Is the .338 Federal OK for plains game?

Discussion in 'Firearms & Ammunition' started by seattlesetters, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. seattlesetters

    seattlesetters AH Senior Member

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    I'm in the early stages of planning my first safari, and am wondering if a new rifle needs to be part of those plans. The hunt will most likely be in Namibia for gemsbok, kudu, impala, springbok and warthog with zebra a good possibility. Maybe another small antelope or two, as well.

    I have a Sako 85 in .338 Federal and I just love. It shoots everything well (all factory ammo) and the one handload a buddy did was accurate, too.

    The factory loads are 180gr Accubond, 185gr TSX, 200gr Fusion, TBBC Tip, Speer Hot Cor, and the 210gr Partition. The rifle shoots all these iinto 1" groups or a bit less, and it also shot a buddy's handloaded 210gr TSX the same way. Velocities run from about 2800 fps to 2500 fps. It's plenty accurate out to 300 yards and would seem to me to be a very nice solution for the game mentioned above.

    What would those with more experience recommend? Which loading and bullet would be best? Should I get a different rifle....perhaps something bigger or flatter-shooting?

    I've heard good things about the performance of lighter weight TSX bullets. Would the 185gr TSX be preferable to the 200gr Trophy Bonded Tip or the 210gr Partition?

    One thing: I'm recoil-sensitive due to a heavily reconstructed right shoulder that contains quite a bit of permanent hardware. So, just buying a .375 H&H and quickly getting up to speed with it would be a chore for me. I got the .338 Fed for something that throws a big bullet but doesn't kick too hard....and I seem to be able to handle its recoil rather well. I don't have any other rifle purchases planned between now and the hunt other than either a .25-06 or a .270 Win.

    All help will be appreciated.
  2. AFRIVENTURE

    AFRIVENTURE AH Member

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    You said it all!

    You are comfortable with the rifle, even at "long range" it is good enough for what you might take.

    I always tell clients to bring the rifle they feel comfortable with, no need to buy something that make you "gun shy" and you mess everything up.

    Stick with a good premium grade180 grain bullet, the accubonds sound good, stay away from just regular "softs" for your trip

    No need to spend thousands of dollars on a trip and want to save on a cheap box of ammo, and beleive me I have seen enough of that. :eek:
  3. billrquimby

    billrquimby AH Veteran

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    If you can shoot that .338 well with your reconstructed shoulder, by all means use it. Your .25-06 and .270 also will handle all the animals you've listed just fine with proper bullets and bullet placement. You don't need a .375 for any of them, including that zebra. Too many Americans go to Africa overgunned, can't handle recoil levels much above a .30-06, and get into trouble with poorly placed shots.

    Bill Quimby
  4. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Your 338 Federal is plenty of gun and all the bullets you listed will be good. I would go with the 180 Accubonds or 185 TSX just so I could shoot up to 300 yards with easy.

    I have shot a ton of animals in Africa with a 300 Win Mag. and felt like a murder the way the gun brought the game down so fast and quick. And yes that includes eland and kudu.
  5. Big5

    Big5 AH Enthusiast

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    I whole heartedly agree with Bill Quimby. There is no need to feel like you must take something 'bigger'. If you are comfortable with your .338 and you shoot it well you will have more gun than you really need. My daughter has accompanied me on two plains game hunts and has dropped each of the species you mentioned using a .270 Win with 140 gr core-lokt ultra bullets.

    I'm not advocating the use of that particular set-up, nor is it my personal choice. I'm simply stating that my daughter is very comfortable with that set-up and she uses it effectively. Most important is that she is an excellent marksman and picks her shots and her shot placement very well. The end result is that she will generally drop what is in her sights with a single shot.

    Rest assured that your .338 and proper shot placement will definitely get the job done.
  6. seattlesetters

    seattlesetters AH Senior Member

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    Thanks for the responses so far.

