Bullet Battle: .338 LAPUA VS .50 BMG (Which Is Deadlier?) (2023)

For this cartridge analysis, we are going to look at the .338 Lapua and the .50 BMG.

These two long range rifle calibers are heavy duty rounds that fulfill a very specific purpose in the shooting world. When a shooter needs heavy stopping power over extreme long-distance ranges, he looks for cartridges such as these.

Rather than comparing these cartridges in a way that seeks to value one over the other, we are going to instead evaluate the relative advantages and disadvantages of each one and determine the suitable purpose and situations for each as well.

Although these cartridges are similar and often interchangeable for many applications, we expect to find that many other applications require the specific advantages found in either the .338 Lapua or .50 BMG.

Let’s get started:

.338 Lapua Magnum

(Video) .50 BMG Bullet Drop - Demonstrated and Explained

The .338 Lapua Magnum (also known as the .338 LM) definitely has a much shorter history than the .50 BMG. Designed in the 1980s, its development was intended for long range snipers in the military or law enforcement who needed strong terminal ballistics and could penetrate various types and layers of body armor, such as ceramic plates and ballistic mesh weaves, even at extremely long distances.

The .338 LM meets those specifications with amazing range and heavy-hitting power at long distances. Field-tested and proven on the battlefield in both Afghanistan and Iraq, military personnel continue to use this ammunition and civilians have followed their example when it comes to hunting and competition shooting.

The .338 Lapua is ideal for both long range competitions and for bringing down large game like moose, brown bear, and elk.

The design specifications of this cartridge make it suitable for several civilian applications, such as large game hunting and long range competitive shooting. The terminal ballistics of the .338 LM make it ideal for taking down elk and moose, and the longer range makes it ideal for precision shooting in long range competitions.

The increased popularity of this cartridge has led to options on the commercial market, making it even more versatile for a wide range of shooters. When hunting deer or elk, it can deliver an accurate, deadly shot at 1800 yards so long as you use a quality scope.

The recoil on this ammunition is, of course, considerable. It is not possible to get the distance, accuracy, and ballistic strength without an equal and opposite reaction impacting the shoulder of the shooter.

As far as accuracy goes, it can be a pretty subjective measurement sometimes. The .338 LM cartridge delivers excellent accuracy in the hands of a trained operator. The flat trajectory is ideal for aiming quickly without major adjustments. And although some shooters will claim that recoil does not affect their accuracy, this is a wild boast. You can expect accuracy to deteriorate after heavy shooting without adequate time for recovery using this cartridge.

The cost of ammunition of this caliber is not going to make anyone happy but the market. These rounds typically cost $5 per shot, and the platform required to shoot with these cartridges averages around $2000.

(Video) 50 BMG vs 338 Lapua Part 2 (ft. Edwin Sarkissian)

.50 Browning Machine Gun

The .50 Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG) was produced in the late 1910s as the field placement of armored vehicles became more common in European countries during the build up before WWI. The cartridge itself has been made with varying specifications, such as tracer rounds or armor-piercing, but the standard factory issue is the most accessible by civilian shooters today.

Although quite popular for military and police applications, the .50 BMG is also chosen by many non-military shooters and used in non-violent applications. It is primarily used in extreme distance target shooting, but large game hunters also appreciate the accuracy at these large distances, especially when it can increase the standoff distance and keep hunters at a safe distance from dangerous game.

The .50 BMG is a very large round and as such, requires heavy weapons and supporting equipment in order to fire safely and accurately. Civilians can purchase these rounds in factory loads ranging from 650 to 750 grain.

In regards to ballistics, the .50 BMG has a bigger, heavier bullet that delivers a reliable killing shot at ranges up to 3300 yards and take down medium-sized game at these incredible ranges. The bullet hangs in the air for a full seven seconds at this range and has a significant drop in elevation.

Like the other cartridge in this article, you have to expect a serious recoil from the .50 BMG. It’s simply a matter of physics. This cartridge is packed with powder and kicks back with considerable force. Given all other factors are equal, such as training and skill, a rifleman with this cartridge will show closer grouping, but this improvement can be difficult to measure with certainty.

The .50 BMG is a force to be reckoned with at long range, but it’s also expensive and packs excessive recoil.

Several rounds from the .50 BMG cartridge can exceed the .9 mark, and the trajectory is nice and flat. And of course, the extreme recoil will impact even the accuracy of the most experienced shooters.

(Video) 50 BMG vs .338 Lapua, we compare impacts a on steel target at 500 yards.

