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There’s no real definition as to what “magnum” means when it comes to rifle cartridges, but as far as .30-calibers are concerned, “magnum” generally means a cartridge that’s more powerful than the 30-06 Springfield. That means there are 11 popular .30-caliber magnum cartridges to choose from. The most popular is the 300 Winchester Magnum. It’s one of the best long-range hunting cartridges and a great rifle cartridge for elk hunting. But a lot of shooters are becoming interested in the 300 PRC and are wondering if it might be a better option. Before we get into the differences between the 300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag, let’s look at how they stack up against the other nine .30-caliber magnums, in terms of their best-recognized muzzle velocities with a 200-grain bullet.
300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag: Table of Contents
- Velocity Comparison of .30-caliber Magnum Cartridges with a 200-grain bullet
- The Most Important Considerations When Deciding Between a 300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag
- 300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag: Which Way to Go?
Velocity Comparison of .30-caliber Magnum Cartridges with a 200-grain bullet
- 30-06 Springfield 2688
- 300 Ruger Compact Magnum 2744
- 300 Holland & Holland Mangum 2848
- 308 Norma Magnum 2850
- 300 Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum 2869
- 300 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) 2942
- 300 Winchester Mangum 2989
- 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge (PRC) 3039
- 300 Weatherby Magnum 3041
- 30 Nosler 3080
- 30-378 Weatherby Magnum 3140
- 300 Remington Ultra Magnum 3185
Note: Listed muzzle velocities were the fastest listed for a 200-grain bullet in the Nosler #9 Reloading Guide. The velocity for the 300 PRC was the fastest velocity listed for a 200-grain bullet on the Hodgdon website. Actual muzzle velocities will vary from rifle to rifle.
With all these offerings shooters can have a magnum 30 that’s short and fat, long and slender, or somewhere in between. Ballistically, the 300 Winchester Magnum and the 300 PRC are very similar and just slightly north of average, so, if you’re struggling with which one to get, what things should you take into consideration?
The Most Important Considerations When Deciding Between a 300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag
Rifle and Ammo Cost/Availability
I believe the first thing to consider is whether you’re going to handload for your new magnum. Currently, a major online retailer—MidwayUSA—lists 80 factory loads for the 300 Winchester Magnum and only six for the 300 PRC. That’s a tremendous difference and matters when you’re trying to find the load your rifle likes. On the other hand, if you’re going to reload your own ammunition it’s not that big of a deal until you’re on an elk hunt in New Mexico and the airline loses your handloaded ammunition. You’ll also find that 300 PRC brass will cost about 3% to 4% more than 300 Winchester Magnum brass.
Because SAAMI specifies a rifling twist rate of 1 in 8.5, the 300 PRC can handle—better stabilize—bullets that are longer and have a higher ballistic coefficient. This is where the 300 PRC has a distinct advantage over the 300 Winchester Magnum, which has a SAAMI specified rifling twist rate of 1 in 10. It’s something to keep in mind, if you purchase factory 300 Winchester Magnum ammunition, it will be designed to work with a 1 in 10 twist, and if you handload for a factory 300 Winchester Magnum rifle, you’ll have to use bullets that are designed to work with a 1 in 10 twist.
However, if you have a custom rifle built for either cartridge, you can specify the rifling twist rate you want, and then you can handload whatever bullet you want. This sort of levels the playing field, but because of the 300 PRC’s larger powder capacity it will be able to push those heavier, higher BC bullets a little bit faster. This means at extreme distance you’ll see less drop and less wind drift, and both are important when shooting into the next zip code.
300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag for Big Game Hunting
If you’re looking for a magnum 30 for big game hunting, there are some other things you need to consider. Those ultra-high BC bullets that the 300 PRC can handle are mostly match or target bullets. With a good big game bullet, like the mono-metal 190-grain Hornady CX, you can expect a muzzle velocity of about 3000 fps out of the 300 PRC and about 2900 fps out of a 300 Winchester Magnum. At practical shooting distances, I don’t know how you’d tell any difference in terminal performance between the two. However, if you want to reach way the hell out there to whack your mule deer or elk, the 300 PRC is going to have a slight advantage.
If you strive for a bullet impact velocity of 2000 fps, the 300 PRC will take you to about 650 yards with the 190 CX bullet. Out of the 300 Winchester Magnum, the same bullet will drop to a speed of 2000 fps at around 600 yards, so the 300 PRC gives you about 50 yards more reach. The reason the 2000 fps impact velocity is important is because that’s the velocity mono-metal bullets like the Hornady CX need to show measurable bullet upset. Similarly, this 50- to 75-yard velocity advantage the 300 PRC has vs the 300 Win Mag will apply to almost any good big game bullet.
Cartridge/Action Length and Recoil
The 300 Winchester Magnum cartridge is loaded to a SAAMI-specified maximum overall length of 3.34 inches. This means it will fit in standard-length rifle actions—the same size rifle action that works with the 30-06 Springfield. The 300 PRC on the other hand is loaded to a specified maximum overall length of 3.7 inches. It is a long cartridge, and it requires a longer action and magazine.
When it comes to rifle cartridges, everything is a tradeoff. You can design a cartridge that’s more powerful and that will work with heavier, longer, and higher BC bullets, but with that will come extra recoil. Out of a rifle of the same weight, the 300 PRC will recoil with around 6% to 7% more force. However, because the 300 PRC needs a longer action, a 300 PRC rifle will likely weigh a bit more and the recoil impulse will most likely be very similar.
300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag: Which Way to Go?
When the totality of the differences is considered, I’m of the opinion that if big game hunting is your primary consideration, the 300 Winchester Magnum is a better choice. Even if you’re a big game hunter that wants to dabble in long range precision – target – shooting, I still think the 300 Winchester Magnum is the better option. At sensible shooting distances the 300 Winchester Magnum will kill big game just as well as the 300 PRC. And, for recreational long range shooting, there’s not enough difference to justify being regulated to a cartridge for which there is limited ammunition options available. Also, there are more 300 Winchester Magnum rifles, in more different styles to choose from.
Read Next: 30-06 vs 300 Winchester Magnum
However, if you want a rifle that will allow you to perform as well as possible at extreme long range, when ringing steel or punching paper like you might do in competition, then the 300 PRC is one of the best rifles you can choose. Partly because it has a slight ballistic advantage over the 300 Winchester Magnum, partly because if you’re serious about long-range shooting, you’ll probably be handloading and the limited factory ammunition issue will not matter. And finally, it’s also partly because many of the factory-made 300 PRC rifles are ideally configured for precision long-range shooting.
300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag: Frequently Asked Questions
Is a 300 PRC bigger than a 300 Win Mag?
The 300 PRC is longer than the 300 Win Mag. It’s also slightly faster and shoots longer bullets with higher ballistic coefficients. Both cartridges shoot 30-caliber bullets.
What is 300 PRC good for?
The 300 PRC is best suited to long-range shooting. Many shooters like it for long-range shooting competitions as the cartridge is capable of shooting long, high b.c. bullets.
What is the best 300 caliber cartridge?
It really depends on what your goals are. The 300 Win Mag is well suited to big game hunting around the world. It is easy to find factory ammo for it, and it’s relatively cost-effective. Other .30-caliber cartridges will give slight advantages with maybe a smaller overall length or the ability to shoot longer bullets, but the 300 Win Mag is a good balance of everything.