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Best 270 winchester vs 30-06

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The .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield are both great cartridges, but have different strengths and weaknesses. So, the question central to the 270 vs 30-06 debate remains: which one should you be hunting with?

Most hunters and shooters probably agree that the .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield are both quite versatile and effective cartridges. After all, there is a reason why they are the two most popular centerfire rifle cartridges used by hunters in the United States.

While there is an overlap in their capabilities, the two cartridges are best suited to different tasks and represent two different ways of thinking. This is part of the reason why each cartridge has such a dedicated and loyal following and why the 270 vs 30-06 debate continues to rage on after so many years.

In today’s post, I’m going to discuss the merits of the 270 vs 30-06 and provide some insight into which cartridge you should be using in various situations.

Before we get started, I have two administrative notes:

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270 winchester vs 30-06: Similarities

First, lets start with the areas where the .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield are similar.

Both the .270 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield are descended from the .30-03 Springfield cartridge, which was itself heavily influenced by the 7mm Mauser. Both the .270 and .30-06 are great cartridges for hunting medium to large sized game all over the world ranging from roe deer to moose under the right circumstances. They also have great reputations for accuracy and performance at extended range.

They are also very popular cartridges among hunters and shooters all over the world. Indeed, those two cartridges are among the most commonly used centerfire cartridges in the United States.

For that reason, just about every gun manufacturer produces rifles chambered in .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield. The same goes for ammunition, so users of these cartridges have plenty of choices when it comes to good quality guns and ammo.

So, we’ve covered how the .270 and .30-06 are similar, but how are they different?

270 winchester vs 30-06: Cartridge Sizes

The U.S. Army designed the .30-06 Springfield for use in the bolt action 1903 Springfield rifle in 1906 as an improvement on the .30-03 Springfield cartridge. The Army was just coming off the heels of a sobering lesson regarding the effectiveness of the 7mm Mauser in the hands of Spanish troops in Cuba in 1898 and wanted a cartridge and rifle that could compete with the revolutionary new Mauser.

Using smokeless powder and a new 150gr pointed bullet fired at a muzzle velocity of 2,700fps, the .30-06 Springfield was a significant improvement over previous cartridges the military used during that era like the .30-40 Krag and the .45-70 Government.

It didn’t take long for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge to catch on with the hunting and shooting communities and it was soon an extremely popular cartridge in the United States and in North America as a whole.

As good as the .30-06 Springfield was, not everyone was completely satisfied with it and wildcatters quickly started modifying the cartridge for more specialized tasks.

Around the same time gun designers were necking up the .30-06 to develop the .35 Whelen cartridge, engineers at Winchester decided to go the opposite route and neck down the .30-06 to use .277″ instead of .308″ bullets. The resulting .270 Winchester cartridge (also known as the .270 Win for short) was formally released in 1925 for the Winchester Model 54 rifle.

The original .270 Winchester load shot a 130 grain bullet at a blazing fast velocity (for 1925 anyway) of 3,140 feet per second (2,846 ft-lbs of energy).

Though the .270 Winchester was not an immediate success, American hunters appreciated the flat shooting characteristics of the round and the fact that it was so effective on thin skinned game. The cartridge gradually became more and more popular, which was helped by Jack O’Connor and his famous affinity for the cartridge that he expressed in countless Outdoor Life articles over the years.

That’s not to say that the cartridge only became the incredibly popular because of O’Connor. While O’Connor did indeed love the .270 Winchester and used it extensively on hunts all over the world, it was far from the only cartridge he used. The .270 Winchester was also a good enough cartridge and filled a big enough niche that it probably would have been successful even without any help from Jack O’Connor.

The .270 Winchester is something of an oddity when it comes to bullet diameter though. Unlike all the other popular 7mm cartridges like the 7mm Mauser, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum and the .280 Remington that use .284″ bullets, the .270 Winchester uses .277″ bullets.

It’s unclear exactly why Winchester decided to go with .277″ instead of .284″ bullets with the .270 Winchester. One theory is they choose that particular bullet size based on the obscure 6.8x57mm Chinese Mauser cartridge. It’s also possible they wanted to create a distinctly American bullet size and avoid the 6.5mm and 7mm bullets popular in Europe by building a new brand new bullet diameter 10% smaller than the one used in the .30-06 (.9 multiplied by .308 is .277).

Regardless of their reasons, the design team at Winchester went with a .277″ bullet diameter and the rest is history. Interestingly enough, while the .270 Winchester turned out to be a smashing commercial success for the company, .277″ bullets never really caught on. The 270 Winchester Short Magnum (270 WSM) and the .270 Weatherby Magnum are the only other two mass produced cartridges that utilize bullets of that size.

You can see the heritage of the .270 and .30-06 cartridges on display in the photos below.

The .270 Winchester has a slightly longer case length (2.54″ vs 2.494″), but the two cartridges are identical up to the shoulder.

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