.300 Winchester Short Magnum vs .300 Win Mag

Why do an In-Depth comparison between the 300 WSM and 300 Win Mag?

Those who are unfamiliar with these cartridges may be confused by their names due to their similarity. Both are appropriate for the same shooting and hunting activities. These two cartridges cannot be switched around, though. Here, we’ll focus on the key distinctions and connections between the.300 Win Mag and.300 WSM.

We’re not trying to declare one cartridge to be better than another. Instead, we would want to offer a fair assessment of these two cartridges. We’ll do this so you have a better foundation from which to choose the one that best meets your shooting requirements.

We’ll look at some ballistics first. The performance characteristics of these cartridges will next be covered in detail. At the conclusion of the article, we’ll also try to bring everything back together. Finally, we’ll talk about the uses that each of these cartridges is most appropriate for.

A Brief History of the 300 Winchester Magnum

Both the.300 Win Mag and the .300 WSM can fire a 30-cal bullet. This cartridge was created by Winchester in 1963. It’s quite new when compared to other well-liked hunting cartridges. However, it predates the .300 WSM. When it comes to factory loads, this cartridge is also among the most well-known magnum cartridges in the world.

Remington swiftly adopted this strategy and offered the 300 Win Mag cartridge in its well-liked Rem 700 bolt action rifle. Since that time, one of the most popular magnum rifle cartridges on the market is the 300 Winchester Magnum.

Based on SAAMI requirements, the 300 Winchester Magnum has a massive case capacity of 91.5 gr of water and a maximum pressure of 64,000 psi. It was derived from the belted 375 H&H Magnum cartridge. Due to its large case capacity, the 300 Win Mag can fit more powder inside and exert maximum pressure on the.308″ bullet.

The .300 Win Mag has a significant velocity advantage since it can hold a lot of powder. The cartridge can also accommodate different bullet weights. Despite the wide range of lesser and heavier rounds that are available, the majority of bullet weights fall within the 150-200 grain range.

Many shooters contend that the 300 Win Mag must exert “case-splitting” pressure, and that this pressure must be contained by the belted case. But this is a typical misunderstanding. The belted cartridge is not necessary given the case design. Winchester kept the design, though, as part of a marketing plan to associate the cartridge with its powerful forerunner, the 375 H&H Magnum.

Long-range shooters, such as big game hunters and competitive shooters, enjoy using this round. Additionally, snipers in the military and special forces also employ this cartridge. However, hunting is where it is most commonly used. Effectiveness now revolves around matching the cartridge type with the hunting circumstance.

The 300 Winchester Magnum has surpassed the 7mm Rem Mag and the 270 Weatherby Magnum to become one of the most popular magnum cartridges on the market, proving that the plan was a resounding success.

A Brief History of .300 Winchester Short Magnum

The 300 Winchester Short Magnum is a new rebated rim cartridge that Winchester introduced in 2001. In the realm of shooting and hunting big game, it generated a lot of buzz. The magnum was created by Winchester to deliver strength and speed while using lighter weapons.

It was a cartridge created with North American hunters in mind and is also referred to as the 300 Win Short Mag or 300 WSM. The 300 WSM provided hunters with a light rifle with magnum ballistics since it could be shot from a short action rifle.

Short magnums burn more consistently and cleanly because they have a broader powder column. Theoretically, this should result in more accuracy, but the significance of this can be disputed and is not the topic of discussion in this article.

The 404 Jeffrey cartridge, a traditional hunting round with a history of eliminating Kodiak bears and the African Big 5, served as the model for the 300 WSM. The 300 WSM, on the other hand, is a special design designed to withstand magnum-level pressures without the need for a belted case.

The 300 WSM was created to be a smaller, more portable version of the 300 Win Mag that could be used in short action rifles. The most common factory loads for the 300 WSM are of the 150, 165, and 180 grain varieties. Popular bullet weight for the 300 WSM range from 150 to 190 grains.

The 300 WSM has established itself as a great alternative for hunters looking for magnum power in a small, light package, and is capable of taking down any game species on the North American continent.

