Ask any American hunter to name his top three big game cartridges and chances are good that at least one of those will be the .308 Winchester or .270 Winchester.
Winchester launched the .270 Win. all the way back in 1925 for the Model 54 bolt-action rifle. At the time it offered better long-range performance than any other cartridge on the American market, and today it remains one of the most frequently chambered calibers in existence.
The .308 Win. was introduced in 1952 for Winchester’s Model 70 bolt action and Model 88 lever action. It may be even more common today than the .270 Win., due in large part to its adoption by the U.S. military in 1954. Its military designation, the 7.62x51mm NATO, is still used in conflicts around the world and virtually every major manufacturer offers rifles in this caliber.
Internet debates rage about the advantages and disadvantages of each caliber, but most use the time-tested argument, “My old man loved the .270 Win. and so should you!” We’ll try to be a little more scientific. When it comes to ballistics, shootability, and versatility, which caliber takes this heavyweight bout?
.308 Win. Ballistics vs. .270 Win. Ballistics
Both calibers pack a punch. The .308 Win. is most frequently loaded with projectiles between 150 grains and 180 grains and boasts muzzle velocities between 2,800 feet per second and 2,500 fps, depending on bullet weight and barrel length.
The .270 Win. moves a little faster due to its lighter projectiles and larger case capacity (it’s basically just a necked-down .30-06). Most commonly loaded with bullets between 130 and 150 grains, the .270 Win. pushes projectiles between 2,800 fps and 3,100 fps.
That additional speed translates to a greater effective range. Effective range depends largely on bullet construction and shot placement, but in general, the faster a projectile is travelling, the greater distance it can maintain terminal velocity.
Federal’s Trophy Copper line, for example, is designed to provide at least one “caliber expansion” at 1,800 fps. In other words, if the projectile is travelling at least 1,800 fps, the front-end cavity will open up and peel back to at least caliber diameter. Federal’s 150-grain Trophy Copper .308 Win. is travelling at 1,800 fps at 580 yards, but the 130-grain .270 Win. is still cooking along at 1,800 fps all the way out to 680 yards.
That additional 100 yards of effective range is why many long-range western hunters have opted for the .270 Win., and why many have stuck with the venerable old cartridge even as sexy new long-range cartridges have come onto the market.
Defenders of the .308 Win. might argue that the caliber is loaded with heavier projectiles, which allows for taking larger game. That may or may not be true, but the century-long track record of bringing down game like moose and bears proves that the 130- to 150-grain projectiles of a .270 Win. are more than sufficient to hunt America’s largest animals.
Winner: .270 Win.
.308 Win. Shootability vs. .270 Win. Shootability
“Shootability” is availability plus comfort. For a caliber to be “shootable,” I have to be able to purchase cartridges at the store and not leave the range with a sore shoulder.
For high-end hunting loads, availability and cost will be comparable. Only $1 separates Federal’s Trophy Copper offerings in the two calibers, and most quality loads will run between $25 and $45 for a box of 20. All of Federal’s options are out of stock right now, but that’s the case with most ammunition these days. Normally, both calibers are readily available.
For plinking and practice rounds, however, the .308 Win. has the .270 Win. beat. The absolute cheapest .270 Win. runs about $1 per round. Thanks to its status as a NATO cartridge, the cheapest .308 Win. can be had for $0.60 to $0.75 per round for a box of 20, and bulk options are even cheaper.
I’d call comfort a draw. Depending on the weight of your rifle, neither caliber is particularly comfortable—or uncomfortable—to shoot. A light hunting rifle will likely produce a sore shoulder after a whole afternoon at the range, but a heavy target rifle or an AR-type rifle will soften the recoil impulse. Chuck Hawks’s rifle recoil table puts hard data to this subjective impression: Both calibers record similar recoil energies, though the .308 Win. is slightly stiffer.
Since practice is crucial to any successful hunt, and the .308 Win. offers a huge variety of plinking options, the .308 Win. takes the shootability round.
Winner: .308 Win.
.308 Win. Versatility vs. .270 Win. Versatility
“Versatility” refers to both the versatility of the caliber and how many types of firearms are commonly chambered in it.
Both calibers are incredibly versatile, which is one of the reasons for their lasting popularity. The .308 Win. has more range in terms of bullet weights (110 grains to 240 grains vs. 90 grains to 180 grains), but both calibers can take everything from varmints and predators to elk, moose, and bears.
But the .308 Win. has benefitted from bullet innovation in a way the .270 Win. has not. The firearms industry has poured tons of research and development into building new, better .30-caliber bullets. But since the advent of the 6.5 Creedmoor, the .270 Win. hasn’t received the same attention. There’s always a new super-heavy, high-BC projectile coming out for .308 Win. or the 6.5, but the same can’t be said of the .270 Win.
The .308 Win. is also chambered in a wider range of firearms, including bolt, lever, pump, and semi-auto actions. The semi-auto AR-10 is incredibly popular, and Henry makes a lever gun called the “Long Ranger.” While the .270 Win. is occasionally chambered in a semi-auto (Browning BAR) or pump gun (Remington M7600), the majority of chamberings use a bolt action.
