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.338 Norma vs .338 Lapua: Head-to-Head Comparison!

Written by Robert Stevens

Both the .338 Norma and the .338 Lapua are exceptionally good at long-range shooting. The .338 Lapua is considered “The King” of long-range cartridges and its successor, the .338 Norma, takes the performance level to a whole ‘nother level.

.338 Norma vs .338 Lapua

However, the .338 Norma is a slightly larger bullet with a higher Ballistic Coefficient (BC) and a flatter trajectory. They provide slightly better performance than their predecessor, the .338 Lapua.

.338 Norma

The .338 Norma was developed by the American sport shooter Jimmie Sloan and the Swedish ammunition manufacturer Norma Precision. They debuted in 2009 and became the official contractor to supply the US military with these long-range and hard-hitting rounds.

338 Norma

They are also becoming increasingly popular in the hunting community. These powerful rounds were created to outperform the .338 Lapua as a better long-range alternative, and the .338 Norma does its job well.

.338 Lapua

More commonly known as the “338 LM” or “.338 Lapua Magnum”, the .338 Lapua is a high-powered, long-range cartridge invented in the late 80s. They were primarily designed for military snipers and became widely popular once it was introduced into the civilian market.

.338 Lapua

With the ability to deliver high energy in long-range shooting, these mighty cartridges quickly rose to the top as one of the most dominating sniper cartridges worldwide. They are considered “The King” of long-range shooting cartridges in the hunting community.

.338 Norma Vs .338 Lapua: Head-To-Head Comparison

1. Cartridge Size

.338 Norma

The .338 Norma and the .338 Lapua are almost identical in terms of cartridge dimensions, with just a slight change in the case length. They both share the 416 Rigby as their parent casing.

However, the slightly larger space (6.5% larger), slightly sharper shoulder angle, and slightly longer neck allow the .338 Norma to take the lead. The additional firepower allows the bullet to deliver a high amount of energy in long-range shooting.

.338 Lapua

Just like the .338 Norma, the ..338 Lapua is a bottlenecked, rimless, and centerfire cartridge. It also produces heavy-hitting power at long ranges. These rounds are widely popular among military snipers and hunters alike.

These mighty rounds are only a few steps behind the .338 Norma in terms of specs. However, they are obviously more popular than the .338 Norma as they have been in the business for over 30 years.

Aspect .338 Norma .338 Lapua
Parent case .416 Rigby .416 Rigby, .338/.146
Released 2009 1989
Rim Diameter (In inches) 0.588 0.588
Bullet Diameter  (In inches) 0.339 0.339
Bullet Weight (In grains) 300 gr 200-300 gr
Case Length (In inches) 2.492 2.724
Overall Length (In inches) 3.681 3.681
Maximum pressure (SAAMI) 63,817 psi 60,916 psi

2. Ballistic coefficient

.338 Norma

The .338 Norma fights the .338 Lapua toe-to-toe here as well. This relatively newer and improved version provides the same accuracy and slightly higher ballistic coefficient as the ..338 Lapua. That’s why it also got recognized by the military as they started using it on a regular basis.

The .338 Norma improves upon the long-range armor-piercing capability that came with the .338 Lapua. These rounds are fast, providing a stunning 2900fps+ to its target. That enables the .338 Norma to become every hunter’s favorite.

Ballistic coefficient

.338 Lapua

Ballistic coefficient refers to how well a bullet can resist wind drift and air resistance. The primary intention behind the .338 Lapua was to penetrate various types and layers of body armor over a long distance. That’s why they have a high BC count.

These mighty cartridges are packed with strong terminal ballistics and the .338 Norma takes it even further. Both these cartridges offer exceptional performance in hunting big games over a long range.

3. Recoil

.338 Norma

Almost all long-range cartridges come with a significant amount of recoil. Our today’s contestants are no exception. Both .338 Norma and .338 Lapua will provide incredible accuracy but the heavier bullets will give your shoulder a noticeable “push”.

However, the improved .338 Norma was designed to outperform the .338 Lapua and it definitely does its job. With a slightly lower recoil than its predecessor, the .338 Norma takes the lead here as well.

Recoil

.338 Lapua

The 338 has been a true long-range cartridge for multiple generations. They are exceptionally good at delivering high energy over long ranges pretty accurately. The only downfall was the higher recoil count. The cartridges are sure to “Kick” your shoulders.

