KcT asked in SportsOutdoor RecreationHunting · 1 decade ago

.338 rifle and deer hunting?

Is a .338 too much for whitetail and with a muzzle break how much recoil is there on the gun?


Not trying to be an as*, but most deer have been killed by the 30 30. I have never seen anyone in my life hunt deer with a .22. Im not saying its not done, Im just saying its not really common for most people.

23 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I agree witht he fellow that said..."I've never shot anything too dead in my life." Well put!

    Ok, let me tell you a story from white tail deer hunting 5 years ago....

    It was mid-afternoon on the first day of deer season. I was bored and went to visit my cousin near where he hunts at the corner of an open field. We were chatting when we heard some shooting, in the woods, on the other side of the field. A moment later a HUGE buck came running out into the open. This thing was moving fast! It's not proper to take a shot at a deer or other animal when you are at someone else's stand, so all I did was encourage my cousin to make his best shot. He pulled up with his .340 Weatherby Mag and...BOOM! The buck tumbled over. We walked out to make sure it was dead, and as we did, we saw a hunter come out of the woods. The guy eventually walked over to us and talked to us about the deer. Turns out that he shot it (and hit it) but the deer kept on going. My cousin merely made a "gut shot" on the deer and that was enough to ruin it's day.

    The moral of the story is. All those smaller cailber "deer rifles" are just fine, when you can make the perfect shot at the standing or walking deer. When deer are running or you don't have the perfect shot, then a magnum caliber rifle comes in very handy.

    My cousin has the deer hear mounted in his livingroom. The other guy has an interesting story to tell about "the one that got away".

  • SM
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Justin, I bought my first 338 in 1982 and still own the rifle. Since then I have purchased 3 others. In the hands of a comfortable hunter who is capable of accurate shot placement the 338 is the best all around cartridge for North America. Even money says that statement creates some arguments. When loaded with 180 gr bullets the 338 will do anything the 30-06 or 300 win mag will do. I hunt white tail, feral hogs, mule deer, and antelope with this weight. Move up to a 250 grain bullet and your ready for elk, caribou, and moose. If you want to hunt the great bears or buffalo you can load up to 300 grain bullets.

    I read a statement years ago in a reloading guide that sums up the 338 " If the 45-70 and 7mm Magnum ever had offspring it would be the 338 Win Mag."

    Recoil is more noticeable than the 30-06 or 12 gage, but with a good shooting rest and a shooters jacket its manageable for a trip to the range. If you ever make a trip to Africa the 338 is the minimum bore allowed in alot of the continent. I've also been on several trips to Alaska and the outfitters have recommend I bring a 338 for hunting there.

    I've shot alot of game with an '06, 7mag, 300. and 308. All of these are good calibers; but for sheer versatility its hard to beat a 338.

    Source(s): Gunsmith, competitive 1000 yard marksman, small arms instructor, been able to hunt around the world.
  • 1 decade ago

    I suspect you do a bit (or plan to) of other big game hunting like moose, elk, bear, etc.

    The 338 win mag (which it sounds like you're talking about because you mention a brake) does make for a great all around north american gun, so in that aspect yes it will be fine for an all around choice.

    If the gun is 100% for whitetails, I think it's a bit much unless you specifically target the big 300 pound deer of the Northern US and Canada. Even then a 300 win mag would be more than fine.

    But if you can handle the recoil by all means go ahead.

    If you like the 338 caliber and big heavy bullets, I think the new 338 federal will become popular here since it's based on the short action 308. Be a great round for any north american game under 300 yards.

  • 1 decade ago

    I am assuming you are referring to the 338 Win Mag.

    The recoil of a 338 Win Mag (without a muzzle break) is about 50% more than a 30-06 with a 180 gr. bullet or about as much as a stiff 2 3/4 inch 12 gauge slug round.

    Throw on a muzzle break? I'd expect it to be the same recoil as the 180 gr 30-06 round or maybe a stiff 200 gr 30-06 round. Not terrible, but not for the novice shooter.

    Is a 338 WM too much for deer? Personally, I have never shot anything too dead in my life. I know when hunting in areas of Alaska infested with big bears, my father's rifle of choice was a 338 WM (mine was a 35 Whelen). The deer in SE Alaska are the Sitka Black tail deer. A 100 pound deer is considered on the big side around there.

    IMHO, I think the bark of the 338 WM is worse than the bite. The 338 WM can be downright unpleasent to shoot at first. The muzzle blast will definately get your attention. The recoil isn't anything to sneeze at either. However, once you get used to the fact that muzzle blast doesn't hurt (this can be a weird concept to some people, but many novice shooters feel the muzzle blast and flinch and lose good shooting form because they expect it to hurt, even though it doesn't) the recoil isn't too bad.

    You have to keep this in perspective as well. If you are 12 years old, never fired a rifle before, and weigh 80 pounds, stay the heck away from such a big rifle until you learn good shooting technique and learn how to handle recoil. If you are a moderately experienced shooter and just want to buy and hunt with something new, I'd say get it if you have the money burning a hole in your pocket, I'd say think about it for a few days and buy it if you still really want it (I'd bet it would still be too much gun at this point and it will probably sit under the bed for a long time). If you are an experienced shooter, then by all means try hunting with it.

