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.338 Winchester Magnum


History

 
Like the .270 (.277”) caliber, the .338” bore diameter is of US origin.  The first cartridge of this caliber was the .33 Winchester, designed by Winchester and released in 1902 as a chambering for the popular model 1886 lever action rifle.  The .33WCF fired a 200 grain bullet at 2200fps achieving relatively high velocity and energy for smokeless lever action cartridges of this time period. Nevertheless, by the 1930’s, interest in the .33WCF had waned.  Furthermore, the great depression had placed considerable strain on manufacture resulting in the discontinuation of the M1886 and its .338” cartridge in 1935.  It would be 23 years before Winchester revisited the potential of the .338” bore.
 
In Britain, efforts towards the development of medium bore cartridges lighter than .375” resulted in the creation of the .318 Westley Richards and .333 Jeffery. The .318 Westley Richards also called the .318 Rimless Nitro Express was introduced in 1910, it used bullets of .330” diameter and was loaded with either a 180 grain bullet at 2700fps or a 250 grain bullet at 2400fps. The cartridge was for a time immensely popular and often used as a bench mark when comparing or judging other cartridges. The .333 Jeffery or .333 Nitro Express was introduced a year later in 1911. This cartridge fired a .333” 250 grain bullet at 2500fps and a 300 grain bullet at 2200fps and like the .318, this cartridge also gained high recognition.  In 1921 BSA released the .33 BSA, an extremely potent cartridge based on the .375 H&H shortened and necked down to fire bullets of .338” diameter. In an effort to achieve exceedingly high velocity, the .33 BSA was loaded with a 165 grain bullet at 3000fps. Unfortunately for BSA, this cartridge received a reputation of producing poor penetration when used on large bodied African plains game, its popularity waning thereafter.
 
Both the .318 and .333 earned a reputation as superb performers on African plains game and as good reviews reached the US, American Wildcatters began to experiment with cartridges, initially utilizing Kynoch manufactured .333” projectiles with case designs based on readily available US manufactured brass. US gun writer Elmer Keith was a strong proponent of wide and long for caliber bullets for use on medium to large bodied North American game. With the help of Charlie O’Neil and Don Hopkins the three men designed two medium bore cartridges, the .333 OKH (O’Neil, Keith, Hopkins) in 1945 and .334 OKH approximately two years later. Both cartridges utilized .333” diameter projectiles. The .333 OKH was based on the .30-06 case necked up to .333” and fired a 250 grain bullet at 2400fps and a 300 grain bullet at 1900fps. Keith favored the fast expanding (frangible) 250 grain bullets for light bodied deer and antelope and the tough jacketed 300 grain bullets for use of large bodied deer and antelope, utilizing big bores for heavy bodied game such as Bison or heavy African game.
 
The .334 OKH was based on the full length .300 H&H / .375 H&H case firing a 250 grain 333” bullet at 2850fps, a 275 grain bullet at 2600fps and 300 grain bullet at 2350fps. Keith utilized the .334 in the same manner as previously described although Keith was in some ways dubious of high velocity, having concerns towards bullet blow up and therefore shallow penetration. The .334 did however boast a greater effective range and for close range shooting and using a well-constructed and fully proven bullet, Keith could maximize trauma when hunting in close.
 
Keith’s enthusiasm and writings of the .333 and .334 OKH generated a great deal of interest from hunters and eventually influenced Winchester towards the development of a powerful medium bore cartridge. In 1956 Winchester released the .458 Winchester Magnum for use on large dangerous African game. Two years later in 1958, Winchester released the .338 Winchester Magnum based on the .458 necked down to fire Winchester’s original .338” bullet diameter. The .338 Winchester Magnum, like the .458Win, .264Win and 7mmRem mag is based on the .375H&H case shortened to 2.5” and form what is known as the 2.5” magnum family.
 
Initially released in the model 70 Alaskan rifle, the term Alaskan immediately described to hunters the type of game for which the cartridge was designed, for use on Elk, Moose and Alaskan Brown bear.  The .338 Winchester developed a steady following but to the surprise of many authorities did not gain the immediate popularity predicted. Instead this cartridge grew slowly but steadily in popularity, eventually obtaining widespread acceptance.
 
Winchester Factory ammunition was initially available in three bullet weights, a 200 grain PowerPoint at 3000fps, a 250 grain SilverTip at 2700fps and a 300 grain PowerPoint bullet at 2400fps. Sporting rifles generally produced speeds within 40 to 60fps of advertised velocities. The 200 grain bullet received a reputation as a fast killer on large bodied deer through to Elk sized game, the 250 grain SilverTip as a reasonably deep penetrating bullet regardless of the aluminum tip which promoted rapid expansion and a high degree of fragmentation. The 300 grain bullet was eventually dropped due to low interest, replaced by the 225 grain PowerPoint load. Although very good in its own right, this load was also dropped in recent times, in favor of more advanced bullet designs. Velocities were lowered for a time but since the introduction of Winchester’s patented Lubalox friction reducing bullet coating, velocities have been increased.
 
The .338 Winchester Magnum is now thoroughly well known for its ability to produce excellent results on large bodied game. To some, it is a trophy getting cartridge, to others, depending on location and typical game species, the .338 is an all-around hack, used in the same manner as others might use the .270 or .308 Winchester cartridges. In more recent years, new .338 magnums have come along boasting higher velocities and greater prowess at longer ranges. Add to this the tactical appeal of the .338 Lapua and it is not difficult to see how the popularity of the .338 has waned to a certain extent. Yet regardless of new cartridge designs, The .338 Winchester Magnum has continued to thrive, a potent yet practical cartridge.
 

Performance

 
In center fire cartridge terminology, calibers of .312”and below are described as small bores, the calibers 8mm (.323”) through to .375” described as medium bores and those above .40 are described as large or big bores. 
 
Small bore cartridges are generally regarded as being most suitable for lighter medium game, medium bores for large bodied game such as Elk and big bores for heavy game such as the bovine species or Elephant.  For some, it may be somewhat confusing to read sources that claim a certain small bore caliber is suitable for large game (eg 6.5x55 used on Moose) but further on read that a particular larger heavier bullet fired from a medium bore gives minimal performance and is not most suitable for the same game.
 
When comparing cartridge performance it is extremely important to understand what the expectations are of the particular cartridge when used on animals of different sizes.
 
On large bodied game in the Elk to Moose class using such calibers as the 6.5x55 and 7 mm’s, bullets have in the past been expected to penetrate through to and destroy vital organs (or a small section of vital organs) in order to initiate blood loss and therefore death. Experienced hunters using small bores on large game come to realize that premium bullets are a necessity if large shoulder bones are encountered (but hopefully avoided), shot placement is critical while speed of killing is a question of both shot placement and expectations.
 
On large animals, shots taken with small bores loaded with premium bullets may be placed close behind the shoulder to avoid bullet blow up on heavy bone. The late Jack O’Conner used his .270 Winchester this way to take a variety of large bodied plains game. Experienced hunters will also be aware that on large bodied game, both conventional and premium bullets may not exit and are unlikely to produce a blood trail. Along with this, the hunter using the small bore should not expect bullets to enter vitals from any angle or destroy large locomotive muscles. 
 
