.270 Winchester, Why I love you so much? - Matthews Hunting Experience
Matthews Hunting Experience

.270 Winchester, Why I love you so much?

First of all, I have to admit that I have certain bias toward .270 Winchester. My first rifle – CZ 537 is chambered exactly for this time proven cartridge. I and father were testing the .270 on everything from roe dear to big wild boar tuskers and it did not fail us once as it did not fail thousands upon thousands of hunter throughout its long history.

Story of this amazing cartridge began over 90 years ago in Winchester research centers (if we can call those pubs where engineers met at the time call so). It was introduced to the public market in 1923 with focus on hunting community. As parent case of .270 Win was chosen famous war proven .30-06 Springfield . Dimensions of the case are pretty much the same, main difference being the neck which was modified to accept smaller .277 inch diameter bullet.

.270 Winchester and its standardized dimensions.
.270 Winchester and its standardized dimensions.

When it comes to different stories and myths which are related to the choice of actual bore/bullet diameter, there are many. Nevertheless, as always, there is one which stands out with its simplicity and I believe is the one, which is most likely correct. If you multiply .308 (diameter of bullet of famous Springfield cartridge) by 0.9, you get 0.277 inch which is the exact diameter of bullet used in .270 Win.

10% adjustment does not seem like lot, but we know that in the world of firearms, that can mean a huge difference. Just this simple change – turning down bullet diameter and necking down the case by 1/10 created new, very exciting and also very efficient cartridge which found many supporters around the world.

Main difference in between .270 Win and .30-06 Springfield are trajectories, weight of the bullet, sectional density and recoil. 270 shoots pleasantly well. As I mentioned in my debates with many of you before, recoil on .270 is actually so easy that my 50 kilogram girlfriend who have never shot medium centerfire cartridge rifle before found it simple to shoot and after putting 5 rounds downrange asked for reload and information on how to get her own firearm license.

Bullets used with .270 are ranging with their weights from 100 to 160 grain, especially when it comes to standard market. E.g., 156 grain Sako Hammerhead would be on the top, while lightweight 110 grain let’s say Hornady bullets would be at the bottom. Twist rate on .270 is usually 1:10 which is fairly good at stabilizing bullets in the upper range of this spectrum. My personal experience is with 150 grain SP bullet made by S&B. This is very precise factory load for my rifle (CZ 537 with 1:10 twist rate and 24 inch barrel). It is usually very accurate and you can expect devastating results on any game taken. Due to bullet’s soft construction, it is rapidly expanding and delivers a lot of energy into the tissue. Sometimes even disintegrates. But they are very good for taking down any vital game like wild boar. Their downside is very bad BC which makes the bullet shed its energy too fast and not usable pass 300 meters mark, since it is keeping less than 1000 joules at that range (if fired from 60 cm barrel as factory S&B load) which is very unsatisfactory from my point of view.

Performance values of Hornady Superformance load with 140 grain SST bullet in .270 Winchester shows its potential with modern propellants.
Performance values of Hornady Superformance load with 140 grain SST bullet in .270 Winchester shows its potential with modern propellants.

That is why I prefer 130 grain Nosler Partitions or 150 grain S&B’s PTS or InterBond by Hornady. These have higher BCs and are much better at ranges pass 300 meters. Also bullets like Sierra GameKing or Hornady’s SST are great to be used on the game at distances over 500 meters, turning .270 to decent medium to long range cartridge. I do not like GameKing or SST under 200 meters due to their inability to deal with higher velocities during terminal ballistics. They tend to be very destructive, and sometimes fall apart too soon, which may prove to be a big problem, especially if you are hunting for the adult keiler and you fail to get that exit wound which would make tracking down animal much easier after successful hit.

There are also multiple other bullet options which can be used very effectively with this caliber. To mention – new addition to S&B’s eXergy line is 150 grain .270 Win load. Also RWS has very interesting offering and it would be sin not to mention Barnes or Berger which might be great resource for handloaders. The only issue with .270 is lack of FMJ bullets or loads which might be interesting option for varmint control and of course are much cheaper when it comes to reloading range time ammunition.

