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.338 Lapua Magnum vs .30-06 Springfield

Ballistics and Performance Comparison of .338 Lapua Magnum vs .30-06 Spring field Cartridges

The .30-06 Springfield is one of the most popular hunting cartridges of all time. The .338 Lapua Magnum is one of the hardest-hitting cartridges available on the market. So how can you decide between these cartridges for your unique hunting needs? There are key differences between them: while the .338 Lapua magnum has the advantage in velocity and energy, it may be overkill for your shooting needs.

338 Lapua Magnum vs 30-06 Springfield

The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the .338 Lapua Magnum vs .30-06 Springfield based on bullet weight and various performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.

.338 Lapua Magnum 250 gr vs .30-06 180 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.
(Note: Bullet grain selection based on most popular hunting usage.)

338 Lapua Magnum 30-06 Springfield
Bullet Velocity (Muzzle) 2,860 ft/s 2,820 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds 2,722 ft/s 2,632 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds 2,587 ft/s 2,452 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds 2,457 ft/s 2,279 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 400 yds 2,331 ft/s 2,113 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 500 yds 2,208 ft/s 1,954 ft/s
Bullet Energy (Muzzle) 4,540 ft⋅lb 3,178 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 100 yds 4,111 ft⋅lb 2,769 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 200 yds 3,716 ft⋅lb 2,403 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 300 yds 3,351 ft⋅lb 2,076 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 400 yds 3,015 ft⋅lb 1,784 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 500 yds 2,706 ft⋅lb 1,526 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 Large Game
Usage @ 500 yds Toughest Game Large Game
Recoil Energy 33.1 ft-lbs 20.3 ft-lbs
Recoil Velocity 15.4 fps 12.8 fps
Recoil Score* 4.82 3.46
*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures takend 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

In terms of velocity, the .338 Lapua and the .30-06 Springfield are fairly evenly matched at short distances. Right out of the muzzle, the .338 Lapua is only traveling 40 ft/s faster than the .30-06 Springfield. As we get out to 500 yards, the advantage for the .338 Lapua is still only 254 ft/s.

However, as we get into longer distances, the .338 Lapua takes a more significant advantage. The .338 Lapua stays supersonic out to an incredible 1,750 yards, and has an effective range of 1,910 yards. The .30-06 Springfield only stays supersonic out to 300 yards, and has an effective range out to 1,000 yards. If you are only hunting at short to medium distances, this may not be important to you; but if you are targeting large game over very long distances, the .338 Lapua is your only option here.

Energy

The .338 Lapua is known for its huge amount of energy and stopping power, so this is the category where we begin to see more of a discrepancy between these cartridges. Right out of the muzzle, the .338 Lapua is traveling with an enormous 4,540 ft-lbs of energy, which is 1,362 ft-lbs over the .30-06 Springfield.

This difference remains fairly consistent even through medium distances, with the .338 Lapua still traveling with 1,180 ft-lbs more energy than the .30-06 Springfield out to 500 yards. As we get into longer distances, the .338 Lapua only has more of an advantage, especially as the .30-06 Springfield drops out of its effective range at 1,000 yards.

Trajectory

At shorter distances, these two cartridges have highly comparable trajectories, even though the .338 Lapua is traveling with so much more energy. At 300 yards, you can expect a 180-grain .30-06 to drop about 8.6”, while a 200-grain .338 Lapua will drop about 9.4”. As usual, the difference becomes more pronounced as we travel farther. At 1000 yards, the .30-06 Springfield is seeing 375” of drop. At the same distance, the .338 Lapua is seeing just 299” of drop. That’s a significant difference for anyone trying to hit a target, especially one as small as the vital zone of a game animal. But once again – if you are not actually planning on hunting game at distances of 1000 yards (which also requires great skill, not just a great round), this difference may not be relevant to your decision making.

Recoil

The big disadvantage of the .338 Lapua is its significant recoil. This is not an easy caliber to shoot: all that energy has to come from somewhere, and in this case, your shoulder is going to pay for it. If you are not experienced with heavy recoil, it can impact your accuracy significantly, in which case that extra range is meaningless. This may also keep you from shooting as many shots in a day, whether you are hunting over a long period or just hoping for some target practice.

Versatility

The 30-06 Springfield is a classic big game hunting cartridge. Its origins were in the U.S. military, and since then it has been used to take just about any game in North America: from black bear to pronghorn, from elk to mountain goat, and beyond. The .338 Lapua is similarly capable of taking any game in North America – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more versatile. The .338 Lapua is considered overkill for many popular game species, including whitetail deer. If you won’t be hunting the toughest game over serious distances, its extra energy may end up hindering you.

Price & Availability

The .30-06 Springfield has been a staple of big game hunting cartridges for many years. It is widely available from many ammunitions manufacturers, giving you plenty of options to try out even with a finnicky rifle. The .338 Lapua is significantly more expensive, and has far fewer options available. In fact, you might want to check whether your local ammunition store even carries .338 Lapua, or whether you’ll be able to stock up at your favorite spot on the way to your next hunting trip.

Rifle Type

Because of the longstanding popularity of the .30-06 Springfield, there is no shortage of rifles chambered in this caliber. The .30-06 Springfield often comes in a shorter barrel, requiring 22-24” as opposed to .338 Lapua rifles which have the more common 26” barrel. If you’ll be carting your rifle over long distances in the backcountry, these extra inches (and the extra weight they bring) can make a big difference.

Which Caliber is Best?

If you’re shooting over long distances, the .338 Lapua offers significant advantages. This is doubly true if you are hunting large game over long distances, when you need the accuracy and stopping power to ensure a clean, ethical kill. But if you’re planning on moose hunting within 500 yards, or otherwise taking on game at shorter distances, the .30-06 Springfield is a tried-and-true cartridge that can take down comparable game without sacrificing your wallet or your shoulder.

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.