Hunters Of England

UK Sniper / Tactical

 

 Toys for the big boys—The RPA 338 Lapua Magnum Rangemaster

 

The 338 Lapua Magnum as we know it today was and developed in 1982-3 by Jim bell of Mast Technologies and Boots Obermeyer (master rifle & barrel maker) although to be truly accrete the names of Edward Dillon and Jerry Haskins should be added to that list.

The project was conceived at the request of “Research Armament Industries” R.A.I. for the U.S.A. For the U.S. Armed forces.

The spec for the project given to these men was for a long range cartridge that was reasonably flat shooting and would handle the wind well and arrive at 1000 meters with enough energy to defeat the equlivent of 5 layers of military body armour.

This usually equates to a 250g to 300g projectile coming out at anything from 3000 fps for the lighter 250g lap scenar down to 2750 fps for the 300g sierra matching respectively. It should also be noted at this time that because of its bullet weight and kinetic energy this round is used in hunting circles to stop some of the larger game animals.

Because of the size of the cartridge when compared to the 308 Win and 50 BMG the 338 has come to be known as the “in-between” cartridge that is half way between the 308 and 50 Cal in size, this in fact is not strictly true in that a 308 holds 56 grains of water the 338 - 114g and the massive 50 - 300g but more about the true in-between cartridge later. 

These days this cartridge is used world wide by police and military alike for extended range work  or where a high kinetic energy value is necessary to overcome barriers, to this end there are armour piercing or a solid variation of bullets which can be used to disable light vehicles and damage other soft skinned targets.

 

Field Portable

Because of the overall size of the loaded cartridge (around 3.70 inches) a therefore a larger magnum action that is used to handle it, but it is still possible to keep the overall weight and length of the gun down to a manageable weight and over all length to keep it field portable system, an important factor if you have ever had to lug it a long distance to get to your final firing position.

As for shooting the 338 many people shy away from large calibre cases because they think they couldn't handle the recoil but its not a savage as you might assume, the overall weight of the rifle helps to a certain extent to soak up some of the kick in this case the RPA weighs in at 8kg and if a muzzle break is used is not uncomfortable to shoot, the muzzle break on this rifle comes as standard is RPAs own design Mike Cherry (MD) Is very proud of this feature and so he should be. The last time I shot this gun at 1000yd I was able to see my shots impact on the backstop!! Which in real terms means a recovery time of 0.75 seconds I doubt this would be possible without the aid of very efficient break.

 

I've played with lots of different muzzle breaks over the years tiring to find the definitive design and I’ve must say this is one of the best I’ve ever used. Going one better if a suppressor is used (the reflex suppressor will fit the thread on this barrel) the recoil feels similar to a 308 and is more than easy enough for most people to manage.    

 

The heavy gun wildcatters of the USA weren't slow to see the possibilities of this large capacity case for 1000 yard and varmint shooting, there are now many warrants of this case used in benchrest heavy and light gun class. Once this parent case has been necked down to fire a range lighter bullets with high b.c.s including the excellent 7mm bullets can be launched at speeds in well in excess of 3000 fps the designer of the chambering can re name the variant chambering, so you can now here some interesting names banded around the BR firing point such as the boo boo, yogi, and gonzo, can’t wait for the shaggy and Scooby do!!  8.68

 

RPA international of Kent England, long famed for there world class quadlite and quadlock target rifle actions have recently thrown there hat into the ring with there range of “Range master” rifles, These basically come in three sizes medium as in 233-308, big as in 300win -338 lap mag and great big as in 50 cal the later is still being worked on and should be out soon.

 

Take A Closer Look

These rifles are undoubtedly aimed at the tactical / sniper end of the market and they are in service to this end in various parts of the world. But this rifle would not be out of place on the line of any competition in my view, with its sleek dark good looks, reliable feeding action and solid unbreakable feel it would draw admiring attention on any range.

 

But it’s the use of cutting edge materials such as titanium, carbon fibre and Kevlar are what really make the build of this rifle stand out from the crowd.

I personally had been looking for a large magnum rifle for a while both to shoot and for a project I’ve been working on, to this end I took the opportunity to visit the RPA stand at last years imperial meeting at Bisley, its always nice to able to handle a rifle before parting with your hard earned cash and I had looked forward to getting my hands on this item for some time and I must say that this rifle didn’t disappoint in any respect.

