Winchester XPR rifle in .350 Legend review
Pic: John Starr

Review: Winchester’s .350 Legend and the XPR rifle

The .350 Legend may have been designed for deer hunters in America’s eastern “straight wall” states, but Aussie pig and deer hunters will like its affordability, performance and user-friendly recoil.

The .350 Legend was developed to conform to US regulations that allow the use of.35-calibre or larger ammunition with straight-walled cases of more more than 1.8 inches. This may appear strange to Aussie shooters, but most hunting in America’s eastern states done in wooded country near small farms, relatively close to settled areas. 

Winchester XPR rifle in .350 Legend review
The XPR is a good looking rifle that’s well made and shoots accurately, belying its low price [Pic: Mick Matheson]

The legislation was intended to ensure that a bullet of that diameter fired from a small case would be limited in range, posing no threat to residents bordering hunting areas.

The .350 Legend followed the similar but larger .450 Bushmaster, which was factory-loaded with a 250gn bullet at 2200fps. Handloaders started using bullets weighing 225, 250, 275 and 300 grains with muzzle velocities from 1760 to 2500fps, which increased the .450 Bushmaster’s usefulness.

When Winchester decided the .450 was capable but over-powerful medicine for a whitetail deer averaging 136kg wringing wet. The company developed a straight-wall cartridge that would be easier on the shoulder and more affordable, but just as effective for deer hunting. The result is the .350 Legend.

FROM .223 TO .350

Winchester engineers used the .223 Remington as the parent case, which would require three draw steps and some additional forming on a draw press.

The first two draw steps produces a straight-walled case 1.71” long with a .378” case head; the third draw swages out the lower portion of the case an additional .013” which gives it the slight taper necessary to make extraction easier.

SAAMI dimensions for the .350 Legend cartridge, which is based on the .223

The way Winchester’s engineers adjusted the draw process and taper produced a case that has no shoulder and is tapered slightly to accommodate a .35-calibre bullet. There are some minor variations between the .223 Remington and .350 Legend cases, but the differences are minor. 

They both have the same .378” rim diameter, but the .350 Legend has a slightly larger case diameter, measuring .390” at the base. Having a rebated rim and lacking a shoulder, the Legend headspaces on the case mouth. The two cases are not interchangeable, however, and the reloader cannot form .350 Legend brass from .223 cases.

Winchester XPR rifle in .350 Legend review
From left: The .223 case gave us the .350 Legend, while the bigger .450 Bushmaster came from the .284 Winchester case [Pic: Nick Harvey]

By the time the bullet exits the muzzle of a 22” barrel, there is a big difference in the volume of the bore between the two rounds. The .350 Legend has a volume of 1.92 cubic inches against .76ci for the .223, which explains why the Legend’s muzzle blast is at least 250% less than that of the .223.

In fact, no other cartridge has less muzzle blast.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the .350 Legend has little more felt recoil than a .223, having the same case head size, powder capacity and charge weights.


Four .350 Legend loads are currently available in Australia from Winchester — a 145gn FMJ at 2350fps; a 180gn Power Point at 2100fps; a suppressed 265gn Open Tip Subsonic (Super Suppressed) at 1060fps; and probably the best hunting load, the 150gn Deer Season Extreme Point (XP), a bullet with a large polymer tip. The tip increases the bullet’s ballistic coefficient and ensures expansion down to an impact velocity of 1550fps.

Winchester XPR rifle in .350 Legend review
Winchester developed the .350 Legend. Three of its own loads are (l-r) Super X 180gn, Dear Season 150gn and subsonic Super Suppressed 255gn

Last year, Browning introduced two new loadings for the .350 Legend — a 124gn FMJ at 2500fps and a 155gn BXR at 2300fps. 

Federal offers a 160gn Fusion, 180gn Power Shok and 180gn Non-Typical. Hornady lists a 170gn American Whitetail. No doubt other manufacturers have started to make ammo for the .350 Legend by now.

A muzzle velocity of 2290fps out of a 22” barrel gives Winchester’s 150-grainer an effective range on deer of about 200yd, if you subscribe to the theory that 1000ft-lb is the minimum for deer-size game, as I do. 

Even so, the 150gn .350 Legend load barely qualifies, having a residual energy of only 903ft-lb at 200yd.

Wherever the ranges are short — and especially where brush and timber is encountered — the 180gn Power Point looks like the best bet. It’s designed to expand at Legend velocities and deliver the greatest shock to game.


The XPR is Winchester’s entry-level bolt-action rifle platform — a push-feed action with a round-bodied receiver machined from bar-stock, bedded in a moulded polymer stock. A steel bar in the stock is the recoil lug, engaging a receiver slot. 

Winchester XPR rifle in .350 Legend review
The .350 Legend is superb for pig hunting up to about 200m [Pic: John Starr]

The gun features Winchester’s MOA single-stage trigger, adjustable for weight and over-travel. Straight out of the box my XPR had a crisp trigger that consistently let off at 2.27kg (5lb). 

The rifle has a full-diameter three-lug bolt with 60-degree lift, which is nickel-Teflon coated for slick travel; and two-position safety with bolt unlocking button. 

It has a lug-mounted extractor and plunger ejector. The ejection port is big enough for occasional top feed when you’ve no time to charge the single-column detachable box magazine. 

In order to make the XPR platform handle the .350 Legend, Winchester had to develop a new magazine, a new barrel and a new receiver with a slight chamfer cut into it to help guide the long, straight rounds into the chamber.

The stock’s Inflex Technology butt pad has internal ribs that direct the comb away from the shooter’s face. Forend cross-members limit flex. Textured panels fore and aft afford a secure grasp and prevent wet or sweaty hands from slipping.

