In Part 1 of this topic a brief look at the history of these two cartridges was presented as well as my personal history associated with them. In summary, I set out to sell the idea that they belong in the same class of cartridges and rifles designed for large-tough critters, as well as hazardous.
That’s not exactly news to those familiar with the ballistics and history of each. The .338 Win Mag’s purpose from the time it appeared in the Winchester M70 Alaskan was to take on the large bears and moose of the 49th State, and in that it has earned its keep, in addition to proving its worth on medium-large game in Africa as well as in the Lower 48 states and Canada. It has become a favorite choice for hunters of elk and moose as well as black bear and other tough game at longer ranges such as goats and sheep where a mixed bag is probable.
The 9.3 X 62 cut its teeth in Africa being successfully employed on just about anything from dik-dik to elephant starting in 1905. So it hardly needs any argument in defence of its capabilities. Though today there is much more and better factory ammo as well as premium components available to the handloader. While most suppliers of rifles and ammo have traditionally been European, today company names that we may be more familiar with have become involved. These would include: Hornady, Remington, Swift, Barnes, Nosler, Speer, Ruger, CZ, Tikka and Sako to name a few. In a recent review of the websites of EPPS in Orillia and TradeEx Canada, I discovered that the elite rifle maker, Sauer, appears to be shipping into Canada a large number of rifles chambered for that historic cartridge. The last five named produce rifles in that chambering in addition to the famed American gun manufacturer, Ruger. Mine is a Tikka T3 Lite manufactured in a Sako plant with a match-grade Sako 22.44″ barrel. The rifle is “Lite” at about 6.3 lbs out of the box. Scope, rings and ammo add just slightly more than a pound.
The .338 Win Mag rifles that I made reference to in my last piece were a Sako FS Carbine with a 20″ barrel that weighed approximately 8 3/4 lbs ready for action; the .338 Win Mag in a Remington 700 with a 24″ stainless 24″ barrel and synthetic stock belonging to my son was about the same weight. And finally, the 26″ Browning A-Bolt SS in LH would have been no heavier than the others. So my Tikka 9.3 X 62 would be around 1 and 1/4 lbs lighter than those three .338s.
(Similar to mine, but not identical)
So, we’ll have a look at handling and recoil as well as ballistics. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone who is familiar with both cartridges that they can serve quite well on lesser game such as hogs and whitetails in addition to toting one of these into areas where shots on large game, and dangerous, could be taken at both short, medium and long range. I will qualify by the ballistic charts that follow what might be intended by long range as well as serving as “mountain rifles”.
The aim is to be realistic and fair in the comparison of three sets of ballistics. Since I’ve experience with only one 9.3 X 62, a modern rifle in the fullest sense of the term, that has a 22.44″ (570 mm) barrel. I will synchronize the results of the three .338s I’m familiar with along with the results of RealGuns.com (that used a Ruger Hawkeye African with a 23″ barrel). RealGuns’ data is more recent from a new rifle that is close enough in barrel length to my 9.3 Tikka. At the end I’ll make some conclusive remarks.
Unless someone has strong biases in favor of one over the other due to preconceived notions, or more experience with a .338 WM in the USA on the one hand, or more experience in Africa with the 9.3 X 62 on the other, it appears to me that in all fairness, knowing rather intimately the performance of each, that one might conclude that the .338 WM has a slight advantage at longer range for medium game due to a smaller bore and lighter bullets, while the 9.3 X 62 has a slight advantage on the heavier stuff due to a larger bore and heavier bullets. There is no question that the .338 WM has an advantage in sheer number and variety of bullets offered, though I personally consider that of dubious real advantage because the 9.3 X 62 has plenty of premium expanding bullets designed for the game most commonly shot with this cartridge. The increased number for the .338 WM has mostly to do with bullets for smaller game at longer range. However, I only see that as advantageous if one intends to use their .338 WM as a deer rifle or for mountain hunts of sheep or goats — or in similar situations.
