Best 338 Lapua Rifles – 2020 Round-up Review

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Not all good things come from the Army. ​

For instance, the AR-15 came from a U.S. Air Force trial and .338 Lapua was developed at the request of the United States Navy for a long-range rifle for sniper applications and long-range competitions.

If you are considering a .338 Lapua rifle for your own use, we have some information on what to look for, what the best use is, and have reviewed some of the best on the market today. Read on to find out more!

Comparison Chart of the Best .338 Lapua Rifles

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Ruger Precision .338 Lapua 26" MLOK Rifle

  • Completely modular, RPR is a bolt action gun that uses AR-15-style components.
  • Ruger Precision Rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum represents the best ratio between price and performance.
  • The Ruger 18080 rifle model is equipped with a free-floated 26″ long barrel that is cold hammer-forged from 4140 chrome-moly steel.
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Savage Arms - 112 Magnum Target 26” 338 Lapua

  • It is a single-shot weapon built on Savage Magnum Target action.
  • A 26" carbon-steel barrel is equipped with a recoil-reducing muzzle brake.
  • The best budget rifle in .338 Lapua Mag is Savage Arms 112 Magnum Target.
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Accuracy International - AXMC338 LM

  • The AXMC features an external chassis stock system with an octagonal shaped handguard.
  • Using an AXMC caliber conversion kit, the user can change calibers by exchanging the bolts, magazines, and barrels.
  • The Accuracy International AXMC sniper rifle in 338LM is the pinnacle offering among tactical multicaliber platforms.
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Noreen Firearms Bad News .338 Lapua Magnum Rifle - 26"

  • The first AR-style semi-automatic rifle chambered for the mighty .338 Lapua Magnum.
  • The hybrid, short-stroke gas system combines tappet-type gas piston with long gas tube.
  • According to the manufacturer, the rifle is "bad news" for anything within 2,000 yards of its muzzle.
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Barrett MRAD

  • The bolt action rifle with user-changeable barrel system and 10 round detachable magazine.
  • Additionally, it features the adjustable trigger pack and folding stock with an adjustable comb.
  • The Barrett MRAD or multi-role adaptive design is a true professional-grade work-horse of a rifle.
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What is a .338 Lapua Good For?

The .338 Lapua is a heavy hitter, so it can be great for a few applications. You’ll be able to accomplish quite a bit when you are situated from a long-range. Here are some common uses for a .338 Lapua:

Big Game Hunting

Imagine being able to land a big game target like a deer or an elk. And doing so from a good 800 to 1,000 yards out. It’s a pretty impressive feat, to say the least. A .338 Lapua will definitely be the go-to hunting rifle of choice if you want something that is powerful enough to knock down large animal targets. 

Target Shooting

Yes, it’s pretty impressive having to show off your marksmanship skills from a long enough range. So if you are looking to give a few long-range rifles a spin, the .338 Lapua can be quite hard to beat. You can put this up here with a good long-range rifle like your 6.5 Creedmoor. As long as you have paper targets or clay pigeons, you should be good to go.

Competition

If you are competing in long-range competitions, accuracy and reach will be a couple of your best attributes. The farther you go (and the closer you get to the bullseye), the better the chance you’ll be able to get ahead of your competition. It takes the right kind of environmental conditions and the right technique to pull off such a shot. Nothing more impressive than a .338 Lapua to get it done. 

Is There a Difference Between .338 Lapua and .338 Lapua Magnum?

The .338 Lapua Magnum, .338 Lapua Sniper, or 8.6x70 mm are the same cartridge as the .338 Lapua developed in 1984 by the Finnish Lapua Cartridge Factory. The .338 Lapua Magnum was initially grounded on a .378 Weatherby Magnum case, necked down to accept 0.338-inch (8.6 mm) bullets because this diameter presents optimal sectional density and penetrating capabilities.

Further development continued with a case based on the .416 Rigby, an English big-game cartridge, with the case necked down to 0.338-inch. The final solution was the .338 Lapua Magnum round made with semi-automatic firearms and their careful feeding requirements as a consideration. It is a specialized, rimless, bottle-necked cartridge with superior trajectory and bullet penetration qualities compared to the usual .30 caliber cartridges.

