The .270: The Right Cartridge for All Seasons


By the time you read this I will be 70, and hopefully still hunting and loving every minute of it. Over the course of many decades I have had the opportunity to fire rifles chambered in a plethora of calibers—most were sensible game-stoppers, some made very little sense at all. Back in 1971, I chose the .270 Winchester to be my go-to hunting round and I have never been sorry.

First developed and announced in 1925, the gun gurus at Winchester debuted their new offering in the bolt-action Model 54 rifle. Flat shooting and powerful, it soon caught the attention of the hunting and shooting fraternity. At the time it offered better long-range potential than any other cartridge suited for big game. As a result, it has been chambered in the rifles of almost every manufacturer throughout the world.

My choice was the Model 70 Winchester topped by a K-4 Weaver telescopic sight. If this sounds familiar to some of the older shooters, this is that “Jack O’Connor special.”

Jack O’Conner was a famous gun writer, and used a similar rifle to take most mid-sized big-game animals. For the really big ones that could bite back he relied on the .375 Winchester—not a bad combination.

The .270’s 130-grain, spitzer bullet was considered by many to be adequate for most North American big game. But bullets were not constructed as well in those early days and the 130-grain bullet moving at 3,100 fps often blew up on impact and resulted in wounded game that ended up escaping.

To remedy the situation, Winchester brought out a 150-grain load moving along at a reduced speed of about 2,600 fps. When this did not garner as much attention among those who were looking for a good deer load, Winchester upped the ante to a 150-grain load of 2,800 fps, which proved to be a fine game-killer for most animals.

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Today there are so many fine .270 bullets on the market, both for handloaders as well as in the factory loads, that it would be difficult to find a “bad” loading. And Barnes, Nosler, Hornady and Remington’s iconic Core-Lockt offer outstanding performance at reasonable shooting distances.

Like so many other young readers of the day then, I was enamored with O’Connor’s adventures and made my purchase through the now-defunct Parker Brothers catalog. Since the 1968 gun control law was in effect I had it transshipped to Jaqua’s Fine Guns in Findlay, Ohio, filled out my form 4473 and went home with my shiny new rifle.

While I still am enamored with my .270, I recognize that there are other very good rifle/cartridge combinations for the Midwestern hunter. Who could dispute the legendary .35 Remington or the venerable .30-30 Winchester chambered in Marlin or Winchester lever-action rifles. In fact, if I were to choose the very best all-around cartridge for North American game I probably would have to say it is the .30-06, another old-timer. But I would place the .270 right next to it when loaded with tough bullets such as the 150-grain Nosler Partition or the 150-grain Barnes SXT. Both are no-nonsense rounds that offer deep penetration and controlled expansion.

Three years ago I dropped a black bear with one shot from a 150-grain Nosler, and just this year I took an antelope at 218 yards and a mule deer at 200 yards with Hornady 130-grain handloads. This is pretty impressive performance from a cartridge that is over 90 years old.

So, this is the testimony of an old hunter shooting an old cartridge in the middle of a “big-bang-boom” of the likes of which I have never seen. The 7mm STW, .300 Dakota, .26 Nosler, .6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum and the .30-.378 are all fine cartridges for their intended purposes. But I’ll stick with my .270. It’s just a lot friendlier on the shoulder and the pocket book.