Accordingly, when using the medium bore on large game it is mostly expected that projectiles will destroy large amounts of locomotive muscle tissue, destroy vital organs, penetrate vitals from different angles and many hunters will expect a broad exit wound for trailing wounded game in wooded terrain.  In each situation, bullet construction has the greatest influence on overall performance, just as Elmer Keith discovered during his initial forays into the .333” caliber. The .318 and 333” medium bores were designed to bridge the gap between the small bores and the .375 H&H Magnum through to the large bores - for use on large bodied plains game including Wildebeest, big cats, Greater Kudu and up to Eland, although the latter are very heavy. Typical body weights of intended African game could range from 80kg through to 600kg (180-1300lb) or more as an upper limit however body weights of around 200kg (440lb) would be a commonly encountered average for the medium bores.
 
Like the .318 and .333, the .338 Winchester Magnum and kin truly sit in the middle of the cartridge performance spectrum. Unfortunately, the large heavy bullets fired in the medium bores do not simply make these cartridges more suitable for heavy game as one might expect.  Cartridges from .338 Winchester Magnum through to the great .375H&H if loaded with poorly constructed projectiles may produce very little improvement over the small bores loaded with premium projectiles.
 
Of course, the medium bores loaded with premium bullets show noticeably more authority than the small bores when used on large bodied game. On heavy game, some authorities consider the medium bores marginal but like the small bores when used on large soft skinned game, the medium bores loaded with premium bullets, utilizing careful shot placement, can be considered adequate. 
 
The smallest of the medium bores are the 8mm’s which have a marginal 5% increase in bullet diameter over the .30 caliber resulting in a 10% increase in frontal area. Using US manufactured ammunition or components, the 8mm’s can show little difference in wounding in comparison to the .30 calibers.  The .338 Winchester Magnum has 10% greater bullet diameter over the .30 caliber resulting in a 27% increase in frontal area and can be loaded with heavier bullets.  Many hunters expect the .338 caliber to be a fast killer or overkill on light game and ideal for game the size of Red deer or Caribou through to Moose. In practice and based on my own field research, the performance of the .338 caliber can be summarized by five key points:
 
Firstly, using projectiles of suitable weight and construction the .338 is a fast killer on both light and large bodied game at high velocities.  At high velocity, wound channels produced by the .338 are noticeably greater than the .30 calibers and smaller bores when bullets of equal construction are compared. The .338 bore can at times prove more versatile than the .30s and 8mms on lighter game when a poorly matched long for caliber heavy soft point bullet is used at high velocity.
 
Secondly, the .338 bore loses the ability to create hydrostatic shock and can produce slow kills on both light and heavy game as velocity drops below 2600fps. As velocity drops to 2400fps, wound channel diameters between the .338, .30’s and 8mm bores can be much the same. One of the most important factors to consider is that .338 caliber bullets often feature tougher jackets than their small bore counterparts. On light framed or lean game, the tough nature of some bullets can display a lack of energy transfer, resulting in delayed killing.
 
Low velocity .338 bullets that strike in line or slightly forwards of the foreleg on game of all sizes have the potential to destroy large amounts of locomotive muscle and vital tissue to slow game down fast, often within 2-3 yards. Low velocity bullets that strike behind the Foreleg into the rear lungs meet little resistance and cause relatively small wounds, sometimes allowing medium game (including large but lean bodied deer) to escape long distances. To this end, the .338 bore cannot be considered flexible without attention to bullet design or care towards shot placement or wind drift. New bullet designs including the 200 grain Hornady SST have added a great deal of flexibility to the .338’s. The .338 Rocky Mountain ULD bullets and A-Max maximize wounding potential of the .338 bore at low velocities on light through to Elk sized game species.  
 
On large heavy animals (namely bovines), traditional conventional soft point .338” projectiles generally produce poor performance. The light weight of typical factory loads can also be a major concern. At best, such bullets can be used to take rear lung shots to avoid bullet blow up but this underutilizes the .338’s ability to drive heavy bullets through large bone and muscle and into vitals as a means to anchor game quickly.  Heavy premium bullets produce far superior performance, allowing the hunter to utilize forward chest shots for relatively fast kills if used at close ranges where energy is high.
 
A third major point for a balanced understanding of bore diameter versus terminal performance, is that bore sizes larger than .338”, beginning with the .358” caliber produce faster kills on light through to heavy game with both front and rear lung shots at velocities below 2600fps via both increased energy transfer on impact and generally larger wound channels. This is an extremely important and often over looked point. In truth, the step up from the .30 caliber to the .338 bore is not huge regardless of how the numbers seem on paper. The additional bullet weight in comparison to the small bores, without a vast increase in bullet diameter can pose problems and many .338 bullets may retain momentum rather than transferring energy. The step up to the .358” bore can have a much more pronounced effect in terms of game weight flexibility and wounding potential, lessening the need to match bullet weights to game weights. Jacket thickness is no longer such an issue on light or lean game, the vastly increased frontal area meeting more resistance on impact, ensuring a high degree of energy transfer.
 
Current  .338” projectile designs are however much more aerodynamic than those designed for the .358” bore, the former producing much flatter trajectories and greatly reduced wind drift. To truly understand the .338 bore, we must understand its history, starting with the .333 caliber cartridges. These were designed at a time when both the .30 and .303 calibers were in use along with the .375 calibers and larger bores. On large plains game (taking bullet construction of the day into account) the small bores were considered too small to be fully effective while the .375 and larger kin were too much gun (recoil) for regular use in the hands of unseasoned hunters. The goal was to find the balance of power and bullet weight for these mid to larger weight- but not heavy game species.
 
The fourth point is that as game weights breech 450kg (1000lb), moving towards bodyweights of 600kg (1300lb) and above, the .338 bore begins to show more modest performance. Much depends on weight distribution of the animal, a 600kg bovine is certainly different to a 600kg antelope, the former being much more compact and often very dangerous. On heavily muscled dense game, the .338 Winchester Magnum firing heavy bullets has both limited wounding and nervous trauma potential. Penetration is not so much of a problem with modern bullet designs, the limitations being more relative to bore diameter while impact velocity also has a major influence on results. If hunting heavy bodied game (bovines in particular) as previously mentioned, readers are advised to use heavy bullets of optimum construction (e.g. Woodleigh Weldcore), loaded to high velocities with ranges kept short. One should never simply assume that the .338 is a “big cartridge” and will get the job done with the first off the shelf factory ammunition that comes to hand. Providing bullet construction is sound, the hunter can place shots into the forward portion of the lungs and autonomic plexus of large animals in order to secure kills as quickly and humanely as possible. On the heaviest of game species, head shots are a necessity.
 
The fifth point, is that the introduction of modern long range bullets have not only increased the potential effective range of the .338 Winchester Magnum, but also game weight flexibility. As suggested, traditional .338 soft point bullets can quite often display delayed killing with shots that strike behind the shoulder due to an absence of hydrostatic shock. Modern bullet deigns like the Rocky Mountain and A-MAX continue to produce hydrostatic shock and immensely wide, disproportionate to caliber wounding on light through to large bodied medium game, down to very low velocities.  The Hornady SST also shares similar potential, though not quite to the same degree.
 
Not long after its introduction, many hunters found the 250 grain and heavier .338 Winchester Magnum loads to be slow killers on larger bodied deer including Elk, preferring the light 200 grain PowerPoint load. The 200 grain bullet did not give extremely deep penetration but the combination of high velocity, reduced SD and soft bullet construction ensured immensely broad wounding and fast emphatic killing. Today, many factory loads feature 225 grain bullets which produce a true 2700fps in 24” barreled sporting rifles and drop below 2600fps (the general hydrostatic shock threshold for all bores up to .338) after  just 50 yards, producing delayed killing on medium game thereafter- depending on shot placement. The 250 grain loads achieve around 2600fps at the muzzle and therefore cannot be expected to produce fast killing. Yet although killing can be delayed, these loads do produce wide, disproportionate to caliber wounds and clean killing down to velocities of between 1800fps and 2200fps depending on the bullet design. The latest fast expanding frangible or semi frangible bullet designs are capable of producing much more emphatic killing down to much lower velocities.
 
