338 WINCHESTER MAGNUM

Discussion in 'Up To .375' started by BARTFRNCS, May 15, 2011.

  1. crs

    crs AH Fanatic

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    I used my Ruger 77 .338 Win Mag on my first plains game hunt. Using Winchester factory 230 grain Fail Safe
    ammo, it shot through most critters, including Eland with one exception; that was a bull Gemsbock shoulder shot at 150 yards. The bullet shot through both shoulder bones, breaking the back for a bang - flop! The bullet was recovered under the off side skin and had an oval cross section! A tough bullet for a tough critter! I keep that bullet on the shelf in front of this computer as a reminder of a great hunt.
    Given the opportunity, I would surely use that bullet -rifle combo on a buffalo. It shoots every weight bullet from 210 to 250 well.
     

  2. Daga Boy

    Daga Boy AH Veteran

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    I live in South Africa and have hunted extensively across southern Africa, from desert regions to thick bush. A ruger M77 in .338WM has been my "go to" rifle for everything except small game for about 15 years - maybe more.
    It is a brilliant calibre, especially for larger animals in fairly open country. Recoil is not very severe (not even noticeable in the field), it shoots pretty flat with lighter bullets , it isn't affected much by wind and terminal effect is basically fantastic.
    I have used various loads according to terrain. In the desert I favor fairly frangible bullets in the 200gr region. In the bush I generally use bonded 250gr bullets. I have also heard very good reports iro monometal bullets in the 210 - 220gr class but cant talk from experience.
    Although .338 is not a legal calibre on buffalo the .338WM actually does a great job on them if the right bullets are used, and many have been taken with this calibre. Strong bullets like the Swift A frames or otherwise monometals are what you need for that job.
    The only application I think the .338WM is not great at is close range work as the bullets are inclined to break up. Meat damage can also be very severe. One can possibly overcome this with careful loading but I have not tried.
    Another thing one has to be careful about with this calibre is over penetration. Strong bullets (especially monometals) fired from a .338WM will go clean through just about everything including a bull buffalo. In fact I know of one hunter who ended up getting 2 buff with one shot from his .338. (This can work out very expensive!)
    One bullet which I do not like much in this calibre is the 210gr Nosler. It does a good job on bigger antelope at fairly long ranges but at closer ranges (under say 150m) the front section is inclined to literally explode causing massive trauma and meat damage. For this reason the Nosler 210 is highly recommended for cats.
    All in all I rate the .338WM as the best all round African plains game cartridge available (yes, even above the "mighty" .375H&H) - and if you do a bit of reading you will see that I am not alone in this issue.
    Yes, the .338WM is overkill on smaller species and yes, 9.3 x 62 is better in the bush but if you have to have only one rifle for all applications then the .338WM is the one to go for.
     

  3. Daga Boy

    Daga Boy AH Veteran

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    Sorry, I should have mentioned, .338WM ammo is freely available here and yes, the 210gr Nosler will be perfect for Eland (or anything else apart from Buffalo) in Namibia.
     

  4. meigsbucks

    meigsbucks AH Fanatic

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    The .338 Win mag is one of my favorite cartridges. The 225gr Swift AF or Barnes TSX (or TTSX) bullets would be my choice.
    Since you are taking a .375, the .338 is sort of redundant. Simplify things and just take a .375 or take a .300 mag or .30/06 for a second rifle. If you just take one rifle, make sure you take a spare scope.
     
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  5. 375 Ruger Fan

    375 Ruger Fan AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    I have two 338 WMs, a Ruger Hawkeye in stainless and laminated stock and a Browning BAR. Both are great guns, accurate and I've used them for bear and elk. One day, the Ruger will go to Africa for PG. I like 225 gr Swift A-Frame, but plan to test some lighter weight Hornady GMX.
     
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  6. Divernhunter

    Divernhunter AH Elite

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    Love the 225gr Swift A-Frames on top of 71grs of IMR4350 and a mag primer. I have used both Fed215 and Win LRM primers.
    Killed a bunch of game in SA and the USA with it and never needed more that one shot. Ranges from under 100 yards to an actual(Leupold rangefinder) 480 yards. From ground squirrels, monkeys to Springbok, deer, Impala, Kudu, Blue and Black Wildebeest, Eland and more.
     

  7. Daga Boy

    Daga Boy AH Veteran

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    For my money /IMHO the 338WM is a much better allrounder than the .375H&H. It is also a lot more comfortable to carry and to shoot. I don't go anywhere without mine unless I am only after smaller game or hunting in thick bush (For thick bush I prefer the 9.3x 62 as mine is handier than my 338 and fitted with a compact low power scope) . Most PH's are happy to allow clients to shoot buffalo with 338WM and it does a great job with good bullets. So no, definitely don't leave your 338 behind. i am sure you will find that it will be your "go to". In fact you may not get to use your 375 at all unless you are after pachyderms. If you are after thick skinned game then save your 375 for that and use the heaviest bullets that will shoot well in your rifle. Note though that you do not need pinhole accuracy at close quarters, so a 2" group will be fine. The 375 should be equipped with a low power scope (say 1.5 - 6 or 2-7) with a wide field of view. To get the most out of the 338 you need a more powerful scope with good light transmission. 3-9 will do, but higher is better for really long range applications (300 plus)
     

  8. crs

    crs AH Fanatic

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    "210 grain Nosler Partitions in 338 Win Mag. will bring a eland down."

    So will Winchester Supreme 230 grain Fail Safe, which is what I used on all PG on first safari and my buddy used on his Eland. The Eland never moved, just settled down on belly and knees, dead as a hammer. PH was pleased and a bit surprised at the time. That load was my all time fave for my Ruger 77 .338.
     
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  9. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the .375 the legal minimum caliber for DG in most African countries?
     

