A Universal Magnum? The Story of the Amazingly Capable .300 Win. Mag.

The storied .300 Winchester Magnum, which can fit into a .30-’06-sized action, is exceedingly popular due to its combination of common availability and impressive performance. Shown is a Browning Ammunition cartridge.

It was hot, brain-boiling hot, as South Africa can be in the first week of November. Professional Hunter Nick Prinsloo and I were tracking a herd of kudu, which contained the bull I’d dreamed of for years. Three times we’d figured they were long gone, only to find them again, but this time the bull was at the rear, running hell-bent-for-leather. “Just shoot him!” Prinsloo exclaimed. The Legendary Arms Works rifle can quickly to shoulder, and when the crosshairs met his neck on the downward part of his gait, I broke the trigger. Standing over the bull, I couldn’t help but reflect on the chosen cartridge: the .300 Winchester Magnum.

I have taken a few different heavy rifles on safari, but my light rifle has always been a .300 Winchester. I’ve taken it all over North America as well, using it for deer, bears, antelope, caribou and more. Why? What is it about the .300 Winnie that makes it such a universally applicable cartridge? Allow me to pontificate.

The author with a 55-inch kudu bull, cleanly taken in South Africa with a .300 Winchester Magnum.

The Story

First, some history. Released in 1963, the .300 Winchester Magnum was fourth in a series of shortened, belted magnums based on the .375 H&H case. Instead of maintaining the 2.500” case length, Winchester extended the case to 2.620”, and pushed the shoulder forward to give more room, leaving a neck length of just 0.264”. This design deviated from other belted .300 magnums that were based on the previous Winchester offerings, such as the .30-338 wildcat and the .308 Norma Magnum. Winchester’s new creation pushed a 180-grain bullet to 2,960 fps, giving a very respectable trajectory, and a significant velocity increase in comparison to the previously accepted .300 Magnum: the .300 Holland & Holland. The .300 Winchester fits nicely in a .30-’06 Springfield-length action, and delivers the goods on many different game species.

Being able to fit the new cartridge in a standard action, and backed by the Winchester production and marketing machine, the .300 Winchester pushed the older and more obscure belted magnums out of the limelight, and pushed and shoved its way to the top of the heap.

Norma’s fantastic 180-grain Oryx load; perhaps the most underrated bullet available today.

ABM’s excellent target ammunition, loaded with the 230-grain Berger match Hybrid; it’s a perfect long range target choice.

There is something about the phrase “inherently accurate” that bothers me, and I don’t quite use it often – as I’ve seen just about any cartridge deliver fine accuracy in the right circumstances – but I think the .300 Winchester Magnum falls underneath that heading. Or maybe it’s better said that I’ve seen more accurate .300 Winchester Magnums than maybe any other cartridge in its class. There are so many great factory loads available that just about any desire can be fulfilled. If you’re into the target game – at just about any range – there is a .300 Winchester load for you. If you want an all-around hunting rifle that will readily handle the average guy’s hunting situations (it’s not legal for dangerous game, save leopard, in most countries, and may be on the light side for the huge brown bears), there are fantastic factory loads available to the hunter. And that simple fact – that the cartridge is fully capable of filling both roles equally – is a huge part of the allure of the .300 Winchester. In fact, the .300 Winchester Magnum has developed a dedicated following in the tactical shooting world as well due to its downrange capabilities.

Federal Premium loads many different bullets for the .300 Winchester Magnum, but the author’s favorites are the 200-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and 180-grain Trophy Copper.

Does it kick? Well, sure. Most of the speedier cartridges do, but I’ve never found the .300 Winchester’s recoil to be excessive, or even unpleasant when compared to the .300 Weatherby or .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. Is it in its own class? Does it do something that other cartridges can’t do? Well, no. The .30 Nosler – a fine design in its own right – and the aforementioned .300 H&H are both superb cartridges for the hunter but suffer from a lack of widely available ammunition. I like them both, but not unlike the .30-’06, the popularity of the .300 Winchester has made it readily available, even at most Mom & Pop gun shops these days. It is very popular in Canada (at least where I’ve hunted), and has gained a ton of ground as an African light rifle.

