Pike County, Missouri, is classic Midwest whitetail country, consisting of rolling hills, timbered draws, and alternating fields of corn, soybeans, and turnips. Last fall, Kyle Masinelli, manager of centerfire and rimfire new product development for Winchester Ammunition, invited me to hunt there with a brand-new cartridge, which is debuting at the 2019 SHOT show. He figured the big-bodied bucks we would be hunting would test the mettle of the cartridge.
He needn’t have worried. On the third day, with a pair of big bucks hanging in the cooler, we settled down to talk about how the cartridge came to be.
“Cartridge development is sometimes a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “Not this.”
That said, he admits that “the .30-caliber arena is a really crowded market, and it’s hard to come up with something new.”
But Winchester has. It’s the 350 Legend.
What It Is
The 350 Legend, part of the Deer Season XP line, is a straight-wall cartridge. Winchester believed an affordable straight-wall-compliant cartridge—one that is accurate, relatively quiet, and has low recoil—would interest a lot of hunters. Clearly, the round would appeal to hunters who live in straight-wall states, mainly in the Midwest where this type of cartridge is allowed. But the company also believed it would have appeal far past that segment.
If you’re not familiar with the straight-wall concept, it’s essentially a non-bottlenecked centerfire pistol cartridge. By design, the range is limited to 250 yards. Many of the states that now allow straight-wall cartridges for deer didn’t allow (or severely restricted) centerfire hunting because of concerns of high-power bullet overtravel. That was part of the appeal of limited-range muzzleloaders and slug guns.
But lower-power straight-walls, and the 350 Legend is no different, don’t have the range or trajectory of a .308, which keeps the cartridge in compliance with applicable state regulations. Going this route allows muzzleloaders and slug gunners to up their game, as the 350 Legend has a much flatter trajectory than that of a Foster slug or even a sabot slug shot through a rifled barrel.
Then, too, there is what Masinelli calls the round’s “overall shootability.”
“Recoil is just slightly more than a .223 Remington or a 300 Blackout, but the terminal performance exceeds both,” he says. “In a 20-inch barrel this cartridge delivers about 1,800 foot-pounds of energy. Compare that to a .223, which is around 1,150 to 1,200 foot-pounds. We’re getting the full weight of a classic .30-caliber deer load, but with far less recoil.”