View Full Version : A New .270. Jim Matthews' Straight Shots Column

02-19-2002, 09:15 PM
STRAIGHT SHOTS -- Jim Matthews


A New .270

### ### LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- What would Jack O’Conner think?

### ### Cactus Jack, as he was known, was the gun editor for Outdoor Life for years and single-handedly popularized the classic .270 Winchester cartridge. Introduced in 1925, the round became one of the most popular hunting rounds ever thanks to O’Conner.

### ### Unlike other calibers, there was never a competitor for the .270 Winchester. There are probably 25 relatively popular cartridges that shoot the 30 caliber bullets, from the .30-30 Winchester to the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. There are a lot of factory and wildcat 7mm rounds, and more .22s than you can wiggle a ground squirrel’s tail at. But outside of the .270 Weatherby introduced 1943 (and, ironically, perhaps one of Roy Weatherby’s least successful magnum rounds) there have been no other factory cartridges that shot 27 caliber bullets. There have not even been very many wildcat cartridges in this caliber.

### ### That changed this year.

### ### At the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show which was held in Las Vegas last week, Winchester announced what might be considered the successor to the round made famous by O’Conner -- the .270 Winchester Short Magnum.

### ### Since the show I have been pondering the significance of why there have been so few 27 calibers in the past and why now seemed like the right time to introduce one. After deep thought on the subject, I think it has to do with time and technology. For years, even after his death, the O’Conner legacy guided many hunters in the selection of their rifles. For many of us, the .270 was our first big game rifle, and even today it is one of the most popular cartridges on the market. It’s ballistics are 21st century, and even Weatherby’s .270 didn’t seem to offer much of a gain in performance over O’Conner’s favorite, especially when you added in the negatives. For a lot of extra recoil and roar you gained only 150 to 300 feet per second -- even less, if barrel lengths were the same. You burned a lot of extra powder to get that improvement.

### ### It almost seemed like no one else wanted to challenge the legacy of O’Conner or bring out a round that would compete with those ballistics or history. The fact that Remington never has come out with a round shooting a .277 diameter bullets speaks volumes to that point. For over 100 years Remington and Winchester have brought out nearly identical rounds on the same calibers, varying the case design slightly, so shooters would have choose between one label or the other when buying a gun and ammunition. Yet, Remington never touched the .270. The .280 Remington, while a different caliber, was its attempt to challenge, and as good as the .280 might be, it has always been way back in the .270’s shadow. That was because of O’Conner.

### ### But now, there is a whole generation of shooters who might know and respect O’Conner, but don’t revere his name like a lot of older guys. There have also been some significant technological advancements in cartridge design that mean the .270 of O’Conner’s era can be surpassed in a shorter, more efficient cases. I’d bet .270 sales are off from just 10 years ago as new guys are wowed by the newer rounds.

### ### While you have heard me rant about the Remington Ultra Mags being just hard-recoiling, overbore, poorly conceptualized, Weatherby upgrades, the short magnums are sensible, efficient cartridges. Whether we’re talking about the Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) series or Remington Ultra Mag Short Action (SA) series, they burn powder more efficiently and deliver higher velocities than standard magnum rounds with less powder, less recoil, and better accuracy. The fact that they can be run through short actions is also a huge advantage.

### ### Would Jack O’Conner have approved? We’ll never know that, but the fact that it was Winchester that has brought out a successor to its own fabled .270 says a lot to me. The ballistics are .270 Weatherby-like, but the recoil and muzzle blast are far less. The samples I shot were more like O’Conner’s .270 than the Weatherby one. And they were accurate.

### ### I have been waiting to replace my .270 lost in a Montana river during a canoe mishap, but I think now I’ll replace it with the new Winchester Short Mag version -- opting for the shorter bolt throw, the more efficient case, and the slightly flatter trajectory. I’ll still think of it as O’Conner’s caliber, regardless of the case that shoots the bullet. And Winchester has just about assured that no one will ever think of any other company’s name when the magic “.270” is mentioned.