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October 29, 2007

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Why the .270 Win. and 7mm Rem. Mag. Are Not Created Equal

Some say that sons spend half their lives compensating for the sins of their fathers, and if that’s true then my 6-year-old Merlin will be nine before he gets over this year’s deer opener.

Merlin had begged me to take him hunting, and we had a great time, camping in the back of my pickup way out in the Montana prairie the night before opening day, looking at the vivid stars in the morning as we cooked cocoa on the camp stove. We planned to walk about a mile in the dark to a knoll where we could put the wind in our faces and wait for other hunters to push mule deer to us.

I blame what happened next at least partly on Merlin. I was so mindful of his comfort – making sure he was warm enough and that we had enough snacks – that my hunting gear was almost an afterthought. I normally rack a round into the chamber when I’m hunting by myself, but because I was hunting with my boy I loaded three shells in the magazine of my Savage .270 and left the chamber empty. I wondered momentarily why only three, and not the customary four, shells fit in the magazine of the Model 111, but we were in a race with the sun so I slipped another couple of shells in my pockets and started hiking, encouraging Merlin to step lightly through the cactus flats.

We got to the knoll with a minimum of complaints and just as our script predicted, deer started trotting by our lookout, looking over their shoulders at the hunters who bumped them. Most were does and fawns, but soon a young buck, maybe 22 inches wide but willowy, came over a rise. I whispered to Merlin that a bigger buck might be next, and I worked the bolt of the rifle to slide a shell into the chamber. The bolt face picked up the shell, but wouldn’t finish the job by pushing it into the chamber. I opened the bolt to see if some obstruction was halting the advance, but the chamber was clear. Finally, I inspected a shell. It was heavy, with a telltale belt at its head. A 7mm Rem. Mag.

I’m still unsure how I managed to confuse the shells. Were 7mm shells mistakenly put in a .270 box? Did I put the wrong box of shells in my gun case? Was it the result of a hectic finish to sight-in day a couple weeks earlier?

Whatever the case, it was a classic case of inattention. Just as I teach in Hunter Education classes, I should have read the head stamp as I loaded shells in my gun. But it was a teaching moment, as I explained to Merlin why we were done hunting and had to walk back to the truck. He learned, at my expense, a bit about the exactitude of riflery and how all guns are not created equal.

Our walk back was hardly stealthy. We kicked rocks, talked out loud and let the wind get behind us. Waiting on the seat of my truck was the box of 150-grain .270 shells. Our drive home was fun and chatty, but Merlin said a couple of times that he wanted to see me shoot a deer.

Many of you are probably just as committed as I am to taking kids hunting, but just remember my experience. Make sure your young partner has a good time by staying warm, fed and happy. But don’t neglect your own gear – including the basics – or you won’t complete the experience of harvesting an animal together. And that’s arguably the best teaching moment of all.

Andrew McKean



Sounds like something I would do.


just be glad that the shell wouldnt chamber. It could have casue some problems if the shells had chambered it could have been deadly to you and the gun.


I had a similiar experience with my boy several years ago. Getting him out of the truck, his .22 clip loaded and in the gun, without one chambered, and safely on the way. Of course, Dad forgot to chamber a round. Sneaking down a ridge, turned around to sneak back, and a pretty 4x4 standing there looking at us. Raising the gun, thinking "got him", and click! We had a good laugh about it and a little lesson on complacency and how being rushed can lead to things being forgotten or overlooked.


Take a note from the military and all those movies you see - "Lock and Load" is the direction I use with my younger companions so they remember to be ready and are reminded that we're now "LIVE".

It also adds a note of anticipation which heightens their awareness of our situation.

Scott in Ohio


Glad you shared this story. Oct 20 was the duck opener in Ohio. I had paddled out to a spot in the reeds and began to set out my decoys when two other hunters showed up 30 minutes later surprised to find me in "their" spot. We decided to hunt together and had a good hunt. After the morning brightened the one guy realized that he had grabbed his REM 1100 instead of his 11-87; and he had been shooting 3-inch shells in the 1100's 2 3/4-inch chamber! I had a box of 2 3/4's so we swapped shells and continued to hunt. He was lucky his gun had not blown up.

I had the misfortune of being invited to hunt rabbits with a group of guys I didn't know well ten years ago. The one fellow had just bought a used shotgun at a show and was shooting 3-inch shells. He hadn't taken the time to examine the marking on the gun that stated "2 3/4 shells only" and on his third shot the action exploded, blowing a chunk of metal into his forehead. - The gun had broken in half from the excessive pressure. Fortunately he only suffered from powder burns in his eyes and a gash in his head. Two of the other "hunters" (yahoos) were lackadaisical about gun safety and I left them ASAP.

My twelve year old son will join me deer hunting for the first time with his own rifle next month in PA. I'll be certain to take the appropriate time to get our gear ship-shape before we hit the woods. Thanks again for the reminder.


You are lucky it didn't chamber but it was a good way to share a lesson with your son about gun safety.

Thanks for sharing your story.


B. Cameron

So far I've managed to avoid this potential problem, but it brings up an interesting question:

What would the outcome be if ammo was swapped between two rifles with similar case sizes but different calibers? The one that comes immediately to mind is loading a .270Win into a .30-06...

Any ideas?

Ralph the Rifleman

This happened to me while target shooting many years ago. I handloaded my 7MM Rem mag, and my friend had brought along his .270;when he asked to shoot my rifle I said sure...thinking he would use my ammo and not his! Well, the .270 ammo never chambered in my rifle, and that was the last time I offered my rifle for target shooting unless I hand the shells over for loading it myself!
ps- To Cameron-I have seen a report on this issue,can't remember where, but a .270 was fired out of a 30/06 rifle but the bullet was way off the target and when the shooter went to retrieve his brass(a reloader) he noticed he had used the wrong case!
It seems with no obstruction in the barrel, and the firing pin being struck, the bullet fired safely enough with no one hurt.This may have been a fluke, or just dumb luck?

B. Cameron

*ahem* A bit of quick Google work (which for some reason eluded me last night - too much work and not enough sleep, perchance?) reveals this:


Worth a read, or at the very least a quick skim.

Dale S

My only suggestion would be to get rid of the .270. The 7mm will do everything the .270 does and then some. Oh, and take your son hunting again!

Great article. Thanks.

Joe Jedlovec

I took my TC Contender 7MMTCU to the range to do some shooting. I was suprised when the normally accurate gun wasn't even hitting paper. I then looked at the ammo I was shooting and was horrified to see that it was 223. If I had looked at the brass like I normally do, I would have noticed the balloned out shoulders and not shot a second time.

Rich Hayes

Shot a 7mm-08 in my .270. No ill effects except a straightened out 7-08 case. I was lucky.

Charles L.

I borrowed my Browning 7mm to my cousin and for some reason he fired one of his dad's .270 rounds through it. Luckily only thing was a split brass casing and a little work getting the brass out of the chamber.

mark henckel

Mixing up shells is one of the reasons why when my two boys started hunting, I fitted them both with .270s -- the same caliber I was shooting for big game at the time. That way, only one caliber came along on our hunting trips and similar mix-ups to Andrew's were avoided as I concentrated on the kids. -- mark


if you have a .243 and 7mm-08 or 7mm-08 and 308, your asking for that to happen. i had a friend who jammed his .243 like that, he's lucky he wasnt shooting a 7mm-08 with .243.

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