The 338 Federal

Posted by Matt M. on Feb 5th 2024

The 338 Federal

I’m going to start off by saying I think the 338Fed is currently one of, if not the most, underrated and overlooked short action hunting cartridges available to day. Heck, it’s probably the one of the best deer, elk & bear cartridges you’ve never even heard of. I know thats a bold statement, but hear me out. It’s checks off nearly every hunters “must have’s” for a hunting cartridge. But why aren’t more talking about the .338 Federal and, more importantly, why aren’t more hunters taking it into the field? This cartridge packs a punch, fits in virtually all short-action platforms and Iit keeps up with popular cartridges. Except for outright speed, it does nearly everything well!


Back in the 1970’s, there were quite a few cartridges and wildcats based on the 308win parent case. This is where the 338-308win was born. Hunters were looking to pack some extra punch into the woods, but didn’t want to lug around big magnums and heavy recoiling rifles. After a few decades, Federal, along with Sako, made the 338 Federal official in 2006. Then came along various factory rifles chambered in it, like the Savage Hog Hunter, which was a handy scout rifle. Unfortunately, this is around the same time that the 6.5 Creedmoor started gaining traction. Naturally, most writers and media chose to cover the hot new 6.5mm round, than the 338.


Let’s start off with compatibility, since most folks thinking of trying the Fed out, will likely need to re-barrel their current rifle. The 338Fed’s parent case is really just a 308 Winchester thats been necked up to accept the larger .338 projectiles. This means that the Fed will work in every regular short action out there. Beyond that, it will also work perfectly well in AR-10’s, if you’re looking to pack some punch! Along these lines, it also works in any magazine designed for a 308 win…which is virtually all of the short action magazines out there.As far as compatibility goes, it scores a perfect 10.


Let’s start off with ballistics. The only “shortfall” of the fed is it’s speed, or lack thereof. It’s definitely no magnum, but it’s also not a barrel burner. The 308 win parent case doesn’t have the capacity to push the really heavy projectiles, but it is respectable. Federal lists their 200gr trophy tip as having a muzzle velocity of 2630fps. Thats 308win territory, with a projectile weighing 30-50gr more than your average 308 out there. We have custom barreled SIG CROSS sporting an 18” carbon 338 Federal barrel. It is a great, lightweight, handy backcountry rifle and a setup we recommend checking out! Out of it, we’re getting a respectable 2550fps wit federal 210gr ammo. Using some math and a little educated guessing, we think you could launch the Nosler 225gr E-Tip out of our 18” barrel at 2500fps conservatively. We chose that bulled since it’s still in the ideal weight class and length for the round, but also had a high BC. That combination makes for an excellent hunting setup for anything in North America. Just take a look at how it compares to some popular rounds below.

Energy in ft-lbs

Drop in inches

Velocity in FPS

The Issue

The only real issue currently with the Fed is the lack of factory ammunition. Currently, only Federal is offing factory ammo for this round. So if you don’t reload, this could be an issue. But, if you’re a reloader, you’re in luck! Since the Fed is merely just a necked up 308 case, brass is PLENTIFUL! That’s right, you can take any 308 brass, run it through a sizing die and have 338 fed brass easily and cheaply.Bullets are also readily available. As for powder, the 338Fed shoots great with anything a 308 would typically do well with, like Varget for example.

So there you have it, the 338 Federal. An overlooked, under appreciated cartridge worthy of being saved from the scrap pile.If you’re looking to break from the crowd and give something new a try check it out!