.300 win. mag vs .338 lapua
Ballistics Performance Comparison of .300 win. mag vs .338 lapua
The .300 Winchester Magnum and the .338 Lapua have both been used to take down any game animal in North America. They’re both trusted sniper rounds with the U.S. military. So how’s a big game hunter to choose between two well-matched calibers? Let’s analyze a few metrics of bullet performance to see where each of these rounds shines.
The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the .300 winchester magnum vs .338 lapua based on bullet weight and various performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.
.300 win. mag 200 gr vs .338 lapua 250 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.
|300 Winchester Magnum||338 Lapua Magnum|
|Bullet Velocity (Muzzle)||2,860 ft/s||2,860 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds||2,707 ft/s||2,722 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds||2,558 ft/s||2,587 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds||2,414 ft/s||2,457 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 400 yds||2,274 ft/s||2,331 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 500 yds||2,140 ft/s||2,208 ft/s|
|Bullet Energy (Muzzle)||3,632 ft⋅lb||4,540 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 100 yds||3,253 ft⋅lb||4,111 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 200 yds||2,905 ft⋅lb||3,716 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 300 yds||2,587 ft⋅lb||3,351 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 400 yds||2,297 ft⋅lb||3,015 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 500 yds||2,033 ft⋅lb||2,706 ft⋅lb|
|Usage @ 0 yds||Toughest Game||Toughest Game|
|Usage @ 100 yds||Toughest Game||Toughest Game|
|Usage @ 200 yds||Toughest Game||Toughest Game|
|Usage @ 300 yds||Toughest Game||Toughest Game|
|Usage @ 400 yds||Toughest Game||Toughest Game|
|Usage @ 500 yds||Largest Game||Toughest Game|
|Recoil Energy||25.9 (l80 gr)||37.2 (225 gr)|
|*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures taken from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.|
Velocity is one of the most important metrics when deciding between two calibers. As seen on the above table, the .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua are extremely well-matched. However, it’s important to consider the size difference between these two: both a 200-grain .300 Win Mag and a 250-grain .338 Lapua will launch with a muzzle velocity of 2,860 ft/s. So, you’re getting a bullet that’s another 25% larger for the same velocity with the .338 Lapua.
We can also see that the .338 Lapua does start to outstrip the .300 Win Mag at longer distances. The difference between them only gets up to 68 ft/s at the 500 yard mark, but if you’re hunting at long ranges, that difference could start to add up.
So if the .338 Lapua can fire a larger bullet at the same speed (or even a hair faster), what does that mean for its energy? This is where bullet size makes a real difference, and we start to see a bigger discrepancy between the .300 Win Mag and the .338 Lapua.
The .338 Lapua starts at an incredible 4,540 ft-lbs out of the muzzle, which is 908 ft-lbs past the .300 Win Mag’s 3,632 ft-lbs. The .338 Lapua doesn’t even go under 1,000 ft-lbs, which is the recommended energy on impact for a deer, until past 1,300 yards, when accuracy would not be good enough to reliably hit a deer’s vital zones. So while the .338 Lapua certainly does have the advantage in energy – consider whether you actually need all that energy for the type of hunting you’ll be doing.
With the higher velocity and heavier density, it may not come as a surprise that the .338 Lapua also has a flatter trajectory than the .300 Win Mag. This difference is less pronounced at shorter distances – in fact, at most normal hunting ranges, you won’t notice a difference between the two calibers. It’s only for shooting very far out that you’ll start to see the .338 Lapua has an advantage.
The .338 Lapua can take just about any game at any distance. This includes not just North American game, but also dangerous and thick-skinned game in Africa and beyond. The .300 Win Mag – can also take just about any game at most reasonable hunting distances. Does it have as much energy as the .338 Lapua? No. But in application, it can take almost anything the .338 Lapua can take – so unless you’re actually planning on hunting at extremely long ranges or taking your rifle to Africa, the two rounds have very similar versatility.
We have already seen that the .338 Lapua shoots larger, heavier bullets with greater energy over longer distances than the .300 Win Mag. So it should come as little surprise that the .338 Lapua also has a much more serious kick than the .300 Win Mag. Heavy recoil can impact a shooter’s ability to place accurate shots. If you are considering the .338 Lapua, consider your ability to shoot it accurately over the course of a day.
The .338 Lapua is a larger bullet all around than the .300 Win Mag. It is quite a bit longer, and has a rim diameter of .588” compared to the .300 Win Mag’s .532” rim diameter. This gives it a significantly higher case capacity. The maximum pressure of the .338 Lapua is 65,000psi, while the .300 Win Mag’s is 64,000psi. This means that the .300 Win Mag can be fired from a standard action rifle, while the .338 Lapua needs a much longer action.
As with ammunition, it is easier to find quality rifles chambered in .300 Win Mag than it is in .338 Lapua. Many .338 Lapua rifles are designed specifically for military use or precision shooting, which means that quality options can be very expensive, very heavy, and/or come with very long barrels that are unwieldy for hunters. The .300 Win Mag is most frequently found in bolt-action hunting rifles, and essentially all major rifle manufacturers chamber rifles in this caliber.
Price & Availability
Here we see a big difference between these two rounds. The .300 Win Mag is a highly popular cartridge. You can find it in basically any hunting store from a variety of manufacturers, and there are plenty of rifles chambered in the .300 Win Mag.
The .338 Lapua is much more rare, because it is used by far fewer hunters. The ammunition is quite a bit more expensive, and you’ll only have a few options for rifles, which will also be much more expensive. .338 Lapua can get very expensive, especially if you’re not planning on reloading your ammunition.
Which Caliber is Best?
In terms of raw power, the .338 Lapua is the stronger cartridge. This comes at the price of a pretty significant recoil, and frankly may be overkill for the needs of the majority of hunters. If you want to shoot the most powerful round you can from a rifle or you’re hunting big game at very long distances, the .338 Lapua is the way to go. If you want to save your shoulder and still take any game in North America, the .300 Win Mag still packs plenty of punch for your needs.
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