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Short Magnums: A Short Story or Here to Stay?

William W (Bill) Gabbard

In the early years of the 21st Century you couldn’t pick up a shooting or hunting magazine without seeing the words “Short Magnum” emblazoned across the cover. The 300 Winchester Short Magnum started the craze and as the old saying goes, the rest is history. The 300 WSM was soon followed by the 270 WSM, and shortly after that the 7mm WSM and 325 WSM. Not to be outdone by the folks at Winchester, Remington followed suit with their own versions, the 300 Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum, known as the RSAUM or just SAUM and the 7mm SAUM.

short mag bullets

Claims of the day were that these new rounds could match the performance of the well-established 300 Winchester Magnum and likewise the 7mm Remington Magnum. The 270 WSM claimed to bring Magnum performance to the old 270 Winchester. They could not only match the energy, but outdo them in accuracy, while doing it all in shorter lighter quicker handling rifle and do it while using less powder and having less recoil.
These claims were achieved in theory by the fact that the shorter, fatter powder column put more powder close to the primer, and you got quicker ignition and more efficient powder burn. The brass for the new rounds were roughly based on the old 404 Jeffery which was not a belted round. This allowed the case to headspace on the shoulder instead of the belt, which can result in greater accuracy. To get the full efficiency from the short magnums the manufactures usually used 24-inch barrels so the resulting length change was not as great as many hoped they would be. They were produced in some beautiful lightweight, easy-to-carry rifles. They were the rage of the day. The question is, did they live up to the hype?

300 Winchester Short Magnum

The 300 WSM was going up against one of the most popular big game rounds of all time, the 300 Win Mag. I had read all the hype and by the time the new rifles hit the market, I was standing in line, cash in hand waiting for one. I bought a couple of boxes of ammo, mounted a scope, and hit the range. The best group that I could get were close to an inch while most were well over that. Results were not as good as either of my 300 Win Mags would shoot with factory ammo, and recoil that was supposed to be less was about the same if not worse, probably because the little Model 70 Featherweight XTR weighed considerably less that the Browning A Bolt or the Remington 700 Sendero that I was used to.
The beautiful little rifle went to the vault and stayed there until I decided to try working up some handloads. I quickly found that Nosler/Winchester Combined Technology 180 gr Ballistic Silvertips matched up with IMR 4350 brought groups down to 0.548, while the same bullet and IMR 4350 would produce groups as good as 0.580 and do it consistently. While not under the magic 0.5-inch groups that I always strive for, it was a great improvement and my faith in the little rifle was restored.

short mag rifles
A few years later Hornady brought out their ELD-X line of bullets and I found that the 178-gr pill when paired up with H4831 SC would finally bring the Winchester under 0.5, good enough to hunt with! Working with a Savage 110 Bear Hunter the same Hornady 178 ELD-X, H4831 SC combo produced a group under 0.25 inch, while Federal’s 200 gr EDGE TLR and Alliant Reloader RL-22 produced an amazing 0.167-inch group. While working with a friend’s Tikka-T3, my first trip to the range produced a 0.316 again using Hornady’s 178 gr ELD-X bullet, this time with IMR 4831 powder. This could have been attributed to the ammo being early production run or possibly new gun jitters combined with too high expectations on my part. The new Hornady Outfitter as well Federal Premium factory ammo both easily print groups well under an inch.

The 300 WSM hasn’t sent the old standard 300 Winchester Magnum to its demise, but it has survived and thrived. Nearly all the manufacturers that produce magnum rifles produce rifles in 300 WSM, and most of the major ammo companies produce 300 WSM ammo. 

325 Winchester Short Magnum

At its introduction, the 325 WSM seemed to be “The Hammer” of the short mags. It produced energy comparable to the 338 Win Mag and 8mm Rem Mag. I cannot write about its accuracy from a firsthand point of view, and currently only Browning and Winchester catalog the 325 WSM and only Olin corporation catalogs the ammo for it.

270 Winchester Short Magnum

The 270 WSM unlike the other short magnums didn’t compare itself to any other magnum. It did however apply the short magnum theory to the old standby 270 Winchester. The 270 WSM pushes 150 gr bullets to the same 3000- 3100 fps speeds that the 270 Winchester was always known for with 130 projectiles. The 270 WSM pushes the 150 pills to velocities that match those of the 270 Weatherby Magnum using considerably less powder and thus less recoil. 

