350 Legend vs 300 Blackout: A Clinic on Purpose-Driven Rifle Cartridges

The 350 Legend and 300 AAC Blackout are two centerfire rifle cartridges that are often employed by deer hunters to bag that trophy buck or stock their freezers full of venison every fall.

Although both cartridges are excellent options for taking down whitetail or feral hogs, this comparison really comes down to understanding the purpose that each cartridge was developed for.

The 350 Legend was developed by Winchester specifically as a hunting round, while the 300 Blackout was developed for US Special Forces to be fired with a suppressor from the AR-15 platform.

Even though the 300 Blackout was designed for urban combat, it has been accepted by the hunting community as an effective dispatcher of whitetail deer and is used by many shooters every fall.

In this article, we will take a deep dive into the 350 Legend vs 300 Blackout cartridge debate and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each, so you can make a more informed decision on your new hunting rifle.

What is the Difference Between 350 Legend and 300 Blackout?

The primary difference between the 350 Legend and 300 Blackout is the bullet diameter and case design for each cartridge. The 350 Legend fires a 0.355” diameter bullet from a straight-walled cartridge while the 300 Blackout fires a 0.308” diameter bullet from a bottleneck cartridge.

Cartridge Specs

When comparing two rifle cartridges, it’s a good idea to analyze the cartridge specs to gain more knowledge of each.

The first major difference to discuss is the design on the cartridge case itself, as the 300 Blackout is a bottleneck case while the 350 Legend uses a straight-walled case. A bottleneck case is typically more efficient, as it allows for a higher case capacity since the base of the bullet resides in the neck of the cartridge instead of the body. However, the 350 Legend was specifically designed as a straight-walled cartridge to meet the rigid DNR requirements of states like Ohio, Michigan, Indian, and Pennsylvania that require such cases for deer hunting.

The next major difference is the bullet diameter that each hunting cartridge fires. The 300 Blackout fires the popular 30 caliber bullet, or 0.308” bullet diameter. For the 350 Legend, Winchester uses a bit of marketing magic in how it describes the projectiles its cartridge fires.

You’ll notice that the bullet diameter for 350 Legend is listed as 0.357”-0.003”, which is odd since caliber is usually just a single diameter measurement. This strange nomenclature is due to specific state requirements that rifle cartridges used for deer hunting must fire a minimum of a 0.357” diameter bullet.

Winchester lists the 350 Legend as firing a 0.357” caliber bullet on their website, however all reloading data recommends the use of 0.355” bullets (otherwise known as 9mm). Although the 350 Legend is capable of firing a 0.357” diameter bullet, it is more frequently loaded with the slightly thinner 0.355” bullet. This strange caliber designation allows for some wiggle room with bullet selection while still maintaining legality in states that have the 0.357” bullet diameter requirement.

One similarity between the 350 Legend and the 300 AAC Blackout is that they have the same rim diameter (not listed) as the 223 Remington, 0.378”. This means that integration of the 350 Legend into the AR-15 platform would only require a barrel change.

Although the overall length measurements of the 350 Legend vs 300 Blackout are nearly identical, the case capacity is quite different as the 350 Legend has more space due to it being a longer and wider case overall. The 350 Legend has a case capacity of 36.5 gr compared to 26.5 gr for 300 Blackout.

The added case capacity allows the 350 Legend to fire a heavier bullet, but how does that affect recoil?

Recoil

One of the main selling points that Winchester likes to point out about their deer hunting darling cartridge, 350 Legend, is that it has about 63% less recoil than the 450 Bushmaster, and 60% deeper penetration than the 223 Rem. Those are impressive numbers, but how does it stack up against the 300 Blackout?

On average over several supersonic loadings, the 300 Blackout will have 6 ft-lbs of felt recoil while the 350 Legend will have around 8.5 ft-lbs of felt recoil.

Although the 350 Legend does technically have more felt recoil than the 300 BLK, neither is oppressive to shoot and marksmen would describe both cartridges as having low recoil.