Difference Between 300 WSM and 300 Win Mag

Since its introduction in the 1960s, the 300 Winchester Magnum has become a popular choice among benchrest shooters, large game hunters, and military snipers. It is actually vying for the title of “America’s Favorite Magnum Cartridge” and serves as the benchmark for all other belted magnum cartridges.

The 300 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) was introduced to the shooting world in 2001, making it comparatively recent. The 300 WSM packs everything of the 300 Win Mag’s ballistic benefits into a short-action rifle.

As a result, the rifle is lighter and has external ballistics that are very similar and the same barrel length. When elk hunting in dense vegetation, a shorter, more agile rifle might be quite helpful.

With match-grade factory loads or well tuned handloads, both rifle cartridges can easily attain MOA to sub-MOA level accuracy. While the cartridges are great for hunting and target shooting, they do have certain drawbacks.

The 300 WSM has a rebated rim, which some critics argue may make it more difficult for the bolt to force the cartridge from the magazine into the chamber. This criticism also pertains to the 300 WSM’s steep 35-degree shoulders, as some forum users speculate that the acute angle may prevent smooth feeding into the chamber.

The majority of criticisms of the 300 Winchester Magnum revolve on the useless belt on the cartridge casing. The belted case is a relic from the parent 375 H&H Magnum case, as you’ll see later in the 300 Win Mag history.

The belt was utilised for headspacing in early rifles, which resulted in a premature case stretching and shortened the brass’s lifespan. This is not a problem if all you shoot is factory ammunition and you don’t like reloading. For handloaders, it poses a severe issue because it will necessitate replacing your 300 Win Mag brass more regularly.

Nowadays, the chambers of many 300 Win Mag rifles are reamed to headspace off the case shoulders, completely eliminating premature case stretching.

The excruciatingly short case neck is the final blow against the 300 Win Mag. Some experts on long-range target shooting contend that the throat of the 300 Win Mag is insufficiently long to grip the rounds firmly and preserve concentricity. The bullet might enter the rifling off-axis as a result, which could influence the point of impact for long-range shots.

However, given the absence of objections from military snipers who regularly shot at distances well above 1000 yards using a 300 Win Mag, I assume this criticism is more of an internet forum talking point than a genuine one.

You may learn more about the distinctions between these two rifle cartridges by reading our detailed comparison of the 300 WSM and 300 Win Mag in the parts that follow.

Cartridge Specs Difference Between 300 WSM vs 300 Win Mag

We can start making assumptions about how these two cartridges will perform just by looking at the bullet and casing specifications. Additionally, it provides context for the figures so that we may look back on them and understand them better.

The only thing these two cartridges have in common is that they both use 30 cal (.308) bullets, and that’s about it. The WSM is somewhat wider across the neck and base than the.300 WM. The .300 WM, on the other hand, has a half-inch longer case length and total length. The difference in length between the .300 WM and .300 WSM is higher than the difference in case width.

The .300 Win Mag can store more powder because of the slight variation in how low the bullet rests in the casing, even though the case capacity does not accurately reflect how much powder is placed into each cartridge.

The 300 WSM has around 10% less powder capacity than the 300 Win Mag due to the broader base’s ability to put more powder into the noticeably shorter cartridge. However, according to SAAMI specifications, the 300 WSM is rated to withstand 1,000 more PSI of pressure.

Because the 300 WSM cartridge is shorter and fatter, the powder column will be located nearer the point of ignition (the primer). As a result, very little (if any) unburned powder is left in the case or barrel and an incredibly effective powder burn is produced. Another benefit of the 35-degree case shoulder is a clean powder burn.

The 300 Win Mag is not an ineffective cartridge; it only performs slightly better than the 300 WSM. Let’s take a look at how all of this impacts the external ballistics of the two cartridges.

Recoil Energy

When a cartridge is discharged from a gun, energy is sent back towards the shooter. Recoil won’t be a problem for skilled hunters or shooters. Less felt recoil will be recommended for shooters who are inexperienced or who are recoil sensitive.