The .338 WM cartridges by Winchester were initially loaded with a 200gr, a 250gr and a 300gr. That made a lot of sense in 1958. The 200 was intended for the likes of whitetails or anything similar (of course, there is a decided disparity in the size and weight of those); the 250gr was conceived as fulfilling the main purpose of this round — the dispatching of large bears and moose and any others that might fit into that class; the 300gr had in mind the big and dangerous where ever found. Ballistics were: the 200 at 2970 fps, the 250 at 2700 fps and the 300 at 2410 fps. As time marched on the 300 was dropped and the MV of the 250 was lowered to 2660 fps (3927 ft-lbs). Of course, as the .338 became more and more popular for the likes of grizzly, moose and elk (elk in particular), emphasis was placed on a bullet heavier than 200 and less so than 250 that appeared slow compared to a .30-06. So the compromise 225gr was conceived and readily embraced as the finest thing going. It had good weight and sectional density. Muzzle velocity was right up there and even slightly better than a 180gr from a .30-06. Today, with better bullets and faster MVs, the 225s seem the most favored among .338 WM users. Factory loads were said to make 2780 fps (3860 ft-lbs) that was an improvement over the .300 WM by around 300 ft-lbs at the muzzle. Yet the handloader has discovered in recent times that even the original ballistics can safely be enhanced by quite a bit. Not only are there better powders and bullets that have substantially improved performance all around, but a multitude of domestic rifle makers, as well as nearly as many abroad, that produce excellent rifles out-of-the-box with barrel lengths of 18-inches to 26. Surely, I’d not dare to neglect mention of excellent custom builders as well, making the .338 Win Mag one of the most popular rifles extant in bolt-actions, singles and semi-autos. Yes, and perhaps even in a double. I have often thought that a .338 WM in a Browning BAR would be an excellent thing for the one rifle shooter. I found that idea very tempting myself, except for it’s cumbersome weight and over-pricing compared to the excellent Remington 7600 I once owned in a .35 Whelen — but that was no lightweight either.
So, here we go with some ballistics from each: For the .338 WM I’ve chosen a 225gr TTSX, a 250gr NP and the 275gr Swift A-Frame.
In my Tikka T3 Lite in 9.3 X 62 I’ll go with what I have experienced from these three: a 250gr AB, the 286gr NP and 320gr Woodleigh.
Keep in mind that to give some parity the .338 will get a 23-inch barrel (the Ruger Hawkeye African), and the 9.3 X 62 the 22.44-inch of my Tikka.
The .338 Win Mag will get these MVs: the 225gr TTSX = 2837; the 250gr NP = 2747 fps; and the 275 AF = 2590 fps.
The 9.3 X 62 will get the MV’s I have used: 250gr AB = 2714; the 286gr NP = 2622 fps and the 320gr Woodleigh = 2464 fps. All of those, by the way, come within a few feet-per-second of prognostications by QuickLoad at just under 64,000 psi. 64,000 is the max psi for the .338 WM, and I use that as a standard for a newly manufactured 9.3 X 62.
The .338 bullets SD’s and BC’s
225 = .281 SD and .433 BC
250 = .313 SD and .474 BC
275 = .344 SD and .469 BC
The 9.3 bullets SD’s and BC’s
250 = .267 SD and .494 BC
286 = .305 SD and .482 BC
320 = .341 SD and .457 BC
Apart from trajectory, there are four means of measuring external ballistics (in this order): Velocity, kinetic energy, momentum (Keith formula) and Terminal Effect (TE). TE is my formula that I’ve used for many years after trying several others. It’s based on kinetic energy at impact while incorporating both sectional density and cross-sectional area of the bullet. Some argue that SD changes at impact from a soft-point expanding bullet, therefore it’s meaningless to incorporate it into a formula. Yet the same people argue that, all else equal such as construction, the bullet with a higher SD will penetrate deeper. I believe this to be a general principle. But momentum is also a factor whether believed so or not. For example, a heavy 450gr/.458-cal big-bore bullet may only be making the same energy at impact as a 200gr .308-cal — let’s say 1500 ft-lbs from each — but actual observation of the facts reveal that most times the large-bore .458 (cross-sectional-area = .165 sq.in., SD = .307) will have a greater lethal effect on large game than the .308/200gr (cross-sectional-area = .074 sq.in., SD = .301). Momentum is also considered by many big-bore users to be a factor as well, and I’m of that persuasion though it’s more difficult to quantify in lethal terms.
The example given above could be used to express this distinction: A 450gr/.458″ making 1500 ft-lbs at impact is only going 1225 fps. On the other hand, a 200gr to make 1500 ft-lbs needs an impact speed of 1838. But look at the momentum difference: For the 200gr to have the same momentum as the 450gr it must be speeding along at 2756, NOT 1838 fps! That’s more than a .30-06 can fire a 200gr at the muzzle.
Should you think momentum doesn’t count, shoot back to back a .458 Win Mag firing that 450gr at 2250 fps, and then a .30-06 firing a 200gr at 2700. The .458 is making 5058 ft-lbs and 144.6 mom. The .30-06? 3237 ft-lbs and 77.14 mom. Recoil reflects momentum of the bullets transferred to an equal and opposite direction: The .458 is making 59 ft-lbs of recoil compared to 21 ft-lbs from 9-pound rifles in each case. Momentum? 198 for the .458 and 111 for the .30-06. Recoil impulse? 5.77 for the .458 and 3.46 for the .30-06. All of that at the muzzle of course, but it is related to that equal and opposite effect of bullet speed and weight = momentum.
