300 Norma Mag vs. 338 Lapua vs. 30 Nosler

by Ryan Cleckner

March 13, 2017




In a rare feat, I was the first one to break the news that SOCOM chose the 300 Norma Mag round for their new Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR). In that article, I mentioned that it was an interested choice and gave some basic comparisons to other cartridges. I’ve had a few questions about this so I decided to do a better comparison for you! I’ve compared the 300 Norma Mag, the 338 Lapua Mag, and the 30 Nosler here for you. For each ballistic table/chart, I used the following atmospheric data: 29.61 in/Hg station pressure, 70 degrees, 35% humidity, 10 mph full-value wind.

300 Norma Mag

This girl is definitely the hot new-girl in town. After all, SOCOM selected the 300 Norma Mag for the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program. Everyone seems to be excited about this cartridge and I am seeing it pop up in rifles more and more. However, are people chambering their rifles in 300 Norma Mag because it’s the new cool round or is there an actual benefit? In my opinion, it’s not worth it. In un-fancy terms, the 300 Norma Mag is a 338 Lapua sized case necked down to .30 cal. Of course, it’s not that simple. But, it’s a way to look at it. Same cartridge base and body diameter, smaller bullet. As I mentioned when I first broke the news, the magic of this cartridge is really seen when the Berger 230gr. Hybrid bullet is used. The 300 Norma will launch the bullet at just over 3,000 fps and get some great down-range results. If you’d like a more in-depth look at the 300 Norma Mag, please check out our article: 300 Norma Mag Ballistics Here’s the math out to 2,000 yards for the 300 Norma with a 230gr. Berger:

338 Lapua Mag

For a while now, the 338 Lapua has been the king of long range shooting cartridges – especially in the military/tactical worlds. This is because the round is so efficient and it packs a punch down-range. So, why did it get passed up in favor of the 300 Norma? The 338 Lapua kicks more than the 300 Norma (heavier bullet) and the narrower 30 cal bullet from the 300 Norma is performing better when launched at high velocities. The 338 Lapua can launch much heavier bullets so, to try to keep the comparisons as fair as possible, I’ve include both the data for a 250gr bullet and also a 300gr bullet. Here’s the math out to 2,000 yards for the 338 Lapua with a 250gr Berger:

Here’s the math out to 2,000 yards for the 338 Lapua with a 300gr Berger:

30 Nosler

It’s no secret that I think that SOCOM should’ve chosen one of the new Nosler family of cartridges. However, I’ll save the argument for another article. For now, I’ll just show the results. For those that don’t know, Nosler created a new family of cartridges which all use the same parent case and offered them in 26, 28, 20 and 33 caliber. I think that this was genius and each offering is better in most ways than current similar rounds. Here’s the math out to 2,000 yards for the 30 Nosler with a 215gr Berger:

Drop Comparison

The 338 Lapua with a 300gr bullet is the loser if we’re only looking at this one variable. However, this is a graph of some fairly closely matched cartridges – the difference isn’t really that much. And, based on just this info, I’m not sure I understand that change to en entirely new cartridge when the 338 Lapua is already the military sniping community standard. For example, note how close the 250gr bullet out of the 338 Lapua (green) is to the 230gr bullet out of the 300 Norma (blue). Also, cough cough, note where the 30 Nosler (orange) is on the chart!

300 Norma Mag, 338 Lapua Mag, and 30 Nosler Drop Chart

Wind Comparison

When it comes to wind, the rounds seem to pair off at 2,000 yards. The lighter 338 Lapua and the 30 Nosler meet up with the most wind-drift and the heavier 338 Lapua and the 300 Norma meet up with the least.

It doesn’t seem to me that the 300 Norma makes enough of a difference here to warrant the switch.

300 Norma Mag, 338 Lapua Mag, and 30 Nosler Wind Chart

Velocity Comparison

One cartridge starts way behind the other three (which look tied) but it catches back up. This can be expected with heavier bullets – they take more to get going but they maintain their speed better.

