February 23, 2006
The .338 Federal: A rare moment of sanity, cartridge-wise
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
Is it possible? A new cartridge that is not short and fat and that will not snap your cervical vertebrae when you pull the trigger? Apparently so. Federal, at the 2006 SHOT Show, announced the .338 Federal (well, what the hell else would they call it, the .338 Remington?), which is a legitimized version of the .338/08 wildcat, which has been around for years.
The .338 Federal fires a 210-grain bullet at 2600 fps, and 180- and 185-grain bullets at 150 to 200 fps faster. Along with this information comes the apparently mandatory claims that the new round is superior to the .30/06, the 7mm Remington Magnum, the .338 Winchester Magnum, and for all I know, the .375 Eargessplitten Loundenboomer.
Give me a break! If you want to shoot 180-grain bullets, get a .30/06. The real forte of the .338 Federal is its ability to shoot 210-grain slugs at a respectable velocity without anywhere near the recoil of bigger .33 cartridges. In this respect it’s very similar to the .325 WSM. Of all the shooters I know who used the .338/08 when it was a wildcat, all of them used the 210-grain bullet, and swore by it.
At the moment, the only rifle chambered for this round is Sako’s new Model 85 bolt-action, which I have handled, not shot. The one I groped was a fine piece of machinery, although it weighed almost as much as Sen. Hillary Clinton’s leg. (NB: I have never hefted Senator Clinton’s leg, and can only guess at its weight, but I think I’m on safe ground here.)
I trust that in the fullness of time, hunters will recognize what a dandy cartridge this is, and it will proliferate into other makes of rifles. I mean, I love the .338 and the .338 RUM, and the .340 Weatherby, but sometimes all that recoil gets old.