.
It offers good accuracy, moderate recoil, and an extensive selection of bullet options. The .338 Lapua Magnum, on the other hand, is a powerful cartridge primarily used for large game hunting at longer distances.
It delivers high energy and excellent penetration, making it suitable for big game hunting such as moose, bear, and other large animals.
Q: How does recoil compare between the two cartridges?
A: Due to the .338 Lapua Magnum’s larger case capacity and heavier bullets, it generates significantly more recoil compared to the .308 Winchester.
Recoil is subjective and can vary based on factors like firearm weight, stock design, and individual shooter preferences.
Generally, the .338 Lapua Magnum’s recoil is considered stout, requiring proper technique and a robust firearm to manage effectively. The .308 Winchester, while still producing recoil, is generally more manageable and comfortable for most shooters.
Q: Are the two cartridges readily available and affordable?
A: The availability and affordability of ammunition for both cartridges can vary. The .308 Winchester is widely available and commonly used, making it more accessible and often less expensive compared to the .338 Lapua Magnum.
Due to its specialized nature and higher manufacturing costs, .338 Lapua Magnum ammunition tends to be less commonly found and more expensive.
Additionally, the components and firearms chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum typically command higher prices than those chambered in .308 Winchester.
Q: What is the effective range of the .338 Lapua Magnum and .308 Winchester?
A: The .338 Lapua Magnum is known for its exceptional long-range capabilities. It can effectively engage targets beyond 1,500 yards (1,400 meters) and has been used in military and sniper applications for long-range precision shooting.
The .308 Winchester has a shorter effective range, typically around 800-1,000 yards (730-910 meters), depending on factors such as bullet choice, barrel length, and shooting conditions. However, it is still highly accurate and widely used for medium-range engagements.
Q: Can the .308 Winchester be used for long-range shooting?
A: While the .308 Winchester is not primarily designed for extreme long-range shooting, it can still be used effectively at extended distances with proper skill and equipment.
With the right bullet selection, precise handloading, and favorable shooting conditions, shooters have achieved accurate hits at ranges beyond 1,000 yards (910 meters) with the .308 Winchester.
However, it is important to note that the .308 Winchester’s ballistic performance and wind resistance are inferior to those of the .338 Lapua Magnum at extreme distances.
Q: Which cartridge is more commonly used by military and law enforcement agencies?
A: The .308 Winchester has a long-standing history of use by military and law enforcement agencies around the world.
It is commonly used in rifles such as the M24 Sniper Weapon System and the M40A3/A5, as well as various designated marksman rifles. Its versatility, moderate recoil, and widespread availability contribute to its popularity.
The .338 Lapua Magnum, while also utilized by some military and law enforcement units, is less commonly employed due to its specialized nature and the specific requirements of its firearms.
Q: Are there any other notable differences between the .338 Lapua Magnum and .308 Winchester?
A: In addition to their varying ballistics, recoil, and applications, the .338 Lapua Magnum and .308 Winchester also differ in terms of magazine capacity and firearm platform compatibility.
Due to its larger case size and longer overall length, the .338 Lapua Magnum typically requires a larger and heavier rifle platform with a specialized magazine design.
The .308 Winchester, being a shorter cartridge, can be used in a wider range of firearms, including semi-automatic rifles, bolt-action rifles, and even some handguns chambered for .308 Winchester or similar cartridges.
Q: Can the .338 Lapua Magnum be used for other purposes besides long-range shooting and hunting?
A: While the .338 Lapua Magnum is primarily known for its long-range precision shooting and hunting capabilities, it has also found applications in military and law enforcement operations.
Its high energy, long-range effectiveness, and penetration make it suitable for certain tactical scenarios and anti-materiel use.
Additionally, some long-range shooting enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of engaging targets at extreme distances with the .338 Lapua Magnum due to its impressive ballistics.
After analyzing the technical data and use cases of both the .338 Lapua and .308 Winchester cartridges, it is clear that each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The .338 Lapua is a high-powered, long-range cartridge that is well-suited for long-range competitions and hunting large game at extreme distances. It has a higher muzzle energy, flatter trajectory, and better resistance to wind drift and air resistance than the .308 Winchester.
On the other hand, the .308 Winchester is a versatile cartridge that is widely used for hunting and target shooting at medium distances. It has a lower recoil, lower cost, and wider availability of ammunition than the .338 Lapua.
Ultimately, the choice between the two cartridges depends on the intended use and personal preferences of the shooter. If long-range precision shooting or hunting large game at extreme distances is the goal, the .338 Lapua is the clear choice. However, if versatility, affordability, and availability are more important, the .308 Winchester is the way to go.
Shelly Jark Drakny is a retired SF weapons sergeant (E-5 or above) with a military occupational specialty (MOS) code 18B. He served 24 years in the military, including assignments in SF, Infantry, and Special Forces.