How accurate is a .338 Lapua?

Military reports from recent conflicts confirmed kills at over 2,700 yards (2,500m), using a British Accuracy International L115A3 sniper rifle chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum.

The Finnish .338 Lapua Magnum was adopted as a military sniper rifle, sometimes classified as a large-caliber, long-range rifle. That description tells us a lot about its impressive long-range capability as a dual-purpose, anti-personnel, and anti-materiel (AMR) cartridge.

Initially, the .338 Lapua was designed to fire a 250-grain (16.2-gram) bullet at a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps in order to penetrate military body armor at ranges up to 1,094 yards (1,000 m) and has a maximum effective range of about 1,910 yards (1,750 m).

However, due to its extreme kinetic energy, the .338 Lapua Magnum still can make the kill at much longer distances. Military reports from recent conflicts confirmed kills at over 2,700 yards (2,500m), using a British Accuracy International L115A3 sniper rifle chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum.

As earlier mentioned, the .338 Lapua Magnum was developed to be an anti-material cartridge loaded with 250-grain, military spitzer, boat-tail capable of reaching targets up to 1,600-yard (1,500 m) distances. However, due to its growing civilian popularity, there is a decent choice of commercial loads offering different ballistic performances.

Nowadays, manufacturers offer acceptable and dependable ammunition designed for bench shooting and hunting, but you should be aware that quality Lapua magnum ammo runs in excess of $3.50 per shot. That being said, you may choose between a 200 and 250-gr Nosler Partition, 250 and 300-gr Lapua Scenar, or 300-gr Sierra HPBT bullets. These loads reach velocities ranging from 3,340 ft/s to 2,750 ft/s and generate approximately 4,813 ft/lb. of muzzle energy.

Anyway, the .338 bore is not too much gun and results will vary depending on bullet choice, which is often a critical factor. Currently, with many projectile offerings, your primary task would be to match projectiles to the job at hand. For example, the traditional, conventional soft-point .338" projectiles are intended for hunting small body-frame animals, as extremely soft bullets will generally produce poor performance on large, heavy animals.

How to Choose a .338 Lapua

There are numerous firearm manufacturers now producing rifles in multiple configurations chambered for the .338 Lapua Magnum. Considering the ballistic performance of the round and your intended use of this caliber round, you need to opt for a particular model.

Depending on whether you are a hunter or precision/ tactical shooter, you will have a choice of semiautomatic or bolt-action rifles designed both for hunters, as well as tactical and competition shooters.

In other words, a practical application should always be taken into consideration, since the weight of .338 Lapua tactical rifles is considerable and a heavy tactical rifle can be a complete pain to work for hunters who climb far and high.

Since many .338 Lapua rifles feature a “heavy” classification, these hefty guns are fine for fixed position work or for prone, or at least stationary, shooting. For more active hunting scenarios, you should opt for lighter, more mobile .338 Lapua weapons platforms.

The recoil of the caliber is also a concern, as it is considerably stout and difficult to master, even in a quality bolt-action rifle without a quality-designed and built muzzle brake or other recoil-absorbing device.

Quick Take - The Best .338 Lapua Rifles

Review of the Best .338 Lapua Rifles

Time to take a closer look at each model and see what makes them so unique.

Pros

  • Muzzle Brake With Tunable Compensator
  • Upper Receiver Comes With + 30 MOA Picatinny Rail
  • A 26-Inch-Long, Heavy-Contour Barrel Features a 1:9” Twist
  • The Left-Folding Stock Hinge Accepts Any AR-Style Stock
  • Aluminum 18" Free-Float Handguard Features Magpul M-LOK Slots
  • Marksman Adjustable Trigger Has a Pull-Weight Ranging From 2.25 to 5 Pounds

Cons

  • It is Quite Heavy and a Large Gun
  • The Barrel Collects a Lot of Copper
  • The Trigger Can Only Be Adjusted Down to 2.7lbs

What Recent Buyers Report

The fat, large-port muzzle brake is huge, but really effective. While it reduces the recoil to an unbraked .30-'06 Springfield-chambered hunting rifle, you can still expect lots of side-blast and noise.