To some, delayed killing is acceptable, to others who risk losing dead run game in heavy cover or over ravines, bullet selection is extremely critical. Dead run bear attacks also pose a need for careful bullet selection, regarding both bullet weight and construction- utilizing a bullet that is neither too soft or frangible, nor too stout. And again, bullet choice proves to be the most critical factor in the performance of the .338 bore leaving little room for gross generalizations.
 
Aside from these five major points of interest, there are other factors of concern.
 
Factory .338 Winchester Magnum loads cannot compete with hand loads driven 200 and sometimes up to 300fps faster than their factory counterparts.  In these respects, the newer .325WSM has an advantage for factory ammunition users wanting an Elk cartridge capable of delivering the fastest possible killing out to moderate ranges.
 
Unfortunately, recoil of the .338 is sharp in many rifles, this factor is the major detractor from this cartridge’s overall popularity and must be given due consideration. An accurate .338 is a wonderful tool, an inaccurate .338 is simply abysmal. Many have been fooled by the ill-conceived concept that the .338 Winchester Magnum has enough power to make shot placement less of an issue. The .338 can certainly be forgiving, especially when snap shooting at woods ranges where velocity is high or when using heavy frangible bullets on medium game. But as ranges are extended or game weights increased or in lieu of dedicated frangible bullet designs, any weakness in the shooter or rifle platform becomes immediately apparent.
 
In summary, the .338 Winchester Magnum is at its best when used on larger bodied medium game. This cartridge can be very flexible cartridge for use on light through to heavy bodied game however performance is very much dependent on bullet selection, shot placement and also impact velocities. It is not a hammer of Thor based solely on bullet size. Hand loading to full velocities also greatly enhances performance. The .338 Winchester comes into its own at game weights of 90kg (200lb), being right at home with game weights between 200 and 400kg (440-880lb). On lean game or animals lighter than 90kg (200lb), the sometimes tough nature and increased momentum of heavy bullets can display a lack of energy transfer, a factor which is less apparent in wider bores. The .338 Winchester Magnum is adequate for hunting heavy game weighing up to 600kg (1300lb) and sometimes heavier, utilizing premium bullet designs doing its best work when used at closer ranges where impact velocity is high in order to maximize wounding potential. Without attention to any of these variables, the .338 Winchester Magnum and kin are best suited to large bodied medium game (Elk / Sambar) out to ranges of around 300 yards.
 

Factory ammunition

 
Current factory loads from Winchester include the 200 grain PowerPoint at and advertised 2960fps, the 200 grain Ballistic SilverTip 2950fps, the 225 grain Accubond advertised at 2800fps for 2730fps in sporting barrels and the 200 grain Power Max bonded bullet at 2960fps. The velocities obtained in sporting rifles are generally very close to advertised speeds.
 
The 200 grain PowerPoint has been a favorite load of many hunters, producing fast killing on game up to the size of Elk while being used with success on Moose out to ordinary hunting ranges with cross body shots. Nevertheless, when hunting large bodied game, this bullet cannot be expected to hold together, especially as body weights approach and exceed 450kg (1000lb) if heavy bone and ball joints are encountered. This is absolutely no weakness of the PowerPoint (now called Super X) bullet design as this load is designed for a more common role- the hunting of mid weight game species. This bullet is capable of producing full expansion on lighter bodied game but can produce delayed killing, The PowerPoint generally excels on body weights weighing over 90kg (200lb) through to Elk sized animals. The 200 grain PowerPoint does its best work inside 130 yards where velocity is high. But with a little care towards shot placement, this bullet can make for a fairly spectacular all around medium game load and is particularly well suited to wild Pig, Mule and Red deer through to Elk sized game. 
 
The 200 grain BST is designed to hold velocity and maintain accuracy (reduced wind drift) out to extended ranges. As is typical of the Nosler Ballistic Tip line, this is a stout jacketed bullet but without any form of controlled expansion. On the one hand, at closer ranges, this bullet is fully frangible, yet as ranges are extended, the BST can be altogether too stout. Winchester rate the 200 grain BST as being adequate for Moose but this simple generalization does not take ranges and shot placement into account. Like the PowerPoint  the 200 grain BST is suitable for game weighing between 90 and 320kg (700lb) with a maximum effective range of around 350yards. As game weights are increased, it is best to avoid shots which may strike heavy bone on large game at close ranges as well as heavily raking shots. The frangible nature of the 200 grain BST can be used to maximize wounding on Moose sized game with meat saver shots however this can be tricky business with regard to tracking dead run game as any good Alaskan guide will reiterate.  
 
As suggested, on light animals both the PowerPoint and BT can produce slow kills, the PowerPoint being the softer more versatile of the two under these circumstances.  On deer weighing less than 80kg (176lb) taken broadside, shots that strike in line or slightly forwards of the center line of foreleg out to 130 yards produce fast kills. Shots that strike behind the foreleg  either high or low can produce slow kills. At close ranges the softer 200 grain PowerPoint can produce severe wounds and rear lung shot light or lean animals will sometimes only travel 2 to 3 yards after the shot, departing in a drunken fashion.
 
The 225 grain Accubond is best suited to game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb) while being adequate for game weighing up to 450kg (1000lb) with rear lung shots, tucked closely behind the shoulder (crease) of game. Velocity of this load drops quickly, falling below 2600fps at around 80 yards.  Construction of the 225 grain Accubond is adequate enough to handle heavy round ball joints however weight loss is significant, the Accubond retaining only 110 to 120 grains of its original weight.  On cross body shots on game weighing between 700 and 1000lb, the Accubond will sometimes penetrate through to and come to rest under offside skin but is just as likely to become lodged in the offside chest wall of game or within offside muscle or bone. As ranges are extended, the performance of the Accubond wanes further. Its core bonding prevents wide wounding below impact velocities of 2400fps. Like the Nosler Ballistic Tip, this bullet can at times prove to be neither fish nor fowl.
 
Winchesters former 230 grain Failsafe loading (giving around 2730fps) was a deep penetrating bullet but it produced very narrow wounding, especially at ranges beyond 100 yards. The proof of its failure to deliver can be found in its withdrawal. There is a fine line between optimum wounding and optimum penetration. The Power Max has since replaced the Failsafe loading. Unfortunately, I have not tested the Power max bonded bullet at this time. This is another core bonded bullet with a similar form to that of the Woodleigh and Oryx bullets but features a hollow point to promote rapid expansion for maximum trauma. This is in some ways like an Accubond with its tip removed. The 200 grain bullet weight is certainly an odd offering for a premium big game bullet. Time will tell.  
 
Current loads from Remington include the 225 grain Corelokt, Corelokt Ultra and Swift A-Frame at 2780fps for realistic velocities of 2700 to 2730fps in 24” barreled sporters. Remington list one heavyweight, the 250 grain Corelokt at 2660fps for a realistic average of 2590fps.
 
The conventional 225 grain Core-Lokt loading is a good performer for hunters on a budget, suitable for game weighing between 90and 320kg (198-700lb) this bullet will handle larger game but should not be expected to hold together if heavy bone is encountered. The Core-Lokt Ultra core bonded bullet gives more reliable performance than the traditional Core-Lokt, Weight retention is high however the Ultra can at times over expand at high impact velocities if meeting heavy resistance. Nevertheless, such performance is better than the alternative- narrow wounding. The Core-Lokt Ultra can be relied on to break through heavy bone and destroy vitals of game weighing up to 450kg (1000lb) and somewhat heavier. Regardless of its expansion ratio, this bullet does its best work at close to moderate ranges, maximizing wounding potential.  
 
