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.338 long range bullet performance

03 Apr 2013
@ 11:53 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

I had an email today from a person I would call "an honest .338 user". I hear so much trite about the prowess of the .338 with certain bullets. It annoys me becuase users put their ego ahead of humane game killing. It is bullshit and it needs to stop. Please read the following, it verifies my own findings:

Hi Nathan,

Hope you are well. Quick couple of questions please.

I used my .338 wildcat with 300gr Bergers on fallow deer stags. Took one at 600m and one on 525m. Went down ok but the size of the holes made me realise that a slight misplaced shot will end in tears as neither bullets made exit wounds of any consequence.

Then I used it on a springbok at 480m, took 3 shots to kill it, same thing.

Worst was an impala at 325m, entered just below the eye, exited just off centre at the back of the neck, dropped like a sack of you know what but got up again after a couple of minutes. Unbelieveable!

Ok, Im still fireforming so the muzzle velocity is only 2680ft/s as opposed to 2870 at full tilt but still, not a good omen. I watched your clip on annealing, will this solve the issue? Dont really want to trim the meplat as it buggers the BC.

Makes me worry as I plan to use 180gr VLD hunting in my .284 Shehane exiting at 2930ft/s to hunt everything from springbok up to 800m and to eland up to 600m.

I dont want to sacrifice BC and use TTSX or AB. Both calibers' Bergers buck the wind very well, are very accurate and retain good downrange velocity, not to mention that I get al the practise I need with F Class shooting so I dont want to chop and change when I hunt. I also dont want to use hybrids, VLDs and normal ogive bullets interchangeably in the same barrels so I want to stick to one ogive per barrel.

What are your views in this mate? I need some solid practical advise please.



03 Apr 2013
@ 11:59 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
My reply

Hi ...., this is exactly what I have been finding. Guys think that as long as they have a .338, anything goes. Thanks for relaying this back to me. Other .338 users are not so honest, would rather continue bragging about their tactical rifles.

OK, one of the problems you face, is that as far as I can ascertain, the jacket material used for .338 projectiles is often tougher than that used for the smaller calibers. I was just talking about this with Marshal Ambrose from Matrix bullets. Marshal was saying that making a frangible .338 bullet is difficult due to the available materials. I might see if he can design a wide hollow point bullet, regardless of reduced BC, perhaps pick up some extra BC on the boat tail with some clever design. Who knows.
(forum readers please note, one of the very best frangible bullets I have used is the 8x57 Norma 198gr HPBT. I will share more info about this when I upload my research. Suffice to say, a heavy bullet with a very wide HP is not to be dismissed, regardless of loss in BC)

Anyway, you can guess where this is going. I am not sure that annealing will work in this instance. You could try it but you will need to heat the bullet right down to the middle of the bullet, not just the ogive- and heat for a fully noticeable colour change. Even then, it is still worrying.

If you were to trim, the goal would be to trim a few bullets by whatever means- if it works, buy a proper trimmer from Kevin Cram in the U.S. If it doesn't work, that is pretty much the end of the line for you with the VLD.

Other bullets that work well include the Rocky Mountain brand and the Hornady SST, though the BC is low on the latter.
04 Apr 2013
@ 12:02 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
As for the .284, I am now gaining ever increasing confidence in the Matrix VLD bullets. I have yet to be disappointed.
05 Apr 2013
@ 11:18 pm (GMT)

Allen Miller

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Nathan, I find this very interesting and good to know. Upon some research, I looked at the Berger website and it looks like they have two different 300 grain .338 caliber bullets, one designated as hunting and one as target. What would be the difference between the two?
05 Apr 2013
@ 11:20 pm (GMT)

Allen Miller

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
To clarify, it looks as though their sizes, BC, etc. are identical. Would it be bonding vs. no bond? What other factors can come into play here?
06 Apr 2013
@ 12:03 am (GMT)


Re: .338 long range bullet performance
See Nathan's reply to a similar question on Jan 20 for the Jan 19 thread "Berger VLD" in this same section of the Forum. I think that covers the differences between the two VLD bullets pretty well.
06 Apr 2013
@ 03:41 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Hi Allen, cut and pasted below (question was- what are the differences between the match and hunting bullets):

Hi Tom, yes they are the same bullet. The Hunting VLD bullets are pulled from the production line in the mornings when the presses and copper are cold. These cold formed bullets have weaker ogives due to the forming marks left in the ogive. If you have a look at your hunting VLD ogives, you will see horizontal lines in the ogive from the forming process.

