.338 Lapua vs .308 Winchester: Is The 338 Necessary?

Which rifle cartridge to purchase for their next hunting rifle has been a point of contention for many large game hunters and long range shooters. The 338 Lapua Magnum and 308 Winchester are mentioned in conversations rather frequently.

In our .308 Winchester vs .338 Lapua Magnum article today. we’re going to compare two cartridges for rifles that most people probably wouldn’t think to compare – the 338 Lapua Magnum and 308 in-depth, with the goal of leaving with a clearer understanding of each.

We don’t believe that any one ammo is superior to another. Yes, an ammo may be better in some circumstances, but there will always be a moment where one is superior than the other.

We shall therefore examine several performance facets of these two bullets in this post. By doing this, we intend to highlight the differences between both cartridges’ capabilities and the circumstances in which one would be more beneficial to you than the other.

Brief History

.338 Lapua Magnum

The .338 Lapua Magnum ammo has some amazing performance characteristics, making it quite interesting to look at. Although this hunting cartridge is much more recent than the other one we’ll examine, it’s intriguing because in some shooting sports, it’s occasionally used in place of the.308 Win.

In order to give snipers a hunting ammo that could penetrate barriers and body armor from a great distance, the .338 Lapua Magnum (LM) was developed and released onto the market in the late 1980s.

As you may expect, this ammo has a powerful .338 calibre. With speeds observed in lighter bullets, this hunting ammo can fire bullets weighing 200 grains or more downrange with enormous stopping power. The .338 LM had outstanding long-range trajectories due to the excellent ballistic coefficients produced by these bullet weights and speeds.

It didn’t take long for the general public to start showing interest in what this hunting ammo was capable of due to its performance features. The .338 LM has gained popularity in the shooting community since its release, particularly for long-range target shooting sports.

And by long range, we mean firing. For large and dangerous games, it is also well-liked due to its range and stopping power. The .338 LM is a fairly popular round for larger games found in Africa, though you might not see it as often in North America.

There are now more alternatives for the .338 Lapua Magnum ammo than there were previously due to interest in it among civilians, although it is still harder to locate than other bullets. Some people might find the cost of this hunting ammo to be a little surprising.

.308 Winchester

While some experienced hunters or marksmen may not be familiar with many uncommon hunting ammo, we are ready to wager a sizable sum that anyone you speak to who has owned and used a rifle has heard of or handled the .308 Winchester cartridge.

It is undoubtedly among the most famous bullets in the world and is inextricably associated with American weapons. Although the .308 Winchester has a long history, it is still a useful ammo for target shooting sports and hunting today.

Following the introduction of the .308 Winchester in 1952, the casing was modified and used to create the 7.62x51mm NATO round that saw action in Vietnam. Since its introduction, the .308 Winchester has been used by military and police agencies, albeit less frequently these days.

The performance of the .308 Winchester was rapidly acknowledged and used by civilian shooters, particularly by those in the hunting community, in addition to battle and other tactical scenarios.

One of the best short action cartridges for medium to large game in North America has been and continues to be the .308 Winchester.

The combination of the .30 caliber bullet, 150-180 grain bullet weight, and performance specifications, which we will examine in great detail, resulted in a hunting cartridge that could be used to harvest game from whitetail deer to elk and everything in between while still operating within the bounds of morally acceptable shooting distances.

Despite the fact that the hunting round has been popular for a long time, there are still many possibilities for ammunition, and several are almost always accessible at a retail location that sells ammunition.

Difference Between .308 Winchester vs .338 Lapua Magnum

.338 Lapua vs .308 Winchester – Cartridge Specs

The stark size difference between the two firearm cartridges that you’ll notice is that the .338 Lapua Magnum is nearly an inch longer overall than the .308 Winchester caliber. The case capacity corresponds to this size discrepancy. With a case capacity of only 56 gr H20, the .308 Winchester appears to be a somewhat meager round in comparison to the .338 Lapua Magnum, which has a vast case capacity of 114.2 gr H2O.

The Max Pressure category for the 338 is listed as N/A but that does not mean that the .338 Lapua Magnum has no maximum operating pressure. The label is N/A simply because the .338 LM has not yet been proofed by SAAMI. Both Lapua Magnum and the CIP have also shown some ambivalence regarding the cartridge’s maximum pressure.

Although there is some scholarly discussion regarding the maximum pressure for the .338 Lapua Magnum, if you regularly use factory ammunition, it is irrelevant. However, this is a crucial quantity to know if you intend to handload the .338 Lapua Magnum caliber. Always adhere to the loads recommended in your reloading manuals when handloading for the .338 Lapua Magnum.

Recoil Difference Between the .038 Winchester and .338 Lapua

The .308 Winchester will typically rebound with a little force of about 20 ft-lbs. The majority of shooters will claim that this recoil is manageable and won’t cause shoulder pain during a long day of target shooting 308.

However, the same certainly cannot be said for the .338 Lapua Magnum. The 338 has DOUBLE the recoil of the 308, with an average perceived recoil of 40 ft-lbs of kinetic energy. When it comes to the 338’s recoil, all of that case capacity and a 250 grain ammunition really come back to bite you and leave some bruising.

When firing magnum ammo of this caliber, recoil anticipation and the consequent trigger jerk are significant problems. With appropriate shooting technique and a muzzle brake, felt recoil can be somewhat reduced, but it cannot be completely eliminated.