The Swift A-Frame is an extremely reliable bullet. The A-Frame loses very little weight but loses much of its form during expansion, taking the shape of a musket ball after initial penetration. This bullet can be relied on to penetrate through heavy bone and destroy vitals. Exit wounding is rare on large bodied game which is completely normal and to be expected with most premium bullet designs.  Again, this load is best utilized at close to moderate ranges as a means to maximize trauma.
 
None of the Remington 225 grain loads can be expected to produce fast kills on light through to large medium game due to the low initial muzzle velocities. This also applies to the 250 grain Core-Lokt and for use on game weighing between 320 and 450kg (700-1000lb) those on a budget will find the increase in sectional density of the 250 grain bullet more useful on large bodied game than the extra velocity of the 225 grain bullet.
 
For a time, Federal listed a vast range of options for the .338 Winchester Magnum with overlapping performance, a very confusing situation for hunters. More recently, Federal have reduced their product range to six loadings. This range lacks budget options and also still suffers some overlap. The current range is also geared towards large game hunting out to moderate ranges, limiting flexibility. High weight retention is unfortunately the 2014 buzz term at federal which is certainly ideal for large game but does not take into account more general usage. Nevertheless, Federal have retained their Partition loads which show a degree of flexibility.
 
Current loads from Federal include the 200 grain Tipped TBBC Now called Trophy Bonded Tip (TBT) at an advertised 2930fps, the 210 grain Partition at an advertised 2830fps, the 225 grain Trophy Copper (Barnes TTSX) at 2800fps, the 225 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw (without tip) at 2730fps, the 225 grain Fusion at 2850fps and the 250 grain Partition at 2660fps. As per usual, velocities in 24” barreled sporting rifles tend to be around 70fps below advertised velocities.
 
One load that has been removed from the Federal line up and from the Nosler inventory is the 180 grain Ballistic Tip which produced velocities averaging around 3050fps in 24” barreled sporting rifles. Although it is gone, I believe it does need mentioning simply as a study of the performance of this bullet weight which is now seldom seen in the .338 caliber. This was as per the norm, a rather stout bullet design, but fully frangible at high velocities. When the 180 grain Ballistic Tip was used on light animals below 80kg (176lb), shots that struck in line or in front of the foreleg produced fast kills.  Shots that struck behind the foreleg above center also produce fast kills but only out to a range of around 70 yards therefore this load could not be called a reliably fast killer of light game. Shots that struck behind the foreleg but low (heart) produced severe internal wounds at close range that prevented light animals from traveling far but results tapered off beyond 70 yards.  The 180 grain Ballistic Tip was best suited to open country hunting of game weighing between 90 and 180kg (198-396lb) and providing it met good resistance, delivered fast killing out to ranges of around 175 yards and clean killing out to impact velocities of around 1800fps or ranges of around 500 yards.
 
The more recent 200 grain TBT is an excellent bullet design for tough medium game. This load has a good deal of velocity behind it to help ensure fast killing on larger bodied game out to ranges of around 250 yards, and clean killing out to ranges of around  350 yards. The TBT can also handle heavily raking shots.
 
Federal’s 210 grain Partition load can easily be driven at velocities of above 2900fps but is under loaded by Federal, delivering fast killing out to only 60 yards but remains clean killing thereafter, doing its best work down to 2200fps or around 250 yards and is adequate down to 1800fps or 450 yards with careful shoulder shot placement.  This load is suitable for game weighing between 90 and 450kg (200-1000lb). On heavy, densely muscled game, the 210 grain Partition is not as reliable as heavier bullets and can suffer rear core separation when pushed at high velocity into heavy round bone or ball joints.
The Federal 225 grain Fusion load is yet another in a now fairly long list of core bonded bullet designs. Performance is fairly A-typical, ideal for larger body weights up to 450kg (1000lb), best used at impact velocities of above 2400fps. This load produces higher energy transfer than the TXS loadings, but with a sacrifice in penetration. As the saying goes, horses for courses.
 
Both the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Barnes TSX are well suited for game weighing up to 450kg (1000lb) and larger at close to moderate ranges.  The TBBC was once offered as a High Energy (HE) loading at a true 2940fps in 24” barrels but Federal no longer offer such loadings.  This bullet has a fairly low BC of .376 but delivers high shock for medium game out to 130 yards, deep wounding of large game and clean killing out to impact velocities of 2200fps or 200 yards. The TBBC produces a greater frontal area than the Barnes bullet giving less penetration than the Barnes. On large animals the TBBC will often come to rest under offside skin while the Barnes may produce a small exit wound. Both loads are best used at close ranges where impact velocities and trauma are high and if possible, above 2400fps. The Barnes bullet in particular can be somewhat unforgiving at lower velocities and can pose a risk to the hunter if used on Brown bear, wounded but playing possum.
 
Federal’s Heavy weight load features the 250 grain Partition at 2660fps for 2590fps. This bullet was also once available as an HE load at 2800fps but alas, no more. The heavy 250 grain Partition produces deeper and more reliable penetration than either the 210 or 225 grain Partition bullets, its SD helping to minimize any risk of rear core separation. Suitable for game up to and above 450kg (1000lb) this bullet does not out penetrate the lighter TSX bullet but can produce greater trauma at impact velocities below 2400fps and especially below 2200fps.
 
For a time, Hornady listed just the one load for the .338 Winchester Magnum, a Heavy Magnum load featuring the 225 grain Interlock soft point bullet at 2950fps. Barrels shorter than 26” or loose dimensioned bores could not achieve this velocity with results averaging 70fps lower for 2880fps across the board. Gone now are the long drop tubes feeding bulky slow burning powder into the Hornady cases while the Interlock Soft point has also been replaced. Current loads from Hornady feature Superformance powder which has the same burn rate as the former powder but a much higher bulk density and better characteristics (full burn) in 22-24” barrels, while the Interlock has been replaced by three newer bullet designs which include the violent SST, the Interbond and the GMX homogenous copper bullet.
 
Current loads from Hornady (all Superformance) include the 185 grain GMX at 3080fps, the 200 grain SST at 3030fps, the 225 grain SST at 2840fps and the 225 grain Interbond, also at 2840fps. In most instances, actual velocities come to within 40fps of advertised speeds.
 
The 185 grain GMX is a somewhat smart design and follows what I believe to be the current thinking employed by Barnes. The light weight and high velocity of this bullet help ensure full energy transfer where previous heavy solid copper bullet designs did not fare so well. This bullet is perfectly adequate for game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb). Unfortunately, I have yet to establish an upper game weight limit for this bullet design due to insufficient testing. Like other homogenous copper bullet designs, the GMX does its best work at impact velocities above 2400fps or 270 yards, its performance waning further at 2200fps or 370 yards.
 
Hornady’s 200 and 225 grain SST loads set the bench mark for wide wounding in the .338 caliber. These projectiles are designed to produce controlled expansion but will often produce full fragmentation when striking major bones of medium game. The 200 grain bullet is blessed with both a high velocity and a relatively high BC of .455. For those wanting to use the .338 Win Mag on light framed or lean game, no other load can compare to the 200 grain SST. The 200 grain SST produces disproportionate to caliber wounding down to 1600fps but in the .338 caliber, delayed killing can occur below impact velocities of 2400fps with rear lung shots if this bullet is used on lean game. The 200 grain SST does its best work on game weighing between 90 and 180kg (200-400lb) and is about perfect for Red and Mule deer. The SST can tackle slightly heavier game when hunting in open or semi open terrain and especially at extended ranges, however at close ranges, poor penetration can be an issue.
 
