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February 25, 2008

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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.


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Chev Jim

Clink clink! Dave Petzal jumps out of bed and demands the spectre identify itself . . . "I am the ghost of bruised shoulders past!" Dave says, "Well, you look like the ghost of Jack O'Connor!" Says the ghost, "That's right, big-bore boy! And I'm just here to remind you how much more handsome and smart you'd be if you hadn't been shooting all of those .338 magnums at deer and dik diks!" Dave looks into the mirror and regards his scope cuts, and pulls back his T-shirt to look at the scar tissue on his shoulder. Clink clink! Dave looks around and sees another spectre. I guess you are the ghost of bruised shoulders present! "You are right," said the spectre, who looks like a dead ringer for Craig Boddington. "I'm such an idiot for shooting those Lazzeroni rounds and those double rifles," said the spectre. "Man, I retired from the Marine Corps and I just miss the punishment! These high recoiling rifles help expiate the guilt for being a civilian again!" Dave watches the second spectre fade away, and then sees a third spectre appear in its place. "You've got to be the ghost of bruised shoulders future," said Dave. "You catch on pretty quick," said the spectre, who could be no other than Dr. Ralph. "I'm here to warn you about recommending big bore, powerful calibers that are unnecessary for the game you are hunting!" Dave replied, "Awww, so what if I want to shoot prairie dogs with a .338?" The third ghost said, "Let me show you what will happen if you don't change your ways!" The ghost took Dave's hand and transported him into the future. Dave sees a grave with a tombstone that looked like a huge recoil pad stuck halfway into the ground. Inscribed on the tombstone was the words, "Here lies Dave Petzal, late of Field and Stream, who never would settle, for rounds not so extreme." "Oh, no!" said Dave. "Tell me that it's not true! Tell me that I didn't convince shooters to use rifles that would detach their retinas, loosen their fillings, and give them a case of the flinches!" He started to sob. "Oh, spirit of bruised shoulders future, please take me away from here and give me another chance!" The next thing Dave knew, he was awake but still in bed. "Oh boy!" said Dave. "I've got another chance to redeem myself!" Dave got out of bed and ran to his office, and began to pound out the next article for Field and Stream. It was titled, "How to Use the .22 Tiny Tim to Take Barren Ground Grizzly and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint." Soon, the other staffers began to come in. Dave pulled out a bottle of champagne from under his desk and began to pour everyone a drink into his vast collection of coffee mugs. Bill Heavey took a big swig and said, "God bless us everyone!"


There are never right wing, conservative, evangelico demon-casters around when you need them.

Jim in Mo.

Chev Jim,
Got any mushrooms left, I'll come over.


May God bless and watch over the men and women of that Guard unit. A detachment just arrived back in Wyoming from 18 months in Iraq. A nurse friend of mine was one of them and she was fortunate enough to survive a couple bombs which exploded near her Humvee plus heard a few 7.62 x 39's hit it during the time in country.
I sure like the .204 but have had a couple .17 Rems for about 20-25 years so it is tough to buy and gear up for another caliber that is close in performance. Also have a .223, .22-.250, and .243 for long range p-dawgs and coyotes. I have a few friends who love .204's and these guys are picky so it must be an excellent round. If I lived in the beautiful state of Kentucky and hunted deer in that wonderful timbered land I think the .308 would be my first choice (yep listen to the .30-'06 guys start whining).
Sounds like we might be able to shoot wolves legally in '09 in Wyoming. What would you guys suggest for a 100-140 pound gray wolf? Most I have seen for the last ten to fifteen years have been in packs, rarely a solitary animal. The .17 might not be enough but the .338 excessive. I know two guys who have shot them in Canada one with '06 and the other with .300 Win mag because that is what they were hunting caribou with. I personally think wolves will make great 500-1000 yard targets for my recently built 7 mm Ultra with a BDC scope. The fewer wolves the more elk, moose, and deer so like most locals I have no sympathy for these predators since they hunt year round. We'll see how it goes...


I can see it now; DEP recommending the 6.5 Swede, Bodington the .265 Scramjet, O'Connor's ghost the .270 Win, Keith's spirit the .444 Marlin, Sarg the .308, Clay the .25-06 or .22-250, Black Rifle the 6.5 Beowolf (fitting), as for SA (having never shot a wolf) I would be good with anything middle ground .243 on to .30-06. Your own choice for those extreme shots is a good one too.

Del in KS


Anything from 243 to 3006 sounds like good advice to yours truly.
Back in '86 a guy I knew in Ak shot 3 wolves dead with a 3006. He was moose hunting near Mt Mckinley park. Said four attacked him. He shot 3 and the last one ran into the brush then howled while he skinned the dead ones. Sounded far fetched to me but he had 3 fresh hides. If it were me it would be the 2506. It's flat shooting, has plenty of power for wolves and easy on the shoulder.

