Gun Review: Ulfberht, the Semi-auto .338 Lapua Magnum Rifle

Timothy G. Yan
by Timothy G. Yan

Ulf….what? Only Alexander Arms would name their semi-auto .338 Lapua Magnum rifle with an unpronounceable ancient Viking name. Ulfberht is a type of mythical Viking sword that were carried by few high ranking Viking elites and chieftains.

The .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge was specifically developed by Lapua for long range sniper and target rifles. Its 8.6x70mm size makes it a large round but it’s still significantly smaller than the 12.7x99mm BMG and the 12.7x108mm Russian, the two .50 calibers that are often compared to the .338 Lapua Mag.

This is not exactly a review of the Alexander Arm’s semi-auto .338 Lapua rifle but it’s more of a first impression piece. I had the chance to shot the Ulfberht at the Big 3 East and couple of other industry events.

The Ulfberht is being used for testing two Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot mini red-dot sights at the Alexander Arms’ testing facility. Both the Ulfbertht and the optics were frozen in a cryogenic chamber overnight to -85 degree F before the testing.

The Ulfberht features an all metal construction with a monolithic steel receiver and continuous top 1913 rail. The aluminum forend is modular to allow mounting of picatinny rail sections or direct attachment of accessories like the bipod in the picture. All metal components are melonite, Ionbonded or hard anodized finished. The stock is a modified Magpul PRS with a side-folding mechanism and adjustable cheekpiece.

The action of the Ulfberht. The bolt, bolt carrier and the long-stroke piston are all constructed from Ionbond coated hardened stainless steel alloy. I was surprised to find that the Ulfberht’s action is basically the same design as the Degtyarov DP-28 light machine gun from World War II. The two large locking flaps lock to the steel receiver wall when the Ulfberht is fired.

According to Alexander Arms, the Degtyarov flap lock action is a better action for large calibers than the typical rotating bolt design. It facilitates a less violent bolt opening after the cartridge is fired and it also spreads out the recoil impulse throughout the whole receiver instead of just the barrel extension. The design also prevents firing out of battery, as the firing pin must pass through and activate the two locking flaps before hitting the cartridge primer.

I shot the Ulfberht out to 800 yards on steel plates. The recoil is mild for a .338 Lapua Mag rifle. Just happened that at two shooting booths over there was a CZ 550 bolt-action rifle also in .338 Lapua Mag. The felt recoil between the two is day and night difference even the CZ has a huge muzzle brake to help mitigates the recoil. From Alexander Arms’ own testing, the Ulfberht is capable of four consecutive hits on a 12-inch target at a distance of 1,400 yards in only 3.5 seconds.

Image credit: David Fortier, Shotgun News

I had no problem shooting the Ulfberht in standing. It recoils no worse than the usual AR-10 clones. I could only describe the felt recoil is akin to that of firing a .45 ACP pistol but on a larger scale. There’s good amount of recoil but it’s more of a soft long push than a sharp jump. The Ulfberht is a controllable gun to shoot especially for one that’s chambered in the .338 Lapua Magnum caliber.

Jokingly, I suggested to Bill Alexander about making a full-automatic Ulfberht and it will be like a BAR in .338 Lapua. He said full-auto shouldn’t a problem with the Ulfberht’s very strong Degtyarov action and steel receiver. However, probably not many could afford shooting it that way since the Black Hills Ammunition .338 Lapua ammo that we were using costs $6 a round.

More info on the Ulfberht on Alexander Arms’ Ulfberht page, technical specification and custom ordering page.

Alexander Arms will have a SHOT Show 2015 promotion for the Ulfberht. During the week of SHOT Show, it will be $1300 off the list price. If you are interested, I would suggest to call them up to confirm the discount and let them know that you hear it on TFB.

Timothy G. Yan
Timothy G. Yan

Writer and gear editor with articles published in major gun publications. A five year combat veteran of the US Marine Corps, Tim is also part of Point & Shoot Media Works, a producer of photography, video and web media for the firearms and shooting sport industry. Tim's direct contact: Tyan.TFB -at- gmail.com

More by Timothy G. Yan

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