As the presses and copper warms up, projectiles with cleaner ogives are batched as Match bullets. If you have a look at one of your Match bullets, you will see the same horizontal lines in the ogive but these are often finer.

Jackets on all bullets were toughened in 2011.

The above information comes from Berger. I was fortunate enough to have all of this explained to me by Berger's production manager in the weeks during the change from the light to the slightly heavier jacket. Unfortunately, Berger have since changed the way they explain processes and product. Therefore, other hand loaders have received information which is in conflict with the information I have provided here. Proof can be found in samples.

Since the jackets of the VLD were beefed up in 2011, the Hunting VLD bullets now perform much the same as the Match VLD bullets which perform much the same as the Sierra MatchKing and Lapua Scenar.

The current literature on the Berger site promotes the idea that the Berger is designed to penetrate a long way before finally fragmenting/expanding for supposedly increased trauma.

A more realistic product statement would be: The current Hunting VLD is designed to withstand the velocities generated by over bore magnums combined with poorly chosen twist rates and ridiculous freebore. The VLD will not fall apart mid air or lose stability. The VLD is therefore the perfect bullet for hunters too lazy to learn how to read wind or drop and are hoping that 4000fps will get them on target easily at 1000 yards as well as allow shooters to out range all of their friends because we know how important it is for you to get one over your friends and fellow shooters. Yes, you're 'that guy', a winner, number one- and we are here for you.

It is a tough situation for Berger, trying to make a bullet that pleases everyone. I have said it before, I do not envy Berger. I wish them all the best.

If you intend to use the Berger for hunting, please consider either annealing or meplat trimming (or meplat trimming and hollow pointing) as described in the KB article.
13 Oct 2013
@ 07:35 pm (GMT)


Re: .338 long range bullet performance
I think a big part of the .338 over-penetration issue is that the .338 (Lapua Magnum specifically) was designed to engage soldiers wearing various gear, body armor, sitting behind cover, etc. It was made for penetration at long distances. A 300grain bullet at wildlife not wearing body armor is probably not going to work as advertised.

I shoot .338 Lapua Scenar 250s and Berger 300s and they are great long range rounds. High BC, stable in the wind, very long supersonic performance, etc. But I don't know if I'd want to *hunt* with them.

The main problem I see with most .338 projectiles is that they are clearly designed for match/military applications and not hunting. Very high BC, slick profiles, tough jackets to withstand the velocities, etc.. These all make them great for their original application, but probably not a good choice for animals. Maybe as the .338 variants gain in popularity we'll see more hunting specific projectiles being produced. And by hunting projectiles I don't mean the match loads that came off the cold press in the morning! I mean designed specifically for game.
27 Oct 2013
@ 05:30 pm (GMT)

Brandon Maxwell

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Well I am excited to get out and hunt, but I am disappointing in what I have been reading about my 338. I would like to put my neck out for all of us newbies. At the gun stores when asking about which bullets I could use for my rifle they say any bullet would work, "What wouldn't die with a bullet that big hitting it." I personally called Berger because bullets are so hard to find right now, and at the time there were some tacticals available. Berger said do not use them for hunting because they would punch right through. I thought this was odd since every salesperson I ran into said nothing but good things. One even told me he used the tacticals on his bear and elk with great results.

So I tried and tried to get my hands on the Berger hunting bullets, with no luck and hunting season is here. From what I have been hearing, this was good luck, not bad, like I had been thinking. I received a video from Berger that shows them shooting elk at 900 yard plus with Bergers, but from a 7mm. All of the animals in the video drop like sacks, as to be expected in an advertisement.

