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.338 Federal

10 May 2011
@ 08:30 pm (GMT)

Graeme Coats

Hi, I have a 338 Federal barrel for my Blaser. It's 161/2 inches, 1:8 twist originally developed for subsonic shooting, which it does quite well. What I'd like to do now is develop some supersonic loads and wondered what projectiles you'd recommend. I always shoot it with the silencer/suppressor on and I'm told that this adds to the effective length of barrel. I'm hoping to shoot up to 300m max and mostly shorter range in the bush. What do you think I should use as I haven't bought any of the lighter projectiles yet.


11 May 2011
@ 04:02 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

338 Federal
Hi Graeme. The success of your loads will depend vary much on the body weights of game encountered. Light framed game can run a long way after being hit, heavy bodied deer etc offer greater resistance and tend to cause more bullet expansion and therefore, wider wounding. Shot placement is an influential factor too. The delayed killing I mention is with shots that strike behind the shoulder. Shots that strike the center shoulder or slightly forwards will produce fast killing at moderate impact velocities.

I don't quite know whether your barrel will shoot that well with the lighter bullets but we can still talk about terminal performance.

The 200 grain Interlock is a good lighter medium game bullet, its low SD is advantageous in this instance. I cannot emphasize enough that we can often use factors like a low or extremely high SD to drastically alter bullet performance- without changes in bullet design.

The 200 grain Hornady SST is a very good bullet for deer. Provides violent, fast killing performance out to 100 yards with rear lung shots on lean game. Beyond 100 yards, shot placement is more critical however, with a BC of .455, you should have little trouble with wind drift at 300 yard s.

The 200 grain ballistic Tip is OK but slow killing can be expected with rear lung shots at ranges beyond 25-50 yards. This bullet is a lot more fun in the Magnums.

The 225 grain SST produces violent wounds, even though MV from the Federal is usually around 2400fps. Nevertheless, kills are slow on lighter bodied / lean game (sorry- all of my wounding photos are in hard copy). This may end up being the most accurate bullet in your 1:8 twist barrel. This one can be annealed for deep penetration (cause the frontal area to swage back, rather than stick out like a flat mushroom)

So, if we are to make a check list for you, this is how I would do it. first off look at game weights. If you are chasing larger bodied game, bullets like the 210 grain Partition or 225 grain bullets will be just fine, regardless of low muzzle velocities. If you are chasing lean game, for me its the 200 grain SST all the way with attention to shot placement- which leads to the next factor on your check list, shot placement.

What expectations do you have of shot placement and what can you 'live with'. I believe that once we have a set of expectations, we find it a lot easier to settle on a load. Example, I am looking at a little yearling deer or goat at 300 yards, the wind is gusting, there is a chance that the bullet might strike the rear lungs and the animal will run. but thats OK because I am prepared for this, if this happens I will cycle the bolt quickly and fire again- or I will send the dog over or etc etc. What I am trying to get at, is that when things happen unexpectedly, we can end up quite dissapointed but when we can predict results, it allows us to be a little more prepared for the outcomes.

Try to keep in mind, bullet weight and style of construction are more relative to shot placement in the .338 Federal. In a perfect environment, where every shot strikes the autonomous plexus, a basic conventional soft point bullet of 200-250 grains will cause effective killing at velocities of 2600fps to 500fps- again- in the perfect situation. The higher the potential error, the more we need of the bullet. Note, I have not really discussed penetration at all, just want to focus on the above factors first.

It is worth keeping in mind that the .338 is not an overly large bore. For over 300 years, during the black powder era, hunters and soldiers understood very well, that the wider the bore, the faster the kill. The .38 was considered very small, the .44 and the .45 produced the best balance of trajectory versus wounding, the 52 cal and above produced the best wounding. The invention of jacketed soft point bullets has changed things, however, this past information is still very useful. The .338 Federal finds its greatest strengths when used on larger bodied game out to moderate ranges. It can be put to use on lighter animals very well, but requires some consideration.

Hope that gives you somewhere to start.

15 May 2011
@ 10:28 am (GMT)

Graeme Coats

Re: .338 Federal
Thanks for the in depth reply, Nathan. Your knowledge and approach continue to amaze me. I'm primarily looking for a good knock-down bush rifle with 300m shots a rarity. The deer down here seem to be back in the bush more with helicopters more active. I think I'll try the partitions. They are more expensive, but I don't shoot a lot .
Thanks, again.
15 May 2011
@ 03:56 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: .338 Federal
Thanks Graeme, you are most welcome. Am glad you are going to give the Partition a go, they can often be found at a reasonable price and perform very well when matched appropriately to the job at hand. You will find straight away that the front section is extremely soft and opens up violently and readily, ideal for snap shots where shot placement error is par for the course. If you opt for the 210 grain bullet, the low SD will work in your favour as the bullet will meet a great deal of resistance on impact, causing severe trauma. At bush hunting ranges, if your shot goes way too far back, you will be able to see your animal bunch up, run a short way, then stop, allowing for a quick follow up shot.


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