« Duck, It's Hillary! | Main | The .338 for Deer, and Other Bad Craziness »

February 25, 2008

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

Nothing Works Better than a .338

Once in a while you hear your exact thoughts repeated to you in just the words you would have chosen yourself. A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a geezer of taste who had done a lot of hunting, especially in Africa, and we swapped war stories, working through the
roster of cartridges. Then he said:

"I never had anything work as well as the .338. If you have a good .338 and you can shoot it, you'll never have to track anything. Pull the trigger and it'll be lying right where it was standing."

This has not only been my experience, but it's just the way I'd say it. I dislike attributing magical qualities to cartridges, but I've shot everything from prairie dogs to elk with a .338, and taken it to Africa and shot lots of stuff there, and only one animal has ever gone  anywhere after being hit with it, and that was an elk that traveled 100 yards and was deceased when we found it.

The .338 is loaded with bullets of 200 to 250 grains, and the favorite these days seems to be the 225-grain slug. It's a good compromise, but I believe that the 200-grainers are for deer, and that the 250 is the best of all. What you get with a tough bullet in this weight is tremendous, straight-line penetration. You want to break an elk shoulder? Consider it done. Do you wish to pound a puku (which is a tough African antelope about the size of a small elk)? No problem, as the young folks say.

If you're crazed for high velocity and the .338's modest numbers are not enough for you, there is always the .340 Weatherby and the .338 RUM. Elmer Keith may not have been right about everything, but he was right about the .338. If you want stuff to drop, here's your cartridge.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Nothing Works Better than a .338:


Walt Smith

Hey don't misunderstand me. I love the place they carry about five different bullet weights for 30-06. LOL.

Clay Cooper

If you really think anything a .338 can do, a .358, .35 Whalen 225 TB slug or 375 H&H will do better? I got to say, out of personal experience with these cartridges your wrong! The 338 Win Mag has superior range over these cartridges and has still has plenty of knockdown power when it gets there. All the hunters I’ve talked to say, the biggest problem of all hunting Brown Bear at Cordova Alaska and such, they didn’t have the range that the 338 Win Mag offers. 600 yard shots on Caribou still leaves an area just over the size of a pie plate totally blood shot! Yes I’ll agree anything a .338 can do, a .358, .35 Whalen 225 TB slug or 375 H&H will do, only at shorter ranges under 250 yards.
The next loads for my 338 Win Mag will be Hornady 225 SST’s @3000fps!
By the way David, Barnes makes a 160 grain in 338 Cal.
The best thing I like about 7mm Rem Mag cases is it makes beautiful 338 Win Mag and I’ve made cases out of 300 Win Mag also with good results too!

Clay Cooper

One more thing, the farthest distance you can shoot with a 30-06 165 grain, the 338 Win Mag with a 225 grain, you will be able to hit just the same! O’YA BABY!

Walt Smith

Good hunters don't HAVE to shoot long distances. I enjoy my 40 foot shots.

Dr. Ralph

There's nothing in the world like having 30 or 40 Whitetails within 50 yards of your stand. If they are directly underneath you, they never know which way to run after the first shot goes off... The first time I hunted with my .257 Weatherby I was in a stand completely surrounded by does. The law said I could drop three before I even tagged the first so I fired two times, dropped two deer turned around to see one getting up and finished him off and fired at another running down a hill. While re-loading they began to congregate under my stand once again. Only time in my life I have emptied a gun, re-loaded and then killed one more deer. A 200 yard shot will never begin to match the adrenaline rush I experienced... I had to pee before I could even get my tree stand to the ground. 40 foot shots rule! Once I shot a buck so close I swear he heard my heart beating out of my chest, I know I could hear it.


I have fired a .338 Win Mag in the past. I have pulled the trigger on a .458 Win Mag, .375 H&H and several other large calibers. The only rifle I have ever had truly hurt me with recoil, was a Ruger M77 in .338 Win Mag! I no longer shoot "Magnum" rounds, other than a medium mag handgun! I shoot a .270 Win. I am happy with my .270 and will continue to shoot said rifle.
I'm glad you guys like the .338 Win Mag. What ever is left to my life ration of .338's, you guys can have!



