.338 Lapua Magnum vs .50 BMG: Deadly Force?

Why Compare the 338 Lapua vs 50 BMG?

Not happy with popular rounds like the.223 Remington or the.30-06 Springfield? Maybe it’s time to switch to bigger, longer, and more potent rounds?

Welcome to the thunder dome, then. As we bring the noise in this 338 Lapua vs..50 BMG showdown, get ready for a lot of power.

Even the most seasoned sharpshooters, target shooters and long-range hunters will be awed by these cartridges’ outstanding performance.

But which is your best option given your circumstances? Let’s contrast the two to see which would suit your requirements and preferences the most. Remember to bring your ear pro.

Getting to Know the .50 Cal BMG

Armed forces on both sides of the First World War (1914–1918) began to develop the armored artillery vehicles that would later evolve into the modern tank. They also began to create rifle cartridges that could penetrate the enemy’s armored defenses in retaliation.

After the war, inventors kept developing anti-armor rounds, leading to the development of the.50 Browning Machine Guns, or “.50 BMG,” a large, potent bullet that can still pierce many armored vehicles’ panels.

It has emerged as one of the most reliable cartridges for American and NATO forces, and it has been heavily utilized in almost all battles involving American forces. In social settings, it is employed for leisurely shooting, rivalry, and even distant large-animal hunting.

A more recent development in the realm of rifle shooting is the.338 Lapua Magnum, commonly referred to as the “.338 Lapua” or “.338 Lapua Mag.” This cartridge, which was developed and first made available in the late 1980s, offers shooters a long-distance shot with superior terminal ballistics. It has grown to be one of the most well-known sniper rounds in the world and has the power to pierce body armor even at long distances.

The round is useful for civilians as well as highly trained military personnel. It may be used for practically any large game in North America and elsewhere, and it makes a fun target-shooting cartridge for a good rifle.

Getting to Know the .338 Lapua Magnum

A more recent development in the realm of rifle shooting is the.338 Lapua Magnum, commonly referred to as the “.338 Lapua” or “.338 Lapua Mag.” This cartridge, which was developed and first made available in the late 1980s, offers shooters a long-distance shot with superior terminal ballistics.

It has grown to be one of the most well-known sniper rounds in the world and has the power to pierce body armor even at great distances.

The round is useful for civilians as well as highly trained military personnel. It may be used for practically any major game in North America and elsewhere, and it makes a fun target-shooting cartridge.


When queried about the vehicle’s MPG, the owner of a huge RV camper basically said, “If you’re worried about the expense of petrol, don’t purchase an RV.”

Each of these cartridges are not affordable for shooters on a budget, therefore the same argument may be made for both of them. It’s still important to consider the costs, and we can see that the.338 Lapua Magnum is often a little less expensive. This is probably due to its smaller caliber.

Wait till you see the price of 50 BMG. Recall the $5 per round? You may expect to pay between $11 and $16 per cartridge for surplus military ammunition for the 50 BMG. non-match ammunition If you plan to make match ammo, the bullet alone may cost $5 per round, not to mention the cost of the powder, primer, brass, and other materials.

The least expensive.50 BMG round at the time this article was published cost $3.00, whereas the least expensive.338 Lapua round cost $2.70. The most expensive.50 BMG, however, was in the $5.80 to $5.86 range, while the Lapua was similarly priced at $5.86 a round.

Therefore, it seems that the.338 Lapua Magnum has a wider range of prices. This is probably because there are more.338 rounds available.

But what if we examine comparable goods made by the same company? The.338 Lapua nevertheless has a tendency to cost a little less in this situation. For instance, Hornady match ammo in.50 BMG (750 grain) costs $5.80 each round whereas the match ammo in.338 Lapua (285 grain) costs $4.50 per round.

Even the most skilled shooters will face accuracy issues because of the tremendous recoil. Most shooters will want to think about adding more equipment to the platform to steady the rounds and lessen recoil.

However, the.50 BMG will really cut into your cash. Most retailers charge between $11 and $16 per round, however price comparison shopping may turn up wholesale costs as low as $5 or $6.

There is a lot of overlap, but it seems that the.338 Lapua is somewhat less expensive, albeit not being particularly inexpensive.


There is a lot of overlap in velocity, just like there is in cost, and neither has a glaring, apparent benefit. The.50 BMG does have a little edge, though, when you start to compare the range of muzzle velocities and the precise velocities of comparable goods.

We’ll start by comparing the Hornady match rounds. In this instance, the Lapua has a muzzle velocity of 2,745 fps compared to the 750-grain.50 BMG round’s 2,820 fps.

There is a lot of overlap when you search around velocities more broadly. Many.338 Lapua Magnums have speeds beyond 3,000 fps, however the.50 BMG will often have more rounds available with faster speeds, both at the muzzle and downrange.

It’s a little unexpected that the.50 BMG’s huge case, which implies more propellant, releases the projectile at higher velocity than you might expect given the.338 Lapua Magnum’s lower bullet size.

338 Lapua vs. 50 BMG Energy

One of the most powerful bullet that the general public may purchase is the.50 BMG. This cartridge can down the largest game animals in the world, such as grizzly bears and moose, because of its blistering velocity and enormous bullet. Even while the.338 Lapua Magnum is not a poor shot, it just cannot compete with the BMG’s immense power.

The aforementioned Hornady products illustrate this. The muzzle energy of the.338 Lapua Magnum (285 grain) is 4,768 foot pounds (ft-lbs). Its energy after 500 yards is still 3,064 ft-lbs, making it more potent than virtually all rifle rounds. But not every.

