Behind the Bullet: 350 Legend

posted on November 20, 2023
BTB 350 Legend Lead

When game laws change or are modified to restrict a size or type of ammunition, it won’t be long until a product is made available to optimize the situation. Steel shot replaced lead shot for the waterfowlers almost 40 years ago now, but folks went to work to come up with a non-toxic shot material which outperformed steel. With several Midwest states allowing the use of straight-walled centerfire rifle cartridges—with a minimum caliber and limited cartridge case length—in lieu of the shotgun slugs that deer hunters struggled with for so many decades, many hunters reached for the .45-70 Government, .444 Marlin, .450 Bushmaster and other cartridges of similar ilk.

Winchester—seeing a definite opportunity to serve this situation with a lower-recoiling cartridge which would still check all the boxes—announced the release of their 350 Legend in 2019, to fill the void. The case straight-walled case measures 1.71 inches in length (many states specify a case no longer than 1.80 inches), and shares the same case head diameter as the .223 Remington, at 0.378 inches, making it equally at home in a bolt-action rifle as it is in an AR-platform autoloader.

Winchester 350 Legend 150 grain Deer Season XP ammunition.

Those same areas require a bullet diameter of no less than .357 inches, and that’s where things can get a bit tricky for the 350 Legend, and by all accounts—and by my own caliper—the bullet diameter measures 0.355 inches, the same diameter as the 9mm Luger. The loophole here is that the SAAMI specifications for the bullet gives a variance of +/- 0.003 inches, and many of the states accept that in order to validate the cartridge for use, but reloaders should be aware of the situation, as it’s been proven that the .358-inch projectiles won’t even chamber in some rifles.

My first encounter with the 350 Legend was at the 2019 SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range, where despite being chambered in a bolt rifle on the lighter side of the spectrum, the recoil was surprisingly mild. Some have compared the recoil to that of a .243 Winchester, and that’s not a terrible assessment; suffice it to say that it isn’t harsh at all.

If having other ammunition companies pick up your cartridge is a sign of success, Winchester/Browning has a winner here with the 350 Legend. Beside the proprietary choices, the cartridge has been including in the product lines of Hornady, Barnes and Federal Premium. Bullet weights for the hunting ammunition run between 145 and 170 grains. With Browning offering a 124-grain FMJ load (suitable for varmints/predators I suppose), and several companies offering a heavier bullet, weighing between 250 and 255 grains in the subsonic lines. Among the hunting ammo, you’ll see a pretty wide variety of bullets available, ranging from Winchester’s Power-Point, Deer Season XP and Power Max Bonded, to the Barnes TSX, Hornady’s FTX and InterLock, to Federal’s Power-Shok, FUSION and even a Swift Scirocco II load.

350 Legend ammunition cartridge opened to expose interior.

Looking at the trajectory of the 350 Legend, you have a true 200-yard rifle on your hands. Should you choose to zero your rifle at 100 yards, you’ll be looking at a drop of right about eight inches at 200 yards. If you want to go long, and zero the 350 Legend at 200 yards, you’re looking at a mod-range rise of somewhere between four and five inches, which might be a bit extreme to some shooters, but can be managed. I personally prefer a 150-yard zero for the 350 Legend, putting it 1.8 inches high at 100 yards, and about 4½ inches low at 200. If you subscribe to the mythical 1,000 ft.-lbs. of energy to properly kill a deer, most loads will still attain that figure near the 200 yard, with some dipping slightly below that figure. Deer don’t read energy figures anyhow, and I’d wager the 350 Legend will work just fine.

Outside of 200 yards, the 350 Legend starts to drop off pretty quickly, and while it is definitely an improvement over most slug guns, I still feel the hunter should stay inside of that mark. The majority of the hunting bullets are still on the light side of things for a 9mm or .35-caliber rifle, and they won’t retain the energy, nor resist the effects of wind deflection anywhere as well as the heavier varieties of bullets in that diameter. In a 10 mph crosswind, the 350 Legend will be pushed just over eight inches at 200 yards, and things get worse from there. My point here? I don’t feel the 350 Legend is a valid 300-yard deer rifle.

Three 350 Legend ammunition cartridges side-by-side showing head stamp.

The difference in recoil between the 350 Legend, and say, a .45-70 Government is enough to warrant the cartridge’s existence, and makes a much better choice for a young deer hunter, or for anyone who is recoil-sensitive. Based on the number of brands and varying loads available for the 350 Legend, there is a considerable following for the cartridge, and while the majority of the fans might reside on the areas outlined above, I wouldn’t have any issues taking the 350 Legend into the deer woods of New York. It’s a sound design, and while I might personally prefer a touch more bullet weight, it seems to be getting the job done just fine. 

Looking for previous installments of our "Behind the Bullet" series? We've got you covered.
.303 British
26 Nosler
6mm Remington
.270 Winchester Short Magnum
360 Buckhammer
30 Nosler
7-30 Waters
.370 Sako Magnum
.17 HMR
6.5 Weatherby RPM
.327 Federal Magnum
.450 Bushmaster
7mm PRC
.275 Rigby
.340 Weatherby Magnum
.416 Ruger
27 Nosler
.257 Roberts
7mm Weatherby Magnum
 .300 PRC
.350 Rigby Magnum
.450 Nitro Express
.17 Hornet
7mm STW
6.8 Western
.375 Ruger
.223 Remington
• 6.5x55 Swedish
.416 Remington Magnum
.300 Winchester Short Magnum
28 Nosler
6.5 PRC
.22 WMR
.458 Winchester Magnum
.22 Hornet
.280 Ackley Improved
.240 Weatherby Magnum
.458 Lott
• .264 Winchester Magnum
• .348 Winchester
33 Nosler
• .260 Remington
• .30-30 Winchester
• .416 Rigby
 .358 Norma Magnum
• .22 LR
• 7mm-08 Remington
• 8mm Remington Magnum
• .338 Federal
• .224 Valkyrie
• .338-06 A-Square
• 9.3x62mm Mauser
• .257 Weatherby Magnum
• .45-70 Government
• .300 H&H Magnum
• .25-06 Remington 
• .30-06 Springfield
• 6.5 Creedmoor
• .300 Remington Ultra Magnum
• 7mm Remington Magnum
• .470 Nitro Express
• .280 Remington
• .300 Winchester Magnum
• .270 Winchester
• .222 Remington
• .45 ACP
• .404 Jeffery
• .44 Remington Magnum 
• .41 Remington Magnum
• .243 Winchester
• .338 Winchester Magnum
• .357 S&W Magnum
• 6.5-284 Norma
• 8x57 Mauser
• .38 Smith & Wesson Special
• 7x57mm Mauser
• 9mm Luger
• .35 Whelen
• .454 Casull
• .375 H&H Magnum
• .45 Colt
• .22-250 Remington
• 10mm Auto
• .308 Winchester


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