Head to Head: .308 Winchester vs. .338 Federal – Updated

As the group moved forward, the white-tailed deer led the way. A quick look showed that she, too, was old, wise, and worn. “That’s the one we want to grab, put at the base of her neck, and squeeze,” say it with me.

I was able to watch the doe fall out of the scope even as the rifle jerked back and forth. The Savage rifle settled quickly, and the trigger snapped cleanly.

Ben “Brother” Lawrence and the other guides at the Vatoville Ranch in Texas were glad to see that the whitetail doe had survived the.338 Federal shot.


The obvious similarity of the cartridge to the.308 Winchester immediately explained why it did so little damage to the animal’s flesh. A small, compact case pushing a reasonable projectile at a moderate speed has always been a good way to hunt deer.

The.308 Winchester and its offspring have proven to be good for hunting deer in the woods and fields. The.243 Winchester is becoming more popular among hunters looking for a fast, versatile cartridge that can kill both varmints and white-tailed deer.

.308 Winchester vs. .338 Federal

The.260 Remington is at the top of the 6.5mm movement right now. Since the 1970s, the 7mm-08 Remington has been a popular choice for a versatile cartridge because it has less recoil than the.308 Winchester and a wider range of bullet weights. The.358 Winchester is a great gun for shooting ranges in the woods, but it is no longer used.

The.308 Winchester was chosen to replace the.30-06 Springfield, which had won both World Wars. Since the.308 Winchester came out in 1952, people have been comparing it to the.30-06 Springfield cartridge all the time.

But in most situations, the two cartridges perform so similarly that the argument is almost pointless, unless you really like the heaviest.30-caliber bullets.

In reality, the.308 Winchester, like the.30-06 Springfield, is a great choice for an all-around cartridge because it is easy to fire, cheap, and can fit in a light, stiff, short-action rifle.

For more than seventy years, a.308 Winchester was more than enough to hunt any big game animal that wasn’t the biggest or most dangerous. The.308 is still one of our most popular choices, and its bullet weights range from 125 grains to 200 grains.


The.338 Federal is the newest member of the.308 family. It is just the.308 Winchester with a longer barrel and a bigger neck to fit bullets with a diameter of.338 inches. Federal and Sako both worked on making it, and it came out in 2006.

The.308 Winchester also has a shoulder angle of 20 degrees and a diameter of.473 inches for the case head. The case length of the.338 Federal is 2.015 inches, just like the.308, but the overall length of the.338 Federal is 2.820 inches, which is 0.01 inches longer than the.308.

.308 Winchester vs. .338 Federal

Both the.308 and the.338 Federal have great neck tension and don’t need to be crimped unless you’re using an autoloader. The neck length of the.308 is 0.303 inches, which is just under one caliber. The neck length of the.338 Federal is 0.340 inches, which is just over one caliber.

Does the .338 Federal have the goods to compete with the .308 Winchester?”

How much are they different? Is it a better question to ask if the.338 Federal can compete with the.308 Winchester? I think that the.338-inch bore diameter is a natural step up from.30-caliber. Performance-wise, it is very close to 8mm, and the bullet weights are about the same.

The.338-inch bore is appealing because it can shoot big bullets. The.250-grain bullet is especially good, but there are also.275-grain bullets that can be used.

I think that the fact that the.338 Federal doesn’t work well with bullets heavier than 225 grains takes away from some of its appeal. This is like the.308 Winchester, which rarely uses 220-grain bullets because the twist-rate makes it hard to do so.

Velocity and Weight

If you look at how fast a 200-grain.338 Federal bullet leaves the barrel (2700 fps) and how fast a.308 Winchester load leaves the barrel (2550 fps), you’ll see that the.338 Federal has pretty good numbers. As of this writing, most.338 Federal ammunition uses a 200-grain bullet.

The 185-grain Federal Fusion MSR load is the only exception. And Federal makes all the ammunition that is made right now. When you think about how many different bullet weights and manufacturers make ammunition for the.308 Winchester, your choice is almost made for you.

So, will the.338 Federal be forgotten in the long run? It looks like that, which is sad. Even though I like the idea of a light-recoiling cartridge, the fact that I can’t get 250-grain.338-inch bullets makes me wary of the.338 Federal.

The.338-06 A-Square has a consistent drop of 6.2 inches, and it can be used right away to kill a Prairie dog. Using 20-gr. V-Max loads, the same ballistics were made, except they were 0.25 inches high at 100 yards and 5.25 inches low at 200.

.308 Winchester vs. .338 Federal

Performance Data

This table shows the results of tests done on both the Winchester 25-gr. HE Varmint and the Hornady 20-gr. V-Max, so you can compare how well they work.

Special Things

It is very interesting that the two cartridges are so similar that they can be switched out in the middle of a hunt without having to re-zero the gun or get a new DOPE chart. Your accuracy was impressive, but it was your speed that really won me over.

We sometimes went faster than the V-top Max’s speed of 3,025 fps. This amazing speed from a rimfire should make sure it has a place in shooters’ hearts and, hopefully, in the product lines of ammunition makers.

.308 Winchester vs. .338 Federal

My time with the.17 WSM ended too soon, but I can already imagine taking it on a varmint or coyote hunt or a trip to the mountains to make the experience last longer.

It felt great to fire this bullet from a Ruger M77/17, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes to shoot. I think everyone over the age of 17 should try it, because I know they will love it.

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