The new 300 PRC is getting rave reviews with the long range shooting crowd, but is it really a good choice for hunters?
If they’re not plugged into the long range shooting community, most hunters and shooters probably haven’t heard about the new 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge (300 PRC) Hornady officially released in 2018.
Hornady advertises that the cartridge was designed from the start to use heavy for caliber, extremely aerodynamic bullets that deliver excellent performance at long range. The cartridge has received a lot of hype recently, but do you really need one?
Ever since the .30-06 Springfield took the hunting world by storm at the beginning of the 20th Century, .30 caliber cartridges have been extremely popular among hunters and shooters in North America. Though the .30-06 was and is a great option for many uses, hunters and shooters looking for more power or better long range performance have flocked towards the various .30 caliber magnum cartridges for many decades.
The big gun and ammunition companies have responded to that demand in kind. Hunters these days now have a dizzying array of .30 caliber magnum cartridges to choose from like the .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Weatherby Magnum, .30 Nosler, 300 WSM, .300 Norma Magnum, and the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum (among others).
For that reason, you can be forgiven for wondering why we need another .30 caliber magnum cartridge and what advantages the 300 PRC offers compared to those older cartridges.
Is the 300 PRC just a fad that people will forget about in a few years when the next big thing comes along? Does the 300 PRC provide enough benefits for hunters and shooters to justify making the switch over to the new cartridge?
In this article, I’m going to discuss the history as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge in detail. I’ll also provide some information on how the 300 PRC stacks up next to the .300 Winchester Magnum so you can decide if it fits your needs as a hunter.
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300 PRC Podcast
300 Precision Rifle Cartridge History
With the rise in popularity of extra long range shooting during the 21st Century, ballisticians at Hornady identified the need for a .30 caliber cartridge designed specifically for that sort of work. Existing cartridges like the .300 Win Mag were certainly capable of excellent long range performance, but there wasn’t a .30 caliber cartridge purpose built for that task.
In particular, the existing .30 caliber cartridges were not well suited for using extremely long, high BC bullets.
To accomplish that mission, designers at Hornady decided to think outside the box.
Instead of building a cartridge based on existing design constraints imposed by the various common action lengths (short action, standard/long action, etc.), they elected to just build a cartridge designed specifically to do what they wanted, then build the rifle around it.
So, they took a necked down .375 Ruger cartridge case and built the cartridge with a very long head height.
Head height is the amount of space available for the bullet outside the case while staying within SAAMI specifications for the cartridge. Put simply, more head height facilitates the use of very long, aerodynamic bullets.
We’ll discuss this more later, but to calculate head height, subtract the case length of the cartridge from the maximum overall length.
In fact, due in part to the fact that it has a long head height, the 300 PRC has a pretty long overall length. At 3.7″ long, it’s actually too big to fit in a standard length action rifle.
At the same time, the .375 Ruger was designed with the same .532″ case head diameter as the .375 H&H. However, unlike the .375 H&H (and cartridges like the 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag descended from it) the .375 Ruger is a beltless cartridge, so the actual body of the .375 Ruger case is larger in diameter than the .375 H&H.
This results in increased case capacity for the 300 PRC (and the 375 Ruger) cartridge while still working with a standard magnum bolt face.
Hornady formally rolled out their new 300 Precision Rile Cartridge in late 2018 and it made a big splash at the 2019 SHOT Show. The cartridge, along with 6.5 PRC (also descended from the .375 Ruger), received formal SAAMI approval in August of 2018.
300 PRC Ballistics
Typical 300 PRC ballistics are a 212gr bullet at 2,860fps (3,850 ft-lbs) or a 225gr bullet at 2,810fps (3,945 ft-lbs). Both loads use long, aerodynamic, heavy for caliber bullets that minimize bullet drop and wind drift at extended range. 300 PRC factory loads generally have a muzzle velocity similar to the .300 Win Mag, but with a heavier bullet with a higher BC.
With careful handloading, it’s possible achieve slightly higher velocities with the cartridge and/or utilize even heavier and more aerodynamic bullets.
