You walk into a sporting goods store that sells hunting rifles, looking for a new rifle to use for big game like deer or elk. The biggest question you likely have is:
“What caliber do I get?”
There are a seemingly limitless number of rifle calibers, and many calibers offer excellent long range performance, making it even more difficult to choose.
Ideally, the caliber you get is one that is affordable and widely available, one that can carry itself accurately at long distances, and that has enough power to drop big game at those distances as well.
One caliber you’ve no doubt heard of (after all, you clicked on this article) is the venerable .270 Winchester. The .270 Winchester has long been one of the most popular and enduring rifle cartridges for hunting and sporting purposes.
But how far can a 270 shoot? A .270 rifle can shoot accurately up to 1,000 yards. The effective range, however, is typically around 500 yards due to bullet drop and wind drift. If you’re planning on using a .270 for hunting big game such as mule deer or elk, keep your shots within 500 yards so the bullet has enough momentum to ensure an ethical kill.
|100-200 yards||Point-blank range for most hunting applications|
|300-400 yards||Typical maximum effective range for hunting medium-sized game|
|500-600 yards||Maximum effective range for experienced long-range shooters|
|800-1,000 yards||Extreme long-range shooting distances requiring specialized equipment and skills|
Note that the exact distances may vary depending on factors such as bullet weight, velocity, wind, and shooter skill, and these are only general guidelines. Also, ethical hunting practices dictate that hunters should only take shots within their comfortable range and with a high likelihood of a clean, humane kill.
As with any question, the answer is: it depends. But don’t fear! We gave you our best answer and we will use the rest of the article to (attempt to) answer how effective the .270 is at long ranges.
We’ll also cover the development of the .270 Winchester and what it was originally intended for before diving into a discussion of the cartridge’s capabilities.
History and Development of the .270 Winchester
The .270 Winchester was first introduced in 1925 for Winchester’s Model 54 bolt-action rifle. The Model 54 was one of the predecessors to the Winchester Model 70, which became Winchester’s most famous bolt action hunting rifle.
What made the .270 so unique was that it was arguably the flattest and fastest shooting round at the time of its introduction. The .270 was capable of firing 130-grain bullets to 3,000+ FPS (feet per second) and 150-grain bullets to 2,700+ FPS.
Despite this, the .270 was not an initial success as it was largely overshadowed by the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, and it didn’t start to earn wide popularity until after the Second World War. A big reason for the success and longevity of the .270 from then until now was because of a famous hunter and gun writer named Jack O’Conner, who depended on the cartridge almost exclusively for his hunting exploits for over four decades and praised it extensively in his writings.
O’Conner dropped everything from deer to antelope to elk and even brown bear with the .270 and swore by it. Word of the .270 cartridge began to spread and gradually it began to increase in popularity on the American market.
Today, the .270 is one of the most popular centerfire hunting calibers available today, and most ammunition manufacturers produce bullets in the caliber.
Additionally, most bolt action manufacturers produce rifles in the cartridge. Lever action rifle options for the .270 include the Browning BLR and Winchester 1895 rifles.
What is the .270 Typically Used For?
The .270 is a suitable round for hunting medium to big-sized plains and mountain game. It can be used to take down antelope, wild boar, deer, elk, and black bear. It has been used on brown bears and moose before as well, though you’ll likely hear most people suggesting that you try a larger caliber for these kinds of game animals.
The .270 comes in Most would also argue that the .270 performs best in a barrel length of 24 inches. Shooting the .270 out of a reduced barrel length of 22 inch inches won’t cause the round to lose much muzzle velocity upon exiting the barrel, but shooting it out of a barrel length reduced further likely will.
The .270 is available with a wide variety of weights from 100 to 160 grains. However, 130 and 150 grains respectively are the most popular. As a golden rule, most hunters and shooters would recommend that you use 130-grain bullets on medium-sized game such as deer or antelope, and 150-grain bullets on larger game such as elk.
Another advantage to the .270 is the fact that it produces reduced recoil in contrast to larger calibers such as .30-06 Springfield or .300 Win Mag, while still being capable of dropping large game at long distances.
But just how far can the .270 shoot?
What is the .270 Capable of At Long Distances?
While it’s impossible to answer this question specifically (because how far your .270 will shoot will depend on the exact rifle that you’re shooting and the specific bullets that you’re shooting out of it), we can provide you with some generalizations so you have an idea of the .270’s performance.
As a general rule, when a .270 rifle with a 24-inch barrel is loaded with a 130-grain bullet and is sighted to touch three inches above the line of sight at one hundred yards, it will not rise about three and a half inches when firing at approximately three hundred yards.
At four hundred yards, the rifle and cartridge in this configuration will also produce 1,500 feet pounds of energy. This is sufficient power for dropping bigger game such as elk or black bear.
As a general rule, you can expect the .270 to shoot accurately and deliver enough energy to drop big game at distances up to 500 yards.
Of course, you can shoot a .270 farther than that, as many shooters who shoot the .270 will shoot it out to 900-1000+ yards. However, the bullet loses much of its ballistics at those ranges, and it will not be as efficient for penetrating the thick skin of American or African game animals at those ranges either.
Conclusion: .270 Shooting Distance and Effective Range
The .270 is an excellent cartridge. It may be an older cartridge, but the .270 can still do almost everything that you need a centerfire cartridge to do so long as you keep it within its limits.
In a good rifle with a 24-inch barrel shooting quality ammunition, the .270 can accurately shoot out to 400-500 yards while still maintaining enough energy to penetrate the thick hides of large game animals such as elk or comparable African game.
Beyond those ranges, the caliber can still shoot accurately, but it will begin to lose a significant amount of energy and it won’t be as effective on big game animals.
If you’re planning on using your .270 for target shooting, feel free to take it out to targets at 1,000+ yards and see what it can do. If you’re planning on using it for hunting big game such as mule deer or elk, try to keep your shots within 500 yards so the bullet still has enough momentum to ensure an ethical kill.