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

Written by Dan Goldsmith
Last Update: August 11, 2023

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 to a whole another 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.

Let’s explore more in our in-depth “.338 Norma vs .338 Lapua” comparison.

What Is The Difference Between A Lapua And A Norma?


The Lapua bullets were designed to improve upon the contemporary Norma bullets. Lapua bullets are a bit harder to find than Norma bullets. Also, Lapua brass is a bit more durable than Norma brass.

However, when it comes to the ballistics, both rounds provide similar performance. Let’s explore more details below.

.338 Norma

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, hard-hitting rounds. 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

.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. Lapua is a Finland-based company. They were primarily designed for military snipers and became widely popular once it was introduced into the civilian market.

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 across 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 high energy in long-range shooting.

.338 Lapua

Just like the .338 Norma, the .338 Lapua is a bottlenecked, rimless, and centerfire cartridge that 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 market 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 in this segment of the 338 Norma vs 338 Lapua battle.

This relatively newer and improved version provides the same accuracy and slightly higher ballistic coefficient as the .338 Lapua. That’s why it was also 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.

.338 Lapua

The 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 well. With a slightly lower recoil than its predecessor, the .338 Norma also takes the lead in this segment of our 338 norma magnum vs 338 Lapua comparison.

.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 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 slightly. That’s why most probably, the .338 Norma is going to become the next long-range king.

4. Velocity

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.

The .338 Norma and the .338 Lapua started their journey with around 2800+ fps at close range and gradually dropped by half at 1500 yards.

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 of 338 norma mag vs 338 Lapua mag ended in a tie since 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 comparing the energy between a long-range bullet, and a short-range one is tricky.

Today we have two long-range bullets that perform almost identically when it comes to long-range energy delivery. The 338 is undoubtedly 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.

.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. Our 338 lapua vs 338 norma comparison is becoming more and more interesting. Let’s keep exploring!

6. Trajectory

Both the .338 Norma and the .338 Lapua offer a flatter trajectory than most other long-range cartridges.

However, the cartridge with less firepower drops a bit more at a long distance than the other one. That’s what decided today’s winner in this category, the .338 Norma.

Despite providing a flatter trajectory than most 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 identically up to 1000 yards. The .338 Norma drops slightly 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 fewer variations in the market, the newer .338 Norma mag rounds are cheaper than the .338 Lapua. You may need to spend around $5-$7 per round. These compact yet mighty cartridges perfectly balance 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 game animals across North America.

.338 Norma Magnum

.338 Lapua

With over 30 years of experience, the .338 Lapua is the “King” of long-range cartridges to this day. These mighty rounds have a long history of 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 between $ 5 and $ 12 to get your hand on these bullets.

The .338 Lapua is good at hunting and tactical shooting. The .338 Norma may be cheaper, but the .338 Lapua offers more variations. As a result, this round of our 338 Norma vs 338 Lapua comparison also ends in a tie.

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

The .338 Norma and .338 Lapua perform almost identically, with the .338 Norma performing slightly better than its predecessor, 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 three 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 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!


1. Is the .338 Norma the same as the .338 Lapua?

Ans. The .338 Norma is an upgraded version of the .338 Lapua. But we prefer the Lapua because it’s tougher brass allows it to last longer though the Norma is more efficient.

2. What’s the effective range of a .338 Lapua Magnum?

Ans. The term “effective range” is actually vague here because there are many factors in play here e.g. the shooter’s skill level, the type of rifle and ammo, and the weather conditions. In general, if all the above criteria are favorable, you can expect 1000 to 1300 yards.

3.  Is .338 Lapua bigger than .50 cal?

Ans. No, the 50 Cal is bigger than the .338 Lapua with a larger cartridge. This means the .50 BMG fires bigger and heavier bullets with more kinetic energy.

4. Can .338 Lapua penetrate body armors?

Ans. Yes, the .338 Lapua is a powerful round that can penetrate NIJ-Listed Level 4 plates at low to mid range (max 1000 yards) but the reality is, this long-range cartridge is rarely used in short ranges.

5. What Is The Effective Range Of A 338 Lapua Magnum?

Ans. A little over 1900 yards. These high-power bullets can also penetrate above-average,military-grade body armor within 1000 yards.

6. What Is The Effective Range Of A 338 Norma Magnum?

Ans. In terms of firepower and range, the 338 Norma provides a similar performance to a 338 Lapua magnum cartridge. The effective range here is also os around 1900 yards.

7. Is 338 Lapua Bigger Than 50 Cal?

Ans. No. The 50 BMG (50 Cal) is bigger than the 338 Lapua mag in terms of weight, size, and delivered energy. However, the smaller 338 Lapua mag cartridges surprisingly deliver similar muzzle velocities.

8. What is the best grain for 338 Lapua?

Ans. Around 250-300 grain bullets work best with the 338 Lapu. Slow burner powders like H1000 and Retumbo can both be great choices for 338 Lapua rounds.

9. Can 338 Lapua Penetrate Body Armor?

Ans. Yes. The 338 Lapua has enough power to penetrate med-tier body armor from a range of 1000 yards. They can even penetrate higher-than-standard military-grade body armor.

10. Do Snipers Use 338 Lapua?

Ans. Yes. The 338 Lapua comes with great range and penetrating power. That’s why even elite special operations units use this bullet. An experienced sniper can hit a target with 338 Lapua rounds up to a range of 1600 meters (around 1750 yards)!

About the author

Dan Goldsmith

Hi, this is Dan. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 30+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed.

My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

Whenever I am able to catch a moment of free time, you will find me enjoying my family or heading to the range on my motorcycle. I have enjoyed shooting sports ever since my dad introduced them to me as a child.

I like to think of myself as an outdoorsman who lives his life to the fullest. I hope you will benefit from my efforts to create valuable resources on this website. Happy reading!

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