338 lapua barrel length



In my quest to build my dream rifle (338 lapua with timberwold titanium action) I am still undecided about barrel length (although I've narrowed my range).

It will be at least 28" but I'm wondering how much longer I can go and still have a carry rifle to hunt with?

I will be using the 250gr sierra game kings.

Also, since I wont be shooting over 500 yards, what power range scope do you suggest? (I want sufficient power but I still want to mount the scope as low as possible.)

Thanks to all who have replied to my postings and shared their insights!
If you are a short range hunter inside of 500 yards then I would go with a much lighter rifle. No need to have all that capability a long barreled 338 lapua will give you if you shoot inside 500 yards. A lightweight 26 inch barrel will do you very nicely with plenty of accuracy and power for that range. I would also change to a 338 winchester inside of 500 yards. No muzzle brake needed, extremely accurate round, cheap to reload and easily accessible over the counter in a pinch. I had to borrow one in Alaska a couple of years ago when the airlines destroyed my 338-378. I bought bullets at a local hardware store, zeroed the rifle and got my clicks right with some spot shots, then took three B&C class trophies all well in excess of 500 yards. I was extremely pleased with this cartridge.

I have two 338 lapuas with 26" barrels that shoot very well. They don't gain a whole lot per inch of barrel. By increasing to 36" barrel you may gain 150-200 fps. The lapua is a very efficient, short, fat case design combined with the large caliber doesn't gain a whole lot per inch. My 26" barrel rifles get around 3450 fps with the 200 nosler and 3150 fps with the 250 sierra. They are both standard TRG-S rifles. They average around 5-6 inch groups at 650 yards. One has since been rebarrelled to a 358-378 wby.
90% of the rifles I build are between 26-30 inches in length for long range hunters. The 338 lapuas I have done averaged gaining 15-20 fps per inch from 26-30. It just depends on the barrel though. You could get a 26" barrel that would be faster than another guys 30". But playing the averages you should expect less than a hundred fps gain from a 26" to a 30 inch barrel. In my opinion it is not enough to add the additional weight to the rifle if you hike a lot. It is worth it though in some of the way overbore magnums where I have seen 60-80 plus fps gain per inch. The 257/8mm and 264/8mm rem mags gain a lot per inch for instance. A big bore SFC (short fat cartridge) just doesn't gain a lot.

That Alaska experience really opened my eyes to long range killing performance vs. muzzle velocity. I learned many years ago that big bores are much more devastating on game than small calibers but had never shot game at long range with a low velocity big bore until forced to on the Alaska hunt. The low ballistic coefficient factory 200 grain ballistic tips chronographed 2875 fps when I got home but had no problem dropping a huge bull moose at over a half mile. He ran maybe 100 yards. The two caribou were devastated at about the same range. I realized even a slow big bore could deliver tremendous killing power way out there. I have never seen a formula that can depict true killing power but through many years I found out which guns are best at it.

I think you have selected an excellent cartridge, but get the improved version. The lapua is short enough to easily seat out to the lands and still feed easily through the magazine with no point deformation from recoil. I wouldn't worry about an extra 65-100 fps and build it on a 26" tube. If you hike a lot when you hunt like I do you will come to appreciate that advice from a backpack hunter going on 35 years experience. I guarantee neither the animal or yourself will ever notice the slight velocity difference but you will notice the weight every step for years to come.
John M,

Please excuse my tagging along on your quest for more info on the 338 Laupa. I'm also thinking of building one in the next few months, and since your asking the right questions, I thought I'd just follow along.


Anyhow, Long Time, on your 26 inch barrels, do you use a muzzle break? My personal preference is to not have a muzzle brake. I shoot a 416 Taylor on a regular basis, and while I'm sure the recoil is not nearly the same, I'm not exactly recoil shy. What is your experience concerning this cartridge, or even the improved version, in an unbraked rifle?