    I find it interesting to see the recommendations for 180 - 185gr bullets out of the .338 Federal. It would seem from what I've read on other forums (perhaps from people with less African experience) that the 200 - 210gr bullets would be favored. The 200gr bullets have a similar trajectory to 165gr bullets fired from a .308 Win, but pack about 300 - 400 ft. lbs. more energy at distances to 400 yards. Would a well-made bullet like the Accubond or a deep penetrator like the TSX offset the energy differences of the heavier bullets? If so, they would make more sense since they do shoot a bit flatter.
  7. Calhoun

    Calhoun AH Enthusiast

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    ,,,I wouldn't worry to much about the penetretion off set as you probably will shoot right through most of the animals. Out of 14 animals only my Kudu & 1 Gemsbuck did I find a bullet & that was on the far side hide after smashing ribs & a shoulder. Any of the combinations you suggest would suit me fine & I also will side with the 180 or 185 gr bullets!!
  8. TerryR

    TerryR AH Veteran

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    I have no experience with the 338 Federal, however I have taken Gemsbuck, Impala, Warthog, Kudu and Zebra. With the exception of Zebra I would feel completely comfortable with a 3006 and premium 180gr ammo. For Zebra I would want something a little heavier. That said, if I had that 3006 in my hands and a great Zebra appeared, I would take the shot.
    Your 338 Fed should handle your prospective list with no problem, with 180 gr or heavier, premium bullets.
  9. seattlesetters

    seattlesetters AH Senior Member

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    Thank you!

    I appreciate all the help. From what I'm hearing, it sounds as if the .338 Federal actually might be a very good choice for a plains game hunt.

    My Sako seems to like the 180gr Accubond a tiny bit better than the 185gr TSX, so I will probably choose the Nosler bullet and start getting really familiar with it. It should be a thumper out to 350 yards or so, which is plenty of distance for me.
  10. BangFlop

    BangFlop AH Senior Member

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  11. seattlesetters

    seattlesetters AH Senior Member

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    200gr Trophy Bonded Tip

    I've heard that, as well. My rifle will put it into 1 1/4" at 100 yards.

    Although new and without a great deal of data available, the bullet I'm also interested in is the 200gr Trophy Bonded Tip. It flies nearly as flat as the 185gr TSX and packs a lot of freight on arrival. And the Bear Claw frame is a proven one.

    My rifle actually likes the 200gr Fusion best. It put together a 3-shot group of about 0.85" with that load. However, the 180gr Accubond wasn't far behind...just at an inch.
  12. BangFlop

    BangFlop AH Senior Member

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    My 7m Rem Mag (off the shelf Remington 700 ADL) will cloverleaf three shots at 100yds with the 150 grain Fusion round (from a bench rest). That is the load I use on deer and hogs. Being a bonded bullet, you may just want to go with that one, since your rifle likes it. JMHO .... ;)
  13. wolfhunter2

    wolfhunter2 New Member

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    bullet choice

    all your bullets will do fine. sounds like they all shoot good to, now pick one and start shooting off stix or off hand. amo in some places is getting hard to find so set aside your trip amo then practice as much as you can. I would load 210gr. good luck .once is not enough!
  14. oak22

    oak22 AH Member

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    I grew up shooting a .338 and it has never let me down.I have taken everything from coyote to Ak. brownie with it. Myself I reload 200 gr nolser accubond and with a shepard scope , I have no problem taking down elk, etc. at long range with a single shot. In my opinion its the best rilfe you could bring over to Africa or anywhere...Have a great time......:clapping:
  15. lreynold1

    lreynold1 New Member

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    Headed to Africa in 2014, taking a. 300 H & H magnum and my son is taking a 338 Federal, go for it, that 338 Federal will take any of the animals you listed, go with 180 GR or heavier, shot placement is the important thing.
  16. James.Grage

    James.Grage GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    The 338 will be good...you will find many PH will want you to have a well constructed bullet that punches holes on both sides...

    Barnes in 200 or 225 gr are the way to go if you ask me...sight in for 200 yards and you are good to 300 for the animals you have listed...

    As with anything your performance will make the difference and you will need to be able to accurately place bullets in small windows with some heavy brush at times.

    I am looking at putting a new scope on my 338 win mag as this past trip my cross-hares blocked some small brush and i shot 3 small brush they were about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. i did some nice center punching on them. so my scope with the heavy duplex was not the right scope for thick brush...

    Your set up is fine picking the right bullet will be up to you...i know that i used 250 gr and 225 gr for all my safaris and have not lost an animal and only 4 needed tracking out of 30 plus animals...i used my 338 WM on all game except cape buffalo with the smallest being a impala and largest being a giraffe and almost all were 1 shot kills. Closest was about 30 yards to 350 yards for a wildebeest...
  17. G force

    G force AH Member

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    Barnes TSX in either 180gr or 200gr and you are good to go on most things.As long as you know YOUR rifle,you are 80% there.
  18. tim416

    tim416 AH Veteran

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    I think you have got enough feedback in order to feel the .338 is more than adequate. I have used a .338 for several years in Africa and love it. I do prefer the heavier bullet over the lighter. As long as it is a quality bullet such as you have listed you will be fine.

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