Additional equipment can be added to the platform to stabilize the shots and reduce the recoil, which most shooters will want to consider.

The .50 BMG will really bite your wallet, however. Rounds can cost between $11 to $16 each from most stores, but bargain hunting can potentially reveal wholesale prices as low as $5-$6. You can also save a little by making match ammo, but the bullets themselves can often cost $5 each. Of course, the remaining components will add on top of that price.

The full rifle platform to shoot the .50 BMG will typically cost around $3000. Advanced models will of course be more expensive. If you really want a great, customized option, check out ATRS in Canada – they know their business.

Both cartridges have the velocity needed for long range shooting though the 50BMG seems to show slightly higher velocities and this gap between the cartridges widens as the rounds move downrange.

As far as the BCs go for these two cartridges, both show phenomenal numbers. The 50 BMG does have several rounds that break the .9 and even 1.0 mark, but the 338LM is nothing to scoff at either. Trajectory follows a similar trend where both show very flat trajectories, though the 50 BMG excels in this category as well.


Both of these cartridges definitely have their purpose as sniper rifles or for competitive long distance shooting. Most competitions will not allow a .50 caliber round overall, but the .50 BMG will put out a beautiful arcing shot that can put rounds on target beyond 1000 yards.

Don’t discount the value of the .338 Lapua Magnum, though. It may seem like an inferior cartridge when all of the specs are listed side-by-side with the .50 BMG, but it can deliver nearly equal performance in almost all of the same scenarios. Its accuracy at 1000 yards is easily equal to the .50 BMG, but farther shots will probably require more sight adjustment due to the slightly lower muzzle velocity and more dramatic trajectories.

(Video) .408 Cheytac vs .50 BMG

Both cartridges will also deliver great hunting performance. The .338 LM has more options available. The trajectory, penetrating energy, and bullet design combination give the shooter a great advantage for long range shooting and big game hunting alike.

One reason why the .338 Lapua Magnum dominates the long range competition world is because it is more manageable than the .50 BMG.

Mid-range shooting or medium-sized game hunting can be accomplished with a smaller cartridge. The rifles that can chamber rounds this big can also be heavy and cumbersome for the kind of outdoor activity that accompanies hunting, but generally the platforms for the .338 LM are more manageable than those for the .50 BMG.

Some hunters are committed to using the .50 BMG for hunting, and it’s true, it is very successful at bringing down large game such as elk and moose – even dangerous game.

The increased range is an argument in favor of maintaining standoff distances from the game, and this cartridge definitely delivers the power and velocity for it. But the 30 pounds of rifle that the hunter will be carrying around through the wilderness or outback will also inevitably tire him out, possibly before he even gets his first shot off.


As the reader can no doubt tell at this point, it would be pointless to recommend one of these cartridges more than the other for every situation or purpose. In certain aspects and specific situations, one or the other might have the advantage, but each scenario needs to be considered separately.

Both of these cartridges are capable of high accuracy at long distances, and both have extreme stopping power. This article has hopefully highlighted both the similarities and differences so that the informed shooter can make his decisions and buy the appropriate ammunition for his needs.

(Video) .50BMG Sucks Out Deer’s Eyes?!?

This article originally appeared at Gun News Daily.


Which is better 338 Lapua or 50 BMG? ›

The difference between 50 BMG and 338 Lapua is that the 50 BMG is a bigger cartridge that fires a larger, heavier bullet with more kinetic energy than the 338 Lapua Magnum. Although the 338 Lapua has considerably less case capacity than the 50 BMG, both rounds have similar muzzle velocities.

How far is a 338 Lapua lethal? ›

Power and Range

338 Lapua is fat and beyond best bet. The cartridge claims a maximum effective range at 1750 yards, so anything short of a mile can be consistently gunned down.

Is 338 Lapua powerful? ›

In civilian terms, the 338 Lapua is an excellent competition rifle for long-range shooters. It's also a potent cartridge for hunters pursuing big game like elk, moose, and bear. The round's extra reach can create valuable standoff distance when hunting dangerous game.

How lethal is a 50 BMG? ›

In fact, the . 50-cal. hits with so much energy that it would likely kill you even if your body armor could stop it. The impact of the armor plate hitting your rib cage would be like taking a hit from Thor's Hammer.

Is a 338 too big for deer? ›

338 Win. Mag. isn't too much for deer and antelope, and with a heavy-for-caliber, tough bullet designed to break heavy bones and penetrate deeply, it's an outstanding choice for big bears. A broad array of projectile types and weights enables the hunter to tailor it to the specific task.