  10. lwaters

    lwaters BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    I read an article by Jim Carmichael years ago in Outdoor Life where he killed two buffs using 250grain nosler partitions. When the 338 first came out it was also loaded with a 300 grain bullet that went 2400fps. The 338 is a great round but I quess they have to draw the line somewhere and I don't think it is legal in most countries for buff but hell I would use it over a 45-70.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2018
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  11. Daga Boy

    Daga Boy AH Veteran

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    Most African hunters who have experience of this calibre will agree that it is the best overall plans game calibre that exists for which rifles and ammo are readily available.
    I bought mine for long range hunting in the dessert regions and initially only used it for that application; however with appropriate loads it works equally well for bush range applications on even very large game.
    The big issue is bullet selection and velocity. For long range I use 185-200gr boat tails of light construction going at about 3000fps V0. Best to avoid any very strong bullets for this application as they may fail to expand.
    For the bush I like the 275gr Swift A frame @ about 2400 fps. A lot of hunters prefer monometals like the Barnes TTSX or Peregrine VRG, but basically there isn't a lot to choose between the options. These loads will go right through a buffalo side on - 2 if you are not careful.
    250gr is the best all round bullet weigh in conventional; 225gr in monometals.
    For cats or any animal you want to achieve dramatic kills on the 210gr Nosler partition and softer bullets like the Sako Hammerhead in 250gr are good choices. I think the Sierras or Hornadys would probably perform much the same but haven't tried them.
    Note that this calibre needs a bit of barrel length to perform properly. 23 or 24" is perfect.
     

  12. Divernhunter

    Divernhunter AH Elite

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    I have used the 210gr Nosler PAR for deer/bear with excellent results. For Africa I went with the 225gr Swift A-Frame over 71grs IMR4350 and a mag primer(Fed 215 or Win) and killed everything from monkeys to Kudu and Eland. I killed at least 25 animals and all were one shot kills with little to no tracking.
    My brother used 250 gr Nosler PAR bullets on his moose hunt with good results.
    I have 185gr Barnes TTSX bullets and they will give results like a 240.5gr lead core bullet. I also have some 210gr Swift Scirocco bullets but have not used them on game yet. If they work as well as the ones I have used in other calibers they will be excellent also
    As far as I am concerned the 225gr Swift A-Frame is the best all around bullet for the 338Win mag. I would say the 250 gr would be if just using a old cup and core type bullet. With the modern bullets we now have that is no longer true.
     
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  13. sgt_zim

    sgt_zim AH Elite

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    338 WM is a fine cartridge, no error. BUT. If you hand load, you can hand load 250s for your 375 H&H and get about the same ballistic arc as you'd get out of a 338 WM 250 gr. 338 WM would be "better" past 300 yds because of slightly higher BC, and higher SD, but inside 300, there's no practical difference.
     

  14. TXHUNTER338

    TXHUNTER338 AH Member

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  15. Daga Boy

    Daga Boy AH Veteran

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    Both divernhunter and Sgt_zim both make good points. However .338WM is more flexible than the .375 H&H for all round plains game. As I indicated it is important to select loads and bullets which are appropriate to range and target species.
    A light bullet (185gr to 225gr) will cause massive meat damage at close range(which is what this cartridge has a bad rep for); however those loads work amazingly at long range. The difference between a load like this and a lesser calibre like a 270 or 30-06 in terms of response to shot has to be seen to be believed!
    The rifle can however also be "tamed" for use on heavy game at bush ranges by loading heavy bullets at reduced velocities.
    When I say 250gr is the best all-rounder I am talking bush/Savannah and strong bullets showing little lead. Swift A frames and Speer Grand Slams both work. So do monometals in 225gr.
    For heavy boned animals like giraffe and buffalo in thick bush a very strong heavy bullet like the 275gr Swift A frame loaded to around 2400fps is a top choice. Alternatively a monometal in 250gr. In this guise the calibre competes with .375 H&H ito penetration and downrange punch. In fact I know of one instance in which 2 buffalo bulls were killed with one shot!
    And yes, while you can get a .375 to shoot like a .338 using 250 grainers there is no way you can get it to shoot like a .338 loaded with proper long range projectiles like a 200gr SST.
     
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  16. sgt_zim

    sgt_zim AH Elite

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    My caveat is always "is the shooter skilled past 300 yards?". A lot of hunters are, but probably most are not. I've found that the reason is just about everybody is willing to spend the money (assuming they have it to spend), but are unaware of the amount of practice necessary. Or "I can shoot an inch @100, so I can shoot 5" @500, no problem."

    200 gr SST .338 is definitely better for long range than a 250 gr 375, but I'd rather go with a 300 WM at that weight.
     

  17. siutis

    siutis AH Senior Member

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    Fine caliber but not as effective as a true medium bore such as thec35 Whelen.
     
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  18. Dr Ray

    Dr Ray AH Legend

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    Me too! I’m using my 338 as a backup to my 375 for oz buffalo hunting.
    Maybe I could use my Marlin level action for s backup to my 338! Lol!
     

  19. sgt_zim

    sgt_zim AH Elite

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    I'm glad I'm not the only guy with this issue. My 9.3x62 with 286 gr bullets @2400+ will start inducing a flinch somewhere between the 25th and 30th cartridge.
     
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  20. Divernhunter

    Divernhunter AH Elite

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    Both my 300 and 338 were loud before I mag-n-ported them. I see no difference after porting them except the reduction in recoil and muzzle jump allowing me to get back on target much faster. Other types of porting may be different.
    I also have a 5.75 pound 308win with an 18" barrel that kicked hard and the muzzle was pointed at the clouds after each shot. I mag-n-ported it and now it is tamed down in the recoil dept and does not lift up like it did before. Yes I like the mag-n-porting.
     

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