For many, the best .338 Lapua rifle is associated with something big and expensive. I’m here to shed some light on the subject and give you some good news as well as affordable options if you’re looking to master the long-distance shot.
About .338 Lapua Rifles
What makes this type of rifle very good is the fact that it takes full advantage of the long-range capabilities of the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridges. This ammo has been around since the 1980’s. Not only is it preferred for snipers, but also some hunters and civilian competitive shooters.
Its effective range is around 1,900 yards; which is why I recommend it for competitive target practice and hunting. That said, top shelf rifles can easily exceed the 1,900 yards rating, including those that aren’t military-grade. It’s just a matter of having a quality rifle as well as good .338 Lapua cartridges.
In 2009, this caliber established a new record for the longest recorded sniper kill from a distance of 2,707 yards. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.
How to Choose the Best .338 Lapua Rifle
To get the best rifle you must find the right combination of features that maximize the potential of the .338 Lapua Magnum. Therefore, it’s important to have a good barrel length, seating depth, as well as other specific perks.
Barrel Length Considerations
Longer barrels tend to give superior muzzle velocity. The more muzzle velocity, the better the range and the more predictable trajectory the bullet will take. A predictable trajectory is shoptalk for a flat trajectory or a more accurate shot.
However, long barrels will add more weight to your rifle. While this may not always be an issue in various tactical situations, I find it somewhat inconvenient when hunting. After all, hunting is all about being mobile and being able to stalk your prey.
Match Grade Triggers
A match grade trigger is also something to keep an eye out for. As I’ve learned, it will give you a smoother action and more predictable performance. Of course, two-stage triggers will also help improve your accuracy and control over the weapon.
Don’t Forget About Magazine Capacity
Bolt action rifles don’t often come with a high magazine capacity, like semi-automatic rifles. However, the less time you have to spend reloading, the faster you’ll be able to hit your targets.
While this provides tons of use in tactical situations, also keep in mind the potential hunting applications of a higher rifle capacity. You want to be able to fire at least two or three quick shots in succession even on bolt action rifles. Especially if you’re not a terrific shot.
Don’t worry. I’m no army sniper either! Which is why I know that the ability to fire more shots in a short amount of time can be important, not to mention satisfying.
Optics are Important but not Mandatory
Here’s the thing. Shooting a .338 Lapua rifle without proper optics would be a waste of bullets. These rifles, and this ammo, were designed to stop terrorists from over a mile away.
But to hit a target over that distance, even in optimal weather conditions, you’re going to need a good scope too.
Some Lapua rifles may come with factory-mounted optics. I won’t say that these can’t be good. But I will say that more often than not, you can get more from an aftermarket scope. You can also save some money by getting a rifle without optics but with multiple mounting options.
The recommended minimum twist rate for .338 Lapua ammo is 1:9”. The twist rate is a measure of the spin that the bullet endures while blasting out of the barrel. Because of the unique specifications of .338 Lapua Magnum cartridges, a twist rate of at least 1:9” is needed to ensure a flat and stable bullet trajectory.
.338 Lapua Round Expectations
Most Lapua rifles you find today are intended for civilian use. But make no mistake. They’re still very accurate and may only fall a few yards short of their military counterparts.
However, I remember a while back when I avoided buying .338 Lapua rounds in favor of the 6.5mm Creedmoor. Granted, the latter is a known game round that many hunters use. And .338 Lapua rounds are notoriously more expensive.
That said, after some testing I realized that this round is the far superior one. I don’t share the same opinion as other enthusiasts do that .338 Lapua cartridges are expensive just for the sake of being expensive.
Their high-end performance deserves a premium price tag. Between the insane distance, tremendous accuracy, and reliable stopping power, you have to at least try and shoot a few .338 Lapua rifles some day. Just to get a real feel for long-distance shooting.
Best .338 Lapua Rifles on the Market
To put things into perspective and make things even easier for you, here are my top five favorites. Each of the following rifles has great stopping power and a variety of features that make them safe to handle and effective on the long-distance gun range.
The Ruger Precision .338 caliber rifle is easily one of the best. It’s a bolt action rifle with a barrel length of 26” and a twist rate of 1:9.375”. This ensures optimum spin and good trajectory stabilization.
I like that it comes with a 5+1 round capacity which allows for more shots in relatively quick succession. The rifle’s total length is 52.5” and its weight stands at 15.2 lbs. without any optics.
Clearly this isn’t the most mobile bolt action .338 rifle. That said, this is considered a lightweight model for this caliber. The stock is made of a robust polymer and has an ergonomic finish on the end.
One of the things I think you’ll appreciate the most is the three-lug bolt design with the 70-degrees throw. It makes cocking much easier, also thanks to the dual cocking cams and smooth running action.
Between all these features, the included muzzle brake, having no rear sight, and its adjustable trigger and stock, the Ruger Precision .338 rifle is perhaps my favorite when it comes to long-distance precision and stopping power.