While the .308 Win. boasts a larger range of actions, manufacturers chamber both cartridges in many high-end hunting rifles. Weatherby chambers a variety of rifles in .270 Win. and they offer a MeatEater edition of their Vanguard line in .308 Win.
The .308 Win. has a wider range of bullet weights and a wider range of actions. It takes the versatility round easily.
Winner: .308 Win.
And the Winner Is…
If you’ve been following the Caliber Battle series, you know that choosing a winner is never easy. This is the toughest choice yet. Both the .308 Win. and the .270 Win. offer deadly ballistics in shootable cartridges and rifles. The .270 Win. shoots flatter and hits harder, but for an all-around hunting caliber, I’m going with the .308 Win. That’s not because the .30-caliber cartridge is better, but because it’s more versatile. I like all the bullet and rifle options as well as the availability of practice ammunition. The .308 Win. is damn hard to beat, but the .270 Win. almost beat it.
Overall Winner: .308 Win.
270 Winchester has a slightly higher maximum average pressure authorized by SAAMI (65,000psi vs 62,000psi for the . 308 Win).What kicks harder 308 or 270? ›
Assuming that the rifle weight is consistent between the two cartridges, the 270 Winchester will have less recoil for almost every factory load when compared to the 308. This is primarily due to the heavier bullet weight of the 308. Simply put, lighter bullets recoil less.Which caliber is better 308 or 270? ›
308 has a higher average bullet drop than the . 270 even at short ranges (-14.5 inches vs -11.91 inches at 300 yards – see our data below). At 500 yards the difference is a full 10 inches. This may sound insignificant, but this can be the difference between success and failure, particularly at greater distances.Is a 308 overkill a deer? ›
These calibers aren't “overkill” as long as you can put shots on target. But an afternoon of practice at the range with a . 308 Win. will always be less comfortable than with a 6.5 Creedmoor. These medium-sized calibers are more than capable of taking down deer.What is the best all around deer rifle caliber? ›
In our opinion, the best rifle calibers for deer hunting are the . 270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, . 30-06 Springfield, . 308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .Is a .270 big enough for elk? ›
270, especially when mated with the tough, deep-penetrating, weight-retaining bullets we have today, is not a “big gun” on elk, but is adequate for any elk that walks, with careful shot placement.Is 308 enough for elk? ›
308 is sure to deliver plenty of damage thanks to its deep penetration. It's more than enough power to take down an elk.How far can a 270 shoot accurately? ›
270 Win. is still cooking along at 1,800 fps all the way out to 680 yards. That additional 100 yards of effective range is why many long-range western hunters have opted for the .Can 308 take down bear? ›
Its versatility made it one of the world's most popular short-action, big game hunting cartridges. Black bear hunting is no exception. The . 308 offers great power at short range and can maintain that power and velocity at longer ranges as well.What caliber do snipers use? ›
The most popular military sniper rifles (in terms of numbers in service) are chambered for 7.62 mm (0.30 inch) caliber ammunition, such as 7.62×51mm and 7.62×54mm R.
308 is routinely used for whitetail and mule deer, black bear, caribou, pronghorn, wild hogs, and elk. It is also usable on moose if you need it to be and with the right loads. The . 308 is also a popular hunting caliber in other continents such as South America, Europe, and Africa.What cartridge has killed the most deer? ›
“The . 30-30 rifle has arguably killed more whitetail deer than any other single cartridge … with the round's popularity still quite high, it's doubtful it will be unseated any time soon.”What is the hardest hitting hunting caliber? ›
That said, the . 300 Win Mag is, hands down, the hardest hitting cartridge on this list. If you hunt where the need to defend yourself against big, dangerous bears might arise, or if you like to fill your freezer with elk and moose meat rather than deer and pronghorn, you should look hard at the . 300.What caliber do most hunters use? ›
Most hunters prefer using a 30-06 or other long-range rifles. This is because the bullet travels at a much higher speed and velocity despite the bullet's diameter and weight.Can you take down a moose with a 270? ›
Known as an ideal cartridge for medium-sized game, the . 270 is more gun that most people give it credit for. It will still get the job done plenty well on a moose.Which is better 270 or 6.5 Creedmoor? ›
As a general rule, the . 270 Win. offers more velocity and energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor. To compare apples to apples, we'll use as examples these 120-grain Trophy Copper 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges and these 130-grain Trophy Copper .Is the 270 adequate for moose? ›
Like I said, many hunters kill moose with the . 270 Winchester each and every year. It is certainly adequate in the hands of a skilled hunter who places shots consistently on the vital mark.Is 308 too small for moose? ›
308 ranks right behind the 06 and has been used to harvest moose for hunters across Canada and the US. Many hunter choose the . 308 for exactly the same reason as you, it's just so darn comfortable to shoot.How far is a .308 lethal? ›
308 would be lethal easily out to a mile. However, if we are talking about shooting that medium-size North American game like a whitetail deer, the distance would be much closer. In fact, I argue that the effective range of . 308 on deer is 300 yards.What barrel length is most efficient for 308? ›
Our experience has shown that for a . 308 caliber tactical rifle with the overall rifle weight and shooting distances mentioned earlier, a barrel of 24-27″ is optimum in one of the fairly heavy contours we discussed. Closer ranges or other considerations might dictate a shorter barrel.