Does the US military use the 338 Lapua? ›

The US military opted to use 7.62×51mm NATO, . 300 Norma Magnum and instead of the . 338 Lapua Magnum the . 338 Norma Magnum chambering in their Mk 22 rifles, which have a field-convertible barrel/chambering switch capability.

What sniper did Chris Kyle use? ›

a Remington 700/300, Later type classified as a MK13 Mod 1, .300 Winchester Magnum sniper rifle with McMillan stock and customized barrel, which was later replaced with a .300 Winchester Magnum Accuracy International, Various rifles chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum used for long-range shooting.

How much does a 338 Lapua drop at 1 mile? ›

Note the angle of elevation and drop regarding the 250-gain 338 Lap bullet at 1,400 yards (651 inches of drop). Now, push to almost the full mile being 1,760 yards and the bullet drop is coming like raindrops out of the sky at a 1, 155.5-inch drop or 32 yards incoming overhead.

How many inches does a 338 Lapua drop at 1000 yards? ›

1/10th Mil Settings for the .338 Lapua Magnum, 250-grain BTHP Match Round
DistanceTrajectory Path10 MPH Wind Drift
36 more rows

What's better than 338 Lapua? ›

The difference is that the 300 win mag will do it with a 180 grn bullet, whereas the 338 lapua will do that with a 250 grain bullet. That weight makes a big difference in ME with the 300 win mag doing 3500 ft-lbs at the muzzle compared to the 338 lapua's mighty 4832 ft-lbs.

What compares to a 338 Lapua? ›

The 338 Lapua shoots larger diameter and heavier bullets that are generally more aerodynamic than the bullets the 300 Win Mag uses. The two cartridges have a similar trajectory at normal hunting ranges, but typical 338 Lapua loads have 30-40% more muzzle energy.

Is a 338 win mag good for grizzly bear? ›

But many elk hunters are rolling with the 338 Win. Mag. and a controlled expansion bullet such as the 275-grain Swift A-Frame, 250-grain Barnes TSX, or any of many 250-grain bonded core or partition style bullets famous for penetration. Perfect for elk, moose, sheep and bear.

Is 50 BMG too big for deer? ›

50 BMG round can kill a whitetail deer without hitting it.

Can a 50 BMG penetrate a tank? ›

Developments in tank armor soon made tanks generally impervious to 50 caliber rounds,39 but according to the Marine Corps and other authorities, the 50 caliber can still blast through more lightly armored vehicles, such as armored personnel carriers, and thus clearly through armored limousines.

What can a 50 BMG penetrate? ›

The . 50 BMG roundb fired by 50 caliber sniper rifles can knock down hovering helicopters, penetrate armored limousines, and ignite bulk fuel tanks from a distance of 10 football fields.

What caliber has taken the most deer? ›

“The . 30-30 rifle has arguably killed more whitetail deer than any other single cartridge … with the round's popularity still quite high, it's doubtful it will be unseated any time soon.”

What is the minimum caliber for deer? ›

Starting from small and working up, deer rifle calibers on the smallest end begin in the . 22 calibers. Hunting with a . 223 for deer in states where it's legal is an option, but that is the very bottom end of calibers that might be right for a deer hunt.

How accurate is a 338 Lapua? ›

338 Lapua launches 250 grain bullets over 3000fps and 300 grain bullets over 2850fps, with good hand loads and sub 1/2 moa accuracy.

Can body armor stop a 338 Lapua? ›

Because body armor is always a system of tradeoffs, it doesn't really make sense to build a plate to a specification designed to defeat . 338 Lapua for the same reason that you can't buy Level IV AR500 steel body armor or body armor that will safely defeat .

What caliber do marine snipers use? ›

338 Norma Magnum or . 300 NM caliber rounds.

What ammo do seal snipers use? ›

Specifications. Initially, SEAL Recon Rifles were built in-house with the only requirements being a 16" barrel (406mm), and the ability to shoot any 5.56×45mm cartridge in inventory, including the first iterations of the 77-grain (5 gram) Mk262 Mod0 cartridge.

Who is the deadliest sniper in U.S. history? ›

Known as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, Navy Seal Chris Kyle, who served during the Iraq War, has become renowned as the American Sniper. Chris Kyle was born in 1974 in Odessa, Texas.

What rifle did Chris Kyle prefer? ›

In his upcoming autobiography, American Sniper, Kyle identifies his favorite rifles. 1-Mk 12. "Fires a 5.56x45mm round. Versatile and easy to handle, the gun has less range and potentially less stopping power than other choices." [Read how Obama fulfilled a campaign promise in declaring war over.]

