Who thinks real magnums start with .338?



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  • Who thinks real magnums start with .338?

    Murphy, and others, I’m feeling a little brave, mischievous, or maybe foolish today. Lately, this forum hasn’t been lively enough, so I thought maybe of taking your suggestion and starting a new thread!!!

    The topic is: Limiting the scope of the discussion strictly to hunting, why choose one of the .308 magnums, including the belted and non-belted ones, instead of any one of the .338 Magnums?

    It seems to me, that by using 200-210 gr .338 bullets, one could basically duplicate or exceed anything the 300s have to offer with 180 – 220 gr bullets, with the added benefit of using 225gr or 250gr or heavier with the 338, if the need was there. Adequate performance with 150 - 165 gr bullets or thereabouts, is obtainable with many non-magnumized cartridges.

    There seems to be two distinct camps regarding the 300 Mags. We hear many stories of those completely satisfied with their version of the .308 Mag. Yet there are plenty of stories to the contrary, with data to back it up.

    I hear hunting stories of how well the 300 Mag did on those long shots 300 yards +, but it’s funny that I never hear the story said like --- “Man that magnum performed at 250 yards just like my old 06 performed at 100 yards.” I don’t recall hearing “I should have brought my 06, and got closer.”

    Why shoot at the big dangerous game at long range anyway? Big stuff + close range + high velocity = explosive trouble. Smaller game + close range + high velocity = explosive meat mangling.

    Recently, I read a 23 year old US forest Service publication reporting the results of extensive tests using factory ammo (emphasis on FACTORY AMMO) available at the time, at close range, in a test medium, to rate the performance of various options as bear stoppers. It is my understanding this contracted test and publication was done by qualified persons, not by Forest Service personnel. None of the bullets tested were solids. Penetration, expansion and retained weight were the key factors in the rating. Pure computed muzzle energy was down-rated.

    Naturally, the 458 WM (510 gr) was at the top of the list, followed by the 375 H&H (300 gr), 338 WM next (also 300 gr), and so forth. Interestingly, the 458 WM rated higher than the 460 Weatherby, which clearly has the higher muzzle energy. I think the 30-06, 180 gr., was 6th or so. Interestingly, the .30-06 with 220 gr factory stuff didn’t rate as well because of fragmentation. Anyway, this was a pretty good objective test, in my opinion.

    Most significantly, they rated the 300 Mag next to the 44 Mag rifle in performance. Strange, unless you focus on the key word of “performance” being penetration, retained weight, and bullet diameter after mushrooming. As I recall, 180 gr .308 bullets were being tested. They were very generous and clinical in their explanation, saying something like: “it appeared that the magnum velocity at close range exceeded the design specifications of the bullets tested”. They didn’t test just one factory load either. The reason for failure to have penetration and retained bullet weight is simply because the bullet disintegrated. This also applied to the factory loaded Nosler bullet tested, although it did penetrate better than the other .308 bullets tested, only about 50% of its weight was retained by the time it stopped – with greatly reduced frontal area, and far less sectional density than it started with. Similarly, the 7mm Mag 175 gr factory stuff of the time almost didn’t make the list, and they simply said it is not recommended as useful for brown bear, where a close encounter may occur.

    I wonder: Where is any small magnum caliber used on brown bear not likely to end with a close encounter (by someone else if not the shooter), no matter at what range it started?

    Although the tests were limited to factory ammo, perhaps the tests were actually representative of the cartridge’s real performance, whether factory ammo or premium hand loads are used?

    Also, I remember many stories of where professionals in Africa would take great exception to any client showing up with any 300 Mag, for use on anything dangerous.

    I have very reliable info of two recent situations of brown bears being shot with .308 Magnums, one a 300 H&H - 180 gr Nosler Factory load – two shots – local Alaskan charged while berry picking; and the other a 300 WSM - 165 gr something-or-other – one shot – non-Alaskan hunting bear with next-of-kin. The one shot twice with the 300 H&H was never found, although the blood trail was tracked by wildlife officers some distance. The other was found days later, a half mile away, after it was being fed upon by another bear and eagles. Of course there may be all kinds of rationalizations, but in both cases the bear went down and got right back up, then ran away. To me, going down indicates a pretty good hit.

    Who among you think as I do, that real magnums start at .338?

    Now, I’m curious of how much trouble I’ve started. Hopefully, it’s all in fun.


