350 – Legend in the Making

Ultra modern deer harvesting setup

Hey, bear with me a minute. Yes, it’s another AR review. And yes, it’s another CMMG, which you already know I think highly of. If you have watched recent reviews on the channel, I’ve been highly impressed with others from the line up. This new test model features all the same great whiz bangs as the MK47 we covered just a few months back, or the Mk17 and Mk10 we covered recently. Let’s get this out of the way- CMMG built oversized charging handle, available in a variety of colors at no extra cost, excellent build quality, fastback buttstock, the works. Cool?

Absolutely monstrous round for a small frame AR.

Good. Because the actual feature this week isn’t the gun, it’s the caliber. Some of you guys are also tired of new calibers, which I kinda get. It’s a stupid problem to have if you grew up shooting in say, the 90’s. We were so busy fighting magazine bans and bayonet lug grabbers that we were happy to get 77 Grain 5.56 in an AR platform. And maybe a round handguard DMPS large frame in 308, that worked most of the time. (Fudd rant over- we also walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways.) But the last 10 years especially have been whiz-bang caliber after whiz-bang caliber, many of which die on the vine due to lack of enthusiasm. But this one, in my opinion, is absolutely worthy of your consideration.

5.56, 300 AAC, and 350 Legend.

Now 350 Legend is a niche caliber, no doubt about that. Winchester developed it and introduced it specifically as a high-performance round for places that a straight wall cartridge is required for hunting. Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa come to mind immediately, and you may think that is a very limited segment of the population to warrant an entirely new cartridge. If that is the case, you have obviously never spent a fall in the woods around those parts. The number of deer hunters just in those three states could easily support this caliber alone.

Same case diameter.

For its required design, the 350 Legend is an impressive beast. If we ignore the straight wall needs, as in we live in a state that lets us use big boy rifles, the most ready comparison is to 300 AAC/Blackout. Which is a fair match up, considering how popular 300 Blackout has become in the AR platform. And apples to apples, the 350 Legend absolutely trounces Blackout in most metrics.

Next to 556 with bolt for reference.

We cannot and should not ignore the reason 300 Blackout was developed. If we are being frank, it was ground up designed to shoot human beings at across the room distances, preferably from a short barrel and suppressed M-4 rifle. A task it performs quite well. But it does have limitations when we try and shoehorn it into a hunting role. For one, as a CQB weapon, it is acceptable to need a double or triple tap to do the job. (Or 7-15 bullets if you are using 5.56, and that is actual military doctrine.) With animals, due to both ethics and distance, we are really looking for both; one shot and quick.

Scoped up and ready to go.

And that is the rub. 300 AAC is notoriously underpowered for animals, which also are generally tougher than humans. Any hog hunter out there will tell you that Blackout is not the magic, and I’ve personally had one walk-off a 95-grain solid copper projectile at supersonic speeds. While bullet selection is improving, most of what we had with 300 AAC “hunting” rounds were 308 projectiles, shoved into a shorter case. Those 308 rounds were not designed to expand at the relatively paltry speed of Blackout, often even at the muzzle. Winchester has fixed this with the 350 Legend, from day one designing its projectiles to expand at realistic caliber velocity.

Meopta duplex reticle.

350 Legend also pushes a bigger bullet, both in diameter and mass. Diameter does matter, as anyone that has switched from 30 caliber to 6.5 for hunting will tell you. Once again, a case of what works on humans at distance, may not be right for deer. For comparison sake, a common 300 AAC factory load is a 125-grain bullet at 2,215 feet per second. 350 Legend? Well, our Hornady Interlock American Whitetail pushes a 170-grain bullet at 2200 FPS. For the same size gun, that is really hard not to prefer.

1/4 MOA adjustments

How about subsonic, if that is your preferred type of round? Already limited by velocity, does the 350 have an answer for Blackout? Even with this being the preferred bullet for many of us with Blackout, 350 Legend has an answer. In 300 AAC, the heaviest sub I have ever seen in 230 grain, with 220 being the normal heavy, and 190/200 grain being the most common. Even for a best in class, 350 Legend easily trumps it. Winchester offers a 255 grain open tip sub from day one of the caliber.

Hornady still crushing it at the range.

