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Survival Ammunition: .270 Winchester

by Paul-Martin Foss

The .270 Winchester is one of the most popular hunting cartridges in the United States, which isn’t surprising given that it’s been around for nearly a century. Like the .30-06 Springfield and .280 Remington, the .270 Winchester was formed from the .30-03 Springfield parent case. And while arguably better cartridges exist, thanks to its longevity and popularity, the .270 Winchester won’t be going anywhere soon.

The .270 Winchester was created in an era in which high velocity cartridges were a relative rarity. Most factory cartridges at the time pushed bullets at 2,000 to 2,300 feet per second, so the 3,100 feet per second at which the .270 Winchester could push its 130-grain bullet was a change from the norm.

Gun writers at the time realized that lighter bullets at higher velocities resulted in a shock value on target that couldn’t be quantified by energy measurements alone. However, problems with bullet construction meant that many bullets pushed to 3,000 feet per second or more fragmented on targets rather than penetrating. The .280 Ross was famous for that, with stories of dangerous game hunters losing their lives due to bullets breaking up on impact.

By the time the .270 Winchester was developed, the importance of bullet construction was better understood, as were the limitations on light bullets at high velocity. The .270 Winchester’s 130-grain loading was seen as adequate for deer and antelope, while a 150-grain bullet was developed for heavier game.

The .270 Winchester was highly touted by gun writer Jack O’Connor, who swore by the cartridge in his numerous columns. Had it not been for O’Connor’s cheerleading, it’s possible that the .270 Winchester may have already become obsolete. Its .277”-diameter bullet is an odd one, as the experimental Chinese 6.8x57mm cartridge had been the only cartridge to feature a bullet of that diameter until that time. At only .007” smaller than the 7mm bullets that were already well-proven in other cartridges, the .270 doesn’t offer the same range of bullet weights that 7mm cartridges do.

Despite those drawbacks, the .270 became one of the most popular hunting cartridges in the United States. Any rifle chambered in .30-06 is almost guaranteed also to come chambered from the factory in .270 Winchester, so popular is the cartridge and so ubiquitous is the ammunition. Any gun store that stocks .30-06 Springfield or .30-30 is guaranteed also to carry .270 Winchester.

If you don’t already own a .270 Winchester, there are other cartridges out there that you may find to be of superior performance. Whether that’s similar cartridges such as .280 Remington or 7×64 Brenneke, or newer short-action cartridges such as 6.5 Creedmoor, many cartridges in existence today offer similar performance and a wider array of projectiles than the .270 Winchester. Still, if you own one, its popularity and the easy ability to find ammunition can make it a useful choice for your survival firearms battery.

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