The handguard is decent, but it is slightly off-center in relation to the barrel and owners have noticed some flex. However, that anomaly has a negative impact on precision, making the horizontal dispersion of testing groups shrink by 30%.

Why it Stands Out to Us

As a typical modular sniper rifle, or MSR, the Ruger Precision is a bolt-action sniper rifle with stock, barrel, pistol grip, and handguard that can all be replaced easily.

Highly capable, the new Ruger’s enormous 3.75″-long and 2″-wide tank brake provide very manageable recoil which is more like a slow push than a sharp kick.

The Ruger Precision rifle features an 18″-long, 2.25″-wide free-float aluminum handguard configured with Magpul M-LOK slots for accessories on all four sides and a pair of QD sling mounts.

The upper receiver is fitted with a +30 MOA Picatinny rail that will give you enough elevation to shoot out to 1,500 yards and more.

Additionally, this Magnum RPR also features a 1.5″ dovetail machined into its bottom face. Known as an Arca-Swiss-type dovetail, it uses a new mount system, initially developed within the photography industry.

Like all Ruger Precision Rifles, this Magnum RPR features 26″ heavy-contour barrel that is cold hammer-forged from 4140 chrome-moly steel.

The lower receiver comes with multi-magazine interface, or MMI, which allows owners to use both PMAGs and AICS-style magazines.

Using a carbine-length, AR-style receiver extension, the RPR sports an AR-style, left-folding stock with adjustable length of pull, comb height, and buttpad cant.

The Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger enables a user-adjustable pull weight without disassembling the rifle.

Who Will Use This Most

Although chambered in several other options, this .338 Lapua Magnum-caliber RPR is intended for use in both competitive shooting and military sniping.

For most long-range shooting enthusiasts and hunters, the Ruger Precision Rifle (RPR) as an option below $2,000 is a golden opportunity to step into the big-boy rounds.

As with other Ruger Precision Rifle models, the Ruger 18080 was purpose-built for long-range shooting.

Since this Precision Rifle belongs to the class of weapons informally known as half-mile-plus target guns, there are many gun enthusiasts who want to push their limits for both recreational and competitive long-range shooting.

What Could Be Improved and Why

As for the ambidexterity, the Ruger Precision Rifle features only a reversible 45-degree safety control, so many southpaws will complain about the lack of left-hand usability. As a minor gripe, that safety selector does rattle a little in the fire position.

Other than that, customers will likely replace the average pistol grip and handguard with a lighter-weight handguard. Beyond that, the only thing to upgrade would be the folding stock because of its loose latch.

Bottom Line

With adjustable ergonomics and rugged reliability, RPR offers the advantages of high-end rifle chassis systems but at a price much more accessible to the average shooter. Besides some downsides, the benefits of this style rifle are prevailing, as it provides the best deal for those shooters going for an accurate, long-range .338LM.

Pros

  • Bolt-Action With a 1-Round Capacity
  • Gray Laminate Stock With Pillar Bedding
  • Muzzle Brake With Tunable Compensator
  • Adjustable Target AccuTrigger
  • A 26" Carbon-Steel Barrel Features a 1:9” Rate of Twist

Cons

  • Only One Cartridge Capacity
  • The Bolt Might Stick With Reloads
  • It is Finicky With Some Brands of Cases

What Recent Buyers Report

You can read some negative comments coming from reloaders referring to extraction problems with this rifle. However, most of the stuck cases were related to cheap Hornady brass.

Like with all high-powered firearms equipped with the muzzle brake, keep bystanders back because this muzzle device is very effective and loud.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The gun is built around a 26" carbon-steel BA barrel with a 1:9 rate of twist. The heavy Magnum contour barrel is button rifled and topped with a three-inch large muzzle brake. A generously-proportioned laminate stock and hefty brake, supplemented by the considerable weight help soak up some of the stout recoil.

A combination of single-shot Magnum Target action and a pillar-bedded heavy barrel provide you the ability to deliver one shot to the target the first time.

The model 112 Magnum Target Rifle is equipped with the company’s tunable AccuTrigger, which can be set as low as 6 ounces of pull.

