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The .300 Winchester
by Jack Steele

SAY YOU WANTED to hunt with just one big-game rifle. Have it become an extension of your own body. Know it like the smell of your Dad's wool coat. Say you wanted it in a caliber flat enough to poke coyotes at long distance but powerful enough to make a bull elk take notice at the far end of a cross-canyon shot. Say you wanted it all in one package so you could always count on that one rifle to get the job done. Sound like a pipe dream?

The do-it-all rifle is not a myth, as many a seasoned rifleman knows. In fact, while the gunrags do a healthy business recommending good calibers for this, and best bullet for that, it's a fact that when flying lead doesn't have the intended results, it's the man behind the rifle that's almost certainly to blame. Show me a man who blames a miss on his rifle, and I'll show you a rifleman in need of polish, which leads to the primary reason behind choosing one good rifle -- polished skills.

Of course, the best way to polish skills is by shooting your chosen Betsy often and from real-life shooting positions. A rifle that feels right and doesn't kick like a mule goes a long way toward promoting regular practice. So does reloading for it, which will promote accuracy and increased familiarity.

It goes without saying that a one-rifle battery should be as accurate as possible. In practical terms, however, a 2-MOA rifle is plenty good enough for most big-game hunting. Latch onto a rifle that consistently shoots 1 MOA, and you'll regret the day you part with it. Any big-game rifle more precise than that should be considered an heirloom.

What really gets interesting, however, is deciding on a caliber. Ask five seasoned riflemen for their top choice, and you can expect five different opinions, all vehement, all well reasoned.

The .30-06 is the perennial all-mention, and rightly so; there's no rust on the classic. The .270 Winchester, aside from being a hell of a caliber, was Jack O'Connor's darling (though he admitted the ought-six probably was better) and therefore commands a prodigious following. The .338 Winchester Magnum was a favorite of Elmer Keith and is a superb choice for the steel-shouldered. The 7mm Remington Magnum does a whole lot with class.

Lots of others, most notably the .308 Winchester and the .280 Remington as well as various Weatherby Magnums and a slew of wildcats, can and do fit the bill. But the .300 Winchester Magnum -- the .300 Win. Mag. just might be the best of all! Except for the big brownies, which rate their own .375 H&H Magnum to many minds, the North-American hunter with a good .300 Winny has all the rifle he will ever need. And then some.

So, why not the .30-06? Why not, indeed. The good ol' ought-six is still a top choice. From 'chucks to elk, it is a serious caliber for the serious hunter, no question about it.

There is one area, however, where the ought-six gives up some ground, and that's when it comes to pushing heavy bullets -- the kind you want when big, tough critters like elk and moose are on the program. Yes, the classic .30-06 load pushing a 180-grain pill at 2700-2800 ft/sec will do almost anything you need, but throw in a big bull elk across a wide canyon at dusk, and the Winny gets the nod. Consider that at 400 yards, the Winny's 3100 ft/sec with the same 180-grainer gets you 450 ft/lbs more terminal energy and five inches less drop.

If that weren't telling enough, jump up to the 200-grain rock ,and by today's mega-magnum standards the 2550 ft/sec generated by a .30-06 case can be considered positively lethargic, although for close work in heavy timber, the combination is hard to beat.

By contrast, the Winny pushes the 200-grainer to a speedy 2950 ft/sec with careful reloads. At 400 yards, this translates into almost 700 ft/lbs more terminal energy and a trajectory flattened by 7 inches. That is the kind of difference that makes a difference on tough game.

Bottom line: While the .30-06 still may be the finest all-around caliber, it says here that if elk are in your plans (and elk are increasingly in everyone's plans) the .300 Winchester might be a better choice.

The same analysis applies to the .270 Winchester. By all accounts a hell of a sheep and deer caliber, throw elk into the equation and the .270 becomes marginal. Sure, there are elk hunters who shoot their bull with a .270 every year, but they are the exception. Most of the savvy elk crowd considers the .270 either too small or the absolute bare minimum for wapiti.

Suffice it to say that, at 400 yards, the .270 shooting 130 spitzers and the .300 Win. Mag. shooting 200-grain spitzers have virtually identical trajectories. The difference is that the .270 arrives carrying roughly 1300 ft/lbs of energy (below the 1500 ft/lbs often cited as a minimum for elk) while the Winny will deliver over a ton of energy, almost 2300 ft/lbs What the great .270 is to deer and sheep, the .300 Winny is to elk. Bad medicine.

As to the 7mm Remington Magnum, this fine caliber is often considered to be the ought-six's ballistic clone. The 7-Rem's small advantages in sectional density are offset by the .30-06's increased frontal area. The ought-six has an advantage in that more and heavier bullets are readily available, especially for the handloader, but basically, in the field you could choose one or the other and never notice the difference. So as versatile, accurate, and popular as this .284 is, the .30-06 retains an edge, and the .300 WinMag outclasses them both.

The .338 Winchester Magnum is another thing altogether. By all accounts a large caliber by North-American standards, it has been said that true recoil starts at the .338. A seasoned rifleman who practices regularly certainly should have no trouble handling the .338, but for many casual shooters, the .338 is simply too much rifle to shoot regularly or accurately.

It is noteworthy, however, that in terms of the wide spectrum of game animals available in North America, the .338 is probably the most well centered. A fair choice for the big brown bears (though a .375 H&H is superior for this work by an order of magnitude), the .338 is rightly considered by many as the preeminent elk caliber, while still being plenty flat enough for whitetails, antelope, and even coyotes. Take the big bears out of the equation, however, which they are for the vast majority of hunters, and the .338 becomes a too large shoulder pounder for most weekend warriors, though still optimal for dedicated wapiti chasers. Let face it. You don't need a .338 for any whitetail walking the earth.

