The 338 Lapua is a great round. It’s one of the best I’ve shot when I was involved in testing and evaluating bullets and weapons during my time working with USSOCOM as an advanced sniper instructor with the Navy SEAL TRADET Command attached to “Sniper Cell.”
I shot the 338 Lapua through the doppler radar at the Yuma proving grounds in Arizona and was impressed by its stable flight characteristics beyond the 1,000-meter point. Most bullets lose velocity at that point, start to become unstable, and then tumble like a girly man throwing a football.
What Makes It So Good?
U.S.-based Research Armament Industries began developing a new long-range sniper bullet that would travel at speeds of 3,000 feet per second and could penetrate (with lethality) military body armor up to 1,000 meters (1,100 yards) and it really succeeded.
The 338 Lapua round can penetrate military body armor at ranges of up to 1,000 meters (1,090 yds), with an effective range of about 1,750 meters (1,910 yds). If you’re unfamiliar with rifle shooting this is about as good as it gets for power to weight ratio in a sniper rifle.
The diameter of the .338 is optimal for sectional density (in straight talk, how well the weight is distributed) and long-range penetration coupled with great spin stability. Spin stability prevents a bullet from tumbling and losing lethal energy more rapidly.
Can the Cheytac go a bit farther and it arguably better for long-range? I’d say yes but it’s not as practical as the .338.
You carry that heavy ass gun and I’ll take the 338 Lapua in a man versus man shoot-off and you’ll be a dead man who ran out of breath.
The Travails of the 338 Lapua Round
Nevertheless, the military adoption of the round has been slow. This is primarily because the round hasn’t been widely accepted by NATO plus there’s competition within the Department of Defense — which is how we ended up with the terrible M-16 and M4 (556) rifles to replace the incredibly effective M-14 (7.62).
The world of DoD weapons procurement is like the snake pit Indiana Jones fell into when he was chasing Nazis in the desert in Raiders of the Lost Ark (one of the best movies of all time). Like Indie, I hate f****** snakes when it comes to the usual procurement bureaucrats.
Don’t get me started on a system that takes four years to produce something that is outdated and useless to the modern warfighter. One of the reasons I love Elon Musk’s entry into the aerospace industry is that he disrupted it by building better and cheaper rockets and the government just couldn’t ignore that. Doom on you Boeing and Lockheed. Oh s***, I’m on a full-blown tangent now… back to our regularly scheduled programming, the 338 Lapua round.
Overall, the 338 Lapua is a great round although it was never widely adopted for military or law enforcement.
Please don’t cry in your Black Rifle Coffee just yet. I am going to go out on a limb and say that we have some incredible stuff coming our way with smart ammunition that will be shootable behind corners. Trust me, it’s coming soon, and like NASA being forced to reckon with Elon, the DoD will not be able to ignore it for long.
Oh, and the best manufacturers of the 338 round? Remington and Norma come to mind.
If you have experience with it please share it in the comments section.
You can watch a good video on the capability of the 338 Lapua below.