.338 Winchester Magnum: The Ultimate Big-Game Caliber
November 06, 2017
The flat-shooting .338 Win. Mag. is ideally suited to a wide range of big game including elk and moose.
Introduced in 1958, the .338 Win. Mag. was inspired by big-bore aficionados such as Elmer Keith. It dominates a vast territory between the much-loved .30 calibers and the .375 H&H so popular among those who pursue dangerous game. Rightly so: It offers tremendous performance on an incredibly broad spectrum of game at an affordable cost in recoil. Even now, at 59, the .338 Win. Mag. is so popular that every major rifle manufacturer chambers it and every major ammunition company builds ammo for it.
Conceivably at its best on elk, moose, and bison-size game, the .338 Win. Mag. isn't too much for deer and antelope, and with a heavy-for-caliber, tough bullet designed to break heavy bones and penetrate deeply, it's an outstanding choice for big bears. A broad array of projectile types and weights enables the hunter to tailor it to the specific task. For deer-size game, choose a lighter bullet, such as Nosler's 200-grain AccuBond; for elk and moose, a midweight bullet, such as the 225-grain offerings from Nosler and Barnes; and for bison and the biggest bears, a heavy Barnes 250-grain TSX or Swift 250- or 275-grain A-Frame.
Because of the wide range of available bullet weights, it's difficult to place the .338 Win. Mag. into one ballistic category. Muzzle energy ranges from 3,400 ft.-lbs. up to about 4,000 ft.-lbs. Let's examine a great all-around bullet: Nosler's 250-grain AccuBond. With a BC of .575, when pushed to 2,600 fps, it offers good extended-range ballistics and retained terminal performance. In standard sea-level atmospherics, when zeroed at 200 yards, it impacts 2.1 inches high at 100 yards, drops 9.1 inches at 300 yards, carrying 1,737 ft.-lbs. of energy — enough for any elk or moose walking this continent.