(This was from my Ruger No.1 firing the 450gr Swift AF at a corrected 2317 fps/5363 ft-lbs. At the same place, time and date, the 500gr Hornady recorded 2198 fps — corrected was 2210 fps/5422 ft-lbs.)
If you question all this, then be a dare-devil and embed a 12-inch spike into the buttstock of your .458. It should be approximately .458″ in diameter. Cut it off at about 8″ with 2″ embedded. That would leave 6″, and rest the point against your shoulder. Pull the trigger. How deep do you think that spike will go? I suggest that it would completely penetrate your shoulder — bones and all! That would be the effect of momentum.
BALLISTICS FOR THE .338 WINCHESTER MAGNUM:
****0 = 2837fps//4020ft-lbs//mom=91.2//TE=101.3//-1.75″ (zero at 250 yds.)
**50 = 2735fps//3736ft-lbs//mom=87.9//TE=94.16//+1.12″
100 = 2635fps//3469ft-lbs//mom=84.7//TE=87.43//+2.82″
200 = 2443fps//2980ft-lbs//mom=78.5//TE=75.10//+2.37″
300 = 2258fps//2547ft-lbs//mom=72.6//TE=64.19//-3.93″
400 = 2081fps//2164ft-lbs//mom=66.9//TE=54.54//-17.07″
500 = 1913fps//1828ft-lbs//mom=61.5//TE=46.07//-38.25″
250gr Nosler Partition
****0 = 2747fps//4188ft-lbs//mom=98.1//TE=117.6//-1.75″ (zero at 250 yds)
**50 = 2655fps//3913ft-lbs//mom=94.8//TE=109.8//+1.26″
100 = 2566fps//3653ft-lbs//mom=91.6//TE=102.5//+3.03″
200 = 2392fps//3175ft-lbs//mom=85.4//TE=89.13//+2.51″
300 = 2224fps//2746ft-lbs//mom=79.4//TE=77.08//-4.11″
400 = 2064fps//2363ft-lbs//mom=73.7//TE=66.34//-17.8″
500 = 1910fps//2025ft-lbs//mom=68.2//TE=56.85//-39.6″
275gr Swift AF
****0 = 2590fps//4095ft-lbs//mom=101.8//TE=126.3//-1.75″ (zero at 200 yds)
**50 = 2501fps//3818ft-lbs//mom=98.25//TE=117.8//+0.89″
100 = 2413fps//3556ft-lbs//mom=74.45//TE=109.7//+2.13″
200 = 2244fps//3073ft-lbs//mom=89.33//TE=94.81//+0.00″
300 = 2081fps//2643ft-lbs//mom=81.75//TE=81.55//-9.01″
350 = 2002fps//2447ft-lbs//mom=78.65//TE=75.55//-16.5″
BALLISTICS FOR THE 9.3 x 62 MAUSER
250gr Nosler AccuBond
****0 = 2714fps//4088ft-lbs//mom=96.9//TE=114.6//-1.75″ (zero at 250 yds)
**50 = 2627fps//3830ft-lbs//mom=93.8//TE=107.4//+1.31″
100 = 2541fps//3585ft-lbs//mom=90.8//TE=100.5//+3.10″
200 = 2376fps//3132ft-lbs//mom=84.9//TE=87.81//+2.54″
300 = 2216fps//2725ft-lbs//mom=79.1//TE=76.39//-4.19″
400 = 2062fps//2360ft-lbs//mom=73.6//TE=66.16//-18.02″
500 = 1915fps//2035ft-lbs//mom=68.4//TE=57.05//-40.04″
286gr Nosler Partition
****0 = 2622fps//4365ft-lbs//mom=107.1//TE=139.8//-1.75″ (zero at 250 yds)
**50 = 2534fps//4078ft-lbs//mom=103.5//TE=130.6//+1.52″
100 = 2449fps//3807ft-lbs//mom=100.1//TE=121.9//+3.43″
200 = 2282fps//3377ft-lbs//mom=93.23//TE=108.2//+2.78″
300 = 2122fps//2860ft-lbs//mom=86.69//TE=91.59//-4.56″
400 = 1969fps//2461ft-lbs//mom=80.45//TE=71.81//-19.6″
500 = 1822fps//2109ft-lbs//mom=74.44//TE=67.54//-43.69″
320gr Woodleigh PP
****0 = 2464fps//4313ft-lbs//mom=112.6//TE=154.4//-1.75″ (zero at 200 yds)
**50 = 2375fps//4007ft-lbs//mom=108.6//TE=143.5//+1.14″
100 = 2288fps//3718ft-lbs//mom=104.6//TE=133.1//+2.47″
200 = 2119fps//3189ft-lbs//mom=96.87//TE=113.8//+0.00″
300 = 1957fps//2722ft-lbs//mom=89.46//TE=97.46//-10.2″
350 = 1879fps//2510ft-lbs//mom=85.90//TE=89.87//-18.6″
Environmental conditions for this test were: Elevation = 1200 ft.; Temp.= 60*; Relative humidity = 60
SOME MATTERS TO TAKE NOTICE OF:
1) Momentum is related to velocity and bullet weight, and Terminal Effect is a product of kinetic energy at impact, sectional density and cross-sectional-area of the bullet.
