The .300 Winchester Magnum
Date: Jun 01 2007
While there are larger and newer .300 "magnums," the .300 Winchester Magnum still tends to dominate this class of cartridge. There are several reasons why.
The .300 Winchester appeared in 1963, at the tail end of a roughly 20-year period when a bunch of belted magnums appeared. The first were the Weatherby cartridges, starting during late World War II with the .270 Weatherby Magnum; after the mid-1950s most were cartridges introduced by Winchester and Remington to compete with the Weatherbys.
Unlike the .300 Weatherby Magnum, however, the .300 Winchester was designed to the same overall length as the .30- 06. Thus it could fit in many previously existing actions, including the 98 Mauser and 1903 Springfield. Back then this was a smart move, as military surplus actions were cheap and plentiful. In the Springfield only a rechambering and some work on the bolt face were required to convert a plain .30-06 to an exciting .300 magnum.
These days it's fashionable to criticize the .300 Winchester Magnum for its short neck and "useless" belt, but neither really affects the performance of the cartridge. It is well-known for accuracy, and aside from long-range hunting, it is frequently used for long-range target shooting and military and police work.
The .300 Winchester, in fact, became the standard .300 magnum around the world within a decade of its introduction, and still maintains that title. The .300 WSM (Winchester Short Magnum) may have been more popular for a few years shortly after its introduction in 2000, but the .300 Winchester still tops the list in places like Alaska, western Canada and Africa.
In handloads, the .300 Winchester is capable of noticeably more velocity than the .300 WSM. It is easy to get 3,100+ fps with a 180-grain bullet in a 24- inch barrel, a load that does just about anything wanted of a big .300. Any of today's premium 180-grain bullets will penetrate sufficiently on any non-dangerous game on earth, as well as some dangerous game, and shoot flat enough for any hunting.
Despite this, hunters after a supremely flat trajectory, sometimes useful on smaller big game such as pronghorns or Coues deer, often choose a 150- or even 130-grain bullet, started at 3,400 to 3,500 fps. This does flatten the trajectory, but even the toughest bullets in this weight class destroy massive amounts of meat.
Some hunters choose bullets in the 165-grain class for deer-sized game and 200-grain bullets for larger game. I often do this myself, partly because 165s shoot very flat but don't bloodshoot as much meat as lighter bullets, and 200s penetrate even on really big animals such as Alaskan moose and African eland. But in reality most of us are just as well served by a 180-grain bullet for most purposes, whether antelope or moose.