- Two magazines included
- Lightweight for a .338 caliber weapon
- 2.55 to 5lbs adjustable trigger
- 70 degrees throw on the bolt
- Round capacity of 5+1
- The build quality can be inconsistent
The Savage Arms 112 Magnum Target is a shorter bolt action .338 Lapua rifle. It does have a long 26” barrel but its overall length is just under 49”. I find this model more portable and remember being impressed with its stopping power when hunting a few years back.
Now, unfortunately, this model isn’t as easy to find new. But it’s worth it if you can get your hands on one. Honestly, the only real drawback in my opinion is the single round capacity. It doesn’t leave much room for error so I wouldn’t recommend the 112 Magnum Target model for inexperienced shooters.
With that in mind, the fixed magazine gives it a timely quality and I also really like that it weighs no more than 12 lbs without a scope attached. You’ll feel very light on your feet when hunting in rough terrain. Add to that the insane stopping power you can deliver from hundreds of yards away, and this can make you a successful hunter.
- Plain muzzle break
- Fixed magazine
- Trigger adjustable between 6 oz. and 2.5 lbs.
- Twist rate of 1:9 for optimal stabilization
- Beautiful finish and wood-laminate stock
- Difficult to find brand-new
Here’s another high-powered .338 Lapua rifle for all you enthusiasts. The Accuracy International AXMC. This is what I recommend if you want a bolt action sniper rifle with a larger magazine capacity. The 10+1 round capacity is great for engaging multiple targets in quick succession or for anyone with average shooting skills.
The barrel length on the AXMC is 27”. It’s a bit longer than other models I recommend but the overall length of the rifle can be brought down to just 48”. This makes it somewhat more comfortable to use without sacrificing any distance.
A muzzle brake is included. The two-stage trigger does a lot to help maintain shooting consistency and the three-position safety makes this a beginner-friendly weapon in every sense of the word. One of the standout features is the configurable pistol grip.
Another thing I like is the six-lug bolt design with the 60 degrees throw. It keeps the field of vision clear when staring down the scope and works more efficiently than the standard three-lug design. That said, do I think this rifle is for everyone? Not exactly. It’s an expensive rifle that’s best-suited for professionals either in competition or in law enforcement training, and other similar applications.
- Military-grade build quality and features
- Adjustable stock
- 27” barrel length for added distance
- Multiple mounts and rails for complete personalization
- High round capacity
- Considerably more expensive than most civilian .338 Lapua rifles
This rifle is available in two models, but it’s the .338 Lapua Magnum chambering that we’re interested in. It features an adjustable Black Precision stock and a 5+1 round capacity.
The rifle boasts a 26” barrel and a weight of just 14.5 lbs. − that’s along with the muzzle brake, magazine, and the MIL-STD 1913 sights rail. It’s surprisingly light despite its robust and intimidating build design.
Armalite offers the AR-30A1 at a midrange to premium price point. Worth it if you ask me, given the rifle’s performance. But, it can also be overkill for some users.
One of the things that might make this a great fit for you is the adjustable cheek piece which allows both length and height adjustments. You can also turn this into an even lighter weapon thanks to the detachable accessory rails and sight.
However, I think that the AR-30A1 is a great base if you’re trying to build a high-tech combat-grade long-distance .338 Lapua Magnum rifle. The accessory rails and mounting options allow for a wide range of device attachments, including night vision. Talk about enjoying target practice, wherever, whenever.
- Detachable Picatinny rails
- Reliable muzzle brake
- 26” Chrome moly barrel
- Great stability and low recoil
- Stock adjustable in two dimensions
- Not the cheapest option for beginners
Because I’m only interested in presenting options that can qualify as the best .338 Lapua rifle, here’s another combat-capable high-powered model – the FN Ballista Rifle.
This is an expensive weapon but very impressive nevertheless, sure to catch the attention of many gun enthusiasts. It has a 26” barrel length and a round capacity of 8+1. This makes it great for shooting rounds in rapid succession.
It features a completely adjustable trigger that works in both single and two stages and has a release range between 3-5 lbs. You may also appreciate the ambidextrous magazine release as well as the aluminum and polymer stock.
This is one of the best stocks you can find on a .338 rifle due to its superior vibration absorption properties and the amount of recoil damping it does. I probably don’t have to tell you how much it hurts to shoot a large caliber. Or how badly a strong recoil can mess with your trajectory and precision.
What’s even sweeter in my opinion is having multiple safety features such as grip safety, drop safety, and a thumb safety.
- Very advanced adjustable trigger system
- Round capacity of 8+1
- Ambidextrous magazine forward release
- Superior recoil damping features
- Multi-caliber rifle
- On the heavy side
- Could have included a scope too, given the price
Whether you want to act out your fantasies of being a sniper or you want to simply become an expert long-range shooter, this is the type of rifle to do it with. Of all the rifles I’ve tested and researched, the Ruger Precision .338 is perhaps the most versatile weapon and the model that offers the best value for the money.
It has acceptable recoil, an affordable price tag, a decent round capacity, smooth bolt action, and an adjustable trigger that makes it easy on anyone to calibrate the rifle for maximum accuracy. It also doesn’t hurt that you get multiple scope mounting options and a lightweight bare-bones weapon to begin with.