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Preview – Alexander Arms Ulfberht Semiauto .338 Lapua

A New Legend
Alexander Arms Ulfberht Semiauto .338 Lapua: More Fun than Calling in an Airstrike

Illustration by Ced Nocon

With any weapon system, there is a balance between competing characteristics. With precision weapons in particular, pure accuracy is often the top priority — but look across military, law enforcement, and civilian applications and you will see an ever-increasing emphasis on the ability to engage multiple targets and to deliver quicker follow-up shots. So, while bolt-action rifles continue to provide incredible accuracy, gas guns are being increasingly adopted for their semiauto, magazine-fed capability — and they are delivering impressive accuracy, as well.

To date, the wonder cartridge .338 Lapua has primarily remained the province of ultra-accurate bolt-action rifles. In fact, the longest confirmed sniper kill to date, at a range of over 1.5 miles, was accomplished by a British sniper with the Finnish round launched from an Accuracy International bolt gun. The .338 Lapua cartridge is quite long and generates tremendous pressure, some 68,000 psi. So, to create a safe, reliable, accurate and ergonomic semiauto rifle in .338 Lapua is no easy task.


Enter Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms. A mechanical engineer by trade and Scotsman by heritage, Bill spent years contracted to the British Army. He worked on everything from small arms and vehicles to armor and satellites. If you ever have an opportunity to sit down with the man, you will discover his innate love of all things mechanical.

His perspective on building weapon systems reflects his engineering upbringing. He thinks critically and impartially about how his designs will achieve the stated objectives by applying appropriate materials, treatments, and manufacturing processes. In the case of the Ulfberht .338 Lapua rifle, Bill’s objective was to build a semiauto platform to strike a practical balance between delivering good accuracy and a safe and reliable operating system, with consistency across thousands of rounds and different types of loads. He also strived to deliver it in a package that hits the sweet spot of weight and length. Named after a line of rare and superior (for its time) Viking swords, the Ulfberht is intended as a working gun, so Bill was willing to sacrifice some amount of ultimate accuracy for portability, consistency, and reliability.

Turning a Russian Machinegun Upside Down
The heart of a rifle is its barrel and action, and Alexander borrowed from the past with both. Starting with a 4150 chromoly vanadium blank, he rifles it in an Enfield pattern — perhaps not a trendy choice, but the squared-off rifling with its equally spaced lands and grooves is effective for this application. The barrel is melonited and press fit with a hydraulic press, then cross-pinned for good measure. It’s 27.5 inches in length and profiled to 1.1 inches under the hand-guard and 0.885 inches, with fluting, in front of the gas block.

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