The later designs like the .338 Norma take this opportunity and improve the performance a little bit. That’s why most probably the .338 Norma is going to become the next long-range king.

4. Velocity

.338 Norma

It’s common for long-range, heavier cartridges to start slower than other bullets and later catch up to them. Long-range bullets like the .338 Norma are good at maintaining speed but take more to get going at first.

Both the .338 Norma and the .338 Lapua start their journey with around 2800+ fps at close range and gradually drop by half at 1500 yards.

Velocity

It’s hard to compare the velocity of both cartridges because they offer similar performance in providing high velocity at longer ranges. Both of these cartridges have the capability to go above and beyond 3,000 fps.

This round ended in a tie between the .338 Norma and the .338 Lapua Mag. They both are well-equipped to deliver over 1000 fps at an astounding distance of 2000 yards.

5. Energy

.338 Norma

The energy of a bullet decreases over the distance. That’s why it’s tough to compare the energy between a long-range bullet and a short-ranged one. Today we have two long-range bullets that perform almost identical when it comes to long-range energy delivery.

The 338 is certainly more powerful at close range. With over 4500 feet-lbs of muzzle energy, the .338 Norma wins the close combat easily. However, we’re comparing long-range performance as well.

Energy

.338 Lapua

The ..338 Lapua cartridges are undoubtedly one of the most powerful rounds available to civilians. They might start slow, but they catch up to their competition as they pierce through the air.

With slightly more muzzle energy than 4100 feet-lbs, the .338 Lapua starts off with a decent performance at close range. However, It quickly catches up to the .338 Norma at 2000+ yards and provides almost the same amount of energy.

Even after starting with lower energy, the .338 Lapua managed to tie with the .338 Norma in this round.

6. Trajectory

.338 Norma

Bothe the .338 Norma and the .338 Lapua offer a flatter trajectory than most other long-range cartridges. However, at a long distance, the cartridge with less firepower drops a bit more than the other one. That’s what decided today’s winner in this category, the .338 Norma.

Trajectory

Despite providing a flatter trajectory than most other long-range bullets, the .338 Lapua loses the lead again to its successor, the .338 Norma. They both perform exceptionally well, but there can only be one winner.

Both these rounds perform identical up to 1000 yards. The .338 Norma drops a bit less (3-5 MOA) than the .338 Lapua at 1500 yards and 8-10 MOA at 2000 yards.

7. Price and use

.338 Norma

With relatively lower variations in the market, the newer .338 Norma mag rounds are a bit cheaper than the .338 Lapua. You may need to spend around $5-7 per round. These compact and mighty cartridges are the perfect balance of power, performance, and price.

As of 2016, the .338 Norma won the opportunity to become a standard-issue cartridge in the US military. They are also incredibly popular in hunting medium to large games.

Price and use

.338 Lapua

With over 30 years of experience, the .338 Lapua truly is, to this day, “The King” of long-range cartridges. These mighty rounds have a long history in serving the military and are available in a wide variety.

The price depends on the quality and use of the rounds. You‘ll need to spend anywhere between $ 5 and 12 to get your hand on these bullets. The .338 Lapua are good at hunting and tactical shooting. The .338 Norma may be cheaper, but the .338 Lapua offers more variations.

As a result, this round also ends in a tie.

.338 Norma vs .338 Lapua: Which one to choose?

This is a really difficult question to answer.

The .338 Norma and .338 Lapua perform almost identically, with the .338 Norma slightly better than its ancestor, the .338 Lapua. The .338 Norma was designed to outperform the .338 Lapua and Norma does it gracefully.

However, the .338 Lapua is no joke either. Known across the globe as “The King” of long-range cartridges, the .338 Lapua has been in action for over 3 decades and is still going strong. These compact rounds offer a lot of variations and are well worth the hype.

It all comes down to availability and performance. If you want to embrace the advanced performance, go for the .338 Norma. They might well be the next king in the making at long-range shooting.

If you like to have multiple options at your hand and are used to the reliable performance the .338 Lapua offers, you are welcome to stick with it. They’re not going away anytime soon.

About the author

Robert Stevens

A Seasoned Hunter

It’s been several years that Robert, a retired teacher and a proud dad, has silently been piling up mature bucks down the South. This humble hunter began his hunting journey at quite an early age and since then, he spent countless hours in the woods and learned good lessons in terms of woodsmanship. Along the way, he also made money sharing his skill with his followers and well-wishers.

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