The 338 Federal Lives! New Savage Models in the Short Action, Hard-Hitting Cartridge
Russ Chastain 01.27.15
When the 338 Federal cartridge came along in 2006, I was smitten. I like short actions, I like big bullets, and I like it when they shoot fast and hit hard. The 338 had all of those things, and I fell in love
After a few years, though, the 338 Federal began to wane and seemed to have run its course in a very short time. It’s true that, at this point in time, there is absolutely no need for any new hunting cartridge. There have long been cartridges suitable for any wild game on the planet, with some of those being more flexible than others. What can the 338 Fed do that the 338-06 or 338 Win Mag can’t do better?
Well, nothing really. But because the 338 Federal is basically a 308 Winchester necked up to .338 caliber, it can do what it does in a rifle with a shorter, lighter action.
Perhaps the sweetest thing of all is that the 338 Federal promises faster velocity than the 308 Winchester–with heavier bullets. So you get more energy in a round that still fits in a short action and doesn’t kick like a mule.
Because production rifles available in 338 Federal were limited to high-dollar models appropriate to the cartridge’s co-creator Sako, it was tough for the everyman hunter to afford one. I wanted to build myself a rifle by rebarreling a short-action Savage 110, but my only short-action Savage was a Sierra in 308, which had served me so well that I couldn’t bear to tear into it.
By the time I put my hands on a Savage I was willing to rebarrel, the 338 Federal was no longer among readily-available pre-chambered barrels. My project rifle was a long action anyhow. So I compromised and went with a 338-06. It’s a great cartridge and I love the rifle, but I do miss the convenience of a short action in a light rifle.
These days, both Savage and Federal are owned by the giant conglomerate ATK, so they can easily work together. Savage took a look at the 338 Federal, liked what it saw, and developed some new rifles to go with it. At the 2015 SHOT Show, they unveiled 6 models now offered in 338 Fed; here’s a rundown:
- Savage 11 Hog Hunter, SKU 22455, 7.25 lbs, 40.5″ overall length, 20″ barrel, ammo capacity 2, MSRP $578
- Savage 11 Trophy Hunter XP, SKU 22451, 8.25 lbs, 44.5″ overall length, 22″ barrel, ammo capacity 2, MSRP $629
- Savage 11 Long Range Hunter, SKU 22450, 8.4 lbs, 45.75″ overall length, 26″ barrel, ammo capacity 2, MSRP $1136
- Savage 16 Trophy Hunter XP, SKU 22452, 7.5 lbs, 41.5″ overall length, 22″ barrel, ammo capacity 2, MSRP $762
- Savage 16 FCSS Weather Warrior Stainless Steel, SKU 22453, 7 lbs, 41.75″ overall length, 22″ barrel, ammo capacity 2, MSRP $911
- Savage 16 Bear Hunter, SKU 22454, 7.75 lbs, 44.25″ overall length, 23″ barrel, ammo capacity 2, MSRP $1066
The pathetic two-round mag capacity is disappointing. My Savage Sierra 308 held 4 rounds in the mag. After all, this is not a fat magnum cartridge, and whenever the same model is offered in 308 Win, which is exactly the same diameter and length, mag capacity is listed as 4 rounds.
Do I routinely rapidly fire multiple rounds at game? No, but I want that option available. I can only hope that this info (taken directly from Savage’s website) is in error.
In conclusion, I have only this to say: Long live the 338 Federal!