Barrett 338 Lapua Magnum Bolt-Action MRAD Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 22nd, 2011


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Barrett MRAD 338 Lapua rifle.



Length of pull is easily adjustable... is comb height.



Optional bipod.





MRAD wears a heavy, fluted barrel...



...with a very effective muzzle brake.



Buttstock folds for transport.





Soft, effective recoil pad.



MRAD comes supplied with two ten-round magazines.



Ambidextrous magazine release.





It has been almost two decades now since the development of the 338 Lapua Magnum cartridge. It is basically a 416 Rigby case necked down to accept a long, sleek, ballistically efficient 338 diameter bullet. Designed primarily as a military cartridge offering superior performance to the 300 Magnum class of cartridges, the 338 Lapua is a success. A 338 Lapua Magnum rifle will launch a 250 grain bullet at close to 3000 feet-per-second (fps) muzzle velocity, depending upon the exact load, and external conditions. One feature that makes the 338 Lapua particularly suitable for military use is the shape of the cartridge case. The long taper is very conducive to feeding and extracting, under adverse conditions. Also, the pressure is kept to a reasonable level to assist in the easy extraction of the fired case. Too many modern cartridges use a case with very little taper, and load to pressures that push the limits of the brass cartridge case, making for sticky extraction and short case life. The Lapua case is very user-friendly. I have never experienced sticky extraction in any rifle chambered for the 338 Lapua cartridge, and the cases come out relatively cool in temperature.

When developed, the 338 Lapua was intended to best the long range performance of the cartridges commonly in use by US and NATO military snipers at the time; the 308 Winchester and 300 Winchester Magnum. The 338 Lapua Magnum surpasses the performance of those two cartridges with ease, as can be seen in the chart below.

I have fired several different 338 rifles over the past few years, but the new Barrett MRAD is the best so far. The MRAD is a bolt action rifle built around a stainless steel match grade 24.5 inch long heavy barrel. The MRAD uses a polymer ten-round box magazine that works very smoothly and reliably. The heavy aluminum receiver/forend/stock incorporates an integral 21.75 inch Picatinny rail with 30 minutes of elevation built in. The bolt works smoothly and glides on a polymer guide. The buttstock folds to the right side, locking into place, and reduces the rifle’s overall length from 46.9 inches to 39.9 inches, making for compact storage, and eliminating the need to assemble the weapon when removed from its case, or to disassemble for transport. While I used the adjective “heavy’ to describe the rifle’s barrel and stock, the weight of the weapon is only fourteen and three-quarter pounds, making it easily maneuverable and really pretty handy for a 338 Lapua dedicated sniper rifle. The trigger pull on the MRAD is perfect; better than on any Barrett rifle that I have ever fired, of any caliber. It was very easy to use, and contributed greatly to my ability, and that of others, to make consistent hits at long range with the MRAD.

While on that topic, I carried the MRAD with me to the annual Shootists Holiday at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, New Mexico the first week of June this year. Out there, I and several other shooters tried out the MRAD using factory Lapua ammunition in 250 and 300 grain bullet weights. We fired upon targets at known ranges out to 1080 yards (yep, well over half a mile), and at targets at unknown ranges out to an estimated mile and one quarter. Starting on a rock affectionately known to all Shootists as the “banana rock” at 580 yards, hitting the same spot on that rock using the MRAD’s excellent optional bipod for a rest became quickly boring. Well, nothing about shooting the MRAD is boring, but it was hard to miss at that distance. Moving out to a dark spot on a rock at 1080 yards, I had a spotter walk me in to determine which Mil-Dot to use as a hold-over, and hitting the same spot on that rock was no challenge for the MRAD. Even with the wind kicking up, that long, sleek 300 grain Scenar bullet gets there quickly, and every shooter who tried made that shot at 1080 yards after a couple of tries, and did so repeatedly. Moving out to ranges that exceeded the capabilities of our rangefinder, we proceeded to fire at rocks and other targets of opportunity, but mostly just rocks, out to greater distances. After doping the holdover with the Leupold Mark 4 4.5 to 14 power scope, hits were easier than I expected. Living in the woods in Tennessee, I only get to shoot at such long distances once per year. That is why I wanted the MRAD at this time of year. Most of the time, my range for testing is limited to 100 yards, and that is no challenge at all for such a rifle.

Back to the description of the MRAD. MRAD stands for Multi-Role Adaptive Design. The barrel is quickly changed in the field, if necessary. The MRAD comes with a brown finish, and is packed in a Pelican hard case, with sling loops and extra accessory rails, which bolt onto the forend area of the rifle. It is also supplied with two of the ten-round magazines. The buttstock, in addition to its folding feature, has a soft recoil pad, and the length and comb height are adjustable to fit the shooter. The AR-style thumb safety can be switched for right-handed or left-handed use. The pistol grip is of AR style also, and the MRAD will accept any AR-style pistol grip. The magazine release is perfectly located, easy to use, and ambidextrous. The muzzle brake is removable to allow for the use of a sound suppressor, and the brake is very effective. Recoil to the shoulder was never felt at all. This MRAD kicks less than does a 30-30 carbine. The excellent bipod shown is an optional accessory, as is the accessory ring that attaches to a scope.

As mentioned above, I had two different Lapua factory loadings with me in New Mexico. The 300 grain seemed to be best at long range, at least in my experience. I chronographed the two loads here in Tennessee, at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. The chronograph was set twelve feet out from the muzzle. The 250 grain Scenar bullets clocked 2951 fps, and the 300 grain Scenar bullets averaged 2753 fps. With the beautifully streamlined Scenar bullets, this makes for some very flat-shooting rounds, which reach the target with plenty of punch. As far as accuracy, while this MRAD is not the type of rifle used to punch paper at 100 yards, it proved to be a one-hole shooter at that distance, shooting into less than one-half minute of angle. At long range on those New Mexican rocks, spotters confirmed over and over hitting the same spot on that rock at 1080 yards.

The Barrett MRAD is, so far, the apex of 338 Lapua rifle development. It is a rifle that is relatively light weight, very portable, beautifully crafted, and superbly accurate. It can reliably engage targets out to a mile and beyond, and does so with very little recoil. The MRAD is the best of the best, and is not inexpensive, selling for $6000 retail at the time of this writing. However, it is an excellent choice for those who want to reach out and engage long range targets, and to do so reliably. You never regret buying the best.

Check out the Barrett MRAD and accessories online at

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Fermin Garza spotting as Jeff shoots at a spot on a rock 1080 yards out.



Top to bottom: Butch Kent, Tom Richardson, Matt Olivier, and Cannon Watts take their turns behind the MRAD.





Accessory rails on forend.



Optional Barrett accessory rail attached to Leupold scope.









Bolt handle is large and easy to grasp.



Superbly accurate Lapua ammo.