IMHO, you would be better served with a 300RUM. My reasoning is that although the 338 Lapua will outperform the 300, it is a much more expensive gun to purchase, and shoot. The 300 is a capable 1000yd calibre especially with vld bullets.


The truth is, every cartridge has its limitations. If all your hunting is in North America, and the big bears are on the agenda, I'd think the .338 would be good. The .35 Whelen (which is pretty similar out to 200 yards or so) would be good, too. But, if I ever get to go to Africa after a Cape Buffalo (my dream hunt) I'll want something with a bore big enough I can stick my fist in it.

Black Rifle Addict

Dave, I thought you were the 7mm-08 is enough deer gun hunter, and now you shoot them with a .338winchester mag. What gives?
How many 300 yard shots have you taken at brown bears lately?

Dr. Ralph

Yeah Black Rifle Addict, Dave posts a picture of a monster he shot with his 6.5 and now he needs a .338? Like he tracks his own deer anyway...


thanks c_pratt. what i was thinking, and have to reload for dad anyway.

Jim in Mo.

You got friends shooting big game at 600 yds? Then you got friends blowing smoke up your skirt.

Dr. Ralph

"Show Me" Jim where have you been? Clay drops Caribou at over 700 and out shoots expert marksmen at 1000 with open sights while they use 32X scopes... practice makes perfect, and I do have to admit that I can make shots with an air rifle that anyone who was not there would swear could not be made. Kentucky windage baby... and shooting every day. Often. Today I killed three squirrels, four blackbirds and a crow and never left the yard or touched off a grain of gunpowder. My children however burned a half pound of Pyrodex by pouring it into empty Nerds boxes, sticking a bottle rocket fuse in the box and taping it up with electrician's tape... the tighter and more you pack it the bigger the bang I said... errr... I mean I just discovered this atrocity and they will be severely reprimanded. Next time I will buy Goex.


I just can't imagine buying a 338 for hunting anything in MI. My shots are just like Walt Smith desribed 25' to 150'. I could set up in a few spots for,at most, a 200 yard shot. Anyway, I think you would have a hard time buying 338 ammo up here unless you had a store order it for you.

Jim in Mo.

Dr. Ralph,
Yea right. I've shot paper at long range don't you start crap about dropping game at 600-1000 yds. Don't happen but by accident or bragging.


The deer who finds himself in mortal danger from me and my 6.5x55 could probably count on a long and fruitful life if I had to pursue him with a .338. Of course, that's just me.

I don't suppose there's any argument against the idea that a .338 will mangle more deer flesh than my 6.5x55. The difference for me is that I shoot my Swede with confidence. I'm afraid I might be a little tentative with the bigger calibers.

So, nothing does it better than the .338, provided the .338 is in the hands of a shooter impervious to recoil.

Incidentally, I choose to see my aversion to recoil as a result of great wisdom and higher learning rather than simply being puny. Any opinions to the contrary will be met by an icy stare full of contempt and unshaken by magnum calibers.

Thank you.


I hate to tell you all but if you are hunting with a 338 and practicing enough to get good with it, you are going to be reloading. so if you are shooting deer at no more than 40 yards why are you botherring with a rifle? Go to bow hunting or to a pistol if that is more your twist. also if you can whack prairie dogs at 600 yards you can put down a deer at that range. not saying you should but if have a wounded one you got to do what you can to put him down. I don't hunt in the woods like most of you, and we would look stupid if all 12 of us was sitting in that one tree in the middle of them 20 sections (if this does happen to you, try to be there first). We mostly still hunt or set up a blind. as such it is considered a close shot if they are withing 100yrds.

Bernie Kuntz

I bought my .338 in 1973, had it completely rebuilt about 15 years ago--retained the Finnish Sako action but had a 24" Lilja stainless barrel put on it, a synthetic MPI stock from Portland, OR (the only synthetic stock I own), and a 1-3/4X-5X Burris in Leupold rings. This rifle has accounted for two Alaskan brown bears, one Alaska-Yukon moose, about five elk, a couple mule deer bucks, and three barren ground caribou, one taken at 368 paces with the excellent 225-grain Hornady Spire-Point. I shot the moose and big bears with 250-grain Nosler Partitions. Wonderful cartridge in an excellent rifle.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Montana had its goofy bison hunt supervised by game wardens, a warden captain complained to me that most of the wounded bison that required multiple shots to dispatch were first shot with .338s. My reply to him was the guys behind the rifle didn't know how to shoot. The .338 Win. Magnum is a superb cartridge, although it may have more recoil than many hunters can handle.

