Low recoil, affordable ammo, and the ability to use it in states that allow deer hunting with straight-walled cartridges are among the reasons people are checking out the 350 Winchester Legend.
I first wrote about the 350 Legend back in March shortly after it was introduced by Winchester, and in retrospect I didn’t really know much about the cartridge. In my mind I was picturing something akin to a rimless version of the decades-old 357 Remington Maximum, so I was immediately intrigued.
To recap, the 350 Legend is a straight-walled rifle cartridge, purportedly of .357 caliber. That’s important to Ohio deer hunters because it makes it legal for deer gun hunting in Ohio. Our friends across the river in West Virginia are not concerned about straight-walled cartridge foolishness.
Another important thing to know about the 350 Legend is that it is rimless and has a maximum cartridge length that facilitates use in the popular AR-15 family of firearms.
I confess I don’t like the name of the cartridge; nothing comes out of the gate with legendary status, so calling it the “legend” seems a little presumptuous. It is, after all, a niche cartridge – a niche within a niche to be exact. I was also put off by what I considered exaggerated performance claims, comparing only portions of its performance such as penetration, energy and recoil, to other established cartridges.
Still I felt it deserved a try, and in the past seven months I have been able to spend a little time at the range with a re-barreled AR-15 chambered in the new cartridge. All it required was a new barrel and magazines.
So how does it shoot?
One of Winchester’s claims is that the 350 Legend has less recoil than the 450 Bushmaster – and that’s a fact. It has substantially less recoil than guns like the 450 Bushmaster, 444 Marlin and .45-70 Government. Recoil, or kick, can be objectively measured, but individuals feel it differently based on their size, weight, age, pain tolerance, etc., and I perceived it to be somewhere in the 44 Magnum ballpark. Only the most recoil-intolerant shooters would find it objectionable.
Winchester’s other claims pertain to energy and penetration, but considering that most straight-walled cartridge guns are limited to about 200-to-250 yards tops, it’s not that big of a deal – focus on shot placement with a well-constructed bullet and you’ll be fine.
To be honest shooting the Legend is a little ho-hum. The gun goes bang (but not too sharply), and a hole appears in the target downrange, and that, I believe, is precisely the appeal. It shoots fast enough and hard enough to get the job done with little recoil and muzzle blast. I’m not a big guy, and I found recoil to be negligible and was able to maintain my sight picture through a three-round magazine – so younger shooters or those who don’t care for a lot of noise or recoil (like myself) could possibly find it to their liking.
Performance-wise the 180-grain Winchester Super-X Power-Point ammunition averaged 2,132 feet-per-second from my gun. With a 150-yard zero the bullet hits about an inch-and-a-half high at 100 yards, and almost five inches low at 200 yards. I was shooting about 1 ¾-inch groups at 100 yards, which is nothing to write home about; your results may vary. The Winchester USA 145-grain full-metal jacket bullets registered 2,272 feet-per-second, somewhat below the claimed 2,350 feet-per-second, while cartridges handloaded with 170-grain Hornady Interlock bullets clocked in just above 2,350 feet-per-second with a less-than-maximum charge.
Reloaders take note: I said it is “purportedly” of .357 caliber for a reason. The box says .357 caliber, but every bullet I’ve measured comes to .355”, technically there is a .003” variation built into the specs so technically you could say it is .357”, but it appears the tolerances are consistently a little on the snug side. In any event, regular .357 bullets will probably be too big to fit in a standard 350 Legend chamber. It turns out you can’t make 350 Legend brass from 223 Remington or 5.56mm brass – it is close but not identical. However, bullet and cartridge makers CAN make crank out 350 Legend brass and bullets very efficiently, and affordably,
So far, the hardest part of getting on the 350 Legend bandwagon is finding stuff in stock. Several gunmakers are offering rifles, while several companies are producing barrels and upper receiver assemblies to convert AR-15s into 350 Legends.
Winchester, Hornady, and Federal are producing ammunition at reasonable prices. Ammo starts around $10 for a box of 20 for “plinking” ammo, and around $18 to $21 a box for deer hunting ammo, which is somewhat more affordable than other, larger straight-walled cartridges, all of which makes the 350 Legend a little less painful on the wallet (as well as the shoulder). When you consider that some premium shotgun slugs cost more than $3 per shell, 350 Legend ammunition is a bargain.
The 350 Legend might not be legendary, per se, but plenty adequate, affordable and well-mannered to boot, and that just may be enough. If more gunmakers jump on board, and ammunition makers can keep it affordable, then it may just become a legend… some day.
Shooters will compare the 350 Legend to their favorite straight-walled cartridge, and I have already seen a few arguments of the 45 versus 9mm variety, and that’s fine, we don’t all have to like the same thing, and it is nice to have choices, but at the end of the day the only statistic that matters is if you can you hit where you are aiming. Energy is no substitute for accuracy, and if a light-kicking gun with affordable ammunition helps you develop the skills and confidence to make a good shot, then that’s great.
Hunters in other states have already had opportunities to use the 350 Legend in the field this fall, and it seems up to the task of making deer and wild pigs into venison and pork chops. Particularly it seems to be a popular choice for younger hunters – which is the niche (young hunters) within the niche (straight-walled cartridge hunters) I mentioned earlier.
Youngsters in Ohio will get a chance to try out the 350 Legend the weekend of Nov. 23-24 during the two-day youth deer gun season.
Jim Freeman is a conservation technician for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at firstname.lastname@example.org