If low recoil, serious knockdown power, and affordable ammunition pique your interest as a deer hunter, then Winchester's .350 Legend becomes a top contender. Though just launched in 2019, there are already many brands and types of both rifles and ammunition on store shelves.
Here's what hunters need to know about the .350 Legend.
Winchester's .350 Legend is marketed by the company as "the world's fastest straight-walled hunting cartridge," though that's a tall claim when stacked with the .45-70 Gov't. Regardless, the .350 Legend was designed to excel in states with straight-wall cartridge restrictions. In many of those areas, deer hunting firearms are limited to slug guns, muzzleloaders, and centerfire rifles chambered in .35 caliber or larger straight-walled cartridges -- many of which are handgun rounds. There, the .350 Legend becomes a top choice.
Its performance and low recoil make it appealing to a wide range of hunters. "The .350 Legend is a high-performing, straight-walled cartridge that dominates in velocity, energy, recoil, and affordability, all of which are vital to our customers," Matt Campbell, VP of Sales and Marketing for Winchester Ammunition, said in a press release.
Understanding the round means getting down to the nitty-gritty. Winchester designed the .350 Legend with a bullet diameter of .357. The case length is 1.71-inches, with an overall length of 2.26-inches. If you think any of these numbers sound familiar, you'd be correct.
Winchester advertises that the .350 Legend does not have a parent case, but in fact, the .223 Rem seems to be the basis for its build. In fact, the .350 Legend uses the same .378 rim diameter as the .223 Rem, meaning it will be compatible with .223 platform AR-15 rifles.
Performance is where many hunters start paying attention to the new cartridge. Winchester makes some tall claims but backs them up with research and head-to-head testing. When using similar loads, they advertise the .350 Legend has the following.
More energy than the .30-30 Win, .300 Blackout, and .223 Rem
Less recoil than .450 Bushmaster
Increased penetration: 20 percent less recoil than a .243 with 20 percent more penetration at 200-yards in gel with Winchester Deer Season
Having fired several bolt-action rifles and modern sporting rifles, the recoil is more accurately compared to a .223 Rem. Both muzzle blast and recoil are incredibly less than the .450 Bushmaster while sacrificing little on game performance. These facts do not minimize the success of the aforementioned rounds in any way, but rather, indicate areas where the Legend might do well with certain hunters.
Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, the industry's standard, has officially accepted the .350 Legend, and its abbreviation .350 LGND. SAAMI specs indicate that the Legend is allowed bullet diameters .357 to .003.
While many shooters opt to reload, they must realize that many of the bullets already on the market in those sizes were not designed for hunters and, more specifically, not intended for performance at the .350 Legend's higher velocities. This is why selecting the correct ammunition—or loading components—is key to hunting success. Hunters are in luck, however, as there are plenty of great options on the market.
No new cartridge can succeed without having a nice selection of both guns and ammunition, and the .350 Legend is not lacking in either. While the initial launch of firearms came largely from Winchester and CMMG in bolt-actions and semi-autos, respectively, at least a dozen other options are now on the market.
In addition to bolt actions from brands like Savage, Mossberg, and Ruger, there are uppers and modern sporting rifles from almost every major manufacturer. Because of the similarities between the .223 and .350 Legend casing, the round has found a welcome home on the sporting rifle platform. Many AR-15 owners opt to purchase complete uppers that mate with their existing lowers. Even CVA has gotten in on the craze by offering a single shot .350 Legend.
There is a wide variety of ammunition available, and much of it, at surprisingly affordable prices -- everything from inexpensive plinking FMJ, tipped hunting rounds, bonded and soft point hunters, and even a suppressed line of ammunition. In addition to Winchester's many selections, both Federal and Hornady are offering several solid hunting rounds. Winchester lists ideal barrel twist rate for all stabilization of 1:16 for all bullet weights and types, and in our experience, it works exceptionally well.
While the .350 Legend performs well in the field, it becomes especially appealing when scoping out the gun shop racks of both rifles and ammunition. An average box of Legend hunting ammunition sells from $19.99 to $24.99. The vast majority of other popular centerfire deer cartridges cost an average of $25.99 to $32.99 per box. Practice is made even sweeter with Winchester's white box FMJ rounds, which sell for only $9.99 to $14.99. Cheaper ammo means more practice, which yields better results from more confident hunters in the field.
The Perfect Optic
Leupold already makes a scope specific to the .350 Legend. The VX-Freedom 3-9x40 .350 Legend optic is made in the USA with a pre-calibrated dial set-up from the factory with the 350's ballistics. Leupold's website boasts, "Have a 200-yard shot? Simply turn the dial to the number 2, hold dead-on, and send it."
The .350 Legend is no long-range rifle, but that takes any holdover guesswork out of the hunt, and 3-9x40 is an ideal magnification for a hunting scope that will excel in the 100- to 250-yard field. The 1-inch tube uses a duplex reticle, exposed finger-click dial system, and retails for $389.