Hornady’s 225 grain SST load is best suited to game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb) but is prone to full fragmentation at close ranges. On light or lean game, the SST produces extremely violent wounding and immensely large exit wounds. But as velocities fall, the 225 grain SST begins to cleave to its momentum. The first signs of delayed killing become noticeable at my often quoted figure of 2600fps- a cut off for hydrostatic shock. Wounding remains broad down to 2400fps, then steadily tapers off in diameter thereafter. At these lower impact velocities, rear lung shots on lean game can lead to a great deal of tracking, searching for dead run game. This can be prevented with forwards shoulder shot placement to help ensure energy transfer.
 
When using the Hornady 225 grain SST on larger bodied deer, realistic expectations important. Those who expect stern to bow penetration will be disappointed while those who take cross body or quartering shots on larger bodied deer will be pleased with the performance of this bullet. The 225 grain SST has a BC of .515 helping it to retain velocity and energy down range and both the 200 and 225 grain SST loads come into their own when used as semi long range loadings with effective ranges of 730 to 790 yards or 1600fps. Body weight resistance is the key as ranges are increased and large bodied deer including Elk offer the best target resistance. Pigs (and similarly built animals) are also an ideal target species and although the body weights of these animals can range anywhere from 20 to 300kg (44-660lb),  for porkers through to a mature Texas boar, the density and weight distribution of these animals helps ensure full energy transfer on smaller specimens. Apart from these body types, if game weights are insufficient, shoulder shot placement is the key at extended ranges. At the other extreme, the 225 grain SST should never be used on large heavy game, whether hunting in close or out long.
 
The 225 grain Interbond is suitable for hunting game weighing between 90 and 450kg (200-1000lb). This bullet is not suitable for lighter game beyond close ranges. At the other extreme, on game weighing around 450kg, the Interbond should not be expected to produce deep penetration with heavily raking shots. This bullet does its best work down to impact velocities of 2400fps (200 yards) with performance tapering off rapidly below 2200fps (300 yards). The 225 grain Interbond can be used in conjunction with the 225 grain SST as a dual loading concept, the Interbond used for close range work, the SST for semi long range hunting without any major shift in POI.
 

Hand loading

 
Hand loading the .338 Winchester can vastly improve performance resulting in faster killing out to greater ranges. The hand loader can also utilize heavier bullets than factory ammo users as a means to increase the performance of the .338 Winchester Magnum on heavy game. Those who utilize the full range of bullets from the 200 grain SST through to the heavy Woodleigh bullet designs while developing an understanding of its strengths and limitations will find the .338 Winchester Magnum to be a highly versatile cartridge. The .338 can be seen as a hack in such hands, a do all work horse. But without this attention to detail, the .338 is in some ways a one trick pony, best suited to large bodied deer and almost dull in its general performance.
 
The .338 Win Mag was designed with a relatively generous throat length. SAAMI specs call for a cartridge overall length of 84.8mm (3.340”) to enable the .338 to be housed in actions with shorter than desirable magazines.  This COAL allows optimum results with 180 and 200 grain bullets, slight powder cramping with 225 grain bullets and heavy powder cramping with 250 grain bullets. In contrast to this, maximum COAL’s are typically around 87mm (3.425”), often achieving a perfect relationship whereby 225 grain projectiles can be seated flush to the case shoulder neck junction with the ogive of the bullet close to the lands. Heavier bullets have to be seated slightly further into the case but this does not pose powder compression problems. 
 
Allowed to breathe, typical velocities for the .338 Win Mag with a 24” barrel include 3200 to 3300fps with 180 grain bullets, 3000 to 3100fps with 200 grain bullets, 2900 to 3000fps with the 210 grain Nosler, 2900 to 2950fps with 225 grain bullets, 2700 to 2750fps with 250 grain bullets and 2300fps to 2400fps with heavy 300 grain bullets.
 
In rifles with short magazines, short barrels or minimum dimensioned chambers, velocities tend to be 100fps slower. In rifles with longer 26” barrels combined with generous throats, velocities can sometimes be up to 80fps faster than those listed here. For the traveling hunter, mild loads should be chosen due to variations in climate which may affect pressures.
 
Recoil to both the shooter and rifle platform can be a major issue at any of the above velocities. The rifle must be sound and shooting technique equally sound. In light weight rifles such as the Tikka T3, it can be difficult to shoot 200 to 225 grain bullets at velocities higher than 2650fps. Novice shooters can have great difficulty utilizing the T3 at velocities of 2400fps let alone 2650fps or a full 2900fps. Muzzle brakes or suppressors can be very useful- providing there is enough meat in the muzzle of the fly weight for thread machining. In medium to varmint weight rifles, recoil is more manageable and experienced or practiced shooters can tolerate mid to full power loads and obtain optimum accuracy. It must be remembered that power without accuracy is pointless - utterly pointless.
 
The most suitable powders for reloading the .338 Winchester Magnum are the medium slow burners such as IMR4350 and ADI 2209 (H4350).  Powders in the 4831 range are simply too slow and heavily compressed charges fail to produce desirable velocities with bullet weights up to 250 grains. Slower powders tend to be most useful when loading 275 to 300 grain bullets.
 
The common twist rate for the .338 Winchester Magnum is 1:10m and this is about perfect for all of the .338 magnums being an immensely versatile twist rate. For many years, the most common barrel length has been 24” which is fine considering the powder burn rates utilized.  Some modern rifles such as the Remington M700 now feature 26” barrels which add a bit more weight to reduce recoil along with a touch more velocity. Custom rifles can be built either way, there is room here for personal choice.
 
At this time of writing, Hornady list a dozen different projectiles in .338 caliber for various applications. These include the 185gr GMX, the 200 grain FTX (rubber tipped bullet for the .338 Marlin lever action rifle), the 200 grain Interlock, the 200 grain SST, the 225 grain Interlock, the 225 grain SST, the 225 grain Interbond, the 250 grain Interlock, the 250 grain Interlock round nose soft point, the 250 grain Match, the 285 grain Match and the 285 grain A-Max.
 
The traditional Interlock bullets are now a budget bullet design having been superseded by Hornady’s recent designs. Performance of these bullets is in some ways best described as modest. The 200 grain Interlock is at its best when utilized on game body weights of 90 to 180kg (200-400lb). The 225 grain bullet does its best work on game body weights of 90 to 320kg (200-700lb) however it cannot handle heavily raking shots on game weighing more than 80kg (180lb).  The 250 grain bullets do not offer a great deal more penetration than the 225 grain Interlock and although they can be put to work on large bodied game if major round bones are avoided, the 250 grain bullets are better suited to Elk sized game. The round nose bullet displays a degree of increased hydrostatic shock transfer at close ranges when used on medium and larger medium game and can be employed to effect fast kills where lean game may be encountered in the same hunting area as larger bodied animals.  The Interlock bullets are each capable of producing expansion down to velocities of 1800fps however due to their high weights relative to the small bores, target resistance is a key factor in performance.
 
The 200 grain SST, already mentioned in the factory ammunition section, is one of the greatest things to have happened to the .338 bore. This bullet produces immediate expansion and violent wounding. As suggested, this bullet is the optimum choice as a general purpose bullet for all game up to body weights of around 180kg (400lb). At close ranges, the hunter may wish to avoid shoulder shots on lean game as a means to save meat, however at extended ranges, shoulder shot placement can be important to effect fast killing in lieu of target resistance. 
 
