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Armalite .338 Federal...

I had such a fun time a few months ago with my first AR, I thought I would try another one.

This time, I thought I would go for an AR platform with a little longer range and a caliber I had never shot before. After some research, I decided on an Armalite in .338 Federal.

The cartridge: The .338 Federal was developed by Federal Cartridge in 2006. It is designed for larger game and was originally chambered in Sako rifles. This is a .308 cartridge that is necked up to allow a projectile of .338 diameter. It has yet to achieve a great deal of popularity, and due to this, the selection of ammo and hand-loading supplies are limited. One big plus with the .338 is, if you have a supply of .308 brass, you can neck it up and you are good to go. The muzzle velocity is comparable to the 7mm Remington magnum, but with heavier bullets, thus giving you more down-range energy.

The Rifle: The Armalite .338 Federal is, of course, a semi-auto, thus generating less felt recoil than the same cartridge in a bolt-action or single-shot. This alone should spur interest in this cartridge for a hunter who wants to use this caliber, but is concerned about felt recoil. The rifle weighs in at 9.65 pounds before you add a scope or other extras. This increased weight over most bolt-actions also helps reduce felt recoil.

Like all products from Armalite, this rifle is top-of-the-line in quality and should last a lifetime.

Range Time: The first day at the range was a learning time for me, as I had little experience with AR platforms and none with this rifle. As usual, I started at the 25-yard range to sight-in the rifle, then moved to the 100-yard bench.

My ammo consisted of several factory loads and a few of my hand loads. Based on great reviews, I expected it to shoot less than 1-inch groups with a couple of the factory loads, but had no idea about the accuracy of my hand loads.

Other reviews praised Federal’s 200-grain Fusion and 180-grain Nosler Accubond, so I wanted to save them until after I had worked my way through the hand loads and other factory ammo.

My hand-loading stuff consisted of a Hornady 2-die set, a big bag of Federal brass, Federal 210M primers, TAC powder and Hornady 200-grain #3310 bullets. I started out with 46.0 grains of powder and worked my way up to 48.7 grains in seven different increments. I trimmed all of the cases to 2.008” and I seated the bullets to an OAL of 2.808”.

After sending all of these loads downrange, the best I could get was two groups of 1 inch. I was certain the rifle was capable of better, so I knew I had some more work to do at the hand-loading bench if I was going to shoot hand loads and decided to adjust the seating depth on the next batch.

My factory loads were: American Eagle 185-grain soft point, Federal Fusion 200-grain, Federal Accubond 180-grain, Federal Unicor 200-grain and Federal Trophy Bonded 200-grain.

The results of the factory loads are shown in a graph below: (picture at the conclusion of the article)

Based on the results above, it looked like at least two factory loads were plenty accurate to hunt with.

Before the second day at the range, I made a few modifications to the rifle. The stock seemed a little short for me, so I added a Limb Saver slip-on recoil pad to increase the LOP by about 1.5 inches.

I also added a Blackhawk Tactical cheek pad. When I did this, it raised my face higher on the stock, so I added a 1-inch riser to the scope base.

I was very happy with the accuracy of two factory loads, so now I needed to concentrate on hand loads. I loaded more ammo, and using Hornady 180- and 200-grain bullets, numbers 3310 and 33102 respectfully, I adjusted the OAL in and out a few thousandths to see if I could find a load it liked.

I had pretty much decided on staying with TAC powder. Based on my previous range time, I decided to stay with 47.0 grains. The primers, brass, case length and Hornady dies stayed the same.

My OAL ranged from 2.735” to 2.823”. After firing three 5-shot groups of each, my best loads were less than 0.75” and they show below.

I know this rifle will do better than this so I will continue to adjust my hand loads in search of the PERFECT load, but these two are just fine for hunting, as long as I do my part.

The Rifle: This is a very well-built rifle I will enjoy shooting for many years. Like all AR platforms, you can modify it depending on your imagination and wallet. It has a Picatinny rail over the upper and another one on the gas block for mounting other stuff, like a light or other sights. The hand guard has seven attachment points for a bipod or sling swivels.

The trigger is an excellent two-stage match style. It is a little heavier than most other rifles I hunt with, but I do not intend to use it for stalking. I will strap it to my 4-wheeler, then shoulder it and head for a stand, so the extra weight is not a problem.

After I added the slip-on recoil pad and cheek rest, the felt recoil was less than my .308 bolt-action. I’m pleased with this rifle and believe you would be also. Here are the rifle specs:

Caliber: .338 Federal;

Barrel: 22” Triple Lapped, AISI 416R Stainless Steel Match;

Rifling Twist: RH 1:10” 185-200 (Max 225 Grain Ammo);

Front Sight Base: Gas Block with Picatinny Rail;

Upper Receiver: Forged Flat Top Receiver with Picatinny Rail and Forward Assist 7175-T74 Aluminum;

Lower Receiver: 7175-T73 Aluminum (forged);

Trigger: National Match two-stage - 1st stage 2.5 lbs - 2nd stage 4.5-5 lbs.;

Overall Length: 41.5”;

Weight: 9.65 lbs.;

Accuracy: 1 MOA;

Included with rifle: Two 10-round magazines, black case, owner’s manual, limited lifetime warranty.

If all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings.

Shoot straight, shoot safe.

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Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”