300 Winchester Magnum and 338 Lapua Magnum are two of the most popular long range Magnum cartridges in both the military sniper and civilian precision rifle categories. Both rounds developed from big game hunting cartridges and we use both in that capacity and long-range target shooting. It is 300 Win Mag vs 338 Lapua today at Gun University.
300 Wing Mag vs 338 Lapua Spec Comparison
300 Winchester Magnum
338 Lapua Magnum
Why Compare 300 Winchester Magnum to 338 Lapua Magnum?
Many shooters place the 338 Lapua Magnum in a class by itself, but 300 Winchester Magnum overlaps neatly into the same category as a long range performer, particularly when shooting in excess of 1000 yards.
300 Win Mag is definitely a more popular hunting cartridge between the two because it is somewhat more affordable per round, as well as the average difference in price between the rifles that each cartridge is chambered.
Both cartridges propel bullet at 2,950 fps. In the case of the 300 Winchester Magnum; it will be a 180-grain bullet. The 338 Lapua Magnum uses a much larger 250-grain bullet. The increased weight and larger diameter makes the meaningful difference in muzzle energy (ME) with the 300 Winchester Magnum generating 3,500 foot/lbs of energy at the muzzle, whereas the 338 Lapua generates an impressive 4,832 foot/lbs.
300 Winchester Magnum Review
The 300 Win Mag was one of the first .30 caliber Magnum length big game rifle cartridges that was adopted for sniper use by the US Military (Army and Navy) for extreme range use beyond 1000 yards.
300 Win Mag History & Purpose
Winchester/Olin introduced the 300 Winchester Magnum in 1963 for use in the company’s Model 70 rifle. The ultimate parent case was the 375 Holland & Holland, which begat a variety of other big game belted Magnum rounds in the 1950s and 1960s. Winchester took one of these cartridges, the 338 Winchester Magnum, designed in 1958 and moved the cartridge’s shoulder forward 4 millimeters and stretched the overall length by 3 millimeters. It was very similar to an earlier Wildcat cartridge called the 30-338 Winchester Magnum.
Ballistically it was very similar to the popular 7mm Remington Magnum. As such, it flew under the radar in a manner of speaking for a few years. Shooters gradually warmed up to it due to the variety of available .30 caliber bullets on the market. Lighter 150-grain bullets to heavier duty 200-grain projectiles appealed to shooters who wanted long range precision as well as those who needed something heavier for closer range work against tough skinned big game or dangerous game animals.
300 Winchester Mag Pros and Cons
Although 300 Winchester Magnum is a belted Magnum cartridge, it can easily fit in most standard bolt-action rifles as opposed to 338 Lapua Magnum, which requires a larger and heavier action.
300 Winchester Magnum is capable of taking any big game animal in North America.
Because it uses a .30 caliber bullet, there are a large variety of projectiles available to the handloader.
Unfortunately, 300 Winchester Magnum has some downsides to it.
The ballistics of 300 Magnum make it very hard on barrels and most begin to lose their accuracy after about one thousand rounds.
300 Winchester Magnum delivers a lot of felt recoil, particularly when chambered in a hunting rifle without a lot of weight or a muzzle brake of some sort.
Best Ammo for the 300 Winchester Magnum
For 300 Win Mag the best ammo is:
- Big Game Hunting: Double Tap 180 Grain Swift Scirocco II
- Deer Hunting: Winchester Deer Season XP 150 Grain Extreme Point Polymer Tip
- Long Range Shooting: Federal Premium 190 Grain Sierra MatchKing BTHP
Big Game Hunting
Double Tap 180 Grain Swift Scirocco II – This is a great hunting round for big game. The 180-grain Swift Bonded bullet offers excellent performance on elk, moose and large deer with a muzzle velocity of 3,100 fps and 2,452 fps at 400 yards.
Winchester Deer Season XP 150 Grain Extreme Point Polymer Tip – Deer Season XP is an accurate 150-grain bullet designed for use on mule deer and white-tailed deer. This round features a polymer tipped projectile that provides rapid expansion for immediate trauma upon impact, If you only have one hunting rifle and it’s chambered in 300 Winchester Magnum, this lighter bullet offers better performance on deer than the typical 180-grain varieties.
Long Range Shooting
Federal Premium Gold Medal Match 190 Grain Sierra MatchKing BTHP – If you are more of a precision rifle shooter and your quarry is a target, you’re probably looking for out of the box match-grade accuracy without having to make your own hand loads, Federal God Medal Match ammunition is the industry standard in this realm. Sierra MatchKing bullets are highly accurate with a high ballistic coefficient. If you need an off-the-shelf solution for 1,000 yard targets, this may be the best out there.
338 Lapua Magnum Review
We have mostly adapted military sniper cartridges from what were either hunting cartridges or existing military rifle cartridges. 338 Lapua was designed specifically as a sniper cartridge for long range deployment. It has become popular for long range precision shooting and some hunting applications.
338 Lapua History & Purpose
Research Armament Industries (RAI) began the initial research in 1983 for a contract with the US Navy. The requirements specified a round with a 300-grain bullet and a muzzle velocity around 3000 fps. RAI started their quest for this round by necking down the 416 Rigby dangerous game case down to .338-inches. The higher pressures of a long-range rifle cartridge caused the Rigby cases, developed during the black powder era, to fail. Unable to continue funding the project, RAI dropped out and turned the design over to Lapua Ammunition, a Finnish company.