How about compared to the other monstrous AR-15 sized cartridges? Well, for kinetic energy, no point in dancing around that 458 SOCOM will absolutely blow the doors off 350 Legend. 458 SOCOM launches a 250-grain bullet at 2,150 fps, which dwarfs the Legend. And while it isn’t a straight wall cartridge, it is available for all the rest of us. But you are going to pay for it in recoil. Which is absolutely a consideration.

Assisted by Hornady 4DOF.

350 Legend first came to my attention as a round many of my friends had picked for young hunters, kids getting into the action. And the Legend does shine here. It packs maybe a bit more recoil than 7.62×39, but absolutely less than 6.8 SPC. Being crammed in a semi auto gas gun, it dampens the recoil even more so than a bolt action. Couple that with an adjustable buttstock, and you have a ready made youth sized gun. Enough power to knock down a deer inside 300 yards, but not so much to cause them to start flinching.

To put our trial gun (and caliber) to the test, we paired it with a Meopta Optika5. This is the first Meopta scope I have tried, and I left impressed. The glass is incredibly clear, which we should expect being made in the Czech Republic. For reference, that is also where Night Force spotting scopes were made not that many years ago. Czech’s know glass, without question. Our tester was a 3-15 power, suitable for the ranges at which 350 Legend is effective. Which is to say, generally about 300 yards, plus or minus. It had a simple duplex reticle that I would not normally recommend for tactical shooters, but perfect for inexperienced hunters. Nothing but a crosshair, which is also preferred by some seasoned hunters.

Accuracy test set up.

Accuracy at 100 yards for zero was roughly 1 inch, for a 3 round group. Considering the ammo crunch we are all in, which affects even those of us on the typewriter monkey side, I’m comfortable with that. I consider a 3 round group fair for a hunting gun, though we usually do 5 round groups on tactical or precision guns. 1 MOA is perfectly acceptable for most hunting, and if it isn’t, you shouldn’t be using a 350 Legend anyway.

Shooting at a distance with a limited range cartridge feels a little silly in the open desert, as I am sure you can tell from the video. 300 yards looks close enough to spit at in my home environment, but it is still great for many places. All of you that hunt in the woods or the swampy south know just how difficult it can be to find a shot farther than that. And considering all the potential deflecting branches and brush between you and the target, that 300 can be a very long way indeed.

With my Hornady 4DOF Kestrel telling me we had 20 inches of drop, we started blasting at a B/C zone at a little past 300. And not only was the 350 Legend easy to keep on target, but it still hits like a sledgehammer at that range.

In the CMMG AR platform, this one is a force to be reckoned with. If you are ready to step away from the 30-30 lever action or get a younger shooter into the mix, this is an absolutely fantastic package. 350 Legend is here to stay, and my prediction is it will be harvesting bucks for a good long time to come.

For more information visit Winchester website.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Jslim October 31, 2020, 7:52 pm

    Also the legend is much cheaper to shoot than the 300bo and wont see any blown up 556 barrels on line from it.

  • jack October 25, 2020, 10:46 am

    7-15 rounds to drop somebody???? Hmmmm, I did it with 1-2 in Vietnam, I guess I must be “old school”

  • Don October 24, 2020, 2:37 pm

    “Winchester offers a 255 grain open tip sub from day one of the caliber.”
    Well it might been shown in the catalog on day one but Winchester didn’t start shipping until over a year after the announcement.

  • Fal Phil October 23, 2020, 9:47 am

    I read this and it makes me want to chamber an AR10 in 35 Remington.

  • Chris October 21, 2020, 6:39 am

    I’m confused, did you really say it requires 7-15 rounds of 5.56 to put someone down? And that is military doctrine? And I read this right after I read your article on urban defense where you stated you have shot people with both 7.62 and 5.56, and they both work. 7-15 rounds doesn’t sound like it works. Help me understand this…

  • triggerpull October 19, 2020, 10:29 am

    Another victim to the “legend” cool aide. : ) It’s nothing but a 9mm Luger on a flimsy case at the end of the day. But if you click your heels and wish it to be .357–well, OK then!

  • Barry October 19, 2020, 9:30 am

    Disappointed you compared the Socom to the 350. Why not the 450 Bushy. Have been using one for a number of years now in Michigan out of a custom TC Encore. Wow what a great round for hunting. It even beats the Socom ballistics. Plus the .452 pistol bullets expand fantastic compared to the heavier built .458 bullets of the Socom. I hunted for several years with a 45-70 but at velocities around 1800-2000 the bullets were just poking holes not expanding much at all in deer sized game.
    Thanks

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