350 Legend: Caliber Overview & Best Ammo Options

photo of the ruger american ranch rifle next to winchester 350 legend ammo

When a new cartridge like the 350 Legend is released, there are generally the two polarized reactions from the shooting public. Half are eager to try it out and let everyone know about it, the other half sit back and wonder why no one sees the wisdom in sticking with proven cartridges that already work just fine.

“A rock is a rock.” They’ll tell you.Good, old rocks. Nothing beats rocks.”

The rest of us, who shoot and review ammo, fall somewhere between the extremes of blindly embracing shiny things or curmudgeonly condemning change. That is to say, if we are going to reinvent the wheel, will the new wheel be a nice wheel, or better yet, a wheel that gets us to where we are going faster and more efficiently? 

Finding new ways to launch more effective projectiles can be an exciting topic of discussion.  From an industry perspective, however, no manufacturer remains in business without finding a need or niche that must be answered. For some, that means reinventing the proverbial wheel, for others, finding a higher peak to roll the wheel down from. New cartridges come and go, a few will stay, but only if they fill a purpose. So what purpose does the new .350 Legend cartridge from Winchester fill? 

Is the .350 Legend A Good Rock?

photo of a ruger american rifle chambered in 350 legend leaning against a tree
The .350 Legend is an excellent option for hunters looking for an upgrade path from the traditional .30-30 Win.

To start with, the ambitiously named Legend can be simply described as a .30-30 Winchester equivalent, that happens to be AR platform compatible. That may be an oversimplification, but it gets us started in the right direction. Afterall, a heavier .30+ caliber bullet for the AR platform is not a new idea, so what exactly does the Legend have over other alternative calibers the AR platform is capable of firing? Do we need another heavy projectile to get down range, with more foot-pounds than the diminutive, but zippy .223/5.56? We already have AR upper options ranging from .300 AAC to the mighty .458 SOCOM.

Even the AK-47 enthusiast knows the 7.62×39 is capable of running in AR style rifle bodies. There have been a few feeding issues here and there, but it fills a purpose, even if it’s not the intended one. Kalashnikov himself might frown upon it, but it’s another solid option, an evolution for those who want it. Still, the Neo-Luddites clutch their trusted rocks. “My rock solves problems.” They’ll tell you.What makes your rock so special?” They’ll ask. Well, for starters, it’s a good rock. It’s a rock that is loaded in a straight case and it’s fast. It’s also a rock that solves several modern problems. 

Modern Problems, Modern Solutions

Non-hunters may find themselves wondering why a non-bottlenecked bullet would be necessary in the first place. To that end, so might hunters in all but a few areas. Several states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana (thus far) prohibit hunting with bottlenecked rifle ammunition on their game lands. This is based upon the idea that reduced velocities and quick muzzle drop are safer for those both within and just outside of hunting locations. While reasonable on the surface, this mandate doubtless has much more to do with politics than it does with actual science.

Many trusted deer cartridges are bottlenecked, from 5.56 to .308, it’s hard to find hunters going after game who aren’t using them. Non-bottlenecked bullets, specifically those proven as options for hunting, may not be readily available in all areas. Passing limiting laws in areas with fewer ammo options, could threaten modern cartridge rifle hunting to the point of extinction in the name of public safety. As is often said in the firearms business “it’s a law, it does not have to make sense.”  While potentially frustrating, such laws continue to inspire American ingenuity.

So how does the .350 Legend solve this modern legislative problem? Straight cased ammo generates less chamber pressure and has shorter legs down range. Are there compromises? Sure. But the Legend still has plenty of knock-down power, with eyebrow-raising velocities and boasted MOA accuracy in the upper product line. This design eases concerns over public safety, no matter their actual validity, and provides hunters with a powerful cartridge that no one should dismiss lightly. 

A Case For Straight Case

A photo of 350 legend ammo next to 450 bushmaster ammo on a sheet of plywood.
Two straight case legends walk into a bar… the sleek new .350 Legend next to the punishing .450 Bushmaster.