Specifically, maximum handloads published by Hornady show a velocity of 2,875fps with a 220 grain ELD-X bullet and a velocity of 2,700fps with a 250 grain A-Tip Match bullet. Both of those loads were obtained using a 24″ barrel, so your mileage may vary.
300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag
300 PRC and .300 Win Mag factory loads generally have similar muzzle velocities, but the 300 PRC shoots a heavier bullet with a higher BC. Therefore, 300 PRC has a slightly flatter trajectory, a little more retained energy, less wind drift, and somewhat more recoil than the 300 Win Mag.
That’s how the two cartridges compare to each other in a nutshell. As we drill down into the details of their similarities and differences though, several especially important factors emerge.
First off, the cartridges have different roots and were built with different goals in mind.
While the 300 PRC was purpose built for long range shooting, the .300 Win Mag was primarily designed for hunters. The Winchester cartridge was also originally designed in the early 1960s, well before hunters and shooters fully appreciated the need for longer and more aerodynamic bullets.
That’s not a knock against the .300 Win Mag at all, but the cartridge is a product of those times. It works great for many tasks (which we’ll get into in a minute), but the cartridge design simply has certain limitations.
The .300 Win Mag and the 300 PRC both fire the same .308″ diameter bullets. There is some overlap in the common bullet weights they use, but the 300 PRC generally works better with longer and heavier bullets.
For instance, the 300 Win Mag commonly uses bullets in the 150-210 grain range with 150gr, 165gr, 180gr, 190gr, and 200gr bullets being most common. The .300 Win Mag normally uses a 1:10″ rifling twist, which is optimal for stabilizing bullets in that weight range.
While the 300 PRC can use those lighter bullets, it’s most commonly available with either 212gr or 225gr bullets in factory loads. Handloaders have utilized bullets weighing up to 250gr with the cartridge with great success.
For this reason, most 300 PRC rifles usually have a relatively fast rifling twist rate (usually 1:8″) in order to stabilize those long, heavy, high BC bullets.
So, why is the 300 PRC better suited for using those heavier bullets than the .300 Win Mag?
As I mentioned earlier, the 300 PRC has more head height than the .300 Win Mag. You can calculate head height by subtracting case length from the overall length of the cartridge.
The folks at Winchester opted to build the .300 Win Mag to fit in a standard length rifle action. This meant a maximum overall length of 3.34″.
On the other hand, the designers at Hornady didn’t operate under those constraints. With an overall length of 3.7″, the 300 PRC requires a magnum length rifle action. At the same time, the .300 PRC actually has a tiny bit shorter case length than the .300 Win Mag (2.62″ vs 2.58″).
This results in a relatively short .72” head height for the .300 Win Mag vs a much longer 1.12″ head height for the .300 PRC.
Basically, having more head height means the 300 PRC offers more room outside the case for bullets than the .300 Win Mag. As you can see in the photo below, the 300 PRC can use long, sleek bullets without seating them so deep they intrude into the powder column or contacting the rifling upon chambering.
Why can’t handloaders just use those same long, sleek bullets with the .300 Win Mag and not seat them so deep in the case?
Well, that would result in an overall length in excess of the SAAMI specifications for the cartridge. Since gun manufacturers build their rifles to those same specifications, there simply isn’t enough space in a standard length rifle action (or magazine) for those longer bullets.
That said, some custom rifle manufacturers will build a .300 Win Mag using a longer magnum length rifle action to get around those constraints, which does give handloaders a bit more wiggle room when using longer bullets. However, this article is primarily focused on using rifles in common production, not custom builds.
At the same time, the 300 PRC has a longer case neck than the .300 Win Mag (.3076″ vs .264″). In general, a longer neck helps hold a projectile (especially a very long one) securely and concentrically, both of which help with accuracy.
The 300 PRC also has a smaller freebore diameter than the .300 Win Mag.
Freebore is the smooth portion of a rifle barrel closest to the cartridge. Having a more snug freebore diameter means there’s less room for the bullet to yaw upon firing before engaging the rifling. This can also help enhance accuracy.
