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408 CheyTac v 338 Lapua v 50 BMG / AMAX

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  • 408 CheyTac v 338 Lapua v 50 BMG / AMAX

    The beginning or the explanation behind the 338 vs. 408 vs. 50 BMG issue is explained in part, by my response to an individual asking about why I suggest a .338 Lapua over the .408 CheyTac for long range sniping. More will follow. Readers should know that I am a former owner and member of the 408 team. Specifically i was responsible for the development of military weapons systems and direct development of the CheyTac Advanced Ballistic Computer (ABC). I have since departed from that company, but feel the professional shooting community needs to understand the real issue behind the .408 gun system. Yes, it has the potential to be the best cutting edge long range gun, within certain boundries. SOE's website will continue to post these revelations about the .408 as I believe current company owners mislead potential military clients as to the capability of the .408. I will not stand for this and have the knowledge base to point out the differences on paper and on application. Any questions concerning this topic, please feel free to write me. Thanks for reading.

    There are many "urban legends" of sniping, methods and techniques that have not been vetted in an operational environment, etc. These range from bad operational methods, to plain methods of cleaning that are not accurate or are misrepresented. It has been one of my long missions to dispel many of these myths: Here is only a couple.

    1. Sweets cannot be left in a rifle barrel but for a few minutes, it will destroy the barrel. NOT TRUE. That formula ceased to exist in the early 60s. Routinely I will load a barrel full of sweets after removing carbon buildup, and poor out the excess Sweets and leave the barrel sit as long as overnight, then push a patch through the barrel, getting a huge blob of blue. The copper residue chemically reduced.

    2. WD40 will harm your barrel, NOT TRUE.

    3. Only push a brush the same direction as the bullet travels, NOT TRUE. This has nothing to do with anything.

    Many times, “golden rules” or “urban legends” are generated out of an observed single event. Someone left Sweets in a barrel for days and days, it dried out, and the barrel rusted. That propagated into a rule of never leaving Sweets in a rifle barrel for a long period. When one trains dozens of sniper students in a years time, trends appear or don’t appear that are indicators of certain events. For example, the M-24 has shown to be far more durable than the M40A1 – M40A3 series rifles over the years. It is easier to maintain in the field, and in my own observations, the M24 is more accurate gun for gun.

    Okay, on to your specific questions (338 vs. 408). I am one of the original owners and partners in Cheytac, the builders of the .408. My job specifically was the field testing and development of the platforms for military use. I shot the groups that the guns in those days were capable of. Over the years, a couple of partners left Cheytac because of bad management and personality issues. I left originally in 2003, and again in 2005, after a stint as a consultant to work on their semi-automatic gun, and their .308 SASS semi auto sniper backup gun. After working those systems for a few months, I tried to tell them the guns needed a major re-engineering, that they would never work in their current design. They were incredibly accurate, but could not function well. These were due to engineering flaws in the design of the recoil and ammunition feed mechanisms of both guns, as well as their gas systems.

    The .408 is a great cartridge, but the "management" now makes claims that they cannot substantiate. I say this as a direct observation as well as seeing the impact of their misrepresentations on the US military. We are at war, and for the sake of money, I will not be a part of any of their type of management. CheyTac doesn’t have the internal talent or engineering brains they used to have. Those people have left, and now they have marketing guys, with no knowledge of the these systems or how to develop them.

    Why the .338 Lapua is better. In combat sniping, the ability to strike a target at great range is more about the ability to address environmental and meteorological factors than it is the gun. The .408 without computer support is no better at 2000 yards than a 50 or a 338 Lapua. It is guess work for any of those guns. The above things are intangibles, here is real data:

    Bullets and the cartridge make all the difference. The .338 270 gr. Lost River Ballistic Technologies J40 match bullet is the best .338 bullet in the world. It has a 2000 yard supersonic range in a gun that can push it to 2850 fps. (At this point, I’d advise against the AI .338 Lap Mag, it's the least capable of any of the guns out there, but they have great marketing guys and good brochures). The 250 gr. Scenar Lapua bullet only has a super sonic range of 1600 meters at 3000 fps.

