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Winchester .270 cartridge review

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Winchester .270 cartridge.

These days, rifle calibres and cartridges quickly wax and wane in shooters? affections. Normally this is not based on superior ballistics but because it?s simply the latest thing.

One old cartridge that rose to meteoric fame only to fall quickly into disfavour is the .270 Winchester round.

The .270 could be described as a ?Marmite cartridge?, in that generally people either love it or hate it, but its true value lies somewhere in between and any shortcomings are due to the wrong bullets being used.

The .270 could also be described as a ?non-magnum magnum? cartridge, as it gives a magnum performance without the belted case design.

In 1925, when the cartridge was first developed by Winchester, it was designed to shoot a 130-grain bullet at about 3,100fps to provide a flat trajectory and superior terminal ballistics.

This, in time, has proved a double-edged sword, as its detractors have always complained about excessive venison damage, whereas its promoters relish the .270?s ability to deliver a humane kill at all standard deer stalking ranges.

The famous design is based on altering the .30-06 parent case.

The .270 is a necked-down .30-06 with an overall length of 3.34in. It has a longer neck to accommodate the slender .277 calibre bullet. The case capacity from its 2.54in length is about 60 grains of powder, meaning that 130- and 150-grain bullets can be fired at 3,100fps and 2,850fps respectively.

The necked-down .270 Winchester cartridge left with its parent case the .30-06 Springfield.

In 1925, a velocity of more than 3,000fps with a 130-grain bullet was highly attractive, hence the catridge?s initial popularity.

Today, however, there is a wider choice of bullet weights and construction, and bullet design is more tailored to specific needs.

BULLET TYPES

Though the 130-grain bullet weight has become synonymous with the .270 Winchester, lighter or heavier bullets can increase the uses for this cartridge.

In fact, weights from 90 grains for vermin and fox control all the way up to 180 grains for larger deer species can be sourced easily for the reloader.

Furthermore, as the Winchester .270 is chambered in all the major rifle producers, there is plentiful factory ammunition as well. So the old .270 can become quite a versatile rifle if you think laterally and don?t pigeonhole it as a deer rifle.

Bullets with weights from 90 to 110 grains from Speer, Sierra or Hornady are soft point or hollow point and designed to expand rapidly on vermin and fox-sized game.

Barnes makes a 110-grain solid copper and polymer-tipped bullet named the Tipped TSX, which is designed to penetrate and expand on game larger than foxes. Nosler produces a very good AccuBond 110-grain bullet of bonded core construction, which produces similar results to the Barnes on game.

With a load of 52.75 grains of Hodgdon H4895 from a 24in barrel, a 90-grain Sierra hollow point bullet can be pushed at 3,460fps velocity and produces 2,393ft/lb energy.

The 110-grain bullets travel at a respectable 3,257fps with 61 grains of Reloder RL19 powder. At these speeds, a Hornady V-Max bullet is excellent for foxes and the Nosler AccuBond good for deer.

Next up are the 130-grain bullets, though Barnes also makes 120-grain XFB bullets. The 130s zip along at between 2,900fps and 3,100fps, depending on the powder used.

From a 24in barrel and with a load of 54.5 grains of Hodgdon H4350 powder, the test rifle produced 3,038fps with a 130-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. If you want a bullet that expands less, then switch to a Nosler Partition with the same load or switch to a Barnes TSX or AccuBond.

The .270 cartridge is chambered in nearly all the leading makes of rifle including the Tikka T3 Deluxe.

Hornady Interbonds or SST bullets also perform well and Sierra?s flat-base soft point Prohunter or Boat-tail Game King bullets always give a good performance in the field.

A great weight for the .270 is the 140-grain bullet. Of these, the Nosler AccuBond and Barnes Triple Shock 140-grain bullets perform admirably. You can achieve a velocity of 2,923fps with a load of 53.5 grains of IMR 4831 powder, which gives a healthy 2,657ft/lb energy.

This load gives a reasonably flat trajectory with a more controlled expanding bullet better designed for deer use.

The venerable 150-grain bullets are next and can achieve 2,850fps if loaded carefully with 56 grains of Reloder RL22 powder. A reduced load of 50 grains of Hodgdon H4350 produces 2,644fps with good accuracy, performance on game and lighter recoil.

BULLET CHOICE IS PARAMOUNT

Nosler Partitions work well but are sometimes not as accurate as they might be. Nosler?s Ballistic Tips have excellent terminal ballistics, but the 150-grain Sierra Game King or the Hornady SST expand less violently.

Either you end up with a bullet that deposits all its energy into the body cavity, risking meat damage, or you have more controlled bullet expansion that requires more precise bullet placement from the stalker.

For British deer, you would normally stop at 150 grains, but 160- and180-grain bullets are available and can achieve 2,750fps and 2,500fps respectively. These can be used for larger deer species or even wild boar.

FIELD TEST

I used an old Parker Hale 1200 and Tikka T3 Deluxe rifle for ballistic testing and accuracy in the field with both reloads and a small quantity of factory ammunition.

The .270 Winchester is no more accurate than any other cartridge, and its accuracy depends on its suitability to the ammunition you feed it.

For example, with the old Parker Hale, Remington 130-grain AccuTip loads produced 2,989fps and 2,580ft/lb energy, and grouped three shots in 1.5in.

