In a story now famous, Roy Weatherby began his career as a wild hunter after losing a wounded deer on his first hunt in 1942. He became convinced that faster, flatter cartridges would allow more reliable hunting, and the resulting line of Weatherby Magnum cartridges has been doing just that since he founded Weatherby in 1945.
You may already know this. But do you know the real differences between a standard cartridge and a Weatherby Magnum cartridge? What are the costs and benefits of those differences, and why might you choose (or not choose) a Weatherby round for your next hunt?
That’s what we want to find out. In this caliber battle, we’re pitting one of the world’s most successful hunting cartridges, the .270 Winchester, against Roy Weatherby’s improved version to see how they compare in three important categories: ballistics, fireability, and versatility.
Each Weatherby cartridge is hotter than the original, but how much hotter? This Federal Trophy Copper .270 fires a 130-grain projectile at 3,060 feet per second (fps) at the muzzle, generating 2,703 foot-pounds of energy.
That’s a fast, hard-hitting round, but according to Weatherby’s loadout data, a .270 Wby. magazine can send a 130-grain projectile down between 3,280 fps and 3,400 fps. The option loaded with a Barnes TTSX bullet, a copper affair similar to the Trophy Copper, hits a whopping 3,338 foot-pounds. of energy in the mouth.
Federal’s .270 Weatherby option, which uses their Trophy Bonded Tip bullet, offers a similar ballistic advantage. The 130-grain projectile travels at 3,200 fps at the muzzle, resulting in 2,956 foot-pounds. of energy.
Some argue that hard-hitting bullets don’t necessarily lead to downed animals. It is absolutely true that the location of the shots is more important than the speed or energy of the bullets when looking to kill an animal quickly and humanely. But the power doesn’t hurt. As we’ve covered earlier, bullets that hit harder are more likely to induce hydrostatic shock. This means that while the .270 Win. and the .270 Wby. could topple an animal, the Weatherby is more likely to drop the animal in its path.
The Weatherby cartridge can also help with shot placement. Fast bullets can fly flatter than slow bullets, allowing a hunter to fire at longer ranges without making significant adjustments to the holdover.
Federal’s Trophy Copper .270 Win, for example, drops 37.3 inches at 500 yards with a 200-yard zero, a far cry from the kill zone of any North American big game animal. The Weatherby cartridge loaded with a TTSX bullet only drops about 29 inches at 500 yards with a 200 yard zero. This would still require some adjustment, but when fractions of an inch can be the difference between a night of tracking and a downed animal, eight inches is a big deal.
Winner: .270 Weatherby Magnum
That extra power and speed comes at a price, but it may not be as high as you think.
According to the Chuck Hawks recoil chart, a .270 Wby. magazine firing a 130-grain bullet at 3,337 fps (comparable to previous examples) imparts 21 ft-lbs. of recoil energy using a nine-pounder rifle.
That’s no joke, but the .270 Win. he’s not kidding either. That cartridge imparts 16.5 ft-lbs. of recoil energy using an eight-pounder rifle to fire a 130-grain projectile traveling at 3,140 fps.
If you’ve never fired one of these cartridges, here’s a little perspective. One of the most popular hunting cartridges of all time, a .30-06 Springfield produces around 20 foot-pounds. of recoil using an eight-pounder rifle. A .308 Winchester offers around 18 foot-pounds, and a .300 Winchester Magnum reaches around 25 foot-pounds.
While the .270 Weatherby will hit your shoulder a little harder than the .270 Win, it is well within the recoil range of the other popular big-game calibers. If you feel comfortable shooting a .300 Win. Mag., you’ll be fine with Weatherby’s improved .270.
Recoil is a close race, but unfortunately for Weatherby fans, the higher-impact .270 is more expensive and harder to find than its predecessor. Federal, for example, offers 21 options on the Winchester cartridge ranging from $30 to $65 for a box of 20, while there is a .270 Wby. option magazine for $78 per box.
This trend continues if you broaden your search to large online ammunition dealers. The .270 Wby. magazine can be found in far fewer varieties, and it won’t break out at less than $60 a box.
Lighter recoil and cheaper ammo make the .270 Win. the most fireable cartridge.
Ballistics charts published in “Cartridges of the World” show that both the .270 Win. and the .270 Wby. magazine can be loaded with projectiles ranging from 90 to 150 grains. In the real world, the vast majority of bullets in both cartridges weigh 130, 140, or 150 grains. There are some outliers among .270 Win. options, but in general, those are the three bullet weights available.
The option to load your own lighter bullets makes both cartridges excellent choices for vermin hunting, and the heavier, higher-impact rounds are capable of taking down any big game animal in North America.
But the .270 Wby. Mag.’s superior ballistics also give it the edge in this category. If you’re hunting vermin with 90-grain bullets, that extra velocity allows you to go a little farther. If you’re going after moose or moose, the extra energy of the Weatherby cartridge gives you a better chance of stopping even large animals before they take another step.
This does not mean the .270 Win. it is a poor choice for vermin or big game hunting. far from there But since the range of bullet weights is essentially identical, Weatherby’s extra velocity gives it a slight edge in this category.
And the winner is…
Roy Weatherby did not develop the .270 Weatherby Magnum just for fun. He wanted to make a cartridge superior to the .270 Win., and for many hunters, he did exactly that.
The exception to this rule might be those new to hunting or rifle shooting. If this is going to be your first rifle, it will be easier (and cheaper) to find the .270 Win. ammo in large enough quantities to get enough practice. It will also be much easier to find a rifle. Weatherby is one of the only gunmakers to have guns chambered in the .270 Wby. Mag., and while these are great firearms, going for the .270 will allow you to take advantage of a much larger selection of guns.
But in terms of sheer ballistics and versatility, the .270 Wby. magazine is the clear winner. The recoil is a little stiffer and ammo is more expensive, but when that bull moose you’ve been chasing is less than 400 yards away, the Weatherby’s added power and speed will be all you care about.
Overall Winner: .270 Weatherby Magnum