I have owned 2 two rifles in 270 WSM. The first one a Winchester Model 70 would put factory ammo into groups of less than 1 inch with regularity. The second one, an older Browning A-Bolt Stainless, will put Hornady 150 Gr SST bullets into groups under 0.5 inch with IMR 4831 powder.  The only negative press the 270 WSM has had over the years is the claim that with the slower twist rates of the factory barrels is that heavier bullets won’t stabilize very well. Being primarily a white-tailed deer hunter, a rifle that sends 150 gr bullets 3100 fps into 0.5-inch groups fills the bill!

At the time of this writing Remington, Winchester, Browning, Savage, Tika, Sako, and Kimber all offer Rifles in 270 WSM and several manufacturers produce the ammo.

short mag cartridges

7mm Winchester Short Magnum

Being a fan of “all things 7” when the short magnums were being introduced, the 7mm WSM was the one I thought would be the big hit! The 7mm had a wide spread of bullets to choose from for the handloader. Match the ballistics of the popular 7mm Remington Magnum with a short, quick handling, light recoiling, accurate rifle, what else could you ask for? 

A couple of years after its release, I managed to obtain a Kimber American in 7mm WSM. I fell in love with the rifle at first sight and only fell deeper after shooting it. It shot factory ammo, particularly Federal, into groups well under an inch. Early in the load development stage I stumbled onto a load using Sierra 150 gr Game Kings and Alliant RL-19 that groups 0.362 and produced moderate recoil! The 7 WSM did everything it claimed, but for some reason the buying public didn’t agree with me, and it never really caught on.

As of this writing I can find no manufacturer cataloging rifles in 7mm WSM, however Hornady, Federal, and Winchester are all producing the ammo.

300 Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum

The old saying “a day late and a dollar short” pretty well sums up the story of the 300 SAUM. Being introduced almost a year after the 300 WSM and with factory loads being around 100 fps slower it just couldn’t compete. A good friend Trish Bishop saw one of the sweet looking Remington Model 7 rifles chambered in 300 SAUM and just had to have it. The little rifle and the hefty caliber combined with her slight stature resulted in more recoil than she liked. Her husband brought the rifle, factory ammo and a set of dies to the reloading room and asked if I thought we could come up with a load that didn’t kick quite so bad.
Before starting load development, I took the Model 7 to the range and tried the factory loads. I got a group of just under an inch with the 180 gr Remington Core-Lokt ammo, but I was inclined to agree with Trish. The recoil, while not unbearable, was past what most folks would have considered comfortable. A few test loads later the little rifle was shooting groups under 0.5 inch with much more manageable recoil, thanks to a combination of Barnes 130 gr TTSX bullets and Ramshot Big Game powder. To my knowledge it has met only one buck since then, but the results were devastating!

Currently Remington, Hornady, and Nosler catalog ammunition for the 300 SAUM, but nobody is producing the rifles.

reloading short mag

7mm Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum

Remington was late to the game with the 7mm SAUM, as they were with the 300 SAUM. With speeds averaging 100 fps slower than the 7 WSM and only around 100 FPS faster than a good stiff load in the successful 7mm08 Remington, the 7mm SAUM just never really caught on. The 7mm SAUM at one time did have a rather good following in long distance match shooting, and a reputation for stellar accuracy, but it has pretty much faded away.

Currently, nobody offers the rifles and only Nosler and Remington offer loaded ammunition 
6.8 Western

The 6.8 Western though not called a Short Magnum, applies some modern technology in the old Short Magnum concept, but we already have two articles on this new round here on the Mossy Oak website. 

Year in and year out there are new cartridges introduced that are the answer to every need, some real and some imagined. Some thrive and fade away leaving gun owners scrambling to find ammo or obtain brass to load their own. The short magnums didn’t spell the end of the world for the well-established belted magnums. The biggest advantage that they have shown is that they are easier for the handloader to obtain sub-0.5-inch groups with than the belted magnums. My loading logbook backs that point up, for me at least. Only the 270 WSM and the 300 WSM have successfully survived the 20-year test of time. What will the scoreboard look like in another 20 years? Who knows?

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