What is the most used sniper caliber? ›

At the present time, in both the Western world and within NATO, 7.62×51mm is currently the primary cartridge of choice for military and police sniper rifles.

How far does a 338 Lapua shoot flat? ›

I ran some drop numbers on some of the flattest shooting calibers in the world and how much drop they have at 1500 yards will amaze you. A 338 Lapua will have 40 inches of drop at 500 yards, 265 inches of drop at 1000 yards and 780 inches of drop at 1500 yards.

What is the longest shot 338 Lapua Magnum? ›

After all, British Army sniper Craig Harrison was using a . 338 Lapua when he set the current world record for the longest sniper kill at 2,475 meters, which is 45 meters farther than the longest ever . 50 BMG sniper hit in combat.

How loud is a 338 Lapua? ›

A . 338 with a muzzle break is closer to 170db. That's louder than a jet engine.

What is the flattest sniper round? ›

The flattest-shooting popular rifle cartridge at 1,000 yards is the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum, followed by the . 26 Nosler, the . 28 Nosler, the . 22 Creedmoor, and the 6.5 Weatherby RPM.

How much does a 338 Lapua drop at 400 yards? ›

The increased case capacity afforded by the massive 338 Lapua cartridge case allows for a higher muzzle velocity and flatter trajectory. At 400 yards, a 250gr match 338 has dropped -18.8” while the 180gr match 30-06 has experienced -21.9” of bullet drop.

What is the best grain bullet for a 338 Lapua? ›

The most commonly used powders with 338 Lapua are slow burners like Retumbo, H1000, and US869. At 250-300 grain bullets, Retumbo seems to be the best one to start with.

Which is better 308 or 338 Lapua? ›

Furthermore, as the . 338 Lapua Mag is mostly considered a military cartridge and innovations are focused on that type of shooting, there are fewer options available for hunting as fewer hunters use the round. . 308 is clearly the better option for ammo availability and overall cost.

What bullet is bigger than a .50 cal? ›

Metric and US customary
CaliberMetric caliberTypical bullet diameter
4010 mm0.400 in
4410.9 mm0.429 in
4511.43 mm0.451–0.454 in
5012.7 mm0.510 in, 12.95 mm
22 more rows

What is a 338 good for? ›

338 Winchester Magnum is most commonly used for the hunting of larger deer species such as elk and moose. It is quite popular with elk hunters, with bullets ranging between 200–225 gr (13.0–14.6 g) generally preferred for large class 3 game such as elk or moose.

How far can you shoot a 338 Win Mag? ›

The result is delivery of 3,918 foot-pounds energy at the muzzle and 2,052 foot-pounds clear out at 500 yards. If you subscribe to the theory that an elk requires at least 2,000 foot-pounds of punch for a clean kill, the 338 Win. Mag. is a legitimate 500-yard elk rifle.

What is the heaviest grain bullet for a 300 Win Mag? ›

300 Winchester Magnum are those weighing between 150–200 grains (9.7–13.0 g). However, bullets weighing between 7.1–16.2 g (110–250 gr) are available to the reloader for the . 300 Winchester Magnum.

What 338 Lapua rifle does the military use? ›

Used by Navy SEAL snipers, the McMillan TAC-338 is a sniper rifle chambered in . 338 Lapua Magnum. The . 338 round is designed to engage soft targets out to longer ranges than other cartridges such as the .

What bullet will stop a grizzly bear? ›

The . 45-70 Government has been used to stop more than a few attacking grizzlies, and lever guns have been a top choice among backcountry guides the world over. There's no doubt that if you put a bullet or two in the right place, the . 45-70 can save your life.

What is the best revolver for bear defense? ›

9 Best Handguns For Bear Defense For 2022
  • #1. Colt King Cobra Carry .357 Magnum 2” Revolver.
  • #2. Glock 20 Gen4 10mm Pistol.
  • #3. Taurus Tracker 627 Medium 4” .357 Mag/.38 SPL +P Revolver.
  • #4. S&W M&P 2.0 TS 4.6” Optics Ready 10mm Pistol.
  • #5. Glock 29 Gen 4 10mm Pistol.
  • #6. Kimber K6S DASA 3″ .357 Magnum Revolver.
  • #7. ...
  • #8.
Nov 21, 2022

What is the best caliber for grizzly hunting? ›

30-06 was the caliber of choice for hunters of all kinds for most of the 20th century. Even though newer calibers have come on the market, the . 30-06 has remained a faithful standby that is certainly more than capable of harvesting a grizzly bear.

