Print this page

60 Years of the .338 Win Mag by Jaco Fourie

60 Years of the .338 Win Mag by Jaco Fourie: A top contender in the all-round plains game cartridge stakes

The .33 calibres have been with us for 115 years, but somehow haven’t enjoyed the popularity they deserve. Some are milder than others, such as the .338-06, .338 SABI and .338-308, while the more powerful .338 Win Mag, .340 Weatherby and .338 Lapua Magnum have a small but loyal following.

In 1902, the Americans introduced the first .33 calibre cartridge, the .33 Winchester, which launched a 200gr bullet at 2200fps from their Model 1886 lever-action rifle. However, in 1935, Winchester discontinued both the rifle and ­cartridge.

On the other side of the pond, in 1910, England’s Westley Richards & Co developed their .318 with its .330" diameter bullet weighing 250gr, launched at 2400fps. Its moderate velocity and extraordinary penetration earned the respect of many hunters in Africa prior to WWII.

In 1911, WJ Jeffery & Co followed suit by using the .404 Jeffery case to develop the .333 Jeffery, also known as the .333 Rimless Nitro Express. It fired a 250gr bullet at 2500fps and a 300gr at 2200fps. Unfortunately, bullet ­construction then was not as advanced as today’s, and its fragile 250gr copper-capped hollow-point design gained a reputation for bullet failure. However, John “Pondoro” ­Taylor, in his book African Rifles and Cartridges (1948), said he found its 300gr bullet to be just “splendid” and used it to shoot 11 elephant with 11 shots, though he added that he did not recommend the .333 Jeffery as an elephant rifle. Interestingly, the British military acquired a number of .333 Jeffery rifles for counter-sniper duty during WWI, when they found that .303 bullets could not penetrate the heavy steel plates from which German snipers engaged the British with impunity. The .333 Jeffery’s 300gr bullets had no ­difficulty perforating these shields and made short work of the German snipers.

In 1921, BSA introduced the .33 BSA cartridge, aka the .330 BSA Belted Rimless Nitro Express, for their P14 sporting rifle. It fired a light-for-calibre 165gr bullet at an advertised 3000fps; its low sectional density factor resulted in rapid velocity loss, but even then, the impact velocities were too high for the fragile bullets of the day, and the cartridge failed. With a 250gr bullet, it might have succeeded. 

Read the full article in the February 2018 issue of Magnum.

Rate this item
(2 votes)
  • Last modified on Thursday, 11 January 2018 09:27
  • font size