I read old articles online and found that the Berger bullets for the larger calibers where experiencing nose slump and they solved this by thickening the jackets. The problem was that so my re-loaders are trying to push the limits on velocity instead of reloading for accuracy. I look at it as a math problem. I don't need max velocity and a burnt out throat trying to prove how macho I am, but a reliable and repeatable load that can be used to create an accurate firing solution at long range. I think that in order to serve their paying customers, the bullet manufacturers are designing to compensate for those "braggers" you are mentioning above.

I bought this rifle for both tactical and hunting reasons, but mostly for hunting. Like I said, I am a newbie and bought this gun for long range hunting because of the video clips on defensiveedge for the 338 edge. The savage is an affordable option for this caliber. I think ballistcally this cartridge is fabulous. When I look at how many pounds of energy remain on a 300 grain bullet at 1200 yards I am excited about the possibilities. The problem as it seems is that I don't have a proper bullet to transfer that energy to the animal. I found some acubonds in the 300 grain, but when you look at the minimum velocity for expansion, and the retained velocity at that range, you have a problem. You end up way under. I was hoping to find a larger grain bullet for hunting since the savage 110 has a 1-9 twist. I have been considering the Rockymountain bullets, but I am poor. But alas it seems I have no other choice for a 275 plus option.

Some of us made the best decision we could on selecting a rifle caliber with tons of misinformation from tons of "experts." If most of us were not lead astray on a regular basis by fraudulent "experts" then the sales pitch on your book would make no sense since you say it is valuable to both newbies and the experienced shooter alike. Experienced shooters and gunsmith hobbyists would find no value if they already had the right info.

Right gun, just no good bullets, I think due to pushing the round too hard. But I repeat, I am a rookie.

I will be hotly pursuing some partitions, 250 grain is the largest they make.

So in the end I have a question. With the 1 in 9 twist will the lighter grain bullets perform or am I once again misguided? I was told that I need the 285 grain or higher so that I don't over stabilize.

I watched a video on you tube where the guy showed the difference between partitions and match-grade clearly proving your point. Same gun that I have. The partition exploded the bucket of water dramatically vs making it leak and tip over. Good energy transfer. I hope to get out and get some pictures soon.

One more video. This guy was surprised how much the mule deer ran around after a misjudged wind call with the 338 Allen express. He hits the deer high and back in top of both lungs. He was only at 711 yards using the 300 grain burger. His comment of surprise occurs around 5 min 35 seconds into video. The shot happens at 4 min 20 seconds.

Thanks for all your info and hard work on this site. I just purchase 3 match grade compound kits and both the hard copy and e-book. Cant wait to get them. Have an old cz24 30-06 Springfield, and the savage 110 fcp 338 Lapua. Good out of the box accuracy after i tightened things up. Still going to bed it anyway. Good luck and good hunting.

Sorry to talk so much, but I love this stuff!!!!!!!!!!!

28 Oct 2013
@ 03:55 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Some good observations and research there Brandon. Well done.

I have been putting a lot of thought into this with the new book.

As to your question- I find that individual bore dimensions and rate of fouling all come into play and have equal stakes in the stability game. Not many folk (the "experts" you talked about) go into such matters. Ultimately, each barrel must be treated as an individual item. All we can do is experiment.
28 Oct 2013
@ 10:25 pm (GMT)

Brandon Maxwell

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Hi again. I am really trying to find the right answer to my hunting bullet problem. I called matrix and he said that he didn't feel that the 338 caliber bullet he makes is a good fit for the Lapua. I was sad, and didn't understand why. He said that he wasn't sure that it would give me all that the Lapua cartridge is capable of. Do you understand why he might think that? Compared to the partition it has a higher bc and grain weight.

I am quickly learning though that bc is not everything. I would rather have control over how far from the lands and still be magazine feed-able. Bc is a number I plug into the formula of my firing solution.