Additionally, the 300 PRC has a minimally tapered beltless case with a 30 degree shoulder. The .300 Win Mag uses a belted case with a 25 degree shoulder.
While the .300 Win Mag is certainly capable of excellent accuracy in the right hands, the 300 PRC was specifically designed for exceptional accuracy and outstanding performance at long range. As you can see, it incorporates a number of features to help accomplish that goal. Not surprisingly, the 300 PRC is extremely highly regarded for being a very inherently accurate cartridge.
In addition to the advantages the 300 PRC has in terms of accuracy and bullet selection, it also has a slightly greater powder capacity.
As previously stated, both cartridges have the same .532″ case head diameter. However, the actual body diameter of the 300 PRC is the same diameter as the belt on the .300 Win Mag. Since the cases are almost identical in length, the 300 PRC can hold a little more powder (the 300 Win Mag has about 90-91gr of case capacity vs 97-99gr for the 300 PRC).
For example, the Hornady reloading handbook lists a maximum load of 77.0gr of powder for the 300 PRC when using a 225gr ELD Match bullet, but just 72.7gr of powder when loading that same bullet in the 300 Winchester Magnum (p585 of the Hornady 10th Edition Reloading Manual).
Finally, the 300 PRC also has a higher SAAMI maximum pressure of 65,000psi vs 64,000psi for the .300 Win Mag.
Note: while the powder capacity figures listed above do give a good indication of the differences between the two cartridges, exact case capacities vary slightly according to the brand of brass used.
The table below compares a 200gr Hornady ELD-X (.597 BC) load in .300 Winchester Magnum to a load shooting a 212gr Hornady ELD-X bullet in 300 PRC (.673 BC). This data is for Hornady Precision Hunter factory ammo using a 200 yard zero and a 24 inch barrel.
As you can see, the two cartridges have virtually the same muzzle velocity, but the 300 PRC shoots a heavier and more aerodynamic bullet. This results in the 300 PRC having a tiny bit flatter trajectory with just 1.6″ (4%) less bullet drop at 500 yards. The 300 PRC also has about 7% more energy at the muzzle and about 15% more energy remaining at 500 yards than the .300 Win Mag.
Since this article is focused on the performance of these cartridges for hunting, I didn’t include any ballistic data past 500 yards in the table above. However, just to give you an idea of the benefits of the 300 PRC over the .300 Win Mag at long range, consider this: the .300 Win Mag has 20″ (~8%) more bullet drop at 1,000 yards and 96″ (12%) more bullet drop at 1,500 yards with a 200 yard zero.
To further illustrate that same point, consider the supersonic ranges of the two cartridges. This particular .300 Win Mag load drops below the speed of sound around 1,500 yards, but the 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge stays supersonic out until around 1,700 yards.
That’s not nothing, but there’s also not a gigantic difference between them either.
The chart below compares how much a 10 mile per hour crosswind impacts those same loads for each cartridge out to 500 yards.
At 500 yards, there’s just 2″ separating them. Even at 1,000 yards, the .300 Win Mag has about 10″ (~18%) more wind drift than the 300 PRC. So, the 300 PRC does have an advantage in this area, but once again, there’s not a gigantic difference between them.
Now let’s talk about recoil.
The table below compares a couple of handloads that approximate the performance of the factory loads given above when fired from identical Christensen Arms Mesa rifles.
Felt recoil will vary from shooter to shooter and rifle to rifle, but free recoil energy is still a useful way to compare cartridges.
Not surprisingly, the 300 PRC delivers those ballistic advantages over the .300 Win Mag at the expense of about 13% more free recoil energy. That’s saying something too because the .300 Win Mag is known for having a relatively stout recoil itself.
Even so, the 300 PRC is still a very shootable cartridge, especially in a heavier rifle. So, it’s not like you’re dealing with .338 Lapua levels of recoil with it.
In fact, that is one of the other selling points of the 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge: it delivers a definite advantage over other .30 caliber cartridges at long range, but without the punishing recoil of higher tier long range cartridges like the .338 Norma or .338 Lapua.
That’s also one of the reasons why the United States Department of Defense recently bought some Barrett MRAD rifles chambered in 300 PRC to supplement the other cartridges the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) uses in their sniper rifles.