We sighted in the rifle for a 150yd zero, which we figured would work well with the 150gn and 180gn hunting loads. The 150-grainer will be 1” high at 50yd, land 1.65” high at 100, and drop 4.40” at 200, where it retains just 893ft-lb of energy; the 180-grainer will be 1.55” high at 50yd, 2.20 high at 100, and drop 5.45” at 200, where the remaining energy is 859ft-lb. 

The specialised load with 255gn OT bullet is subsonic, starting out at 1060fps. It is 3.50” high at 50yd, on point of aim at 100 and drops 12.95” at 150. That’s minimal for any kind of hunting and was obviously intended for AR rifles and close-quarters special ops.


Accuracy using three-shot groups was nearly always less than one MOA at 100yd, which is more than adequate for deer and pig hunting at normal ranges. The best results were gained with the 150gn Extreme Point, which showed an edge in accuracy over the 180gn load. Considering the Legend was designed to be a short-range cartridge, it has more than enough accuracy for deer-size game out to 200yd but striking energy falls a bit short.

Winchester XPR and .350 Legend target accuracy test results
Incredibly consistent ammunition and the great performance of the XPR rifle resulted in unexpectedly good accuracy with all loads {Pic: Nick Harvey]

The maximum point-blank range – the distance at which the bullet will neither rise nor fall more than four inches — allows an animal with a 10-inch vital area to be killed with a centre hold within the PBR. Zero range for the 150gn XP is 200yd and the maximum PBR is 235yd; and for the 180gn Power Point the zero range is 184yd and the maximum PBR is 216yd – a pretty narrow margin. 

However, with the Legend’s large-calibre heavy bullets I prefer to ignore the low energies remaining at commonly encountered short ranges and instead pay more attention to the momentum possessed by the missiles and the resultant force and penetration achieved.

My mate Ken Harding shot the groups and we both had a pleasant surprise. Winchester .350 Legend ammunition deserves heaped praise. Muzzle velocities with the 150gn, 180gn and 255gn bullets were very uniform, varying by less than 10fps from shot-to-shot with accuracy better than what I’ve encountered in many smaller calibres. 

Winchester XPR rifle in .350 Legend review
Any medium game has no defence against the Legend’s 35-calibre punch [Pic: Mick Matheson]

The performance of the XPR rifle was outstanding for an economy model and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

In conclusion, the .350 Legend is an effective short range cartridge and one that’s pleasant to shoot. But remember that the Legend is at best a 150yd cartridge if you want to score a clean kill on a deer, and I’d extend the range to 200yd for hogs, at which distance the energy level is down to less than 900ft-lb. With both 150 and 180gn bullets it should perform well on this size game.


Overall loaded cartridge length measures 2.25”, which is the same length as the .223 Remington. 

Handloads use from 25 to 28 grains of powder to drive bullets weighing from 125gn to 180gn from 2600 to 2150fps.

Case length is 1.710” compared to 1.760” for the .223 Rem. and case capacity averages around 36.5 grains of water. Maximum overall cartridge length is 2.260”, or the same as the .223, which means the Legend will fit in any small action designed to house the .223. It is ideally suited for a short, handy bolt gun. 

Standard .223 magazines can’t be adapted to handle the .350 Legend so a special dedicated .350 Legend magazine is required. The Legend offers an advantage in that the small case diameter allows a staggered double-column magazine, whereas the fatter .450 Bushmaster is limited to a single-column magazine with lower capacity.

In case you are wondering why the .350 Legend is not being chambered in handy lever-guns, it’s because it develops the same maximum chamber pressure of 55,000psi as the .223 with an average charge of 25 grains of powder. If Browning decided to chamber its BLR for the .350 Legend, I’m sure it would be well received, not only by deer hunters but hog hunters as well. 

The Legend has similar ballistics to the .30-30 and the 7.62x39mm, but using a .35-calibre bullet will cut a larger wound channel and destroy more tissue. 

Rather unusually, the dimensions registered by SAAMI specify a bullet diameter of 0.3570 +/- 0.0030, which allowed Winchester a certain amount of latitude. When I pulled the bullets from a number of loaded cartridges, I discovered the bullets were 0.355” in diameter. This was puzzling since most .35-calibre cartridges that preceded the .350 Legend were loaded with either 0.3585” or 0.3590” projectiles, and bullets measuring from 0.354” to 0.357” are mostly confined to handgun cartridges. 

Most .35-calibre rifle projectiles, including the Hornady FTX, are standardised at 0.358”, one exception being the .35 Remington which generates much lower pressures (33,500 psi) and shoots 0.359” bullets weighing 200gn or more. 

While the ballistic performance of the .350 Legend doesn’t come anywhere near that of the .358 Win, .35 Whelen or any of the .35 magnums, neither does the recoil, which can be shoulder bruising in the larger .35s.

Why the odd diameter? Rumour has it that it was to eliminate any feeding problems that might arise in AR-15 rifles. Fair enough!

Evidently, the bullets Winchester is loading in the .350 Legend were specifically designed for the new cartridge, to ensure they would hold together at rifle velocities. They are not repurposed .357 pistol bullets. 

I have a sneaking suspicion that Winchester engineers adopted dimensions for the .357 Magnum and .357 Maximum cartridge specifications and adapted them for the .350 Legend. Just like those cartridges, bore diameter is listed as being 0.346” and groove diameter at 0.355 +/- 0.003”.

Handloaders shouldn’t worry that they’ll be limited to fragile bullets designed for the much lower impact velocities of handguns. Hornady offers at least two bullets for the Legend and several other bullet makers are getting on the bandwagon.

The Legend is distinctly different from the host of the new long-range cartridges shooting long, heavy, high-BC bullets. But this is a special purpose cartridge, one never intended for serious stretch-out work, as low BCs of sub-0.225 for supersonic loads indicates. 




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.