On the Winchester 400 Legend Cartridge

By Randy Wakeman

For many, the new Winchester 400 Legend will be a real snooze-fest. For over 120 years, all most folks wanted was a reasonably accurate rifle cartridge that would quickly bag a deer, hog, or bear. Chamberings such as the 30-06 Springfield and .303 British are, by now, reasonably ancient . . . just as most of the Great War of 1914-1918 mechanical devices are considered crude and unrefined today. It seems counter-intuitive to intentionally design and manufacture rifles with poor ballistics compared to what was in common use well over a century ago. Yet, that is what has been happening.

It is all driven by government bureaucracy, like too many things. Nevertheless, Ohio, Indiana public land, Iowa, southern Michigan, and now Illinois have signed on to the “straight wall cartridge” idea. You might think, if DNR's had any respect for the tax-paying, license-buying hunters that they are supposed to serve, they would just allow the old .30-30 and similar for whitetail hunting, and that would be that. That, apparently, would make too much sense.

Illinois regulations are particularly odd, as you can use far more formidable cartridges than the .30-30 or .35 Remington, but you can also hunt with a 9mm +P from a rifle: https://dnr.illinois.gov/content/dam/soi/en/web/dnr/hunting/documents/ilsingleshotrifle.pdf . You can also legally hunt Illinois with a 45-120 Sharps, or a 450 or 500 Nitro Express. The .405 Winchester, Teddy Roosevelt's “Big Medicine,” is also legal for whitetail hunting in Illinois. You can use a buffalo gun in Illinois to take deer, but in the Illinois version of insanity, the .30-30 and .35 Remington are a no-go.

It seems clear Illinois cares little about the finances of their hunters, but they also don't care about the deer, either. Although you can use a semi-auto shotgun on whitetail, the rifles are “single shot.” That means more lost and wounded deer, in a state where Buicks take more deer than hunters in some areas. Illinois is the only state with this mindless and cruel rule that just means more lost deer.

In the case of my next-door neighbor, a BMW X3 was recently the weapon of choice. According to State Farm, there were over 1.8 million animal collision insurance claims in the U.S. between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023. You would think that if the Illinois DNR could fog a mirror, they would quickly allow all common intermediate rifles to be used. You can only fill a tag once, after all.

Yes, the 400 Legend. East of the Mississippi, most whitetails are taken inside 100 yards: inside 50 yards in some areas. The notion that any whitetail out to 200 yards can live on the difference between a .350 Legend, a 400 Legend, a 30-30, a 360 Buckhammer, or a 35 Remington is ridiculous.

The 400 Legend exterior ballistics are very close to the 350 Legend, netting you a larger diameter bullet that is less aerodynamic (.205 static BC), but allows you to put a bit more bullet weight into the animal as the initial loading is a 2250 fps 215 grain Power Point. The Hornady American Whitetail load I'm using in my Savage is a 2200 fps 170 grain projectile with a .215 static BC. The 350 Legend had a 55,000 PSI SAAMI limit, while the 400 Legend is capped at 45,000 PSI. This suggests that the 350 Legend is a bit more efficient.

Savage is adding over a dozen 400 Legend models, joining the Winchester XPR line. The 400 Legend is also compatible with Armalite platform rifles. The 350 Legend has been a hit, essentially obsoleting 12 and 20 gauge slug guns with far less recoil and a far lower cost per shot: both good things.

The door swings both ways, for the 400 Legend has 14.15 ft. lbs. of recoil assuming a 7 lb. rifle, compared to 9.13 ft. lbs. with a 7 lb. 350 Legend using the 170 grain Hornady American Whitetail round. That's about 55% more recoil for a cartridge that does essentially the same thing inside 200 yards. I see that the 400 Legend 215 grain is advertised at $1.63 per round, vs. $1.35 a round for my Hornady 350 Legend ammo, so the price difference seems negligible.

I'm trying to envision a scenario where I would want a 400 Legend to add to my collection of .223's, 350 Legends, .270's and so forth, but I've come up empty. It is a cartridge difference without a distinction. 

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Copyright 2023 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.