270 Winchester: Caliber Breakdown

270-win-all-the-details
February 28, 2024 Edited April 2, 2024 501 view(s)
270 Winchester: Caliber Breakdown

The 270 Winchester is one of my favorite deer hunting cartridges, but what makes it great?

The nostalgic history, solid ballistic performance, and diversity of use play a role in why the 270 Win has stood the test of time and continues to be the choice of thousands of hunters every fall, yet Winchester nearly discontinued it.

270 Winchester History

The 30-06 reigned supreme in the early 1920s as the best North American hunting cartridge. Winchester sought to improve on the 30-06 by using a lighter projectile for a flatter trajectory and lower recoil by introducing the .270 Winchester. 

The first .270 Winchester was produced in 1925. It featured 130-grain bullets and had a velocity of about 3,160 fps. But the 270 Win sold so poorly that Winchester considered ending production. 

Americans were too in love with their .30-06 rounds, which had much more power than the original .270 Win. Then, Jack O’Connor introduced the round to the West via his writings in Outdoor Life. The .270 Win is less practical in the forested eastern half of the U.S. than in the more open western half.

Jack wasn’t the only reason the round ended up taking off; the increasing popularity of bolt action rifles, a more comprehensive selection of loads, and a reduction in the charge, thus the velocity, all contributed to the 270 becoming the round it is today. In some ways, the round was just a little ahead of its time. Eventually, the .270 would become one of the most popular rounds in the world.

Today, the 270 is chosen by many hunters every fall and is still regularly used by silhouette shooters at the range. 

270 Winchester Ballistics

While the 270 Win doesn’t have the ballistic performance of newer rounds like the 6.5 Creedmoor, it still offers shooters solid performance for many applications. This is partly due to the wide selection of bullet and load options. 270 Win ammo can be found in bullet weights ranging from 100gr to 160gr.

You can expect a .270 Win 100-grain bullet to have a muzzle velocity of about 3,400 fps, while a 155-grain bullet will have a muzzle velocity of about 2,900 fps. 

Regarding muzzle energy, the 100gr bullet has about 2,600 ft-lbs, whereas the 155gr bullet has nearly 2,900 ft-lbs.

I don’t consider the 270 a top-performing long-distance caliber by any means, but it is still capable of reasonably flat trajectories out to 500+ yards. When zeroed in at 200 yards, the 100gr bullet will have a bullet drop of -4.9” at 300 yards and -17.5” at 400 yards. When the 155gr bullet is zeroed in at 200 yards, it will have a bullet drop of -7.4” at 300 yards and -21.6” at 400 yards. 

Some might argue that the ballistics of the 270 are outdated since the caliber is 100 years old. However, it continues to prove itself a valuable companion for me in the woods each fall by providing my family with delicious venison.

It’s important to remember that many factors contribute to ballistics, so the ballistics mentioned above are broad generalizations, and you might experience different results with your gun and shooting conditions.

270 Vs. 308

While the 270 Winchester was created to outperform the beloved 30-06 Springfield, it also rivaled the 308 Winchester in many ways.

I love both calibers, but which one is better? That’s for you to decide!

Let’s start with what most shooters ask about, recoil. The felt recoil of the 270 Win is much lower than that of the 308 Win. I would much rather shoot my 270 all day than my Dad’s 308.

Now, let’s move on to which round is more accurate. Within 500 yards, both rounds are capable of sub-MOA groupings with factory and hunting ammo. However, the 270 Winchester is more accurate when shooting past 500 yards because it has a slightly flatter trajectory. 

If you plan to hunt big game, like elk, moose, and bear, the 308 Win should be your caliber of choice because it has more options for heavier projectiles.

You can’t go wrong with either caliber for hunting and shooting at the range. Both rounds have stood the test of time and are beloved by millions of shooters in the U.S. 

Applications

The 270 is such a popular caliber because it can be used in various situations, but there are some instances where I would choose something else.

Hunting

I’ve shot deer at 20 yards and out to 200+ yards with my 270 Win. I have no doubt it’s a formidable hunting cartridge because I’ve also taken elk with it at 100 yards.

The 270 Winchester is also used for varmint hunting by some, though most varmint hunters prefer smaller, cheaper rounds. 

If you’ve ever wished to hunt with an AR but want to use 270 Win., we have you covered with BC-8 270 Winchester. The BC-8 combines the benefits of the AR with classic hunting rounds like the 30-06, 300 Win Mag, and of course 270 Winchester. 

Shooting Range

I love taking my 270 to the range. I surprise myself with how accurate I can be with this caliber once it is zeroed in at 200 yards. I rarely hunt anywhere I have a shot further than 200 yards, so I like it sighted in and regularly practice at that distance.

The ammo isn’t crazy high priced, like some calibers, but it’s also not cheap, so I don’t shoot it as often as some of the other calibers I own.

Home Defense

I only recommend a rifle caliber for home defense if it’s the only firearm you own. Otherwise, I recommend a shotgun or pistol. 

While the 270 can protect you and your family, it’s not the ideal cartridge or gun for the job, so I have mine locked in the gun safe most of the time.

Parting Shots

Once you shoot the 270 Winchester, it’s easy to understand why it continues to be such a popular caliber, even though it’s 100 years old.

I will forever be grateful to Jack O’Conner for singing the 270 Winchester’s praises and helping to establish this round in the American market. 

If you don’t own a 270 Win, I highly recommend the caliber; it’s one of my favorites, but I also love most firearms!

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