LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.
I must declare my bias up front. I love the .300 Winchester Magnum. It is accurate, shoots flat, and available on any gun store shelf. I’ve hunted with it for four or five seasons now and its effectiveness is something one must observe in the field to appreciate in full. This cartridge makes wounds not too dissimilar to those produced by my tried and true .375 H&H. With just one exception (my fault), critters hit with this laser-like wonder tend to tip over as if their hooves were hinged to the ground. Bang, smack, drop. What’s not to like?
A Great Start, But…
My first season with the .300 Win. Mag., housed in a Savage Model 111, I hadn’t time to source and test multiple loads to find the ideal one. I grabbed some budget priced ammo made in Eastern Europe, zeroed it, and went after deer and elk in Montana. While I didn’t get any wapiti, I did fill the freezer with several succulent, grass-fed whitetail deer and a dandy pronghorn buck. In the off-season I worked up hand loads for Nosler’s proven 180 grain AccuBond. I then spent the next two years chasing multiple problems, from unavailable powder to a mysterious tendency for the bullets to creep backward into the case mouths.
By the spring before this writing, I determined improper neck annealing on some budget brand Euro-made brass caused the bullet creep-back problem. (Big “thank you” to Mike at Nosler’s technical department for his patience and insights.) With the next hunting season not far away, I had no time to procure better brass and perform yet another load development thrash. I needed some decent factory ammo or else I’d have to leave the .300 at home.
Winchester to the Rescue
I decided I wanted something which would outperform the Euro stuff I’d used before. It had gotten me through one season but it produced almost 100 fps less than its advertised 2950 fps with just average accuracy. Did I mention I needed affordable ammo, too?
I made the trek into our nearest town, a small rural outpost, and bought some Winchester Super-X ammunition with classic 180 grain Power Point bullets in the familiar silver-white box. Yes, bought. Despite my status as a freelance gun writer, I’m not showered with free goodies from the ammunition companies. A good thing, in my view, since I get what any other hunter out there gets—no blue printed ringers. I’ve seen firsthand how well this bullet performed in the Boss’s .300 Winchester Short Magnum over the past two seasons, and didn’t see the need to take a chance on anything else.
One cool September morning I managed to get over to the local range and put the Power Points through their paces. They averaged 2932 fps from the Savage’s 24 inch barrel. A bit lower than the 2960 fps Winchester advertised, but I’ve come to expect this with factory ammo since real guns are quite different from the sophisticated test barrels the manufacturers use. Still, a good, useable number, though. Extreme velocity spread worked out to 66 fps, again normal for most non-premium factory fodder.
While I had hoped for more accuracy, this load’s 2.3 MOA is similar to its short mag cousin when we shot it through the Boss’ Browning A-Bolt. Not something you’d take to an F-Class match but well within “Minute of Elk,” and suitable for use on medium and large game out to 400 yards.
The 180 grain Power Point’s .438 (G1) ballistic coefficient doesn’t do this load any favors. It drifts almost a foot in a 10 mph cross-wind at 400 yards. Yet, zeroed at 220 yards, it has a 235 yard, adjusted for MOA, max point blank range. (Theoretical MPBR is around 300 yards.) This provides point and shoot capability at the most common hunting ranges. Drop at 300 yards is 5.6 inches and 18.2 at 400. Not a laser beam, but an average hunter can use simple hold overs with their scope between 300 to 400 yards and have a good probability the bullet will hit a deer or elk’s vitals. No need for fancy dial-a-prayer scopes and rocket science phone apps. Just simple, easy to remember reference points for when shot opportunities are measured in mere seconds and either you shoot or go hungry for the winter.
The lack luster BC also means this slug sheds velocity fast. While this round makes 2932 fps and 3502 ft-lbs. at the muzzle, at 400 yards it is down to 2240 fps and 2005 ft-lbs when measured at 4000 feet elevation on a standard issue Northern Rockies fall day. Still plenty for Messrs. Wapiti or Moose, and it’ll ruin Mr. Deer’s day, too. Bullet drop and drift become excessive beyond this point, so it’s best to keep shots well inside 500 yards.
Mr. Deer Has a Bad Day
All those numbers don’t tell the real story about this load. In simple terms it hits with a howitzer’s authority. On a recent hunt, I shot a large Montana whitetail buck at about 45 yards. The animal stood with a slight quartering away presentation, and the bullet struck where the neck joins the thorax. When the 180 grain Power Point arrived on target, the three by four buck collapsed straight down, spine and major arteries severed. The postmortem examination revealed the bullet had expanded upon contact and created a quarter-sized entrance hole. The exit wound could almost accommodate my fist. Spectacular energy transfer and identical performance to the .300 WSM Power Points tested the previous two seasons at ranges from 20 to 110 yards on both whitetail and mule deer.
Is it Tough Enough for the Big Leagues?
Since the Power Point started life decades ago as a bullet designed first and foremost for deer, I had concerns it might not hold up well if it hit something as solid as an elk’s shoulder at high velocity. On a previous test, I had shot the same bullet from the Boss’ .300 WSM into an eight inch diameter green lodge pole pine round at ten yards. The .300 WSM is the ballistic twin to my .300 Win. Mag. so the results are comparable from one to the other. The bullet transected the wood with ease. The recovered slug displayed textbook expansion and it held together quite well. Although it’s not bonded to the lead core, Winchester’s jacket has a thin nose section behind the exposed lead tip which then thickens in dramatic fashion at the shank’s mid-point to arrest expansion and preserve bullet weight. In this case, the test slug retained a commendable 90 percent. This is comparable to many premium bullets I’ve tested in the past. Not bad for an “antiquated” cup and core design.
My guess is Winchester intended this bullet for the .30-06 and then just plopped into their magnum offerings. Based on the near explosive expansion at close range, I think when shot from a magnum this bullet could stand to slow down a few hundred feet per second before it hits. This would bring it into the .30-06’s velocity envelope. Yes, it’ll hold together when it’s fast and up close, but it’s better off in the 200 – 400 yard zone where its design can better balance expansion and penetration.
Winchester’s 180 grain .300 Win. Mag. Power Point load is an old design. Its accuracy and velocity retention pale next to the latest high BC bullets and its core is not bonded to the jacket. However, it is more than accurate enough for the task at hand: killing medium and large soft-skinned game at standard hunting ranges in a swift, humane manner. The fact it is available almost anywhere ammunition is sold and also quite affordable make it a real winner. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this load for deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, or black bear.
© 2019 LJ Bonham