    At 2000 yards, the flight time for a 750 gr. AMAX out of a .50 and flight time is 3.6 seconds. Velocity at 2000 yards for the AMAX is 1153 fps, just barely supersonic. This means the projectile at 2000 yards moves about 3.8” for every 1 millisecond of time and range.

    At 2000 yards, the flight time for a 338 Lapua at 2900 fps (their best speed) and the flight time is 3.4 seconds. Velocity at 2000 yards for the 270 gr. LRBT J40 round is 1159 fps, also, just barely supersonic. This means the projectile at 2000 yards moves about 4.1” for every 1 millisecond of time and range.

    At 2000 yards, the flight time for a 408 CheyTac shooting the 419 gr. at 2900 fps and the flight time is 3.5 seconds. Velocity at 2000 yards for the 419 gr. LRBT J40 round is 1213 fps, also, just barely supersonic, but a little better. This means the projectile at 2000 yards moves about 4.4” for every 1 millisecond of time and range.


    750 GR. .50 BMG AMAX @ 2000 yards, projectile is 1153 fps and covers 3.8” for 1 millisecond of flight.

    338 Lapua 270 gr. LRBT J40 @ 2000 yards, projectile is 1159 fps and covers 3.4” for 1 millisecond of flight.

    .408 CheyTac 419 gr. J40/M40 @ 2000 yards,, projectile is 1213 fps (a little better but statistically and tactically insignificant) and covers 4.4” for 1 millisecond of flight time.

    The reality is that at that range, none have any advantage and a flight time of 3+ seconds is too long for any realistic shot on a non-material target. As a professional shooter, I would challenge any CheyTac shooter to a head to head shoot against a .50 BMG shooting AMAX and any .338 Lapua shooting the 270 gr. LRBT bullet.

    With the above things in mind. The .408 suffers the following real world disadvantages.

    .408 vs. .338 on weight = you can get a .338 Lapua in at 17 lbs easy. Lightest weight for a .408 repeater is 26 lbs. They do make a single shot rifle that they can get down to about 17 lbs, but recoil management is a serious issue. You can make a gun too light to be good with it.

    .408 vs. .338 on cost. = You can have a .338 Lapua from H&S Precision for 2100.00 in their HTR rifle. Dakota Arms, which is a very fine rifle, is 4400.00. The .408 M200 military gun from Cheytac is 12,000.00. (If they sold you one, right now, they like to claim military only, but no military is buying any.

    On Tactical edge. The .408 can go a little farther supersonic, but both guns real world range is 2000 yards based on supersonic speed. The realistic max flight time for any shot is about 2.5 seconds. This is around 1500 meters for all three gun platforms.

    At that speed, all three mentioned are about the same for flight time. 2.5 seconds for the 338 Lapua, 2.5 seconds for the 408 CheyTac and 2.6 seconds for the .50 / AMAX combination. I would challenge anyone to point out the edge of one of those cartridges vs. the other. .408 looses on weight, cost, and factory work on the guns, non-standard parts, etc. All things compared, cost, precision, range, flight time, etc., the .338 Lapua is the easy winner.

    The .408 had the advantage, but Cheytac burned that away by changing a gun in ways they knew nothing about. They lost velocity over the original guns, which were all at 3050 fps and had a real advantage.

    On my recommendation for a tactical 1500 meter gun is the .338 Lapua. Prairie Gun Works of Canada, Dakota Arms, one built by McBros, H&S Precision, personally, I build my own. I would use a Prairie Gun Works Timberwolf action, a Lawton barrel (made to my specs), a McMillan A5 stock. Install a cantilever metal block system instead of a conventional bedding job, put a suppressor on it, and use a Schmidt & Bender PII Marksman sight with 100 MOA of elevation, expensive, but nice. That setup will smoke a .408 all day long. The trick is you'll have to use the 270 gr. LRBT J40 match bullet, or you won't have the supersonic range the .408 has. If you use the 250 gr. Lapua Scenar bullet, you loose 400 yards of supersonic range and the .338 Lapua drops out of the race against the .50 AMAX setup and the .408 CheyTac.

