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Cartridge Fight: .270 Win. vs .280 Rem.

by Brad Fitzpatrick   |  March 5th, 2013 17

270-Win-vs-280-RemI can’t say anything about the .270 Winchester that hasn’t already been written unless I lie. Introduced in 1925, the .270 is a necked-down .30-06 that holds .277 diameter bullets. The darling of the late Jack O’Connor, legions of fans are willing to go to fisticuffs to protect the good name of the .270.  Don’t believe me? Walk into the Seven Devils Saloon in Riggins, Idaho, and tell the patrons that the .270 isn’t worth much as a big game rifle. At the very least no one will buy you a beer.

Unlike the .270 Winchester, the .280 Remington has been struggling almost since its inception in 1957. It also utilizes the .30-06 as a parent case, and as it’s necked down to .284, its bullet is exactly .007 inch larger than the .270. But the latter enjoyed a 32-year head start, and the .280 suffered from some bad fortune—one being a name change from .280 to 7mm Express then back to .280, the other being the introduction of the instantly popular 7mm Remington Magnum.

The .280 has spent most of its life pinched between the popular .270 and the 7mm Remington Magnum, and it competes against several other commercial 7mms as well: the blazing fast 7mm STW and 7mm Remington Ultra Mag and the low-recoiling 7mm-08 chief among them.

With all this going against it you’d think the .280 would have shuffled into obscurity, but this hasn’t happened. Why? Well, let’s remember the .280 is very closely related to the .270, and the .270 formula works well.

Anything that you can do with a 130-grain .270 can be done with a 140-grain .280. The longer, heavier bullets available for the .280 give it a higher ballistic coefficient, and when loaded with 175-grain bullets the cartridge offers a sectional density of .310, meaning it will penetrate in heavy game—although this can be hampered by the .280’s velocity.

From a ballistics standpoint this gives the .280 a slight advantage over the .270. Which one you ultimately choose depends on whether you prefer the tried-and-true .270 or you root for the underdog .280.

Hits-and-misses

About Brad Fitzpatrick

Brad Fitzpatrick is a full-time outdoor writer who lives in southern Ohio with his wife Bethany. Over the course of his career Fitzpatrick has hunted across the United States as well as in Europe and Africa. He is also the author of the book "The Shooter's Bible Guide to Concealed Carry."

  • http://www.facebook.com/jerry.poparad Jerry Poparad

    For thin skinned big game I use the .270 and for the heavy big stuff I use the 7×57. The .280 is even better but some guns do not have a fast enough twist for the 175 grain bullets usually the 7×57 does. Another caliber that beats both is the 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser with the original fast twist military barrel as it out penetrates both the .270, 7×57 and the .280. Since most realistic hunting ranges are really well under 300 yards any of the above calibers will do. Any longer ranges and the average hunter simply is not skilled enough to have any business shooting any farther than 300 yards.

    Years ago Warren Page used the 7mm Mashburn Magnum with the 175 grain bullet with a .22 inch barrel and got an astonishing 3,000 fps which was an over load for this cartridge. At the same time period Jack O’Connor used the .270 with a 130 grain bullet at about 3,120 fps. Despite the lighter weight bullet of 130 grains he shot even grizzly bears with it. So much for the Elmer Keith big bore bull crap. Agnes Herbert used the 6.5 Mannlicher cartridge with the 160 grain bullet at about 2,300 fps and again killed big dangerous animals on 3 continents, Alaska, Africa and the Caucasus.

  • D. Griffith

    I own a 280, 270, and 6.5 swede. I can not discern any difference in lethality on South Carolina deer. I reloadhave and I shoot light for caliber Barnes TSXs in all three. I shoot 120 grain TSXs in the 280 at 3300 fps, 110 grain TSXs in the 270 at 3400 fps. Both kill like lightning. My opinion is that you can’t go wrong with either download south. A 160 TSX in a 280 at 2800 fps should handle everything but brown bear.

  • Eric

    I had a 270 Win, it was accurate, easy to find bullets and brass for, and could have taken anything I was good enough to hit with a well-placed shot. A gunsmith friend made a 280 Rem, basically as a custom rifle, and it is more accurate than the 270 was. I like the heavier, handloaded bullets from the 280 that go as fast as the lighter bullets from the 270. Either chambering is going to do well, provided you do your part.

  • Dale Bailey

    I think it is agood thing I read this after I renewed my subscription!

  • William Reiss

    Since the great ammo shortage, especially at Wally World, the only ammo I see available is .270 Win. and 20gage. I have a Remington model 750 auto loader using .270 Win.

    I believe I have made the right choice for hog hunting when a fellow rifle shooter said I better hit dead on with my Mini-14 or that hog will be really POed and will come to eat me. So I ought a Remington 750.

