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February 23, 2006

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The .338 Federal: A rare moment of sanity, cartridge-wise

Is it possible? A new cartridge that is not short and fat and that will not snap your cervical vertebrae Federal338cartridges_4 when you pull the trigger? Apparently so. Federal, at the 2006 SHOT Show, announced the .338 Federal (well, what the hell else would they call it, the .338 Remington?), which is a legitimized version of the .338/08 wildcat, which has been around for years.

The .338 Federal fires a 210-grain bullet at 2600 fps, and 180- and 185-grain bullets at 150 to 200 fps faster. Along with this information comes the apparently mandatory claims that the new round is superior to the .30/06, the 7mm Remington Magnum, the .338 Winchester Magnum, and for all I know, the .375 Eargessplitten Loundenboomer.

Give me a break! If you want to shoot 180-grain bullets, get a .30/06. The real forte of the .338 Federal is its ability to shoot 210-grain slugs at a respectable velocity without anywhere near the recoil of bigger .33 cartridges. In this respect it’s very similar to the .325 WSM. Of all the shooters I know who used the .338/08 when it was a wildcat, all of them used the 210-grain bullet, and swore by it.

At the moment, the only rifle chambered for this round is Sako’s new Model 85 bolt-action, which I have handled, not shot. The one I groped was a fine piece of machinery, although it weighed almost as much as Sen. Hillary Clinton’s leg.  (NB: I have never hefted Senator Clinton’s leg, and can only guess at its weight, but I think I’m on safe ground here.)

I trust that in the fullness of time, hunters will recognize what a dandy cartridge this is, and it will proliferate into other makes of rifles. I mean, I love the .338 and the .338 RUM, and the .340 Weatherby, but sometimes all that recoil gets old.


Sid Lark

It seems that cartridge evolution has actually gotten nearer to many "old" calibers than to anything actually new. This is certainly the case with the .338 Federal.

Although I have not yet used this paticular caliber,(yet) the published balistics are familar. I have high regard for most of the 30+ caliber offerings and its good to have a varity to choose from.

My personal favorite is the 35 Whelen. I have many choices when it comes to rifle selection, and most often I find myself going back to the Whelen. In looking over the numbers, a case could probably be made with regard to velocity, but...... within most comparable and reasonable ranges, I doubt that there is anything that the .338 Federal will do that the 35 Whelen can't do as well or better. Of course the ammo and firearm companies are not going to create any new demand for products by promoting something as "old" as the 35 Whelen !

Brian Schmoker

I am not sure what to think of this one. I like the concept, but I am not sure how it will sell. I am not even really sure what I would use it for. Bears and Boars maybe?

Here is a novel idea for you:
Buy a Savage Model 10 in 243, get a barrel nut wrench, a headspacing guage, and barrels in 260 Rem, 7mm-08, 308, 338 Federal and 358 Win. You have just assembled shooting battery with a perfect rifle for any hunt short of Cape Buffalo and Elephants. All for a grand total of about $1,000 (actually a little less)

Spend some of the money you are not spending on multiple rifles on quality Optics, buy a spare scope, buy a nice case. Shoot lots of 243 ammo.

You will have the ideal rifle for any hunt from mice to moose and you won't have to familiarize yourself with a different rifle each time.

Glenn Bowen/nyc

"The one I groped was a fine piece of machinery, although it weighed almost as much as Sen. Hillary Clinton’s leg. (NB: I have never hefted Senator Clinton’s leg, and can only guess at its weight, but I think I’m on safe ground here.)"

Real safe- them pins gotta go at least 90 lbs per.


I sure do like the idea of 1 Savage rifle and 4/5 barrels...

How involved is it in changing a barrel of a Savage>

David Wright

I'm still waiting for someone, everyone, or anyone, to chamber the great 338-06 !



Glen Jensen

What I like about the round is that it will use a short action which means a lighter gun. I have already asked Remington to chamber it in their new Model 7 CDL. I am getting too old to tote my heavy magnums around. I don't think it is superior to any cartridge as they all have their niche, but it will kick less then my 5 1/2 lb 350 Reminton Magnum.

George Osmer

Many years ago, I thought the 308 Win was the best cartridge around. A Winchester model 70 was my first centerfire rifle I owned. That is until I started looking at the ballistics for heavy bullet loads for the 308 Win. They looked dismaly slow and failed to meet my 2000 ft-lbs requirement at distances over 200 yds. Flash forward, 30 years, the 338 Federal can do it?

George Osmer

corrected e-mail

reference to 200 yds should been 300 yds

Frank Brunson

338 federal, Yup I will buy one. My two favorite rounds are 243win and 338 win mag. This new one is right in the middle. I hunt the mountains of Idaho where a lightwieght rifle just makes sence. I have taken several elk with the 338 and can tell you nothing stops an elk like a big bullet. If a man is a real hunter getting within 200 yrds of any animal is not only not that difficult but its the right thing to do. At this range the 338 federal would be the perfect cartridge.


This is for jim. Weatherby chamberd their mark v lightweight in 338-06 a square. I want to build a 338-06 on a savage 110 action.