Lower recoil will also make it easier for shooters to reposition their sights for subsequent rounds. While shoulder fatigue can occur during long-range sessions, strong recoil might make shooters flinch before pulling the trigger.

Recoil characteristics of the .300 Win Mag and .300 WSM should be compared in order to understand when you would choose one over the other. For those who are younger or less experienced shooters, it is definitely a major deciding factor.

Even if you have a lot of experience, it is still something to consider. Recoil can affect your ability to make follow-up shots as well as your ability to make shots, especially when you may not have much time to prepare the shot.

Due to the 300 Winchester Magnum’s well-known heavy recoil, many shooters choose to use a good recoil pad or muzzle brake to improve their enjoyment of the 300 Win Mag. The same bullet weight will be fired by the 300 WSM and the 300 Win Mag, hence the only element affecting recoil will be the powder charge.

The 300 Win Mag will often feel greater recoil than the 300 WSM since it has around 10% higher cartridge case capacity.

The 300 Win Mag has an average rebound of 28 ft-lbs of shoulder punishment, whereas the 300 WSM has an average recoil of 25 ft-lbs, therefore the difference is only marginal. When switching from 300 Win Mag to 300 WSM, there is a similar 10% reduction in felt recoil as there is in case capacity. Overall, the 300 WSM is a better option for shooters who are sensitive to recoil because it has less recoil than the 300 Win Mag.

Which Has a Better Trajectory Between The 300 WSM vs 300 Win Mag? 

The downrange flight path of a bullet is quantified by its trajectory, which is expressed in bullet drop inches. A flatter shooting cartridge is obviously desirable for firing at greater distances since the shooter will need to make fewer modifications to their optics to account for bullet drop.

A cartridge will be more tolerant of ranging errors if its trajectory is flatter. In our assessment, we will be using the 180 grain since it is a very popular hunting round.

You’ll see that the 300 Win Mag has decreased -18.5″ and the 300 Win Short Mag has dropped -17.2″. The bullet drop for the 300 WSM is at -287.1″ and the bullet drop for the 300 Win Mag is at -298.7″ when extrapolated to a 1000-yard shot using the Hornady ballistic calculator.

The reason for the little difference in trajectory is that the 300 WSM, which travels at a muzzle velocity of 3,010 FPS, will hit the target a little bit quicker than the 300 Win Mag, which travels at 2,960 FPS.

At a distance of 1,000 yards, benchrest shooters might be able to distinguish between the two, but the vast majority of shooters will find it difficult to discern any change in trajectory (especially at normal hunting distances).

300 WSM vs 300 Win Mag – Ballistic Coefficient

When comparing two cartridges made to handle larger game, the BC is crucial. Additionally, long-range shooting, where the wind is more noticeable, requires it. When examining the .300 WM and .300 WSM cartridges, this is primarily the case.

The ballistic coefficient can be expressed simply as a number that is obtained from an equation that takes into consideration a range of bullet flight characteristics. The bullet is less susceptible to drag and wind resistance the greater the ballistic coefficient. A bullet with a higher BC ought to be more accurate in theory since it ought to be simpler for it to stay on target after being fired.

A heavier bullet will often have a greater BC since it requires more force to impede its flight than a lighter one. A bullet’s BC changes depending on its design, weight, and other elements that are outside the purview of this article.

Given that the 300 Win Mag and 300 WSM use the same caliber bullets, their Sectional Densities will be the same as long as their respective factory loads are equivalent.

Sectional Density

How well a bullet penetrates a target is determined by its sectional density (SD). This is crucial when going after large game since you need a bullet that can pierce tough hide, bone, and muscle.

By comparing the bullet weight and bullet diameter, SD is derived. The bullet will pierce the target more deeply the greater the SD. This is a skewed perspective on penetration because there are other things to take into account, like bullet expansion and muzzle velocity.