Lapua strengthened the case design by reinforcing the web and the sidewall. To further increase the strength of the case, a heat treatment was applied to the brass. In 1989 they had a final product which bridged the gap between the 308 Winchester (or 7.62 x 51mm NATO) and the 50 BMG.
Sako Firearms of Finland, Lapua Ammunition of Finland and Accuracy International of the United Kingdom collaborated to bring 338 Lapua Magnum to fruition as a long range sniper rifle cartridge. It was literally the first rifle cartridge designed specifically as a long-range sniper round.
The cartridge was first adopted by the Dutch Army in 1989. It soon found its way into NATO and was seen in the arsenals of the United Kingdom, Canada, United States and other nations which had the need for it.
338 Lapua Mag Pros and Cons
The 338 Lapua Magnum cartridge is an outstanding one for long range accuracy and terminal ballistics.
Because the barrels are generally very long, it is not a hard round to suppress and is actually very pleasant to shoot.
As for a disadvantage, the rifles in which the 338 Lapua Magnum is chambered are heavy, overbuilt and not exactly designed for rapid deployment.
Then there is the ammunition issue. At one time, shooting 338 Lapua Magnum was like feeding your rifle $5 bills. Now, the cost is closer to $7 a round, which is down from the Pandemic Pricing of $10 a round.
Best Ammo for the 338 Lapua
For 338 Lapua Magnum the best ammo is:
- Practice: Herter’s 250 Grain SMK
- Precision Shooting: Double Tap 300 Grain DT LongRange Bonded
- Hunting: Lapua 231 Grain Naturalis
Herter’s 250 Grain SMK – Herter’s Ammunition offers a very affordable round loaded with a 250-grain Sierra MatchKing hollow point boat tail (HPBT). The best thing about this round is its price. I can find it at Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops in ten-round boxes as cheap as $29.95
Double Tap 300 Grain DT LongRange Bonded – Double Tap Ammunition offers a very accurate round with this load. The heavy 300-grain bullet offers a high ballistic coefficient and they have successfully used this round on big game in Africa.
Lapua 231 Grain Naturalis – It can be difficult to find a good hunting round for 338 Lapua Magnum as they intend most for long range precision shooting or sniper use. Lapua of Finland offers a decent variety of factory ammunition for the 338 Lapua Magnum as you might imagine. Their 231-grain Naturalis is a prime example of what may be the best hunting round available for 338 Lapua Magnum. According to Lapua, the projectile exhibits zero drop at 100 yards. Its muzzle velocity is 3,018-fps, and it boasts 4,681-foot pounds of energy.
300 Win Mag vs 338 Lapua Comparison
Both rounds offer an excellent ballistic coefficient, particularly when shooting heavier bullets to resist wind drift at long range. The 338 Lapua Magnum will always have a higher one due to the increased velocity coupled with a slightly larger diameter bullet that is heavier.
Both rounds shoot extremely flat within 200-300 yards, but the 338 Lapua maintains the flatter trajectory with lighter bullets in some cases out to 400 yards.
The overwhelming majority of firearms chambered in either of these two calibers will be bolt-action rifles. Shooters recognize both rounds for their precision at long range. Yet, the 338 Lapua Magnum rifles will almost always be significantly larger and heavier as we mostly intended them for long range precision shooting. As we often use 300 Winchester Magnum as a hunting round, most rifles chambered in this caliber will be lighter and handier for use in the field.
Some AR manufacturers like POF offer ARs based on the larger 308 pattern (AR10, SR25, LR308, etc) chambered in 300 Winchester Magnum and of course Browning offers the semiautomatic BAR chambered in 300 Winchester Magnum.
A handful of boutique companies are chambering larger pattern ARs in 338 Lapua Magnum. SWORD International has made some of these rifles to fulfil military contracts for Denmark and Israel as well as for civilian purchase.
Here is our article for Best 300 Win Mag Rifles.
Price and Availability
Of the two cartridges, 300 Winchester Magnum will always be easier to find as well as cheaper. Although gaining in popularity, 338 Lapua Magnum is still a niche cartridge for extreme range shooting beyond a mile. The 300 Winchester Magnum, on the other hand, has more history as a big game round and although it isn’t exactly a cheap cartridge, it is cheaper than the 338 Lapua Magnum.
Obviously, both cartridges have their advantages and disadvantages. Of the two, my personal favorite is the 338 Lapua. It has the speed, power and mass to engage targets in excess of a mile. My choice is based more upon long-range target shooting and accuracy.
If I were looking for the ultimate big game cartridge for North America, however, I would go with the 300 Winchester Magnum instead. Although I wouldn’t compare them to rimfire rifles, they weigh a lot less than the rifles intended for 338 Lapua Magnum and are more wieldy.
300 Winchester Magnum is more versatile because we can use the round for big game hunting and long-range accuracy. The ammunition is less expensive and can be reloaded cheaper than the 338 Lapua Magnum. If you are invested in both disciplines, 300 Winchester Magnum makes a little more sense.
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