Not long after the .338 Lapua was introduced, Ross Seyfried quickly wrote of the uncanny similarity of the new cartridge with his mentor’s .338-378 Keith-Thomson, albeit without the latter cartridge’s belt. It appears that Seyfried was closer to the truth than most imagine.
The .338-378 KT was based upon a shortened .378 Weatherby case necked down for .338″ projectiles. R.W. (Bob) Thomson reportedly wanted to use the full-length .378 Weatherby case, but Elmer Keith claimed responsibility for the idea of trimming the case. RCBS made the dies, Keith Francis made the reamers, and Bruce Hodgdon performed the earliest load development
The earliest rifles chambered for the new cartridge were built by Champlin-Haskins Firearms. Keith, Thomson, Bill Jordan, and George Gelman were among the first recipients. Bill Jordan stated that he was there when Thomson and Keith first proposed the idea. Thomson evidently had received his .338-378 KT Champlin-Haskins early enough for a late 1968 hunt. However, Jordan didn’t receive his ‘Keith-grade’ KT, until 1969.
Keith already had a history with the company. Not long after Jerry D. Haskins had developed his new 3-lug magnum action, he had reportedly consulted Keith for his suggestions on the features for a custom rifle offering. In honor of his participation, Doug Champlin and Haskins named the top-grade version of their custom rifle, the “Keith-grade”.
Haskins later parted ways with Champlin, and to the best of my knowledge, is the same Jerry Haskins who later started Research Armaments Inc. (AKA: Research Armaments Prototypes) RAI is probably best known for their .50 BMG rifle, the Model 500 “Long Range Stand Off Weapon”, marketed at varying points by Iver Johnson/AMAC and Daisy (!). A smaller caliber variant was introduced as the Model 300 “Convertible Long Range Rifle”. This was offered in 7.62x51mm NATO and a new 8.58x71mm wildcat, based on a shortened .416 Rigby case necked down for .338″ projectiles. Both rifles and the 8.58x71mm wildcat were reportedly developed on behalf of the US Navy’s Special Warfare community.
It is the 8.58x71mm which reportedly inspired Lapua and Malcolm Cooper of Accuracy International to create what we now know as the .338 Lapua.
(Note: Champlin Firearms still operates today. However, Doug Champlin was probably better known for his military aircraft restoration and preservation activities.)
While we are on the topic of Iver Johnson, AMAC, and Daisy, does anyone have any conclusive evidence on who owned what and when?
To the best of my understanding, AMAC was the military sales wing of Iver Johnson, but they were a couple of reorganizations during this timeframe. According to a usually reliable source, Daisy had some sort of hand in this prior to Iver Johnson/AMAC’s final demise.
I do know that Jerry Haskins and his partner Earl Redick jumped from IJA/AMAC to Daisy at some point in the late ’80s. Around 1988, Haskins was even credited with designing a .22 LR bolt-action sporting rifle for Daisy. I understand that Haskins died in 1989, and Redick continued to develop their military designs in .50 BMG and even the 14.5x114mm Soviet. At some point, Redick formed Redick Armament Designs (RAD) for this purpose. RAD was reportedly bought out by Aurora Tactical, circa 1999.
Prior to leaving IJA/AMAC, Redick and Haskins had also designed a 9x19mm SMG designated the MP9 (not to be confused with the Uzi Gal-designed Ruger SMG of the same name). The Redick/Haskins design used M1 Carbine actions and parts, combined with a new outer shell that placed the pistol grip over the magazine well.
As an aside, it is also my understanding that the Houston, TX firm Israel Arms International (IAI) purchased the production tooling for either the Plainfield or the Universal carbines after IJA went belly up.