So question. why is the partition better than the accubond? Only reason I ask is that accubonds are available right now. They both have the minimum velocity of 1800 fps. Sorry if you have answered this a zillion times.

Loving the book so far. Especially when I read that you should wrap your wooden stock if the action is going to be out of it for long periods of time. Oops. Been out for a year. Makes perfect sense why you would want it wrapped. Can't wait for the new book to come out.
29 Oct 2013
@ 02:43 pm (GMT)


Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Hi Brandon, I was a 338 shooter for many years, 338 win mag usually with 210 Partitions for short to moderate ranges, wounding and speed of kills tapered off after 350 yards. I then graduated (oh I thought I was onto something) to a 338 Ultra mag with 24" barrel, 250 Accubond with MV 2840 and found I could shoot it well enough for reliable hits to 800 yards but it was just above 1800ft/sec at that range. I had shot animals from 30 to 510 yards with various bullets from Barnes, Sierras, Hornaday, Nosler and Accubonds. The bottom line for me was there was ZERO margin of error under 2200 ft/sec with the 338 bullets unless major bone was impacted and even then a deer shoulder was minimal resistance for the stout 338 bullets. I had seen faster kills/more damage on deer at 500 yards with 270 win than with the 338 RUM and 250 Accubonds!
I still hunt with the 338 Win but only for Bears and Elk in the thick stuff and try and keep the shots close, a 210 or 250 Partition on an Elk at 200 yards is devastating and thats how I try and use it. For the long ranges I have moved to the 30 cal and 7mm with heavy frangible bullets.
If I had to hunt with a 338 at long ranges again I would try my luck with the RMB or try 225 SST/ 225 Accubond (balance of MV vs BC?)and test annealing and try them out on game closer before going long.
Not sure this is going to help you any but I thought I would share my limited experience with the 338 bore and the frustrations I had with it.
Good luck!! Aj
29 Oct 2013
@ 03:27 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Thanks for the input AJ, always helpful.

Brandon, if you can wait a week or two, I have put all of my notes in the next book. Also goes into discussion as to why Matrix are not happy with .338 bullet designs and possible future options.
02 Nov 2013
@ 10:06 pm (GMT)

Brandon Maxwell

Re: .338 long range bullet performance
Hey faulkner! Thanks for the reply. Sorry it took so long to post. Your information and experience is very welcome. I can learn a lot faster by using your guy's experience vs me wasting money and a couple of days hunting looking for a wounded animal. I intend to push my rifles to the limits.

So thanks again.

I am looking more into using my vz 24 30-06 for hunting this year.

I called Nosler directly and had a discussion with one of the tech support guys. While hew was a bit slippery I was able to get some satisfaction from the conversation. Hey says that both the accubond and the partition are designed to begin opening up at 1800 feet per second. They are a different design, but he claimed it was personal preference. I don't think that he has shot as many animals at long range that you have though Nathan. He did say though that the partition is the most requested bullet in Africa, where bullets are definitely put to the test.

We finished the conversation talking about the long range accubond once he was understanding my concerns for terminal performance at longer ranges. The long range accubond definitely sounds like a step in the right direction. It has a higher bc for retained velocity and is also designed to begin opening at only 1300 feet per second. With speed of sound being 1090.7 feet per second or so, it sounds like a person can push their rifle to the end of the effective range spectrum. I would like to anneal some of those bad boys. He also warned because of function at lower velocities that at closer range they would be much more violent. He also confirmed that they do not have a 338 version yet, but says that he wouldn't bat an eye if they came into his office tomorrow and said here is the new 338 version. A guy can keep his fingers crossed.

Lastly I did just notice that Hornady has come out with the a-max in a 285 grain 338 bullet. What have you heard performance wise, or what would you expect from them?

Thank you for your time, and yes all comments are more than welcome.

Nathan my brother received your email about the epoxy being on it's way. I am excited. I do have questions though. Sorry.

Good day to you all and good long range hunting.


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