Winchester Firearms

What is the maximum effective range of a 338 Winchester magnum?

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Wiki User
03/03/2015

That depends on many factors including accuracy of the rifle, wind, ballistic coefficient of the bullet, the tenacity of your target, and most importantly, the knowledge, shooting position, and ability of the shooter. If all of these factors are in line, the range is well over 1000 yards. However, one or more of these factors is usually not optimal. First, the accuracy of the rifle. If the rifle shoots 1" groups at 100 yards, that would be 5" groups at 500 yards and 10" groups at 1000 yards. So even if you aim perfectly, you could hit 5" away. If your gun shoots 2" at 100 yards, that's a 20" group at 1000 yards. A 20" circle is bigger than most animals vitals. Not a humane shot. Second is wind. A 10 mph side wind can push a bullet about 5 feet off line from where you aimed at 1000 yards, and that's assuming the wind is consistent. 20 mph wind is double that, and so on. The wind where you are and the wind at your target may be different, not to mention gusts. Third is the ballistic coefficient (BC). This is how aerodynamic your bullet is. BC doesn't make much of a difference out to a couple of hundred yards, but past that it makes a big difference. Fourth, is the tenacity of the target. If your shooting an elk you need a lot of power at whatever range you hit him (most people say 1500 lbs of energy) to kill effectively and humanely. If you're shooting a deer, half that energy is fine. If you're shooting a target, it obviously doesn't take much power to get through paper. The fifth and most important factor is the knowledge and skill of the shooter. Put a target the size of the animal's vitals at 100 yards. If you can hit it consistently, good. Move it to 200 yards. If you can hit it consistently (probably 80-90% of the time) from a realistic shooting position, good. Keep moving it until you can't hit the target 80-90% of the time, that's when you've past your maximum range. Don't risk wounding an animal past that.