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Winchester .400 Legend Hunting Cartridges

Intended to bridge the gap between .350 Legend and .450 Bushmaster, the .400 Legend is an exciting new development for hunters using straight-walled cartridges.

  • Winchester's .400 Legend offerings now include Deer Season XP, Super Suppressed and Power-Point, for hunters who want more options with straight-walled cartridges. Learn more in the video above, with Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller and Winchester's Nathan Robinson at SHOT Show 2024.

Interest in straight-walled cartridges has surged in recent years as several Midwestern states have started allowing their use in deer hunting. Traditionally, these states only permitted hunters to use shotguns firing slugs, muzzleloaders and big-bore revolvers due to concerns over stray bullets in areas with high human population densities. However, most have determined that the fat, short projectiles fired from straight-wall cartridges offer similarly reduced risk, while allowing hunters to take far more accurate and ethical shots in the field.

Thus began the straight-walled cartridge boom we are currently experiencing. Hunters wanting to up their capabilities in these states have looked to classic straight-wall cartridges and have also expressed interest in all-new designs. In response, manufacturers have been offering more load options for existing straight-walls, and even developing entirely new cartridges.

Winchester .400 Legend
Winchester's newly launched .400 Legend is designed to occupy a sweet spot between two other popular straight-walled cartridges: the .350 Legend and the .450 Bushmaster. (Photo by Drew Warden)

The most recent of these is Winchester's brand new .400 Legend. Like other straight-walls, the .400 Legend's design qualifies it for use in several states that restrict the use of bottle-necked cartridges for hunting. Winchester describes this new cartridge as a heavy-hitting round with moderate recoil that's perfect for deer inside 300 yards and hogs, black bears and other big game inside 200 yards.

Winchester says .400 Legend ammunition will begin shipping this July, and that .400 Legend-chambered rifles will be available from Ruger, Savage Arms, Mossberg, CMMG, Winchester Repeating Arms and more within the first year. The initial loading will be a 215-grain Power-Point (a 300-grain option in the Super Suppressed line will be available later this year), with additional offerings planned for 2024.

Winchester is clearly excited about this cartridge's future, and there already seems to be a great deal of support on the firearm side. Having shot the .400 Legend this past fall while sighting in for a hunt (an unfortunately fruitless one for me), I admit I'm eager to see how it does. Still, people are often skeptical of any newly introduced cartridge, so let's take a closer look at what the .400 Legend is and what it offers.

WHAT IS IT?

I won't break down all the SAAMI specifications for the new .400 Legend here (those can be found easily enough at saami.org). However, I'll hit some highlights.

The .400 Legend is a new straight-walled cartridge with a cartridge overall length between 2.125 and 2.260 inches and a case length of 1.650 inches. The case length is an especially important consideration with straight-walled cartridges, as some states, like Michigan, don't allow the use of straight-walls with cases longer than 1.8 inches. In these areas, this has historically ruled out cartridges with longer case lengths, such as the .444 Marlin and the .45-70.

The .400 Legend's bullet is a .40-caliber projectile with a diameter of 0.4005 inches, the same as the .40 S&W and the 10mm Auto. While they share this characteristic, Winchester states that .400 Legend bullets are purpose-built for the cartridge and its higher velocities, not those used in handgun ammo.

Winchester .400 Legend
The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) accepted the new .400 Legend this year. The new straight-walled cartridge has a 2.125- to 2.260-inch overall length and uses a .4005-inch bullet. (Courtesy of SAAMI)

The .400 Legend has no parent case, but it shares the same head dimensions (a 0.422-inch case head diameter) as the 6.8 SPC. It's thus compatible with 6.8 SPC bolts. Its cartridge overall length also fits within standard AR-style rifle receivers. These two factors should make modern sporting rifle fans happy. However, the .400 Legend is also perfectly suited for bolt-action rifles, and indeed the one I shot this fall was a Winchester XPR.


Maximum average pressure is listed at 45,000 psi, which is less than Winchester's other recent straight-walled cartridge, the .350 Legend, but more than the .450 Bushmaster. The .400 Legend requires a 1/16 twist barrel to stabilize the big, short projectiles, and listed muzzle velocity and muzzle energy with the initial 215-grain Power-Point load are 2,250 feet per second (fps) and 2,416 foot-pounds, respectively. The cartridge (again, the 215-grain Power-Point) produces 16.26 foot-pounds of recoil, roughly equivalent to the .308 Winchester.

As previously stated, the new .400 Legend is designed to provide sufficient energy to kill medium-sized game inside 300 yards. According to Winchester, the farthest kill to date is a mule deer at 280 yards. But, again, in Midwestern states with these types of restrictions, shots will likely be even closer.

Winchester .400 Legend cartridges
Winchester .400 Legend cartridges.

HOW DOES IT COMPARE?

Above all, it seems the goal with the new .400 Legend is to provide a straight-walled cartridge option with a little more oomph than the existing .350 Legend. Now, this isn't to say that the .350 Legend is a slouch by any means. In fact, the earlier Legend offers more energy than the venerable .30-30 and the .300 Blackout, both of which have killed plenty of deer. Add to that its mild recoil and relative affordability, and it's easy to see why the .350 Legend is found on so many store shelves and why it's become one of Winchester's more popular offerings.

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Still, as good as the .350 Legend is, some folks want their straight-walled cartridge to have a bit more punch. To get it, they've typically turned to the .450 Bushmaster. A great cartridge itself, the .450 Bushmaster offers almost 1,000 more foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, depending on the load, and has been anchoring deer, hogs and bears for over a decade.