2) It’s obvious that bullets for the 9.3 of a given SD will be heavier because of the larger bore. They are also slower but have more momentum and TE.
(This was a 286gr Nosler Partition from my 9.3 X 62 that took a black bear on Sept.4/2013 – Range was 68 yards and it retained 73% or 211grs of original weight. MV was about 2622. It was protruding through the hide in the flank from a frontal chest hit, and fell to the ground while skinning. Penetration was about 30-inches.)
3. While the .338 WM has a greater water capacity to it’s mouth of about 12% than the 9.3 X 62, it’s bullets are considerably longer taking up a significant amount of that extra capacity if each is loaded to the same COL. Also, the 9.3 X 62 has a much better expansion ratio (ratio of powder burned to volume of bore) meaning it is more efficient in it’s use of the powder. Then, the powder employed in the .338 WM is usually – but not always – of a slower burn rate for the heaviest bullets. That means using more powder than what would be useful in the 9.3 X 62. The 9.3mm (.366) bullets have an area at the base that is 17% greater than a .338 bullet, meaning that the psi has an area that is significantly greater to push on than the base of a .338 bullet (.10516 sq-in vs .08969 sq-in). So, all-in-all the extra space of the .338 WM cartridge doesn’t make it more productive than the 9.3 X 62 when each is loaded to the same psi and have equal barrel lengths. But with the heaviest bullets for each it falls behind the 9.3 X 62 by a meaningful amount, especially when you employ the Terminal Effect formula. In using the lighter bullets, it does shoot a few inches flatter at long range.
4. I would really choose to use the 250 NP from the .338 WM in a moose hunt at 2700+ fps. I have used it in my .340 WBY. In 9.3 X 62 I’d use the 286gr at 2600+, and as you can see it about matches the 250 in trajectory while giving more “thump” at impact at any range.
5. I think the two “heavies” — 275 AF and 320 Woodleigh are intended for really heavy game at closer range. Therefore, I’ve limited them to 350 yards.
6. I don’t like the TSX bullets for the 9.3 as they take up too much of the case capacity that should be reserved for powder. I use 70 grains of RL-17 for each Nosler bullet, the 250 AB and 286 NP. I can do that because of the capacity of the Hornady case and a COL of 3.37″ for all bullets (limited by the clip). The powder is compressed by about 8% but is safe due to the fact of being a relatively “slow” powder for a 9.3 X 62, and the expansion ratio is superior in 9.3 X 62. I also run psi at the same level as a .338 Win Mag. Tikka, the maker of my rifle, also makes an identical rifle chambered in .338 Win Mag. It does come with a 2-inch longer barrel, however.
7. Are these two capable mountain cartridges? The answer is an obvious YES if the right bullets are chosen and driven at near max velocity in a rifle of no more than 8.5 lbs. Mine comes in at 7.7 with scope, rings and 4 cartridges. I’d use the 250 AB at about 2760 fps. That load shoots MOA while one grain less shoots 2714 into 0.44″. If one can handle the recoil of 42-43 ft-lbs, it could tag a goat or sheep to 300 yards with ease. The .338 WM is somewhat better in the recoil department shooting a 225gr.
8. HANDLING and RECOIL: The Ruger Hawkeye African in .338 Win Mag is listed on Ruger’s website at 8 lbs even at 44.75 inches overall, including the muzzle brake. Usually, about one pound is added when a 3 – 9 X 40mm scope is mounted, plus ammo, making it a bit heavy at around 9 lbs for a Mountain Rifle. There are others, of course, that would be less burdensome, such as the Tikka T3 Lite that may be too light for some sensitive shoulders. Nonetheless, if you don’t mind the weight of toting a 9 lb rifle up rugged mountains, the recoil from the .338 Ruger with the above loads will go from about 36 ft-lbs for the 225gr up to around 37 or so for the 275 AF. Mine, well, thumps me by quite a bit more: around 42 ft-lbs for the 250 AB at 2714 and 48 for the 286, and 47 from the 320 Woodleigh. Why less from the Woodleigh? Less powder burned.
IMPORTANT CAUTION: NONE of my loads are presented as recommendations or solicitations for others to try. YOU MUST ALWAYS be responsible for making SAFE handloads.
‘Till the next when we discuss this: WHY THE .45-70 IS STILL VERY POPULAR AFTER 143 YEARS.