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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