Take all that for what you will.
So where do we stand overall with the 300 PRC vs 300 Win Mag?
Basically, the 300 PRC is capable of firing a heavier, more aerodynamic bullet at virtually the same velocity attained by the .300 Win Mag when using lighter bullets. That translates into a slightly flatter trajectory, a little more resistance to wind drift, and a little more kinetic energy at typical hunting ranges.
If you want to use the 300 PRC for elk hunting, the additional couple hundred ft-lbs of kinetic energy the cartridge provides might come in handy, but then again, the .300 Win Mag is plenty powerful for that work and I doubt any elk will be able to tell the difference.
The flatter trajectory and more resistance to wind drift of the 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge can also help with shot placement. This does make the cartridge a little bit more forgiving of range or wind estimation errors than the 300 Win Mag, but once again, it’s not a tremendous difference.
While this is probably not an issue for most hunters, typical 300 PRC barrel life is very likely a little shorter than typical .300 Win Mag barrel life.
Since the two cartridges use the same diameter barrel, throat erosion occurs a little faster with the 300 PRC because it has a little bit more case capacity. Simply put, burning more powder in an equally sized space will result in shorter barrel life.
This means that, in general, the 300 PRC will wear out barrels a little faster than the .300 Win Mag will (which can be a bit of a barrel burner itself). Exactly how fast that occurs depends on a number of factors like the quality of the barrel, the exact ammunition used, etc.
For serious target shooters, this is a concern. However, the good news for hunters is that typical 300 PRC barrel life is more than enough to last for many years of hunting with no issues at all.
So, while there is a difference in .300 Win Mag vs 300 PRC barrel life, it probably isn’t going to be a big issue for most hunters.
Unfortunately, the 300 PRC does have more recoil than the .300 Win Mag though.
While many hunters should be able to handle the recoil of both cartridges without too much trouble, don’t underestimate the impact that recoil has on the ability of a person to shoot accurately either. Regardless of how well a given person handles recoil, all other things being equal, they will absolutely shoot better with a milder recoil.
All things considered though, both cartridges are very accurate, flat shooting, and hit hard enough for use on a wide variety of game at practical hunting ranges. Regardless of whether you’re using a .300 Winchester Magnum or a 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge, no pronghorn, mule deer, or elk will go far if you put a well constructed bullet into the vitals.
Of the two cartridges though, the .300 Win Mag is still by far the most popular with hunters. This is reflected in the prices, availability, and variety of factory ammunition and hunting rifles currently in production for each cartridge.
So, even though the 300 PRC does have some advantages on paper, those small advantages don’t make much difference for the vast majority of hunters. The .300 Win Mag is still a fantastic hunting round and it’s a whole lot easier to find .300 Win Mag rifles and loaded ammunition.
If you already have a .300 Win Mag, there’s really not a big reason to upgrade to the 300 PRC unless you just want to.
In fact, the .300 Winchester Magnum is probably the better all around choice for most hunters.
That said, the 300 PRC gives hunters the ability to wring a little bit more performance out of a .30 caliber magnum cartridge. If you really enjoy shooting at longer range, then the inherent accuracy of the cartridge and the fact that it’s designed to use very heavy, high BC bullets are both compelling arguments in favor of the 300 PRC.
It’s a wonderful cartridge for long range precision shooting and I can certainly understand why somebody who used the cartridge for that sort of work would also want to take a 300 PRC afield.
300 PRC Ammo
The 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge does have a pretty dedicated following, but it’s not extremely popular in absolute terms and can’t certainly hold a candle to more established cartridges like the .270 Winchester or .30-06.
This will likely change in the future, but Hornady is the only major ammunition company currently producing 300 PRC ammo. The cartridge is available in both the Hornady Precision Hunter and Hornady Match lines with 212 grain ELD-X and 225 grain ELD Match bullets respectively.
Some people do hunt with the Match loads, but the Precision Hunter line is purpose built for long range hunting and is generally the better choice for most game.
