I guess I'm the last guy in the gunny world to hear about the new .338 Federal. I've never seen one, never shot one, never even heard about it until yesterday. I like it.
Announced in December 2005, Federal Cartridge company launched a new cartridge, based on the .308 Winchester case. They basically jammed a .338 bullet in the case. This makes a lot of sense from a practical perspective.
The trend lately has been for cartridge manufacturers to launch wide short cartridges. The Winchester line of WSM cartridges is the first example that comes to mind. This new cartridge from Federal isn't a magnum, it's a .308 on steroids.
Federal claims that it will launch a 180 grain bullet at 2830 fps for 3200 foot-pounds of thump. In comparison, the much-loved 7mm Rem magnum launches a 175 grain bullet at 2860 fps for 3180 foot pounds of energy. Yet, in doing so, we're comparing apples and oranges. The .338 bullet is wider than the 7mm bullet, so it will have more thump when it hits something soft. The wound channel is going to be bigger, and the wider bullet is going to displace more tissue.
A more valid comparison would be with the .338 Win Magnum, which launches a 200 grain bullet at 2900 fps. The .338 Win Mag has long been known as a great elk rifle, useful for bigger game. It has also been known as a recoil monster, with only the most dedicated riflemen able to use it to its full potential.
Yet, there are a number of us old-time riflemen who think that faster isn't always better. The largest buffalo herd in the world was driven nearly to extintion by men who shot black powder cartridges with big slow bullets traveling at under 1500 fps. The legendary .45-70 is still known as an extremely capable game cartridge.
One reason that ammo makers bring out new cartridges is to take advantage of advances in powder manufacture. Handloaders and ammo makers have more powders to use than ever before. I do things with my new Savage 110 in .30-06 that folks couldn't do fifty years ago. The .30-06 of WW1 and WWII fame pushed a 150 grain bullet at 2750 fps. I can approach 3000 fps routinely with that load, yet I'm using new powder in a new rifle with good metallurgy.
The new .338 Federal has several things going for it.
1. It will be chambered in new rifles with new metal.
2. It chambers in a short action, using a parent case that we are all familiar with.
3. Recoil should be reduced as compared against .338 Magnum rifles.
4. That big .338 bullet will kill better than a .308 bullet at the same velocity.
I think Federal has a winner here.