Muzzle Velocity and Kinetic Energy

Muzzle velocity, measured in feet per second (fps) is the speed at which the bullet leaves the barrel of the firearm. Generally, a longer barrel length will generate a higher muzzle velocity because it allows for a more complete powder burn.

Muzzle energy is measured in foot-pounds (ft-lbs) and is a measurement of how much force a bullet delivers to its target at a given range.

The 150 gr Winchester Deer Season XP loadings for both calibers will be considered for this comparison. For this load, the 350 Legend will have a muzzle velocity of 2,325 fps and muzzle energy of 1,800 ft-lbs according to Winchester’s data. In comparison, the same load in 300 Blackout will have a muzzle velocity of 1,900 fps and muzzle energy of 1,200 ft-lbs.

The 350 Legend is clearly superior in terms of muzzle velocity and energy.

Trajectory

Trajectory is how we quantify a bullet’s flight path as it travels downrange measured in inches of bullet drop.

Obviously, a flatter shooting cartridge is preferred for shooting longer ranges, as a shooter will require fewer adjustments to their optics to compensate for bullet drop. Having a flatter trajectory also means that a cartridge will be more forgiving of ranging mistakes.

As the 350 Legend has a higher muzzle velocity, it will generally have a flatter trajectory.

Using the same 150 gr Winchester Deer Season XP loadings, we see that at 200 yards the 350 Legend has experienced -7.6” of bullet drop compared to -9” for the 300 Blackout.

This may not be a huge difference at this short range, but the gap between the two becomes more exacerbated at longer ranges.

This difference in trajectory coincides with the listed maximum effective range for both rifle cartridges. Winchester states that the 350 Legend is effective on whitetail out to 250 yards, where the 300 Blackout has a maximum hunting effective range around 175 yards on a good day.

Ballistic Coefficient

Ballistic coefficient (BC) is a measure of how well a bullet resists wind drift and air resistance. Put another way, it’s a numeric representation of how aerodynamic a bullet is. A high BC is preferred as this means the bullet will buck the wind easier.

Generally, heavy bullets will have a higher BC as it takes more force to disrupt the flight of a heavier bullet than a lighter one. Ballistic coefficient varies from bullet to bullet based on design, weight, and other factors that are beyond the scope of this article.

Ballistic coefficient is one category where the 300 Blackout reigns supreme.

With its more aerodynamic Spitzer bullet design, the 300 Blackout defeats the 350 Legend by a wide margin. Sticking with our same Deer Season XP loads, the 350 Legend has a BC of 0.223 compared to 0.392 for 300 AAC Blackout.

That’s a pretty big difference and showcases how bullet design plays a critical role in Ballistic Coefficient.

Sectional Density

Sectional Density (SD) is the measure of how well a bullet penetrates a target. This is extremely important when hunting big and medium sized game, as you need a bullet that can punch through thick hide, bone, and sinew.

Sectional density is calculated by comparing the bullet weight and the bullet diameter. The higher the SD the deeper the bullet will penetrate into the target. This is a simplified view of penetration as there are other factors to consider, such as bullet expansion and velocity.

Bullet jacket design also plays a part in penetration, as a bullet designed to expand like a soft point (SP), ballistic tip, or jacketed hollow point (JHP) will naturally penetrate less than a full metal jacket (FMJ).

At the time of writing, Winchester has not published sectional density data for their 350 Legend cartridge on their website. Winchester makes the claim that the 350 Legend penetrates around 10% less than 30-30 Win.

Although Winchester has not published their SD calculations, Hornady has recently started producing their own loads for 350 Legend and has SD data available. Unfortunately there are no Hornady loads that are the same bullet weight for both cartridges, so this won’t be a perfect apples-to-apples comparison.

The Hornady 135 gr FTX Custom 300 Blackout round has a sectional density of 0.203 compared to a 165 gr FTX Custom 350 Legend with a SD of 0.187. Although the bullet weights for these two cartridges is slightly different, it does suggest that the 300 Blackout will have a higher sectional density and therefore penetrate deeper into a big game animal.