To date, the most popular straight cased solution, at least in the AR15 platform, has been the .450 Bushmaster. Though undeniably effective, it’s performance is potentially too powerful for the most common game in North America. If you’ve shot or reloaded the cartridge, you may find that your wallet is much lighter after purchasing the materials used to load these hefty cartridges. Heavy or not, performance is jaw-dropping, as the .450 Bushmaster easily outpaces many of its bottlenecked alternatives. If Jeff Cooper liked it and had a hand in its creation, it must fill a purpose, and it does, with gusto. 

Not all straight cased ammo is heavy and expensive. Pick up a box and you’ll understand, twenty rounds weigh only about 12 ounces, including the packaging. The .350 Legend uses less material and cases that can be remanufactured from .223/5.56 brass – albeit not easily as the process requires up to three drawing steps as well as reforming. But thankfully there is plenty of this material about to perfect the best method should one become inclined. 

All told, the benefits in costs alone may push the Legend to mythological status: a box of FMJ rounds have a suggested retail price not much higher than a box of jacketed .223/5.56. That’s a lot of bag and performance for the buck. In the premium hunting ammunition category, they are anticipated to run approximately $20 per box compared to $30 and more of the established calibers.

To date, most larger AR alternatives have been at the behest of military and police necessities. A straight cased alternative such as this answers a sporting need that has not gotten much attention in the use of the AR. While the rifle’s development as a hunting tool has been growing gradually over recent years it remains a relatively small part of the market.  The .350 Legend may potentially change that, making the AR as versatile for hunting as it has been for security and competition. 

So far there are at least six .350 Legend ammo products on the shelves, three from Winchester and three from Federal. Predictably there will be a little bit of overlap and an excuse for limited opportunity to brand loyalties. I suspect it won’t be long before other manufacturers are elbowing for shelf space in this straight cased caliber. 

Best Winchester 350 Legend Ammo

a photo of winchester 145gr FMJ 350 legend ammo outdoors
It may be the new kid in town, but .350 Legend has a promising lineup of options from major ammo manufacturers.

Winchester 350 legend 145gr FMJ
The basic round for plinking, target shooting and brass accumulating for any reloading mad scientists is the 145gr full metal jacket round. Advertised with a muzzle velocity of 2350 feet per second with 1778 foot-pounds. This round is ideal for training and use in competitions and less ideal for hunting or defense because the FMJ is designed for poking clean and consistent caliber sized holes in and out of targets. For precise hits, however, this round may prove popular for culling fur hides.    

Winchester 350 Legend 180gr PP Super X
Winchester’s next contribution is their PP, “power point”, a soft point round that delivers better hunting results. The 180gr bullet leaves the muzzle at 2100 feet per second and hits with 1762 foot-pounds.  This bullet is ideal not only for hunting but is an option for defense in areas that restrict hollow points: it bridges the gap between penetration and expansion in a solid bullet with adequate sectional density to ensure excellent penetration.

Federal 350 Legend 180gr Soft Point Power Shok
This is a similarly designed bullet that answers the same need of the Winchester Super X delivering penetration and expansion without suffering the legal stigmata of a hollow point. 

Federal 350 Legend 180gr SP Non-Typical
Another soft point hunting round, the White Tail label from Federal uses a concentric jacket for greater accuracy and a solid punch penetration with enhanced expansion. This is one of the most accurate SP round that delivers equally consistently lethal wound channels.

Winchester 350 Legend 150gr Extreme Point Deer Season
Considered the top of the line from Winchester for hunting, the Extreme’s polymer tip maintains superior accuracy, delivering superior penetration and guaranteed expansion within the target. This bullet is sent from the barrel at 2325 feet per second with 1800 foot pounds of energy. 

Federal 350 Legend 160gr Bonded SP Fusion
Federal’s bonded soft points are the manufacturer’s most effective made bullet in mass retention while maintaining expansion. Velocities are doubtless in the 2300 ft per sec with 1800+/- ft lbs.

