The 338 Ultra
A Poor Man's Lapua?

17 January 2004
By Mike Miller

By now most of you have heard of the .338 Lapua, but few have heard of the .338 Ultra. The .338 Lapua has earned a great reputation as a 1500 meter sniping round. It is head and shoulders above the .300WM and offers most of what a .50BMG, in anti personnel roles, does, without the blast or weight of the big .50.

A .338 Lapua launches 250 grain bullets at over 3000fps and 300 grain bullets at over 2850fps, with good hand loads and sub 1/2 moa accuracy. The factory Lapua ammunition is slightly slower. Those are big shoes to fill and when Jerry Rice, of NOR-CAL PRECISION suggested a rifle in .338 Ultra, as a cheaper route than the .338 Lapua, I was all ears. The Lapua requires lots of modification to work in a Remington 700 action and that means high cost. The Ultra is a factory available chambering and requires no modification to the Remington Ultra action. In short it can be built for around the same cost as a .308 sniper rifle.

We talked and agreed on the following:

  1. Remington SS Ultra action
  2. 28" KxP flutted 1x10 twist bbl
  3. Tactical vent system
  4. McMillan A3 stock
  5. Badger base and rings
  6. Badger floor metal

While waiting for the rifle I ordered reloading dies, brass and other needed items for the caliber. Once again cost was far less than the Lapua caliber. The brass was $.40 each for Ultra and nearly $2.00 each for the Lapua caliber. Roughly put it cost $400.00 for 1000 pieces of .338 Ultra and $2,000.00 for the same number of .338 Lapua brass. Everything for the Ultra was cheaper than for the Lapua.

I checked the two calibers for capacity and found water wise the two where almost identical, however in practical application, the Ultra is about a tenth of an inch longer than the Lapua, and that means more bullet has to be pushed into the case to not exceed the maximum magazine length. Translation the Lapua has greater useable case capacity. The Lapua is shorter, fatter and has more capacity. This translates into a better allround round, but what we are after is a cheaper round capable of 1500 meter use, so the only numbers that matter are the outcomes.

The rifle arrived and was a master piece. Fit and finish where so good it seemed a shame to dirty it. I spent a lot of time working up loads for this weapon and ended up with great shooting loads that pushed a 300 grain bullet at 2700fps and a 250 grain bullet at 2950fps, all under S.A.C.. I could get faster loads but lost the 1/2 moa accuracy level when pushed faster. Checking the ammunition I found velocity between round to round fluctuated when pushed faster, so I stayed in the sweet spot of the caliber and that meant slightly less velocity than the Lapua.

I had no trouble getting to 1500 meters and hitting what I aimed at. The rifle and caliber where a success. The rounds fed from the stock box magazine flawlessly. Something I have had trouble with in .338 Lapua, in a Remington.

The caliber is close to the .338 Lapua but not its equal. The additional velocity will give the hand loaded Lapua rounds an edge in extreme distance shooting, but if a reloader of the Ultra shoots against factory Lapua ammunition, the edge tips back to the Ultra.

The rifle itself was fantastic and frankly the "TACTICAL VENT SYSTEM" is the best muzzle break I have ever used. It reduced recoil to the point I questioned the chronograph results. My opinion of the break system is I would like to send Mr. Rice all my heavy hitters and have this break installed. It is EDM'ed into the barrel so its not possible on all rifles. Talk with Jerry and see what he recommends.


Contact information
Jerry Rice
Postal / Shipping Address: NOR-CAL Precision
2004 Elliott Dr. American Canyon, CA 94503
Telephone: 1-(707)-552-3810
Fax: 1-(707)-558-8977


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