In my opinion, a novice shooter should never begin with a firearm chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. A beginner shooter needs to warm up to the recoil because it is too much for them to handle.

Is the Lapua More Accurate Than The .038?

Because there are some characteristics that cannot be calculated, accuracy is a challenging category to objectively examine. Accuracy depends on the rifle system being used, the barrel life, the consistency of the ammo, the shooter’s skill, and the surrounding conditions.

In all other respects, the .308 Winchester and .338 Lapua Magnum are both incredibly precise within their practical ranges, and sub-MOA precision is possible with match-grade ammunition, the right optics, and a careful application of the marksmanship fundamentals.

We must divide this area into two subsections, under 1,000 yards and over 1,000 yards, if you wish to qualify accuracy. 1,000 yards is beyond the effective range of the .308 Winchester cartridge. With a .308 Winchester, you’ll need a finely tuned precision rifle and handloads made specifically for that firearm to reach 1,000 yards.

Comparatively, at 1,000 yards, the .338 Lapua Magnum is merely extending its legs and gently waving at the distance marker as it screams by. The .338 Lapua’s typical supersonic range is 1,500 yards, which is 50% more than the 308 Winchester. The .338 Lapua Magnum is unstoppable out to 1,500 yards, when it can maintain supersonic flight making it more effective at farther distances.


The path an ammo takes to reach its target is quantified by its trajectory, which is expressed in bullet drop. The results show that the massive .338 Lapua Magnum ammo case’s larger case volume enables a higher muzzle energy and flatter trajectory. The 338 has a 400-yard drop of 18.8″, whereas the 308 Winchester has a drop of 21.9″.

This might not seem like much, but the difference gets more noticeable the further out you travel. This is not to say that the 308 Winchester is inaccurate at these ranges; in fact, the opposite is true. It does, however, imply that a shooter will need to adjust their optics much more while using a .308 Winchester than when using a .338 Lapua Magnum.


Anyone who is a good hunter or range marksman will be highly aware of how their ammo performs in the air. You can maximize the opportunities offered to you by understanding how it operates and its limitations. That makes the ballistics a crucial part of this article, as you might expect. We will examine the velocity, ballistic coefficient, and trajectories of the ten rounds we have chosen for comparison in our ballistics section, among other things. This will enable us to understand how and when each ammo might be preferred over the others.

How Well Can They Maintain Velocity?

When contrasting two cartridges or simply looking at any ammo, it’s crucial to pay attention to the round’s velocity. Its significant impact on nearly every other performance category explains why it is so crucial. Recoil, trajectory, and terminal ballistics including penetration and ammo expansion are all included in this.

Although you should proceed with caution, velocity might also be related to accuracy. Even with the hottest load in the world, you could be far off target if your rifle does not have the right twist. It’s a thin line, so keep the idea in the back of your mind at all times. The concept also applies to terminal ballistics.

We notice a general pattern amongst ammo as we get closer to the downrange spots, notably at the 300-yard level. The .338 Lapua Magnum ammo are more likely to maintain their velocities than the .308 Winchester ammo. Some of the .338 Lapua Magnum ammo have been passed by bullets that had a higher muzzle velocity. The .338 Lapua Magnum ammo’s greater velocity and the .308 Winchester ammo’s lower velocities can be distinguished clearly at 500 yards.

Nevertheless, both of these ammo maintain supersonic flight the entire time, and they will both provide the required terminal performance across this range. The velocity similarity between these two ammo, despite the .338 Lapua Magnum ammo having bullets that are almost or over 100 grains heavier than the .308 Winchester rounds, is just astounding.

Ballistic Coefficient

The ballistic coefficient affects numerous other categories, just like the velocity does. A ballistic coefficient is, in the simplest sense, just a number that is produced from a number of factors taken from the ammo specifications, including the bullet. You may determine from the number how well-streamlined a round is.

When compared to th e.308 Winchester ammo, the BC for the .338 LM ammo is higher. You can see that the .338 ammo do have certain rounds that more closely approach the BCs of the .308 Win ammo and even less than a few of them (0.431 0.45, 0.462), despite the fact that they have some outstanding BCs (0.789 and 0.72) of their own. Because of this, even though the .338 LM cartridges have higher BCs than the .308 Winchester, there are variations between ammo.

Conclusion: Is The .388 Lapua Necessary?

There is no doubting the .338 Lapua Magnum’s immense potency. It is a brutal, lethal, and potent round that can pierce body armor at a distance of 1,000 yards like a hot knife through butter.

We must keep in mind that both of these cartridges can have their moment in the spotlight when comparing the popular ammo calibers of 338 Lapua Magnum and 308. We hope that this article has provided you with a bit more information on the two cartridges, improved your understanding of them, and enabled you to decide more intelligently if these two cartridges are the right fit for your needs.

The .308 Winchester offers good ballistics in a more compact, affordable, and low-recoil design that has been used successfully in battle and hunting for more than 50 years. Many police department marksmen and military snipers still favor it.

Due to the availability of rifles, the price of rifles, the cost of ammo, and the lower recoil, the.308 Win is probably the superior option for the majority of hunters in North America. The majority of shooters don’t actually require a.338 Lapua Magnum to accomplish their goals; instead, a.308 will do just fine.

The .338 caliber will, however, give you the extra power and velocity you need to shoot at long range (outside of 1,000 yards). But if you’re looking to shoot long range (out past 1,000 yards) and you need that extra stopping power and fps to get you there, then you should go with the .338 Lapua Magnum.

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