The 225 grain Hornady SST is another versatile bullet and perhaps the best starting point when developing a single load for game weighing between 40 and 320kg (88-700lb).  Annealing is an important consideration when using this bullet.  When utilized as is on smaller deer species, the 225 grain SST projectile retains wide frontal area resulting in high shock at close to moderate ranges along with large exit wounds while being prone to full fragmentation (bullet blow up).  The resulting fragments are often large and kills can be spectacular. It therefore goes that on larger bodied game, such performance can inhibit penetration at close ranges. This performance can however be very useful at long ranges where velocity is low. To increase penetration at close ranges on game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb) the SST must be annealed (see bullet annealing tutorial). This decreases frontal area, helps prevent bullet blow und generally allows for reasonably deep penetration.
 
Weight retention of the annealed .338” SST averages 50% or a light 110 grains. To this end, the 225 grain SST bullet is not suitable for large or heavily boned animals with a remaining risk of jacket core separation should the bullet encounter heavy ball joints. Loaded to 2900fps, the 225 grain SST (and its 200 grain sibling) produce the most severe wounding of all .338 projectiles and as a general rule, game hit with this bullet either go down immediately or do not travel far. The SST produces fast killing down to a velocity of 2600fps (150 yards), beyond this, frontal chest shots cause death within 5-10 yards but rear lung shots show no sign of a hit with game able to travel 30-70 yards. Wounds are generally severe down to a velocity of 2400fps (250 yards).  Annealing the 225 grain SST does not seem to help increase speed of killing at lower velocities, even though the ogive is made softer. In essence, the SST expands upon impact regardless of annealing processes and in this instance, leaving the bullet un-annealed can improve wounding on lean bodied animals via the wider frontal area.
 
The 225 grain Interbond is ideally suited to game in the 90 to 320kg range and adequate for cross body and lightly quartering shots on game weighing up to 450kg (1000lb). Results on lighter game are not as spectacular as the SST as the core bonded Interbond features heavily controlled expansion. When used on large bodied game, the Interbond needs to be annealed to maximize penetration if it is expected to be used for heavily raking shots on game up to the size of Elk and also as a means to increase penetration on larger animals. Once annealed, this is a sound and reliable bullet for those on a budget. On larger medium game the Interbond will often produce a free bleeding exit wound, on heavy animals in the 450kg (1000lb) range this bullet will seldom exit.
 
Hornady’s Match bullets have for a long time been utilized by .338 Lapua users. The BTHP designs are nevertheless generally poor performers on game. The 285 grain A-Max is however a different animal. This is a fully frangible bullet that expands readily on light through to large bodied game alike at close through to exceedingly long ranges. This bullet cannot be driven fast in the .338 Win Mag with sweet spots occurring between 2400 and 2500fps. Nevertheless, high muzzle velocities are not a necessity when using this bullet.  The A-Max can tackle reasonably large game however thought must be given to weight distribution of the animal and proposed ranges. For example, the 285 grain A-Max can be used on antelope weighing up 450kg (1000lb) and heavier but not densely muscled dangerous game or for shoulder shooting large game at close ranges. But as ranges are extended or with care to shot placement, the A-Max can tackle large body weights.
 
Sierra list only two hunting bullets for the .338’s, the 215 grain Prohunter and 250 grain Gameking. Sierra also produce match projectiles in .338 caliber and although a good number of hunters have bragged of taking game at immense ranges with these bullets in larger .338 Magnums, the plain truth is that these bullets are unreliable killers and will often fail expand or fragment, especially at extended ranges where impact velocities are.
 
In many ways, both the 215 grain Prohunter and 250 grain Gameking cover the same ground. The Prohunter has a heavily tapered jacket to aid penetration, the Gameking has a tougher jacket than most other members of the Gameking family. The result is two projectiles which need a good deal of bodyweight resistance to initiate rapid expansion and energy transfer. And - once again the Gameking becomes caught between two worlds. On the one hand, at close ranges where velocity is high, the Gameking is fully frangible on large bodied game with a risk of poor penetration if game weights are simply too large. Then, on the other hand, at extended ranges as well as on lean animals at all ranges, the Gameking can prove altogether too stout, failing to effect fast kills. Game weights are the key here - both bullets being about ideal for Elk sized game. The Prohunter does its best work down to velocities of 2400fps with performance tapering off more dramatically at 2200fps and below. The Gameking can be pushed to 1800fps but again, a good deal of game body weight resistance is required to initiate full expansion. The Gameking can be a very useful bullet, ideal for cross valley shooting, producing impressive kills, but as always, the key is to match this bullet to appropriate game weights.

Speer produce six .338 projectiles which include the 200 grain Hotcor, the 225 grain BTSP, the 225 grain Grand Slam, the 225 grain TBBC (see factory ammunition section- Federal), the 225 grain Deepcurl and the 250 grain Grand slam.
 
The 200 grain Hotcor performs in a similar manner to the 215 grain Sierra Prohunter, though the latter has a light core bonding. This bullet is again ideal for game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb). On larger game, bullet weight loss is too high to ensure deep penetration in a reliable manner. But like the Prohunter, the Speer Hotcor performs admirably when matched appropriately to game weights and its very light core bonding helps ensure adequate penetration while also providing excellent energy transfer.  The Hotcor is at its best when driven fast, producing hydrostatic shock down to impact velocities of 2600fps, relatively fast killing down to 2400fps with a marked drop in performance at 2200fps and below.
 
The 225 grain Speer BTSP is, like its kin, a hidden gem. Many folk consider Speer bullets to be a bit old fashioned these days, under estimating the qualities of select bullet designs. The 225 grain Speer BTSP is a soft bullet - ideal for extended range work. Its weight and momentum does however dictate that a degree of body weight is needed in order to maximize energy transfer - its jacket is not quite as soft as the Hornady A-Max. Nevertheless, this is a fast expanding projectile in a similar manner to the SST. Differences between the two bullets are subtle, the SST features skives (notches in the ogive) to help initiate expansion which then leads to fragmentation. The Speer bullet features no such skives so its action is slightly delayed and its maximum effective range is also slightly lessened. However, regardless of mode of its mode of action, the Speer is capable of full fragmentation which is especially useful in the absence of high velocity disproportionate to caliber wounding. The Speer BTSP is ideal for game weighing between 90 to 320kg (200-700lb) and it should be obvious that this bullet is not suitable for heavily raking shots - though its wounding potential is severe in lieu of this. The BTSP can also tackle light or lean animals in the same manner as the SST bullets - paying attention to shot placement, keeping shots well forwards at extended ranges. Without this attention to detail, kills may be slow. The Speer BTSP does its best work down to impact velocities of 1800fps and is not as sensitive to game body weight resistance as the Gameking- providing game weights are not too light.  Those who do not understand the Speer BTSP may complain of its inability to produce “big bullet” penetration  while those who have developed an understanding of terminal ballistics as promoted in my published work will find that this bullet is capable of producing spectacular kills. As always, expectations are a key factor.
 
Having mentioned the TBBC bullet in the factory ammunition section, there is little more to be said here other than to suggest that this bullet does its best work when driven hard and fast. Stalking game to close ranges helps maximize impact trauma for fast killing while also enabling exact shot placement, enabling large body weights to be tackled with ease.  Having had several bullet blow ups when taking raking shots with Grand slam bullets, readers will note that I have omitted data for the Grand Slam throughout the knowledge base. The Grand Slam is mentioned here only as an acknowledgement of its existence.
 
