The .270 Winchester—The Rifleman’s Cartridge

By Bob Campbell published on in Ammunition, Range Reports

I am finally getting around to projects I have been anticipating for several years. One of these was putting together a credible all-around hunting and recreational rifle—something with more stretch than the .308 Winchester and perhaps a bit of finesse. I chose the Mossberg All Terrain Rifle (ATR) in .270 Winchester. I have enjoyed such good luck for so long with the ATR in .308 Winchester, I did not wish to rock the boat and so stayed with a proven product. The short-action ATR in .308 is a good rifle—the balance of accuracy and price is outstanding, while the .270 long-action chambering is a real bargain.

The .270 Winchester—The Rifleman’s Cartridge

.270 Winchester ammunition

The .270 Winchester cartridge is among the most versatile and effective cartridges in America.

The .270 Winchester cartridge is among the most versatile and effective cartridges in America. The .270 was introduced in 1925 and has proven popular ever since.

The .270 is simply a .30-06 Springfield necked down to .277 caliber. The .270 is intended for long-range work and killing power at moderate range. The cartridge is accurate and effective, but doesn’t kick as hard as some rifle cartridges. The .270 has taken every species of North American game. While perhaps light for the largest bears, the cartridge stands alone for versatility. As an example, the 90-grain bullet may be loaded to a full 3,600 fps. This makes the .270 an effective varmint cartridge. Sure, we will probably use a .223, but for the man with one rifle the .270 is a varmint buster.

A 100-grain bullet at 3,500 fps is another option. The enthusiastic handloader can really make the .270 talk! The standard 130-grain bullet at 3,100 fps is a good all-around deer load for long range. There is also a 150-grain bullet for heavier game.

Shooting the Mossberg ATR rifle in .270 winchester

A smooth action, good scope and good ammunition all came together in this test program.

The .270 is efficient with a variety of loads and bullet weights. The accuracy of the cartridge is demonstrated off the benchrest, while ballistic media demonstrates the power of the cartridge. The balance of penetration and controlled expansion of these loads is excellent. I particularly like the .270’s neck design. There is plenty of tension in the neck with all bullet weights, even with the lightest bullets.

While lighter and faster bullets may be used, the standard 130-grain load shoots flat over long distances. While some may master magnum cartridges, I do not own a magnum rifle. I prefer the .308, .270 and .30-06 cartridges. They do the business with accuracy, efficiency, and less bruising and raising of eddies in the skin.

The cartridge responds well to a careful handloader. Effect on game is reliable. My experiments with the Mossberg ATR/.270 rifle combination have been good. What really counts, and the reason I was led to this combination, are the glowing reports of the .270’s effect in the field. This is why the .270 has been called the rifleman’s rifle. Nothing I have observed can contradict this statement.

I fitted a Vanguard Endeavor RS 41240 BDC riflescope to my personal rifle in an effort to give myself an edge in the field. The scope features good adjustment, clear optics and good zero retention. Adjustment was rapid. It was with a minimum expenditure of ammunition that the rifle was sighted in. When choosing rifle ammo for the .270, the field is broad.

Two green boxes of Fiocchi .270 Winchester ammo

Fiocchi offers excellent quality ammunition.

Hornady offers at least nine loads from 100 to 150 grains. The Sierra 90-grain Varmint bullet is a handloading proposition, and the Hornady bullets are available as components. As I often do, I searched for an economical loading to get the hang of the rifle and to sight it in.

During the initial evaluation, I used the Fiocchi 130-grain JSP, and later fired the Fiocchi 150-grain loads. Results were excellent. Accuracy was good and the powder burn was clean. While testing, I learned two things. The .270 kicks more than the .308, but then it is a larger cartridge. It also burns more powder and churns up a bit more horsepower.

Close up of target with three bullet holes in it,

This is the sight-in group for the Fiocchi 130-grain JSP load. Not too shabby for a 3-shot group at 100 yards.

In addition, the .270 and the Mossberg ATR were not quite as accurate as the .308 ATR. Not surprising either as the .308 is a match-grade cartridge. The difference? An average of one-inch or less at 100 yards for the .308 and 0.8-1.25 inch for the .270. However, I haven’t experimented very much. Considering that it takes an excellent rifleman to stand on his legs and fire a three-shot 5-inch group at 100 yards, I think the .270 offers all of the accuracy I need.

The rifle is sighted to strike two inches high at 100 yards, which gives me a dead-on hold to 200 yards. If you cannot shoot, of course, you may as well throw rocks. However, that is the accuracy this rifle and cartridge are capable of delivering. One thing is for certain—if I get a shot and do not connect with the game, it isn’t the fault of the gun or the ammo. It is mine alone. This rifle is a credible choice for anyone on any budget.

