The .30-caliber portion of hunting calibers has got to be the most competitive, jam packed, tightly contested and without a doubt highly popular range of calibers for hunters and they have a plethora of choices available to them.
Two calibers demanding to be heard in a crowded room and time after time seem to rise to the occasion with outstanding performance. So, it only seemed fitting to pit them against one another and compare their ballistics.
The .30 Nosler vs .300 PRC Ballistics
Allow me to quote the opening lines from Nosler on their .30 cartridge and from Hornady on .300 PRC to really highlight just how competitive the .30 caliber category truly is.
Hornady on their website opens with the following, “Tested and selected by the US Department of Defense for its extended long range sniping program, the 300 PRC is what all 30 caliber Magnum cartridges want to be… but can’t!” now that’s a bold statement.
Well, Nosler can follow that up with something similar, “Over the last hundred years, the 30-caliber category has gotten crowded. With the best Magnum performance in a standard action, the 30 Nosler was introduced as a more evolved cartridge.”
Battle lines have officially been drawn between these two, and now it is time to see how they truly perform when they go to head-to-head.
Sticking with Hornady for a minute, lets briefly look at the velocity readings from three of their product lines, the ELD Match 225-grain, the CX Outfitter 190-grain and the ELD-X Precision Hunter 212-grain.
All three come flying out the barrel at a blistering pace of 2,810 fps, 3,000 fps and 2,860 fps respectively.
That are some impressive speeds from Hornady, but not quick enough to outpace Nosler. The Nosler HPBT Custom Competition 190-grain match bullet outpaces its close competitor the Hornady CX Outfitter 190-grain bullet by 50fps, with a muzzle velocity of 3,050 fps.
The Nosler Spitzer AccuBond 210-grain Long Range bullet, albeit a few grains lighter than the similar weighted Hornady bullets, reads a velocity of 3,000 fps on the muzzle.
What’s equally impressive from all the bullets though is their maintenance of the high velocity out to distances of 500-yards, with each one of them coming in well over 2,100 feet per second.
Nosler pips it to the finish however, as its velocity readings are consistently higher than Hornady’s.
The .30 Nosler and .300 PRC both class themselves as long range cartridges, capable of hitting targets effectively at distance. Hence, we need to look at what energy they are producing out to 500-yards to get a true reflection of their capabilities. We know they have the speed to back them up, now it’s time to look at the punching power.
All cartridges for Hornady and Nosler have energy figures of +3,700 ft-lbs. with a special mention of the Nosler 210-grain Spitzer AccuBond producing 4,196 ft-lbs.
What is interesting is that the .300 PRC Hornady 225-grain ELD Match bullet maintains a solid 2,528 ft-lbs on 500-yards from a 24” barrel. Impressive figures that could very well topple the toughest of elk at that distance.
Given the .30 Nosler 190-grain HPBT Custom Competition Match bullet has an almost identical muzzle energy reading, a difference of only 5 ft-lbs, as the Hornady 225-grain ELD Match bullet, the difference out to 500-yards is that the Nosler produces 466 ft-lbs less than the Hornady.
The Hornady bullets although a touch slower than the Nosler, seem to hold their energy a little better and carry that power out to distance.
Looking at a zero on 200-yards, all cartridges perform relatively the same with a drop on 300-yards of -6.1 to -6.9”.
Out to 500-yards the drop is significantly higher which is to be expected. The .30 Nosler Spitzer AccuBond 210-grain Long Range bullet held the tightest drop of all five bullets with -34.6” and the largest drop coming from the .300 PRC 212-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter and the .300 PRC 225-grain ELD Match bullet at -38.4”.
These trajectory results geared for a 200-yard zero may not reflect the true precision of these cartridges, but what needs to be looked at in conjunction with the distance is their relevant velocity and energy readings which are all high end with suitable performance for long range hunting.
The actual feel of recoil is subjective from shooter to shooter, and those who shoot on a consistent basis all agree that over time the actual feel of a rifle’s recoil is less noticeable.
Free recoil energy is a useful way to express a rifle’s recoil and use it as a means of comparison. Free recoil energy takes into consideration a variety of factors such as bullet weight, muzzle velocity, powder load, rifle weight and recoil velocity.
Hence, it can vary from rifle to rifle within a certain caliber, however the difference in results will not be substantial.
Using the Free Recoil Energy of a .300 Win Mag which is 29.99 ft-lbs., as a benchmark we can then compare that to the .300 PRC and .30 Nosler.
The .300 PRC has a Free Recoil Energy of 32.42 ft-lbs. and the .30 Nosler is 31.58 ft-lbs. Naturally one would presume any cartridge producing a higher velocity would have a higher recoil, yet this does not seem to be the case with the .300 PRC and .30 Nosler.
Although the .30 Nosler produces higher energy readings, it comes in a with a “softer” recoil than the .300 PRC.
Is it soft enough to base your purchasing decision on, or can the difference really be felt? Probably not, but it does back up the statement on Nosler’s website of producing the best long range cartridge with less recoil.
If you want to put “Precision” in the header of your name or post on your website that you have a “more evolved cartridge” then it needs to be backed up with accuracy.
Performance is one thing and accuracy another, yet they are equally important. Performance wise we have evidence that both the .30 Nosler and the .300 PRC are quality cartridges.
An accuracy test of the .30 Nosler firing a 210-grain AccuBond Long Range bullet, was published on the NRA’s American Rifleman website.
The protocol followed was five, five-shot groups at 100 yards. All groupings came within Nosler’s one m.o.a accuracy guarantee.
Similar testing of the .300 PRC was carried out by Tom Beckstrand of gunsandammo.com website. Firing the Hornady 225-grain ELD Match bullet, average groupings came in below one m.o.a at .57” with the best grouping achieving an impressive .37” grouping.
In a way, it was always going to be a no brainer that both cartridges were going to be deadly accurate at 100-yards. The competition shooters may want to look deeper into the finer inches but for any hunter, a rifle shooting sub-m.o.a is ideal for the job at hand.
What we have here is another prime example of just how crowded the .30 caliber department is and yet it is filled with absolute quality.
The .30 Nosler or the .300 PRC could easily be pitched against a .300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua, .308 Winchester or the .30-06 Springfield and still the basics of ballistics readings and accuracy groups would be close.
Choosing the correct .30 caliber in the end must come down to the shooter’s preferences and own set of rules. Is it affordable? Is the ammunition readily available? How does it feel? How will the make-up of the rifle hold up to my hunting conditions?
It is these types of questions that ultimately separate these fine calibers into which is best.
Is there a final decision in this article between the .30 Nosler vs .300 PRC? Nope, not at all and not even going to try. Both are pure quality, both have impressive ballistics, both perform extremely well in accuracy testing, there is no denying that. The only way to decide is through personal preference.