The most recent design from Speer is the Deepcurl, this bullet being in a similar class as the Woodleigh Weldcore. The Deepcurl does its best work, like most core bonded bullets, at impact velocities above 2400fps as a means to maximize trauma.  The 225 grain Deepcurl needs a good degree of resistance to initiate immediate energy transfer and like most .338 bullets, is reliant on body weights of around 90kg (200lb) or higher. On lighter animals, select shoulder shot placement is the key to affect fast kills.
 
The Speer Deepcurl comes right into its own when used on game weighing between 320 and 450kg (700-1000lb). This bullet could perhaps handle slightly heavier game however its SD is rather low in comparison to 250-300 grain .338 bullets. The Deepcurl tends to lose around 25% weight on tough game with recovered bullets weighing around 160 to 170 grains, the frontal area relatively wide. Low impact velocities can of course aid penetration due to low expansion and reduced frontal area however wounding potential is reduced accordingly. It is therefore important to work to the strengths of the bullet design, putting it to work on larger bodied deer, bear and Antelope, out to moderate ranges. Used this way, the Deepcurl is capable of producing outstanding performance.
  
Nosler .338 bullet designs include the 180 grain Accubond, the 200 grain Ballistics Tip, the 200 grain Accubond, the 210 grain Partition, the 225 grain Accubond, the 225 grain Partition, the 250 grain Partition and finally, the 300 grain Accubond with its very high BC of .720. The .338 Accubond bullets must be considered very carefully. These designs suffer the same limitations as the 250 grain Gameking. On the one hand, the Accubond is very fast expanding - but at close ranges on tough game, penetration can be limited. In worst case scenarios, when these bullets are used on heavy game under the pretense that bullet, SD and core bonding should be sufficient for large heavy bodied game - the Accubond can be a major let down, projectiles only just passing through vitals while failing to pass through offside chest walls. On the other hand, at extended ranges, the Accubond can be altogether too tough, its core bonding preventing any weight bullet weight loss as a means to effect disproportionate to caliber wounding. The strengths of the Accubond can be found at ordinary hunting ranges of around 300 yards with the exception of the 300 grain bullet which does its best work in close. The .338 Accubond bullet designs perform well on mid to large bodied deer.
 
The 180 grain Accubond does its best work on game weighing between 90 and 150kg (200-330lb), though it can also be a spectacular killer of lighter animals while also tackling slightly heavier body weights. To this end, the 180 grain AB has a level of versatility on light through to mid weight game, providing shot placement is sound and ranges are not too long.
The 225 grain Accubond bullet is great for use of game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb). The Accubond does not require annealing as suggested for the Hornady Interbond as during penetration the Accubond sheds its frontal area. This bullet loses around 50% weight as is typical of the Accubond design. The Accubond will not normally exit larger animals in the 450kg range and results can at times be disappointing. On crossbody shots that strike shoulder bones the Accubond will sometimes be found lodged in offside muscle and bone, the remaining 110 to 120 grain projectile can be difficult to find.
 
The 300 grain Accubond has a much higher SD than its kin. This bullet is suitable for game weighing up to 450kg (1000lb) and somewhat higher but not heavily muscled, dense game. Wounding becomes narrow below impact velocities of 2200fps or inside 150 yards when utilized in the .338 Winchester Magnum. Low impact velocities can aid penetration however the tradeoff of reduced wounding potential resulting in slow killing can negate any gains. 
 
The 210 and 225 grain Nosler Partition are well suited to game weighing between 90 and 320kg with the latter projectile able to tackle game weight of up to 450kg (1000lb) and heavier. That said, the 225 grain bullet does not have the prowess of its 250 grain counterpart on game weighing between 450 and 600kg (1000-1300lb). In contrast to this, the 225 grain bullet can be prone to tumble and lose its rear core when used on game of this size, should the projectile strike heavy bone. All three Partition bullet designs produce expansion at impact velocities of 1800fps however wounding tends to be narrow with rear lung shots on large bodied game. Shot placement is therefore critical at extended ranges as a means to effect fast humane kills.
 
Barnes TSX bullets are available in the weights 185, 210, 225 and 250 grains. Tipped TSX bullets are available in the weights 160, 185, 210, 225 and 250 grains.
 
As a rule, the Barnes bullets perform best by selecting a lighter than normal bullet weight. To put this into perspective, the 225 grain Accubond may only weigh 120 grains after penetration. Compare this to the 160 grain Barnes which still weighs over 150 grains after recovery. Having said this, the Accubond can utilize weight loss as a means of energy transfer. The Barnes bullet on the other hand must utilize high velocity as a means to maximize trauma, doing its best work at impact velocities of 2400fps. One is not better than the other- each offer different modes of action.
 
As suggested, velocity is the key factor for the Barnes. The Tipped TSX design aids performance further, helping to keep velocities high while offering more frontal area, hidden behind the polymer tip. Both the 160 and 185 grain bullets do their best work on game weighing between 90 and 320kg (200-700lb) while the 210 and 225 grain bullets can tackle much larger body weights. The 250 grain Barnes is best reserved for bovine sized game at close ranges in order to maximize wound trauma. This bullet produces the deepest penetration of all expanding type hunting bullets but again, it is important to stalk in close and if possible, aim to break bone.
 
Rocky Mountain produce two extremely useful bullets for the .338 Winchester Magnum, the 225 and 250 grain ULD. These bullets are fully frangible, ideal for long range hunting. The 225 and 250 grain Rocky Mountain bullets are suitable for light or lean game through to Elk sized game, producing immensely wide wounding. The Rocky Mountain bullets can be used on Elk sized game at close ranges with select shot placement, the fragments being very large, the fragmentary cluster maintaining momentum which aids penetration. These bullets maximize the effective range of the .338 Winchester Magnum, boasting immensely high BC’s of .773 and .846 respectively, allowing for shots to be taken well beyond 1000 yards. Wounding is violent and in many instances spectacular down to impact velocities of 1400fps, a truly outstanding premium bullet design.  Rocky Mountain also produce heavier 275, 300 and 325 grain bullets. The 275 and 300 grain bullets can be used in the .338 Winchester Magnum for hunting large bodied non dangerous game at extended ranges, the reduced velocity aiding penetration of the fragmentary cluster.
 
Berger produce a 250 grain Elite Hunter VLD bullet suitable for the .338 Winchester Magnum along with a 300 counterpart for the larger magnums. Like the Matchking conquests, many a hunter has boasted as to securing game at considerable ranges with the VLD bullets in the Lapua and Edge chamberings. Unfortunately, the .338 VLD bullet is very tough can be prone to produce pencil hole wounds at extended ranges. In many of these instances, such shots are incorrectly called as a miss when the animal is indeed hit but has shown no reaction. The animals are then left to die a slow painful death if a follow up shot does not connect. As a further misfortune, the more egotistic bound magnum users fail to relate this information to other users at the expense of game. In truth, the now very aged Speer BTSP design is softer and far more capable of reliable fragmentation at extended ranges. The G1 BC of the VLD is .682 as opposed to the 225 grain Speer at .495. Speer could quite easily close this gap to an extent with a 250 grain bullet design.
 
To maximize performance, the VLD should be annealed and meplat trimmed.  Following this, the VLD may be used on large bodied deer out to impact velocities of 1800fps. That said, performance should be studied on an individual basis, monitoring wounding on local game species, studying shoulder shot wounding versus rear lung shot wounding, withdrawing the bullet from use if negative results occur.
 