Gene Zinn

Why a .338-08 ??? The .308 was/is nothing more than a 30-06 Short, so why have a .338-06 Short ?? The .338-06 sounds like a much better idea.... about the equivalent of the great, old .35 Whelen, but with a better bullet selection. I have a Remington Mod. 700 CDL, chambered for .35 Whelen and would buy one just like it, in .338-06, not as a replacement for the Whelen, but to compliment it. What a great pair !!

John DeJoia

to paraphrase what Elmer Keith said about the then new 8mm Remington Magnum - What the H*** good is it?

Gene Zinn

Mark my word...... Most .338-08's will get rechambered to .338-06. It will be very easy and cheap to do.... and what I would do, provided the magazines/receivers would handle the extra length.. The difference in S.A.A.M.I. Combined Overall Lengths is a little over a half inch (.630"). That assumes that the C.O.L. of the .338-08 Federal would be the same as, or very nearly so, to the .308 WIN. The C.O.L. of the .338-06 A Square is 3.440". Weatherby chambered it for awhile and some of those might still be available from the factory. I doubt that Remington would take up the cause of the .338-06, since the .35 Whelen is now a standard production chambering, for them. The .338-06 is very close to the old .333 OKH, of Elmer Keith fame, and ever bit as good as the .338 WIN MAG.


I have been handloading for over 40 years. This wildcat turned legit is one of the ones on my wish list for years. I can't wait to get one of my own. As for the rifle, I like to get a TCR '87 Hunter chambered for it. The cartridge shows real downrange performance promise because of the excellent ballistic coefficient and sec. density of the 210 grain bullet. Recoil is less than a 200 gr. fired from a comparable weight 35 Whelen and considerably less than the 325 wsm and 350 rem mag. Too bad the Sako website has so little info on the model 85 prototype for the .338 Fed.

Bull Jones

Ditto on getting a .338 Federal! I've already contacted several companies about the buiding of a T/C Encore barrel in said caliber, (or the .338-08...).

As far as I know now there are no reamers marked as "338 Federal", though as far as I know Federal has made no changes to the old wildcat other than the name.

Why a ".338 Short"? Why not?! The favorite among all my rifles is a 7mm-08. Basically a .280 Rem "Short". For me it comes down to efficiency. I can nearly equal the .280, and definately duplicate the .270, with less powder and less recoil. The short action arguement holds no water with me as I'm a single shot rifle fan.

I welcome the .338 Federal to the party.

Brian D

Can anyone post real world ballistics ot the 338-08 wildcat w/210 Partitions from a 21" or 22" barrel? I love the idea but don't believe the velocity specs Federal is posting. Of course, I'd love to be wrong.

mike shickele

As has already been said, the 338-06 is already being chambered in Weatherby rifles. As for rechambering 338-08Feds to 338-06s', that would not be feasable for 2 reasons. #1-most 338-08s' will be built on 308WIN length actions; too short for the 338-06. #2-cartridges designed off of the 308WIN cartridge have less body taper than cartridges built off of the 30-06. The chamber would not clean up, and there would be a rather horrific hump about 3/4 the way up fire formed cases.

One of the more interesting cartridges that has been developed as of late is the REM 6.8MM SPC. Just the right size for deer in a short rifle. Now that's interesting!


forget about lite beer and lite rifles.Besides,can anyone shoot lightweight rifles offhand worth a darn.Give me a .338 that will preform with a short action and,say,21 inches of barrel and I'm in.Will the .338 fed.? Please advise. Thanks


Excellent concept, but how in the world can the 338 Federal better the velocities of the 308 with a heavier bullet? The 7mm-08 does it with a lighter bullet and concentrating the energy into a smaller cross section. I will acknowledge that the larger "piston" bore should allow a slightly increased amount of work with the same pressures as a 308. But cranking up a heavier bullet (which takes up some the the case's powder volume)to higher velocities means pressure will have to be at least as high as a 308, & probably more- I would think. More modern magic through better propellent chemistry? Almost sounds too good to be true.

Bottom line- this has appeal, but bigger bullets going faster means more recoil. That is a law of physics. And I'm comfortable with a 308's recoil. Maybe someday I'll own a Savage with multiple barrels. Until then, a 308 is plenty good for my deer hunting needs. My ego alone is not sufficient reason to abuse my shoulder. If I were into bear & elk, then we'd be talking a different story....


I am a big fan of the 358 Winchester - and the 338 Federal looks great too. I'm hoping some manufacturers will start producing bolt actions in both these calibers now - with introduction of the 338 Federal being the catalyst making that happen.

Just a passing comment/suggestion, take it for what it's worth. To make disparaging remarks about anyone in such an article is not helpful. Bashing Hillary Clinton in passing isn't really pertinent to the subject at hand and is somewhat petty. Better to just stick to the subject at hand. Before anyone labels me a Clinton-lover, I don't really care for her but I also don't live in NY. She is their problem/concern/liability/asset/whatever.

JA Demko

She does have big, meaty legs though.


Can a .35 remington model 7 be rechambered for the .358 winchester without making modifications to the bolt?

R. Dee Putnam

I find your comments about Senator Clinton to be untrue. I don't think it is possible for any one man to hoist her leg.

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