Skip to main content

Reloading the .270 Winchester

The .270 Winchester is the first big-game cartridge the author ever handloaded for is still a great choice.

Reloading the .270 Winchester
The .270 Winchester may be nearly 100 years old, but with the great availability of modern powders and bullets, it’s still a very good big-game round.

As I get older, even a little disruption in my routine can be significant. When the clock sprang forward recently from standard to daylight savings time, I laid awake thinking about just how old I am. Somehow, rambling thoughts morphed into realizing the .270 Winchester has been around a quarter-century longer than I have! My musings meandered randomly.

My first gun was a Daisy lever-action BB rifle. I later sold greeting cards to earn a mail-order, Marlin bolt-action, single-shot .410. I recall shooting Dad’s Ruger .22 Auto (with his supervision, of course!) and wishing I was old enough to handle his .45 ACP pistol. When the anticipated occasion finally came, it wasn’t much fun because it kicked pretty hard.

My dad owned several firearms, but he was not a hunter like his older brother. When I visited my grandparents, my cousin Steve and I would hunt squirrels in the nearby woods. The 3-inch shells with 3/4 ounce of #6 shot would do the job if I got close enough, but my Marlin couldn’t reach up high in the tree like his 12-gauge Remington 1100. I eventually convinced my folks I needed a bigger shotgun and received a 12-gauge Winchester 1400 for my birthday.

When I was 20 years old (50 years ago!), I received a .270 Win. Model 70 from my parents for Christmas. I’d long since learned who Santa Claus was, so Dad let me decide which deer rifle I wanted. I read Outdoor Life regularly and knew I couldn’t go wrong choosing Jack O’Connor’s favorite cartridge and rifle. And not too long ago I acquired a vintage Winchester Model 54 chambered for the classic .270 Win. cartridge.


Winchester had manufactured thousands of Model 1917 Enfields during World War I, so by 1925 the company had developed the bolt-action Model 54 chambered for a then-new round: the .270 Win. It was modeled after the classic Mauser-style 1903 Springfield but used the original, longer .30-03 Springfield as the parent case. As I recall, the ballistics touted a 130-grain bullet at 3,150 fps! Offering a flat trajectory and relatively mild recoil, the .270 Win. nearly matched the already-popular .30-06’s ballistic performance.


Even so, the .270’s early acceptance was less than stellar. O’Connor purchased one of the first Model 54s. Col. Townsend Whelen always championed the .30-06, but he later acknowledged the .270 as another favorite if loaded with 150-grain bullets. The .270 also had outspoken detractors like Elmer Keith. He fired only larger calibers for any big-game animal.

My 1932-vintage Model 54 has survived all these years totally intact. It has a semi-Buckhorn rear sight and is also drilled and tapped for receiver sights. My original post-’64 Model 70 was traded away many years ago, but I acquired a Kimber 8400 a few years ago. I thought comparing their performance with modern factory ammo and selected handloads might be an interesting endeavor.

Reloading Tips

Because the .270 case is tall and tapered with a shallow 17.5-degree shoulder and an extra-long neck, it’s easy to reload. I apply Redding’s Imperial wax lube sparingly with my fingertips and always lube the inside of the case neck with a bristle brush. If indicated after full-length sizing, I trim each case to the specified minimum case length.

As you can see in the chart, propellants with a relatively slower burn rate are best suited for the .270 Win. O’Connor’s favorite load used Hodgdon’s original surplus 4831 powder, and let me assure you, it’s too hot to reprint here because I’ve tried it with two different lots of old powder from the 1950s and have blown primers to prove it. Just use current load recommendations shown in Hodgdon’s most recent reloading manual and do not confuse IMR 4831 propellant with H4831. They are not interchangeable.


Another word of caution is warranted if you use a mechanical powder measure to throw the powder charges. When loading close to the maximum recommended powder charge, always weigh each one if you’re not absolutely confident the propellant along with your technique and equipment are in synch and dispensing accurate charges. The .270 typically calls for charge weights ranging from 55 to 60 grains, so my target is +/- 0.2 grain. Taking a bit more time at the loading bench can avoid a problem later at the range.

Most current .270 Win. advertised factory ballistics are about 100 fps less than the initial claim nearly a century ago. A significant exception is Hornady’s Superformance ammo. It will safely duplicate and often exceed the .270’s original ballistics. Several component suppliers also provide load recipes that can safely achieve the .270’s original ballistic performance with carefully assembled handloads. As you can see in the accompanying chart, both of my rifles validated these claims. The .270 Win. may be nearly one hundred years old, but it can still deliver outstanding performance.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The Glock 21

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Considering how popular the .270 Winchester has become, it's a great mystery why more .270 caliber (6.8mm) rifle cartridges  have not been introduced.5 Great .270 Rifle Cartridges Ammo

5 Great .270 Rifle Cartridges

Layne Simpson - May 28, 2019

Considering how popular the .270 Winchester has become, it's a great mystery why more .270...

Improved bullet ballistic coefficients lead to greater performance and accuracy downrange without upping blast and recoil. Here's why.Improved Ballistics a Key to Accurate Long-Range Shooting How-To

Improved Ballistics a Key to Accurate Long-Range Shooting

Rick Jamison

Improved bullet ballistic coefficients lead to greater performance and accuracy downrange...

Shooting a .22 LR rifle at 300 yards is just as challenging as shooting a .300 Win. Mag. rifle at 1,000 yards.Ruger Custom Shop 10/22 Competition Rifle at 300 Yards Rifles

Ruger Custom Shop 10/22 Competition Rifle at 300 Yards

Layne Simpson - November 13, 2020

Shooting a .22 LR rifle at 300 yards is just as challenging as shooting a .300 Win. Mag. rifle...

A great pump-action shotgun design has several characteristics: reliable, smooth and easy to function, easy to shoot well, adaptable to vastly different configurations and uses, and it's classy.6 Best Classic Pump-Action Shotguns Ever Made Shotguns

6 Best Classic Pump-Action Shotguns Ever Made

Joseph von Benedikt - January 21, 2021

A great pump-action shotgun design has several characteristics: reliable, smooth and easy to...

See More Trending Articles

More Reloading

The Winchester WinClean 244 is a nice addition to Winchester's handgun powders.Winchester WinClean 244 Ball Powder Reloading

Winchester WinClean 244 Ball Powder

Brad Miller, PhD - February 14, 2020

The Winchester WinClean 244 is a nice addition to Winchester's handgun powders.

Preparing cases for handloading is time-consuming, but it can result in better-performing ammunition.Precision Reloading Guide Part 2: Case Preparation Reloading

Precision Reloading Guide Part 2: Case Preparation

Layne Simpson - October 20, 2020

Preparing cases for handloading is time-consuming, but it can result in better-performing...

Handgun shotshells are more complicated than one might think. Developing them brought many challenges, and handloading them brings even more.Developing Effective Handgun Shotshells Reloading

Developing Effective Handgun Shotshells

Allan Jones - July 15, 2020

Handgun shotshells are more complicated than one might think. Developing them brought many...

The .350 Legend case is a straight-wall case with a slightly tapered body so that it will reliably feed in a bolt-action or semiautomatic rifle. It's also rimless and headspaces on the case mouth. According to its SAAMI specs, the maximum average pressure (MAP) is 55,000 psi, so unlike similarly shaped pistol cases operating at pressures up to 35,000 psi, .350 Legend cases are more likely to stretch when fired and resized.Reloading the .350 Legend Reloading

Reloading the .350 Legend

Lane Pearce - June 09, 2020

The .350 Legend case is a straight-wall case with a slightly tapered body so that it will...

See More Reloading

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now