Woodleigh produce some very fine .338 bullets and well they should as the ,338 Winchester Magnum has seen a lot of use in Australia on large game including scrub bull (wild cattle) and Asiatic water buffalo. Traditional designs include the 225 grain protected point, the 250 grain protected point, the 250 grain round nose, the 250 grain FMJ, the 300 grain round nose and the 300 grain FMJ. All are best suited to hunting game animals weighing above 90kg (200lb). Although some big game hunters prefer mild muzzle velocities, the Woodleigh Weld core bullets perform exceptionally well when driven fast. Personally, I lean towards Elmer Keith’s method where, once a good bullet like the Woodleigh is discovered, performance can be enhanced by stalking in close to ensure maximum impact velocity along with exact shot placement. The 225 grain Woodleigh handles body weights of up to 450kg with relative ease while the 250 grain bullets can be put to use on heavy game. My personal preference is towards the round nose bullet due to its ability to transmit maximum trauma, as well as being versatile on a wide range of game body weights including light framed game.
 
The heavy 300 grain Woodleigh bullets are well designed. Again, the round nose design helps deliver maximum trauma. Hand loaders are encouraged to work up near maximum load s- however due thought must be given if travelling to warmer climates which may jack pressures up further. The round nosed soft point should be used for first shots and or consecutive follow up shoulder shots. FMJ bullets can be used for follow up shots if preferred or for head shots on heavy game.
 
Woodleigh now also produce a hydrostatically stabilized flat point copper alloy (untested at this time of writing) for maximum penetration. This bullet is similar to the Keith style semi wadcutter to promote a degree of disproportionate to caliber wounding. In the .338 caliber, velocities need to be relatively high in order for this to take place and Woodleigh have made sure this is possible by opting for light to mid weight bullet designs weighing 185 and 225 grains. My personal notes on this style of projectile can be found in the article titled “the effects of the meplat on terminal performance”.
   
Swift bullets include the 210 grain Scirocco along with the A-Frame which is available in the weights 225, 250 and 275 grains.
 
The 210 grain Scirocco is in many ways like the Accubond. Its performance can be more violent however the differences can be subtle to the untrained eye. The Scirocco is best suited to large bodied deer up to the size of Elk and can be annealed to reduce frontal area and aid penetration with raking shots. That said, end to end penetration cannot be expected on large bodied deer. The Scirocco is like other core bonded bullet designs and does its best work at impact velocities above 2400fps with performance declining at impact velocities of 2200fps and below. Driven fast and used on appropriate game weights, this bullet can be a spectacular killer out to moderate ranges.

The Swift 225 grain A-Frame is suitable for similar game in the 90-320kg range but can tackle heavier animals weighing up to 450kg (1000lb).  Extremely high weight retention gives deep penetration although like other core bonded bullets the Swift loses most of its shank as its form changes during penetration. Penetration is generally identical to the Partition.
                                         
Swift’s heavy weights, the 250 and 275 grain A-Frames are well suited to large game. The 275 grain A-Frame stands alone as being heavier than typical 250 grain premium bullets, but not so heavy as to handicap potential muzzle velocities, an important consideration. Again, the faster the hunter can drive this bullet and the closer he or she can stalk, the greater the wound trauma. Like the Woodleigh 250 and 300 grain bullets, this bullet should be driven into shoulder bones and into the autonomic plexus for extremely fast kills on heavy bodied game.
 
There are now several other .338 bullet designs which I have yet to test. Cutting Edge for example, have managed to develop a homogenous copper bullet which appears to be able to produce full fragmentation for fast killing at extended ranges. Along with this, penetration of the very large fragments appears to be more than adequate for large bodied deer. Nevertheless and as suggested, I have yet to test this and other bullet designs, my notes here being purely anecdotal.
 

Closing comments

 
The .338 Winchester is a highly practical cartridge, performing extremely well on large bodied medium game. By using select projectiles, the .338 is highly versatile. The .338 Winchester Magnum cannot be called overkill on lighter game as conventional 200-225 grain bullets produce mild results after meeting little resistance. As a heavy game cartridge, the .338 Winchester does not have the power of wider bores, but again, using select components, it can be put to practical use. The .338 Winchester Magnum can also make for an excellent long range cartridge, utilizing Rocky Mountain and A-Max bullet designs. In essence, the .338 can be utilized as an all-around cartridge providing care is given to bullet selection. Without this attention to detail, the .338 bore is best suited to Elk and similar sized antelope- as it was initially designed.   
 
A main detractor of this cartridge is its excessively sharp recoil, especially with hand loaded bullets approaching 3000fps. Many brands of scope have too short an eye relief for this level of recoil and can cause shooters to develop severe flinching. Those looking to move to the .338 Winchester are advised to use scopes with 3.8 to 4” eye relief and adopt rifles of a suitable weight, starting at around 9.5lb with optics. Muzzle brakes and suppressors can also be useful, however equal care must be taken when selecting either, taking safety factors into serious consideration.
 
Many factory sporting rifles in .338Win mag produce groups of around 3MOA due to excessive strain to bedding areas.  To some, this may seem acceptable if hunting in close, however in the field such rifles prove to be hopeless, worthless tools. With a good action and stock design, good bedding, a free floating barrel and a light crisp trigger along plenty of practice, the .338 Winchester Magnum is capable of sub MOA accuracy. And although this cartridge is very sensitive to bullet weights and bullet designs versus game weights, this process is highly rewarding, making the .338 Winchester an absolute joy to use in the field.
 
 
 
Suggested loads: .338 Winchester Magnum Barrel length: 24”
No ID   Sectional Density Ballistic Coefficient Observed  MV Fps ME
Ft-lb’s
1 FL Hornady SF 225gr SST/IB .281 .515 2800 3916
2 FL Federal 250gr Partition .313 .473 2600 3752
3 HL 200gr SST .250 .455 3000 3996
4 HL 225gr Rocky Mountain .281 .773 2900 4201
5 HL 250gr Woodleigh RN .313 .332 2700 4046
6 HL 275gr A-Frame .344 .469 2500 3816
 
Suggested sight settings and bullet paths           
1 Yards 100 150 253 295 325 350 375 400
  Bt. path +3 +3.5 0 -3 -6.3 -9.3 -12.7 -16.6
2 Yards 100 229 266 300 325 350    
  Bt. path +3 0 -3 -6.7 -10 -13.8    
3 Yards 100 150 273 314 350 375 400 425
  Bt. path +3 +3.7 0 -3 -6.7 -9.6 -13 -16.9
4 Yards 100 150 275 317 350 375 400 425
  Bt. path +3 +3.7 0 -3 -6.1 -8.8 -11.9 -15.3
5 Yards 100 200 230 250 300      
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -3.7 -9.5      
6 Yards 100 185 215 225 250 275 300  
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -2.7 -5.1 -8 -11.4  
 
No At yards 10mphXwind Velocity Ft-lb’s
1 300 6 2290 2618
2 300 7.4 2071 2380
3 300 6.2 2401 2561
4 300 3.7 2546 3238
5 200 4.4 2184 2648
6 200 3.4 2144 2808

338 Win Mag final 
 
.338 Win Mag Imperial Metric 
A .532 13.51
B .513 13.03
C 25 Deg  
D .491 12.47
E .370 9.39
F 2.040 51.81
G .330 8.38
H 2.500 63.5
Max Case 2.500 63.5
Trim length 2.490 63.2
 
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Copyright © 2007-2011 Terminal Ballistics Research, Ballisticstudies.com
 
 
 

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