Back in 1945-1946 Charles O'Neil, Elmer Keith and Don Hopkins developed a cartridge they named the 333 OKH which was based on the 30-06 case necked up to 333 caliber. It was a very good big game cartridge, but today it suffers from the lack of good, readily available .333" diameter bullets. When the .338 Winchester Magnum was introduced in 1958, it was followed immediately by a variety of commercial .338" diameter bullets. Shortly there after, several individuals at different places conceived the idea of either altering their 333 OKH's or necking up 30-06 to accept .338" diameter bullets. Any difference in performance between the 333 OKH and the 338-06 is purely academic and almost invisible. The latter uses a standard commercial diameter bullet readily available through handloading supply dealers, which is a big advantage. The two cartridges are so nearly alike that one could use loading data from the 333 OKH in the 338-06 with virtually the same results.
Since .338" diameter bullets are available in weights varying from 200 grains up to 300 grains, this makes the 338-06 a versatile and effective big game cartridge. It's predecessor, the 333 OKH, earned a good reputation on heavy game using 275 grain bullets and the same would be true of the 338-06. Speer produces a 275 grain bullet for the .338 Winchester Magnum that should work equally well in the 338-06 for elk, moose, or brown bear. The performance of the 338-06 is very similar to that of the 35 Whelen except that the .338" diameter bullets offer a somewhat better sectional density,- .313 for the Sierra 250 grain .338" Spitzer Boattail, as opposed to .279 for the Speer .358" spitzer bullet of the same weight. Also, many of the available 35 caliber rifle bullets are flat nosed for use in lever action or pump action rifles with tubular magazines. This type of bullet loses velocity more rapidly than the pointed or spitzer type. There is no great difference in killing power between the two, but the user of 35 caliber rifles has a much larger variety of commercial bullets and bullet moulds to choose from, plus the advantage of being able to use jacketed or cast .357" handgun bullets for light loads or varmint shooting. In summary, the 338-06 is an excellent big game cartridge, but not as flexible or versatile as the 35 Whelen in the matter of available bullet types. The 338-06 Ackley Improved can produce about 150 fps more muzzle velocity at the same maximum pressure and is a much better choice for other reasons: improved case life, accurate headspacing and extraction ease.
Source: Cartridges of the World
|338-06 Reloading Data|
|Bullet (grs.)||Powder / (grs.)||MV||ME||Source|
|200 SP||IMR 3031 / 48.0||2465||2700||n/a|
|200 SP||IMR 4320 / 54.0||2610||3020||n/a|
|250 SP||IMR 4064 / 56.0||2585||3730||n/a|
|250 SP||IMR 3031 / 470||2370||3130||n/a|
|275 SP||IMR 4350 / 55.0||2305||3250||n/a|
|275 SP||IMR 4895 / 50.0||2275||3165||n/a|
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