350 Legend might as well have been the theme of the 2020 SHOT Show. Everywhere I looked, I saw banners, articles, and guns chambered in the new wonder cartridge from Winchester. Winchester’s ad campaign clearly worked because my curiosity was piqued. The AR 15 proves itself modular once more, with the 350 Legend making a seamless transition into the platform. In this day and age, it seems almost sacrilege to create a new caliber without thinking about the AR 15 or AR 10 platform.
.350 Legend vs. 5.56
The 350 Legend is a fascinating cartridge. If you sit the 350 Legend side by side with a 5.56 round, you’ll notice they are roughly the same length. The nominal rim diameter is identical as well, but the 350 Legend does not use the 5.56 as its parent case like the 300 Blackout. Winchester designed the cartridge from the ground up.
The case length is 1.71 inches and has a case capacity of 36.5 grains. The projectile measures out at .357 inches or 9mm in countries that have never gone to the moon. The cartridge is a straight-walled design, which is critical to why it actually exists and what the cartridge’s intent is.
So Why Does It Exist?
Hunting laws vary across the United States. They vary greatly, and some regulate what you can and cannot hunt with. Some states regulate cartridges and cartridge design. Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and likely some states I’m missing regulate cartridges down to their designs. [See our directory of hunting laws by state.]
Bottleneck vs. Straight Walled Cartridges
These states prohibit bottleneck cartridges, which make up the vast majority of rifle calibers. 5.56, 308, 6.5 Creedmoor, 30-06, and more. You’re limited to shotgun slugs or straight walled cartridges. The reason these cartridges are restricted is due to the proximity of homes near hunting areas. Bottleneck cartridges travel and travel and can create some risk.
Straight walled cartridges like the 350 Legend are not made for a substantial distance and are considered safer and legal for these states. The 350 Legend is perfect for 200 to 250 yards. Beyond that, velocity drops quickly.
As many of you know, this isn’t the only straight-walled cartridge on the market, so why would you choose the 350 Legend over other straight-walled cartridges?
Benefits of the .350 Legend
.350 Legend in the AR-15 Platform
To me, the biggest advantage is the use of AR 15 type rifles. The 350 Legend was made with these rifles in mind for a reason. They are not only extremely popular but easy to shoot, modular, lightweight, and easy to accessorize. The AR 15 platform is popular for a reason, and it’s becoming a mainstream hunting rifle these days.
That being said, you can find 350 Legend rifles in a wide variety of rifle types. Bolt guns, single shots, etc., are being produced in the new cartridge.
Another major strength of the 350 Legend is mild recoil. Who wants a bruised shoulder to take a deer? The 350 Legend generates recoil akin to a 5.56, maybe a little sharper than 5.56, but not by much. Outside of pure comfort, the lower recoil makes fast follow-up shots possible. When picking off hogs or coyotes, you might have the ability to take more than one.
Another big difference between the 350 Legend and other straight-walled cartridges is the minimal muzzle blast. Have you ever fired 5.56 from a 20-inch barrel? It’s that level of comfort. If you have never experienced that, then the best way to describe it is basically no muzzle blast: no real concussion or violent explosion at the end of the barrel.
You don’t need a 20-inch barrel to achieve this level of comfort. A standard 16-inch rifle does it quite well. If you ever go shorter with an SBR or AR pistol, the ballistics hold up rather well with short barrels.
(Winchester Ammunition Graphic)
Hunting with .350 Legend
The 350 Legend hits like a hammer at close range. It strikes a target with a big heavy bullet that penetrates deeply and expands significantly. It’s a real animal stopper, and you can hunt deer, hogs, coyotes, and even black bears. Obviously, you’ll need to pick the appropriate projectile weight to accomplish this task. [See our Hunt with the Perfect Caliber Infographic]
350 Legend Bullet Weights
The 350 Legend has a wide variety of projectile weights available to it. You can go light with a 125 grain projectile for deer and coyotes and go up to super heavy subsonic 255 grain cartridges for suppressed hunting. For bigger game like hogs and bears, 180-grain cartridges will often do the job.
Since the 350 Legend is smaller in diameter than other cartridges, the entrance wound is often smaller and helps preserve the hide for trophy use.
