Two powerful cartridges, the .338 Win Mag and the .300 Win Mag, are very popular in the shooting scene. These two rounds have many similarities and differences that make them an interesting point of discussion. Although there are a few similarities in their applications, there are also some situations where one can be used better than the other.
The goal of this article is not to declare which one is better than the other but to have an unbiased look on the performance of the two cartridges and allows you to use this information to make a better decision on which cartridge will serve you best.
A Brief Background .300 Winchester Magnum
Among the popular rounds used in hunting, the .300 Win Mag is relatively new. It is produced by Winchester in 1963 and packed with a large amount of powder that gives it a significant advantage on its velocity over vast distances. The cartridge is also compatible with a variety of bullet weights. The weight range is between 150-200, and there are other several rounds on both ends of the spectrum.
Another good thing about this cartridge is it can also accommodate many bullet styles giving it the versatility advantage. This characteristic provides the round with popularity among the long-range shooters that includes those who are into chasing the big game and in shooting competitions that require precision, although this cartridge serves the military in sharpshooting corner, majority of its use is in hunting.
.338 Win Magnum
Compared to .330 Win Mag, the .338 Winchester Magnum is a belted, rimless and bottlenecked cartridge that was produced in 1958 by the Winchester Repeating Arms. The design is based on the blown-out and shortened .375 H&H magnum. It accommodates .338 inches caliber, and it is preferred by the brown bear guides in Alaska as their back because of its sturdy stopping quality.
In North America, this is the most popular medium-bore cartridge. It follows the modern cartridge design where the cartridge case has a minimal taper, so it can maximize the capacity and still provide a reliable feeding and extraction action. When this cartridge was introduced, there was an excellent preference for heavier bullets. However, today the choice has shifted to bullets between the range of 200-225 grams because it can penetrate deeper.
Similarities and Differences Between .300 Magnum and Similarities
First and foremost, it is worth pointing out that the two cartridges came from the same company, Winchester. Both enjoy their role as the preferred choice for hunting trips in North America as they are both sufficient. Their range is both within the .308 or .30-06, and the two are hard-hitting cartridges useful in long-range shooting. In the short-range shot, there is very little to separate their performance as they almost do the same.
The recoil pertains to the force that you will feel when the powder is ignited inside the cartridge. The recoil of .338 Win Mag is quite substantial because of the 31 ft-lbf of recoil energy in a 9-pound rifle. This recoil is twice the recoil of .300 Win Mag.
The .300 Win mag is at the upper limit of what shooters can short comfortably during longer shooting sessions. This more significant recoil has put the magnum a harder cartridge if you want to shoot accurately. Recoil can also be subjective, and a shooter can get used to it than others. Today, many miniature rifles have recoil attenuating designs like a muzzle compensator or energy absorbing butt pads to lessen the recoil.
In selecting a cartridge, the speed still tops the criteria in the selection. This is quite right because the accuracy of your shooting depends on the velocity relating to the cartridge. The gravitational force and the wind will not have a significant effect on the bullets if it is traveling fast.
When you compare, the velocity of .300 is better than .338, when we are talking about 3,000 ft/s criteria. The bullets for .388 Win Mag are more substantial, but it compensates by providing high energy values at 200 yards to compensate for the speed.
Energy and Penetration
Another criterion to compare the two cartridges is penetration or energy. This refers to the impact of the bullet to its target and is in connection with the stopping power.
Energy or penetration is vital when the civilian is using them for hunting animals with more robust bones and more hardened tissues. And in this case, both have almost similar characteristics. They are virtually the same, but the 338 uses heavier bullets.
Since the 338 uses heavy bullets with good velocity, it has a well-controlled expansion, thus resulting in a good penetration and an efficient killer.
The 338’s barrel life is more durable than the 300 as it doubles or triples the count of shooting with a 300 Win Mag. If you are doing long-range shooting when you are hunting, you may refer to this criterion, but if you are shooting scarcely, the barrel life should not matter.
Both the 330 and the 338 has the same capacity at 64,000 psi. This is not a point of contention for the magazines as this is not important when the shooter is not going with only one round.
When selecting the rounds, most hunters prefer the one with a flat trajectory. This provides accuracy and helps improve the aim and shooting ability of the hunter. The trajectory in the 338 is slightly higher when you compare it to other big bore magnums. The 300 has a better trajectory and is even more useful with its improved speed.
This factor determines how streamlined the cartridge is. When you have a higher ballistic coefficient, it will not be affected significantly by strong winds and other distortions. This quality is essential when hunting in an unforgiving weather condition. In this criterion, the 300 has an advantage in the ballistic coefficient.
We have seen each of the benefits and drawbacks of the two cartridges, .300 Win Mag and .338 Win Mag and have also established their overlaps. It is safe to say that both cartridges have sufficient power to use in hunting bigger games. The 300 has its advantage on improved trajectory and velocity for longer range while the 338 remains the best candidate for all-around hunting of big games from deer to the enormous antelope.