Who Will Use This Most

As a long-range instrument outfitted with a number of features to enhance accuracy, the 112 Magnum Target rifle is the perfect platform for reloaders and marksmen looking to explore the .338 Lapua as a long-range target round.

Although this model may be the most economical choice for many budget shooters, it will, without question, provide them with the desired competition-grade accuracy.

What Could Be Improved and Why

While Savage Arms' new 112 Magnum Target offers the effectiveness of the .338 Lapua at a really affordable level, limited to one shot, it may put off some shooters who need a greater rate of fire.

Also, there are some complaints about the AccuTrigger, but since the Model 112 is one of the best budget .338 Lapua rifles, right from the factory, some of these gripes should be considered the exception, as opposed to the average experience.

Bottom Line

As for precision, bolt-action rifles like this Savage Magnum allow you to rule the range, providing top-tier accuracy.

If you want to get into large magnums without breaking the bank, Savage Arms Model 112 Magnum Target offers budget-sensitive shooters an opportunity to enter the world of precision shooting at an affordable price.

Pros

  • Two-Stage Trigger With Adjustable Shoe
  • Comes With KeySlot Accessory-Mounting System
  • Full-Length 30 MOA STANAG 4694/Mil Std 1913 Rail
  • Right Folding Stock Reduces Overall Rifle Length by 10"
  • QuickLoc Barrel-Release System Provides Easy Barrel Removal

Cons

  • It Weighs Around 15 Lbs
  • AXMC Rifle is Undeniably Expensive
  • Originally Not Designed as a Competition Gun

What Recent Buyers Report

Although semi-automatic precision rifles are more popular today, traditionally, long-range, professional marksman came to appreciate the advantages of a bolt-action rifle.

As the preferred choice of the snipers and professional shooters, the Accuracy International AXMC Rifle delivers a high degree of modularity and configuration that cannot be achieved with any traditional stock.

In addition, buyers are extremely satisfied with the rifle action, smooth bolt travel, and an uninterrupted top rail which will help in mounting night vision optics in front of standard daylight scope.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The AXMC features traditional polymer stock with aluminum alloy chassis and a solid, flat-bottomed action that is bolted to the chassis core.

The multi-caliber AXMC, model MC38L27MBL, can be reconfigured to another caliber in minutes simply by changing the barrel, bolt, and magazine inserts.

The rifle is fitted with a 27" long, free-floating, fluted massive barrel made of stainless steel. Featuring a heavy barrel profile, this .338 comes with the huge, double chamber muzzle brake.

Unlike previous Accuracy International rifles of the AW series, AXMC comes with tubular handguard and skeletonized stock, making it extremely adaptable to the most users and applications.

Innovative features include the stock folds on the right side of the gun to encase the bolt while making the left side of the gun totally slick and convenient for carrying.

Who Will Use This Most

The Accuracy International AXMC Rifle is not designed with the civilian shooter in mind, but it is purpose-built for military snipers and law enforcement shooters.

The AXMC (AX Multi-Caliber) is the natural choice for a slightly more professional audience, to whom perfect shots matter more than cost.

Though not intended for amateurs, an AXMC will serve you fine as a PRS rifle or as a long-range hunter, if you can cope with the weight.

What Could Be Improved and Why

Measuring at 15 lbs with standard rail setup, and lacking a scope, the AXMC is by no means a lightweight rifle. Some shooters consider choosing a skeletonized handguard for reduced weight or using bipods for precision shooting.

Another problem you may encounter is that it is single loading, which can cause hang-ups with the SA-caliber at the center of the bore being a bit higher than the feed ramps in the SA.

Bottom Line

An AXMC in .338 Lapua is not built with prone shooting in mind, but anyway it is a great all-around platform for the snipers, professional shooters, and even long-range hunters. It means that this rifle system enables a comfortable shooting experience in different shooting positions for hours.

Whereas you have to consider the weight of the rifle, the obvious benefit is that the marksman doesn't have to worry about recoil.