Compared to .300 WSM rounds, the .300 Win Mag rounds have a slightly higher SD. There is a lot of overlap in the rounds of both cartridges, as there is in most of the portions we have examined. In this instance, since both have the same diameter, it just comes down to which has heavier bullets.

Once more, sectional density only accounts for a small portion of the equation that determines stopping power. Another sign of penetration is the bullet’s velocity. It is the subject of the following section and is closely related to the SD.

Ammo and Rifle Cost/Availability

Due to its age, the 300 Win Mag has a wider variety of ammo than other calibres, as was discussed in the previous section. For instance, Federal Premium’s website alone lists over 20 different types of 300 Win Mag ammunition! All of the other major producers, including Hornady, Nosler, Barnes, Berger, and Federal, have a wide selection of 300 Win Mag ammunition.

This is not meant to imply that you will feel limited in your choice of 300 Win Short Mag factory ammunition; on the contrary. For 300 WSM, there are many choices and bullet weight available. However, compared to 300 WSM, there are around two times as many possibilities for 300 Win Mag.

The 300 Win Mag will cost less to shoot with because it is more popular and is also a military and law enforcement cartridge. In general, 300 Win Mag factory ammo can cost as little as $2 per round for inexpensive FMJ practice bullets and roughly $4–5 per round for the best loads for big game hunting.

The least expensive factory ammo I could locate for the 300 Win Short Mag cost roughly $2.50 per round for target practice and $5 or more for hunting ammo. Although the 300 WSM is not significantly more expensive than the 300 Winchester Mag, the 300 Win Mag’s broad popularity has had a favorable impact on the pricing (for the consumer).

The majority of the rifles Remington, Ruger, Savage, and Sako provide are bolt action models. However, the Browning BAR is currently your major choice if you desire a semi-automatic rifle.
When buying a new lighter rifle, the price difference between a 300 WSM and a 300 Win Mag will be essentially nonexistent.

The length of the rifles will be the only significant distinction between 300 Win Mag and 300 WSM. It will normally be 1-1.5″ shorter than a 300 Win Mag rifle since the 300 WSM demands a short action. Both rifles have a 24 inch barrel, however the 300 WSM has a lower overall length due to its short action.


There is no difference in velocity when looking at the averages from only these manufacturer rounds. At each range marker, the.300 Win Mag rounds do have an additional 40–50 fps. We are unable to adequately determine how much this increased velocity improves accuracy in this article.

There are those who like a little bit more muzzle velocity, particularly long-range shooters. That gives you 300 WM and .300 WSM rounds.

These fast rounds also have a little bit more kick. This recoil is manageable for the majority of individuals, especially considering the improved stopping ability and trajectory. These two cartridges are used for long-range purposes by both hunters and target shooters. Both of these cartridges produce fairly remarkable trajectories for loads.

Although they don’t shoot as flat as hand loads, they will perform well on the range for shooters who want to start with one of these cartridges before moving on to handloading. Both also offer rounds with very high ballistic coefficients, which is usually advantageous when dealing with stronger winds and shoots from farther away than 500 yards.


The bullet size is one benefit for the .300 Win Mag when it comes to big game hunting. When killing huge animals, extra penetration and stopping power from these heavier rounds is usually desired.

Additionally, as we have previously indicated, there are.300 WSM rounds that employ 200-grain bullets, but we have seen that many people encounter difficulties when loading these heavy bullets into short-action rifles.

Conclusion: Which One Should You Get?

We can see that there isn’t much of a difference between the cartridges when we look at the data for this sample of rounds from the .300 Win Mag and .300 WSM. The individual rounds affect performance, but it’s difficult for us to tell which cartridge provides you with more of a particular ballistic or other performance component.

The main distinction between these two rounds is not one of ballistics but rather of rifle platforms. While comparing the pros and cons of two cartridges is usually a good idea, sometimes you should base your choice more on other considerations.

From a ballistic/performance perspective, we believe that the choice between these cartridges ultimately comes down to personal preference. Both of these cartridges, when fired with assurance and expertise, will result in the freezing of meat when used for long-range shooting or when pursuing a bull moose.

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