The .270 is among the most popular calibers for deer hunting. The longer shots required in hunting whitetail and mule deer in the vast open spaces of the Western United States are ideal locations for .270 rifles.
The .270 has a rival in the .308. In this story, we’ll concentrate on the characteristics of the .270 that make it such a great choice for deer hunting, but we’ll give a few comments about the competition as well.
.270 Ammo History
To fully understand the impact of the .270 on the deer hunting scene, we need to take a quick look at its history.
Spanish troops in the Spanish American War of 1898 were armed with the 7x57mm Mauser rifle, a bolt-action weapon that fired smokeless cartridges. It was vastly superior to the Springfield trapdoor rifles used by many volunteer American units, and a better weapon than the .45-70 Krag-Jorgenson used in some American Army units.
After the war, the US Army took note of the improved Spanish weapons and released the 30-06 Springfield bolt-action rifle in 1903.
It was very popular for hunters as well.
Beginning in the 1920s Winchester Arms began experimenting with necking down the 30-06 cartridge. The idea was to create a faster, flatter trajectory caliber modeled on the 30-06 shell casing.
In 1925, Winchester released the Model 54 in .277 caliber. It quickly became known as the .270 and the name has stuck for almost a century.
The original Model 54 fired a 130-grain bullet at 3,140 fps.
.270 vs .308
At the same time, Winchester was developing the .270, they were also working on the .308. The primary difference is the shorter .308 casing, designed specifically for short-action rifles.
The .270 has a 2.54-inch case length, a half-inch longer than the .308 but when both calibers are loaded with a 150-grain bullet, the ballistics were nearly identical.
For deer hunting, the .270 is an excellent choice. The ballistics mentioned above create a flat trajectory at 200 yards.
That means when your rifle is sighted in correctly, it will shoot exactly on target, with no drop at 200 yards.
Since most deer are taken at 200 yards or less, this makes the .270 an incredibly accurate rifle for taking deer at moderate distances.
I won a .270 caliber Remington 700 BDL in a fundraising raffle one year. It was a beautiful rifle with a dark walnut stock, a perfect diagonal groove pattern on the fore stock, and equipped with a high quality 6×12 zoom scope.
I hunted with a .308 Remington 788 for many years before winning the .270.
I sighted in the .270 at the range and found it a much easier gun to shoot than the “kick like a mule”.308 I was familiar with. The smooth action and light recoil made it a great target range rifle.
Many sportsmen experience “recoil flinch” with a heavy hitter like my .308, resulting in inaccurate settings when you take the rifle to the field.
How far will a .270 kill a deer?
The recommended foot-pounds of energy to humanly kill a deer with a heart shot is 1000. The .270 loaded with a 130-grain bullet delivers 1,171 foot-pounds of energy at 500 yards. Loaded with a 150-grain bullet, the metrics are slightly higher at 1,241 foot-pounds.
I hunted pronghorn, and mule deer with the .270 over a couple of seasons in central Wyoming. The rifle performed beautifully.
I took a pronghorn on a 280 yard shot across open sagebrush in the Gas Hills with a single shot. I set the crosshairs on the front shoulder blade of the buck. The 130-grain bullet hit the heart perfectly, dropping the goat in its tracks.
I use 150-grain bullets with deer. The two deer weren’t nearly as far. The first was a light 3×4 buck that appeared from the fir trees as we hiked a short trail above Union Pass west of Dubois.
I took the 80-yard shot from a standing position. The little buck dropped almost instantly as I pulled the trigger, a testament to the muzzle velocity of the .270.
The buck the following year was above Lander, Wyoming on the Loop Road that leads up the backside of South Pass.
I walked off the road, used a US Forest Service sign as a rest, and took the buck on the far right. The 130-yard shot ended my hunting season with a single pull.
Flat trajectory/bullet drop
Something to remember when considering shots of this distance with any caliber, and specifically the .270 is how far the bullet drops over distance.
A .270 sighted it on the range at 200 yards has a completely flat trajectory, no drop at all. At shorter distances, it will shoot a little high. Loaded with a 130-grain bullet it will shot 1.4 inches high at 100 yards. The 150-grain bullet shoots slightly higher at 1.8 inches at 100 yards.
When moving beyond the 200-yard range, the .270 begins to drop. It doesn’t drop as dramatically as a .308, but it does drop significantly.
At 300 yards the drop is 6.5 inches, at 400 19.1 inches, and at the maximum suggested range of 500 yards, the 130 grain drops 38.9 inches, and the 150-grain bullet 44.2 inches.
Winchester .270 Ballistic Chart
Best .270 Ammo
Top Five .270 ammunition by consumer ratings:
- Remington Core-Lokt 130 grain soft lead
- Federal Premium .270 Winchester 150 grain Nosler
- Nosler Trophy Grade 130 grain
- Barnes VOR-TX .270 Winchester 130 grain – Polymer Tip Boat Tail
- Hornaday Precision Hunter .270 Winchester 145 grain
Time tested is the phrase to remember with this ammunition. Winchester designed the .270, but Remington took the corner on the market long ago.
When the only option was loading your own for many hunters, Remington filled the niche with the Core-Lokt series.
Consistently rated the best .270 ammunition on the market, this is the one to try if you’re hunting with a .270 for the first time.
Consistency is the hallmark of Federal ammunition. You can count on identical production with each box you purchase. The high quality of the ammunition speaks for itself.
Federal is a leader in all calibers of ammunition and their .270 is considered one of the best on the market.
A more expensive ammunition than the other four market leaders, the Nosler Trophy prides itself on the quality of the cartridge cases.
If you reload, this is the ammunition to purchase. The Nosler Trophy series is produced with high quality brass that can be reloaded many times without a problem.
If you’re purchasing high-velocity ammunition and don’t load your own, Nosler is a good place to find quality ammunition.
The polymer tip on this soft-lead bullet is the selling point for the Barnes VOR-TX. They market this ammunition as a three-phase bullet. The first being the point of contact, the second the wound cavity created, and third the stopping power that rarely leaves an exit wound.
Reviewers stated that this round is the best one for someone who wants to have a cape or taxidermy mount made of a trophy animal. The fast expansion created with the polymer tip prevents unnecessary damage to the hide of the harvested game animal.
Hornaday Precision Hunter
Hornaday takes pride in the ability of their ammunition to retain integrity in flight, no ablating as the bullet flies through the atmosphere. The Hornaday design allows the tip of the bullet to drive back into the body, creating a unique mushrooming effect for maximum killing power.
Hornaday is a leader in bullet design and renowned in all calibers, but their .270 is considered one of their best.
Considerations when choosing .270 Ammo
The first thing to remember when hunting deer with a .270 is the flat trajectory. If you’re hunting in the heavy woods of the American south and the Northeast it might not be as major a factor as hunting on the open plains of the Midwest or in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
The .270 is an outstanding distance round. It has stopping power with even large deer to over a quarter of a mile. The ammunition available in this caliber is among the best produced.
The .270, along with .308 and the 30-06 are the top three calibers in deer harvesting each hunting season.