Maybe it stems from fond memories of our fathers or grandfathers pulling the ol’ 30-06 out of the cabinet with the faint aroma of Hoppe’s No. 9, or from reading too many Jack O’Connor stories. Maybe it’s another reason altogether. It seems as if most of us have a very strong opinion of what the best cartridge is. Over the last several months, I have been testing an old warrior along side two of the newest and hottest 30 caliber cartridges. It was the 300 Winchester Magnum vs. the 30 Nosler vs. the new 300 PRC. I built three rifles with 26″ barrels, and developed loads for each rifle. I also tested a few select factory ammo offerings in each. Will we have a clear winner? I guess we will see.
300 WM vs 300 PRC vs 30 Nosler
Why these three cartridges? Why not others? The short answer is these three cartridges will compete very closely to each other. There is no end to the which cartridges are bigger, badder, faster argument. The fact is the 30 Nosler and 300 PRC were made to compete with the 300 Win Mag, so this is why I am focusing on these three.
If you are in the “I will never shoot past 300 yards” crowd I would suggest you stop reading here and just go buy the rifle you want with little regard to the cartridge it is chambered in as it will not matter much under that distance. Spend your time figuring out how to shoot it and spend the saved money on more tags/hunts. If you want to stretch your rifle’s legs and performance matters, then keep reading.
I will not discuss reamer prints used for the review. I will say all three were chambered such that a 215 Berger is not eating precious case capacity. I will try to focus on all out performance over accuracy as everyone who knows anything about custom rifles knows the reamer design will have almost as much effect on accuracy as the cartridge and loads themselves. The goal of the review was to use 215 Bergers and H1000 and compare as closely as possible. I will discuss this throughout the review.
Before we dive into the information, I am going to address components very quickly. The powder, primers, and bullets will be the same between cartridges so the only real differentiator will be brass. When I chamber a barrel, I make sure I have enough brass to last that barrel. If brass is no longer available, for whatever reason, when my barrel is toast I guess I am moving on to another cartridge so the “is it going to stick around?” argument means nothing to me. If you disagree, I would just stick with the 300 Win Mag. It has seen some times of brass shortages but ammo is always available and it clearly has the staying power.
300 Winchester Magnum
The 300 win. mag has been around in factory form since 1963. Its parent cartridge is the 300 H&H. In SAAMI form it has an OAL of 3.34”. This factory cartridge OAL is what holds the Win Mag back when it comes to factory ammo options and is a major reason the guys at Hornady developed the 300 PRC. The SAAMI chamber will allow 215 Bergers to be seated with the boat tail junction seated around the neck/shoulder junction. But, not at the listed SAMMI OAL of 3.34″. Having said that, it can benefit from a custom throat. Depending on the brand of brass, it will have a total water capacity of 88-95.5 grains. Many will complain about the belt, which in most cases is nothing more than a cosmetic eyesore. No one I know head spaces off the belt making it a moot point in my opinion. The rifle used for the review is my 3rd 300 Win. The two previous rifles had 27” and 28” barrels and pushed 215 Bergers 2890fps and 2950fps respectively. Neither of them would reach 3000 without pressure signs. The test rifle has a 26” Wilson barrel to keep everything as close as I was willing to do.
The 30 Nosler was introduced in 2016 and in SAAMI form has a OAL of 3.34”. Its parent cartridge is the .404 Jeffery. Again this OAL length is holding the cartridge back in factory ammo and once again a major reason Hornady designed the 300 PRC. As with the SAAMI 300 Win Mag, the SAAMI 30 Nosler will allow the 215 Berger’s boat tail junction to be seated at the neck/shoulder junction, but this cartridge greatly benefits from a custom throat. Depending on brand of brass, it will have a total water capacity of 99-101 grains. The test rifle is my third 30 Nosler. The previous two pushed 215 Bergers out of 26” barrels at 3030-3040 fps. One was with Retumbo the other with N570. Both would match those speeds with H1000 with the beginning of pressure signs, but I chose the listed loads for testing purposes at the time. Mike at Hell’s Canyon Armory chambered the 30 Nosler test rifle using one of his 26” barrels.
The 300 PRC was commercially introduced in late 2018. It has been around in wildcat form for around ten years prior. In SAAMI form it has an OAL of 3.7”. The parent cartridge is the .375 Ruger. At the time of this writing, only Hornady officially makes brass but I do have some test Bertram Brass. The Hornady brass has a total water capacity of around 96 grains. The Bertram is currently around 89 grains. The 300 PRC actually has a little more freebore than I would want for a 215 Berger, but is not bad and allows the use of the longer bearing surfaces of the Hornady bullets. For the test, I had a 26” Proof research barrel chambered by Brad’s Precision Rifles.