350 Legend Compared

From the samplings provided, it is clear the caliber is directed towards hunting, but that does not mean it has to just be a gaming round. Charts make for easy comparison, so using nominal or generalized stats, here is where the .350 Legend appears to measure up in the rounds it is meant to be an improvement upon:

Caliber

Muzzle velocity

Foot lbs

.350 Legend (160 gr)

2300 ft sec

1800

.223/5.56mm (55 gr)

3200 ft sec

1250

.30-30 Winchester (150 gr)

2400 ft sec

1850

.243 Winchester (90 gr)

3200 ft sec

2050

.450 Bushmaster (250 gr)

2200 ft sec

2700

.300 AAC Blackout (120 gr)

2200 ft sec

1350

.350 Legend Ammo At The Range

A photo of 350 legend ammo compared to 6.5 creedmoor ammo outdoors
A size comparison of the Winchester .350 Legend (Left), and the 6.5 Creedmoor (Right).

The precision rifle market is a little more accepting of trying out new calibers and experimental cartridges on the range. 6.5 Creedmoor was regarded as little more than a necked down .30 TC option until it gained a following and a flood of AR upper options. While the .350 Legend doesn’t have ballistic performance that rivals the 6.5 Creedmoor at distances, it is cheaper, lighter and has less recoil. It also bests .243 Win in the same categories and provides 20% deeper target penetration. This new cartridge also generates far less recoil than the .450 Bushmaster, in a 16″ Ruger American rifle, the recoil feels equal with firing a bolt action 7.62×39. 

It took a few rounds to get the 10X scope zeroed on the Ruger rifle, after that, I had no issues with hitting steel targets consistently while standing at 100 yards. Minor hold adjustments and an improvised rest at 200 yards yielded similar results, with steel singing in the distance after light trigger pulls. The drop at 300 yards is much more noticeable, but the 145gr bullets went exactly where I placed them when using the reticle markings in the scope to adjust for distance. For a box of ammo that’s less than $15 and makes no claims about having precision accuracy, it’s surprisingly consistent and accurate.

If there is a bottleneck in the straight cased momentum of the .350 legend, it’s the lack of available rifles and ammo options. At the time of writing this, I found about a dozen listings for .350 Legend rifles online, but only three options that were available and in-stock. It’s still early in the product line cycle for the cartridge, but even with six ammo options, it’s shaping up to be a good lineup. That being said, don’t wait to order the ammo, even if you plan on trying this cartridge in a gun that is yet to be released. Production lines are up and running to bring the .350 legend to the market, but backorders may take a while to fill if it goes out of stock due to demand. 

a chart comparing 350 legend ammo velocities on a chronograph
Winchester bills the .350 legend as “the world’s fastest straight-walled hunting cartridge.”

The chronograph at the range recorded an average velocity of 2226, which is slightly under the advertised box speed of 2350 for the 145gr FMJ. The rifle was fired ten times at a distance of about 10 yards from the chronograph, as is standard for ballistic testing. I was never able to break the 2300 velocity mark with the rifle and I suspect the 16″ barrel may be the factor in the difference of velocities. Firing the .350 Legend through an 18″ or 20″ barrel should increase the exit velocities to match or exceed the advertised box speeds.

.350 Legend Ammo for Hunting

a photo of 350 legend ammo next to 30-06 ammo outdoors
Powerhouse calibers like the .30-30, .30-06 (Right) and .308 have dominated the hunting market for years, is there room for a straight case competitor like the .350 Legend (Left)?

The .350 Legend delivers performance similar to an energetic .30-30, small wonder that it is advertised as a deer hunting cartridge. The .30-30 has a legendary status of its own in the hunting community, you’d be hard pressed to find a mounted trophy wall that didn’t include its contributions. The .30-30 is long in the tooth compared to modern cartridges, it’s both heavy and expensive when compared to the Legend. The Legend’s price point and the straight wall cartridge performance make it a tempting hunting choice.