Hunting

The increased effective range and kinetic energy provided by the 350 Legend make it the clear choice for hunting purposes. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, as the 350 Legend was specifically designed as a deer hunting round.

This is not to say that the 300 Blackout is an ineffective hunting cartridge. On the contrary it is extremely effective at close range or when faster follow-up shots are needed, like when hunting feral hogs.

However, deer hunters typically opt for a single shot or bolt-action rifles as semi-automatic fire is not needed for whitetail (and sometimes prohibited by law). This nullifies much of the advantage of the 300 BLK and its seamless integration with the AR-15 platform.

The 300 Blackout and 350 Legend are both capable of firing subsonic ammo, however it is not advisable to use either of these subsonic rounds for hunting purposes. Subsonic offerings for both rounds lack the needed kinetic energy and expansion needed for ethical hunting, therefore it is NOT recommended to used subsonic ammo for hunting big game.

For varmint hunting, the low recoil of the 300 Blackout gives it a slight advantage over the 350 Legend. Furthermore, the 300 Blackout has more lightweight bullet options that are ideal for smaller varmints like the 110 gr Hornady V-MAX. However, for anything smaller than a coyote, you would be better served with a 223 Rem or 22-250 as these rounds are designed for this purpose.

There’s nothing to say you can’t use a 350 Legend or 300 Blackout for a groundhog or woodchuck, but it’s a bit overkill if you ask me. For anything smaller than a coyote, you would be better served with a 223 Rem or 22-250 as these rounds are designed for this purpose.

Suppressor Integration

One of the key attributes of the 300 AAC Blackout is its ability to be effectively suppressed in a short barrel AR-15 (or M4 carbine for our military).

In close quarters battle (CQB) like our soldiers experienced in the urban setting of Iraq, having a maneuverable rifle with a short barrel and a suppressor to reduce the rifle report is critical for maintaining situational awareness and communication during a firefight indoors.

As sound will echo off interior walls, a rifle fired indoors will be considerably louder than what is experienced shooting outdoors, necessitating the use of suppressor.

Suppressors work by reducing the sound of the gunpowder igniting during the firing sequence. However, the sonic crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier cannot be reduced by a suppressor.

Most rifle cartridges are fired at supersonic speeds, meaning faster than 1125 fps.

Both the 350 Legend and 300 Blackout have subsonic factory loads available for use with a suppressor.

The 300 Blackout has a slight advantage over the 350 Legend for suppressor use since the 300 Blackout is designed to experience a full powder burin in only 9 inches of barrel length. This makes for a very lightweight, compact carbine package that is extremely easy to suppress.

Home Defense

As the 300 Blackout was designed for CQB applications, it is clearly the better option for self-defense.

This is not to say that a 350 Legend cannot be utilized in a home defense application, it will serve you admirably should you need to bring it to bear against an attacker. However, the inability of the 350 Legend to fit into standard AR-15 mags is a clear mark against the cartridge.

Furthermore, the 300 Blackout has less recoil than the 350 Legend, meaning that follow-up shots will be quicker when firing a 300 BLK rifle. Full 30-round magazine capacity and low recoil make the 300 Blackout the better choice for self-defense.

Ammo and Rifle Cost/Availability

As the 350 Legend is a relatively new cartridge on the market, there are fewer ammo options available compared to 300 Blackout. Winchester, Hornady, and Federal are the primary suppliers of 350 Legend ammo, whereas almost every manufacturer has a 300 Blackout ammo option for sale.

Although the 300 Blackout has more ammo options available, the cost per round is virtually identical for 300 Blackout and 350 Legend. Inexpensive full metal jacket (fmj) practice ammo typically runs around $1/round while premium hunting ammo goes for about $2/round.

In terms of rifle availability, the 300 Blackout is the clear choice as any standard AR-15 can be converted to 300 BLK with a simple barrel change. Furthermore, many manufacturers offer 300 Blackout AR-15 rifles straight from the factory, so no conversion is needed.