    Personally, I am not a fan of muzzle breaks. There are some cartridges where they are necessary; however, for the most part, I don't like using muzzle break and hunting in the same sentance. Muzzle breaks necessitate the use of hearing protection. I would never shoot a rifle with a muzzle break even once without excellent hearing protection. IMHO, hearing protection and hunting are not very compatible.

    So in summary? Make sure you are ready for the recoil. You want to make sure you have good shooting form and technique and can handle a little bit of pounding before you buy a 338 WM (there are recoil reduction techniques like SVL/Limb Saver recoil pads or Lead Sleds if you need to get used to the recoil a bit). If you can handle the recoil and the rifle, it will serve you well for deer. It is a bit much, but like I said, I have never shot anything too dead.

    Good luck and happy hunting

    Source(s): 29 years shooting & 19 years hunting
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The .338 is definitely more gun than is necessary for whitetail (see generally reference 1, below), but it is not "too much" if the right loads are used and if you are sufficiently comfortable with the rifle to place your shots accurately.

    Recoil is a somewhat subjective issue, and it's not terribly helpful to say that "the .338 kicks like a mule". More objectively, the recoil energy is about 33 ft pounds in an 8-pound rifle: about 60% greater than a 30/06, but not too much for most shooters, assuming a properly fitting stock.See references (2), (3) and (4), below, for more information.

    A good muzzle brake will significantly help control the recoil, bringing it down to approximately that of a 30/06. However, this is at the expense of very substantially increased muzzle blast. Muzzle blast is just as effective as 'kick' in promoting flinching! Personally I wouldn't bother, unless you must have a .338 and find that you simply can't otherwise handle the recoil.

  • 1 decade ago

    The 338 is too much gun for most southern whitetail. It is a very large caliber and might do a lot of damage for a northern whitetail as well. Blacktail in the west would be damaged extensively by the 338.

    You might look at a 308 or a 270 instead, those are the best recommendation for whitetail nation wide. The smallest thing I would shoot at a whitetail is a 257 roberts (the 243 is a bit small in my opinion) and the largest I would shoot is a 270 Weatherby mag. I know plenty of people who do shoot .300 at whitetail.

    The 338 kicks like a mule, by the way.

    All that said, the 338 is an excellent load and if you have a good deal on one I would go for it. They are excellent weapons and stabilize a large range of grain.

  • 4 years ago

    338 Win Mag For Deer

  • 1 decade ago

    I have hunted with my Browning Stainless Stalker .338 Win mag for the last 16 years. In my experience it is amazing for elk. I've shot maybe 12 elk or so and none have stayed on their feet. It is equally impressive on mule deer. I've even had poorly hit deer just flop over dead. This has not been my experience with antelope or whitetailed deer though. My theory is that the .338 bullets are designed for larger game. They just don't encounter enough resistance to expand properly in the smaller animals. You launch 4000 ftlb of energy, but 3500 of it is going in to the trees behind the animal. Nevertheless, if you run a bullet through an animals vitals, it will die. Just don't expect them all to just tip over. Honestly, I think my .30-06 is more likely to tip over a whitetail than my .338 mag. The recoil isn't a big deal. Mine kicks far less than my bro-in-law's .300. With a muzzle break, my brother's .338-.378 Weatherby kicks less than a .270 Win. No joke.

    Source(s): I couldn't even guess how many whitetails I've shot with my .338. I live in Montana and love the over the counter doe tags.
  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Yes it is legal, but I would really call it overkill. I hunt with a .300 Win Mag and even that is more than enough power. I also hunt with a .308 Winchester. .300 outdoes .308 in every category but is more expensive and more recoil. As others have said, .338 Lapua Magnum is way too much power and is far too expensive to use as a deer hunting round. If you can afford it, go for it. .338's are for hunting large game.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    SM: I'd expand your answer to say the .338 Win Mag is the best all-around caliber for hunting worldwide.

    My old friend Paul Richter, who turned me on to it more years ago than I care to remember, hunts everything with it. And the last time we counted, that included big and medium game in more than 60 countries.

    Justin: At base, there is no such thing as too much gun. Bullet placement is the key to clean kills with no wastage. Those who suggest that a .338 Win Mag will tear up an animal more than, say, a .300 Mag, or even a .308, have never hunted with one.

    That said: If you plan on hunting only deer, the .338 Win Mag can be a bit more than you need. But if you're plans are to hunt larger animals---elk, moose, caribou, bear---in North America, or big game in other countries, it would be my first choice.

    There are ways of taming the beast. Rather than a muzzle brake, I would install an hydralic recoil pad, and adjust it to the felt recoil level you are comfortable with.

    Muzzle brakes, incidentally, have only an incremental effect on felt recoil. Their primary job is to reduce muzzle lift, so you can return to battery faster.

    One cautionary note about muzzle brakes: If you ever intend using an outfitter, be aware that guides hate muzzle brakes, because they redirect the blast and escaping gasses right to where the guide is standing.

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