The .338 Federal is overshadowed by the .338-06, .338-06 Improved (8.5x63mm), .338 Win. Mag. and .338 Lapua Magnum.

The .338 Federal Never Became Popular


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The .338 Federal is overshadowed by the .338-06, .338-06 Improved (8.5x63mm), .338 Win. Mag. and .338 Lapua Magnum.
The .338 Federal is overshadowed by the .338-06, .338-06 Improved (8.5x63mm), .338 Win. Mag. and .338 Lapua Magnum.

Q: I’ve been offered a second-hand Ruger rifle in .338 Federal, but I can’t seem to find much information about this cartridge. My local gun shop told me it never achieved much popularity and not to touch it. What can you tell me about the .338 Federal? Should I buy the Ruger, which is bargain-priced?
Ernie Trembath

A: The .338 Federal was a joint effort by Federal and Sako. The first non-magnum .338-calibre commercial rifle, it appeared in 2005 and is based on the .308 Win. case necked up. Factory loads have a 210gn bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2630fps for 3,225 ft/lb of muzzle energy, dropping off the 1878

The .338 Federal is capable of taking the largest deer, like this bull wapiti, with well placed shots.
The .338 Federal is capable of taking the largest deer, like this bull wapiti, with well placed shots.

ft/lb at 300yd, and a 185gn bullet at 2750fps with 3106 ft/lb of muzzle energy and 1770 ft/lb left at 300yd. So the .338 Federal ain’t exactly a pipsqueak. Obviously, the first rifles were made by Sako, but before long Ruger, Tikka, Kimber and Savage jumped on the bandwagon. Although a fine little cartridge, the .338 failed to take the world by storm and today only Sako chambers for it in their Model 85. If the Ruger is bargain priced, I suggest you buy it as the .338 Federal packs quite a punch and is capable of handling the largest deer with a well placed shot over normal game ranges.


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Nick Harvey

Nick Harvey is one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He has been writing about firearms and hunting for more than 65 years, has published many books and uncounted articles, and has travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject is unmatched. He has been Sporting Shooter's Gun Editor for longer than anyone can remember. Nick lives in rural NSW, Australia.

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