The 750-grain.50 BMG dominates its rivals. 13,241 ft-lbs of its muzzle energy is unparalleled. It is still flying at 9,403 ft-lbs after 500 yards. There is no overlap when comparing energy. With continuous energies exceeding 12,000 ft-lbs, the.50 BMG is the clear winner.

Shot Trajectory

You could anticipate that the.50 BMG bullet would drop less downrange because it is being propelled forward with more power. But because the bullets are so much lighter, the.338 Lapua Magnum may also drop less.

In general, the.50 BMG tends to have a superior shot trajectory than the.338 Lapua Magnum, falling less than 500, 800, or 1,000 yards.

The Hornady bullets that we’ve already spoken about emphasize this pattern. The 750-grain BMG drops 35.8 inches at 500 yards when zeroed to 250 yards. Despite using a lighter bullet, the 285-grain.338 Lapua Magnum drops 40.3 inches. This is routinely seen since a variety of items tend to have less drop with the.50 BMG.


Both of these cartridges are not suitable if a light recoil is your first concern, regardless of price. Even though it is one of the more potent rounds available, the.338 Lapua Magnum is less strenuous on the shoulder than the hard-hammering.50 BMG, we can state with confidence.

The cartridge that has the most muzzle energy will often also have the greatest kick. However, as we know from Newton’s rule of equal and opposite reactions, if the forward force (toward the target) is great, so will be the rearward force into your shoulder. This can depend on the type of rifle being used as well as the shooting method.

Stopping Power

Stopping power is a crucial consideration for hunters when selecting a particular cartridge. Being able to dump injured animals neatly eliminates the risk of approaching wounded animals, especially if they are predators.

The majority of hunters also need adequate stopping power so that they may kill an animal humanely and without causing unnecessary pain or running the danger of losing it in the field. Regarding the preceding argument, a clean kill eliminates the need to track a wounded animal, which may require traveling several hundred yards in the dark and cold.

338 Lapua vs 50 BMG: Ballistics & Distance

At least at reasonable ranges, the 50 BMG and 338 Lapua have relatively comparable ballistics. They are significantly different in that the 50 BMG bullet, which is far larger and heavier, has a killing power considerably above that of the 338 Lapua.

The powerful 50 BMG can kill a deer at 3,300 yards, whilst the Lapua can only do it at distances of up to 1,800 yards. This is becoming less accurate marksmanship and more like field artillery skill with a laughably lengthy flight duration of 7 seconds.

Hunting with 338 Lapua or 50 BMG

The 338 Lapua is far more difficult to hunt with than a standard rifle. Making standing shots is almost impossible, you can’t carry nearly as much ammo in your pocket, and the rifle is heavier. However, I discovered that using the 338LM to load the Savage 111 LRH was fine.

I didn’t have any problems outside the long barrel’s propensity to catch on a lot of objects and make the rifle desire to spin the barrel down while in a sling. A 50 BMG rifle is a little bit of a different animal.

A straightforward 50 BMG like the CS-50 weighs just under 27 lbs, whereas Savage weighs 9 lbs. Long hikes may become unpleasant as a result, and maneuvering around quads becomes quite difficult. Strong hearing protection is necessary while using the 338 LM or 50 BMG for hunting, and your hunting companions won’t want to hunt close to you due to the terrifying explosion.

When firing while lying down in snow or dust, a large cloud from the muzzle blast might block your eyesight (depending on the construction of your muzzlebrake.) Overall, compared to hunting with tamer calibers, using one of these cartridges is a complete pain in the ass.


Both of these cartridges have their place in sniper rifles or for long-range shooting competitions. Although.50 caliber ammunition is often prohibited in competitions, the.50 BMG can fire a stunning arcing shot that can hit targets at distances of more than 1000 yards.

But don’t underestimate the.338 Lapua Magnum’s worth. When compared to the.50 BMG, all of the specifications may make it appear inferior, yet it may perform almost as well in most of the same situations.

Although it readily matches the.50 BMG’s accuracy at a distance of 1000 yards, longer rounds will likely require additional sight adjustment due to the somewhat slower muzzle velocity and more dramatic trajectory.

Both cartridges will perform admirably in a hunting situation. There are additional alternatives with the.338 LM. Long-range shooting and big game hunting both benefit greatly from the trajectory, penetrating energy, and bullet design combination.

Because it is easier to handle than the.50 BMG, the.338 Lapua Magnum predominates in the long range competition scene.

A smaller cartridge can be used for medium-distance shooting or medium-sized game hunting. For the type of outdoor activity that goes along with hunting, the rifles that can chamber rounds this large can also be hefty and bulky, although generally speaking, the platforms for the.338 LM are more controllable than those for the.50 BMG.

Although it is true that the.50 BMG is particularly effective in taking down large game, even hazardous animals, such as elk and moose, some hunters are steadfast in their use of it for hunting.

Maintaining standoff distances from the game is justified by the increased range, and this cartridge most surely has the power and velocity to accomplish it. However, the hunter will certainly become exhausted from carrying a gun that weighs 30 pounds across the woods or outback, maybe before he fires a shot.

Comparison Summary: Is The 338 Lapua vs 50 BMG?

Price: .338 Lapua Magnum
Velocity: 50 BMG
Energy: 50 BMG
Shot Trajectory: 50 BMG

When comparing the 338 Lapua vs 50 BMG, it is clear that both of these cartridges will deliver superbly. Both enable you to fire precise, powerful blasts at ranges beyond the capability of conventional ammo. However, while choosing the best one, you must consider if a slight financial savings or a gentler kick would be worthwhile.

However, the.50 BMG may become your new favorite cartridge if you plan to search to fire a long-range shot with exceptional force and you want to dazzle everyone at the range.

When compared to many other lightweight alternatives available, a 338 Lapua vs. 50 BMG matchup is comparable to a heavyweight championship match.

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