Converting an AR-15 to 350 Legend is not difficult as the bolt used for 223 Remington/5.56 NATO can be used, however new magazines specific for 350 Legend have to be acquired. This need for special magazines is one of the reasons that other calibers like the 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 SPC have only seen mild popularity in the AR shooting community.

In terms of bolt action rifles, manufactures like Ruger and Savage both have options for the 300 Blackout and 350 Legend. The Ruger American Ranch offers an affordable, magazine-fed, lightweight bolt action rifle in both calibers that is ideal for deer hunting.

Reloading

Creating your own hand loads for both 350 Legend and 300 Blackout can be extremely rewarding and a cost-saving measure that allows you to practice more with your rifles.

In terms of component availability, the 300 Blackout has the edge as it fires the extremely common and popular 30 caliber bullet. This means that you can easily stockpile components for 308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, and 300 Win Mag as they all fire the same bullet diameter.

Furthermore, 300 Blackout brass is considerably easier and less expensive to acquire than 350 Legend. In fact, a savvy reloader can form their own 300 Blackout brass from 223 Remington cases with the proper dies and some patience.

On the other hand, 0.355” diameter rifle bullets are less commonly used. Although 0.355” is the same diameter as 9mm pistol bullets, handgun bullets and rifle bullets are designed differently. This means that there will be fewer bullet options available for 350 Legend and you’ll have to purchase them specifically for that cartridge.

In terms of brass, you’ll have to either save your factory 350 Legend cases or purchase factory new as the 350 Legend is a unique case design.

Despite these drawbacks, many hunters love making their own hand loads for 350 Legend, as this allows them to tailor their ammo to their specific rifle.

However, reloading for 300 Blackout offers more benefits with the cross-compatibility with other 30 caliber cartridges as you can save money by purchasing projectiles for both in bulk.

A Brief History of 350 Legend

The 350 Legend is a rifle cartridge that was developed to fill a particular role in the deer hunting community.

Developed by Winchester Repeating Arms and accepted by SAAMI in 2019, the 350 Legend is a rimless, centerfire, straight-walled cartridge that was designed to meet the needs of hunters in states like Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Hunters in these states are required, by law, to use straight-walled cartridges for deer hunting and have previously been restricted to heavier cartridges like the 450 Bushmaster or 444 Marlin.

Winchester sought to produce a low recoil, heavy hitting cartridge that met the overall length and bullet diameter requirements of these states, and the 350 Legend was the result.

Capable of firing 150 grain 0.355” projectiles at 2,325 fps and with 1,800 ft-lbs of kinetic energy, the 350 Legend is a potent cartridge capable of harvesting a whitetail at 250 yards.

The cartridge was revealed to the shooting community at 2019 SHOT Show and was initially offered in Winchester’s XPR bolt action rifles. Since its debut, other rifle manufactures like Ruger and Savage have seen the potential of the cartridge and chambered it in their own rifles.

As the 350 Legend shares the same rim diameter as the 223 Rem, the 350 can be integrated into the AR-15 platform with a barrel change. However, the 350 Legend is not compatible with standard AR-15 magazines, so 350 Legend AR mags are also needed.

Capable of firing bullet weights ranging between 125 and 280 grains, the 350 Legend offers shooters the flexibility to hunt small to big game with the same rifle.

A Brief History of 300 Blackout

The development of the 300 AAC Blackout (designated 300 BLK by SAAMI) rifle cartridge began in 2010 when Robert Silvers of the Advanced Armament Corporation (which was later acquired by Remington) was approached by a member of the US Military “dark ops” community.

Some special forces units were unhappy with the stopping power that the 5.56 NATO and the 9mm (used in several SMGs) offered during close range engagements and he wanted something that had more “oomph”. Something along the lines of the 7.62x39mm.