What is your go-to hunting caliber or the one you simply can’t live without? Share your answer in the comment section.

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SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (60)

  • wayne

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    hey Arch I load my 270 with 48 grains of imr3031 with a 130 grain bullet that gives me 3030 fps with very little kick

    Reply

  • Arch Arthur

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    In 1953, my friends and I would wait for the bus in Hamilton Arms, Memphis’ premier safari outfitter, drooling over Weatherby rifles. In 2014, I could afford to buy a Mark V in 270 Winchester. At 100 yards off a lead sled, the three 130 grain projectiles formed an isosceles triangle you can cover with a dime. It’s more accurate than my Browning X-Bolt 30-06 and my Grandson’s Tikka T-3 30-06.

    As a handloader, if anyone has a pet 270 load, I’m all ears.

    Reply

    • Kevin

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      Arch, i also have a mark v in 270 win, 130 barnes tsx, 55gr 414, win or hornady brass, fed 215 primer, 3250 across the screens, yes i said 3250, 3100 ft lbs, 3/4in group, have shot about 2500 rds of it. This is strickley my hunting load, 2 shots on the brass then retire for plinking!

      Reply

  • Hide Behind

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    Are we selling the Mossburg or tje 270 round? To each real “Shootist” there will be a favorite but not necessarily the perfect gun and round for all hunting situations, and it seems there are as many cultish followers of many different rounds.
    The 270 is held in almost mythical awe but in truth it has many competitors gor titles of accuracy and terminal ballistics.
    I have good memories of a Rem ADL 270 and asa gift from wife to the numbers of game animals it once took.
    Yet the terrain changed from corn fields 100-200 yards and woods no more than 100 to a time of seeing game at 600 or more yards being shot at by everything from Rem in 308 to 50 cals by killers not hunters..
    As a guide years ago I seen greed more than sportsmanship in all bear, cat, elk and deer wher if a animal was wounded or hell even deadbyou had best have teddy runnrrs on in order to get to animal before the thieves who also may of been shooting
    NEEDING TO ANCHOR GAME MORE EFFECIENTLY AT 400 YARDS SO AS NOT TO AVE TO CHASE WOUNDED ANIMALS DOMETIMES A COUPLE MILES I BEGAN TO SEE CHANGES up in Calibers to 7mm and 300 338 mags.
    still as a personal choice for a timber stalk with some open areas of 300 yards That Rem in 270 will do the job.
    It is the shooter not the caliber of the round that matters.

    Reply

  • Edward Melko

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    I currently hunt with a Ruger M77 in .270 caliber, and have shot antelope, mule deer and elk with it. However, my go to gun when all else fails is a 1942 Longbranch # 4 Enfield in 180 grain .303 caliber. I have shot antelope, mule deer, elk, and moose at distances in some instances to over 500 yards. Although it had been sporterized with the original two groove barrel shortened to remove the bayonet lugs, it will shoot one inch groups from the bench at 100 yards. I carry it hunting as my backup to the .270, I still have occasion to use like when I shot my moose at 300 yards. There is not a rifle around that I would trade it for!!

    Reply

  • OLD AND GRUMPY

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    Ya sure you want to give away the 270 secret ?

    When the ammo shortage was at its worst there was always 270 on the shelf all by it’s self! A big stack.

    Reply

    • Secundius

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      @ OLD AND GRUMPY.

      You could go with the 7x57mm/Spanish Mauser, which is nearly Identical to the .270 Win. performance…

      Reply

  • Jonathan

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    When the time came for me to find a brother for my post-64 Model 70 in .30-’06, the Ruger Model 77 was a brand-new rifle being offered on the market, and I had to have one. I bought mine in 7mm Remington Magnum and have no regrets. Ballistically it is almost identical to the .270 Winchester.

    Reply

  • Cletus LaBoe

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    I have owned several rifles in several calibers. I have hunted most of the big game animals in north America and Alaska. I find that the .270 is more than adequate for all except brown bears and moose. For those I recommend the .338 Win Mag. I reload my own ammo and the .270 is a very easy caliber to load. I like the 130 gr pointed spire point for shots up to 300 yards.

    Reply

  • Manchu77

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    Jered,
    Agreed,
    My point being that the most important factor in the “best all round caliber” is the person doing the shooting

    Reply

  • Manchu77

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    Agreed.

    Reply

  • Gary L, Spencer

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    I totally agree it is the riflemans rifle, I have been shooting a Winchester model 70 since 1970, have killed numerous deer at long range in my life as well as coyote. well pleased thanks to Mom and Dad for my rifle.

    Reply

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