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GUNS Magazine June 2011 Digial Edition - Page 20

• J O h N B A R S N E S S • The big rifles and big bullets are long on performance. he .338 Lapua Magnum was developed as a military T sniper cartridge to bridge the vast gap between the 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester) and the .50 BMG. The original search was for a round that could reliably penetrate several layers of body armor at 1,000 meters with a reasonably portable rifle. After some testing, 33 caliber appeared to be the likeliest candidate, and the original specifications were for a 250-grain bullet started at 3,000 fps. Essentially the .338 Lapua is a necked-down .416 Rigby, with the body slightly shortened. Water capacity with a 250-grain Sierra MatchKing seated to the standard overall cartridge length of 3.68" is right around 98 grains. This is only about 5 grains more than the smaller .340 Weatherby Magnum case, itself capable of pushing a 250-grain bullet to 2,900+ fps. But the Lapua case weighs over 100 grains more, with very thick, hard brass at the case head, making it more reliable in extreme conditions. In addition to military and police use, the .338 Lapua has become increasingly popular among longrange hunters, plus civilians who just like long-range shooting. The cartridge does present some problems in sporting rifles due to the .588" rim. Not many bolt faces are capable of handling this diameter. This is one reason many hunters who want “big .33” performance use the .340 Weatherby or .338 Remington Ultra Magnum instead, since their rims are the standard .532" to .535" of classic belted magnums. There are a few handLoadinG the .338 LaPua maGnum commercial hunting actions designed to take the Rigby-size rim, however, including the CZ 550 Magnum and the Weatherby Mark V. (Weatherby’s own .338-378 Magnum is the only commercial .338 with more powder room than the Lapua—but it doesn’t have that “tactical” cachet.) While the .338 Lapua case is often regarded as huge, its bore-to-powderspace ratio is about like that of the .243 Winchester, 6.5/284 Norma and .300 Winchester Magnum. Those cartridges are nowhere near the top end of their caliber’s powder capacity, and are known for being relatively easy to get to shoot accurately. While the .338 Lapua was originally designed around 250-grain bullets, many if not most long-range shooters use heavier bullets. Probably the most popular for a number of years has been Sierra’s 300-grain MatchKing, but more recent additions have been a 300-grain Berger VLD and a 265-grain Barnes Tipped Triple-Shock X-Bullet. Bullets Obviously the Barnes TTSX is designed specifically for hunting, but many hunters use 300-grain match bullets with good results. Sierra discourages this, but Berger doesn’t, one reason their VLDs have become more popular among hunters in The Savage 110 BA is a typical tactical-type rifle, weighing just under 18 pounds scoped. 20 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JUNE 2011

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