Morelli puts the new .338 Xtreme tactical rifle to the test; it's a shooter loaded with smart features.
I think the big to small syndrome is coming back. In the old days the lack of velocity that could be produced with black powder was offset by a big slug. Later in the smokeless age it seemed the race was on to make a smaller pill move faster to gain the energy desired and flatter trajectory.
Now in the big bore division, the .50 family of cartridges are being necked down to increase performance. The .416 Barrett was a shortened, necked-down .50 case and now the .338’s are becoming the hot new idea. The .338 Lapua is a popular cartridge for the long-range crowd and now these shooters have a new case to work with. The .338 Xtreme from Xtreme Machining.
The .338 Xtreme is a modified .505 Gibbs case making it stronger than the original and necking it to fit the 266-grain machined tellurium copper .338 bullet. The shoulder is 35 degrees, length is 3.040”, and the head diameter is .640.” The case is a bit larger than the .338 Lapua but not quite a .50. The ballistic coefficient of this pill is .825. These cartridges are loaded by International Cartridge Corporation in Reynoldsville, PA, and brass and bullets will be available soon for the reloader. The ballistics are impressive. See the chart for comparisons to the other long-range cartridges.
The 266-grain bullet starts cooking out of the muzzle at 3200 fps. Its 6048 muzzle energy is retained to 2641 at 1000 yards and at 2000 yards is still 1000 foot pounds. It retains more than double the energy of the .338 Lapua. They maintain that the rifle and cartridge will maintain sub-MOA accuracy at 2000 yards. I don’t have the equipment or range to test a rifle out to 2000 yards but one MOA at 2000 yards is 20 inches. In theory, if it shoots a minute at 100 yards it is capable of 20 at 2000. This puts a lot of responsibility on the shooter’s ability.
The new cartridge needed a launching pad and Xtreme Machining’s new M100/M100F is perfect for this round. The overall weight of this rifle is 16 pounds with a length of 49.9 inches. The nice thing about the M100 is the folding stock. The folded length is 39.2 inches. I really liked the folding option. I don’t know if a guy would want to shoot it from this folded position, and I didn’t give it a try, but getting it in and out of the truck and packing it around was easier with the stock folded.
I was skeptical of its weight for issues of shooting comfort, but was pleasantly surprised in that the recoil was Xtremely manageable.
The rifle comes in a single-shot configuration or with a removable box magazine. I tested the box magazine model and it held seven rounds. It is a bolt-action repeater and the machining is precise and well fitted. The rifle has a fully adjustable stock for length and cheek weld and a pistol grip. The stock is from McRee Precision Modular Stocks.
Perfect fit is important for these big guns. They are capable of such long-range shots, slight imperfections in fit could cause accuracy problems. The recoil management is dependant on proper fit also. The forearm is totally aluminum and the cut rifled 416 stainless barrel is generously floated. It is 26 inches and fluted for weight and cooling. There is also an optional 30-inch barrel. The muzzle of the rifle is threaded for Xtreme Machining’s 42-port muzzle brake or a suppressor, if needed.
I was really impressed with the trigger. It is a two-stage trigger and, as with these two-stagers, there was some take up. They come adjusted from 2 to 2.5 pounds. It was crisp and broke cleanly after take up.
I topped the rifle with one of Leupold’s 8-25x50mm LR/T scopes. Having a rifle that will shoot the distances this one is designed to shoot requires quality optics. You can’t hit what you can’t see, and crystal-clear optics with exceptional light gathering ability is necessary. The rifle came with 30mm Nite-Force rings. These are quality rings. I prefer twist lock type rings for precision rifles because they are solid and give windage adjustment in the base. Leupold’s STD mounting system is one of my favorites because of the stability and there is 20 MOA machined in for long-range adjustments.
I mounted the Leupold scope and I was off to the first shooting session to get it sighted in. I unscrewed the muzzle brake and bore sighted the scope to the rifle and at 100 yards it was nearly right on. The recommended sight-in for this cartridge for long-range shooting is 500 yards but I wasn’t going to be able to shoot at the rifle’s full potential anyway so I zeroed it at 100.
I was interested in what kind of group it was going to shoot and how flat it was going to be at the closer distances. Also, with these big rifles, I was curious how comfortable it was going to be to shoot. Utility is also of interest to shooters and I like to pack it around a little to get an idea of how easy it will be to get into service in a police or military mission.
Granted, I don’t run any professional missions these days, but if there is a part of the rifle’s anatomy that will be a problem to the tactician, I will usually notice it in daily use. Like I noted in the description, the folding stock is an asset to the rifle’s utility. It fits in smaller spaces and would take up less room in a SWAT operator’s vehicle. The shorter folded length along with the lighter weight, compared to a .50, would be an advantage to get into a hide quickly and undetected.
The rifle is pleasant to shoot. Recoil is barely noticeable and I could feel the concussion from the blast more than the push on the shoulder. The muzzle brake disperses the report in all directions and not directly back to the shooter so the concussion can be felt but is not a problem. I could shoot this gun all day without excessive fatigue.
Within five shots I had the group close enough to center for this test. I shot a one-minute five-shot group with three shots almost in the same hole. Considering I only shot the gun 10 times I was happy with the group. I only had 10 more rounds after I sighted it in so I shot it at longer distances to see how flat it was.
With the gun sighted at 100 yards I engaged 10-inch targets without taking the cross hair off of the target. I just aimed a little high of center. I took a couple shots each at 300, 400, and 500. At 600 yards I would start to correct the drop with the scope turrets. Using my Sierra ballistic program I calculated a ballistic table and figured the drop to shoot the last rounds at 1000 yards. The elevation came in correctly and the four shots were spread out about 18 inches. I am not calling this a group, but I thought it was a good starting place for a tactician to work from.
The .338 Xtreme is a definite bridge between the .338 Lapua and the .50 BMG-based cases. It gives the tactician and long-range shooter another cartridge option to better fit the tool to the mission. Check out the cartridge and gun made for it at www.xtrememachining.biz or call (814) 345-6290.
This article appeared in the December 7, 2009 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.