Ralph the Rifleman

If you have a favorite deer rifle, I recommend using it on wolf.When I lived in ND, I spoke to a number of guides, in both WY and SD as well, about what their clients used on game. Most of them seem to agree that the eastern hunters always asked if their deer guns would be adequate out west? Well, most of the guides would ask the hunter if they were confident with the rifle, use it!
Now, unless the hunter was using a shotgun with slugs or a pistol shooter, most "deer woods" rifles will do the job. And with the advent of the lever evolution ammo, it makes a lever gun even more acceptable for plains shooting.


Does anyone have an opinion on the new 338 federal ?

Clay Cooper

WA Mtnhunter |
You say, “I can almost always get inside 300 yards”! You just hit the nail on the head and drove it straight thru the board my Friend! Your average shot, even in Alaska is under 175 yards.

Black Rifle Addict
It’s true I passed all the chances of shooting a Grizzly and Brown bear on a many occasions. However, because of my shooting ability, I was asked by many hunters to be their backup. The 30-06 is a bet light for Brown Bear and I would prefer a little distance like over 100 yards. I have found thru my own experience firsthand dealing as backup, talking to all the flying guide services and biologists and they say with one thing in common that 338 Win Mag is one of the best choices and works best with 210 Nosler Partitions.

Dave Petzal

To Chev Jim: ever the editor, I feel compelled to add the following:
1. As I never take my own advice, I have only one scope cut and no problems with my shoulder.
2. Your rhyme doesn't scan. Be more careful next time.
3. Heavey is not allowed in the office. He works out of his home--a shipping container--in Virginia.
4. Whatever you've been getting into--where can I get some?

Dr. Ralph

Chev Jim... I thought Dave's epitaph was great but I'm not quite a ghost yet. By the way send me some of the good stuff too.


I respectfully disagree with your premise that the 210gr Nosler would be the preferred bullet for backup out of the .338. The early Nosler bullets had the unique (for then) position of being about the only 'premium' bullet out there, however, although it is true that the core held together, by and large on the Noslers we dug out of big bears the forward lead portion of the bullet had fragmented and basically did not exist in a meaningful way. Fairly early on I quit using or recommending them, especially when the Swift A-Frame came along which largely became my bullet of choice both for personal use and to recommend to clients. Until then the factory 300 gr bullet remained my choice for backup. I still have 10-15 boxes of them, as when the factory quit marketing them and there was nothing to really take their place, I tried to corner the remaining supply!
There are now a number of bullets of good quality from which to chose that make fine backup rounds. I just do not think that the Nosler 210 gr is one of them. I much prefer a heavier bullet that will still provide penetration and expand while holding together.


Clay, I agree with you about what would be good on Ole Mr. Brown Bear. It's a little much on deer here, but if I were in bear country, that .210 should do the trick.. Still have to place the shot in a vital area. Thats where a lot of people get in trouble. By the way, I was looking through a scrap book here and found the blue Cert. for marksmanship in the Air Force, They still use that form?

james t

dr. ralph- if you think a .30-06 will drop something faster than a .338 you should learn to shoot your .338 better. an equal shot by either and the .338 or .30-06 is no competiton. you were obviosly either exagerating or mistaken when you said everything you shot with the .o6 drop in place. not in reality. i don't care who you are. the .338 is one of the best calibers there are out there but an .06 won't do what you say! not every time!

Rocky Mtn Hunter

As many of you will recall, I think a 30-06 is enough weapon for anything in North America other than maybe the Griz or Brownie. I hunt the Rocky Mtns yearly for Deer and Elk and I use Scricco l80 gr bullets. I do believe this load would take a big bear ok, but just for safety, I would prefer to have a back-up hunter with a larger weapon if my 06 did not drop the bear. If a 06 don't take your animal down, then you are not using the correct ammo, or you need more pratice pior to a high $ hunt. I as a rule I shoot my 700 CDL 06 daily (3 shot groups) every day for a couple months prior to going west. A extra $l00.00 spent here at home, will make your 5K hunt worth while once you get in the Rockies.I;ve hunted for the past 40 years with a 30-06 and a 25-06, now and then a 30-30 (woods hunting) and only once have I had to shoot a animal twice. If you pratice enough, use best ammo available, then you will know where that bullet is gonna strike. Have that trigger set at 3 lbs and you will know when the bullet leaves the muzzle if its gonna hit where the wires crossed. Buy and install a good scope and base and rings so the rifle stays 0 all the time. After i begin my pratice session and thru till I get to the Rockies, I do not clean the bbl period. All I do is run a clean patch down the bbl once. I also leave a piece of elec tape on muzzle all teh time, if I shot, then replace the tape. That tape will not interfer with your bullet path, but will keep gook out of the bbl. You would be suprised at what gathers in a gun bbl carring thru the woods and land.Don;t take but a dab to ruin a l000.00 gun. I clean my guns after the season is over but not until the. Now with the B/P gun, thats a different story. I swab the bbl after each shot. I use Power belts and Pyrodec Pellets and there always is some residue left in the bbl after each shot.With the Sabot jacket type, you will not have that problem. The Powerbels fit so tight, that any un-burned powder is left in the bbl. O well, Glad the B/P season is only l week, as i detest B/P hunting to begin with. Give em a Center fire anyday and i;m happy/ Waiting for my new MArlin 270 to come in, my first ever 270 to haul on the 4 wheeler and truck. Go with the 06's and bring home the trophy. The old Gunslinger

