.270 vs .270 WSM | Field & Stream

The Gun Nuts

Ranting and Ravings from Phil Bourjaily and David E. Petzal

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.270 vs .270 WSM

This question came from R. Peterson, and was intended for my new column, but I couldn't resist, so here goes:

Is there any reason, Mr. Peterson asks, to choose a standard .270 over a .270 WSM? To which I reply, there are a number of them. I've used the standard .270 since 1973, and shot and hunted with it about as much as I have with anything. I owned a .270 WSM for 10 years, but I used it a lot.

What you get with the .270 WSM is about 150-200 fps more than you get with the standard cartridge. The velocity increase comes via a powder capacity that is 5 to 6 grains greater. In the older cartridge, you can reach 2,950 fps with a 150-grain bullet, which I consider the most useful weight, while in the .270 WSM you can reach 3,050. I found that the lighter bullet weights give a greater increase in velocities. With 130-grain bullets you can get 3,250 fps, which is really moving.

However, this comes at a price.

- A standard .270 does just fine with a 22-inch barrel, while the WSM requires 24 inches.

- Barrel life in the WSM is shorter, although this is not much of a factor in a hunting rifle.

- The WSM kicks harder and makes more noise.

- The .270 WSM, like all short magnums, often presents feeding problems, while the standard .270 slithers into the chamber like a rattler into a prairie dog hole. (WSSMs do not feed at all that I've been able to see.)

- WSM ammo is more expensive than standard .270, and is not as readily available.

- Rifles chambered for the WSM are not as easy to re-sell as standard .270s.

- The velocity increase of the .270 WSM does not kill anything any deader than the slower round; it does, however create a great mess if you use it at less than 250 yards where the bullets have a chance to slow down.

- The .270 WSM does make hitting easier at long range, but you will do as well or better with a good rangefinder and a range-compensating reticle teamed with a standard .270.

I like the .270 WSM. It did very well for me, and is, I believe, the best of the short magnums. But I wouldn't choose it over the standard .270 which is one of the great hunting rounds of all time, all things considered.