Customers often ask us what the best long-range rifles are. This is a loaded question since most calibers have a niche they fill or job they do particularly well. In the world of long-range precision, the .338 Lapua has overtaken most of the other calibers in popularity. Despite the lower kinetic energy when compared to the .50 BMG, the .338 currently holds three places in the top 10 longest confirmed sniper kills. It fills the role of an anti-personnel and anti-material round nicely. Civilians and military alike have embraced this cartridge as a young legend, and it is only growing in popularity. However, the .338 Lapua has one distinct disadvantage—it is outlandishly expensive.
For the average shooter who takes their .270 or .308 to the range on weekends, the .338 Lapua is like a Ferrari Enzo. Without devoting a lot of time and resources, the cost of owning and maintaining a rifle in that caliber is too great for the payoff. However, being the stubborn sort, I figured there had to be a way to shoot the .338 while not having it rip a Grand Canyon-sized dent in your wallet.
We will start with the easy part. If you can find one in stock, Savage makes excellent quality bolt action .338 rifles for 1200 to 1500 bucks. I know that may seem like a fortune to pay for a bolt gun, but when you compare that price tag to some of the other custom .338 rifles on the market, you know you are getting a smoking deal. For example, Steyr’s SSG-08 rings in at around seven grand. With the Savage 110 or 111 Hunter, you get a detachable box magazine, muzzlebrake, AccuTrigger, Picatinny rail, and one darn accurate rifle.
Everyone says not to skimp on the glass. I agree. Like many things, when it comes to scopes you get what you pay for. One consideration to maintain is the .338 Lapua has a fair amount of recoil, much more than your .308. However, with that muzzle brake, the recoil won’t be out of control, but stay away from the bargain basement scopes since they tend to not hold up. An SWFA SS 10×42 scope for around $300 will hold up to the recoil and give you an outstanding mil-dot reticle. For a little over $400, you could grab a Vortex Viper. It gives you a BDC reticle and a stellar reputation for an outstanding scope. Don’t forget to pick up some quality scope rings either. I like the quick detachable models in steel or aluminum. The steel rings tend to be stronger, and since this is already a heavy rifle, you won’t notice the extra weight steel rings bring to the party.
This is by far going to be the most expensive part of running this rifle. If you are not reloading your ammunition, you’re wrong. Start reloading and learn what your rifle likes to eat. If you purchase regular factory ammunition, a box of 20 rounds can cost well over $100. But if you can reload that brass, you’re going to save a lot of money.
Even though getting into the .338 Lapua game can get expensive, it isn’t out of reach if you are determined to get it done. There are plenty of lower cost options to give you a leg up. Who knows, you may start to outshoot the less expensive components of your setup and start investing in some seriously heavy-duty gear.