May 27, 2021
In recent years supporters of the venerable, 95-year-old .270 Winchester have been asking, “Hey! What about the good old .270?” Among modern long-range shooters, respect for Jack O’Connor’s favorite is nonexistent.
Meanwhile, new cartridges such as the 6.5 PRC, 28 Nosler, and .300 PRC have been leaving the .270 Win. in the dust. Ballistically, with their fast-twist rifling and high-BC bullets, these new cartridges walk all over the .270.
Unfortunately, the .270’s relatively slow 1:10 rifling twist, as spec’d in SAAMI’s reg book, won’t stabilize the stretched-out, heavy, streamlined bullets that offer extremely high ballistic coefficients. As a result, bullet manufacturers have never made high-BC bullets in .277 diameter (the actual size of .270 Win. bullets). Until now.
Last year, Nosler introduced a fire-breathing .270 magnum. Tagged the 27 Nosler, it’s spec’d with a 1:8 rifling twist rate. To make it competitive on the modern long-range scene, Nosler also introduced a new bullet designed specifically for the 27 Nosler. It’s a 165-grain AccuBond Long Range and incorporates the company’s finest aerodynamic engineering coupled with lead-core, bonded construction that provides excellent performance on game. It has an impressive G1 BC of .620.
No, this projectile won’t work in your .270 Winchester. That is, not unless you replace that 1:10-twist factory barrel with a custom barrel with a 1:8 twist. Then, you can handload the 165-grain ABLR to about 2,800 fps.
Doesn’t sound impressive? Au contraire! That’s 100 fps faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor pushes 140-grain bullets, and it’s nipping on the heels of many 7mm Rem. Mag. loads with similar-weight bullets.
And the 27 Nosler cartridge? An all-out, full-throttle kinda cartridge, it pushes that 165-grain ABLR bullet at an eyebrow-raising 3,150 fps. That’s more than 100 fps faster than the 7mm Rem. Mag. can push a similar-weight bullet. Plus, the slightly smaller .270 projectile has a slightly higher BC than a similar-weight, similar-design 7mm bullet. Combined, the higher velocity and higher BC offer a significant edge.
Just a year later, Browning and Winchester Ammunition collaborated and have just introduced what may be the most practical modern .270 cartridge yet. Named the 6.8 Western, it’s a short-action, non-belted magnum.
Short and fat, it is extremely efficient. Upon ignition, the propellant column burns more efficiently than the long, skinny powder columns in the classic .270 Win. or the massive 27 Nosler.
This results in best-possible ballistic performance with minimal powder usage, maximum consistency in velocity, and impressive performance at a modest price in recoil.
It’s not just a repurposed .270 WSM with faster rifling. The case has been shortened significantly to allow adequate “head height” for extremely long, aerodynamic bullets. Head height is the distance from the mouth of the cartridge case to the tip of the loaded bullet. In order to make modern cartridges fit into, and feed from, rifle magazines with modern, high-BC bullets, adequate head height must be engineered into cartridge design.
Velocity with the 165-grain Nosler ABLR is advertised at 2,970 fps. That’s right in between the .270 Winchester and the 27 Nosler—and this cartridge fits into short-action rifles and plays nicer with the short barrels popular with mountain hunters.
In addition to the heavy-for-caliber Nosler ABLR, Browning introduced a new 175-grain .270 bullet in its Long Range Pro line. Boattailed and polymer-tipped, lead-cored but non-bonded, it’s a very accurate bullet and is an excellent heavyweight projectile. The BC, interestingly, is .617. That’s nearly identical to the 165-grain ABLR. Advertised muzzle velocity is 2,835 fps.
Let’s explore some comparisons, crunching numbers against traditional .270 Winchester loads, and then adding 7mm Rem. Mag. and 6.5 Creedmoor data to see how this new modern breed of .270s measures up.
For starters, we need to establish the practical capability of the classic .270 Winchester, with classic .270 bullets. Originally touted to push a 130-grain bullet at 3,140 fps, it was lightning-fast in the year 1925. Eventually, that zesty factory velocity underwent a practical adjustment to 3,060 fps, and 150-grain bullets at about 2,900 were added for use on bigger game such as elk. Within a few years, bullets ranging from 90 grains to 160 grains (a flatbase, roundnose version that would stabilize in 1:10-twist rifling) were available for the .270, offering broad-spectrum versatility.
The practical range is about 450 yards, although top riflemen occasionally reach out as far as 500 or 600 yards with the classic .270 Winchester.
Check out the comparison chart showcasing the performance of the 6.8 Western against the classic .270 Winchester and the 27 Nosler. To provide a benchmark of popular modern and classic competing rounds, I’ve added the 6.5 Creedmoor and the 7mm Rem. Mag., both with good, high-BC bullets. All numbers are crunched at standardized, sea-level atmospheric conditions. Wind deflection is inches in a 10-mph crosswind.
As you’ll see, in terms of wind drift, maintained energy and velocity, and bullet drop, the 6.8 Western trounces both the 6.5 Creedmoor and the classic .270 Winchester, even with the latter loaded with a good boattailed, polymer-tipped bullet.
However, when loaded with a 165-grain ABLR, the good old .270 Winchester holds its own much better.
Note also that the 6.8 Western runs neck and neck with the 7mm Rem. Mag. Wind drift at 1,000 yards is within a half-inch. The difference in bullet drop is less than four inches. Velocity and energy are comparable, too. All this from a short-action cartridge with a lot less recoil. Pretty cool.
And then there’s the 27 Nosler. In ballistic terms, it outperforms the 7mm Rem. Mag. in every department. Velocity, energy, bucking the wind—everything. Finding ammo is hard and barrel life is short, but if you want the ultimate, capable .270, this is it.
Before concluding, I must remind you that the classic .270 Winchester is not compatible with the superbly aerodynamic new projectiles unless you fit an aftermarket barrel with a fast 1:8 rifling twist rate. However, should you decide to go that route, there are gains. Cases are readily available and inexpensive. Your rifle will still shoot any and all standard .270 Win. ammo just fine, making for a really good fallback plan should your special high-BC handloads get lost during a flight to a hunt. The primary drawback is that to shoot those sleek, high-BC bullets that give the .270 new life, you’ll have to handload. There are no factory options available.
Whether you decide to breathe new life into an old .270 Winchester by giving it a new fast-twist barrel, opt for the efficient, impressive 6.8 Western short-action magnum, or jump in with both feet and get the daddy dragon of them all—the 27 Nosler—you’ll be better served by the .270 than ever before.
At long last, the .270 revival has begun
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