The New .338 Federal Is Big News for Big Game
by Buck Pope

Late last year Federal, the ammunition company, announced its first ever centerfire rifle cartridge named after the company. This is not a magnum cartridge and is designed for short actions.

Basically it is .308 Winchester case that has been expanded (opened up) to a .338 diameter. The .308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO) has been with us since 1952 when Winchester introduced it. Over the years it has been the mother case for a number of cartridges. Examples include the popular 7mm/08 Remington, .260 Remington, .243 Winchester and the short-lived .358 Winchester plus numerous wildcats.

The .338 diameter round is one of the favorite calibers for a number of hunters. Cartridges like the .338-06 A Square, .338 Winchester Magnum, .330 Dakota and .340 Weatherby are good examples. These cartridges however require full size, and in some cases larger, cases and are designed for large game.

Non-Magnum .338
Federal Cartridge saw an opportunity to introduce a non-magnum cartridge that would have the large .338 diameter, function in short-action rifles and offer an ideal short to medium range deer/elk-type cartridge. Federal offered three different loads with premium type hunting bullets right off the bat. First off, the 180-grain Nosler AccuBond, then a 185-grain Barnes Triple Shock and, lastly, a Nosler 210-grain Partition bullet.

These cartridges were not intended to go against the big magnum .338 cartridges as mentioned earlier. The ballistics basically have 180- and 185- grain bullets going around 2,800 feet-per-second (fps) and the heavier 210-grain Partition at 2,630 fps. Muzzle energy ranges from 3,105 to 3,225 foot pounds (fp).

At 200 yards, you’re looking at right around a velocity of around 2,300 and 2,250 fps. Please refer to the ballistic tables for specific numbers.

To me this is an ideal medium-range deer cartridge. Offering heavier bullets than the .30 calibers, you end up with larger holes and more mass being delivered to the animals.

This would be of aid in thick brush conditions. This cartridge, in particular the 210-grain Partition loading, would be a good elk cartridge out to around 200 yards. Good bullet selection is critical when hunting larger game such as elk, moose and bear.

A real plus from Federal was to offer the cartridge in three premium big game bullets right at introduction time. The Nosler AccuBond is the new bonded bullet from Nosler. I have had excellent results from these bullets, ranging from antelope to deer and elk. Nosler Partitions, and in this case the 210-grain bullet, have long been a favorite for deer and elk. The Partition is the mother of premium bullets, being available to hunters since the late 1940s. I have shot game with this bullet since the 1950s and it has been very reliable.

The Barnes Triple Shock is a recent upgrade from their famous X bullet. This bullet is getting great reviews and so many hunters are very impressed with its performance. I had a chance to use it on a hunt this past fall up in Newfoundland, Canada. Using the 225-grain Triple Shock in a .338 Win. Mag., I shot two head of game with it, a caribou and a moose. It killed with great authority, one shot on the bull moose and it crashed to the ground.

I just recently went on a hog and whitetail hunt in Texas with Federal on the Stasney’s Cook Ranch and we were all using the new Sako Hunter Model 85 chambered for the .338 Federal cartridge.

I was using the newer generation .338, the soon to be released Federal 200-grain Fusion bullet. This bullet is a bonded bullet that works very well. It is an ideal deer bullet and will be in your sporting goods store before this fall. I used the bullet on a 225-pound wild boar and an 8-point whitetail deer, and both were instant one-shot kills.

A bit of background on the 338 Federal cartridge is in order. When I first heard about this cartridge, I called on my friend and master gunmaker Dan Pedersen of Classic Barrels and Gunworks to do a conversion for me.

I had a Remington Model 700 SPS stainless in a 7mm/08 Remington that I would use for the project. Pedersen just happened to have a surplus model 700 barrel which was in a .308 Winchester, ideal for a re-bore. Also by using the surplus barrel, I would keep the 7mm/08 barrel as part of my switch barrels set up.

Pedersen would take this 22-inch barrel and do a re-bore, making it into a .338 Federal barrel. He doesn’t do the common method today of button rifling; he does it the old fashioned way by cut rifling. He has in the past made me several cut rifle barrels, both new barrels and also re-bores. His barrels and re-bores are highly accurate, several shoot under one half minute-of-angle and all shoot 1-inch or less groups at 100 yards with selected loads.

He took the barrel and did a re-chamber then screwed on the re-bored barrel, set the head spacing and I had myself a Remington Model 700 chambered for the .338 Federal cartridge. The rifle using the factory loads shoots between .650-inch and .900-inch groups at 100 yards.

On the Texas hunt, the Sako Model 85 rifle really liked the Fusion load as prior to the hunt I did a quick sight-in and got a .500 inch group. The end result in my mind is there is no question about this being an accurate cartridge.

As you can suspect, I am very high on this cartridge and I feel Federal has a winner. My rifle has on it the high quality Kahles 3-9x42mm scope and the handsome Accurate Innovations custom “Accurate Hunter” walnut stock along with Leupold rings/bases and weighs right at 8-5/8 lbs.

The recoil is mild, very similar to the 180-grain load in the .308 Winchester. It is fairly flat shooting and if a hunter will limit his or her shots to a maximum of 200 yards, it is not an issue. Now with the addition of the Fusion load, a hunter has a choice of four different loads, which is an excellent selection. I recently got myself a set of RCBS reloading dies for it and will soon be working up handloads for it.

At the present time the .338 Federal is chambered in the Sako Hunter Model 85 and the Tika T-3 rifles. In the near future Ruger Model 77 and Kimber Model 84 rifles will be offered in this chambering and I’m sure others will follow. As I mentioned earlier this .338 Federal cartridge should catch on with the American hunter. It’s a dandy!
338 Federal Ballistics
Make Wt. Bullet Type Muzzle 100 200 300 400
Federal 180 Nosler AccuBond 2,830 2,590 2,350 2,130 1,930
Federal 185 Barnes Triple Shock 2,750 2,500 2,260 2,030 1,820
Federal 210 Nosler Partition 2,630 2,410 2,200 2,010 1,820
.338 Federal
Make Wt. Bullet Type Muzzle 100 200 300 400
Federal 180 Nosler AccuBond 3,200 2,670 2,215 1,820 1,480
Federal 185 Barnes Triple Shock 3,105 2,660 2,265 1,920 1,615
Federal 210 Nosler Partition 3,225 2,710 2,265 1,880 1,545
Bullet Drop Sighed in for 200 yards.
Make Wt. Bullet Type 100 200 300 400
Federal 180 Nosler AccuBond 1.8 0.0 -8.2 -23.9
Federal 185 Barnes Triple Shock 1.9 0.0 -8.3 -24.1
Federal 210 Nosler Partition 2.3 0.0 -9.4 -27.3
Note: No data available yet on the Fusion 200 gr. load.

Accurate Innovations LLC
Phone: 605-341-0601

Classic Barrel & Gunworks
Dan Pedersen
Phone: 928-772-4060

Federal Premium Ammunition
Phone: 800-322-2342

Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
Phone: 503-646-9171

Beretta USA Corp
Phone: 800-636-3420

Stasney’s Cook Ranch
Phone: 888-762-2999

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