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270 Winchester


Introduced in 1925, the 270 Winchester was an early example of a factory cartridge that could be appropriately described as overbore, meaning case capacity exceeded what worked well with existing propellants (at that time).

Winchester claimed the 270 launched a 130-grain bullet at 3160 fps from a 24-inch barrel (over the years, other published velocity claims for 130-grain factory loads occurred, these included 3110 and 3140 fps).  It seems unlikely any factory load of that era came within 100 fps of any such claim but we will never know.  What we do know is, in that era, significantly exaggerated ballistics claims were the norm, rather than an exception.

Owing to limitations of propellants available in North America at that time, for many decades, ammunition manufactures struggled to meet SAAMI specification ballistics for the 270 Winchester without exceeding SAAMI specification pressure.  Eventually, SAAMI velocity specifications were throttled back to more realistic numbers.

Nevertheless, the 270 Win always was, and still is, a serious performer.  It comes oh-so-close to doing anything the 7mm Remington Magnum will do but with noticeably less recoil.  With the best modern components, it is even more capable as a big-game cartridge.  With lighter bullets, it is a useful choice for long-range varminting and predator control.

To clarify just how big the 270 case is, relative to bore size, consider what Bill Falin (former chief Ballistician for Accurate Arms) noted: relative capacity is very close to matching the 300 Winchester Magnum!  As such, propellants that work well in one work well in the other.  Anything the 300 Winchester Magnum can do the 270 Winchester can do while delivering 80% of the energy.  With the best modern bullets, the 270 enters a new century offering performance we could only dream of in decades past.  For North American big game hunting, if the 270 won’t do it, nothing will.

As I write this, the 270 Winchester celebrates 100 years in the hunting field, having outlived dozens of newer, supposedly better, chamberings that are now relegated to the pages of history.  I suspect in decades hence the 270 will still be around and dozens of now-popular chamberings will have long-since joined the ranks of the myriad hunting rounds that have already come and gone.

I must note, this is one of my favorites because it is what I bought when I was young and very poor, using very hard-earned money earned over several years of hard work and careful savings.  It was also the rifle I used to take a small mountain of elk without a single failure.

If that rifle had been otherwise chambered, who knows how I would feel about the 270 Winchester.  I would like to believe I would still hold the 270 in high esteem but who knows — experience matters.

I am quite sure that any ballistically and functionally indistinguishable rifle an uncle might have given me would never have been as good in my mind’s eye.  It might be meaningful for nostalgic reasons but it would never displace the 270.  We dearly value what cost us dearly.

Heritage of this case dates to the 1870s with the introduction of the 40-70 Ballard case.

The text associated with the cartridge description reflects opinions and conclusions of the author, M.L. (Mic) McPherson. Lee Precision and its employees do not necessarily either agree or disagree with any of his comments. We present these with due deference to his recognized expertise in the firearms field. His acumen extends to handloading and all aspects of ballistics - internal, external, and terminal.
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