338 Lapua Magnum is a rifle cartridge that was developed as a joint venture between Sako Firearms of Finland, Lapua Ammunition of Finland and Accuracy International of the United Kingdom as a long-range sniper rifle cartridge.
Initial development had begun in the United States by RAI (Research Armament Industries) around 1983 for a Navy contract for a round with a 300-grain bullet traveling at 3000 fps. RAI began wildcatting a new round by necking the 416 Rigby big game rifle case down to .338 inches. However, the old Rigby cases, which were designed around a black powder era cartridge, could not withstand the higher pressures of a long-range rifle cartridge. RAI dropped out of the design due to a lack of funds but turned the project over to Lapua of Finland.
Lapua made major improvements to the case design by strengthening the web, and sidewall and even applying a heat treatment to the brass for increased strength. By 1989 they had a winning design that successfully bridged the gap between 308 Winchester and 50 BMG as the first round purposefully designed as a long-range sniping cartridge and not one that was designed as a hunting cartridge and repurposed for the military after the fact.
It was first used by the Dutch Army in 1989 and soon after was accepted by NATO and used by the UK, Canada, United States, Finland, and a host of other nations.
Although there are a handful of semiautomatic firearms chambered in 338 Lapua Magnum, the most common use is in a quality bolt-action rifle. Rifles are manufactured by Accuracy International, Sako, SWORD International, Barrett, Savage, Remington Arms and several others.
Although 338 Lapua Magnum is suitable for long range use and for use against big game (Elk, Antelope, Buffalo. Caribou, etc.), its use against dangerous game is debatable. Some specialized loads have been used in Namibia against each of Africa’s Big 5 game animals (Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino and Cape Buffalo) but to be legal, these loads must exceed 3983 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
The round has been proving popular in some law-enforcement circles. Most law-enforcement sniper shots are not taken at the extreme long ranges that 338 Lapua Magnum is intended for engagement. Yet Federal agencies and rural police departments in the Western United States have been finding it useful in limited circumstances.
338 Lapua Magnum has become extremely popular with long-range precision rifle shooters over the past few years. In spite of the relatively high cost of 338 Lapua ammo, the round remains a favorite and is prized for its accuracy, performance and ballistic coefficient.
Perhaps the most popular role for the 338 Lapua Magnum is for that which it was designed: as a long-range military sniping round. It has been adapted by close to 100 countries as the ultimate and accurate long-range high-performance round. Numerous long-range combat shooting records have been set with 338 Lapua Magnum including the longest confirmed kill.
As mentioned, 338 Lapua Magnum is prized for its long-range accuracy and performance. It is inherently more accurate at long range than either the 308 Winchester or 50 BMG. It offers consistent accurate shots at 1500 meters or greater, while only needing to be a pound or two heavier than a .308-caliber rifle as opposed to the significant weight and mass difference of a 50 BMG rifle.
The 338 Lapua Magnum cartridge typically uses a 250 or 300-grain bullet in a case with dimensions of 2.724-inches in length, no rim and a maximum overall cartridge length of 3.681-inches.
For its size and muzzle velocity, the felt recoil is not terrible. This has much to do with the configuration of the rifles which fire the 338 Lapua Magnum. The heavy barrels, muzzle brakes, stocks and silencers designed for these rifles help mitigate much of the recoil around this cartridge.
Depending on the bullet weight and design, the muzzle velocity for 338 Lapua Magnum can range from 2850 – 3500 fps.
SBR Ammunition offers a few varieties of 338 Lapua ammunition including a 250-grain and 300-grain loading using Sierra Hollow point boat tail match grade ammunition loaded to the exacting specifications of a custom ammunition manufacturer.