    I've been in the special operations sniping community on the operations side, training side and material development side. I shot the very first .338 Lapua when it was called the .338/.416 back in 1987 and have been seeing it mature since then. It's time now. I believe the .338 Lapua will be the new hot sniping round. It's been adopted in England, Canada, turkey, and several other countries as the standard sniping round. I think there will always be .308 guns; you couldn't run a training program on .338s alone. Barrels would not survive the heat generated by excessive shooting.

    The more interesting setup is the .375/.408, using a LRBT built .375 projectile with a .930 G1 ballistic co-efficient at a speed of 3250 fps. Those are serious numbers.

  • #2
    Hi Dean! Thanks for your interesting articles
    The 338 LM with the 250 Scenar bullet @ 3000 fps is quite capable, only 2.6 sec to 1500 m, just about the same as the other loads you posted. The finnish military load is very similar, but uses the lock base FMJ bullet and barrel life is reported to be excellent.

    As you point out, extreme long range shooting gets complicated fast if you want first shot hits, and real worl in the antipersonnel role for these SWS is most of the time limited to about 1500 m, so there is not much to gain for a load (or different round) with better ballistics. Perhaps a well proven system, with a long barrel life that allows for lots of training is just as good....


    • #3

      Interesting article. Thanks. What do you think of the .416 Barrett?

      "Ever since I was a kid I've had snakes as pets. They're clean and quiet. You give them rodents and they give you pure, unconditional indifference." Carl Hiaasen

      "The Constitution is NOT and instrument for the government to restrain the people, it IS an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests." - Patrick Henry

      "War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner." ? Cormac McCarthy


      • #4
        I wanted to ask a question in regards to the statement that the AI rifle is the least capable one, would it be possible to get some specifics? The reason I ask is that I sold my Sako .338 to get one of the AI .338 rifles & if the AI rifle has some problems, I would really like to know the specifics so I can see what to do. Thanks!


        • #5
          The 338 AI rifles are not very accurate, generally producing 1+ moa accuracy.


          • #6
            Jim 234, to you...

            I shot several of the early 338 Lapua rifles, starting in the early 80s. Those were decent guns. AI went through some quality control issues, and in that time, they were overtaken by several companies building the .338 Lapua cartridge based guns. The 250 gr. Scenar is a mid range projectile.

            The guns that I listed are all superior to the AI gun. One of the problems with the AI gun is that it uses a 1:12" twist rate, good for 250 gr. scenars, but not good for the 270 LRBT bullet or just as important, the 300 gr. Sierra MK.

            The AI design is not exactly ergonomically friendly and the parker hale bipod setup is pretty unstable for a potential long range cartridge.


            • #7
              To: Triggerfifty, Thanks for the info, it's greatly appreciated. I have also found like you mentioned, that the parker-hale bipod is a bit wobbly, as on the 308 AI that I have, I have to kind of keep the rifle pushed forward to have the bipod be stable.
              It's always great to have the opportunity to learn from someone with as much experience & knowledge as you. (One day I hope to be able to properly grasp all of the formulas in your HTI book HA!)


              • #8
                Jim 234, to you...

                I shot several of the early 338 Lapua rifles, starting in the early 80s. Those were decent guns. AI went through some quality control issues, and in that time, they were overtaken by several companies building the .338 Lapua cartridge based guns. The 250 gr. Scenar is a mid range projectile.

                The guns that I listed are all superior to the AI gun. One of the problems with the AI gun is that it uses a 1:12" twist rate, good for 250 gr. scenars, but not good for the 270 LRBT bullet or just as important, the 300 gr. Sierra MK.

                The AI design is not exactly ergonomically friendly and the parker hale bipod setup is pretty unstable for a potential long range cartridge.[/b]

                No, the AI don't use a 1/12" twist rate !
                The LRBT bullet, seem to have an icredible BC, but a very very poor accuracy in real life.


