A debate that comes up often is which one is better when comparing the 270 vs 308. It's a very good question, and in this article we are going to show you the difference.
Here's the thing:
Hunters can be fiercely loyal to the type of cartridge that they use when hunting. They know what they like and what works well for them.
Some might be into a more open relationship and will switch cartridges for certain hunts.
While others are strictly monogamous and would not even consider a different caliber.
With that said...
Of course, as we all know, you cannot just willingly swap out any caliber for your rifle as they are chambered to hold certain cartridges.
Regardless, a lot of us have multiple rifles or maybe we are shopping around for a new hunting rifle. And that leads us back to our original question.
Let's jump into the comparison next.
270 vs 308
If you are considering a new rifle to add to your arsenal, two of the more popular cartridges used in hunting include the .308 and .270 caliber.
What exactly are the differences between the two cartridges and how do you choose between the two for hunting?
To answer these questions, we are going to take a look at the origins of these calibers, briefly explain the various loads available, compare ballistics, and compare situations where each caliber might be more beneficial.
.308 - Brief History
The .308 caliber is the civilian version of the 7.62 x 51 NATO cartridge that was originally designed for the M14 used in Vietnam.
Due to some issues with the amount of ammo that could be carried and the M14’s unwieldiness, it was shortly replaced by the M16 with 5.56 x 45 cartridges.
Despite the replacement in the military, the 7.62 x 51 cartridge had excellent performance specs and was quickly picked up by ammunition manufacturers.
This is where the .308 was born.
The .308 cartridge has an overall length of 2.8 inches with a base diameter of 0.47 inches. For this reason, it is considered a short action caliber.
Here are some of the more popular cartridges for the .308.
- Remington Core-Lokt (Available in 150 and 180 grain)
- Winchester Super-X Power Point ( Available in 150 and 180 grain)
- Nosler Ballistic Tip (Available in 125 and 165 grain)
- Black Hills (Available in 168 and 175 grain)
- Federal Premium (Available in 168 and 175 grain)
.270 - Brief History
Where the .308's origin was for military purposes, the .270 started out as a hunting cartridge. The .270 was produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1925.
You will commonly see .270 referred to as .270 Win and made popular by the famous writer Jack O’Connor.
The .270 is a "necked down" version of the 30-06 cartridge. What we mean by this is that the cartridge size is almost identical to the 30-06, but the bullet has a smaller diameter.
The modern day .270 cartridge is usually around 3.3 inches long. The length measurement fluctuates based on bullet’s design. The base diameter is 0.47 inch. It is a much longer cartridge than the .308
Here are some of the more popular cartridges for the .270.
- Remington Core-Lokt (Available in 130 and 150 grain)
- PPU (Available in 130 and 150 grain)
- Hornady (Available in 150 grain)
- Winchester Super-X Power Point ( Available in 130 and 150 grain)
- Federal Premium (Available in 130 and 140 grain)
270 vs 308 Ballistics
We are going to mention a lot of numbers in this section. We should start off by saying that it is pretty difficult to compare two different calibers side by side.
A lot of small factors can impact the ballistics of a certain cartridge.
So, we are going to try to standardize this as much as possible by only looking at the properties of the .270 and .308 produced by the same ammunitions manufacturer.
We will also look at two different grains (bullet weight) for each caliber.
We will compare several ballistic properties such as bullet drop, muzzle velocity, and energy (what is the force hitting your target).
Before we jump into this, it is extremely important to remember that these values can change from manufacturer to manufacturer and according to the various cartridge types.
That being said, the overall trends should remain relatively the same between calibers and grains.
We are going to look at Remington’s Core-Lokt .270 and .308 pointed soft point cartridges for comparison.
The .308 is a heavier bullet than the .270 although there are several cartridges with .270 160 and 180 grain produced by other manufacturers.
First, we will take a look at the bullet drop rates for each caliber that have been zeroed in at 100 yards and then at 250 yards to get some short and long-range trajectory information.
Here's our short range data:
Short Range Trajectory
And here's our long range data:
Long Range Trajectory
Next, we will look at the muzzle velocity (feet/second) and velocity at certain yard intervals commonly encountered when hunting.
Muzzle Velocity (Ft/Sec)
Finally, we will compare the energy (Feet/Pound) of the bullets at several yard intervals. This will tell us is how hard the bullet is impacting the target.
Which One Do You Need?
You have the numbers now, but we will be a little clearer about what those numbers mean regarding your hunting strategy.
To reiterate, we are only looking at Remington’s Core-Lokt ammunition. Quite a few cartridges are produced with varying grain bullets, bullet material, shape, and powder loads.
All these can change the ballistic numbers. Additionally, the type of optics and mounting on your firearm, along with barrel length, can all alter the ballistics.
So, in this section we will discuss some generalities. We will refer to the ballistics information.
The trend should remain consistent from cartridge to cartridge.
Most important is the fact that we are providing a method that you can use with any caliber that interests you.
The information is available if you can find it. Then, use the process in this article to decide what caliber you need.
So, we will compare the .207 and .308 in different hunting scenarios.
Both of these calibers are going to have the stopping power to bring down just about any game you are hunting in North America besides maybe larger bears.
Both calibers can deliver over a thousand pounds of pressure at 400 yards. Some might consider the .270 130 grain a bit too light for elk or moose, especially if you are taking shots over 400 yards.
If you are going to need a little more distance, the .270 holds the advantage over the .308 caliber.
It has a higher velocity and flatter trajectory making it a little easier to adjust for shots at long range as evidenced by the bullet drop numbers in the long trajectory section.
If you need the maximum stopping power, the .308, especially the 180 grain, has a bit more energy once reaching the target than the .270, especially the 150 grain.
When going after bigger game with shots within 250 yards, the .308 is a fantastic choice.
270 vs 308 Recoil
This is a common question many hunters have, especially when considering a hunting rifle for younger hunters. The .270 is prone to having a much sharper kick than the .308.
However, the .308 180 grain is a heavy bullet with a high muzzle velocity so you will feel it as well.
Regardless, neither caliber will fly out of your hands. With a little practice on the range, any shooter can become accustomed to the kick.
With proper shooting technique and scope placement, you should never have to worry about scope eye with either cartridge.
Now concerning recoil, you should be aware of the bullet size and the amount of powder in the cartridge. Heavier bullets and increased powder are going to increase the amount of recoil.
The .308 caliber will give you many more options regarding bullet weight and design.
More ammunition manufacturers produce the 308 vs 270 in America. You can bet that the .308 will never be out of stock.
The .270 maintains a flatter trajectory over longer distances while the .308 can pack a punch within shorter ranges.
But, from this ballistic data, you have two calibers that behave very similar to one another.
We could honestly take any two calibers common to hunting and find hunters who will debate which of the two are the best cartridge until the day they die with neither party being swayed.
Hunters are very loyal to their particular cartridge. This is especially true for the .308 vs .270.
Specifically, with the .270 vs .308, we see two calibers that perform quite similarly in the categories we have addressed.
We are not abdicating for one or the other, but wanted to provide the specs and discuss the differences between the two.
What we hope, is that by providing you with some background and numbers, you can look at your hunting situation and make an educated decision on which particular caliber will suit your hunting needs better.
And regardless of your choice, a good shot with either caliber is going to end in a successful hunt! Both calibers can take down a deer.
Another great deer cartridge is the .30-06. Here is a comparison of it to the .308.