I added a line approximating the speed of sound. Note that the lighter 338 Lapua (green) and the 30 Nosler (orange) both go below the speed of sound by 2,000 yards. You may be wondering why I like the 30 Nosler based on this chart. Let me be clear – I do not think that the 30 Nosler is “better” than the current standard 38 Lapua. My point is that if you are going to make a major change, you might as well go with something that gives you a big benefit.

The beauty of the 30 Nosler is that you don’t need an XL action (like you do for BOTH the 338 Lapu and 300 Norma) and instead you a standard 300 Win Mag size receiver! This is a BIG difference to the guy that has to carry and operate the rifle! Easier to run the bolt, smaller rifle, and smaller ammo to carry! Also, you can just swap the barrel and have a 26 Nosler, 28 Nosler, or 33 Nosler! If you also change the magazine, you can shoot a 300 Win Mag too if you like! Same bolt, same receiver = big deal in my book.

300 Norma Mag, 338 Lapua Mag, and 30 Nosler Velocity Chart

Energy Comparison

This is about what would be expected for bullets all traveling about the same speed – heaviest bullet with the most energy and the lightest with the least. Again, I’m not saying that the 30 Nosler is “better.” I’m saying that it keeps up pretty darn well in a much smaller package!

300 Norma Mag, 338 Lapua Mag, and 30 Nosler Energy Chart


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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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  1. So, looking at these charts(albeit 250 gr Norma), the 300NM takes the front seat on velocity, wind drift and drop charts all the way out. It’s only rivaled in downrange energy by a 300 grain bullet(.338LM 250 tops it’s energy out to 1100, but both rounds pack ample punch at this range) Just looking though these charts, it would seem 300NM is a no brainer. Any credibility to the cartridge pressure issues claimed when shooting at angles? I’m sorting through this charcuterie, hoping to select my long range round of choice… 300 PRC flies well, but it would seem .300NM is still hitting harder at distance… As a side note,, the difference in rifle weight between the MRADs chambered in 300NM/.300PRC is 0.1 KG

  2. What I would love to see is a compassion of the barrel/ accuracy life between them. To fire /practice enough rounds to be effective matters ! Recoil, barrel life and round cost effect the budget of many units .

  3. Don’t give up your 338 Lapua Magnum (338LM) for the 300 Norma (300NM) just yet. Use better components. The 230 gr Berger has a G1BC of 0.717 and when shot at 3050 fps from the 300NM under standard conditions (sea level, 59 degrees F, 50% humidity) is subsonic at 2000 yds with 403 ft-lbs of energy. The 338LM using the Badlands Precision 250 gr bullet (G1BC 0.760) when shot also at 3050 fps is still supersonic at 2000 yds with 1.8X the energy (738 ft-lbs). This performance from the 338LM is easily achieved from a 26″ Kreiger barrel (9.35 twist), using high quality Peterson brass and RL26 powder. Components matter and the military would have saved itself (and us, the tax payers) a lot of money by upgrading the bullet components rather than going to an entirely different platform.

  4. I reload a lot of cartridges. I am mostly a hunter though I have competed in matches. I for one have had a lot more trouble getting belted cartridges to shoot small groups than non belted ones. (I do neck size the brass though I bump it back a couple of thousandths after a few firings.) Am I alone on this?

  5. Ryan you said emphatically “guys you can’t kill a deer with a 50 bmg by shooting it in the antlers” your wrong. You just didn’t know that but your ego/pride won’t let you admit it. Yes I knew you went to Africa but I was talking about your 6.5 Creedmoor for elk comment. Again your switching and dodging you should run for office. Trying to divert to your Africa hunt. You said 6.5 Creedmoor was not for elk. Your wrong again two strikes. Finally about the 300 prc statement. You do realize that Berger 230 grain bullets can be loaded to magazine length in the 300 Win Mag. and those same bullets will be going over 2900 FPS out of a 300 WM. The G1 bc will be .717. That’s plenty enough for ethical hunting. If your talking about PRS nobody in the top ten are running 30cal. The only bullet that beats the Berger 230 is the Hornady 225 eldm with bc of .777 BUT the 225 coming out of a much slower velocity 300 prc will REDUCE THE BC. Like I said the 300 prc IS NOT doing anything the 300 Win Mag has already been doing. I’m done I’m out.