I have never tested this theory with .270, but I believe that FMJ bullet can be used to harvest small game and varmints humanely with right shot placement. I have tried this with .308 Win or 9,3×62 and it is both instant knock down and preservation of fur/hide from tearing on the exit hole. This allowed me to take the game reliably while still being able to use every little last bit of products carcass can offer. I will try to test this theory with .270 Winchester loaded by Sierra Match King bullet (135 grain). This might be devastating combo. If this does not work, I will test lighter bullets, which may change terminal ballistic performance and cause huge temporary cavity due to much higher impact velocities.

.270 is over all very balanced hunting cartridge. With right bullets, it can be used over wide variety of game. There are couple of very universal bullets like Nosler Partition or AccuBond. Also combination of Hornady’s SST and InterBond, which have exactly same weight and BCs may be interesting for situations when you are not sure if you will be shooting at 30 or 450 meters. Once again, it is good roe to boar bullet/cartridge combination. I even know about some hunters who have taken this cartridge to safari with very good results on smaller antelopes, kudu or even gnu, oryx or zebras.

Muzzle Energies and speeds for .270 Win vary from 4000 Joules with 130 grain Hornady Superformance SST, which is launched at speeds of 980 m/s from 60 cm barrel to about 3500 Joules for very light varmint bullets (e.g. 90 grain bullet at 1100 m/s) or conventional 150 grain soft points launched at more conventional speeds of 870 m/s or even little bit less. This gives this cartridge very good capability in varying conditions for hunter who needs one rifle to hunt them all.

.270 Winchester (bottom), next to its magnum counterpart .270 WSM
.270 Winchester (bottom), next to its magnum counterpart .270 WSM

For me, ideal .270 rifle would be 22 inch semi-weight barrel with internal magazine optimized for medium to long range shooting. This would allow use of the cartridge to its full potential. With modern bullets of softer construction, distances beyond 600 meters can be reached with no problem, while still not being overly powerful at closer ranges as it often is with magnum cartridges.

If you like the article or have any comments, please do reach out to me. You can use Contact Form or my Facebook page.

Cheers! 🙂


4 thoughts on “.270 Winchester, Why I love you so much?

  1. I have a Sako Finnbear in .270 and absolutely love it. If you’re looking for a 150gr bullet with a reasonable BC then Woodleigh make a 150gr PP bonded projectile. They are quite soft and expand very well but tough with the bonded core and can handle close up shots easily. If you’re looking for a real bone smasher and penetration then Woodleigh also makes 180gr PP with a good BC although twist rate will become an issue to stabilise it. Woodleigh bullets are made here in Australia in a small town only an hour away. They are a world class premium bullet. Sierra also makes a 140gr HPBT that has a tough jacket but initiates expansion very quickly because of the HP construction. They are tough enough for closer shots and I have used them over the years on many pigs and they do the job fantastically.

    1. Hello Nick!! Thank you for your response! I know about Woodleigh, but they are pretty difficult to come by here. But, I would like to test them in the future and based on the references they have, I doubt that they will fail from any perspective. 🙂 You are absolutely correct that bullets within 150-160 grains are real hammers, and bonded core is a must for closer shots, otherwise you might be dealing with loooooot meat damage. And that 180 grain Woodleigh seems like great long range bullets, nevertheless, I would not trust 1:10 inch twist rate to reliable stabilize the bullet. I might be wrong, but I would definitely need to do some testing on that. However one can get 1:9 or even 1:8 custom barrel, that kind of bullet would just make perfect sense! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Love my .270 on a Remington 700 BDL. Thank you for the information on ballistic performance.
    By the way, I have taken a bull elk with a FMJ on a 30-06 180 grain at 120 m. It went through the animal. Heart shot, nicked a rib. The elk fell where I shot it. It was accidental use of an FMJ, I grabbed the wrong bullet pouch!!

    1. Hey Cesar, thank you for your comment. I will be posting more ballistic data and some of my own loads for the rifles I am using in the near future. FMJ can be effectively used for hunting, however they require very good shot placement, ideally combined with high velocity round, which .30-06 definitely is. However here in Europe, using FMJ bullets for hunting big game is prohibited in most of the cases. However I have experience with 9.3×62 loaded with 250 grain FMJ on foxes.. One of the best instant killers for predator hunting. Also, you preserve the hide as the exit wound is rarely bigger than bullet diameter. So definitely, there is a lot of possible applications for FMJs in hunting. 🙂

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