Competitive pricing is a big deal, it’s a fair bet that this round will find a welcoming reception among those looking to turn their AR into a deer gun. Manufacturers have wasted no time in bringing some alternative platforms. Ruger, CVA and, of course, Winchester have introduced break open and bolt action rifles in this caliber for use where semi-autos for hunting are prohibited. The popular Ruger American design uses a detachable, AR type magazine, making this an instant contender for their .300 AAC and 7.62×39 caliber variants.

What would motivate anyone to move from their trusted Winchester 94, Marlin 336 or .243 that has been proven in the field for generations? Younger hunters may ask the same thing having just purchased a .300 Blackout or 7.62×39 bolt action. While both newer and older straight cased cartridges exist, their effectiveness and cost remain detractors. These new manual action rifles in this caliber are competitively priced, easier to mount optics on, weigh less and have a lighter recoil. Also, something to consider is the legislation of other states who plan to move on place restrictions on “high velocity” or bottlenecked rounds. All these factors may just be enough to make the .350 Legend a very popular option.

.350 Legend Ammo for Defense

a photo of 7.62x30 ammo compared to 350 legend ammo compared to 5.56 ammo outdoors
The .350 Legend (Center) falls right in between the 7.62×39 (Left) and the 5.56 (Right) for home defense.

As a defense or tactical round, the Legend offers much of the same of what is already available on the market. It may be tempting to consider it a 21st century .30 carbine, though the stats prove the .350 has twice the bullet weight and delivers double the energy down range. The straight case of the Legend, however, pre-empts it as a cartridge for effective use beyond 300 yards. In comparison, this is also a popularly accepted “effective” range of the 5.56, although admittedly, that is open to debate.

What could be the most interesting data point is the capability of the .350 Legend to potentially hit targets harder than the .300 Blackout. The Legend’s bullet is heavier while achieving the same high muzzle velocity. While current commercial offerings introduce it as a hunting caliber, it is certainly a contender answering the widely heard need for a harder hitting security AR. The attractive price point of Legend FMJ rounds, when compared to other calibers such as .300 AAC, or 6.8 SPC, etc. certainly does not it hurt either. 

Is .350 Legend For You?

photo of a man in the woods shooting the ruger american rifle chambered in 350 legend
The 16″ barrel of the Ruger American Ranch Compact rifle made hitting targets a breeze in dense woods with .350 Legend.

Time will tell if the .350 Legend is embraced by the market enough to fully explore its merits in different applications. It’s an exciting straight cased option, for those looking for a harder hitting, close to medium range hunting cartridge. You can conveniently fire it from a bolt action or AR upper, and expect to be impressed by its performance. It provides a hunting cartridge with knockdown capabilities, even in densely wooded areas, without the legs to wander too far down range as the full-sized hunting cartridges can do.

There are plenty of hunters out there ready to try something new, Winchester seems to be reaching out to them. I’m personally excited about all the possibilities of this cartridge for deer season. The hunting community pulls no punches, if the .350 is indeed a legend, you’ll hear about it from them first. I expect to see many in-depth tests of the .350 Legend in the field, and I look forward to reading the online commentary and experiences of hunters and their findings in the greater community.

Happily, this round is priced in the realm of “why not” for anyone looking to use it for target shooting, and there is little to suggest it cannot serve competently as a defensive cartridge. It performs like a 7.62×39, without that cartridge’s feeding issues in an AR platform. It hits harder than a .300 ACC Blackout without that cartridge’s cost. It was not developed by or for the military, so it is politically a “civilian cartridge” with “civilian” applications, and while field results are not fully in from consumer R&D, it will likely ultimately be as cheap to reload as its .223 parent case. 

Legend is a big name to live up to, and this new cartridge is standing on the shoulders of the gaming giants that came before it. The price is right, the performance is on target and the market is ready for modern solutions. Winchester is taking aim at a big audience and may have hit a bullseye in predicting that this little round will indeed be legendary. 

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