  • #2
    I suspect that a lot of the trouble that we see in terms of failing terminal ballistics stems from poor selection of bullets and loads. Just as your evaluation notes a given bullet may be superior at a lower velocity. It is only the combination of a given projectile at a given speed that sets us up for success. At least within a given range. This can be every bit as important as caliber (to an extent). Too fast and we see poor penetration, fragmentation, etc... too slow and we see poor penetration (although not as poor as a bullet that "blows up") and possible failure to expand in some projectiles. If we all paid better heed to what our bullets did at given velocities and knew their effective "windows," we doubtless would not see the need to constantly search for a new firearm! But then that would be a different kind of fun as we all started to reload in order to exercise greater control over our terminal ballistics. But our guns would feel better as less people would blame xyz bullet or caliber as being worthless because it failed my father's uncles cousin on such and such occasion.

    I suspect that 30 calibers are subject to a great amount of misuse and ridicule simply because Chester might push a given projectile to the speed of light in his Lazzeroni shooting at a deer at 30 yards, while Tommy over there is using the same bullet as a mortar from his .308 at 350 yards on a moose. They cannot both be succesful!
    Science has a rich history of proving itself wrong.


    • #3
      Real Magnums


      Good job on this post.

      OK, I do have an opinion. The 30-06 is great, it is all the 30 caliber a hunter needs, The next step up is 338 and I love the ballistics of the 338 Win Mag, on the heels of the 375 for most hunting.

      Good shootin’.

      Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?


      • #4

        Yep...I like the 338. Question on Bullets? My rifle likes the Barnes X's 250's with RL19 at about 2800. It shoots them sub MOA. It doesn't do as well with the TSX's; more like 1.7 at 100 and 3.5 or so at 200 yrds. The X's are under 2.0 at 200 yrds. I've used this rifle with standard bullets to take several animals but wanted to move up to a better bullet since I'm planning on hunting Brown Bear. I've never used either one of these X's on actual game. Any ideas on the TSX and are they worth the effort over the X's?
        Thanks / Eddie


        • #5
          To the original question, I do not think Real magnums start at .338. I have a 7mm Remington magnum and I consider it a "real" magnum, just not my first choice with dangerous game. What a real magnum is a different question then what bullets in what calibers are good for dangerous game. Personally, if I'm going after dangerous game, I'm taking the .375 H&H with 300 grain premium bullets. Right now I'm starting to work up a load with the 300 grain Kodiak bullet. I've already got a great load for their 250 grain bullet.


          • #6
            If you're looking at taking long shots, ie 400 yds and more, a 300 win mag with a sleek 165 or 180 gr bullet will keep that bullet going 2000 fps way longer than the 338 mag will a 180-210 gr bullet. IMHO, a high powered rifle should delivery it's bullets going at least 2000 fps.

            I do agree that for medium to large game at 300 yds, the 338 win mag is a fine round, and would be my choice in a magnum chambering. That said, for a reach out and touch gun for the smaller to medium species, a good 300 win mag and the knowledge to place it's shots way out there will trump a 338.

            I've heard the 44 mag compared to a 30-30, not the 300 win mag. With modern bullets, the 300 win mag is enough gun for any Alaskan species.
            Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

            If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.


            • #7

              Since the 8mm mag is all but gone then I would agree with you. This also means that there is only one entry from the world of short actions that qualifies. That being the 350 Rem mag.. However it does come up about 100yds short of the 338 mag in any given situation!


              • #8
                There are always the .325 Win short mags... If you want 338 and long range flat trajectory, the .338-378 Weatherby is great for long range big game. It can deliver more than 5,000 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle with a .338-sized bullet. Extremely powerful and flat-shooting, it’s based upon the .378 case, necked down to .338 bullet.
                God, Guns and Guts is what made America Great


                • #9
                  I hate sit on any branch with anyone but I got to side with Paul. The .30 caliber mags are a fine approach to any good hunting and will do just fine. The bullet selection between the .30's and .33's is good and betwixt the two is hardly much difference unless you argue the 275 and 300grn against Woodleighs 240/30 but that is subjective as well. I own 2 338's but there is this affair with the .30's that is hard to ignore. Sorry, got to say it starts with the .30 mags. If someone loses any animal it is the bullet selection and shot placement not the caliber-heavier bullets are still key.


                  • #10
                    My take:

                    I have always been of the notion that the .30 magnums are best suited to carrying .30-06 performance just a bit further. Ideal for any and all ungulates where ranges might be too long to use a good standard cartridge.



                    • #11
                      338 Wm

                      I believe the 338 WMag is the magnum for AK. I own two , both are SS/syn. Don't own any 30 mags, but have 30-06, 280 & 270, and 375 HH.


                      • #12
                        I would say that it starts with the .300 WM. However, where the .338WM excels is with the heavier .338-caliber bullets, since its ballistics are somewhat similar to the .300's when bullets from 160 to 225 grains are used.

                        The .338WM may well be the most popular cartridge with big game hunters in bear country, but the .300WM is also very popular as an all around cartridge. The .338WM is my favorite, simply because it produces a tremendous punch with bullets from 240 grains to 300.


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