By contrast, the beauty of the .300 WinMag is that it is so well suited to the typical range of hunting experiences to be had in North America.

After plains game? 180-grain Ballistic Tips at 3100 ft/sec equal bad mule-deer medicine and devastating performance on pronghorns. The same load is a ringer in "beanfield" situations. Elk and moose in your plans? Load 200-grain Partitions or A-Frames at 2900 ft/sec, and be assured that you have the right gun! Feel like practicing on coyotes or chucks? Scream some 165-grain boattails at 3250 ft/sec, and worry about your end of the rifle.

Like with all calibers, there are situations where a different caliber would be ideal, but for all-around versatility, flat trajectory, and high energy, the .300 Winchester Magnum shines, maybe like no other.

In the end, the choice of an all-around rifle depends on many factors. If you like a gun, you are much more likely to shoot it and shoot it well, so choose a rifle you like. Also, any experienced rifleman knows that where you hit 'em is much more important than what you hit 'em with, so place your emphasis on skills rather than on the size of the rock. But when all that is said and done, take a good hard look at the .300 Winchester.

You may not look any further.
 

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My 300 winny.. Cant wait to start wearing the barrel out.. that said, when we gonna go blast'em 'neck??






I have no idea why i went with a 300WM except its what Hathcock used to win his Wimbledon cup. No other real reason to my logic.
 

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300 win mag is a great round, plenty of power, accuracy AND plenty of availiable ammo on the shelf. I hand load for all my rifles and pistols but what if i was at camp or on a trip and God forbid i left my ammo or it got lost on the way, you can just go to any sporting goods store and grab a box off the shelf, sure it want be as accurate as the handloads but at least it will work. The same cant be said for the newest nuclear hot tamale rounds. I know i have seen it happen. I had a 7stw built before you could get factory ammo for it.... yep left box on the back of truck when loading up to leave and when i got to camp.... no ammo for my rifle.
 

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My dad loves his. The variety in bullet weights is fantastic. Everything from 130 to 250 grains, at least in my manual.

I've started reloading it for him because he wanted a flatter shooting load. We'll see when deer season reopens.
 

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Neck, I figured you chose the 300 winny cause you didn't have one, and it gave you an excuse to buy another gun. :)
 

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Neck, good thoughts on a great caliber. I've had some experience with the 300 win, although I don't own one, my good friend does. In my opinion it is a good caliber for over 400 yds. For long shots on deer size game and bigger it is umatched in my opinion.
 

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Neck, good write-up but I'll have to add the 30-338 mag.has the best of both world's. Love mine. :) Never owned the 300 mag but have to say the 30-338 tops it in overall performance.One big difference is the 300 mag has factory ammo available, which to most would be a plus.
 

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mascott said:
Neck, good write-up but I'll have to add the 30-338 mag.has the best of both world's. Love mine. :) Never owned the 300 mag but have to say the 30-338 tops it in overall performance.One big difference is the 300 mag has factory ammo available, which to most would be a plus.
you talking about a 30-338 lapua?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I would imagine meat loss could be substantial on deer inside 100 yards....a friend of mine always sacrifices a shoulder...He shoots above shoulder however while I tend to shoot right behind the shoulder...if I have the opportunity...

I'll probably reload 130 grainers for deer and use 180's for elk...most likely Barnes
 

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mascott said:
Neck, good write-up but I'll have to add the 30-338 mag.has the best of both world's. Love mine. :) Never owned the 300 mag but have to say the 30-338 tops it in overall performance.One big difference is the 300 mag has factory ammo available, which to most would be a plus.
I’ve just gotta stick my two-cents in here. You can skip this bit of nostalgia if you want to.

Reminiscing about a 30-338 Win Mag.

When I lived out west I had E A Craven of Bend Oregon build me a 30-338 Win Mag (No, not a Lapua but a 338 Win Mag necked down to 30 cal). Douglas barrel, FN action, French walnut roll-over hand-checkered stock. Nice. It was gun for out there. Not really for here, now.

Typical load included a 180 grain boat tail (can’t recall the make, nor the load, but I believe I was using 4831 – does that sound right?). It would really reach out there – pronghorns on the high desert or mulies in the mountains when I was living in WY.

As far as heavy loads were concerned, I loaded a Nosler 220 gr partition for my bear hunt.

My grandson has that rifle now.

As an aside, I believe the 30-338 is longer necked than the 300 Win Mag. I believe that to be an advantage. A friend, back in CA, had an 03A3 rechambered to 300 Win Mag so I had an opportunity to compare a little. By the way, that’s when you could get these guns through the mail through the NRA (pre ’68?). Times have sure changed.
 

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msredneck said:
I would imagine meat loss could be substantial on deer inside 100 yards....a friend of mine always sacrifices a shoulder...He shoots above shoulder however while I tend to shoot right behind the shoulder...if I have the opportunity...

I'll probably reload 130 grainers for deer and use 180's for elk...most likely Barnes
I was told you will experience more meat loss with a lighter bullet than you will with bullets 165gr and bigger.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
130'gr recommended for varmits ....if you can believe that...180 gr and up for Elk, Moose, Bear

One of the things I liked about the caliber...large range of bullet weights
 

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Im goin to be slinging some 190, 208, and 210 grainers..
Billy finished my barrel and i got it yesterday. Goin to headspace it today and wait on my scope to get here.
 

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The only bad thing about that article is the 2 MOA theory in it. Now a 2 inch gun is ok for hunting but not 2 MOA. 2 MOA at 400 yards is 8 inches...2 MOA at 800 would be 16 inchesor a flat out miss! I am about to pick up a sweet 300 win mag. Ill post picks when I finally get it. It will be my rifle for up to 800 yards, but Ill break out other rifles for 800 plus.
 
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