Just as you’d probably expect, 300 PRC ammo is usually more expensive and not as easy to find as more popular cartridges. Since it’s used by a relatively small segment of the hunting world, not every sporting goods store keeps 300 PRC ammo in stock, but most of the big retailers in the USA usually have a couple of boxes of ammo on hand for the cartridge.
That said, I wouldn’t count on finding 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge ammunition in smaller gun store. Availability of ammunition is usually pretty good online though and most of the bigger retailers typically have a good selection of quality factory 300 PRC ammo in stock.
Reloading components for the cartridge (like 300 PRC brass) are available though. The high price of factory ammo and the difficulty involved with obtaining a reliable supply of ammo at times makes it a good choice for handloaders.
One other good point about the cartridge is that even though it’s not nearly as common as other .30 caliber cartridges, the fact that it satisfies a niche market does make it less susceptible to panic buying (unlike the .223 Remington or .308 Winchester for example). So, you’ll probably still be able to find 300 PRC ammo on shelves when people are buying everything else.
Since it uses the same .308″ bullet size that’s also used by the .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 Win Mag, and .300 Remington Ultra Magnum (among others), reloaders have access to a good number of outstanding quality bullets in the 180-200 grain range suitable for use on a wide variety of game to choose from.
However, there’s not quite a big of a selection of really heavy, high BC .30 caliber bullets. Aside from the aforementioned Hornady bullets, 190gr and 200gr Barnes LRX will work well with the 300 PRC (it’s a pure copper bullet, so the LRX is longer for a given weight than a lead core bullet) . The same goes for a couple of different options from Berger, so reloaders should be able to make a custom hunting load that works well for their needs.
300 PRC Rifles
The increasing popularity of long range precision shooting has resulted in a good selection of high quality rifles available for the 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge.
Among other companies, Barrett, Bergara, Browning, Christensen Arms, Fierce Firearms, GA Precision, Gunwerks, Hill Country Rifles, Howa, Ruger, and Seekins Precision all manufacture bolt action 300 PRC rifles.
So, while the selection of ammunition available for the cartridge is relatively small, hunters actually have some really nice rifles to choose from.
Best 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge Ammo For Hunting
Unlike the .300 Win Mag, there aren’t many options for factory 300 PRC hunting ammo right now. That’s slowly changing though.
If you’d like to learn more about some of the various hunting ammunition choices for the 300 PRC read this article:
Final Thoughts On The 300 PRC
The 300 PRC is a very well designed cartridge that offers some real advantages to long range shooters and fills an important niche among the various .30 caliber magnum cartridges. I’m actually a little surprised it took this long for a cartridge that fills that void to come along, but better late than never and Hornady did an excellent job when they designed the 300 PRC.
While a surprisingly large number of shooters and hunters have adopted the new cartridge, the small benefits it offers over more established calibers like the .300 Win Mag and .300 Remington Ultra Magnum probably aren’t big enough for most hunters to justify making the switch.
This is especially true considering the lack of 300 Precision Rifle Cartridge ammo choices at this point. Even so, the ammo selection for the cartridge will almost certainly improve in the future if the cartridge continues to grow in popularity. So, if you’re the type of person who wants to wring out all the performance you can from a certain caliber, by all means get a 300 PRC.
It’s a fantastic cartridge and I’m sure it will serve you well, particularly if you enjoy shooting at longer range.
Do you have a rifle chambered in 300 PRC that you’re itching to take on a hunt?
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J Scott Olmstead’s article for The American Hunter was used as references for the history of the 300 PRC. The Hornady 10th Edition (p574-585) reloading manual (and their online supplement) provided data to compare their size and recoil of the .300 Win Mag and 300 PRC. The data used to compare the trajectory of the cartridges was obtained from Hornady (here, and here). Maximum pressure for the .300 Win Mag and maximum pressure and cartridge dimensions for the 300 PRC were obtained from SAAMI (p172 for the .300 Win Mag) and here for the 300 PRC. Case capacity information for the 300 Win Mag and 300 PRC were obtained from Chuck Hawks (here) and from Hornady. I used Shooters Calculator to compare trajectories, wind drift, and recoil for the cartridges.
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