Behind the Bullet: 400 Legend

by
posted on February 26, 2024
BTB 400 Legend Lead

Give an American a new set of laws, and before the ice melts in your drink, someone will have an idea to work around it. With the numerous and varied laws regarding what makes a legal deer cartridge in many of the Midwestern states, a good number of cartridges have been relied upon or developed to meet as many of the criteria as possible. Among the popular choices were the 450 Bushmaster, the .45-70 Government, the .444 Marlin and the .38-55 Winchester; more recently the 350 Legend and 360 Buckhammer were specifically developed to adhere to as many of those parameters as possible.

Released at the 2023 SHOT Show, Winchester/Browning’s 400 Legend took their previous 350 Legend concept further, giving the shooting public a straight-walled cartridge, fully suitable for both a bolt-action rifle as well as the AR platform, conforming to the collective statutes set forth by a number of those Midwestern states.

Winchester Power Point 400 Legend ammunition.

The 400 Legend uses a bullet of nominal diameter (technically 0.4005 inches), at 215 grains, leaving the muzzle at 2250 fps. It has the common case head diameter of 0.422 inches—the same as the 6.8 SPC and the old and now obsolete 30 Remington—and a case length of 1.65 inches, again to adhere to a case-length limit imposed by several states. The case is straight-walled, with minimal body taper, and headspaces off the case mouth. The 400 Legend is a rebated rim cartridge, in that the rim is smaller in diameter than the base of the case. It has a maximum overall length of 2.26 inches, the same as the 6.8 SPC and the 223 Remington, so the 400 Legend will sit comfortably in an AR platform, as well as work well with the numerous bolt-action designs.

The 350 Legend, which has caught on very well, should be “enough gun” for the deer hunter, but there is always that faction of the shooting community that desires for a bit more horsepower and/or bullet weight. The 400 Legend betters the muzzle velocity of the 350 Legend 180-grain load by 150 fps, and generates 650 ft.-lbs. more than the smaller cartridge does at the muzzle. The 400 will hold the mythical 1,000 ft.-lbs. of energy to about 230 yards. With a 150-yard zero, it will only rise 1.8 inches at 100 yards, dropping 4.9 inches at 200 yards, 13.4 inches at 250 yards and 26.4 inches at 300 yards, where that 215-grain bullet still has 770 ft-lbs of energy. With a larger frontal diameter and more energy, the 400 Legend makes, in the opinion of the author, a better choice for a cartridge intended to be used not only for deer, but for black bear, hogs and similar game species.

Winchester 400 Legend cartridge head stamp.

Comparing the 400 Legend to the 450 Bushmaster—another cartridge heavily relied upon for hunting those Midwestern states and areas with the unique ammunition regulations—you’ll find the new cartridge measures up well, with the 400 nearly matching the energy levels of the 450 Bushmaster. Trajectories are similar when comparing the 215-grain 400 Legend load and the 245-grain Bushmaster load from Hornady, with the Legend printing one inch higher at the 300-yard mark, though the Bushmaster will have 100 ft.-lbs. more energy at the same distance. The hook here is that the recoil level of the 400 Legend is considerably less than that of the Bushmaster; Winchester indicates that the Legend has 20 percent less recoil than the larger cartridge.

Winchester loads their Power-Point softpoint bullet, a sound cup-and-core design, with a good amount of lead showing at the nose, and a jacket which is skived for expansion. With a Sectional Density of 0.191, this bullet is perfectly applicable for deer and black bear, but isn’t quite a dangerous game bullet; for that job a bullet with an S.D. value of 0.300 or better is generally preferred. But for deer hunting, a soft point bullet of lesser Sectional Density will still get the job done, as the immediate energy transfer does the job on whitetail, so long as you’ve got enough bullet to reach and destroy vital tissue. The 215-grain 10mm bullet has a comparable S.D. value to the 125-grain .308-inch bullet, a 260-grain .45-inch bullet, or an 87-grain .257-inch bullet, so it’s not exactly terrible. I’d be willing to wager that as the popularity of the 400 Legend grows, a lead-free copper offering will be in the works shortly.

Winchester Deer Season XP 400 Legend ammunition box packaging.

Though it has had its first birthday already, the 400 Legend has many more rifles available than factory ammunition loads. You can purchase rifles from CMMG, Winchester, Mossberg, Ruger and Savage (who has more than a dozen models available), yet the one ammunition load available is the Winchester 215-grain Power-Point. Winchester had announced a new Super Suppressed subsonic load for 2024, using a 300-grain Open Tip Range bullet. I don’t believe this will be the last of the new offerings, and as the 400 Legend gains ground we’ll see some very interesting developments. I like the 400 Legend’s formula, and we might even see it overtake its little brother in the deer woods.

Looking for previous installments of our "Behind the Bullet" series? We've got you covered.
.17 Winchester Super Magnum
350 Legend
.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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