 

The stock is of a three piece construction consisting of a butt, chassis and forend, the butt and forend are both made from a mixture of carbon-fibre, Kevlar and titanium these product have been chosen for there strength and weight bearing properties not only is this functional but the carbon fibre material gives a very distinct and pleasing pattern to the overall finish of the stock and forpeace.

 

The use of these materials also helps keep the overall weight down if that was not enough the butt also has incorporated in it a mono pod, adjustable height cheekpeice and movable butt plate the underside of the stock also has a “butt hook” this last feature is a small recessed hook cut out under the base of the stock, this is very useful for controlling the rifle with the non shooting hand.

All of which is fixed to the aluminium alloy chassis which houses the 5 shot drop out mag, all of these parts are anodized for durability and long life.

The barrel is a 26 inch 1-10 twist medium to heavy weight profile in chromemolly steel and is fluted, again to stiffen the barrel and reduce the weight, and is finished in a anti glare matt black coating, the barrel and quadlock action is then hand bedded into the chassis for a perfect fit.

 

RPA produce trigger units that are every bit as good as any of the top end after market options available today, you have a choice of two trigger units from 0.45kg to 1.5kg although these can be adjusted to suit in both trigger weight and finger length and are offered with optional safety catch, the placement of this safety is a real good piece of design for me, it’s a small lever just forward of the trigger and is operated by the trigger finger, if pulled back to “safe” it covers the trigger and to disengage the shooter just pushes it forward with the trigger  finger which the allows the shooter access to the trigger all this can be achieved without coming of the stock or scope to either look or feel for the safety.

 

 

The mag release is a simple lever and is just in front of the trigger guard, and by pushing it forward the mag drops cleanly out, when the mag is filled the rounds are slightly of set but the tapered lips on the top of the mag ensure that the rounds present themselves singularly to the centre of the bolt, this gives a positive and clean feel to cycling the action and also this design means less potential jams.

 

 

So for the purposes of testing I attached a Leopold 6.5x20x50 that had been boosted by Premier Reticules of the USA to 14x35 and headed of to the range, the loads I planed to test were home loads and although there are not masses of match bullets for the hand loader in this calibre but Lapua 250g Sceanar and Sierra 300g Matchkings are as good as anything else and easily found at your local stockist.

 

 

I prefer my rifles to shoot only molyed bullets and as this gun was brand new and therefore not “shot in” I took my time in testing some groups.

A cartridge of this size is not the type of round to be plinking at 100 yards so I started at 400yd in order to let the bullet settle down. Just for some extra comfort I used some Hunters Of England products a “Snipers Cheekpiece” “Field back bag” and “Snipers Kit Bag” to both steady and reduce the felt recoil.

 

Results….As usual when you want to do some serious load testing the weather will always do its best to screw things up for you and this day was no different so with a healthy 6 MPH wind gusting to 15 MPH, I shot two groups at 400 and 600 yd.

Interestingly there seamed to be not much between the 250 and 300g bullets although the best group at 400 was just 2.5 inch and best at 600 was 4.75 inch both with the 300g Searia Matchking (pictured)

 

To truly test the rifle it should be shot at greater distance and I got a chance to shoot a 1000yd the following week, and although im more comfortable and familiar shooting of the grass the rifle agg`d 1 MOA its best on the day being a five shot 8 inch group off the bench. This rifle held its own against many custom rifles on the day so not bad for  a “out of the box rifle” I’ve no doubt that once shot in and with a bit more load development this group could be reduced even further.    

 

So in conclusion if your in the market for a large calibre rifle and you fancy testing your self in the long range arena then you could do far worse than choosing a rifle by RPA, at around £3,400 its not the cheapest kit around but you get an awful lot of rifle for your money and a big plus your buying British and in the rare event should you need it, the after sales service is first class.   

 

 

Now I refer back to comments about the 338 not being the true intermediate round this accolade truly belongs to the “408 Cheytac” a round developed by Dr in the USA This amazing cartridge is capable of sending a 420g bullet at near 3000fps and has a bc of .945. This is the future of ultra long range sniping without a doubt. I will cover all aspects of its capability’s in a follow up article when we will cover the building of an ultra long range rifle in this calibre based on the RPA Rangemaster rifle.

 

P.S. Shortly we hope to be starting a “1 mile” club for those how like to dabble at the extreme end of distance shooting and attempt to set some 1 mile U.K. Records!!! If you have a rifle that will get that far and you fancy a go send us a message at hoe.longshot@virgin.net and we will add you to the mailing list and keep you informed as to venues and events, remember use it or lose it !

 

Rob Hunter