However, there were some other requirements that this customer required as well:

  1. The rounds needed to fit into STANAG standard AR-pattern mags and maintain their 30-round capacity
  2. The cartridge case head must be the same as 5.56mm NATO so a bolt change was not needed
  3. It had to shoot 30 caliber projectiles and mimic the terminal performance of the 7.62x39
  4. The new rifle cartridge needed to be compatible with short barrel rifles (SBR, barrels under 16”) and be completely functional with a suppressor/silencer
  5. Supersonic and subsonic ammo needed to be available and functional

Integrating new calibers into the AR-15 platform is nothing new to the shooting community. The 6.8 Remington Special Purpose Cartridge (SPC) and 6.5 Grendel are two examples that were mildly successful; however, they both required a new bolt and did not maintain the 30-round capacity requirement.

Simply modifying a M4 to fire 7.62x39mm was not an option either as the severe case taper causes multiple chambering issues using standard M4 mags. This is why you see such extreme curvature in AK-47 magazines.

A new cartridge had to be developed and the 300 Whisper, pioneered by JD Jones, was selected as the parent case. Since the 300 Whisper was a wildcat cartridge, and therefore could not simply be adopted for military use as it was not SAAMI standardized.

The new round was called the 300 AAC Blackout (300 BLK or 300 Blackout) and was approved by SAAMI on January 17, 2011.

300 BLK ammo can be broken down into two different bullet weights, 200+ grain subsonic and 110 to 125 grain supersonic.

Supersonic ammo, typically firing a 125 grain bullet, will have a muzzle velocity of approximately 2250 fps and have a muzzle energy of around 1404 ft-lbs. Industry standards list the effective range of the supersonic 125 grain bullet loadings to be 500 yards.

In contrast, subsonic loads will fire a 220 grain bullet and have a muzzle velocity of around 1000 fps and a muzzle energy of 488 ft-lbs with an effective range of 200 yards.

These two popular loadings really illustrate the versatility of 300 BLK ammo. With a simple magazine change, a shooter can switch from supersonic ammunition and long-range engagements to subsonic ammunition for short range combat.

Furthermore, the 300 BLK was designed specifically to experience a full powder burn when being fired in a 9” short barrel rifle (SBR), preferably with a suppressor/silencer.

If you’d like to learn more about how the 300 BLK compares to other calibers, check out these articles below:

Final Shots: 350 Legend vs 300 Blackout

The 300 AAC Blackout and 350 Legend are two rifle cartridges that were developed to fill a specific niche in the shooting community.

The 350 Legend was developed to offer hunters in the Midwest a low recoil, long range hunting round that met the cartridge requirements of some states like Ohio and Michigan. It is effective on whitetail out to 250 yards and can be utilized against feral hogs and coyotes as well.

The 300 AAC Blackout was developed with the AR-15 platform in mind for close quarters battle. With low recoil and the ability to maintain full capacity in 30-round AR magazines, the 300 Blackout makes for a potent carbine capable of firing both supersonic and subsonic rounds. The decision between 300 Blackout vs 350 Legend greatly depends on your intended use for the cartridge.

If you plan to go deer hunting in a state that requires the use of straight-walled cartridges, then the 350 Legend is clearly the obvious choice. However, if you are looking for a cartridge that easily integrates into the AR-15 carbine for use with or without a suppressor, then 300 Blackout makes the most sense.

However, if you live in a state that does not have straight-walled cartridge requirements, there is little benefit to selecting a 350 Legend, as something like a 308 Win or 30-06 Springfield offers you greater long range capability and excellent terminal ballistics without sacrificing the efficiency of a bottleneck cartridge.

The bottom line is that the 350 Legend was developed to fill a specific need for deer hunters in states with restrictive cartridge requirements. Although the 350 Legend does have some utility for other applications and is ballistically superior to the 300 Blackout, it is unlikely to see the widespread success of the 300 BLK due to the need for special 350 Legend magazines in an AR-15.

Selecting the best cartridge for your needs depends on your state requirements and needs as a shooter. Regardless of which one you choose, make sure to get all of your ammo here at Ammo.com and I’ll see you out on the range!

350 Legend vs 300 Blackout: A Clinic on Purpose-Driven Rifle Cartridges originally appeared on Ammo.com

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