Your data concerning barrel length, and velocity, was much appreciated. I'd gladly give up a 100fps for a shorter barrel (I'm not exactly a LR hunter, I'm sorta sneaking around here
) but I was wondering if the improved version will give get that velocity back?

Thanks for your time and help.

[ 07-08-2002: Message edited by: BrianW ]
Long time long ranger,
you are right about the 500 yards. But, I plane to increase year after year until I get to the 1000 mark.

But I was thinking of going with a 30 in. Barrel. How muc more velocity do you think I would get with the additional 4"?

Thank you,
The 338 lapua can not be shot accurately in a lightweight hunting rifle without a brake. From the tests I have performed an improved 338 lapua will shoot faster at 26" than a standard at 30". It is a close race though and it would depend on the individual barrel. There are several guys on here who have a lot of experience with the improved version. Much more than myself. I have around a hundred rifles in my shop in most of the popular wildcats under 375 caliber over the past 30 years or so. But I have never shot a 416 Taylor so couldn't tell you how it compares. I have shot a lot of bad kicking rifles from the shoulder without a brake over a chronograph including the ones off the 460 wby case. But you can not hold them accurately for long range shooting and the lapua is one you can not.

In my book the 340 wby is the hardest kicker I can shoot accurately without a brake and I have done a lot of those for people wanting the most without a brake. I am 6'3 and 240 pounds and the 340 is my limit. Most people I have found can't tolerate the 340. The lapua gets you about 100-150 fps over the 340 wby for comparison.

I built my first 340 when sierra first came out with the 250 gameking providing the highest ballistic coefficient available in a hunting bullet at the time. At the time I thought it was a lean, mean long range elk killing machine and it still is. But a few years later when I began to find good quality muzzle brakes available that could tame the 378 wby case I switched over to it for all my long range stuff. I have six of those now in 28-30" tubes that average around 3600 fps with the 200 ballistic tips and shoot very flat with a lot of wallup if you hunt inside around 850 yards. Beyond that the 250 gameking at 3250 fps is a better choice until you get to serious long range where the 300 matchking at 3100 fps takes over. The 300 matchking is the best bullet I have found for the 338-378 and serious long range hunting. It is devastating on big game at incredible ranges.

When I lived in Colorado we had a make shift shooting range that crossed an elk migration route. Several would put in for late season cow elk tags and go to the range when the elk were coming through. Pre-marked range to the animal is very nice when sitting at the bench. Driving over to check the shot isn't bad either on elk size critters. The 300 matchkings performed very well. Sorry I got so long winded. Others on here are serious long range hunters with much more experience than me at the long range stuff. Just though I would share with you some info I had learned about the lapua, etc.
velocity is one fact take care of the muzzle pressure more the barrel is longer less the muzzle pressure ( for a same load ) is hight so less you disturb your bullet leaving the muzzle that increase the accuracy same way as some muzzle brake or suppressor .

remember that velovity is not the answer for accuracy .

good shooting

Long Time & Dantec,

Thanks for your replies. I have another question concerning .338 caliber cartridges, but will do it in a seperate thread, so as not to screw up John M.'s thread here.
Brian W., please don't worry about the thread. I'm fascinated with the lapua 338. So ant questions pertaining to it I'd love to hear!

Long Time, Whats the deal with ammo for the improved lapua? I do not handload.
You must reload the improved lapua. You can fire a standard lapua in an ackley improved chamber but no need if you are not reloading the improved after that. I wouldn't go with the ackley improved version anyway because there are some better improved versions out there for the lapua. If you do not reload I wouldn't even consider this round. You will be hard pressed to find a box of lapua's on a hunting trip in a pinch. Get a good improved version of the cartridge and learn to reload it. I just can't see building a rifle like your talking about and then being dependent on a very limited availability of ammunition that may or may not shoot well in your rifle. You will want to work up a good load for that rifle.
LongTime, I do have some people to reload for me, but they all say to stick with the Standard. What do you think?
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