                • #9

                  What twist are they using now? If 1:10, good, but having shot a few AI 338s in the last 6 months, not very impressed, except now and then. Anamoly guns. The LRBT bullets are solids. A solid bullet, if you're familiar with the 750 and 800 gr. Barnes LRS .50 bullets require a barrel that is built for the bullet. It's a demanding setup for sure. Not all LRBT bullets work good in all guns. They fly great out of K&P barrels, Lawton barrels, Rock barrels, and a couple of others.

                  They do NOT fly well out of H&S Precision 10X barrels for example. In the .408 guns for example, the bullet O.D. is .4077" with a max allowable overspec of +.0005" at the wide part. The cross land diameter is .4075", meaning minimal bullet engagement by the rifling. Too much engagement, (read a tight bore), and the projectile leaves the barrel with lots of stress, causeing yawing. Since 99% of the shooting community shoots for tight groups at 100 yards, you don't get the settled down group you would with a 300 gr. SMK for example. My dakota longbow shooting 270s at 2850 fps, groups about 1.25 moa at 100 yards, but she'll hold sub MOA from 300 out. Can do easy 1st shot 1.5 MOA strikes to 1700 yards, if i do my wind part right.

                  So, in summary, you can't just throw any LRBT bullet down any gun. I have tested many J40 and M40 projectiles. Some barrels just won't shoot them. It's important to say which gun setup you shot them in, unless you are just restating what some are stating, or mis-stating, which ever the case.

                  Question is, what are YOUR results in what kind of guns?



                  • #10
                    Dean, good to see you around. Enjoyed the article.


                    • #11
                      Hi Dean,

                      A very interesting article indeed.

                      I have never used LRBT J40 bullets in .338 LM, but used other solids in a special .338 LM rifle though.

                      I also agree that sometime in the future match bullets will be all solids, for a number of reasons like high BC, environmental friendly etc..., but it will take some time before solids will be so common that armies will accept them. Of course there are also some problems with solids too, in which you already referred.

                      .338 LM is a cost effective package, that's for sure and in tactical sense it certainly fulfills the military need for medium range (300 - 1500 meters) personell and anti-material usage. The round itself is inheritable accurate. Will it ever raplace .308 (7,62 NATO)? No, it won't since .308 is very good for short distance (0 - 1000 meters) sniping and excellent allaround cartridge.

                      Back to .338 LM, we started to use .338 LM sniper rifles in 1999 (TRG-42s), even though the military name is officially Sniper Rifle 2000. Due to Geneve Convention our military round is 250 gr Lock Base (L, but in sniper or other comps almost every one uses 250 gr Scenars.

                      The average velocity of 250 gr factory LB is 900 mps i.e. 2953 fps and the average velocity of 250 gr factory Scenar is 905 mps i.e. 2969 fps at Vo 3 meters. Handloads with either bullet can be easily pushed over 3000 fps at Vo 3 meters, as a matter of fact I have pushed 250 gr LBs 940 mps i.e. 3084 fps and 250 gr Scenars 930 mps i.e. 3051 fps at Vo 3 meters on average. Both loads have been accurate upto 1500 meters line.

                      Even with factory 250 gr LB (900 mps i.e. 2953 fps at Vo 3 meters) one can hit targets at 1500 meters for sure if wind part is done right. At 1600 meters, the situation is different; well a car size target can be hit for certain. Anyway, 1500 meters is already the high mark for 250 gr LBs - it's really pushing 250 gr LBs to their limits, but it can be done - that's the fact. BTW with 250 gr LB factory load it's 19.3 mrad elevation adjustment, when rifle is zeroed at 100 meters.