    • TC HUNTER

      IT HAS BEEN ACCURATELY REPORTED THAT WHEN JACK O’CONNOR PASSED AWAY HE HAD TWO WINCHESTER MODEL 70′S CHAMBERED IN 270. HE HAD THREE CUTOM 280 RIFLES AND WAS HAVING A THIRD ONE BUILT AT THE TIME OF HIS PASSING.

  • steve0321

    The ballistic differences are insignificant. So let’s settle this with one question: Can you buy the ammo at any Wal-mart? :)

    • el_guero2000

      NOPE!

      Obama stimulated the economy, and wal mart is sold out of ammo.

      • steve0321

        ha ha! So true! Guess I should have asked if you could find the ammo at walmart when there is not a Marxist tool running the country!

  • HankBiner

    Clearly, the 280 has the edge – but not by much – due to the numerous 160 grain & 175 grain 7 MM bullets commonly available.

    A very boring subject which, while it may have been interesting in Jack O’Connor’s day, it’s just plain boring today because it’s been done to death.

    Whenever I see this pseudo-debate recycled for one more kick at the can, I surmise it’s the mark of a lazy gun writer who gets paid by the word, not the content. You wouldn’t catch Ross Seyfried (in his day) beating this banal topic to death.

  • Beerad/Mobile

    I have owned a M70 in .270 Win for many years and it is one of the most accurate rifles in my battery. When properly handloaded with Hornady SST 130s over IMR 4350, and shot from a solid bench, it has no trouble with 1/2 inch groups at 100 yds, consistently. Out to 200 yds it will still keep groups tight. We have used it many times for deer and predator hunting and it is a deadly and accurate combination out to as far as we can shoot. The downside of a .280 is in its obscurity, meaning you better handload or you will be looking for another cailber to shoot soon (maybe a .270?!?). The name change to 7MM Express hurt the 280 even more as it easily confused newbies with the 7mm Mag.
    I like the .270 better and it is time proven over and over. So why mess around with perfection in a mid-caliber cartridge? Try a .270 and I bet you will stay with it.

  • Gun Slinger

    Uh….the .280 Remington has a “Slight Ballistic Edge Over The .280″? Over which .280? Sure not the 7MM Rem. Mag., 7MM S.T.W., or the 7MM R.U.M. Even over the 7MM-08 is questionable. Was this another misprint? Again, do you NOT proof read your articles Mr. Fitzpatrick?
    Get 50 – 60 miles from the closest city/small town, where you may find an old country store, and be in need of ammo for your rifle, and see what ammo that old county store will most likely have in stock, .270 Win. or .280 Rem.? You will most likely find they only have .270 Win., 30-06 Springfield, 30-30 Win., .308 Win., 7MM Rem. Mag., & .300 Win. Mag. ammo on their shelf. Wonder why? Maybe because those are the hunting calibers most common men/hunters use?

  • Lorenzo

    Bottom line, if you don’t handload and you live in America, get the .270. If you handload and want better ballistics and one of the best bullet selections in the world, get the .280. The only reason the .270 is so popular, is historical marketing hype and the fact it does the job well. The .270 is a peculiarly American cartridge, the rest of the world shoots 7X64, the .280′s ballistic twin.

  • Wesley1979

    .280 AI anyone? Better than both… can of worms…

  • bobwhitebarry

    Several years back a good friend gave me a butter smooth pre-64 Winchester barreled action. It was chambered for 30-06, but the barrel looked like it had been used to fire ammo with corrosive primers and never cleaned. I decided to use the action for a custom deer rifle.

    I wanted to stay in the 270-280 (7mm) range and I am not a fan of belted magnums, so the 7mm mag was out. I have also had great luck with the Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets, and that was a bullet I intended to use. The tip of the 270 Ballistic Tip is yellow while the 7mm is red. I don’t care for the yellow, so the red tip was my deciding factor that swayed me towards the 280.

    It is now my very favorite gun, period. It can consistently put 7 shots in one ragged hole at 100 yards. I developed a hand load that is also (quite a bit) faster than factory loads.

    If I were to do it all over again today, I could take care of the yellow tip problem by using the Hornady InterBond bullets in 270 or 280. I agree that the 280 may be tougher to find if you left your ammo home. But after weighing out the pros and cons, I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute about going the 280 route again. It has been a great choice for me.

  • Hump

    Anything that you can do with a 130-grain .270 can be done with a 140-grain .280

    A note about Jack O’Conner: True ‘HIS’ rifle was chambered in .270 Win and he made it famous through his worldly experiences and his writings. But before he died he wrote in a letter to Zach Taylor, I believe, that if he were to build and customize a rifle at that late moment in his life he would chamber it in .280 Remington and not the .270 Win. Enough said about this subject. I rest my case and that case would be the .280 Rem….ALWAYS.

  • Gene Mcdonald

    How is the fact that “Everybody has one” considered a “miss” for the .270.? Seems to me that it would be more of a plus than a minus.

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