Pros

  • Magpul PRS Stock and M16A2-Style Pistol Grip
  • A 26" Carbon-Steel Barrel Features a 1:9” Rate of Twist
  • The Muzzle Brake is a Noreen Design With 5/8-24 Thread
  • Match-Grade Barrel is 26 Inches Long and Made of 4140 Chromoly Steel
  • It Comes Mil-Spec or Match Trigger With an Adjustable Pull Weight  of 2 to 4 Pounds

Cons

  • The Rifle is Expensive
  • There are FTF or FTE Problems With Some Ammo
  • During Ejection, the Rifle Deforms the Neck of Cases

What Recent Buyers Report

According to buyer reports, early models have consistent failure to feed problems, but they are a thing of the past as Noreen Firearms has released the Gen II with newly upgraded receivers, a new gas block, and a new one-piece hand-guard to simplify accessory mounting.

Now, with the Bad News Gen. II, the model features a decent trigger out of the box and a free-float, match-grade barrel standard from the factory, the Noreen Firearms rifle in the powerful .338 Lapua Mag. cartridge can deliver devastating down-range accuracy with factory ammo.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Instead of a common direct impingement, the first AR-style in .338 Lapua uses a hybrid, short-stroke gas system. Noreen's Bad News is capable of sub-MOA accuracy with properly selected ammunition.

The 13-pound long-arm features a typical AR configuration consisting of two halves. Both upper and lower receivers are built from a solid billet of 6061 T6 aluminum.

The 26-inch long barrel is free-floated inside the forend and topped with Noreen’s proprietary muzzle brake, which tames the recoil down to the .270 Winchester bolt gun, according to the available information.

The bolt carrier and bolt are a scaled-up version of AR BCG, but unlike the standard mil-spec Carpenter 158, Noreen Firearms manufactured these from stronger 9310 steel.

The ULR .338 sniper rifle is fed from single stack billet magazines with 5 and a 10-round capacities.

The control layout resembles that on AR platform firearms, but the charging handle is located on the right side of the receiver.

The semi-automatic rifle employs a hybrid gas system and has furniture compatible with any AR-type stock and pistol grip.

Who Will Use This Most

According to the manufacturer, the Bad News ULR .338 Sniper Rifle delivers accurate and effective fire at ranges in excess of 1,500 yards, making it a superb tool for the ultra-long-range shooting world.

Since this semi-automatic holds sub-MOA accuracy out to long ranges and can be used for 1,000-2,000-yard precision shooting, it has been tested by the U.S. Military and the British Ministry of Defense for their special military units.

With its sub-MOA precision (some reviewers claim a .344-MOA group at 420 yards), this Noreen AR-style extreme range tack driver will be, without a doubt, a precious instrument to accompany high-altitude shooters and hunters.

What Could Be Improved and Why

Customers have complained about multiple feeding issues, all with factory ammo. In the early rifle models, some users encountered trouble with getting the gas block adjusted properly to cycle the weapon reliably. The recommended solution was to upgrade the gun with an aftermarket gas block.

While the match-grade barrel is built of 4140 Chromoly steel, it has an expected service life between 2,000 to 3,000 rounds, whereas some other manufacturers claim +7,000 rounds.

Bottom Line

While the Noreen Bad News ULR .338 Sniper Rifle looks like an AR-10 on steroids, it is made from the beginning to accommodate the much larger, long-range .338 Lapua Magnum ammunition.

When it was released at the SHOT Show 2010 as a semi-automatic rifle chambered for .338LM, it was the first of its kind to attract the attention of many operators, as well as civilian long-range shooters.

Pros

  • Easy to Change Between Multiple Calibers
  • Long 26" Heavy Barrel for Superior Accuracy
  • Barrett's Enhanced 15" Handguard With KeyMod
  • Adjustable and Quick-Change, Match-Grade Trigger
  • Lightweight Folding Stock With an Adjustable Comb
  • Comes With an Integral 20 MOA 21.75" long M1913 Optics Rail

Cons

  • It’s Pricey
  • At 14.8 Pounds it is a Heavy Gun
  • Single Loading Causes Feeding Issues

What Recent Buyers Report

While customers appreciate the modularity of this rifle and the fact that the barrel can be swapped out easily, they don’t like very expensive conversion kits that include a barrel, bolt, and detachable polymer magazine.

Some owners also have noticed that the MRAD pistol grip chassis took some getting used to over standard rifle stocks.

