MY FAVORITE (NEW) MAGNUM
The Marco Polo argali is a large-bodied Asian sheep, often taken at long range. Conventional wisdom suggests a fast .30, a good choice. On my second hunt for these sheep I took a Winchester Model 70 in .270 WSM, and it worked wonderfully.
Of them all, the .270 WSM is the one I like best.
I grew up in what we used to call the magnum craze, the late 1950s and on through the 60s when every new cartridge wore a belt and was called a “magnum.” Some were flops, but this era produced some of our most popular cartridges, including the 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. Starting in about 1998 I think we went into a second magnum craze. In a brief period we have seen: Four long Remington Ultra Mags and two short Remington Short Action Ultra Mags; four Winchester Short Magnums and three Winchester Super Short Magnums; and now two Ruger Compact Magnums. All of these are fat-cased unbelted cartridges. Weatherby brought out the huge-cased .30-.378 and .338-.378 Weatherby Magnum, both belted cartridges.
There are lot more new cartridges than that, many of them high-performance rounds that were not specifically labeled “magnum.” But you get the idea. This is a bewildering array of new cartridges for the market to digest. Actually, too many; there is no way that all of these cartridges can become viable commercial successes, and indeed several of these cartridges seem to already be falling by the wayside.
Which succeed and which fail is really up to you, and let’s hope the cream rises to the top. One thing I do believe: All of these new cartridges are extremely well designed, and all do pretty much what their manufacturers say they will do. I have worked with them all on the range, and have done at least a little hunting with most of them. None exactly break new ground in the performance department, although the long-cased RUMs and the two Weatherby magnums are pretty much the fastest in their class. Most of these new cartridges are about packaging. They duplicate the performance of cartridges we have had for many years, but with shorter, fatter case dimensions they can be housed in shorter, lighter, handier actions. Because of burning efficiencies achieved in the same shorter, fatter cases, generally they can strut their stuff from somewhat shorter barrels.
With modern bullets the .270WSM will perform at short range, but it’s real strong suit is big, open country where you don’t know what kind of a shot you might get. I rate it as one of the very best mountain cartridges.
Even for the most long-gone rifle nut it is impossible to love them all equally. Hell, it’s the same with all of our old favorites! Me, I’m a .270 nut and a .30-caliber freak. The 7mms are great, but they fall right in between—so I’ve never been a big 7mm fan. (One notable exception is the nostalgic, traditional, and oh-so-effective 7x57. So, with the new cartridges, I pretty much bypass the 7mms. If you like them, great, because there’s a lot to like—but this is my story, okay? All of the new .30s are great. I’ve used the 7mm RUM a lot, the .300 WSM quite a bit, and I think the new kid on the block, the .300 RCM is cool because it feeds so well. But I have fast .30s in .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 H&H, and .300 Weatherby Magnum, and I don’t see the new cartridges replacing these tried-and-true cartridges, at least not in my orisons.
In Mongolia in 2005 I hunted several areas ranging from mountains to desert to forest. I used the .270 WSM throughout, and it’s versatile as well as effective. This is a Siberian roebuck, taken in the forested hills of northern Mongolia.
All the accuracy you can get is useful in the plains and mountains, which is where I think the .270 WSM fits best. But there’s something else. While the trajectory gains are modest, never forget that energy goes up exponentially as velocity increases. So, just for sake of argument, let’s take Federal’s 140-grain Trophy Bonded Bearclaw load in each cartridge. In the .270 Winchester velocity is 2940 fps for 2685 foot-pounds of energy. The same bullet in the same company’s .270 WSM load has a muzzle velocity of 3200 fps, a fairly significant improvement of 260 fps. The energy for this load, at the muzzle, is 3185 foot-pounds, a nice, neat energy increase of 500 foot-pounds.
This, to me, is the most significant benefit of the .270 WSM over the good old .270. Increase in recoil is present but acceptable; the .270 WSM is still a mild, easy to shoot cartridge—but it hits noticeably harder. On a lot of animals it doesn’t matter, but on larger game it makes a difference, and I’ve seen it in the field. I’ve used both for elk, and there’s a difference. I personally wouldn’t take a .270 Winchester to hunt the big Asian argalis. Most hunters use fast .30s, a few use 7mms. The first time I hunted Marco Polo sheep I used my big, heavy, 8mm Remington Magnum. It worked great, but the second time I took a .270 WSM: More energy, slightly flatter trajectory, better wind resistance (because of reduced flight time). I used the .270 WSM in Mongolia for everything from small gazelle to big ibex. I took one to the Yukon for a Stone sheep, and with the sheep in the salt I hoped to use it on a grizzly. That didn’t happen, but, with a tough Barnes Triple Shock, I think I was ready.
All wild goats are notorious for their toughness as well as the rugged country they inhabit. I used an H-S Precision .270 WSM on this beautiful Altai ibex in Mongolia, and the cartridge was much tougher than he was.
I was shooting one just today, getting it ready for a fall hunt in Europe. If things go well it should account for a moose in Sweden, then an ibex and a chamois in Spain. Between the three you have large big game, small big game, tough big game, and shooting conditions that might vary from quite close to very far. There are many cartridges that could handle such a variety of situations. I’m taking a .270 WSM because it’s effective without a lot of recoil—and, perhaps most importantly, because I believe in it. It isn’t my place to say it’s the best of the new magnums—it may well not be. But it is my favorite!