Mediumweight Sniping The Lapua Magnum

Spec Ops Shooting

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If you can imagine a cartridge that's halfway between the .300 Winchester Magnum and the ,50-caliber Browning, then you've pretty well defined the .338 Lapua Magnum. It's made by shortening a .416 Rigby case 2/10 of an inch and necking it down to .338.

Purposely designed in the late 1980s as a long-range military sniping round, the .338 Lapua Mag was intended for bolt-action rifles that were still light enough for stalking and maneuvering. The importance of a barrier-penetrating sniper rifle being more compact and lighter than a .50 was quite apparent during countersniping operations in Sarajevo in the 1990s. In 1997, during a visit to the Beretta factory in Brescia, Italy, I discussed this subject with company officers, who'd learned from Italian special operations snipers that their .50s were simply too burdensome for the kinds of crawling, climbing, and stalking required to defeat Serbian urban snipers. Meeting this requirement called for a .338-class rifle, which also would achieve useful barrier penetration.

Performance is understandably very impressive with a muzzle energy of 4,880 ft-lbs., which is comparable to elephant rifles, and at 500 yards, its 2,193 fps velocity is 50 percent faster than such heavyweight rounds as the .375 H&H and .458 Winchester Magnum. This combination of great speed and heavy weight makes for especially lethal long-range shooting and good penetration against vehicles and aircraft—typical counterterrorist targets—as well as building materials.

The only American factory loads for the .338 Lapua Magnum are offered by Black Hills, including a 250-grain Sierra MatchKing (2,950 fps) or 300-grain MatchKing (2,800 fps), both obviously of match quality. Meanwhile, Lapua offers three bullets for the .338 Lapua Mag: a 250-grain Scenar Lock Base Match, a 260-grain hardball Forex tactical bullet, and the AP 485 armor piercing.

Some sniperscope BDCs are specially synched for the .338 Lapua A'lagnum, too. The Zeiss 3-12x56 Diavari VM/V 30mm scope has a .338 BDC calibrated to track this round out to 1,400 meters. Two Leupold scopes—the Mark 4 10x40mm LR and Mark 4 3-9x36mm—have BDCs for the 250-grain .338 Lapua, in increments of either yards or meters.

On this side of the Adantic, only McMillan now builds a sniper-grade bolt gun chambered for die .338 Lapua, available with A-2, A-3, or A-4 stocks. This chambering is much more prevalent in Europe, where Sako has an upsized version of its TRG 22 sniper rifle—the TRG 42—in .338 Lapua Magnum. Accuracy International similarly has a larger version of its AW rifles—the AWM, for "Magnum"—for the Lapua round. The same Mauser SR93 chassis that accommodates the .300 Winchester Magnum also handles the header .338 Lapua. Other sniper-grade European .338 Lapuas include the Erma SR 100, the Blaser straight-pull LRS2 magnum, and FN's Mini-Hecate sniper rifle.

Few snipers will ever get their hands on a .50-caliber AMAC, McMillan, or Barrett

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