Factory Ammo Choices
Before we get into the load development, I will discuss factory offerings. In the 300 Win. Mag the only one I would consider would be the Berger ammunition loaded with 215s. Most rifles seem to love it and this test rifle was no exception. The 300 PRC has two great options in the 212 ELDX and 225 ELDM. My test rifle did not like either of them. The 30 Nosler is limited to Nosler ammunition, which I am not a fan of. The 210 grain Accubond factory ammo does not shoot well in any rifle I have seen, including mine. The 180 Accubond factory ammunition shoots great in everything I have seen including mine. I, however, would never shoot a 180 grain bullet in a 30 caliber. If I wanted to shoot a 180, I would shoot a 7mm. Since factory ammunition is basically going to be a crap shoot as far as accuracy, this one is a tough one but I will have to give the nod to the 300 Win Mag. The Berger 215 is an awesome hunting bullet and at a velocity of 2900 fps in the factory Berger ammo, this is a great option.
Ok, lets talk about the real performance of the test rifles. I worked up a load with the 300 Win Mag in weight sorted Winchester brass. This is not the most voluminous brass but it handles pressure a little better than Norma or Nosler brass. The final load was pushing 215 Bergers at 2925fps. This load is around one grain below max. I used Nosler brass for the 30 Nosler, which is the least voluminous of the available options. The test rifle ended up pushing the 215 Berger at 3100 fps. This is near max but brass will last four to five firings.
Now, let’s discuss the 300 PRC. As stated earlier, the goal was to develop loads for 215 Bergers and H1000. This barrel was a royal pain… I tried several bullets including the 212 ELD, 225 ELD, 208 ELD, and 215 Berger. I tried H1000, Retumbo and RL26. I finally found a load with the 230 Berger Hybrid and Retumbo. I have never had a barrel this picky. To keep the test about all out performance, the 215 Berger pressured out with H1000 around 3050 fps. Meaning 3050 fps is as fast as I would want to run to keep brass usable for more than a couple reloadings. As I did not find acceptable accuracy at any velocity, it is impossible for me to say were the accuracy node would be. The load with the 230 Bergers and Retumbo was 2880 fps at the muzzle. I do not have a lot of experience with the 230 Bergers but this is around 50-80 fps faster than most 300 Win. mags will push that bullet. As I do not intend to shoot the 230 Bergers, I am not going to develop loads for the other two rifles using this bullet.
The Real Difference
The bottom line is there is roughly 2% water capacity difference between the cartridges with the 300 Win Mag being the smallest and the Nosler being the largest. This will equate to roughly 3-4 grains powder difference between each when hitting pressure with H1000 and the 215 Berger in good chambers. Regardless of the powder you use, this will be relatively unchanged as a percentage. The 300 Win Mag is going to push a 215 Berger between 2900 and 3000 fps most of the time. The 300 PRC is going to push a 215 Berger between 2950 and 3050 most of the time. The 30 Nosler is going to push a 215 Berger 3000-3100 fps most of the time. Each will average in the center of those listed windows. All of those numbers are using H1000 powder. I personally would not chamber any rifle in any of the cartridges expecting to get the max velocity. The accuracy will be where the barrel likes it. As you can see, there will be a lot of overlap between the cartridges but if you are dead set on a velocity number, I would play the odds and pick the larger case.
All three cartridges will feed from a 3.7” Remington mag box when throated correctly for 215 Bergers, but as I stated earlier, the PRC is a little long-throated so it would require a Wyatt’s box with a SAAMI reamer to reach the lands. I would suggest running a Wyatt’s box in any case because it leaves room to spare and the cost increase is little to none.
The Winner Is
Ballistically, the 30 Nosler is going to win most of the time at the expense of a relatively small amount of extra powder and barrel life. With somewhere near .200” of freebore, the 300 Win mag is going to use 75-78 grains of H1000 most of the time, compared to 83-85 grains in the 30 Nosler with the PRC in the middle. I seriously doubt you could realistically judge the difference in barrel life between the three so it is a moot point to me.
The terminal performance will be so close between the three that I would completely discount any advantage the 30 Nosler would have. All will kill animals quickly out to 1000 yards, plus.
300 Weatherby and 300 Rum
Before I wrap this up, I will quickly discuss two cartridges that many will want to compare to the three in the article. I have little experience with either, but I’ll throw my two cents in on the 300 Weatherby and the 300 RUM. The Weatherby has the exact same case capacity as the Nosler but will have less usable capacity due to the length of the case, unless you want to single load. That statement makes it obsolete to me. The 300 RUM will surely best all three cartridges in the article but is less efficient and to get all it has to offer, you will need to single feed as well. The 300 RUM will do better with the bigger bullets, but the gap is narrowed with the middle weight bullets such as the 215. It is hard to argue about the pure muscle of the RUM, but it is more than I want to mess with.
Ok, lets wrap this up. If you are afraid a chambering will fall out of favor of the masses to the point components are hard to get, you should be safe and stay with the tried and true 300 Win. Mag. If you want the best designed SAAMI chamber, maybe the 300 PRC is for you. If you are going to be reloading and want the best case design, offering the most available horsepower of the three, get the Nosler. I know without a doubt, I will be shooting a 30 Nosler until I can’t get brass or the next best thing comes along.
You can comment on this article or ask Ryan questions here.