Why it Stands Out to Us

While most modern, large-caliber sniper rifles look relatively alike, MRAD has few distinctive features, allowing this true pro-grade rifle to achieve sub-MOA groups at 600 yards.

Since the Chris Barrett designed the MRAD as a plug-and-play instrument, the owner can easily change barrels and calibers (eight different calibers) using Barrett's conversion kits, consisting of a new barrel, bolt, and magazine.

Other notable features of the MRAD are fully-adjustable, match-grade trigger module and the folding and adjustable buttstock.

Who Will Use This Most

Since this heavy-duty, precision, bolt-action rifle from Barrett can be re-configured to a variety of different calibers, the MRAD is a viable option for many military units. Besides the U.S. Military, the MRAD chambered in .338 Lapua is used by Israeli Special Forces, Norway, and New Zealand.

Though designed specifically with military requirements in mind, due to its ability to easily change barrels to different lengths and calibers, the Barrett MRAD is the rifle of choice for many in the long-range hunting and shooting community.

What Could Be Improved and Why

As you would expect from a weapon designed for military, the Barrett MRAD looks big and clunky at 14.8 pounds and a 50" overall length, so many users will welcome its more acceptable heft and size.

There are also few complaints on feeding issues due to the single loading, which takes extra effort to feed and seat rounds into the barrel chamber properly.

Bottom Line

The rifle is built like a tank, but with an adaptable modular shooting platform similar to an AR-15’s barrel/bolt system, you can easily shoot sub-MOA groups.

As a military-grade sniper rifle, the MRAD's robust look and unique barrel change systems for bolt-action rifles, make this is a very tempting offer if you don't mind the hefty price tag and rifle weight.

Best Uses For a .338 Lapua

The .338 Lapua Magnum rifle is known for delivering accuracy even at extreme ranges beyond 1,600 yards (1,500 m). While at least 30 foreign military forces use .338 Lapua Magnum sniper rifles, this cartridge has become more popular in long-range circles and typically is the choice of a number of end-users who have a need for a very effective cartridge that can deliver a 250-300-gr bullets from a mile away.

Though the .338 Lapua Magnum significantly outperforms the 7.62x51mm or .300 Win Mag round at longer ranges, it can also perform many of the missions assigned to .50 BMG.

From a hunting standpoint, you can consider this versatile caliber as similar to a .30-06 Magnum, a long-distance tack driver, which is especially successful if you are dealing with aggressive and large game.

Just like all the heavy-hitting calibers, the .338 Lapua is very effective, but more than that, even at 500 yards, it is devastating. Actually, the .338 caliber is overkill in terms of power and price within the hunting distances typically considered humane.

Since the .338 Lapua Magnum rifles were purpose-built as sniper weapons, for civilian use, the .338 Lapua made little sense in the early years of the cartridge. But times have changed as the cartridge has become more popular due to its quality and overwhelming marketing.

While long-range hunting is ethically limited to ranges inside 500 yards, avid marksmen will repeatedly hit their paper target with the .338 Lapua at ranges over 1,000-1,200 yards.

Conclusion

Without doubt, the success and omnipresence of the .338 Lapua Magnum make this cartridge's quality and impressive accuracy the most notable factors. Nonetheless, and perhaps even more important, the company has conducted intensive and thoughtful marketing in making this a desirable round.

On the other hand, the .338 Lapua is not a poor man’s weapon, but with amazing accuracy, often better than 1 MOA and at astonishing distances, owning a tactical or match rifle designed for the .338 Lapua Magnum is an extremely tempting decision.

People Also Ask

The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the.338 Lapua. It’s important to use this section as a guide so you have a good understanding of how they work. Here are the following questions:

Can You Hunt With 338 Lapua?

You can hunt large game with a .338 Lapua. Anything smaller, then you’ll probably blow the poor unfortunate soul to smithereens. In other words, it may not be appropriate for varmint hunting. But as for deer, elk, or any other large game, it’s appropriate. 

What Does Lapua Mean?

Lapua is the name of a town in Finland. This is where the .338 Lapua is originated from. Prior to commercial use, it was exclusively used by the Finnish military during World War II.

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