The buzz of the 2019 SHOT Show was the release of a new cartridge from Winchester: the 350 Legend. Glimpsing the new cartridge for the first time at the Winchester Ammunition booth, I soon understood what Winchester was up to, and it made sense. On the big banner were some rather extreme claims, but they only furthered my intrigue. The 350 Legend, you see, meets the qualifications for some Midwestern states that require straight-walled rifle cartridges, with a minimum bore diameter of .357 inch. Now you may be thinking what I was thinking: Couldn’t we just use those older, classic lever-gun cartridges that have been killing deer for well over a century? Well, the .45-70 Government, the .444 Marlin and others are fully capable, especially with modern loads like Hornady’s LeverRevolution. But they are also on the heavier side for deer hunting, and the trajectories are less than impressive.
Winchester’s 350 Legend shares the same case-head diameter as the .223 Remington (.378 inch), and runs on a small rifle primer, but uses a slightly rebated rim. Headspacing off the case mouth, the 350 Legend tapers from .390 inch at the base back to .378 inch at the case mouth, with a case length of 1.71 inches. The SAAMI spec calls for a bullet diameter of .357 inch, though many have measured the bullet diameter of Winchester’s ammo at .355 inch—and perhaps this warrants a bit of discussion. Ohio specifies that the rifle cartridges suitable for deer hunting are “all straight-walled cartridge calibers from a minimum of .357 to a maximum of .50.” Should the projectiles of the 350 Legend be .355 inch or 9mm, it would technically be smaller than the legal minimum, but there is usually a .003 inch allowable variance, making the .350 Legend a legal implement. Winchester lists the bullet diameter as .357 inch, so I’m going to leave you with that. The other claims that Winchester made on its banner were—and are—quite attractive.
“Introducing the World’s Fastest Straight-Walled Cartridge.” The Winchester 150-grain Deer Season XP load leaves the muzzle at 2325 fps, making for quite a speedy load, though the Hornady 275-grain load for the .444 Marlin shares the same listed muzzle velocity. Nonetheless, Winchester’s deer load is an impressive one, at significantly less recoil than the .444 Marlin generates.
“Less Recoil than the .30-30 Win., .243 Win or .450 Bushmaster.” This one I definitely agree with, as I jumped at the opportunity to test drive the 350 Legend chambered in the Winchester XPR rifle and will testify that it is easy on the shoulder, allowing for accurate shooting. In the field, the hunter can quickly and easily get back on target for a follow-up shot, if necessary.
“More Energy than the .300 Blackout, .30-30 Win., or .223 Rem.” At 200 yards, the 350 Legend retains 903 ft.-lbs. of energy, while the .30-30 Win. has 780 ft.-lbs.; we are all familiar with how much venison the .30-30 has accounted for in the last 120-plus years, and that’s a pretty good benchmark for a deer cartridge.
“Increased Penetration.” Winchester compares the 200-yard penetration of their Deer Season XP load for the 350 Legend to the penetration of the .243 Win. and the .223 Rem., showing the Legend on top with 11.7 inches of penetration in gel testing, with the .243 coming in second at 9.5 inches and the .223 at 7.3 inches. I can’t attest to this, but I can attest to having many colleagues send pictures of deer taken with the 350 Legend; all had impressive wound channels.
Winchester is currently offering five different loads for the new cartridge: a 150-grain Deer Season XP at 2350 fps, a 180-grain Power-Point at 2100 fps, a 160-grain Power Max Bonded at 2225 fps, a very affordable 145-grain FMJ in the USA ammo line at 2350 fps, and a Super Suppressed 265-grain load at 1060 fps. Federal and Hornady also offer loads for the 350 Legend.
The average trajectory gives a drop of 9 inches at 200 yards with a 100-yard zero, or a rise of 4½ inches at 100 yards with a 200-yard zero, and I saw 100-yard group sizes just over 1 MOA with the Deer Season XP ammunition. So, is the 350 Legend going to become the new deer camp hero? Being completely honest, I think the cartridge will fill a niche in those Midwestern states, and will be at home in an AR platform, but I don’t think it will take the place of our tried-and-true classics. That said, I appreciate Winchester’s efforts in providing a well-balanced cartridge for those who hunt in the regions with the straight-walled cartridge restriction; the 350 Legend is a good choice for the deer hunter whose shots are inside 150 yards.
• Caliber: .357
• Bullet: 145-grain USA White Box FMJ, 150-grain Deer Season XP Extreme Point (tested), 160-grain Power Max Bonded PHP, 180-grain Super X Power-Point, 265-grain Super Suppressed Open Tip-Range Subsonic
• Ballistic Coefficient: .223 (150-grain Dear Season XP Extreme Point)
• Muzzle Velocity: 2325 fps (advertised w/20˝ barrel, 150-grain bullet)
• Muzzle Energy: 1,800 ft.-lbs. (advertised w/150-gr. bullet)
• MSRP: $19.99-$22.99 per 20-rnd. box; winchester.com