Where do the .338 calibres fit in?

While the popularity of the .338 Winchester Magnum amongst USA hunters is well known, the cartridge is very rare in South Africa. In my 60 years of big game hunting I have never seen one in the hunting field and only once at a rifle range.  It seems that the .338 Lapua for which military sniper rifles and ammunition are manufactured here are used by a few shooters competing in the 1-2 miles competitions presented by Peregrine Bullets.  That means that local shooters see the two .338 offerings as sporting rifles and not for hunting.

Why did this very impressive performer never sell in Africa?  There is only one honest answer and that is: "There is no need for it".   Big game out here is not shot beyond 30-06 / .308W / 7x64 Brenneke / 7x57 Mauser distances.  At 300 yards any one of the aforementioned cartridges with a bonded core bullet in excess of 150 gr is capable of a 100% perfect one shot kill through the heart of any elk-size Africa game animal.  It happens all day and every day somewhere in the country.  There also is an old saying here that if you need to shoot at an animal further than 300 yards it means that there is not enough game in your area to be hunted.

Local hunters are known for not liking an overstatement with their hunting rifles and maybe that is the issue with the .338 Win Mag:  it is a distinct overstatement which no one can deny.  If a 7x57 and all non magnum rifles up to the 30-06 cleanly, all the time, kill kudu or wildebeest or oryx - or any of the twelve elk size big game species, not many hunters will spend the extra money for its expensive belted magnum cases, and the extra propellant they need, and bullets that have only one millimeter more diameter just to exactly do the same job in exactly the same perfect way as his 7x57 or .308W.  The local market just never warmed to the .338 because it fits the local saying that "it is neither fish nor flesh" - meaning that it is way above what is needed for elk-size animals and not good enough for Cape buffalo or elephant.

When a local hunter needs or wants to add a more powerful rifle for hunting he will go straight from his 7mm or .30 calibre non-magnum rifle for a .375 H&H, or maybe a 9.3x62.  The reason being that he can legally use those on Cape buffalo and elephant as the 9,3x62 is the minimum cartridge allowed for dangerous game hunting.

Personally I certainly will I not have the slightest hesitation to kill an elephant with a frontal brain shot with a 275 gr premium bullet from a .338 Win Mag.  Having said that - a 156 gr similar design bullet from a 6.5x57 Mauser wil also do that particular job perfectly - but neither are legal, and here is the reason:  both those long bullets are very risky on the shoulders of the same elephant as well as on Cape buffalo.  The moment it strikes the radius of that very hard bone it gets bent and that causes tumbling and an immediate severe limit to penetration.

Elsewhere in the Blog pages I explain the reason for the good penetration of long, high sectional density bullets through the frontal skull of an elephant.

Look at the impressive penetration figures calculated for the .338 Win Mag compared to the all time DG champion the .375 H&H:

The .375 H&H 300 gr:  104 Newton per square mm frontal area which equals 7x57 with 175 gr bullet:

 

Bullet Mass:                                                                       300 gr (19,4g).

Retained Diameter:                                                         9,5 mm.

Retained Frontal Area:                                                   70,8 suare mm.

Impact Velocity 50 meter:                                             760 m/sec.

Impact Momentum:                                                        14,7 kg.m/sec (14,7 Newton/sec).

Time of change of Momentum (deceleration):        1/500th sec.

Impact Impulse (Imp. mmtm ÷ Decell. time):          7,372 Newton.

Penetration Force (Impulse ÷ Frontal Area):           104 Newton/ square mm.

The .338 Win Mag with 275 gr:  117 Newton per square mm frontal area which equals the .458 3" Express with a 480 gr bullet as well as the 7x64 Brenneke with a 175 gr bullet and the 30-06 with a 220 gr bullet:

 

Bullet Mass:                                                                       275 gr (19,4g).

Retained Diameter:                                                         8,6 mm.

Retained Frontal Area:                                                   58 suare mm.

Impact Velocity 50 meter:                                             760 m/sec.

Impact Momentum:                                                        13,6 kg.m/sec (14,7 Newton/sec).

Time of change of Momentum (deceleration):        1/500th sec.

Impact Impulse (Imp. mmtm ÷ Decell. time):          6, 776 Newton.

Penetration Force (Impulse ÷ Frontal Area):           117 Newton/ square mm

There is just no niche job for the impressive .338 Winchester Magnum in Africa as the long shank does not offer the longitudinal rigidity needed for a heart shot on Cape buffalo - and on non DG game it offers the same as the 7x64 Brenneke and 30-06 with 220 gr bullets.

 

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