      1. I will say a 6.5 Creedmoor is not a elk round! Doesn’t mean it won’t kill an elk though. I can not figure out the 6.5 fanboy deal??? It seems there’s always a defense argument for that round by what you would think is the inventor!
        Anyway, good article on 3 great rounds. Thanks for taking the time & effort needed for Gun University.
        Gotta go work up a load for my 6.5 Creedmoor’s upcoming 1000yrd hippo hunt! 😉

  6. Ryan I love you man. Off topic but you say alot of chit you know nothing about. Example last podcast you said you can’t kill a deer with a 50 bmg by shooting it in the antler. WRONG Ryan watch Keith Warren kill a deer with a 50 bmg that he completely missed. You also said 6.5 Creedmoor is not a elk round WRONG your using the wrong bullet for the job. For the record the 300 PRC cannot do anything the 300 Win Mag has not been doing.

    1. I appreciate the support… I think? I hope you understand that I often speak in hyperbole. For example, I’d say that you can’t kill and animal by shooting them in the hoof. However, there’s probably an example of an animal sting because they couldn’t walk to water or they got an infection or something. For the 6.5 Creedmoor, you do realize that I killed many animals in Africa (wildebeest, warthog, etc.) with a 6.5 Creedmoor with one shot and I just killed an elk in Wyoming with one too? I clearly know that it works. And now for the 300 PRC, yes it can do something the 300 Win Mag can’t – load newer longer high BC bullets and still fit in a standard mag.

  7. I am no expert, but, I have hunted and shot Rifles all my life. I have read, that the .300 Norma Mag was less of a barrel burner that most high velocity rounds, that just the info I have read. I mainly Deer hunt at long range, I am thinking about having a custom Rifle made in the new Norma. Who or what company would you recommend? Thanks Mark

  8. So close, right across the spetrum. In the hands of a Specialist, any of the four (and my current favourite, the 338NM)I suspect it wouldn’t matter. The reports I’ve heard of the Canadian SF operator who pulled off (with a LOT of help from his No.2 is really stretching the piece of string in long range shooting.

  9. Great work, very helpful. Thank you. Come out and shoot with me some time. We can go out to 4 K 😉


    Felix Canyon Ranch LLC
    Flying H, New Mexico

  10. This is a very good article, very informative. I’ve been thinking of switching my 338 Lapua to a Nosler as well. Thanks for the article!

    1. Since you mentioned the 300NM being used in the military, I’d like to think that recoil was a consideration. I would really like to see a comparison of ft-lb of recoil between these cartridges, an extremely important factor you left out of the article.

    1. No, I don’t pretend to. All I’m getting at is that the 30 nosler isn’t a big enough leap to change the XM M24. I do like the 300 Norma.

  11. Thanks for this: it makes for interesting reading.

    Have you found any 230-grain data for the Nosler, or any 215-grain data for the Norma that would permit a like-for-like comparison?

  12. Then by the same logic, they should have just stuck with the 300 win mag. I get 2900 fps with 215 Berger and h1000 in 26 inch bartlein seated to AI mag length.

    1. Simply because I couldn’t find any load data for a 230gr in the 30 Nosler. I’d really like to see it work, though!

        1. There is no such thing as a standard magnum action. There is your Short Action, Standard Action (AKA: Long) and Magnum Action. The 300 NM needs a Magnum length action. The 30 Nosler, like my 338-375 Ruger BearCat, utilizes a Standard Action.

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