.350 Legend Vs. 450 Bushmaster
Prior to 350 Legend, the 450 Bushmaster was the straight-walled cartridge of choice for AR hunters. 450 Bushmaster is a great cartridge with a long history of success, so why would you choose the 350 Legend over the 450 Bushmaster?
350 Legend flies flatter over longer ranges. A flatter trajectory simplifies taking a long-range shot. There is less elevation to compensate for and often makes you a more accurate hunter. As hunters, we have a responsibility to be humane and humane shots are accurate shots.
350 Legend provides much less recoil than 450 Bushmaster. 450 Bushmaster won’t dislocate your shoulder or anything crazy, but the difference between 350 Legend recoil and 450 Bushmaster recoil is substantial. Kids could shoot 350 Legend and be comfortable.
450 Bushmaster works best with experienced shooters, and 350 Legend is more welcoming to all shooters. Additionally, less recoil and less muzzle rise make it easy to obtain fast follow-up shots. As you’d imagine, the 350 Legend also produces less muzzle blast and a more comfortable experience.
350 Legend rifles are also lighter on average. The lighter weight is a big deal when stalking and hunting for long periods of time. You’d be surprised the difference a pound or two makes over a 12-hour hunt.
Lower Ammo Price
Another major advantage comes down to the dollars. 350 Legend might be the new cartridge on the block, but it’s substantially cheaper than 450 Bushmaster when you price per round. 450 Bushmaster goes for a buck a round when it’s cheap, and 350 Legend can be had for half that. [Check out our infographic to see current ammo prices by caliber].
450 Bushmaster Advantages
450 Bushmaster does provide more oomph per shot and is better suited for bigger game. You can take Elk and big bear with a 450 Bushmaster. Also, the 450 Bushmaster has been around for a good bit longer, so finding rifles, barrels, muzzle devices, and more is a little easier at the moment.
.350 Legend Vs. .300 Blackout
AR 15 calibers come and go rather often. Few stick around for a long period of time, but one that has become mainstream and stayed mainstream is the 300 Blackout. The 300 Blackout has been around for over a decade now and has more than proven itself successful in the AR platform.
Hunting and Distance Shooting
The biggest difference between 300 Blackout and 350 Legend is the cartridge design differences. The 300 Blackout is a bottleneck cartridge. Right off the bat, that limits its ability to be a hunting cartridge in certain states. The bottleneck design also helps give the 300 Blackout the edge for long-range performance. With supersonic 300 Blackout rounds, the rifle can reach out to 400 yards with ease.
350 Legend packs more power at close range with larger projectiles that tend to penetrate deeper and expand wider. This makes the round a bit more appropriate for hunting. While the 300 Blackout works perfectly for deer and coyotes, anything larger than those animals should be taken with a different caliber.
Both the 350 Legend and 300 Blackout come in a wide variety of projectile weights and can come as both supersonic and subsonic varieties. 350 Legend is a growing cartridge with a growing fanbase. 300 Blackout already has a massive fan base and a monstrous logistics machine behind the gun.
300 Blackout certainly gives you more options for ammo, suppressors, optics, guns, muzzle devices, barrels, and beyond. It’s such an established cartridge that 300 Blackout’s biggest advantage is its established logistical machine.
300 Blackout offers you a higher capacity and more compatibility among 5.56 rifles. 300 Blackout can use 5.56 magazines, bolts, and almost everything other than the barrel.
Both rounds have a lot in common, but it’s important to remember it’s tough to judge the rounds against each other. 300 Blackout was designed for suppressed tactical operations, and 350 Legend was designed for hunting animals. These are two big differences, and the design of each cartridge shows this.
.350 Legend Vs. the World
The 350 Legend cartridge has made a big splash in a very big pond. In a short period of time, the 350 Legend has become one of the more dominant straight-walled hunting cartridges. This big boy’s mix of impressive ballistics and the comfortable shooting design make it a fantastic cartridge.
It’s not going anywhere anytime soon and seems to have hooked the industry rather well. If 350 Legend is for you, check out our uppers, complete rifles, barrels, and more to start your own legend.
[We would like to extend a huge thank you to Travis Pike for his work on this article! Check out our other helpful guides like 300 Blackout vs 308, 50 Beowulf, and AR Pistols.]