For Americans, the .338 Lapua was solidified as a legitimate sniper option by The American Sniper, Chris Kyle, right?
Truthfully, the 338 Lapua Magnum has been around much longer than its initial rise to fame in the U.S., but Chris Kyle helped shed light on this incredible long-distance round.
However, just because it’s a great sniper rifle for over 30 international militaries doesn’t mean it’s right for you. So, in this 338 Lapua ammo review, we’ll dive into all the information you need to know to determine if you should purchase it and which one you should purchase.
Grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get started!
In 1983, Research Armament Industries (RAI) was the first to introduce the concept of a long-range sniper cartridge in .338 caliber based on the 416 Rigby case. It was created as a cartridge for the U.S. Navy capable of extreme long-range shots on persons and materials.
The Finnish company Nammo Lapua Oy, commonly known as Lapua, joined the project to manufacture the casings for the ammo testing process. However, due to financial considerations and tight deadlines, RAI withdrew during the testing process, and Lapua began producing the entire cartridge.
Besides distance, the military wanted a round that could penetrate five layers of high-tech body armor with lethal force.
While the round was developed for military snipers, it has also developed a loyal civilian following. The 338 Lapua Mag sits between military rounds like the 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Winchester) and heavier rounds like the .50 BMG.
The cartridge minimizes barrel wear, which is essential for anyone shooting thousands of practice rounds annually. The National Defense Industrial Association positions the 338 Lapua Mag as a replacement for the .300 Win Mag and the .50 BMG for long-range shooting military service.
The 338 Lapua Mag was designed for anti-personnel use, but it has also been used against light materials, such as smaller vehicles, radars, communications equipment, and computers. The round is powerful enough to penetrate concrete and take out enemy combatants inside buildings.
The military has continued to develop the 338 Lapua Mag cartridge, the gold standard for sniper rounds around the globe. Currently, more than 30 militaries use the round.
The max range for traditional bullets is listed at 1,640 yards (1,500 meters), and the range increases to 1,969 yards (1,800 meters) for Very Low Drag bullets. Standard bullets weigh 200 grains and have a muzzle velocity of 3,340 feet per second (fps), resulting in a muzzle energy of more than 4,900 foot pounds (ft-lbs).
The Lapua Scenar Very Low Drag Open-Tip Match bullet (OTM) weighs 300 grains, exits the barrel at 2,750 feet per second with a muzzle energy greater than 5,000 foot pounds, and has a ballistic coefficient of 0.736. Berger Bullets has discontinued production of these rounds, so you’ll have to find another company, like Lapua, that makes these rounds.
Although 250-grain bullets are the standard, 300-grain bullets are the most effective projectiles for long-range shooting applications thanks to their higher ballistic coefficient.
Civilian shooters are starting to recognize the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge for its accuracy and terminal ballistics. It is showing up at long-range target shooting competitions more and more, and big game hunters have also begun to use this rifle cartridge on dangerous game animals.
Many suspect that even after it’s retired from military service, many civilian shooters will continue to use this long-range rifle cartridge for big game hunting and shooting competitions.
At Ammo.com, we have several 338 Lapua Mag ammo options.
The 250-grain Hornady Match and Black Hills 250-grain Sierra Matchking hollow point boat tail bullets will be very similar in ballistics. Your rifle will primarily determine which round works best for your needs, whether it’s a Christensen Arms, Weatherby, Ruger, Savage Arms, or Barrett, and the barrel length.
The Black Hills ammo is slightly more expensive, but not enough to justify buying the Hornday rounds if your precision rifle likes the Black Hills better because it has somewhat better ballistics.
There is also a 300-grain option from Black Hills, with outstanding ballistics.
Both brands are known for producing high-quality rounds, and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy either one to feed my rifle.
Even Federal American Eagle 250-grain S.P. is a good choice for a day of shooting for fun. Though it won’t be as accurate as an FMJ or HPBT match-grade bullet, it’s still precise plenty for a fun but expensive day at the range.
The projectile will be the primary determining factor of the ammo’s best uses.
However, across the board, it’s agreed that this is a long-range shooting cartridge. Regardless if you choose to use it for big game hunting or shooting competitions, it’s very accurate and gives you longer range than a 300 Win Mag or 308 Win.
The 338 Lapua is not a home defense round. It will penetrate multiple walls of sheet rock and even brick or concrete walls. Unless your closest neighbor is 5 miles away, using a 338 Lapua Mag for home defense is not a good idea.
The rifle and ammo are also very expensive because only a few companies make ammo for the 338 Lapua. So, be sure to warn your wallet and bank account before purchasing either!
As much as I love the 338 Lapua Mag, I must admit it’s not perfect. We strive to be unbiased in our reviews, so I’ll give you the benefits and drawbacks.
- Incredibly accuracy
- Long-range capabilities
- Ammo options are limited to only a handful of brands.
- Ammo is expensive
Below, I’ve taken the liberty to go ahead and round up a few generic specs for the 338 Lapua Mag.
Note: This information comes from the manufacturer and is only informational. The actual ballistics obtained with your firearm can vary considerably from the advertised ballistics based on the overall length of your barrel, whether or not you have a muzzle brake, and many other factors.
Also, ballistics can vary from lot to lot with the same brand and load type. Remember, when reloading, your handloads will have differing ballistics.
Now that you’ve finished reading this 338 Lapua ammo review, you understand this cartridge was designed for long-distance shooting, not home defense.
It’s considered one of, if not the best, long-range cartridges currently available for military and civilian use.
Be sure to stock up on all your ammo needs at Ammo.com, where we have speedy shipping and excellent customer service!
Below, the team at Ammo.com has rounded up and answered some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the 338 Lapua and its ammo.
A 338 Lapua will drop 223" at 1,000 yards when sighted in at 300 yards. However, each bullet and load will vary.
The best 338 Lapua for long-range shooting is the Accuracy International Artic Warfare Super Magnum (AIAWSM) because it’s accurate (sub-MOA out to 800 yards+ for experienced shooters).
The Sako TRG42, Armalite, and Remington 338 Lapua Magnum bolt-action precision rifles are also good.