338 Federal vs 450 Bushmaster

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338 federal vs 450 bushmaster

The two cartridges here, in comparison, do not belong to the same category. A 338 Federal is a bottleneck cartridge, while a 450 Bushmaster is a straight-wall cartridge. Both have a strong niche fanbase, but they differ in popularity as the 450 Bushmaster is much more popular among hunters. 

In 2006, the Federal Cartridge company introduced its first-ever cartridge: the .338 Federal. A .338 federal is a necked-up .308 cartridge. What it means is that 338 Federal has an enlarged neck to fit a .388″ bullet. .308, the parent cartridge of .338, was launched by Winchester in 1952 when the US military wanted to have a new cartridge in place of a .30-06 Springfield. The 308 Winchester was similar in its power to a .30-06 but needed a shorter case based on advanced powder technology.

The 338 Federal is not the only necked-up cartridge of a.308. There are others too.

Most hunters in the US are probably familiar with a .243 Winchester and 7mm-08 Remington as they are the well-known descendants of a .308 Winchester. But there is also a .388 cartridge, a short-range cartridge but is not as popular as the .243 or a 7mm-08.

The .338 Winchester is similar to its predecessor in many ways: both have the same rim diameter and case length. But a .338 Federal offers some advantages over.308: it’s faster, has heavier bullets, and carries more energy. 

A 450 Bushmaster, on the other hand, has a long history of development. Jeff Cooper was not satisfied with the small diameter of a .223/5.56 and wanted a cartridge with a larger diameter. A cartridge that could knock down a target in one shot. This gave birth to the Thumper Concept. After that, Tim LeGendre of Lemag picked up this idea, and they introduced the .45 professional. Later, Bushmasters wanted to have their thumper-based cartridge, and they went to Hornady for this purpose. Thus, with some modifications in the length of the .45 professional, Bushmaster introduced the 450 Bushmaster.

Bottleneck vs Straight Cartridge

The first difference between the two cartridges can be found in their shape. 338 Federal is a bottleneck cartridge, while a 450 bushmaster is a straight-wall cartridge. A straight wall cartridge is the one that has a similar diameter along with the whole case. This is why it can’t have an excess of propellent behind the bullet and avoids overshooting. Contrary to this, in a bottleneck cartridge, like a 338 Federal, the case diameter is more than the bullet diameter. This allows a bottleneck cartridge to have more propellent behind the bullet and offers an incredible velocity. This increases the chances of overshooting. Because of being safe, several states have allowed the use of a straight-walled cartridge for hunting purposes.


A 450 Bushmaster is a commercially successful and as well well dependable straight-wall cartridge. It has been a benchmark for straight wall cartridges. Other cartridges are compared to a 450 Bushmaster for checking their reliability. The legislation allowing the use of a straight-wall cartridge has also helped to increase its popularity. 

Contrary to this, a 338 federal, although it has a niche fan base, it is not among the most talked-about cartridges. Other predecessors of .308 are more renowned than a 338. 

Also Read: 450 Bushmaster vs 350 Legend


450 Bushmaster338 Federal 
Parent Case.284 Winchester.308 Winchester
Case length1.7 inches2.01 inches
Overall length2.26 inches2.75 inches
Bullet diameter.452 inches.338 inches

Bullet size

The bullet size used for a 450 Bushmaster is usually 250 grains. 

While a 338 Federal is factory loaded with three different bullet grains: 180, 185, and 210, due to the larger bullet size of the 450 Bushmaster, its knockdown power is well-known among shooters. 

Energy and velocity

Using a 200-grain bullet, a .338 Federal has a muzzle energy of 3217 ft-lbs with a velocity of 2700 fps. Its energy is similar to a Magnum, but not the weight. If a .338 Federal uses a 180-grain bullet, it has 3223-foot pounds of energy at a velocity of 2840 fps. It has 300 foot-pounds more energy if compared to a 30-06 with a 180-grain bullet. 

The delivered energy of a .388 Federal is between 1820 and 1920 ft-lbs at 300 yards and has less than 9 inches of bullet drop at 200 yards. 

With a 250-grain bullet, a 450 Bushmaster has a muzzle energy of 2675 fps at a velocity of 2200 fps. It drops 4-5 inches between 100 and 200 yards. 

The more the velocity, the longer distance the bullet will cover. Comparing the velocity of a 200-grain 338 Federal to a 250-grain bullet of a 450 Bushmaster, a 338 has more velocity, which means that it will cover a longer distance than a 450 bushmaster. So, a 338 Federal is faster than its parent cartridge .380 and a 450 bushmaster. The comparison shows that a 338 Federal has more energy than a 450 Bushmaster when it comes to muzzle energy. 


Recoil is the big difference between the two cartridges. The 338 federal is often appreciated for having minimal recoil but with a significant amount of energy. The recoil of a 338 Federal is 23.9 ft-lbs. On the other hand, having more recoil is considered one of the significant drawbacks of a 450 Bushmaster. Although a 450 Bushmaster is also recognized for its ample knockdown power, the power is not without recoil. When it comes to recoil, a 450 Bushmaster is often compared to a 12-gauge shotgun, and due to heavy recoil, it is not recommended for young shooters.

What is it good for?

A 450 Bushmaster is good for medium-sized games. It can smoothly kill deers, hogs, elk, and some bears. It can also be used for target shooting. 

A 338 Federal is a perfect cartridge for big games. It is short-action and lightweight. It can be fitted into a lightweight rifle. It can kill an elk, moose, and bear.

Also Read: 6.5 grendel vs 450 bushmaster


1. What rifles are used with a 338 Federal?

The rifles chambered with a 338 Federal are a Model 11 Hog Hunter, a Model 16 FCSS Weather Warrior, Trophy Hunter XP, Bear Hunter, Long Range Hunter. 

2Which guns use a 450 Bushmaster?

Predominantly, a 450 Bushmaster is used with AR-style rifles.

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Hannah Anderson is a gun enthusiast. She developed a knack for guns and ammunition when as a teenager she started accompanying her grandfather to his hunting ventures. Now, she shares her passion and immense knowledge on the subject with the readers.

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