Jack Atcheson, Jr. of The Atcheson's booking service in Butte, MT once told me that he used a .338 more than any other cartridge and swore by it. Jack shoots more game in five years than most hunters do in a lifetime, so I respect his assessment.


The .338 Win Mag in a well made rifle does not kick as hard as most 12 gauge shotguns firing slugs, a lot of that is perceived recoil not just mathematical recoil. The .338 is a really good all around choice if one hunts in areas with ornery bears, heavy boars (though I've yet to kill one of 'em) or -- as I've mentioned before -- need to put animals down NOW or lose them to unscrupulous other hunters. There are certainly other cartridges which fit the bill; I am surprised no one brought the .416 Rigby into the discussion, the .444 Marlin has the tragectory of a rainbow but still delivers Thump at range, the .375 H&H absolutely deserves the mention it got as it is still the smallest dangerous game round allowed in most of Africa.
I have always had a hankering for a .338, I've fired a few belonging to buddies and range bums of my aquaintance and the recoil wasn't bad, the termiinal performance is outstanding and ammo is relatively available.


Had an old gunsmith tell me once that the only reason anyone made a "Magnum" was so the Cajuns in south Louisiana could hear noise and feel pain when they pulled the trigger!
If I had aspirations of hunting large bear or the ungulates larger than whitetails, I might consider a larger bore. For me, right now, a .270 Win is sufficient for everything in my neck of the woods!


Dan D.

I have to agree there is more to recoil than the mathematics. Perception is a big key. My Ruger M77 in .338 win mag is a joy to shoot compared to my Rem 870 12ga with 3in slugs. I can only describe the recoil of that pump gun as "violent".

I have hunted deer with my .338 but never had the oppurtunity to take one. I bought the rifle as my moose gun.....if I can ever win that damn Maine moose lottery or afford to go to Canada.



I agree with you Chad on the 6.5x55;(love my CZ 550)but the other caliber is the 9.3x74. How about it Dave? I never hear you talk about the 9.3's. What's your opinion?


Had a .338 once...it was a Remington "Classic" rifle and only weighed in at around 6.5 pounds. Let me tell you folks, that rifle could pound you into dust. Sighting in was the worst experience I've ever had with a rifle. It was, to give big green a plug, very accurate for its intended purpose. I kept it for just over a year and after the hunt was over it went to a much more deserving family. I returned to the 30-06 and have never looked back. If one desires the .338 caliber, one should consider the 338-06. It will do more than the standard '06 and near what the Win. Mag. will do within reason, with much less punishment.
Frag away guys!

CPT Brad

OK OK, Obviously I don't know anything about shooting by reading the other comments posted here; but I will tell you that I had a really bad experience with a Ruger M77 ultra light in 30-06 during my youth (spelt I owned it less than a week and took it back)that was the HARDEST kicking rifle I have ever brought to shoulder. I have shot 300 win mags for years and recently had the pleasure of moving up to and killing deer with a 338 win mag. I have NO COMPLAINTS about the 300s but the 338 just does it better. I shot a Large (for Arkansas) 9 point last deer season and it never took a step. this was broad sided at 200 yards. (Laser) I have shoot deer past 400 with both the 300 and 7mm mag but I can't make the same comment there. I had the luck of finding a good 700 with a Vias muzzle break and a good recoil pad and with good ear protection I can easily shoot two boxes through it. I like the Nosler 200 grains on deer, Federal makes the same in the ballistic tip. Once again anything that I've done good with the other magnums the 338 will do better. If you can handle the gun it will work on anything I've seen. Last comment; Things don't get too dead, and Bring enough gun!

Jim in Mo.

Dan D.
I'm surprised! My 870 shoots 2 3/4 like a dream but I've never tried 3 inchers. This fall I'll try a few just for 'kicks'.

Our Blogs