What is the best size rifle for deer hunting? ›

In our opinion, the best rifle calibers for deer hunting are the . 270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, . 30-06 Springfield, . 308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .

What size gun is best for deer hunting? ›

There are hunters that prefer a heavy, slow bullet in a light, agile carbine. If the deer is across some distance such as 200 yards away. Most hunters prefer using a 30-06 or other long-range rifles. This is because the bullet travels at a much higher speed and velocity despite the bullet's diameter and weight.

How thick of steel can a 50 BMG go through? ›

Used only in the M2 series of machine guns. This round can penetrate 0.75 in (19 mm) of steel armor at 1,500 yards (1,400 m).

What is the strongest anti-tank rifle? ›

The NTW-20 is the largest and heaviest modern military rifle, and one of the most powerful infantry weapons on the market.

Can a 50-cal go through concrete? ›

How far can 50 cal go through concrete? Thus, the Army says that at the long range of 1,500 meters (1,640 yards), ball ammunition can penetrate one inch of concrete, six inches of sand, and 21 inches of clay.

Can a 50 BMG go through bulletproof glass? ›

Bullet Resistant Glass would withstand up to a . 50 Caliber round from a high powered rifle. A . 50 Caliber round is most closely associated with military usage, and is not typically or commonly in widespread usage amongst most civilian products.

How thick of armor can a 50 cal penetrate? ›

Armor Piercing (AP) round for extreme accuracy and high penetration capability against material targets. A large tungsten carbide penetrator provides excellent armor penetration (22 mm armored steel at 700 m).

What is the fastest bullet? ›

The . 220 Swift remains the fastest commercial cartridge in the world, with a published velocity of 1,422 m/s (4,665 ft/s) using a 1.9 grams (29 gr) bullet and 2.7 grams (42 gr) of 3031 powder.

What does a 50 BMG do to a deer? ›

“The . 50 BMG round has so much pressure, so much vacuum, if you will, when it goes past something, it actually sucked the eyes out of that deer and killed it instantaneously,” Warren said.

How much does a 338 Lapua kick? ›

338 Lapua load fired in a 15 pound rifle would produce only 32.08 foot pounds of free recoil energy, which is only a tiny bit more than the . 300 Win Mag in the 8.25 pound Weatherby. There are also some very important differences between the three cartridges when it comes to bullet size. The .

Does 338 Lapua have a lot of recoil? ›

338 Lapua Magnum rounds that we have selected for comparison (Graph 1). Our first reaction from this graph should be that both of these cartridges produce a good deal of recoil. Enough recoil to easily throw off a shot and enough to become uncomfortable after a short amount of time shooting.

What is the biggest round a civilian can own? ›

Fifty caliber is the largest round of ammunition generally available to American civilians today. Fifty caliber anti-armor sniper rifles are specifically designed to engage and destroy materiel targets on the battlefield at long range.

What is the most common sniper rifle caliber? ›

The most popular military sniper rifles (in terms of numbers in service) are chambered for 7.62 mm (0.30 inch) caliber ammunition, such as 7.62×51mm and 7.62×54mm R. Since sniper rifles of this class must compete with several other types of military weapons with similar range, snipers invariably must employ skilled ...

Do snipers use 50 cal? ›

Fifty caliber sniper rifles have proliferated in military forces around the world, and 50 caliber ammunition is made in more than 30 countries.

What caliber will drop a deer in its tracks? ›

280 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag. or 6.5 Creedmoor.

Can you survive a shot from a 50 BMG? ›

If you get hit by one fired out of a fifty caliber machine gun, you will die, unless you get hit in the arm or leg. In that case, you will probably live if you get expert and IMMEDIATE medical help, but you will lose your arm or leg.

How much does .338 Lapua cost per round? ›

Depending on the quality and purpose, the cost of . 338 Lapua Magnum ammo ranges from $5 to $10 per round.


1. Top 10 Best 50 BMG Sniper Rifles In The World
(Survival Gear)
2. .50 BMG vs GIRAFFE | Getting scoped by a .50 BMG
(Keith Warren Hunting)
3. The Top 5 Sniper Rifles
4. Will Bulletproof Glass Stop A .50 Cal? slow motion Richard Ryan
(Edwin Sarkissian)
6. 50 Cal Explosive Bullets vs Torso
(Garand Thumb)


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