Hands-On

Let’s take a look at some of the factory loads, to get a feel for the versatility. Federal Premium alone loads at least six different bullets in their .300 Winchester ammunition line, including the Nosler Partition, Sierra MatchKing, Fusion, Trophy Bonded Tip, Trophy Copper and Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. This covers the gamut from distant steel to deer to elk, moose and bear. Winchester offers the AccuBond and Ballistic SilverTip; Hornady loads their InterLock, GMX monometal, SST, InterBond (in the Superformance line) and the ELD-X (in the Precision Hunter line). Barnes TSX bullets are loaded in their Vor-Tx series, and Norma Precision offers their Oryx (perhaps the most underrated bullet out there), Kalahari and TipStrike. Browning has a pair of .300 Winchester loads: the BXR Deer ammo (designed for rapid expansion and energy transfer) and the BXC line (a bonded core, controlled expansion bullet for larger, tougher game animals). ABM (Applied Ballistic Munitions) offers the lineup of Berger target and hunting bullets, including the heavyweight 230-grain pills that hold their energy so well downrange. That inherent accuracy? In the four different .300 Winchesters I’ve owned, I’ve only had trouble with one, and it was a bedding problem. All of them would provide acceptable hunting accuracy and plenty of horsepower.

For the multitude of different hunting scenarios, the .300 Winchester can effectively use bullets between 125 and 230 grains, though the most popular bullet weights are between 150 and 200 grains. My favorite factory loads usually run between the 180-grain and 200-grain bullets, especially the sleek, high Ballistic Coefficient designs.

There are also plenty of component bullets available to the handloader; my own favorites are the 180-grain Swift Scirocco and the 150-grain Cutting Edge Extended Range Raptor (which accounted for that kudu bull). The beauty of the .300 Winchester is that is truly a one-gun-does-all kind of a cartridge. From Dall sheep high up on a cliff, to a huge whitetail in Saskatchewan, to pronghorn on the prairie; from moose in the willow thickets to elk in the quakies to kudu and eland in the mopane, the .300 Winchester will get the job done. If you enjoy the long-range target game, the heavier 190-grain up to the 240-grain bullets will resist wind deflection very well, as well as offer a trajectory fully capable of making truly long range shots.

The .300 Winchester Magnum has a reputation for fine accuracy, as this 200-yard group demonstrates.

Conclusion

It may not be as easy on the shoulder as the .308 or .30-’06, but once a shooter becomes comfortable with the cartridge, the sky’s the limit. The .300 Winchester Magnum is just one of those rounds where everything seems to have come together right to make for a great option for today’s shooter. Try it out for yourself. I am sure you will not be disappointed.

To purchase a .300 Win. Mag. rifle on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=.300%20Win%20Mag.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • T April 24, 2017, 5:28 pm

    This is.the cal a zoo keeps “Just in case”. Must be good.

  • Dexter Winslett April 24, 2017, 10:57 am

    I have one in a Model 70, also in a Ruger number one. I prefer the round over any other.

  • Kb31416 April 24, 2017, 10:40 am

    I have a 300 WM rifle, but I really don’t use it. I can kill any creature that walks the earth any place I can walk to with my 30-06, so I have really never found the need for the extra HP from what is certainly a great cartridge.
    A load with 230 gr SMKs would make a great 1000 yard sniper round, but I don’t think that my skill at wind reading would enable a high hit probability at that range. So I’ll just keep my potent safe queen for a rainy day that is unlikely to arrive in my lifetime (and thank God for that).

  • Craig Wiley April 24, 2017, 7:24 am

    Excellent Article. I shoot a Sauer 101XT in 300 WM that has minimal recoil, am told due to factory stock contour and design. Sweet Package-

  • Jared April 24, 2017, 7:01 am

    I’ve got one in a Ruger m77 and I’ve found it to be a great rifle for all my needs. I load 110 gr hp at 3700 fps up to 180 gr at 3000 fps and haven’t been disappointed yet. It’s taken the place of my 22-250 ,223,and 308. Like the author said if you will learn how to handle the recoil it is very versatile.

  • Albert taylor April 21, 2017, 10:59 pm

    Very good read I’m having a 300 wm built as we speak it sounds like I made a good choice ,

    • KEN April 24, 2017, 10:22 am

      Save time and money and buy a savage 110ba/le or a 110 stealth. I have both and they are crazy accurate. The le has a 1:10 and the stealth has a 1:9.4or .3 for my heavier loads. I have never owned a Savage before with hsm 210 bergers are outstanding.

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