                      The acceptable range for 250 gr LB or Scenar is upto 1200 meters, since with Scenars one can still make headshots (if the wind isn't too strong and the wind part is done right) and with LBs hit upper torso for sure. Scenars are a bit more accurate than LBs. At 1300 meters, one can forget about headshots, they are only lucky hits if that ever happens. At 1400 and 1500 meters one can still hit a man sized target and make more or less nice upper torso hits given the environmental conditions. During the winter time, it's totally different ball game, distances simply cannot be as long as during summer, spring or fall time.

                      For practical purposes I consider 250 gr LBs and Scenars valid for sniping at 300 - 1200 meters distances and on the vary rare cases upto 1500 meters.

                      TRG-42s have a twist rate of 1:12", since they were optimized for 250 gr LB and Scenar bullets. Heavier bullets than 250 gr won't stabilize well enough and thus lose their accuracy in the long range.

                      270 - 275 gr bullets do seem to be optimal for .338 LM for all the sniping purposes of that cartridge; not too light nor too heavy like 300 gr bullets. A fellow called L.London (that's his nickname on this forum) brought the idea up; I recall it was around November last yr. I've discussed with other snipers on the subject and all seem to agree that 270 - 275 gr bullet would be optimal for .338 LM (I have no idea for how long Lost River Boat Tail 270 gr solid bullets have been around - new for me at least). Anyway, I like the idea of having 270 - 275 gr HPBT or BT bullets for .338 LM whether solids or not. Bullets of that weight do require a twist rate of 1:10 or 1:11 and 1:11.5 might be enough too.

                      Nevertheless, a very good and interesting article Dean, I surely liked to read it and I agree with you. You pointed pluses and minuses well out of each caliber.

                      Good stuff!

                      Shoot well !




                      • #12
                        Berger, will produce a 338VLD bullet for 2007.probably weighting 270grs.


                        • #13
                          Hi David,
                          I would like to hear more about how you dispel the myths about Sweets and WD40, sir. As recent as three years ago Precision shooting magazine published indepentant test by a chemical lab, which stated "Sweets" if left for long periods of time (over 3 hours) would in fact etch the bore.

                          Also WD40 while being a great penetrating oil, would gather moisture around the molecule of oil, and collect rust. While protecting the metal underneath the oil.

                          Personally I've used Sweet for 30+ years and never had a problem because I filled the bore with alcohol after using it, like they recommended. However even Sweets asks on their label not to leave it in the bore for extended periods of time.

                          Have you seen lab tests that state other wise? I like the products but have sence quit using them after reading the lab tests in PS mag.

                          Now I have seen WD40 rust a bore when left in the barrel for long periods of time. This was after cleaning the bore and using it as a protectant.

                          Regards, Vern

                          PS, I agree with you 100% on the 408 bullet being under diameter. I did some testing on this round about two years ago. With the bullets being under diameter the heat seemed to melt the bullets right into the bore. It took alot of time the remove the copper. However after switching to some other bullets it shot great, and no more copper problems. I believe these bullets were made by Hornaday.

                          We had good results at 100 yds as well as 1500 yds. We found where the bullet went to sleep and reduced the barrel harmonics down to almost nothing. This did away with bullet yaw, so they were less disturbed by the wind at the muzzle. We only found bullet yaw when we tried to push the bullet to slow or to fast, keeping the proper RPM we found to be extremely important. With the correct componets we found it to be an outstanding round.

                          I have to admit though my favorite is still the 338 Lapua, using the 300 grain SMK.

                          Take care, sir.
                          "with the patience of an oyster....I watch and wait"

                          Training the US, one shooter at a time.



                          • #14
                            Could you boost the. 338 Lapua supersonic speed past 2k using custom rounds with a high grain count and still maintain high order of accuracy? Also from what I have heard the 408 isn't good for hard targets past 2k.


                            • #15
                              Could you boost the. 338 Lapua supersonic speed past 2k using custom rounds with a high grain count and still maintain high order of accuracy? Also from what I have heard the 408 isn't good for hard targets past 2k.[/b]
                              If I can do it with my 300 using the Berger 230, I should think that the 338 should be more than capable. Especially with the 300 grain rounds available for the 338.
                              Formerly known as N15