Chev Jim

After much experimenting, I have found that Captain Morgan's spiced rum makes an excellent after dinner drink and bore cleaner. It's not that it's better than some of the bore cleaners that have been on the market a long time, it's just that you're no longer as concerned about whether the barrel is clean or not. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, however, let me state right up front that not only do gunpowder and alcohol not mix, but they don't taste good together, either. While I don't ordinarily advocate taking such an elixir into the hunting fields, I will tell you that if you pour a bowl full near a salt lick, you won't have any trouble keeping an elk or whitetail in your sights, and either a .30/06 or .338 will do quite nicely. Once the game is shot, skinned, hung up and the guns cleaned and put away, you can pour yourself a couple of fingers and conjure up the ghost of your choice, or just stare at a picture of Hillary until you think she looks sexy.


Sorry Chev Jim

Staring a the Hill that long would have me upchucking!!



I truly like the .338 Win mag. It has been one of the most reliable cartridges I've ever used. I shot a Ruger #1 in .338 for over 20 years. I never had to shoot anything more than once. After the new bullet boom, I decided to step down in caliber because the bullets were now super reliable in almost all calibers. With the Swift A-frame, the Scirocco, Barnes triple shock, Trophy bonded, I mean what more could you ask for? After reading Elmer Keith, I realized that a person has got to learn how to handle heavy kicking rifles. Ishawooa is right. I learned how to do it and enjoyed many years of letting the rifle be the boss so to speak. If I were to pick a rifle of the .338 persuasion right now, it would be a .388-06 with out question. Some of you know that I'm a short fat fan because of the obvious reason bench resters use that type of case and also because of being able to use a more compact and lighter rifle. But I did a comparison of several cartridges just for kicks and found that the 338-06 is within 100 fps +/- with a given bullet weight of the 300 WSM, 325 WSM, and just a little less powerful than the mighty 338 win mag. The sectional density/choice of bullet weights, and BC of the 338 class of bullets gives it a flexability not found in many others. Talk about a wind bucker? If you can't take the recoil, go to something lighter. I don't measure a hunter by the caliber he shoots, it's how many one shot kills he/she can make.

WA Mtnhunter

I don't think I could ever get enough "Captain in me" to make HRC look good.

That is what you call a show-stopper!

Black Rifle Addict

Well, I must admit CM spiced rum has helped me cope with life on one more then one occasion but asking it to help deal with HRC is asking too much from this elixir!

Clay Cooper

I’ve shot the 300 grain in my 338 Win Mag and to tell you the truth, I was not impressed with them at all! The loads I use, I feel comfortable with and so did my hunting companions. Why? They knew if I can see them and they got in trouble that 338 loaded with 250 grain Nosler Partitions loaded at 2850fps’ish would laser in and if I was loaded with 300’s I know they would be screwed! 300’s are just too darn slow; don’t have the shocking blow and drops like a rock! The heaviest grain bullet I would suggest to go is a 250 and nothing heavier. You don’t gain anything I know of by doing so. Yes I’ll agree with you that there are newer and better bullets than the Nosler out now. But I’ll stick with them, nothing has walked away from one yet and my Browning loves them. 250’s shoot dead on at 100 yards and my Hornady 225 dead on about 225 yards, O’YA!

WA Mtnhunter


I sometimes wish I'd gotten my Weatherby Mk V in .338-06 instead of .30-06 Spfd. A friend has one and it is usually 'lights out' on game.

I have several .257, .308, and .358 caliber rifles. Maybe I should add a 7mm/ .284 and .338 to the locker!


WA Mtnhunter,
I was really impressed by what I discovered about the 338-06. With the bullet weights out there today, say 160 to 250 grains, and the superb construction and reliability of modern bullets it would be hard to pass on the 338-06 for an all around big game rifle. It should do anything within reason that the 06, 300 WSM, 325 WSM, and 338 Win Mag will do. Of course the 338 Win Mag will top out the line up for power. But in most cases which aren't extreme, the 338-06 will keep up with them or do better in the long run. Recoil should be tolerable. To say the least, it is a very interesting prospect.
Like you said, "Plan early, plan well". Better advice was never given.


When the .338 first came out the only factory rounds available were 200gr, 250gr(silvertip) and 300gr soft point. So, my early experiences were limited to what there was. I think I have yet to meet a Silvertip I liked, so the choice was 200 or 300 for backup.
I agree that the top quality 250 gr is now a fine choice for that caliber.

james ti

staring at hill would make any of us want to go into a dark closet with our favorite rifle and dosome serious thinking! what could be worse is having the terrorist as our next pres. better load up!

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