For a big game bullet, that's insanely fast. At that speed, a 130-gr. Nosler Partition or Nosler Ballistic Tip zeroed at 100 yards will drop only 1 inch at 200 yards, 2.9 inches at 300 yards, 5.3 inches at 400 yards and 8.2 inches at 500 yards.What distance should I zero my 270 Winchester? ›
For most rifles, a 25- to 28-yard zero (depending on the caliber's velocity and bullet's BC) will maximize its point blank range. My technique for shooting is to zero at 26 yards (if using the . 270 noted above), then shade slightly low (an inch or two) when shooting at 100 yards, and hold slightly high at 300.Is a 270 too big for deer? ›
270 Winchester makes it great for animals that are more likely to require longer range shots like mule deer or pronghorn. By the same token, the fact that the . 270 also has a relatively mild recoil also makes it a great cartridge for mountain hunts where a lightweight rifle is really desirable.What is a 270 rifle equivalent to? ›
270 vs 30-06: Rifle Selection
Additionally, because the cartridges are the same length and have the same rim diameter, rifles of the same model chambered in each cartridge are virtually identical to each other.
As a general rule, the . 270 Win. offers more velocity and energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor. To compare apples to apples, we'll use as examples these 120-grain Trophy Copper 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges and these 130-grain Trophy Copper .What is a 270 Best for? ›
Indeed, many hunters use the 270 Winchester on bigger game like black bear, elk, and even moose with a lot of success each year though. I recommend going to a heavier bullet weight if you go that route (like a 150-grain bullet instead of a 130-grain bullet).How far does a 270 drop at 500 yards? ›
For a big game bullet, that's insanely fast. At that speed, a 130-gr. Nosler Partition or Nosler Ballistic Tip zeroed at 100 yards will drop only 1 inch at 200 yards, 2.9 inches at 300 yards, 5.3 inches at 400 yards and 8.2 inches at 500 yards.Is 270 enough for elk? ›
270, especially when mated with the tough, deep-penetrating, weight-retaining bullets we have today, is not a “big gun” on elk, but is adequate for any elk that walks, with careful shot placement.Is a 270 more powerful than a 7mm? ›
Nosler Trophy Grade: the 7mm Rem Mag has 18.4% more muzzle energy, 22.6% more kinetic energy at 500 yards, and 5.4″ (13.5%) less bullet drop at 500 yards. With all that in mind, it's pretty clear the 7mm Rem Mag is both more powerful and flatter shooting than the 270 Winchester.How far does 270 drop 100 yards? ›
|Range (Yards)||Velocity (Ft/Sec)||Bullet Path (inches)|
308 Winchester is still an incredibly popular cartridge due to its versatility, relatively mild recoil, and availability. It is best suited for mid-range distances, reaching its limits at 1,000 yards, and is especially popular among hunters.Is 270 better than 30-06? ›
30-06 wins the bullet energy category. It hits harder even at extended ranges, and it can be loaded using bullets as heavy as 220 grains. However, since Trophy Copper bullets reliably expand only at velocities above 1,800 fps, the . 270 Win. has a greater maximum effective range.What is the range of a 270 for deer? ›
Loaded with a 130-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of about 3,060 fps. and sighted to touch 3 inches above line of sight at 100 yards (90 meters), the .270 Winchester will not rise more than 3.5 inches, to touch the line of sight at approximately 270 yards, providing a maximum point blank range of about 325 yards ...How does a 270 compare to a 25-06? ›
25-06 and . 270 is evident and the two cartridges are identical up to the shoulder. While the . 270 has a slightly longer case and overall length (2.54″ vs 2.49″ and 3.34″ vs 3.25″ respectively), they are close enough in size that both cartridges are used in standard/long-action rifles.Why is 270 so popular? ›
It has 270 degrees of fully visible air. This is the most visible air unit ever made, which has really elevated the hype of the shoe. You can literally see all the way through the bottom and almost under the heel where the air unit is usually embedded in cushioning.Why 308 is the best? ›
Advantages of the . 308 Winchester are many. It combines adequate bullet diameter, weight, and velocity with manageable recoil in a rifle of compact size and moderate weight. It is available in every rifle action-type; bolt, lever, semi-auto, pump, and single-shot.Does a 30-06 kick harder than a 270? ›
On average, the 30-06 will generate 25 ft-lbs of recoil energy while the 270 Winchester will slap your shoulder with 20 ft-lbs force. Although the 270 Win does have less recoil, it's nothing like a 223 Rem! Shooters will often report that the recoil impulse is different between the two cartridges.