Review: Winchester 400 Legend

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posted on April 22, 2024
Review Winchester 400 Legend Lead

Just a year ago, Winchester Ammunition announced the brand-new 400 Legend, a streamlined, mid-sized straight-wall cartridge intended to fill the gap between its wildly popular 350 Legend and the notorious 450 Bushmaster. It was, in my opinion, a masterstroke of genius.

The 450 Bushmaster came early to the straight-wall hunting cartridge scene, providing a hard-hitting round compatible with bolt-action hunting rifles and AR-platform semi-automatic rifles. The Bushmaster found great success, but also rapidly developed a reputation for heavy recoil. Winchester Ammunition recognized the need for a more friendly straight-wall cartridge, so they developed the 350 Legend, a lovely little cartridge based on the .223 Remington. It’s equally at home in bolt-action and AR-15 platforms, accurate and sweet to shoot. But it doesn’t hit with a great deal of authority.

Winchester 400 Legend ammunition cartridges.

Enter the 400 Legend. This round nicely bridges the gap between the 350 Legend and the 450 Bushmaster, hitting with more authority than the 350, yet possessing much better manners than the 450. I’ve been blessed to harvest two mature, heavy-bodied whitetail bucks with the new cartridge, and in my opinion, it’s the ideal round for hunting big game in cartridge-restricted states. My bucks each died from one well-placed shot. The bullets performed admirably and passed completely through. Blood trails were perfuse and recovery was easy. I’ll admit it; I’m in love with the 400 Legend.

Until just a few years ago, many states allowed only slug guns for hunting big game during gun season. These are shotguns loaded with heavy slugs or buckshot, and they hit hard at close range. But those projectiles possess the aerodynamics of a brick, so they lose velocity and energy rapidly. That’s what the rule-makers wanted: a round that would only travel a short distance, thereby reducing the chance of a projectile traveling beyond its intended target and hitting something it shouldn’t. It’s a mindset that dictates hunting laws in many heavily populated Eastern and Midwestern states.

These slug guns were (and are) afflicted with a bevvy of problems: they are often inaccurate and always kick like a Clydesdale. Even if a hunter is fortunate enough or savvy enough to find an accurate slug gun, he will still need to muster the fortitude to hold it steady and squeeze the trigger. That’s difficult to do when you know you’re about to get smacked. And a slug gun’s maximum effective range is somewhere around 100 yards, which is not always enough range.

Thankfully, in recent years most cartridge-restricted states have updated their hunting firearm laws. Now, a hunter can choose a straight-wall round for hunting—meaning a cartridge with sides that are parallel, but not bottlenecked. These straight-wall rounds tend to be slow and un-aerodynamic, thereby still meeting the safety requirements of the states. They also tend to be significantly more accurate and pleasant to shoot than a slug gun, rendering them more effective and capable than the old guard.

Winchester designed the 400 Legend cartridge brand-new from the ground up. There is no parent cartridge. Case dimensions are designed to function equally well in a bolt-action or in an AR-style semi-auto MSR (modern sporting rifle). A large portion of today’s sportsmen prefer an MSR for all their shooting adventures, including hunting. That in mind, the fact that Winchester designed both of their straight-wall cartridges to perform in modern sporting rifles as well as more traditional hunting firearms was pure genius.

Winchester has designed all-new projectiles specifically for the 400 Legend, too. The .4005-diameter, 215-grain Power-Point bullets I hunted with and used for testing are made to aggressively expand and penetrate when fired at 400 Legend velocities (2250 fps advertised). Winchester touts the 400 Legend as lethal out to 300 yards on deer-sized game, and while I have no doubt that it is, the projectile drops like a rock beyond 200 yards. To shoot past that distance with accuracy you’ll want to use a laser rangefinder and either equip your scope with a yardage-compensating adjustable turret, or be darn sure of your capabilities as a rifleman.

Three Winchester 400 Legend ammunition boxes.

A 300-grain subsonic round from Winchester is also available, dubbed the “Super Suppressed” and designed specifically for shooting with the aid of a silencer. Other offerings from Winchester, like the 190-grain Deer Season XP, are continuing to be announced, and other ammo manufacturers will undoubtedly introduce their own 400 Legend loads in the near future. I expect the 400 to thrive, and in a few years, we should have a nice selection of loads to choose from. A selection of rifles from Ruger, Savage Arms, Mossberg, CMMG, Winchester Repeating Arms and others should be available before this fall’s hunting season.

I’ve had opportunity to shoot the new Legend fairly extensively, and have universally found it friendly to shoot. Recoil might be compared to a mild .308 load. Of the two bucks I shot with the 400, one was standing broadside at 113 yards, and the other was running broadside at 58 yards. I managed to center-punch each buck and they both, ironically, traveled 48 paces before crashing. Bullet performance was ideal each time.

On the range, I tested a new Winchester XPR bolt-action rifle. Of course, at the time of my testing there was only the one load available, Winchester’s 215-grain Power-Point, so I shot that load at 25-yard intervals from 50 to 300 yards. Once I figured out my holdover values I was able to keep my shots in sub-vital-sized groups all the way out to 300. However, it was pretty challenging beyond 200 yards. As mentioned above, a rangefinder and good compensating dial system are a near necessity.

Accuracy and velocity testing was performed at 100 yards from the prone position, using a bipod for front support and a “bunny ears” rear bag. I shot a handful of groups and, while I find precise shooting somewhat challenging with my lightweight XPR, I can average 1-MOA accuracy when I get serious. I fired three, three-shot groups using a Garmin Xero C1 Pro chronograph to measure velocity, consistency and accuracy.

Winchester Ammunition has a respected legacy of building American-made ammunition for sportsmen and hunters around the globe. Their recently introduced cartridges are well designed and thought out; the 6.8 Western and 350 Legend are popular among hunters and shooters, and I’ve no doubt the 400 Legend will follow suit.

Winchester Power-Point 400 Legend ammunition accuracy results chart.

Technical Specifications
Caliber: .40
Action Length: short-action
Bullet Weight(s)/Type(s): 215-gr./jacketed soft-point (Winchester Power-Point, tested); 190-gr./Extreme Point (Winchester Deer Season XP); 300-gr. Open Tip Range Subsonic (Winchester Super Suppressed)
Ballistic Coefficient: .206 (215-gr. Power-Point)
Muzzle Velocity: 2250 fps (215-gr. Power-Point)
Muzzle Energy: 2,416 ft.-lbs. (215-gr. Power-Point)
Uses: hog, deer, bear
MSRP Per Box: $34.99; winchester.com

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