Unfortunately, there is a cost to this added energy, and it's one that both your shoulder and wallet bear. While the .350 Legend is quite pleasant to shoot, the .450 Bushmaster is, put politely, a bit of a bruiser. It also costs significantly more per round to shoot the big .450.

The new .400 Legend, on the other hand, seems well positioned between the two. It produces about 20 percent less recoil than the .450 Bushmaster while providing comparable energy. Data supplied by Winchester shows that at 100 yards the Bushmaster only carries about 50 foot-pounds more energy, and at 200 yards, they're virtually the same.

Meanwhile, the .400 Legend hits harder than the .350 Legend throughout its trajectory, offering about 25 percent more energy. While it does produce more free recoil than the .350 Legend, personally, it feels minimal compared to the Bushmaster, and certainly not substantial enough to seriously affect accuracy.

Trajectories are somewhat similar among the three cartridges. With the same 150-yard zero, the .350 Legend (180-grain Power-Point) drops 5.5 inches at 200 yards and 29.5 inches at 300 yards, while the .400 Legend (215-grain Power-Point) drops 4.9 inches at 200 yards and 26.4 inches at 300 yards.

Hunter with whitetail buck
The author was unable to get a shot at good buck on his hunt in southern Ohio, but another hunter in camp shot a 165-plus-inch whitetail with the new .400 Legend. (Photo courtesy of Winchester)

Although Winchester provided data for a 150-yard zero for the two loads above, it did not for the .450 Bushmaster. So, I entered necessary data into a ballistics trajectory calculator. With a similar 150-yard zero, the .450 Bushmaster (260-grain Power-Point) is projected to drop 5.89 inches at 200 yards and 32.18 inches at 300 yards.

Anecdotally, some folks have suggested that the .350 Legend has put a dent in the .450 Bushmaster market. Now, with the debut of the .400 Legend, which provides similar power with reduced recoil, one might wonder if that dent gets even bigger.

ADDITIONAL COMPARISONS

It's also worth examining how the .400 Legend stacks up against a few other cartridges, as well as its ultimate predecessor in states with straight-walled cartridge regulations: shotgun slugs. The .400 Legend offers 36 percent less recoil than the classic .45-70 and 24 percent less drop at 300 yards, though, depending on the load, the .45-70 may carry a bit more energy. Meanwhile, the .400 Legend provides over 20 percent more energy than the .30-30 and substantially more energy than other common straight-walled cartridges such as the .44 Rem. Mag., .41 Rem. Mag., .44-40, .454 Casull and .357 Magnum.

Comparisons against shotgun slugs are even more favorable. Anyone who's ever fired a 12-gauge slug gun will be unsurprised to find that the .400 Legend produces a marked 55 percent less recoil than this old standby. It also has a much better trajectory (again, not exactly a shocker), and even at 100 yards, the .400 Legend carries vastly more energy. Add in the inherent inaccuracy and variability of shotgun slugs, and it's clear to see how much of a step up the .400 Legend is from a standard 12-gauge slug.

bolt-action hunting rifle
Given its 0.422-inch case head diameter (which is the same as the 6.8 SPC’s) and a cartridge overall length that fits AR receivers, the .400 Legend will be perfect for modern sporting rifle fans. It's also great in bolt-action rifles, like the Winchester XPR the author used on his hunt this past fall. (Photo by Drew Warden)

OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK

The market for straight-walled cartridges, especially more modern offerings, has grown more crowded in recent years. Winchester's .350 Legend brought renewed interest to the category, which had previously been dominated by the .450 Bushmaster and other, more classic straight-walled cartridges.

It's too soon to tell whether the new .400 Legend will enjoy the same level of popularity and success. It's also too soon to know what effect it might have on the futures of existing straight-wall options like the .350 Legend, .450 Bushmaster or the recently introduced .360 Buckhammer.

However, it can certainly help hunters kill a deer more effectively in states where their choice is between a straight-walled cartridge or a slug gun. While my own hunt with the cartridge was unsuccessful—not for lack of trying; I never got the chance to pull the trigger—another hunter in camp shot a very nice 165-plus-inch whitetail buck with it at 100 yards while hunting with Real McCoy Outdoors (realmccoyoutdoors.com) in southern Ohio.

For what it's designed for—ethical hunting within that 300-yard window—the .400 Legend performs as intended. And I for one am excited to see how it's received among hunters in these states, and how it affects the market for straight-walled cartridges. For more information, visit winchester.com or check out the cartridge specifications and comparisons below.

Winchester .400 Legend cartridges
Winchester .400 Legend cartridges.

WINCHESTER .400 LEGEND SPECS

  • Cartridge Overall Length: 2.125-2.260 in.
  • Case Length: 1.650 in.
  • Case Head: 0.422 in.
  • Parent Case: None
  • Bullet Diameter: .4005 in.
  • Twist: 1/16
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,250 fps (215-gr. Power-Point)
  • Muzzle Energy: 2,416 ft-lbs. (215-gr. Power-Point)
  • Free Recoil: 16.26 ft-lbs.

CARTRIDGE COMPARISONS/INFO

  • Similar energy to .450 Bushmaster with 20 percent less recoil
  • 20 percent more energy than .30-30 Winchester
  • 25 percent more energy than .350 Legend, with greater penetration
  • 100 percent more energy than a 12-gauge slug at 100 yards, with 55 percent less recoil
  • .400 Legend offers 700 more foot-pounds of energy at 200 yards than the .223 Remington
  • .400 Legend Max Range: 300 yards on deer-sized game; 200 yards on larger game like elk, bears and large hogs
  • Price: .400 Legend will be priced between .350 Legend and .450 Bushmaster

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