Winchester makes a 130-grain Ballistic Silver Tip in its Supreme range. It shot 1in groups with both rifles and achieved an average of 3,051fps velocity and 2,688ft/lb energy. It is a nice load that will shoot flat and drop any deer humanely.

Winchester Supreme AccuBond shoots very well at 100 yards.

Better still were the Winchester 140-grain Accubond factory loads. In the Tikka T3, they made less than 0.75in groups, with an average velocity of 2,975fps and 2,752ft/lb energy, and a good down-range performance.

DOWN-RANGE PERFORMANCE

If you take a 110-grain Barnes TSX bullet travelling at 3,250fps and zeroed at 100 yards, you are only 0.5in low at 50 yards, 2in low at 200 yards and 8.9in low at 300 yards, which is good for foxes or deer.

From a 100-yard zero, the 130-grain bullets, which were typically a Nosler Ballistic Tip travelling at 3,038fps, dropped 2.4in at 200 yards and 9.8in at 300 yards. This was good when you consider most deer are taken within 200 yards.

Zeroed at 100 yards, the 140-grain bullets travelling at 2,923fps were 2.7in low at 200 yards and 10.5in low at 300 yards.

Similarly, a 10mph wind produced a drift of only 1.5in at 100 yards and 5.9in at 200 yards.

For those who like a slower and less destructive bullet, a 150-grain Sierra Game King with a velocity of 2,850fps might suit you better. The drop of 3in at 200 yards is only slightly more than the 130-grain, at 300 yards it was 11.6in low.

CONCLUSION

I feel a bit sorry for the .270 cartridge, as it was built up to be the bee?s knees only to be dethroned due to the use of incorrect bullets or smaller, more efficient cartridges.

It?s a very good cartridge, and when loaded properly with a bullet that is designed to perform to your own specification, it will not disappoint.

The question is – do you have the skill to shoot it accurately in the first place?

 Loaded with the right bullet, the .270 Winchester performs well in the field.

I have never had a problem with recoil, and of course the design of the rifle plays a part, though there is no denying the .270?s bark can induce a flinch to the uninitiated.

With many good .270s languishing on gunsmiths? shelves at good prices, the prudent shooter can pick up a bargain and benefit from the performance this cartridge was so rightly praised for.

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  • Carlsen Highway

    The .270 has been dethroned and fallen into disfavour? One of the weirdist things I ever read in a gun article. How much does this guy know hunting and shooting?

  • Peter B

    I think the 270 win. is a great gun caliber. The new short mags are very nice too but go into a store and ask for 270 WSM or 270 RUM and they might be out but the 270 win. is usually on the shelf. Like the 30.06 the 270 win. has made a trusted name for itself and you can find its ammo anywhere.

  • John

    I dropped a handsome whitetail buck this year at 325 yards using a 130-grain soft point. Hit him square in the lower neck and he was dead before he hit the ground.

  • Peter Wetzig

    Michael,

    I agree too. I have just returned from a Tahr and Chamois hunt in New Zealand with my Winchester pre 64 M70 featherweight .270 Win and my guide could not stop singing its praises. It is very popular in NZ too, a land of a great variety of deer type game.

    So Bruce if the .270 is on the wane in the UK, it is bucking the trend virtually worldwide. Whilst the 270 WSM may have taken over in new rifle sales, those with .270 Win rifles have no need to trade up, the difference in performance (200fps at most) is nor significant enough.

    I do agree with you with the 140 gr bullet. This I believe is what have given the .270 Win a new lease of life as it virtually replicates the trajectory of the 130 bullet but with the retained energy of the 150 gr bullet, in the words of John Wooters “That’s some compromise”. My favourfite is the Hornady 140 gr interlock (stock no 2735) and my favourite load drives this at 3,044 fps (chronographed) out of my 22″ fwt barrel. I accounted for both a trophy tahr and chamois in NZ xrecently with this load.

    The 270 Win stgill tgakes a lot of equalling not to mention trying to beat.

    Peter

  • Dave

    Could not agree more with Michael. Given similar shot placement the mild mannered .270 win will show the same results as any of the various magnum 7mm’s and even 300’s with bullets of similar SD’s I know been hunting moose in Canada a while now. Want more impact on target move up to a .35 or .366 cal.

  • Michael

    “One old cartridge that rose to meteoric fame only to fall quickly into disfavour”

    Oh? You must mean only in the UK? Here in the Western USA I can state that the popularity for the .270 is huge. There is very little in North America, including inland grizzly, that cannot be dropped cleanly with the .270 Winchester. If I can drop everything from yotes to moose with it I’m sure that it will handle any hunting chore it could face in the UK. In some states it is legal to hunt deer with a .22 centerfire. For others it is .24 caliber. Deer of any type don’t take all that much killing. Just a clean shot through the lungs. I have seen elk killed with one shot from old school 130 grain soft points. I’ve seen elk killed with .243 and 30-30’s. Fella in Oregon killed one with a hard cast bullet from a tiny levergun shooting hard cast .357 magnum pistol bullets. The shot is WAY more important than the caliber. If you cannot shoot and hit your target people should not hunt until they can. People put to much mystery into hunting. Any Hornady Interlock will do game up to 500 pounds without issue. If larger game is to be hunted try an Accubond or Interbond bullet. Issue resolved. Happy hunting and be safe..